Three days, three weeks, three months, if you did not go shopping today could you feed yourself and your family for any, or all of the time frames listed. If not then it is time to get started, but rushing out without some careful planning is not a good idea either. This is when you overspend and make poor choices.
You know how it works. You read an article on a survival blog or see an advertisement on television such as “if you’re not a Prepper now you will be”. A call to action that is supposed to get you motivated to buy a product. You get a sense of urgency and you want to run out and start stocking up. Advertisements do work, especially when it comes to food and a crisis, but you need to consider certain things first.
Break It Down
First, you have to calculate how much food you need for a specific period, and one way to determine this is to carefully note what you actually consume. Then determine what you waste, and what ends up sitting on a shelf that no one eats.
Once you have an accurate figure on consumption add 10 to 15 percent more, to account for waste, spoilage, charity and just from simply eating more because of the crisis. Next decide if you want enough food stockpiled for three days, three weeks, or three months and beyond. It will make a difference on what you buy and how you store it.
Long-term food storage is not as easy as piling food on a shelf. Typically, your cupboards would not hold enough non-perishable foods for 90 days, and it would require some effort to keep track of the shelf life of the food, because it would be assumed that food for daily use would be mingled in with your long term food if you used your cupboards and pantry shelves for storage. Therefore, you might need a specific storage area for emergency foods.
Storage Area Considerations
Remember you are stockpiling food now that would need to be edible through the crisis and beyond, so how food is stored before disaster strikes is critical. You could start stockpiling today and you may not experience a crisis for several years or longer, so you want to ensure your food would be edible whenever disaster strikes.
You cannot just store the food and forget it’s there. You need to check dates, inspect for insect infestations, deterioration for damage from rodents and humans. Have every family member sample the foods to ensure everyone knows what they taste like and that you know how to prepare the foods and know how to portion the product out if it comes in number 10 cans for example.
Variety is important along with nutritional value. You can get along for a few days on just snack foods, but when it comes to weeks and months the food must be nutritious and taste good.
1.) Temperature control is important and high temperatures will reduce the shelf-life of most food products. Garages make poor storage areas unless it is temperature controlled. Hot in the summer and possibly below freezing in the winter. Shelf life will be based on the warmest temperature swings the area experiences. If it is warm one day and cool the next the damage has already been done by the heat, and food will lose some color and taste when it experiences temperature variations and in many cases, the shelf life can be reduced by half or more when exposed to higher temperatures.
2.) Food not sealed properly will spoil because oxygen is hard at work encouraging oxidation and bacteria growth, which will cause food to go rancid and can cause sickness. Vacuum sealers, proper hot bath canning methods along with oxygen absorbers can all be used to seal off foods from damaging oxygen.
3.) Pests are always looking for a free meal so foods must be stored to prevent infestations. Rodents and insects can destroy your food supply very quickly. Grains in particular are susceptible to weevils so they must be stored in containers to keep the insects from burrowing in and laying their larvae, which will hatch and start consuming the grain.
The cardboard packaging and cloth sacking that certain pastas and rice come in are not barriers against weevils. In some cases, the weevil larvae can already be in the grain if the hulls are intact, or if you process your own grains. You can destroy the larvae by placing the grains in the freezer for a few days then sealing in glass or food grade plastic containers.
4.) Humidity will reduce shelf life, and it will over time ruin canned foods by rusting the metal containers. Moisture will break down packaging materials as well. Cardboard packaging will deteriorate quickly when exposed to humidity in your garage, basement, storage shed, and root cellar and so on.
Storage containers to reduce the effects of humidity include Mylar bag, glass jars, and food grade plastic buckets or other food grade plastic containers that have airtight seals. The lower the humidity the better, so while root cellars are ideal places for vegetables they are not ideal for storing packaged foods and underground bunkers unless carefully designed and crafted will expose foods to high humidity as well.
5.) Time has an effect on everything and regardless of how the food is packaged time will degrade the product.
6.) Light will degrade food products and packaging material so it is important that none of your packaged foods are exposed to light, in particular natural light.
Certain freeze dried or dehydrated foods claim to have a shelf life of 20 years or more. The shelf life is based on ideal storage conditions however. Once the packaging is opened the shelf life is reduced considerably.
Certain products now such as coffee are packaged in essentially cardboard containers coated with food grade materials. The containers are susceptible to moisture damage. Purchase coffee in plastic or metal cans.
Make sure you know the type of packaging material dehydrated foods are packaged in before buying online, otherwise you may have to repackage, which of course will reduce the shelf life.
You will need food supplies when sheltering in place, but what happens if you have to evacuate. Do you have food supplies that can be transported in your vehicle or in a backpack? If you do your own canning the glass jars cannot be easily transported in a vehicle or backpack. Retail canned goods are not ideal for backpacks but can be transported in vehicles without damaging the product. Give some thought to the type of foods and packaging needed for backpacks and vehicles in the event you have to leave.
A mixture of foods and different types of packaging are ideal, so you always have a supply regardless of the situation. Keep in mind dehydrated and freeze dried foods will require water for reconstitution, suitable containers for preparing the foods and a means of heating water.