19 Ways To Improve Your Food Shelf Life
This article is a Guest Post Written by Dan Sullivan www.survivalsullivan.com
There’s no doubt that a long food shelf life stockpile is mandatory for any TEOTWAWKI scenario. So when prioritizing your long shelf life foods, we recommended emergency staples such as dry beans, spam, and hardtack. That’s only half the story.
The other half is that your food shelf life is influenced by how it’s stored.
If we don’t get this right, we’ll dramatically decrease our food stockpile’s shelf life (i.e. by months or years). Air, light, oxygen, moisture, and vermin are the biggest challenges to our food stockpiles. So if you want to extend your food shelf life by several months, you have to fight them all.
Before we begin, there’re two things to keep in mind.
1) I’m not a doctor, and you should take my advice for informational purposes only. When it comes to medicine, medical gear, and medical skills, you should see your doctor first.
2) Doing all these tips doesn’t mean you should stop rotating your stash. Stockpile rotation is important. It’s especially critical if you don’t want to end up with food that’s only good for a month or so when SHTF. No one knows ahead of time how long a catastrophe will last. Who knows, it could be 10-15 years before the world returns to a state of normalcy.
#1 – Use Mylar Bags and Oxygen Absorbers
This is the easiest way to package survival food for long term. Food items such as dried beans, rice, pasta and whole grains could last you 10+ years when stored in Mylar bags. Add in an oxygen absorber into each bag. Then place the mylar bag into a food-grade BPA-free plastic 5-gallon bucket.
Exceptions: sugar and salt don’t need oxygen absorbers. Salt is a preservative in itself and sugar will solidify. Both will last a very long time as long as you seal and store them properly.
#2 – Keep Everything in A Cool, Dry, Dark Place, Away from Moisture
If you’re thinking about storing food inside your attic, I advise against it. Temperatures can reach 100F plus degrees in most summer climates. But even if you live in Alaska, the temperature swings can still harm your stash as well, shortening its shelf by months or even years.
Ideally you should keep all your food in a ventilated basement. You’ll also want to figure out a few alternate locations as well so you’ll never put all your eggs in one basket.
If you have a bug out location, you should stockpile some of your food there, too, just in case.
#3 – Don’t Store Your Survival Medicine in the Bathroom
Humidity decreases medicines shelf life by many months, so keep it in your basement or some other low humidity location.
Bathrooms are notorious for high humidity and lots of temperature variations. However, you can still store any non-perishables there, such as floss, soap, toilet paper and toothpaste.
#4 – Avoid Stockpiling Foods That Are High In Fat
The problem with fat is that it goes rancid fairly quickly. Stick to foods that are high in protein and carbs (powdered eggs, dried beans, honey, etc.)
Of course, some high fat foods can last up to a year when properly stored. Which is more than enough time if you rotate your stockpile properly (every six months or so). Peanut butter and dry dog food are two example of these types of food. Consider adding an oxygen absorber to the latter.
#5 – Keep Your Basement Ventilated
This is a must to reduce moisture and to inhibit mold and mildew growth. If the basement already has windows, perfect. If not, you’re going to need to install a fan or a vent.
If humidity buildup is a serious problem, you should consider investing in a dehumidifier.
Just be aware, not all the ventilation systems out there are worth your money.
#6 – Store Food inside Your Freezer
A freezer is definitely not something to rely on for an extended SHTF scenario, but it can be a small part of your strategy. When the power grid goes down, you’ll have a few days worth of food you can eat. But just know, much of it will go bad quickly. So eat as much of it before moving on to the rest of your stockpile.
#7 – Get Rid Of Pests
Pests can make a mess of your stockpile if you’re not careful. They can ruin your food shelf life faster than anything else if they are allowed free reign.
For instance, keeping your food in plastic 5-gallon buckets may not be enough to keep rats out. So one thing you can do is to put each bucket into larger, metal bucket so vermin won’t be able to chew their way through.
Moths can also be a big problem. Particularly since they’re more discrete and often go unnoticed. If you notice a lot of webbing around where your food is stored, you know you’ve got a problem.
#8 – Drop the Temperature
Here’s a good rule of thumb: with each 10C (or 18F) increase in temperature chemical reactions double in speed, which can reduce your food shelf life by months over the longer term. The reverse is also true: the cooler you can make your pantry or basement, the better.
What this means is that food stored at lower temperatures will often be edible past its labeled expiration date. You may or may not want to try that right now but, in a post-collapse society, you might not have a choice.
If your basement stockpile room doesn’t stay cool, you should investigate the problem, then make some changes. For example, are there any hot water pipes nearby?
