What is the best way to store food if you are going to stockpile food for survival? What would be the best container to use to keep animals and bugs out? Where would be the best place to put the containers to keep animals, bugs, heat, humidity, and other humans away?
Best way to store foods.
Food (and Water) for Thought
How to safely store food and water for emergencies
(c) copyright 2007 by Gary L. Benton
One aspect of an emergency a lot of folks rarely consider is the storage of food and water, or even how long they can be safely stored. If an emergency were to occur right this minute, how safe are the canned goods you have in the cupboard? Or, how long could you drink the bottled water you have in the basement? How safe is your food and water supply, or do you even have one? With today’s uncertain political world, it might be to all of our advantages to have at least a two week supply of food and water on hand.
In the event of a natural disaster or a terrorist attack, you may have to survive on what is available in your home when it occurs. If an emergency does happen and you still have electrical power, turn on the television to see what local authorities suggest you do—stay or evacuate the area. Knowing what to do and when to do it is very important in an emergency situation. If you are instructed to stay you might have to change your lifestyle a bit, but a lot will depend on if you have utilities and the extent the emergency situation limits your movements.
If you stay and have no utilities at all, your first priority in most situations (in extremely cold weather you can stay warm under your blankets, but in hot weather you’ll need to increase your water intake and stay out of direct sunlight if you can) is water. Most folks would think of food as the number one concern, but without water people can die in as little as three days during moderate temperatures (faster in hot weather) and yet a healthy person can go as long as two weeks without food. Water is your first concern, because it is a life sustaining consideration and remember it can be stored prior to emergencies, you have emergency water sources, and most suspected unsafe water can be treated to make it safe to drink.
According to the American Red Cross, water can be stored safely in clean plastic containers, in glass, in fiberglass, or enamel lined metal containers. Make sure any container you use has never been used to store harmful chemicals or materials in it. I would suggest using empty two liter pop bottles for water storage; they even come with a cap to seal the container. You can also purchase commercial water storage containers, plastic drums, or buckets. I prefer those containers with tight lids to keep the water from being spilled and to keep it clean. If you use a sealed container (pop bottle, drum, or other container) label it on the outside with a permanent maker “Drinking Water” and add the date. Keep your water stored in a cool, dry and dark place, rotating it every six months (that is the reason for the date on the container).
In an emergency you can find water in ponds, lakes, rivers, and streams but keep in mind this water is not safe to drink until it has been purified. In your home you can use the water stored in your pipes as well as your hot water heater, just make sure the gas or electrical power is turned off before you drain the water heater. It is important for you to determine where your water comes from too, so you can determine in advance if your water might be safe or not in some emergencies. If your water at home comes from a private well it may still be safe to use (if you live in the country), but in some emergencies (terrorist acts, floods, or tornados) public water sources might not be safe (streams, ponds and rivers may not be safe then either) and may even be the target of some terrorist acts. In most cases, unless I knew for sure my water source was clean I would shut my water off and use what remains in the pipes and hot water heater. Most hot water heaters are around the forty gallon size and that’s enough for two people to survive for around twenty days at a moderate temperature (most survival experts suggest a gallon a day in mild temperatures, though you can survive on less if you do not eat).
If you are forced to use emergency drinking water from an unknown source at any time, (streams, ponds or lakes) you will have to purify it before drinking. Try to get water from a fast moving source, river or stream, and avoid water that has a bad smell, has scum on it, or is obviously polluted in some way. There are four ways most folks purify water and though they all work to various degrees there are only two suggested by the Canadian Red Cross.
Water can be boiled for 3 to 5 minutes and then allowed to cool before drinking. This boiled water will have a very flat taste and this is because the process removes most of the air from the water as it boils. To improve the taste, take two containers and pour the water between them to mix air with the treated water.
Another highly suggested method is to add 16 drops of household bleach to a gallon of water, but do not use colorsafe bleach, scented bleach, or bleach with any additional cleaners in it. Once you have added the drops of bleach stir the water very well and then let it sit for thirty minutes. When you smell the treated water it should have a slight bleach smell and if it does not, repeat the process and let the water sit for an additional fifteen minutes.
After the water problem has been taken care of we should give our food situation some serious thought. First, if you do not have sufficient water (a gallon a day) cut back on your food intake and if you have no water at all do not eat. This is because if you do eat and are dehydrated, your body will use what fluids it has stored to process waste, so water is very important. Second, with a limited water intake avoid salty foods, foods high in fats and proteins, and foods that require water to prepare. Remember that most of us can survive for up to two weeks without any food at all, if we are in good physical condition. But, even if you have plenty of water, there are still some things you must consider.
