Long Term Food Storage

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For most Homesteaders, it is going to be preferable to store large volumes of food on the homestead, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) notwithstandingi. For many homesteaders, much of the food storage on the homestead will be fruits, vegetables and even meats that have been canned or otherwise preferred. Large volumes of dried goods are also a very common occurrence on the homestead as well, since it is often both cheaper and more convenient to buy large supplies of dried goods and to store them, if nothing else, to avoid having to avoid the often long and tedious journey in to town each and every week. The key to long term food storage, is not only in how the food is stored, but where it is stored and how those stores of goods and supplies are maintained.

 

The Pantry

The food pantry could arguably be one of the most important sites on any homestead. The construction of the pantry should reflect this. Fortunately, learning how to build a pantry is not overly difficult or challenging and is in fact, relatively easy. Ideally, the pantry will be located in a basement, as the basement is generally cooler than the construction above ground, though it is also imperative to note that the basement should be relatively dry and free from excessive moisture and humidity. If a basement is being built in the tropics, especially at or near sea level, care should be taken that the construction and the materials used, minimize the introduction of moisture into the structure.

 

The pantry itself will ideally be constructed using Cinder Blocks or Bricks. It may take a little practice, but I have never yet met anyone who could not learn these crafts sufficiently well enough to build an outbuilding or two, if not a home. While it may take more time than hiring a professional mason, it is also more inexpensive, both both options will have to be considered and ultimately decided by the homestead owner. There should be no windows in the pantry, and the door should be properly sealed with a weather strip on all sides of the door, making it difficult even for ants to get in to the pantry, and certainly sufficient to keep rats and other vermin out of the food supplies.

 

If necessary or in more tropical environments, a single incandescent bulb can be left burning in the pantry to ensure no excessive moisture exists. This may also inhibit the formation of rust on Mason Jar lids and other bottled or canned goods with metal in the storage unit. If incandescent light bulbs are made unavailable, a large drop light or other photographers spot lamp may be used, though it must generate a modicum of heat sufficient to remove the moisture from the air.

 

Food Containers

A Homesteader can never have too many water-tight containers.

 

Home canning generally sees foods canned and preserved in glass bottles, more commonly referred to as Mason Jars, Bell Jars or these days, Knoll Jars. The metal lids do tend to rust, so again, the construction of the pantry and its ability to reduce moisture to a minimum will be extremely relevant. However, a great many dried goods such as beans, rice, pancake mix or flour, powdered products such as eggs and other “survival food supplies” are generally sold in bags or sacks. No food should ever be stored only in a sack, and never use paper (or other equally degradable material) sacks for long term food storage. There are no exceptions to this rule.

 

Food storage containers should all be water tight and non-corrosive. Those fifty-five gallon metal drums may be tightly sealed, but the metal will absorb moisture as sure as the mason jar lids, and should be avoided. Five gallon buckets are generally easily found in restaurants, paint shops and other local area stores, but should be thoroughly cleaned before being used for long-term food storage. Furthermore, even once cleaned, the food stored in these containers should also be broken down into smaller portions. If there are a large number of people that will be consuming the goods on a regular basis, a five gallon bucket may contain a single, plastic food bag to contain the supplies, though even this should be re-sealed after each useii.

 

Plastic Food Bags

Plastic food bags of all sizes should be purchased and used by the homesteader for long-term food storage. As was noted, some foods stored in five gallon buckets will likely be used every day, so a single, five gallon food storage bag may be sufficient, though it should remain sealed when not in use. Other goods such as beans, spices and goods that will not be used in such large quantities, should be stored in smaller food storage bags so as to allow for individual bags to be brought out as needed, while keeping the rest of the stores properly sealed and preserved.

 

Beans are perhaps one of my favorite meals, but since it is not likely that I am ever going to need five gallons of beans in a single setting, I tend to package them up in smaller, more manageable storage sizes based on projected food consumption and usage. Buying black or white pepper by the pound makes it cheaper, but it may take a while to use that much pepper, and when left in shakers on the table, even with a couple of grains of rice in the mix to absorb moisture, may still get moist and be lost or wasted as a result. Storing the pepper in bags just large enough to fill the pepper shaker about half way has proven to be about ideal in my experience.

 

If it is at all possible, a vacuum bag sealer is great. It is important that the plastic bags be properly sealed if the food is going to keep, but being able to suck all of the air out and provide a largely seamless seal through the use of a heat seal, will ensure that foods last much longer than they otherwise would. A laminating machine or heated bag sealer should be relatively easy to find, a vacuum bag sealer maybe a little more difficult, but definitely worthwhile if you are buying food in bulk for a homestead.

