Authors Note: I will be speaking in Herriman Utah on November 9th. I hope to see some of you there!

There are many, many, concentrating on Food Storage after being reminded by a pandemic, a drought, the worst wildfire season on record worldwide, and natural disasters. Many of you are involved in Operation Christmas Ornaments and helping us provide Christmas cheer to those in Kentucky who have experienced unimaginable flooding and loss this year. The past two days California has been hit with the worst storm in over 100 years. There is flooding everywhere and only one road opened over the Sierra. Landslides, mudslides, and debris in burn areas cover the roads.  If you are east of California, get ready, it is heading your way. With all this concern questions have been asked so let’s answer them.

Q: Flood waters covered our food stored on shelves and in cabinets. What can I keep and what should I throw out?

Do not eat any food that may have come into contact with flood water. Discard any food that is not in a waterproof container if there is any chance that it has come into contact with flood water. Food containers that are not waterproof include those with screwcaps, snap lids, pull tops, and crimped caps. Also, discard cardboard juice/milk/baby formula boxes and home canned foods if they have encountered flood water because they cannot be effectively cleaned and sanitized.

Inspect canned foods and discard any food in damaged cans. Can damage is shown by swelling, leakage, punctures, holes, fractures, extensive deep rusting, or crushing/denting severe enough to prevent normal stacking or opening with a manual, wheel-type can opener.

Steps to Salvage Metal Cans and Mylar and Retort Pouches

Undamaged, commercially prepared foods in metal cans, Mylar pouches and retort pouches (for example, flexible, shelf-stable juice or seafood pouches) can be saved if you do the following:

  1. Remove the labels, if they are the removable kind, since they can harbor dirt and bacteria.
  2. Brush or wipe away any dirt or silt. Thoroughly wash the cans or retort pouches with soap and water, using hot water if it is available.
  3. Rinse the cans or retort pouches with water that is safe for drinking, if available, since dirt or residual soap will reduce the effectiveness of chlorine sanitation.
  4. Sanitize by immersion in one of the two following ways:
    1. Place in water and allow water to come to a boil and continue boiling for 2 minutes.
    2. Place in a freshly made solution consisting of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of drinking water (or the cleanest, clearest water available) for 15 minutes.
  5. Air-dry cans or retort pouches for a minimum of 1 hour before opening or storing.
  6. If the labels were removable, then re-label your cans or retort pouches, including the expiration date (if available), with a marker. Avoid confusion by sanitizing similar items and then move on to another category, all the green beans, then all the corn, etc.
  7. Food in reconditioned cans or retort pouches should be used as soon as possible, thereafter.
  8. The liquid in the cans will be safe to use to drink or to use in cooking dry foods.

Q: What is the difference between evaporated milk and evaporated creamer?

Milk contains three of the under consumed vitamins and nutrients, those most of us are lacking, calcium, vitamin D and potassium. Did you notice that the advice during the pandemic has been to consume more or add vitamin D to help fight COVID?

Powdered milk: One pound of powdered milk creates 6.7 cups of milk. Adults need 3 cups of dairy every day, children 2.5 cups. Five pounds of powdered milk will meet the daily requirement for 35 days. We are preparing a 3-month supply or 92 days. You can see 5 pounds per person is just 1/3 of the days for which we are preparing.

What is powdered milk? Powdered milk is created by evaporating milk to dryness by removing the water. Powdered milk has a much longer shelf life than liquid milk, and it does not need to be refrigerated due to the low moisture content once it is powder. It can be found in low fat or whole milk forms.

Evaporated milk: A concentrated milk product comes in whole milk, reduced fat, and fat-free varieties. Evaporated milk has a higher nutrient content than fresh cow’s milk per serving. It is made by reducing the water content of fresh milk by 60%. The whole milk variety is perfect to mix with powdered milk to make a creamier and more natural tasting product. Evaporated whole milk is the best to have on hand for young children who need the milk fats in their diets.

Evaporated creamer: Canned evaporated creamer is made by reconstituting powdered buttermilk and adding vegetable fats. It is slightly higher in calories but very similar in nutritional value to evaporated milk

Sweetened condensed milk: Another concentrated milk product, sweetened condensed milk has a higher calorie concentration due to the addition of sugar. Because of the sugar added the stabilizers present in other condensed milks is not necessary. This milk is used mainly in baked foods and candies. It is not good for drinking although it can sweeten homemade hot cocoa.

