Due to natural disasters and increasing terrorist activities over the past few years, we have seen a greatly increased interest in food storage. Whether it is the government recommending a three month supply of food and a 3 days supply of emergency foods, or Church leaders advising a years supply, more and more people are getting serious about preparing for a time of need. Our emergency may not be a natural disaster but rather a job loss, illness, financial set back or accident. Whatever the reason we need to be prepared with safe food for our families.
I have been concerned lately when I hear families say they have money in the bank and will purchase what they need in an emergency. How foolish. During a national or local crisis food distribution networks will be disrupted and food may not be available to purchase for days or weeks. If your emergency is individual would you really want to use your financial resources to purchase food? Wouldn’t you want to preserve them for medical and housing needs?
The quality and nutritional value of foods will deteriorate over time. Foods which have been properly dried, canned or frozen, will not become unsafe when they are stored under poor conditions or beyond their expiration dates. The taste and nutritional value will decrease however, when foods are stored too long or in unfavorable conditions.
The shelf-life of food depends upon several factors: the quality of the food at the time of purchase, packaging, temperature, humidity in the area in which the food is kept, and light. No amount of care when storing food can compensate for poor quality food. If food is not sterilized or properly handled before packaging, it will ultimately spoil due to the growth of microorganisms.
Foods, such as dairy products, meats, poultry, eggs, and fresh fruits and vegetables, will spoil rapidly if not stored at proper temperatures. Dairy products should be stored at refrigerated temperatures between 34°F and 38°F (.5º-3.33ºC), meats between 33°F and 36°F (.5º-2.22ºC), and eggs 33°F to 37°F (.5º-2.77ºC). Fresh vegetables and fruits should be stored between 35°F and 40°F (1.66º-4.44ºC). All refrigerated foods should be stored at less than 40°F (4º.44ºC). Placing a thermometer in the refrigerator and freezer will help you control the temperature often. This is especially important during the hot summer months and during a power outage.
When grocery shopping, pick-up refrigerated and frozen foods just before you checkout. Refrigerated foods should be cold, and frozen foods should be solid with no evidence of thawing. I always reach in the back of the case to get the coldest items. Refrigerated and frozen food should be bagged together. Always make grocery shopping your last stop of the day or take a cooler in your car to store the food if you need to make other stops or live a distatance from the store.
Frozen foods should be stored below 0°F (-17ºC) in moisture-proof, gas-impermeable plastic or freezer wrap. Make sure to label and date frozen foods. Frozen foods may be safe to eat if stored beyond the recommended storage time but quality may diminish. Be careful not to overload a freezer and block the circulation of coolant. This will lower the efficiency of the freezer. Keep the freezer full, not stuffed, as this will increase efficiency and help preserve food longer in a power outage. If you are running low on food and waiting to restock freeze some containers of water. These can then be used as ice packs for coolers and in an emergency another source of drinking water.
Following are some basic guidelines to help you store safely:
- Storage areas should be kept between 32º and 70ºF ( 0º-21º C) The cooler the storage area the better your storage will retain it’s value.
- Storage areas should always be kept dry with humidity kept as close to 35% ,or below, as possible. Canned goods stored in high humidity areas may rust, thus spoiling the food stored.
- Area should be adequately ventilated to prevent condensation of moisture on packaging material.
- Food should not be stored directly on the floor. The lowest shelf should be 2-3 feet off the floor.
- Food should be stored in a dark location.
- All supplies should be dated when you bring them home from the store, with the date they are purchased. This will help you rotate them more effectively.
- Spray the area to be used with bug spray set out a few traps. After a few days of spraying and trapping you can move your food and water in to the area. When designing and building a food-storage area, minimize areas where insects and rodents can hide. As practical, seal all cracks and crevices. Eliminate any openings that insects or rodents may use to gain entrance to the storage area.
- Never store food items in areas where chemicals, cleaning supplies, insecticides and paints are stored. Contamination of food or eating utensils with a household cleaner, paint, gasoline, fertilizers or insecticides could result in chemical poisoning and illness or death. Items stored in plastic or cardboard are especially susceptible to contamination.
- Discard all canned foods if cans are swollen, badly dented, rusted, and/or leaking.
- Dried fruits and vegetables have a long shelf-life because moisture has been removed from the product. Unopened dried products may be stored for 6 months at room temperature. Again remember high humidity will damage dried foods and reduce their shelf life. To prolong the life of dried items store in a refrigerator.
- Be aware of weight. Store foods in containers that you can lift and move. If your home is flooding you want to be able to save your food storage which means you will need to move it to a higher location.
- If an infestation occurs discard infested food, remove all other items from the storage area, wash down all surfaces. If you have drawers remember to remove them and clean all surfaces of the drawer and back of the cupboard.
- Food and water should only be stored in food grade containers. If you have stored food in other than food grade containers discard it immediately.
Protect your food investment as you would any other investment by preparing to store it safely.
Since my last article we have stored Ketchup, Mayonnaise, Vinegar, 6 cans of fruit per family member, 2 lbs. of Cheese per family member and 10 cans of vegetables per family member. To effecively complete a three month supply of the foods you eat in a year please ask a friend or family member to follow our facebook page and let you know the week’s goal.
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