 

Date and Rotate

Everybody forgets things sometimes, and seriously, those canned tomatoes are all going to look the same when they are being considered for consumption during the winter months. It is imperative that all long-term food storage be labeled, dated and rotated. Home canned goods will generally last between three to five years, though some people will claim even longer. It depends on far too many factors to list here, but suffice it to say, the older goods should be consumed first. When new goods are purchased and/or canned, they should be stored behind the older supplies so that the older supplies remain at the front and will be among the first consumed.

 

If there is a constant light in the pantry, this may also cause labels to fade over the course of a year. As such, a label on the top of the lid in addition to a label on the base of the storage unit … or in some other strategic location as some food storage containers will be too heavy to lift and check for labels underneath, so that fading can be avoided. Masking tape is a good option, as it can be just as easily applied or removed … removal being especially necessary for mason jars and some other food storage units that will need to be heated. Those print and stick computer labels may seem like a good idea, and they may be for the plastic containers, but it is not recommended that any kind of permanent labeling be used for mason jars and other food storage containers of a similar nature.

 

At the end of the day, one of the most beautiful things about living out on the homestead, is the ability to remain largely self-reliant and independent of “civilized society” with its hustle and bustle world. However, if left to go hungry, even the most passive of people will soon become irascible and cranky. Hunger may be a great motivating factor, but it can also be a morale breaker, especially during long winter months in the cabin. With the proper food storage techniques for the homestead in play, hunger should no longer be any concern whatsoever.

i (The NDAA makes it “illegal” for any family to store more than a one-week supply of food, and “reserves the right” to confiscate said supplies in “times of emergency” … though it is also interesting to note that according to the US Government Federal Register, we have been in a constant “State of Emergency” since at least 1933 and possible since as far back as 1861)

 

iiFlour is one example of goods that may require only a single storage bag even for a larger container such as the five gallon bucket, as it will likely be used every day. However, the plastic food bag insert should still be sealed after use even when the container will be closed again for storage in the pantry.

Comments

Leroy Added Jan 12, 2019 - 6:06pm
Excellent article, Ward, with many practical suggestions.
 
Recently, I saw in the news where Costo was offering a 23.5 Lb bucket of Mac & Cheese with a 20-year shelf life.  The preppers apparently jumped on it and it is out of stock everywhere.
Ward Tipton Added Jan 12, 2019 - 6:17pm
The thing I never understood about costco when I was in the states, was that it was great for buying in bulk, but the prices were never really any better than the regular grocery stores when you figured cost per serving. Maybe that has changed in the last couple of decades. That being said, I would hate to think about having to live on mac and cheese for twenty years hahahahahahahahaha but maybe a good supplement for people who like such things. I hope to be in a position to make my own noodles again soon. Back to raising my meat and veggies which is a good start. Still have to work on power issues though. Difficult of late it seems. 
Flying Junior Added Jan 12, 2019 - 10:03pm
Great information Ward.  I always like to think of myself as a Mormon the way I love to stock up on sundries and staples.  And I do agree, in terms of long-term siege the people with food will be the survivors.
 
My facetious self suggests that this is a great opportunity to stock up on cookies, candy, sodas and chips!  Whiskey!  Actually whiskey could serve as a type of currency.  I also suggest keeping cash in small bills.  Maybe a few thousand in twenties, several hundred in tens and a couple of hundred dollars in fives.
 
On a practical note, here in California, other than the incredible devastation of wildfires, (I do live an a relatively stable wilderness interface,) the biggest doomsday threat is earthquakes.  A century type event could very easily disrupt power, water and the system of streets and roads.  The most important thing for me to have in reserve is water.  Currently I am getting ready to have 240 litres of fresh water stored in glass containers that should be safe to drink for twenty years.  That's about a thirty day supply for two people.  This could turn out to be the smartest thing that I ever did.
Ward Tipton Added Jan 12, 2019 - 10:15pm
"Whiskey!  Actually whiskey could serve as a type of currency."
 
