Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Food Storage Once Again Is In The Panic Purchase Cycle

Food Storage once again is on the high end of the panic purchase cycle. And with this being the case, so are all of the rumors and old wives tales of what to keep and how to keep it. May I kindly suggest that there are many individuals who have now become overnight professionals in the “food storage” business, who in fact have become overnight sales people of “so called food storage products.” This is fine and good, if they have been taught properly and are not just in the business for the business.

That means I want to discuss with you one of the most important parts of your preparedness program, “What do you do with it after you’ve bought it?” If you have succumbed to purchasing 10,000 pounds of the “good-for-you,” all organic, most nutritious pure blend of white wheat in the world; you had better know how to take care of it – properly.

The rumors – or sales pitches - that say, “because of how it is packaged,” or “how you should package it,”… all you have to do is buy it and put it on the shelf until you need it, or want it - are wrong.

No food’s shelf life is indefinite, no matter how it is packaged. The idea of “permanent storage” or “foods that will keep until the end of time” need to be eliminated from your mind and vocabulary!

The point is not to try to keep foods forever. “A better meaning for shelf life in a preparedness context is that you learn to store your food properly so that it will give you life after it has been on your shelf.” (Preparedness Principles, Salsbury, 2007, pp36.)

Let’s take a look at a few of the “storage rumors and sales pitches” you might be hearing as you try diligently to acquire your supplies and take care of them in the process.

New studies are revealing that many grains and foods have a much longer shelf life than previously thought. However, these foods still must be taken care of properly or you will lose them to bugs, rodents and deterioration.

DARK, DRY AND COOL are the key words to any long term, or in fact any length storage. Learn to follow the “Best” rule. Work as best you can to obtain the best of all three; then continue to do the best possible in your circumstances. Less than ideal light, heat and humidity means that the product’s shelf life is shorter – not impossible! These three factors encourage bacteria and mold to grow, can cause spoilage, and will vastly reduce the shelf life of foods, even canned goods. A rule worth repeating is, being aware of all that – do the best you can!

FOOD GRADE are two words you need to be aware of when it comes to containers that you intend to use for your food products. If you buy, wheat or rice, for example in bulk amounts and wish to put it into your own containers, use white, food grade buckets as one option. Using or buying foods in food grade containers is a number one priority. It eliminates any problems with absorption of chemicals from the container leaching into the food.

LINERS? Food grade buckets DO NOT need plastic or Mylar bags as a liner. That wastes money and time. I would suggest that you do not use food grade containers that have held pickles, vinegar or any other strong flavored foods, as those flavors may permeate the grain, flour or other product. Unless of course you really like pickle flavored muffins. A plastic bag will not prevent flavor transfer from taking place. Nor will a plastic bag prevent weevil or rodents from getting to the product.

Mylar- type bags are being promoted as containers for “food storage” products. Think of Mylar balloons with a big Happy Birthday on the side. It is the same product. They are a plastic bag that does not have properties that will keep products any longer than regular plastic. Mylar bags may be airtight and stack well, but they are not even remotely rodent or insect proof. Mice will appreciate your thoughtfulness in providing a tasty, accessible meal for them. Once opened, large bags are less convenient to use, less airtight, and more likely to spill than a container with a lid.

One or two more things need to be mentioned before we leave the bucket brigade.

What kind of lid should you use on your buckets of gold – oops, excuse me – foods? There are two key words that must define the kind of lid - tight-fitting. Now does that mean you must have the wonderful, colored, screw-type gamma lids in order for your foods to keep as long as possible? Not at all! The kind of lid you choose to put on your buckets is just that – your choice. The gamma-type lid does not ensure a better storage environment inside the container. For some, it may seem to be a simpler option to open. However, the standard white bucket lid that normally comes with a food grade bucket will suffice for proper storage. It requires a plastic wrench to remove the lid. Again, the keys are how the product is stored, the conditions that it is stored in as well as the kind of product itself. Personally I have used the white lids on my buckets for years. As with all products some of my buckets have been used so much that they have had to be replaced. So once again, I will emphasize the choice is yours. Budgets may well prove to be a key factor since the gamma – style lid is much more expensive than the standard lid.

Another question comes up a lot as to whether or not you need to put anything in the container with the food product such, as oxygen absorber packages. First you must consider what it is you are packaging. For example, dried fruit will oxidize and turn brown, so it might prove useful to use them in fruit. Personally I wouldn’t use them in grains or flours. If you have good storage conditions for your containers you really don’t need to add anything to your products.
By now, any of you who have read my articles or books definitely know that I will strongly advise that you do not use anything such as bay leaves in your containers full of food. My project is the famous one where I grew several generations of weevil in Bay leaf. So, no, Bay leaves do not help keep bugs out of anything!

GALLON JAR? For improved storage capabilities and longer shelf life, you might want to put items packaged in cardboard, foil, plastic, or paper bags – still in their original packaging – in metal, glass, or plastic containers with tight fitting lids. Your important trivia point for the month is that a gallon jar will hold approximately 37 pouch/envelope containers of gravy mix or seasoning packets. A sturdy container will help prevent bug and mice infestation, as well as helping to keep the moisture out.

Glass or heavy food grade plastic jars, such as the gallon sized containers work well to hold smaller bulk amounts. A gallon jar will hold approximately five pounds of dry product.
KEEP IT ALL OFF OF THE FLOOR. One of the keys to proper storage, no matter how small an amount, is to keep it off of the floor. Cans or containers placed directly on the floor can sweat or perspire causing mold and rust to grow, eventually penetrating a seam and causing food spoilage. Use wooden slats, pieces of carpet or even rolled or folded cardboard to allow air to circulate underneath the containers.

Next time I’ll share some thoughts with you on the Dastardly Mealy Moth, the creature that lives in your pantry. You’ll need to learn the Survival Skills of the Cupboard … so stay tuned to this Newsletter for your solutions.


Melanie said...

My 400 pounds of rice and I are thanking you. Mylars, a heat sealer, new lids and o2 packets would have cost more than the sales price I paid for the bag of rice!

Barbara Salsbury said...

Yay. what a positive response. It's good to know you willh ave happy grains of ricethat don't feel picked on or left out :)

arla said...

Thanks so much for the timely information. I was going to put white flour and rice in mylar bags, then in a white bucket. From what you said I only need to do step #1, which will allow me to buy more food storage. What is the shelf life for mylar?

Barbara Salsbury said...

Yay for more food storage. Just remember the chocolate.
Mylar bags will keep well as long as there is no moisture, mice, drastic temperature changes, bugs or mildew and moisture. Its what's in the bag that counts :)