I get 30 – 50 emails a day which is great because I love hearing from you guys and gals, especially when you make my head swell with words of praise and agreement. A lot of readers are seeking advice on one subject or another and while I try to respond to everyone, I do get covered up some times and loose an email in the mess. If I fail to answer in a timely manner please be patient, I will likely catch up in a couple of days.
The most common inquiry relates to food storage. It seems there has been so much written on the subject that some are getting lost within the mountain of words and are confused as to the what, how and the how much. While I am not the authority on the study of food storage, I have gained enough expertise though my own efforts to respond intelligently to readers with sound solutions to their problems.
What to store
This is by far the most common question asked.
This is the backbone of your survival diet. Wheat is nature’s longest storing seed, with an indefinite shelf life given proper conditions. The wheat can also be sprouted adding fresh greens to the diet even in winter. Put back 400 pounds per person.
While not a food but a mineral salt is none the less essential to the diet and individual health. Salt is also used in the preservation of food and animal products. Salt like wheat has an indefinite self life. At least 20 pounds per person.
As a sweetener honey makes an unequaled contribution to the diet. Some think of it as a super food giving energy and renewed vitality. Being an extract from the plant kingdom, it is sure to contain numerous components which contribute to health. Honey like wheat and salt has an indefinite self life. At least 10 pound per person.
Most people turn their nose to even the thought of powdered milk, preferring whole milk from the supermarket shelf. Granted it does have a slightly different taste but it’s not unpleasant to drink, after a week or two it seems to “grow” on you. Studies have shown that fat-free powdered milk, when kept dry and reasonably cool, will store with little change in value for over 15 years. You need 60 pound per person.
After you get the basic four foods (wheat, sugar, powdered milk, and salt) in the needed proportions, it is a simple matter to add other foods as you get the extra money. Pinto beans, white rice, split peas, soybeans, dried green peas, whole corn and canned meats, fruits and vegetables can be added giving more variety to the diet. And don’t forget to include pepper, baking powder, baking soda, canned yeast, dried eggs, cooking oil, multivitamin and mineral as well as extra vitamin C caplets.
How to store
I store all my grains, beans and powdered milk in food grade plastic buckets. There is a lot of confusion and controversy over whether a bucket is food grade or not. A #2 inside a small triangle on the bottom of the bucket means it is made from HDPE plastic and is of food grade.
I bought mine from the local hardware store in the paint section. They also had them at the Walmart but I prefer to buy from local business owners if possible. Sometimes they can even be gotten free from bakeries and restaurants, just be sure they only held food products not paint, chemicals or other things that can make you sick or dead.
Foods packed in oxygen don’t store as well as those in an oxygen free atmosphere. Oxygen absorbers (available from Nitro-Pak) remove the air from the enclosed container, leaving an atmosphere of 99% pure nitrogen in a partial vacuum.
Don’t open the bag of oxygen absorbers until ready to use because they will absorb oxygen from the surrounding air and become useless. Have everything ready to go before you open the package. Any unused absorbers can be stored put in a small canning jar until needed.
Be sure to have everything ready to go before you start. Then pour the food you are planning on preserving into the buckets a little at a time shaking each one as it is being filled to settle and distribute the contents. Fill each bucket to about ½ inch from the top and throw in three oxygen absorbers to each bucket of food.
Quickly put the lids on each bucket and pound shut by laying a board across the top and striking with a hammer or rubber mallet. After a few hours the absorbers will create a vacuum that will cause the lids on the buckets to “pop down” indicating a good seal and a proper atmosphere for long term storage. Be sure to label each with date, content and weight, written on the front with a permanent marker.
Where to Store
The next question is where to put all this food? Lack of space is the main drawback to living in a 26ft’ travel trailer. Just about everything needs to be stored outside. Even in most homes and apartments living can get cramped as more crap gets brought in to fill the space. One option is to sell some of the stuff you don’t use, maybe cleaning out a large closet and filling it with your stored foods. You will need to take a look at your personal situation and space available, storing your foods accordingly.
I have the bulk of my foods cached in my outbuilding behind my trailer. This may not be the idea set up but it is dry and shaded in the summer. I took a number of concrete blocks and laid a sheet of 4×8′ ply board on top to form a platform to stack the buckets on keeping them off the ground. I would love to have a root cellar big enough to hold the bulk of my food storage, but for now I must deal with less than perfect.