It actually has a great many purposes if the proof is sufficient. Fuel for the coleman lanterns and stoves, firestarters for flint kits, fuel in some engines, internal medicine, external germ killer and sterilizer ... and a good shot or even a couple of fingers after a long day at work ... very flexible supply. 
Ward Tipton Added Jan 12, 2019 - 10:16pm
The only part of California I am overly familiar with is the 395 corridor up North of Reno. Herlong, Doyle, Susanville ... all very rural. 
Flying Junior Added Jan 12, 2019 - 10:25pm
I'm guessing that you live somewhere that fresh water can be found or rainwater can be collected.  Northern California would be such a place.  If I had a clean roof, rain gutters and cisterns, I doubt I could ever collect more than 300 or 400 gallons of rainwater even in a rainy year.
Ward Tipton Added Jan 13, 2019 - 2:18am
You would probably get fined for that in California as well. Last I checked, trapping rainwater was illegal there as it is in I think maybe twenty something other states? I think twenty-six but I would have to check. Where I lived it was actually high desert ... 4300 feet above sea level ... but oddly enough, still dry ocean beds and alkali flats. We had a hundred foot well with a seventy foot head of water though ... here I did not dig the well and was not around so I do not know, but I know it has great water and we run two pumps off the single well. Water is imperative. Longest I have ever gone without food was 22 days ... not by choice but ... nobody will last more than three days without water (or at least liquid intake) ... not that I have ever tested that theory. 
Kristen Foley Added Jan 14, 2019 - 5:31am
Long term food storage and homesteading, are two totally different concepts.  The former is generally for people who believe Armageddon is imminent, the latter is for people that wish to be more self-sustainable.  You clearly are more of the Armageddon type.
 
As for me, I like going to the market nearly every day. In our modern society, there is no reason to eat tomatoes from a can.  Let alone all the many other inconveniences you choose to endure in thinking the end is near.
FacePalm Added Jan 14, 2019 - 5:40am
Obtaining a great water filtration device, preferably gravity-fed, is also a good idea (as long as you have or can make replacement filters).  Here's one supplier who makes quite good ones, and to anyone who's interested, i can give another site where they can be acquired less expensively.
 
FJ-
Before drinking your rainwater, i'd recommend taking a sample and sending it off for analysis...perhaps at UCSD, which may be close to you.  Considering your location, i'd ask them to test for sulfur dioxide, barium salts, aluminum salts, copper sulfate, and/or strontium salts(as well as the non-salt varieties), polymer fibers, Ethylene Dibromide, Silicon carbide. Nano Aluminum-coated fiberglass [known as CHAFF], Radioactive Thorium, Cadmium, Chromium, Nickel, Desiccated Blood, Mold Spores, Yellow Fungal Mycotoxins - and various other nano-particulates.  While you're at it, it may be a good idea to have them test your tap water for the same, as well as MTBE, a gasoline additive which often leaches out of storage tanks at gas stations.  At any rate, using an excellent filter which also removes fluoride is a Good Idea.  Many studies have shown that fluoride helps to keep people dumb and compliant.  Adding a good iodine supplement may also be advisable, as everyplace that does so increases the general IQ of the area...just as it's absence reduces IQ.  This is one reason that bromine has replaced iodine in many foods, as well.
 
Ward-
Good nfo; i've heard that in a pinch, you can close up one of those sealable bags around a straw, then suck out as much air as possible before finishing the seal quickly.
 
Yeah, i'd heard about the NDAA and it's tyrannical provision that anyone who keeps more food than needed for a week is to be considered "suspect," and liable to have their supplies confiscated.  i'm surprised that the LDS didn't rise en masse to decry such a "law," but Unconstitutional laws are made to be ignored and broken.  Even so, i strongly suspect that every professing Mormon is already on a gov't data list, anyway.  (for those unaware, it's a tenet of their religion that they keep 3 YEARS-worth of survival supplies on-hand.)  If possible, it may also be an idea to make a "dummy" pantry which hides the entrance to the REAL pantry.
 
Excellent note about rotating the stock, too, and keeping an eye on expiry dates is Good Advice.
Ward Tipton Added Jan 14, 2019 - 7:25am
"Long term food storage and homesteading, are two totally different concepts." Yes, thank you for stating the obvious.
 
"The former is generally for people who believe Armageddon is imminent, the latter is for people that wish to be more self-sustainable." Yes, because people who believe in being self-sustaining never grow large crops, engage in canning or <gasp> storing that which they grow or raise. I am sure the average family of four just sits and gorges themselves each time they harvest a crop and til the rest back into the soil. Why the last time we harvested a pig I told my wife we should just sit and eat until it was gone, why go to all the headaches of canning the meat so that it will last two or three years or even to get me through to the next harvest?
 
"You clearly are more of the Armageddon type." Wow. You can read minds ... though I believe you actually have me confused with some other great minds that you have encountered ... unless you consider winter to be Armageddon or perhaps it is my desire to be able to defend myself and my family rather than waiting an hour or two for the sheriff if he can make it ... after driving the 25 miles into town to get to the payphone? 
 
"As for me, I like going to the market nearly every day." Enjoy the drive. I prefer not to vent so much exhaust into the atmosphere needlessly, but that is probably just paranoia as well. 
 
