Sunday, February 5, 2012

Serious Food Caching

A Well-Stocked Basement Pantry
While this blog is not directed toward the "survivalist" audience, many of the techniques that group has developed would be good for us to know and use. Today I want to explore long-term food and supply caching. By long-term I am talking about years instead of weeks.  Why would we want to store food and supplies for years? Because sometimes we can buy or acquire food and supplies at really good prices and these fairly simple techniques will allow us to store those supplies for an uncertain future.

The colder months of winter are the optimal time to prepare and store foodstuff for long term. This is because the air is generally less humid, especially if you are heating your house with forced air. You also generally have fewer tasks around the house to take care of since the yard is pretty much dormant for the winter. Hopefully you saved all the little packs of silica that came in many of your Christmas present packages. If not, just go by a hobby/craft store and buy some bulk silica desiccant crystals. Crafters use it for drying leaves and flowers for displays and arrangements.

The first thing you have to consider is what can I store?  What foods and supplies do well in storage and have some worth? Well, in general, any foods that you normally buy in a dehydrated state work well. This would include such things as rice, dry beans and peas, noodles, flour, cooking spices, salt and pepper, and powdered milk. To this list of possible food items I would add a selection of seeds so you can grow your own food if things are really bad. While it might be possible to store flour, it is the most sensitive food item to moisture so it would really be better to store the grain and then grind your own flour. Grain will store better and for longer.

Once you know what you want to store you need storage containers that will protect the items from the five factors I mention above. This basically means a container made from glass or plastic. There are some home-canning systems available that use metal storage cans but they are fairly rare. For large amounts of a product you can use five gallon buckets with screw on or snap on lids. I once picked up a big supply of buckets from a local McDonalds. Other fast food restaurants probably also use these buckets for bulk ketchup, sauces, and mixes. Just ask the manager.  No matter what you use make sure it is safe for food storage.If you need to buy them do a search in using the term "Food Storage Bucket" and you'll see some offers.

Oxygen and moisture need to be removed first. If you buy pasta, beans, rice, and peas at a grocery store, you should leave them in the original plastic bags they came in. They are probably already purged of moisture and oxygen. If you buy these items from an open barrel at a bulk store, then you will need to re-dry them in the oven, at very low temperature, and then add an oxygen absorbing pack when you seal the container. You can buy these through 
Where to store the containers. Store your sealed containers of food in a cool, dark, and dry location. The cooler the better. Food degrades slower when it is maintained at a cool temperature. Every 10.08f degrees below the standard 70f degrees almost doubles the storage life. A dark corner of an unfinished basement will stay between 55-65 degrees. If you are going to store your food outside of your house, you want to dig down five to six feet in a shaded area, preferably on the northern side of a hill. If the lid or roof of your storage cache is insulated it will maintain a temperature of 55f degrees. At 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit, most of your food items will store for eight to sixteen years. Brown rice does not store as well as white rice. Brown rice is more nutritious but the oils in the hull will turn rancid in 6-8 months of even ideal storage. Sugar and honey will last forever if stored properly.  Seeds you intend to use to grow food should be stored in regular air without being purged with nitrogen or CO2. I would also avoid the O2 absorber packs. Just rotate your seeds every 3-5 years and you will maintain viable seeds.

Canned foods will last a long time and if you rotate your stock (first in, first out) you can maintain several weeks worth of food in a fairly small space. When I was a kid we had a pantry room in the basement that was maybe 8x8 feet with four or five shelves that went all the way around. Our basement was semi-finished with concrete walls and floor. So it stayed a pleasantly cool 60f degrees even in the summer and was cooler in the winter. We did a lot of canning, mostly fruit, jams & jellies, and tomato sauce. In addition we stored some canned and dry items in this room as room opened up on the shelves. In late fall the shelves were full of canned stuff from our garden and fruit foraging. I never saw the pantry empty and there were seven people in my family. This amount of space can hold a tremendous amount of food.

Anyone older than forty knows that the weather patterns in the US have changed drastically since they were a kid. I'm 51 and I hardly recognize the changes in the seasons. It is getting more and more likely that there will be a natural disaster and some people will say a national crisis is coming. Being able to feed your family for several weeks or months from your own stores might be critical. Being able to supplement purchased or provided food in a crisis will make life more endurable. In either case, you need to have a secure, durable food store of your own to ensure your well-being. This pantry can also be used to store cheap foods that you have been able to forage or purchase. Buy them cheap, store them in ideal conditions, and use them as you need to.

1 comment:

  1. just catching up on this blog. Good ideas and tips. I suggest when storing items such as rice and flours freeze them for 72 hours, allow to thaw about 48 hours and refreeze another 72 hours. This will kill weevils, eggs and other critters.