When purchasing any of the condensed milks, evaporated, creamer, or sweetened condensed, check the labels. The stabilizers used may be very different from one another. Purchase those with the least added ingredients.

Coffee creamers: These are NOT made with milk. Do not store them as part of your milk or dairy.

Shelf stable milks:  Shelf-stable, or aseptic, milks are common in other parts of the world.

Typically, unopened fresh milk expires within a matter of weeks under refrigeration, unopened shelf stable milk lasts 6-12 months at room temp. Once you’ve opened the aseptic milk, refrigerate and use it within one to two weeks. Shelf stable milks can be purchased as whole milk, 2 %, skim milk, chocolate milk and lactose free milk.

Remember Almond milk, Cashew milk, Oat milk, and others ARE NOT milk and will not provide the nutrients of real milk. If for health reasons you need to store these in place of real milk, purchase those that are unsweetened and contain added calcium and added vitamin D.

Q: What are the Best and Worst canned foods to store (longest vs shortest shelf life)?

Whole grains, white rice, dried beans, pasta, sugar, honey, and powdered milk all have a long shelf life, 20 years. They are not sufficient for a good food storage program, however. You need to store canned goods, and liquids to achieve a nutritionally balanced diet.

While powdered milk has a long shelf-life canned milks do not but they are a great addition to a food storage plan. Evaporated milk has milk fats that are beneficial to children. They are great to use when making puddings or casseroles calling for milk, and give powdered milk added flavor. They should be rotated each year.

Canned foods all have a shelf life a minimum of 2 years longer than the expiration dates. These foods contain much needed water and syrups to supplement your water storage, and you know it will always be safe to consume. Manufacturers assign best by or expiration dates earlier than necessary because they must warehouse foods until their expiration dates to test then in case an issue such as someone becoming ill after eating a product. Tomatoes and other high acid foods will spoil faster than others. Purchase these in glass when possible.

Fruit juices are also important in a good plan as they provide nutrients as well are fluid and relieve the boredom of drinking only milk. Many juices can also be used in recipes or made into jelly. Only 100% juice should be stored, or it cannot be counted in your fruit and vegetable daily requirements. 

Q: Is it better to store canned or bottled juice, than dry juice mixes?

Yes. Juices in bottles or cans are best because they can be considered part of your water storage. They will not need to be purified during a crisis but your water may need to be in making your powdered mixes difficult or impossible to use. Powdered mixes have their place as long as you have plenty of water stored or a great purification system in place. Water gets boring, especially for kids. Powdered versions are rarely real 100% juice.

Q: What is a food grade container?

All glass containers that have never been used to contain a chemical, are food grade.

Plastics containers are a different matter. When in doubt don’t use them. Food grade containers will have a triangle and HDPE on the bottom of the container. Other plastics contain harmful chemicals which can leach into foods.

Metal cans from a cannery are food grade containers but not all metals are so avoid other metal containers. The equipment to seal your foods in metal cans is expensive to purchase and thus not a real option for most people. If properly protected from corrosion, metal cans are gas-impervious and immune to rodent attack, qualities that plastic containers are weak on. The cans still aren’t resealable, other than with a plastic lid, only good for dry foods, or a sealer, again, very expensive. After metal cans are opened and the foods packed in liquids exposed to the air, the can deteriorates quickly and makes the foods unusable. Do not store food in the refrigerator in their original cans when the entire can is not used.

Q: How long do I leave food in the freezer to kill moth eggs?

The best way of killing adults, eggs and larvae is to freeze items. Place food in plastic ‘freezer’ bags or grocery bags and freeze at for at least two weeks.

Please keep asking questions. Remember if you have a question someone else needs the information as well. There is no silly or foolish question. Keep building your General Store filled with yummy and nutritious foods and non-food essentials. Together we can do this!

Carolyn frequently answers questions on the Totally Ready blog. Be sure to check it out. Food storage as well as other self-reliance, preparedness,  ebooks are also available there. Monday food and non-food challenges continue there and at the Totally Ready Facebook page.