"In our modern society, there is no reason to eat tomatoes from a can.  Let alone all the many other inconveniences you choose to endure in thinking the end is near." You may have seen Mason Jars, Bell Jars, Knoll Jars and other seal-able jars? Believe it or not, these actually serve a purpose outside of the use as bar glasses for beer and mixed drinks and are used for what is commonly referred to as canning ... meaning storing the crops that are gathered during a harvest. Store bought canned goods in actual cans tend to last little more than a few months before the cans start rusting, and they are full of nasty preservatives and other chemicals that are hardly sustainable for the individual or the land where the waste must be stored, so many homesteaders who desire to be more self-sustainable tend to can their own goods ... in the aforementioned jars. And if they are going in and building from the ground up, they are going to endure many inconveniences in the process. Perhaps you are rich enough to go in and enjoy the literal and physical fruits of the labor of others, but a great many of those who wish to live a more sustainable lifestyle are not so financially affluent and will be forced to build their own homestead little by little. 
 
Oh but wait ... I owe you yes? Perhaps you believe the rest of the world does as well? I am happy that you live such a convenient and sustainable life ... though if they are serving you tomatoes in an actual can, you may want to find another market ... I hear whole foods is nice, but never shopped in one personally. I would hesitate to call them sustainable however. 
Leroy Added Jan 14, 2019 - 9:28am
Funny guy...lol.
Ward Tipton Added Jan 14, 2019 - 10:35am
I hope she will appreciate the humor, though I wonder. I do appreciate her taking the time to comment however, regardless of what her opinions are, and as you can see, it also served a purpose in quantifying some of the material in the article itself. So it is actually very beneficial. Besides, I do love having my opinions challenged and freely admit when I am wrong, though I do not feel that this puts me in a position where I owe anyone anything personally. Had I directed an article at a particular individual, I would perhaps owe them an apology if proven incorrect, however, a general article with a single incorrect fact, freely admitted by me once noted by the way, does not mean that I owe any debt of gratitude ... which I do have, much less apologies to the person who discovered the flaw. As I said though, her comment was both relevant and did allow for the clarification of certain points, serving a meaningful purpose ... and is appreciated. If you found it humorous, at least you understood that much ... which I hope she will as well. 
Ward Tipton Added Jan 14, 2019 - 10:37am
And speaking of which ... yes, that should be "till the rest back into the soil" not til ... as in tilling or putting the organic matter back into the soil to allow for the ongoing sustenance of the soil itself ... which is in fact very much alive ... at least if it is tenable soil. 
Dave Volek Added Jan 14, 2019 - 8:58pm
I have little interest in this lifestyle, but I'm sure enjoying the stories. Keep it up!
Flying Junior Added Jan 15, 2019 - 5:47am
Thanks Face.  And BTW Ward...  It is legal to catch rainwater since 2012.  There is actually a tax incentive in the form of not adding to your property value simply by adding rainwater catching systems.
 
My point was that I never believed that I could collect enough rainwater to support human thirst.  Even if my system was maxed out on a good year.  That's why I mentioned that I was saving potable water in glass.
 
Dave V.
 
Sure.  You live in Canada where you can just drink the snow.  You can go hunting.  All you need to do is preserve some cooking oil, bacon and flour.
Flying Junior Added Jan 15, 2019 - 5:49am
Grow roses for vitamin C.
Ward Tipton Added Jan 15, 2019 - 7:45am
FJ Thank you. I will have to revisit the laws before I write any new articles on that. I seem to remember it is illegal in a great many states, it seems over twenty if I remember correctly. I also seem to remember someone in California being heavily fined, so at least I know I have some more research to do. 
 
PS Dave may want to invest in some salt so he can make sugar cure or salt cure to cure the meats ... or to cure and smoke them ... lasts a good while that way as well. 
 
Roses? Does Rose Wine count? Though personally I prefer the Watermelon Wine but ... to each his own. Actually, I much prefer burgundy but we do not have the needed room to grow grapes where I am at right now. 
 
Dave, most of my writing for my meager living, consists of writing about the outdoors and the Homesteading and Off The Grid lifestyle. I could not imagine moving back into the city personally. However, there is plenty of room for interaction and I believe that an exchange of ideas is a necessity for any real progress. 
Rusty Smith Added Jan 15, 2019 - 10:34am
Damage from insects and rodents can be devastating to long term storage but fortunately there are some things you can do which are easy.
 
When you create your storage space seal all the openings.  That means not just holes in the wall, but all the spaces you can't see like the conduits and electrical boxes that bring power to switches, outlets and fixtures.   There are commercial materials which are fire resistant for that purpose.  Don't assume fixtures don't have big holes behind them, take them off and calk up all the holes.  
 
