How to Start a Long Term Food Storage

In the Introduction to Long Term Emergency Food Storage, we learned what it means to have a long term emergency food storage and why we need one.  We’ve also committed to take the Food Storage Challenge: building a three-day food storage by the end of May.  Now that we know our goals, we’re ready to begin preparing.

First things first. In order to decide what to store in your long term emergency food storage, you must first decide your method of cooking.  We’re planning for a situation where there is no power, so you have a few different options:

  • Cook with a camping stove
  • Cook with a bbq
  • Microwave attached to a generator
  • No heat source at all
If you don’t have and are not interested in purchasing any of the first three items, there is a food storage solution for cooking without heat.  They are self-heating meals: ready-made meals that self heat in a foil pouch.  If you choose option four, you’ll want to purchase  three day supply of self-heating meals (you can find them at Ready Set Go Kits), stock up on emergency water and be done with your food storage supply.

For everyone else however, if you choose options one or two, add a three-day supply of your appropriate fuel source (propane, charcoal, lighter fluid, etc) to your shopping list.  As Laura reminded us, there was a run on all fuel sources during Hurricane Opal, so go ahead and buy the big size charcoal/lighter fluid/propane/etc.

Ok, now that we have determined our cooking method, we can determine our food products.

Canned vs. frozen vs. dehydrated vs. freeze dried

Long term emergency food storage is a conundrum.  You want food that will last a long time, that your family will eat, that’s nutritious, and doesn’t need to be refrigerated or frozen after you open it.

That’s a lot to ask from your food, but luckily there are solutions for us.  Manufacturers have been making foods that meet those requirements for campers and hikers.  We can take our clues from them.  We can also prepackage items so that they are single serving containers, so you only open what you need, no refrigeration afterward needed!

There are long term storage solutions for most products, consider the following:

Milk – use powdered milk and water. 
            Fruit – use canned, frozen or dehydrated
            Vegetables – use canned, frozen or dehydrated
            Bread – freeze it
            Meal entrees – canned (spaghetti, stews and chilis), dehydrated or freeze dried
            Meat – canned (such as tuna) or frozen (hamburger patties, meat)

But how do you decide which method is best?  It’s a judgment call, but here is a list of pros and cons for each type of long term storage solution:

Stores for over a year, items taste good
Can have high amounts of sodium and/or fat content, check your labels.  If you don’t eat it all at once, the leftovers need to be refrigerated.
Convenient, items taste good and most retain shape and flavor.
If you don’t eat it all at once, it needs to be refrigerated.  Frozen food does not store as long as the other options so needs to be rotated more frequently.
Light-weight, retains nutrition
Needs water, make sure to store extra water for these products.  Let’s face it, dehydrated food can taste funny.
Freeze Dried
Light-weight, retains nutrition and original food color
You can’t eat too much of a freeze dried product without getting that weird cotton-mouth taste.  Need extra water to wash it down.

Your homework for tonight:
  1. Pull out your family’s favorite recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner (one for each meal will do).
  2. Adjust recipe to be workable on your selected cooking apparatus (i.e. campstove/bbq/etc).  If the recipe can’t be modified, select a different recipe.
  3. Brainstorm options to swap out fresh or perishable ingredients for long term storable items (i.e. fresh peaches for canned peaches).
Keep those recipes handy because you will need them for the next step: How to Calculate Your Food Storage Needs.

An important component of emergency preparedness is your emergency preparedness kit.  If you don’t have one ready yet, head on over to our online store to check out our 1 and 2 person emergency kits

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