Your goal, if you can achieve it, is to find foods that are high in calories, because in a survival situation you’ll burn calories much faster than normal. You also want foods that require no refrigeration, little or no preparation, and no cooking. Keep in mind that almost all canned foods require no cooking or water to prepare, so after you eat all the perishables in the fridge and freezer, go for the canned foods.
If you are unsure about how long your various food stuffs are good for, here are some basic guidelines for rotating common emergency foods from the Red Cross.
Use within six months:
• Powdered milk (boxed)
• Dried fruit (in metal container)
• Dry, crisp crackers (in metal container)
Use within one year:
• Canned condensed meat and vegetable soups
• Canned fruits, fruit juices and vegetables
• Ready-to-eat cereals and uncooked instant cereals (in metal containers)
• Peanut butter
• Hard candy and canned nuts
• Vitamin C
May be stored indefinitely (in proper containers and conditions):
• Vegetable oils
• Dried corn
• Baking powder
• Instant coffee, tea and cocoa
• Noncarbonated soft drinks
• White rice
• Bouillon products
• Dry pasta
• Powdered milk (in nitrogen-packed cans)
If you have doubts on the safety of a canned product, check to see if it has a “use by” or “best by” date printed or stamped on it. If there is no date, the product should be discarded after six months. I keep dry beans on hand, because they are an excellent source of protein (if you have the water to cook them) and they can be stored indefinitely if sealed containers are used and they are kept in a cool and dry place.
Recommended foods (by the Red Cross) include:
• Ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits and vegetables. (Be sure to include a manual can opener)
• Canned juices, milk and soup (if powdered, store extra water).
• High energy foods, such as peanut butter, jelly, crackers, granola bars and trail mix.
• Comfort foods, such as hard candy, sweetened cereals, candy bars and cookies.
• Instant coffee, tea bags.
• Foods for infants, elderly persons or persons on special diets, if necessary.
• Compressed food bars. They store well, are lightweight, taste good and are nutritious.
• Trail mix. It is available as a prepackaged product or you can assemble it on your own.
• Dried foods. They can be nutritious and satisfying, but have some have a lot of salt content, which promotes thirst. Read the label.
• Freeze-dried foods. They are tasty and lightweight, but will need water for reconstitution.
• Instant dried Meals.
• Snack-sized canned goods.
• Prepackaged beverages. Those in foil packets and foil-lined boxes are suitable because they are tightly sealed and will keep for a long time.
Food Options to Avoid:
• Commercially dehydrated foods.
• Bottled foods. They are generally too heavy and bulky, and break easily.
• Meal-sized canned foods. They are usually bulky and heavy.
• Whole grains, beans, pasta. Preparation could be complicated under the circumstances of a disaster.
In a natural disaster or emergency situation most rescues will occur within a few days or things will simply get back to normal, unless the situation is widespread or there has been a heavy loss of life. Keep in mind that most of us have sufficient food in our cupboards, refrigerator or freezer to survive for a week or two, so concentrate your efforts on water procurement. Rotate your water supplies ever six months and remember the alternate places to find water, as well as the various treatment methods to insure it’s safe to drink. Also keep a close eye on how long you’ve have your food stuffs in storage and rotate your foods so you always use the oldest foods first.
For meat and fish salt it,vegetables a root cellar.
The use of salt in preparing foods
Salt has been used for many years to preserve meats through the uses of drying the meat or storing it in a brine. In making jerky, salt causes the chemical reaction needed for the meat to preserve properly.
But, the eating of salt cured foods requires you have plenty of water in order for your body to process it properly. I would suggest, these types of foods not be eaten, unless you have at least a quart of water a day. If eaten without without water, it will speed up dehydration, because it will take water from your body's system to process the foods.
From personal experiance:
We have eaten stored canned goods that were good after 2 years. Dried foods like beans, rice, etc, last indefinately. I have stored water in 55 gallon drums for up to a year and it was good still.
What we did was to just buy canned goods and dry foods that we eat and just rotate them. They'll last a while.
I have written on this subject several times down through the years...
Now that I have lived through my small town getting flattened twice by tornados in Indiana, and lived thorough hurricane Andrew in south Florida, I have a totally different attitude!