Remove all the molding and calk up with generous amounts of drywall mud.  If Rats and mice are a problem, install hardware cloth under layers of drywall mud.  It doesn't need to be pretty to be effective.  Make sure you have no gaps in your door sweep and put molding around the edges of the door frame like is used between an attached garage and a house.
 
There are two things you can put on the floor which deter most crawling insects, boric acid and diatomaceous earth.  Both are generally harmless to people but kill lots of insects.  I spread them under shelving and everywhere but where I walk.
 
Many dry goods will become quite bug free if you heat them up to 130 degrees.  Anything dry like rice of beans.  You can do that in  your oven, or if you live in a hot place, just by putting them in the hot sun, on top of wood, with a black tarp over them.   You should monitor the heat at the lowest point with any thermometer with a probe, (like a BBQ thermometer).  Many unvented attics get that hot in the Summer, in hot climates.
Leroy Added Jan 15, 2019 - 5:58pm
"I hope she will appreciate the humor, though I wonder. I do appreciate her taking the time to comment however, regardless of what her opinions are, and as you can see, it also served a purpose in quantifying some of the material in the article itself."
 
Both she and her sidekick always have inciteful, intelligent comments to offer and I always appreciate them.  It gives me pause to reflect, even if I don't always agree.  I imagine we are more alike than either realizes.  If either has a sense of humor, I have yet to see it.  I hope she enjoyed your witty response.
Mark Hunter Added Jan 16, 2019 - 3:43am
Going to the market every day and having fresh food is great, and healthy for you ... if you can make it to the market, and if the market is still there. It's the same with expecting water to come out every time you open the tap--there's always the chance that one day it won't. Long term food and water storage, along with other supplies, is the sane and smart thing to do.
Jeff Michka Added Jan 16, 2019 - 4:47pm
Living in an area prone to possible major disasters and disruptions, it has always been wise to stay stocked up with provisions set by.  But Kristan was right, provisioning and "homesteading" are two different things, and as much as you "preppers" think food stores alone will get you by in a major long term breakdown of society's support systems really think it's a matter of sticking some seeds in the ground and viola'....food will grow.  Disabuse yourself of that notion.  If being resilient is your goal, start "prepping" soils and getting places to grow foods together.  It can take a very long time and isn't easy. Thinking if you dig up parking strips and frontyards will do, think again.  It all takes prep work, years in advance doesn't hurt.  You can't get good farm land at Costco.  And speaking of Costco, Ward objected to pricing, but knowing what costs what elsewhere is the Costco consumers best pard.
Ward Tipton Added Jan 18, 2019 - 6:19pm
You infer an awful lot Jeff ... and despite the fact that the article was originally written for a prepper site, does not in and of itself make me a prepper. Do you believe also that Gene Roddenberry was an alien because he wrote about aliens? 
 
Search the works of Geoff Lawton, the Permaculture Institute and food forests and you will see just some of the work I have been implementing for a long time now. Get back to me after you check them out and I will be happy to go over it with you. The average food forest takes over eight years to reach a minimal level of serviceable maturity and roughly fifteen years on average for the commencement of full maturity.  The ones that have been existence for hundreds and even thousands of years in one case have shown that these are indeed long-term effective solutions. Mind you, this is also merely one part of a complex and systemic approach that we are putting into place, though primarily to assist in the alleviation of the adverse impact of poverty, not merely for the sake of SHTF and being the proper prepper. Surprisingly enough however, it allowed us to survive the last ChaCha here ... which is short for Charter Change which is effectively a complete replacement of the existing government ... without ever experiencing any negative impact ... something a great many in the cities will never understand ... especially those who were so adversely impacted. 
 
A viola is a musical instrument. If you are attempting to delve into French, the word you are looking for is Voila!
 
I did not complain about the prices at Costco, as again your inference stems from writings that are just not there. I have never shopped there and have only  been there on a few occasions when I was with a friend who was shopping there. What I noted was, that two decades ago when last I was in the states, the prices were no better than the stores I frequented, but that everything was available in bulk ... albeit by and large with no noticeable discount in price. 
Flying Junior Added Jan 19, 2019 - 4:18am
Montana?
Ward Tipton Added Jan 19, 2019 - 4:21am
Philippines, West Africa in numerous nations there, Panama, Costa Rica, Vanuatu, Australia ... they cannot regulate it effectively so will not allow it in the US ... can't have the peasants getting unregulated food for free now can we? Next thing you know, they would begin demanding even more freedom ... and then what? Chaos I tell you! Pure CHAOS!