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Long term food storage.

November 11, 2012

Thank you, all our Veterans, for your service to our country.

Today, let’s consider long-term food storage and how much stuff is in your kitchen pantry. If another hurricane Sandy went though your county, obliterating the power grid, how well would you fare living off that amount of goods? Couple days? Maybe a couple of weeks, if you’re lucky? How about 6 weeks, before the power is restored?

First, in all areas of the country, preppers must have alternative cooking methods if the grid is down. In cold areas, like the Northeast corridor all torn up by Sandy and the nor’easter the week afterwards, alternative heating is also imperative. So, assuming your home is intact enough to be habitable structurally, you must have your food, water, then cooking and heating.

Canned goods all have this ‘sell by’ date or some manufacturers code stamped on them. This date is NOT an indication of ‘you better throw this stuff out right now!’ doom and gloom. It’s sort of a marketing ploy and a quality issue. These manufacturers know that your can of soup you just bought with 2 weeks to go on the sell by date, could in fact sit on your pantry shelf six months past that date before you eat it. So, if you got sick from that experiment, the soup company expects you’ll sue them. They don’t want that kind of thing happening.  So, the ‘tolerance’ for going past that magic date is pretty generous.  See this link to the USDA   Food Product Dating

In general, high-acid canned foods such as tomatoes, grapefruit and pineapple will retain best quality on the shelf for 12 to 18 months; low-acid canned foods such as meat, poultry, fish and most vegetables will retain best quality on the shelf for 2 to 5 years — if the can remains in good condition and has been stored in a cool, clean, dry place. Good old Spam and many other canned meats, like ham, beef, tuna, turkey and chicken all have a nice long shelf life.

Now, dry goods is where shelf life really gets good. Architects have dug up wheat from Egyptian tombs and the stuff is still able to sprout. I don’t suppose we’ll need our stuff to last quite that long, but good to know, eh?

When you buy bulk grains like in  50 pound bags   I suggest the stuff be put into one pound or so increments and hard vacuumed with a  FoodSaver vacuuming system  which we have used for years to put away our dry goods and dehydrated foods. After the product is hard vacuumed, giving you a ‘brick like’ package similar to those ‘bricks’ of coffee you may have noticed in the store, we put our grains, rice, pasta, beans, soup mix, etc into 5 gallon buckets with lids which have rubber gaskets around the rim to seal air tight. Our typical bucket will contain a mix of various grains, soup mixes, pasta (out of the boxes, but with the cooking instructions in our vac bag) dehydrated fruit all vac bagged. Since we value every square inch inside these buckets, we also cram in items like tapered candles, strike anywhere matches, 10 ounces of silver bullion bars, 50 rounds of .357 magnum ammo, a hundred bucks in cash or a roll of toilet paper (probably more comfortable and efficient than that cash)  just whatever we think might be handy if we need the contents of these buckets. And we put anything that’s not food that we think may have any kind of issue with moisture (matches, bullets) into their own vac bags. Then, as we close up the buckets, toss in  oxygen absorbers  and packs of silica gel to deal with any slight amount of moisture that may creep in. Oh, and we also LABEL ALL BUCKETS with their contents, so if we’re looking for something specific, we don’t have to open 40 buckets to find what we’re looking for. Stash your buckets in the lowest, coolest part of your house, like the basement or crawl space. If you have your buckets in plain sight, I suggest a little ‘camouflage’ by slopping paint (different colors for each bucket) around on the lids and sides to make these vital storage items look like buckets full of paint, hoarded by painting nuts. Put the labels facing the wall.

Some typical storage times for some items that are NOT vacuum bagged. Vac bagged items will last substantially longer.

Baking Powder – 18 months (unopened).  Baking Soda – 18-24 months .Beans, Adzuki – 8-10 years (at 70 degrees F.)
Beans, Blackeye – 8-10 years (at 70 degrees F.). Beans, Black Turtle – 8-10 years (at 70 degrees F.)
Beans, Dried – 12-24 months ( in their original container). Beans, Dried – indefinitely (resealed in a food grade container w/oxygen absorber or vacuum sealed in a food grade bag). Beans, Garbanzo – 8-10 years (at 70 degrees F.)
Beans, Great Northern – 8-10 years (at 70 degrees F.). Beans, Kidney – 8-10 years (at 70 degrees F.)
Beans, Mung Beans – 8-10 years (at 70 degrees F.). Beans, Pink – 8-10 years (at 70 degrees F.)
Beans, Pinto – 8-10 years (at 70 degrees F.). Beans, Refried – 5 years (at 70 degrees F.)
Beans, Small Red – 8-10 years (at 70 degrees F.). Beans, Soy – 8-10 years (at 70 degrees F.)
Bouillon – 24 months (Keep dry and covered). Bouillon (Cubes) – 24 months. Bouillon (Granules) – 12 months
Bouillon, Herb Ox – 24 months. Bouillon, Tone – 24 months.

Bread Mix, Biscuit Mixes (most) – 9 months. Bread Mix, Biscuit Mix, Krusteaze, any flavor except mix for bread machines – 24 months. Bread, Mix, Hot-roll mix -18 months (If opened, store in airtight container).

Butter, dehydrated – 5-8 years. Buttermilk Powder – 24-36 months. Cake Mix (most) – 9-12 months.
Cake Mix, Angel Food – 9 months. Cake Mix, Betty Crocker – 8-12 months. Cake Mix, Jiffy – 24 months.
Cake Mix, Pillsbury – 18 months. Candy, hard – 24 months. Casseroles, mix – 9-12 months (Keep cool and dry)
Cereals, cooked, such as oatmeal, cream of wheat, etc – 6 months. Cereal, Corn, dry Ready-to-eat – 12 months.
Cereal, Cream of Wheat – 12 months. Cereal, Hominy Grits – 12 months. Cereal, Oatmeal – 12 months. Cereal, Quinoa Cereal – 1-3 months. Cereals, Ready-to-cook, oatmeal, etc. – 12 months. Cereals, Ready-to-eat (unopened) – 6-12 months (opened 2-3 months). Cereals, ready-to-eat (opened) – 2-3 months (Refold package tightly). Cereal, Rice cereal, dry Ready-to-eat – 12 months. Cereal, Wheat, shredded, dry Ready-to-eat – 12 months. Cheese, dehydrated – 5-8 years. Cheese, Parmesan, grated – 12 months. Cheese, Powdered – 36 months. Chocolate, Hot Cocoa Mix, Nestles (Individually Wrapped) – 24 months. Chocolate, Nestles Quick – 24 months. Chocolate, Semi-sweet – 18-24 months Keep cool.
Chocolate syrup, (unopened) – 2 years. Chocolate syrup, (opened) – 6 months (Refrigerate). Chocolate, Unsweetened – 18 months Keep cool. Chocolate syrup (opened) – 6 months. Chocolate syrup (unopened) – 24 months. Cocoa – 5 years (in Mylar pouch).

That’s a good sampling to start with. You should get the general idea at this point. Dry foods without oils mixed in which would include brown rice and various cornmeal bread mixes, will last far longer. Read the packaging label for clues of oils and other ingredients that may cause rancidity and spoilage.

You may find many items at your local grocer, such as the powdered milk products or the ultra pasteurized milk and other products in ‘boxes’ in the market. These items last a nice long while without refrigeration.

We have a wide range of bulk, freeze dried, powdered, dehydrated and long term storage foods at our Surviving Urban Crisis Supply Store if you don’t seem to be able to find these particular items locally.

Be safe and eat well!

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