Long term food storage is best done in phases.
Do you already have a short-term food storage plan or stockpile that will last you a week, a month, or three months? Are you ready to now plan for an even longer period of food storage? Long-term food storage is a form of stockpiling food meant to sustain you for months and even years. With a long-term stockpile of food, you will be able to weather events ranging from job loss to a large-scale catastrophe without going hungry.
When you begin your preparedness plan for a long-term food storage stockpile, you want to know what items you should select for storage, in what amounts, and how to best store these food items (not only in what sort of container but also where). This article will address suggested items for long-term storage, containers and storage locations, and how to estimate your long-term needs so that you have the most useful stockpile possible.
STEP ONE: ARE YOU READY TO BEGIN LONG-TERM FOOD STORAGE?
When should you begin long-term food storage? Before beginning, you should have a shorter-term stockpile in place. If you are just beginning to put together a food supply, begin with a very short time period, such as a week, and then double that to two weeks, and from there a month, and increase until you have a two to three-month supply of stored food. The long-term stockpile planning and supply comes when you already have a good shorter term stockpile in place, and you now want to extend your supply to ensure survival for much longer time periods.
STEP TWO: WHAT TO STORE
Grains and dried beans are the main items you will need for long-term storage. Rice, pasta, dried beans, nuts, & flour and other grains can last for decadesunder the right conditions.
Is your long-term stockpile sustainable? Can you plan for meat to be available “on the hoof” by raising it now, and having a sustainable breeding herd or flock? Will you fish as part of your long-term stockpile? If yes, plan to lay away extra hooks and a rod or two, and develop fishing skills now if you don’t already have them. While beans and nuts, livestock and fish can provide protein, also consider peanut butter, and freeze dried meats, items which are probably already a part of your shorter term stockpile.
Another consideration for long-term sustainability in your stockpile or food storage plan is to plan edibles into your landscape with plants like blueberries, raspberries, apples, pears, mushrooms, and nut trees. Edible landscaping is an investment in time and plants that you can enjoy now, and may help to sustain your stockpile in a time of great need—and it won’t take up space in the same way your main stockpiled food does. You will need sources of fruit and vegetables to meet nutritional needs. For example, scurvy can be deadly, but it is easily prevented with the vitamin C found in fruits.
Plan to include leavening agents like yeast, baking powder, baking soda, a sweetener such as sugar, and oils. Salt is essential: do not forget to include a supply of salt in your stockpile!
Don’t forget about non-edible essentials: water treatment (such as bleach), toilet paper, buckets, jars, and bags to store items, seeds, mix, and planting trays, canning and drying supplies, cooking & food preparation tools and a source of heat, and any supplies needed to care for livestock or pets.
What about coffee? Is it a luxury, or will you make room for it in a long-term stockpile? While the long-term food supply is meant for survival, you need to determine what you actually need, and something like coffee might be ok to skip for you, but not for someone else. Similarly, you may choose to store powdered milk, but others may skip it. You need to plan for your individual tastes, and your budget.
Buying items you will not eat is a waste. In some ways, the long-term readymade food kits available for purchase may not be right for you. Why? They have an expiration date, and might consist of foods you don’t currently eat, or would not eat unless in an emergency. A well planned stockpile is made up of items you eat now, but that store well. You can keep a stockpile up to date by cooking from it, and then shopping to replenish your stockpile instead of shopping to replenish your kitchen cupboards. With a readymade kit, unless you plan to use it and replenish, you are essentially purchasing a time capsule of food that will have lost all nutritional value once it ages to a certain date.
Similarly, don’t buy items you can’t prepare, and plan to have needed tools for preparing what you do store. It does no good to have ingredients without the tools and means to prepare and cook them. For example, if you are storing canned items, is your can opener electric, or do you have at least two manual can openers (two because they do break)? Do you have a plan for how you will heat or cook food without electricity if needed? Do you have the equipment needed to do so?
STEP THREE: WHERE TO STORE IT
For the longest storage, your stockpile should be in a relatively cool and dry location. Items will store longer if they are stored between 50 and 70 F. A cool cellar or basement may be ideal if you can store food in airtight containers to prevent dampness from spoiling your supply. Pests are another consideration, which will be discussed under with containers in step four, below.
Your stockpile should be accessible for rotating and replenishment of items. Rotating items is a term for using items in your stockpile before they expire their useful life, while replenishing your supply with a similar fresher item.
You also may want to test your stockpile, by using it for a week or longer, and seeing what planning gaps you come up with, or items that you need to consider adding, or removing, or substituting.
Visibility of your food supply is another consideration. You want your stockpile easily accessible to you, but you may not want to have it readily visible to all visitors. Take some time to consider the best location for your long-term and short-term stockpiles.
STEP FOUR: HOW TO STORE IT
For long-term food storage, you have to consider preserving your supply against the enemies of moisture, air exposure and temperature, and finally: pests.As mentioned above, a cool cellar or basement may be ideal for your long-term stockpile if you can seal food items away from moisture and pests.
Do you have shelving? Clean and reuse glass jars with tight lids, or even store grains in clean soda bottles. If you need to buy jars, Mason jars are great, and Weck jars are amazing. Buy extra in the event you need them for canning or pickling.
Use food safe PETE plastic lidded buckets to store, sort, and stack items. These buckets are available for from local bakeries or an online supply. If you have used a food sealer, toss sealed items in a lidded stackable bucket to further protect them from vermin or sudden environmental changes, and to organize foods by type or time period.
Be sure your containers are food safe, or that you have protected your supply from contact with a potentially toxic item. For example, if you are using a non-food safe container, line it with a food safe bag or use a food sealer to package items before storing them. Consider using Mylar to create packets (it heat seals quite easily).
Dried foods will last longer the less they are exposed to oxygen. Consider adding oxygen removal packets with airtight containers to reduce or eliminate oxygen in stored foods. Note that plastic 5 gallon buckets are not airtight, and that any food stored with these packets must be at a 10% or less moisture content or you risk contracting illnesses such as deadly botulism.
STEP FIVE: ESTIMATE AMOUNTS
There are food storage calculators that you can make use of, as well as spreadsheets to track your current food use. One estimate is that one adult will need 25-31 pounds of grains (such as wheat, barley, oats, rice, corn, pasta) and 5 pounds of dried beans or nuts per month. For that same time period, about a pound of salt, two pounds of fats, and up to 52 gallons of water will be necessary. Consider running a test from your food supply for several days or a week to determine storage levels per person.
When you are estimating amounts, don’t forget to also calculate for non-edible essentials: water treatment (such as bleach), toilet paper, buckets, jars, and bags to store items, seeds, mix, and planting trays, canning and drying supplies, cooking & food preparation tools and a source of heat, and any supplies needed to care for livestock or pets.
STEP SIX: ORGANIZE FOR LONGEVITY AND USE
Your long-term stockpile needs to be effectively labeled, so that you know not only the contents but when the items were stored. It is important to rotate stock out and replenish it. Consider cooking from your stockpile, and then replenishing it when you grocery shop rather than cooking from your grocery shopping. In this way, you have a consistently updated and fresh stockpile rather than a time capsule.
These first steps for long-term food storage should help you develop and build your own food stockpile, and ensure that it is as useful as possible. Keep your eye out for forthcoming articles about how to begin a short-term stockpile, and how to stockpile fresh produce.
Do you have any stockpile favorites? Let us know in the comments below!
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