The 10 Food Storage Mistakes to Avoid

Are you new to food storage?  Or, are you experienced but want to evaluate your stockpile of stored food?  Learn from the mistakes of others by reviewing this list of common food storage mistakes.

1. Having buckets full of grains, beans or wheat, but have never cooked them before is a problem waiting to happen.

Practice cooking with your stored food.  Practice preparing your stored foods.

If you have stored whole grains, such wheat berries, do you have a wheat grinder to make flour?  If you do, is it in good condition?  Do you know how to use it?  Have you actually used it?

2. Have you stored food that you and your family will want to eat?  In a stressful emergency time, it will be a comfort to serve familiar foods. Make a list of your favorite foods, then begin storing them, especially those which have a long shelf-life.

3. Not rotating stored food is a common problem. Food gets old.  It may still be eatable but over time, most foods lose their nutritional value.  So, even though some foods can go past their expiration dates, you should try to use your oldest food storage, first.  A system of putting newer food toward the back of the shelf, and rotating the oldest to the front, will help prevent food waste. Consider adding the expiration date, or purchase date, on the top of cans or boxes using a Sharpie permanent marker.

4. Select a variety of foods which also provide a balanced diet.  To prevent food burnout it is best to store a wide variety of foods.  But nutrition is also important if you find yourself in a situation where you are eating exclusively from your stored food larder.

Try storing a selection of fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, meats, seasonings, along with food staples such as rice and dry beans.  Don’t forget to store an assortment and quantities of spices and seasonings!

Also keep on hand foods that are freeze dried, dried soup mix to use as a flavoring for rice and beens, canned foods, dehydrated fruits and vegetables, prepared “instant” packaged meals, and perhaps even MREs.

5. What about your food storage location and the containers you are using for food storage?  A poor choice in storage containers will limit shelf-life.  And, a poor storage location may result in theft, spoilage due to high heat or freezing temperatures, damage from moisture or high humidity, or infestation of insects or rodents.

Prevention of damage from these sources of potential problems is critically important.  Using the right food storage containers no only prolongs shelf life, but also nutritional value and taste. Food grade plastic containers, Mylar bags, glass canning jars, and even food grade buckets can all help to maintain a longer shelf life.

6. Do you have food redundancy?  Have you stored food in more than one location?  Have you stored various types of food (cans, retort packages, Mylar bags, glass jars, etc.) to keep your diet interesting and nutritious? Do you have extra quantities in case some of your food is damaged or stolen?

Store at least some dehydrated and/or freeze dried foods, especially vegetables.  Also, canned foods and jar foods, even if you don’t ordinarily eat these items.  (Keep track of expiration dates, and donate them to a food bank if you don’t need them.)  This variety will add balance to your cooking options, and it can add variety, an assortment of textures, and flavors, all of which are important during a time of extended use of your stored food supply.

For safety and security, don’t store all of your food in one location.  It may be prudent to hide some of your food supply.  This is an insurance policy against theft, and it is also helpful for keeping hungry neighbors from knocking on your door when they become needy.  Plus, it is added protection from the potential damage caused by things like a leaky roof  or pests.

Remember, inadvertent exposure of a large stash of food to others, is not just an invitation to theft, it is also an invitation to unwanted guests in the future.  If others know about your food supply, you may find that you have visitors at inopportune times.

If your situation makes this possible, consider storing food in out of the way places such as under floor boards, in your garage or another building on your property, boxes in your clothes closets, or even a climate controlled off-site storage facility.  Of course the best location for storing a long-duration food supply is at a rural or emergency bug out location, but if you don’t have a retreat location, at lease store some of your food in containers that can be grabbed and quickly transported if you need to evacuate.

7. Don’t forget to store quantities of salt, cooking oil, shortening, baking powder, baking soda, yeast, dry milk, and powdered eggs. And, spices, sauces, and herbs, as well.  Even the most most basic meal recipes require these items.  And, even an austere diet of rice and beans can become palatable if you add the right spices.

Do you have cookbooks to help you prepare these basic foods?  These cookbooks can also help you select the spices and other supplies you will need to store.

8. Take into account that you need water to cook many foods.  Many prepared foods require water to rehydrate, and pasta, rice, beans and soups, all need water for cooking.

9. Do you have canned sauces, spices, salt, oil, sugar, honey, and basic condiments that are needed for making stored food tasty? How will your famous spaghetti sauce taste without Italian seasoning, salt, olive oil and that pinch of sugar?

Beans and rice are great staples to have on hand and can be seasoned in a variety of ways using salt, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, onion flakes, soy sauce, ground red pepper, tomato sauce mix, and other mixes and flavorings.

10. Alternative cooking method.  Do you have an alternative cooking method if the power goes out?   There are many products available such as propane-powered camping stoves (don’t forget to store quantities of fuel), and also alternative-fuel stoves and ovens such as Kelly Kettle, Volcano Oven, Wonder Oven, Solar Oven, and others.  Visit the camping section in WalMart or a sporting goods store.

Do you have cooking-method options?  Do you have the pots and pans and utensils you will need?  Do you know how to use these items — have you used them?  Do a little research now, to see which cooking methods are the best back-up option for your family.

One last tip, don’t forget to store easy-to-prepare foods frozen and canned foods to help you get through a few days, or a few weeks, during which you are stuck at home.  Foods not normally part of your diet may become “comfort” foods during a difficult time.  Dieting may become the least of your worries during an emergency.  Even a coffee snob can learn to appreciate freeze-dried instant coffee when a trip to their favorite coffee shop is impossible.

These items may not rate inclusion on your list of required foods, but you still may want to consider adding a few packages of dried fruit, instant pudding, juice boxes, instant packaged foods, canned chili, candy, muffin mixes, cake mixes, Hershey’s chocolate syrup (lasts a long time without refrigeration), brownie mix, and other nonessential comfort foods.

– Cindy Castillo, American Preppers Network

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