14 Mistakes to Avoid When Storing Food for the Long Term
One of the cornerstones of prepping is food storage. And as much as it is far more sexy to talk about guns, self-defense, field medicine, and get away vehicles, the bottom line is that for most people, food to eat is their number one concern. For many preppers, this means stocking up on food supplies that will carry them through for six months, a year, a decade and longer.
In our journey to save and store food for the future – and whatever the future holds in store for us – it is easy to make some food storage mistakes. I prefer to call these mistakes “goofs” for no other reason than to laugh at myself after the fact then learn and move on, doing it better the next time.
Frivolity aside, today I would like to list some common food storage mistakes that are typically made in the quest to implement a long term food storage plan.
Common Food Storage Mistakes
1. Storing food you don’t like.
Number one on the list is storing food you don’t like or will not eat no matter what. If you won’t eat it now, what makes you think you will eat it later? Spending money and using your precious storage space on food you will not eat is just plain silly.
2. Failure to rotate out of date/expired food products.
This has happened to me more times than I dare admit. Many food items will be edible beyond their expiration date but others will not. Some products will taste bad or loose nutritional value and others may turn rancid. My recommendation? Label everything with the date of purchase. Keep a log, or a notebook, or reminders in your computer's Outlook file. Whatever system you use, rotate your stored food items well in advance of the pull date.
3. Storing everything in the same place.
Think about it. If everything is stored in your basement and the basement is flooded, you may have a problem. All of your food will be destroyed and you will go hungry. I know, you are thinking that everything you store has been properly packaged in moisture proof packaging. The wise prepper stores food in a multitude of locations.
4. You do not know how to use it.
Many newbie preppers stock up on wheat and other whole grains. That’s great since grains are jam-packed nutrition storehouses but – and a big but – do you know how to prepare grains for consumption? A while back I wrote an article on wheat and lamented the poor prepper who had tons of wheat but nothing to eat. For heaven’s sake, do not purchase wheat or anything else if you do not know how to use it.
Now I don’t mean to pick on wheat and grains – this applies to any food items you purchase for the long term. When you purchase something new and unfamiliar, hold some back and learn how to prepare it before your life depends on it.
5. Storing a lot of basic foodstuffs but no comfort foods.
Plan to eat well, and eat healthy but be sure to allow for a splurge once in a while, too. Perhaps the splurge will be popcorn which is easily stored and can be sprinkled with butter powder for that theatre-popped taste. Or how about some hard candies or cocoa (made from powder)? Assess your family’s likes and try to put away a few comfort items for the long term. Heck, even boxes of mac and cheese may be just the thing to comfort the soul when times are bad.
6. Improper storage temperatures.
Heat is one of the enemies of food storage and not something that a lot of people think about. If you have a basement or cellar, you are in luck since cooler temperatures will prolong the shelf life of food items considerably.
7. Not storing liquids to reconstitute your dried items.
Have you ever tried to cook rice without water or broth? How about dried beans or pasta? Make sure you have enough water, canned broth or even juices to prepare your dried and packaged food products.
8. Not planning for alternate cooking facilities and sources of cooking fuel.
This should be a no-brainer but for many, it is not. When the power goes out, you will need a fire, a grill or a portable stove. And don’t forget fuel. In the best of all worlds, a rocket stove that burns biomass (twigs, pine cones and such) is an easy and inexpensive solution to the cooking dilemma following a disaster or crisis.
9. No condiments or spices to wake up the taste buds.
Salt, pepper, some chili powder, mustard, sugar, honey – the list is endless. These items do not need to cost a lot nor do they need to take up an extraordinary amount of space. When push comes to shove, however, your eating experience will be greatly enhanced by having a few things on hand to enliven the taste of your stored food stuffs.
10. Not enough variety.
Most people need and want variety. This is especially true for children, the elderly and the infirm who may already be picky eaters. Plus, you need a variety of foods in order to get a full complement of nutritional value for your meals. Sure, if the SHTF you will be thankful to have anything to eat – calories being more important than taste. But in planning your long term food storage, you have the luxury of time so go ahead and plan on some variety.
11. Purchasing food in inappropriate sizes.
YMMV but many preppers prefer to package food in small, manageable sizes. Items stored for the long term (beans, rice, lentils, cereals, dog food etc.) can be been stored in 1 gallon Mylar bags and not the larger, 5 gallon size. Four or five of these small bags are then put in a closed bucket or bin so that they can be pulled out for use one at a time. The advantage of doing this is that if there is a short term emergency, you can pull out what you need without having to repackage and reseal the entire 5 gallon package or bucket.
12. Improper storage containers.
This applies to a lot of things. Here is an example: do not store rice in a bucket that previously held pickles without prepackaging the rice in a Mylar bag. Pickle-flavored rice may taste good if you are pregnant but practically no one else will appreciate this exotic dish. Make sure your food storage containers did not hold toxic chemicals in a prior life and make sure your containers are moisture and pest-proof.
13. Purchasing a kit of food items without evaluating the contents.
This is another lesson that many learn the hard way. Before purchasing a kit of any type, look at the contents and decide how many of the items will be truly useful. If there are items you don’t want, can you give them away to someone else? Also look at the total cost. Is the kit still a good value even though you will not use everything?
14. Don’t worry about a 25 or 30 year shelf life if you are 70 years old!
I am being a tad bit cynical and facetious here but really, if your lifespan is 20 years, don’t worry too much about 30 year items. Sure, you can give them away, donate them, or use them in less than 30 years but the point is, don’t stress if the items you store away have only a 10 or 20 year shelf life. Go back to mistake #10, "Variety." It is better to have a mix of items with varying shelf lives than to get hung up on extremely long storage life.
Summing it all up
In this month’s article, I have shared some common mistakes when storing food for the long term. By avoiding these mistakes, you will eliminate waste and will get the most from your food prepping dollar. The best advice I can offer is that regardless of your reason for storing food, think through your purchases in advance and make the right decisions now to insure that your food supply will there for you when you need it the most.
For more information on food storage for the long term visit my website, Backdoor Survival.