In most disaster scenarios, you can survive without lights, weapons, and air conditioning. For a while, anyway. But you definitely can’t survive without food. And the thing about disasters is they’re almost always a surprise.
Don’t be caught without any food when the next one strikes. If you start building your emergency food stockpile now, you’ll be way ahead of most people, and you won’t have to panic next time a hurricane is bearing down on your city.
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If you have a food stockpile, you need to make sure it lasts. There are many people out there who shove food in the back of the cupboard or closet and forget about it until a disaster strikes. When that happens, they get their food out and discover that half of it has gone bad. What a waste!
Don’t let that happen to you. Here is how to make your emergency food last as long as possible.
1. Follow the HALT method
HALT stands for Humidity, Air, Light, and Temperature. These four factors are everything when it comes to stockpiling food. If you can control them, you can make some food last for decades.
- Humidity – Keep it as low as possible by not putting your food in rooms that tend to be humid, such as the kitchen, the laundry room, the garage, or anywhere outside.
- Air – Seal your food in airtight containers with oxygen absorbers in order to keep as much air away from your food as possible (more on that in the next sections).
- Light – Store your food in opaque containers boxes, buckets, Mylar bags, inside dark closets, and anywhere else that isn’t exposed to life. Remember, even indoor lighting can shorten your food’s shelf life.
- Temperature – The ideal storage temperature is 50 to 70 F (10 to 20 C). If you live in a place like the southern United States with hot summers and cold winters, you’ll need to make sure your food isn’t affected by these changes. If, however, you live somewhere with mild temperatures throughout the year, you won’t have to worry as much.
So, according to the HALT Method, you should store your food in a dry area, inside airtight containers, out of the light, and in a place with cool, stable temperatures.
Store your food in…
- Indoor pantries
- Dark closets
Don’t store your food in…
- The attic
- The garage
- Damp basements
- Outdoor sheds
2. Use Containers that Have a Good Seal
Mylar bags can make certain foods last for up to 30 years. These light-proof bags come in many sizes so you can store all kinds of food. They range from a pint to 6 gallons, with the most commonly used size being the 1-gallon bag. Each Mylar bag comes with an oxygen-absorbing packet to keep your food fresh.
You can significantly extend the shelf life of foods like beans, rice, grains, pasta, and many others. For example, beans and rice usually last about 2 years. Put them in a Mylar Bag with oxygen absorbers and they’ll last up to 30 years!
Here’s how to use them. Let’s say you’re storing a big bag of rice.
- Use a Sharpie to label your bag with the type of food date of storage.
- Fill your bag most of the way with rice, leaving some space at the top.
- Throw in at least one oxygen absorber.
- Use a heat source such as an iron to seal the top of the bag.
- Find somewhere with the right conditions (remember HALT) to store your bags.
Some preppers take it a bit further by putting their Mylar bagged food into food-grade five-gallon buckets. This isn’t absolutely necessary, but it can definitely help, and it makes it a lot easier to move your food from place to place if you have to. If you decide to use buckets as well, use a heavy mallet to secure the lid in place.
If you have any oxygen absorbers left over, you can save them in a Mylar Bag or mason jar so they don’t absorb too much oxygen and stop working.
When you store Mason Jars, there are a few elements to take into consideration…
- Light – Because Mason Jars are made of glass, light can easily get onto your food and lower the shelf life. As I said above, a dark and cool place is ideal to get the longest shelf life possible.
- Rotation – A lot of food gets wasted because people put it in the back of the closet or pantry and forget about it. Then when they need it, it’s already gone bad. Don’t make that mistake! Follow the rule of “first in, first out” and keep an inventory of your canned food.
3. Find Out Which Foods Store Best
Once you’re ready to start stockpiling food, think about the ones that would last a long time without any special storage techniques. Sugar, for example, will last indefinitely. Other foods that last for years include candy, pasta, hardtack, wheat berries, dried beans, white rice, and more.
For more ideas, here’s a list of foods that last for decades. And believe it or not, there are some foods/ingredients that can literally last forever. For example: salt, honey vinegar, maple syrup, and more.
By the way, don’t just store these foods because they last for so long. Make sure they’re foods and ingredients that you’ll actually eat or use in recipes. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck with a bunch of foods that you hate during the next disaster, and that will not be good for morale.
And another thing, always calculate when your food should go bad and write that date somewhere on the bag or container, that way you’ll know which ones to open first.
If you follow these three tips, you’ll get the maximum shelf life out of your food. And knowing that will give you peace of mind. Enjoy the process and have fun with it.
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