One the most challenging aspects of Food Storage is storage so the food lasts and doesn't spoil. Food storage isn't a new concept. The Mayan culture had innovative methods of food storage and could store sweet potatoes for upwards of ten years! Just like for you today, it was their insurance against drought and famine.
So how long can you store food, and how can you make it last?
Let's find out!
How to make Food Storage Last video
How long can you store food?
Here is a great chart from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS or Mormon) about Longer Term Food Storage
|Food||New "Life-Sustaining" Shelf-Life Estimates (in Years)|
|Non-fat powdered milk||20|
Most of these foods can be found very inexpensively at a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints LDS Home Storage Center.
4 simple tips for making your Food Storage Last
(adapted from simplefamilypreparedness.com)
1. Keep it cool
· Food should be stored between 40-70 degrees Fahrenheit: the cooler the better. “Shelf life” ratings on food are based on a storage temperature of 60-70 degrees.
· For every 10° over 70°, you cut your shelf life in half. So, if a can of green beans says it expires in three years, but you’ve stored them at 80°, they should only be stored for a year and a half.
· For every 15° under 60°, you double your shelf life (to a point). So, if you store that same can of green beans at 50°, you would likely be safe using them four to five years later.
· Temperature fluctuations are worse for your food than high temperatures. The highs and lows cause cans to expand and contract and mess with the seams in the cans. This may open the seal and lead to exposure to moisture and oxygen (two things that will spoil your foods).
· Don't keep food in an unheated or uninsulated garage if at all possible!
**It is important to note that heat alone typically will not make your food unsafe to eat, but it will cause it to lose it’s nutrition and flavor, and that makes it unappealing and less useful as a nutrition source (though it will still have caloric value).
2. Keep it dark
· Exposure to both natural and artificial light can damage food. It is called photodegradation.
· Light causes a chemical reaction food that can cause it to develop an off-flavor or a change in color or vitamin loss.
· Oil is especially susceptible to light as are vitamins A, D, and E.
· As often as possible, food should be stored in opaque containers and kept in dark closets/areas of your home that are rarely exposed to light.
**Again, exposure to light does not automatically make your food unsafe to eat, but it will cause it to lose it’s nutrition and flavor which makes it unappealing and less useful as a nutrition source (though it will still have caloric value). This is especially true of fruits and veggies.
However, anything with oil or fat in it will go rancid quite quickly when exposed to light–canned meat, cooking oil, mayo, shortening, etc.
3. Keep it DRY and away from Oxygen
· Humidity and oxygen speed the growth of bacteria and other microbes in your food and can make your food unsafe to eat.
· Freeze dried food lasts longer than dehydrated food because it has less moisture left in it.
· Ideally, you should store your food at 10% humidity or below but this is difficult in many places.
· The solution is proper packaging. Buy things that are already correctly packaged and sealed in food grade buckets or mylar bags with oxygen absorbers. Or, learn to properly package foods this way yourself. A loose bag on the shelf will quickly lose nutritional value or go rancid.
· Even when food is properly packaged in a metal can, humidity can cause those cans to rust. If you live in a humid area and/or do not plan to regularly rotate and use your food, this is a big problem. Make sure your storage cans are lined with food grade enamel to prevent this from happening.
Those that do - Thrive Life, Emergency Essentials, LDS Home Storage Center.
4. Watch the expiration dates
· Are you using your food storage? If not, you need to! Yes, 10-30 years is a very long shelf life, but it is still limited. If you don’t use your food before that shelf life, you will waste it, and the most expensive food we buy is the food we throw away!
· Rotate, rotate rotate!!
· It's a good idea to only store foods that you enjoy eating and can incorporate into your everyday lifestyle. This makes rotation easy. I highly encourage you to try any food you are considering purchasing before you buy a large supply of it.
1. Canned Foods
· Home Canned Foods. Most home canned foods last for 1 year. They are foods you want to use and replenish every year.
· Commercial canned foods. The USDA divides commercially canned food into two categories. Food that is highly acidic and food that is low acid.
· Highly acidic foods- citrus juice, fruit such as apples, peaches, and pears, pickled foods, foods with vinegar, and tomato-based foods such as salsa, canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, etc. Shelf life - 12-18 months.
· Low acidic foods- not tomato- or citrus-based and include commercially canned meats, poultry, soups, and many vegetables such as corn, peas, and squash. Shelf life of 2-5 years.
· Rust and Metal Cans - Food cans that are metal rust over time. This is one of the reasons that the location of your food store needs to remain dry. Surface rust is usually not a problem; however, if there are dents in the metal or if the can is excessively rusted, or if it is swollen then throw it out as it is unsafe to consume.
1. Metal cans will rust where they are dented, so don't use dented cans.
2. Swollen cans are a sign of bacterial activity in the food. Do not eat from these cans!
2. Dried Foods
· Food stores that are not canned, such as dry beans or powdered milk, should be stored in a sealed bag and then placed in a sealed container or a second bag.
· Once opened, these foods must be used quickly. A good tip for extending the life of dried foods such as powdered milk is to double wrap them and then freeze them. Doing so allows you to use the food over an extended period before it spoils.
3. Boxed foods
· Foods such as dried fruit should be carefully repackaged by opening the box and removing the sealed inner bag. Place the unopened inner bag into a jar with a screw top lid or a plastic container that allows easy visual inspection of the food without opening the outer container.
Watch for insect and rodent damage in boxed foods.
Conditions that Spoil Food
1. Discard wet food. Food that becomes wet should be discarded because water is a prime source of contamination.
2. Avoiding Insect eggs! Dried grains, flours should be kept in the freezer in a double sealed bag or container. All flours and many grains have insect eggs in them. If left at room temperature, the eggs will hatch and cause the food to spoil.
Good work Storing food for the future. Now make sure it's still good to eat if and when you even need to use it!