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What is food storage?

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What is Food Storage?
Guest Author, Lee Flynn

Food storage has probably been around as long as humankind has! Wise people have always put aside food during times of plenty so they can eat when, for whatever reason, food is not so plentiful. Even in today's world of a drive-through fast food on every block and well-stocked supermarkets competing for our business, anything from a natural disaster to unplanned loss of income to some man-made calamity can disrupt our access to the food we need to survive. That makes emergency food storage a responsibility each of us needs to take seriously!

There are two types of food storage, defined by the shelf life of the food in question. A food in short-term storage has a very definite shelf life. If it's a commercial food, this will be printed as "Best by..." somewhere on the package. Think of canned tuna, dried fruit, and home-preserved strawberry jam as foods in short-term storage. These foods can usually be found in your local grocery store. Calculate the amount your family can use during the food's shelf life. Purchase and use those foods in your daily meals now, and replace each one the week it's used. That will keep your short-term storage current.

Long-term food storage involves foods that can, with proper storage, last for many years. Grains and dried beans have a very long lifespan and can be stored now and kept without having to be rotated. This practice has been in use for centuries by cultures as diverse as the Egyptian Pharaohs and the South American native peoples. New technologies such as freeze-drying and vacuum-sealing have made it possible to extend long-term storage to such useful items as powdered shortening, freeze-dried fruits and vegetables, and even whole packaged meals that only need water and heat to make them edible and nutritious. Food for long-term storage is often packaged for that type of storage and can be purchased in bulk from a reputable company and kept for an emergency supply.

If a Category 4 hurricane is heading toward you or a forest fire is moving your way, you may need to leave your home for a period of time. For this, you need a somewhat separate subcategory of emergency food. This food needs to be prepacked in an accessible kit such as a backpack, to take with you if an evacuation becomes necessary. Military Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) or freeze-dried backpacking meals are handy for this, as they're lightweight and sustaining. Test-drive some different entrees before settling on some to keep on hand; some may be more to your, or your family's, tastes than others. Gum, hard candy, and granola bars are other possibilities for your "grab-and-go" pack. They're quick energy and a comfort food as well. For more information on suggested content for evacuation readiness, check The Red Cross or Ready Nutrition.

What storage foods should you buy? First make a list of the foods you and your family, if you have one, normally eat. Some things, such as fresh meat and produce, you can't really store, so concentrate on the rest. A freezer full of meat may be a real asset in your storage plan unless the emergency involves a loss of electricity. Some possibilities for short-term storage include
  • canned meat
  • peanut butter
  • jam or jelly
  • crackers
  • powdered milk
  • pasta, plain or flavored
  • rice
  • instant mashed potatoes
  • cereals
  • canned or dried fruit
  • canned or dried vegetables
  • canned beans
  • condiments
  • baking powder
  • cooking oil and/or shortening

This list is just a beginning. Food for long-term storage can't be found at your local grocery store, but if you search online, you'll find many companies that specialize in that very thing. Research prices and lists of food at as many as you can before you make your decision. Two well-known sources are and . Here, too, try to stick to foods you're likely to know how to use if the situation arises. Some companies offer cookbooks tailor-made to use long-term storage foods.

You can begin today to put together emergency food storage by making lists of foods for short-term storage and researching your long-term storage needs. Identify places in your home you can store the extra food...under your bed? In the unused back part of a closet? Check your budget and set aside a sum each payday to add items to your growing supply. Check the supermarket specials and pick up short-term storage items at lower cost. Before long, your food supply will be ready for any circumstances that arise.

Lee Flynn is a freelance writer. Through small local workshops and articles, Lee trains and teaches others on home preparation, healthy living, food storage techniques, and self reliance. 

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