I used to subscribe to the most prevalent schools of though on the subject:
1. Staples. Wheat flower, Corn meal, Salt, Sugar, Honey, Water...
2. Bulk Storage. We were expecting nuclear war, so large stock piles were an absolute must!
Now that I've had two houses blown away in tornados, and one MIA from a category 4 hurricane, I have an entirely new view point.
I now believe the entire 'Staples & Bulk' philosophy is fundamentally flawed.
The hurricane season a few years back proved my new way of thinking to be correct...
And it's really simple!
A WELL STOCKED PANTRY.
This is all the stuff I eat anyway, so it is automatically rotated, meaning no extensive, expensive, time and space consuming storage of things I don't normally use a lot of...
I buy can goods by the cases, new cases go in the back, old cases get moved forward.
Long term storage problem solved.
I buy lots of things I like and regular eat.
When you have flour or corn meal, water, salt and honey, you have salty wall paper paste every meal.
'Staples Blandness' problem solved.
To actually make something palatable out of the flower and corn meal, you need things like baking power, baking soda, pepper and other spices, lard, vegetable oil, ect.
Meat and vegetables, maybe something besides stale, stored water would be nice...
Canned vegetables will last for more than a couple of years if kept cool, like on an open shelf in a basement...
This gives you a wide variety of things to eat, not just sucking paste and washing it down with stale water...
IF you are REALLY ambitious, and you live where you can garden, or you have a good seasonal farmers market, try home canning!
We can whole early potatoes with beef or ham in the jars, seasoned up just the way I like it, and ready to eat right out of the can, or easy to heat it up right in the jars.
Same with green beans & other vegetables.
Some people just can the meat, but that limits you to consuming the entire can once opened so it won't spoil.
A whole can of meat at one sitting doesn't leave much room for anything else!
If the entire meal is canned together, it tastes great and you don't get sick or bored with the variety...
Vegetable soups are always a welcome treat when you are hungry, especially if you are in a cold or damp climate. I prefer mine with some meat, but you don't have to.
Contrary to popular belief, when home canning is done correctly, it will last for years.
Same rules as metal canned goods, cool, reasonably dry and out of the light.
I also like to keep the usual stuff, Rice, Beans, Fruits and Vegetables...
Commercial or home canned.
Things like Olive oil store for years and can be used for so many things, from purifying water to working as an antibiotic to fueling an oil lamp, so I usually have quite a bit of it on hand.
And don't forget those water treatments!
Water is easy to purify with things like bleach, and bleach is easy to remove by aeration, but it tastes awful afterwards!
Some 'Cool-Aid', canned or bottled lemon juice, the 'Gator-Ade' type stuff is also good to have around, and has medicinal purposes...
Like hydrating if you wind up with diarrhea from questionable food, water or 'Help' from the government!
Wine or grain alcohol is a good thing to have around.
Cheap store brand wine is a really inexpensive way to hedge your bets!
Antiseptic, disinfectant, water purification, pain reliever, barter or trade item,
Grain alcohol is all the above plus, fuel for lights or cooking, cleaning solvent... That list goes on a while too!
Something else to think about...
Large stock piles of 'Bulk' containers are hard to move, hard to split up into reasonable size containers when you do open them, and pretty much nail you down to one location.
If you have put all your eggs in one basket, then you have to stay around and defend the basket...
Smaller cans & items store and stash very well, They load and travel well, They are in containers that can be traded or swapped without giving away the location of the primary 'Hide'.
If you suffer catastrophic damage like I did, smaller containers will fair better in the beating!
My large containers were mostly bashed, smashed, trashed, and drowned, and in some cases blown to pieces.
The smaller jars and cans survived, but I did spend some time recovering and collecting them back up!
Just food for though, as it were!
Comment on bulk storage
I have to say I have a big family and we feed the kids in bulk. Gamma seals (Screw on/off tops for buckets) from a catalog on 5 gallon buckets from the local supermarket store bulk food stuffs from sam's club. Twenty five lbs. of flour or sugar fits in one bucket, so does twenty five lbs. of rice. These may not travel as easily as some may want but we live in a small town in the sticks. A well sealed container also holds pasta and we have other staples that we use every month stored in bulk. The point made earlier about using foods in your storage plan that you would use anyway is very valid, what good is food you don't want to eat or don't know how to cook. No plan is perfect for everyone but you need to turn over the stock by eating it up on a regular basis.:)
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