#9 – Rotate Your Survival Food Stockpile
I already mentioned this in the beginning, but rotating is one of the best ways to extend your food shelf life. The easiest way to do this would be to integrate your stockpile into your everyday meals. Just check every six months during daylight savings on how it’s going. If you are falling behind, adjust your meals, planning accordingly to catch up.
It’s not that hard especially if your family already eats these on a regular basis. Food items, such as beans, rice, honey, canned food and peanut butter can be easily added to your pantry, then consumed regularly using the FIFO (or First In, First Out) method.
Here are some FIFO can racks you should check out.
Just make sure that when you add new cans or bags, you record the date. Once you’re ready to eat them make sure to pick the ones you added first. Or another way of saying this is you always consume the ones that are closest to their expiration date.
#10 – Freeze-Dry Your Food
Did you know that some pharmaceutical companies implement freeze-drying to increase the shelf life of their products? (source)
This works with food as well. The biggest problem is one of those freeze drying machines will set you back at least a few thousand dollars. If you’re a part of a survival minded group you could all chip in to share the cost. Or you could recoup your investment by charging a fair price to others who want to freeze dry their food.
Freeze drying food works best with fruits, veggies and small chunks of chicken and beef.
#11 – Freeze Pasta Before Storing It in Mylar Bags
Before you store pasta in mylar bags, you should keep it in the freezer for 4-5 days first. This will kill any lingering larvae eggs that could spoil your food in the future.
The trick is to let the pasta return to room temperature after you take it out of the freezer. Do this before sealing it to avoid subsequent condensation inside the bag.
#12 – Use a Desiccant When Storing Seeds
Desiccants are used to remove the moisture from containers in which they are placed. It’s always good to add one to each jar where you store seeds for the long term to remove moisture after you seal it.
Silica gel is the most widely used desiccant available. But some people use dry milk, rice wrapped in a paper towel or a layer of powdered charcoal to achieve the same effect. However, you don’t want your stored seeds to come in contact with the charcoal.
#13 – Freeze Your Seeds
Pretty much every type of seed can be frozen (except for some tropicals) but they need to be dried first. Keeping them in the fridge will work as well but freezing them is even better.
#14 – Use Mineral Oil to Preserve Eggs
Yes, this little trick works, and it can preserve your eggs for up to a year! You can read more about it here but, in short, coating an egg with mineral oil will increase its shelf life.
One caveat when storing eggs is that you have to flip each egg every single week. Still, if you love eating them, it might make sense for you to do it since they’re a comfort food for you.
#15 – How to Preserve the Food Shelf Life of Fish
This is a neat little trick: when storing fish in the fridge, put some ice on top of it and make sure you separate the two with a plastic bag.
#16 – Use Chlorine to Make Sure Your Water Stockpile Doesn’t Develop Algae or Bacteria
Some people will argue that tap water is already treated with chlorine, but what if you’re storing rainwater? That’s what chlorine is for. Tip: mix the chlorine with a few gallons of clean water in a separate container before dumping it into the tank.
Keep your water stockpile away from light to prevent any microorganisms from developing. Even a few microorganisms could put your life in danger post-SHTF.
#17 – Preserve Oil
Even though olive oil can last up to 2-3 years and coconut oil up to 5, you can improve those numbers if you freeze them. Sure, they will lose their nutritional value but this happens with every food. Another way of preserving oil is to do what the food industry does: add a preservative such as BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene).
Of course, not all fats go rancid this quick. Canned foods have plenty of them, and it lasts way longer. This is due to the sterile environment created inside the cans.
#18 – Stockpile White Rice Instead of Brown
White rice has a longer food shelf life than brown by years. Sure, brown rice is healthier and has more nutrients, but the numbers speak for themselves.
#19 – Store Raw Ingredients, Not Foods
For example, store cocoa powder instead of chocolate and wheat berries instead of wheat. Also, if you’re storing spices, go for whole pieces for the same reason: increased food shelf life.
If you’re going to stock raw ingredients, you’ll also need to stockpile a tool to process them. For example, you’re going to need a manual wheat grinder for your wheat berries.
I hope this article gives you plenty of ideas on how to extend the shelf life of your stockpiles. The big takeaway is as long as you do a good job fighting these stockpile challenges you can maintain most of the nutritional value of your food.
If you have more tips and tricks on extending your food shelf life, please write them in a comment below. It would be interesting to see what mistakes you’ve made with food storage. Let us know what happened, what the spoiled food looked like and, most importantly, how you realized it was rotten.survival shoelaces "spit" white-hot fire!