Long Term Food Storage
Long-term food storage plays a big part in prepping. You need to ensure you have quality food in enough quantity to sustain you while you do what is required to survive. Storing food can be a difficult task especially as you need it to last as long as possible. There are various methods to extending the shelf life of food so it is easy to store and ready to use in a shtf situation.
This article is about the shelf life possibilities of these methods rather than an instructional piece. The descriptions of each method will be brief so make sure you research each one further before attempting.
Canned food can, if stored correctly, be fine to eat for up to 1 – 2 years. For those of you that are new to this method of food storage, home canning involves chopping up your food and putting it into a mason jar full of water. From there, once the lid is on tight, you then pressurize the jars by either placing the jars in a boiling water bath for high acid foods or by heating to 116 degrees Celsius (240 degrees Fahrenheit) for low acid foods.
The highest nutrient loss occurs before canning takes place so it is important to get your food canned as efficiently as possible. Once food is canned, the mineral content is pretty much maintained for the entire duration of its shelf life. An example of this is that once fruit and vegetables are picked and cooked, vitamins A and C will decrease rapidly. However, once canned, vitamin A and C loss drops to 5 – 20% per year.
The types of food that are most suitable for home canning include:
Lean cuts of meat
Prepared food e.g. Soups and stews (not puréed)
What is not suitable?
There are certain foods that you should not as other preservation methods would be more effective:
Fatty cuts of meat – a high-fat content can prevent a complete seal from forming around the lid of your jar. This will cause bad taste and increase the chance of bacteria build-up
Avocados – these have a high-fat content so will make it difficult to get a proper seal
Eggs – canning eggs will not preserve them for an extended period of time. Even pickled eggs would need to be kept in the fridge which may be difficult in a shtf situation with no power. Eggs stored at room temperature have caused botulism so it is best to avoid canning eggs.
Home freezing is one of the quickest and easiest methods for long-term food storage. With most foods you can simply put it in a bag, seal it up and put it in the freezer and your work is done. In terms of shelf life , frozen food will be safe to eat indefinitely. Providing it stays frozen it will prevent any bacteria build up so the food is always safe.
However to keep some level of quality in the food the time range would be somewhere between 1 month and 1 year depending on the food you have frozen. For example, uncooked frozen poultry will be in good condition for up to 12 months whereas sausages will start to lose their quality after around a month (as mentioned before frozen food will always be safe to eat – it is the quality of the food that will be reduced over time). The obvious down side to freezing is your reliance on electricity but if that isn’t an issue then the best foods to freeze are:
Meats such as beef, poultry, fish
Baked goods such as cakes, bread, pies etc
What is not suitable?
Foods to avoid freezing are
Fruit and vegetables – these have high water content so don’t freeze well
Fried foods – these do not freeze well and lose crispness
Salty fatty meats – like bacon and sausages do not last long in the freezer before losing quality
A great thing about vacuum sealing is that it can prolong the life of stored food 3 – 5 times longer than if unsealed. The shelf life of vacuum sealing can be up to 2 years as, at this point, the bags tend to start losing their sealing power and allowing oxygen inside as well as bacteria. However vacuum sealing is not as effective at preserving food as canning and freezing but some foods can be stored in this way. Some of the foods suitable are:
Lettuce, cheese and other items you would store in the fridge but don’t always use that often.
Beans including coffee
When vacuum sealing food that is usually refrigerated or frozen, you will still need to store it in this way after it is vacuum sealed which does not always make this method very efficient.
What is not suitable?
Foods to avoid vacuum sealing are
Meat – canning and freezing will keep meat usable for much longer
Burgers and sausages – these meats will sometimes release air from inside their mince meat once vacuum sealed. This will counteract the sealing
Cauliflower and broccoli – these will need blanching, cooling and drying before sealing so canning would be more efficient.