I get 30-50 emails a day which is great because I love hearing from you guys especially when you blow my mind off with compliments and words of approval. A lot of readers are looking for advice on a topic, and I do sometimes get covered and lose an email in the mix as I try to reply to everyone. Please bear with me if I don’t answer in time, I may catch up in a few days.
The most common inquiries are related to food storage. It seems that there are so many articles written on this topic that some people get lost in the mountain of words and are confused about what, how and how much. While I’m not an authority on food storage research, I’ve gained enough expertise through my own efforts to respond intelligently to readers’ questions and offer reasonable solutions.
what to store
This is by far the most common question.
This is the backbone of your survival diet. Wheat is nature’s longest-storing seed, with an infinite shelf life under the right conditions. Wheat can be sprouted even in winter, adding fresh vegetables to your diet. Put back 400 lbs per person.
Although not a food, mineral salts are equally important to diet and personal health. Salt is also used in the preservation of food and animal products. Salt, like wheat, has an infinite life of its own. At least 20 lbs per person.
As a sweetener, honey makes an unparalleled contribution to the diet. Some consider it a superfood that provides energy and renewed vitality. As an extract of the plant kingdom, it certainly contains many ingredients that contribute to health. Honey has an infinite self-life like wheat and salt. At least 10 lbs per person.
Most people even dismiss the idea of powdered milk, preferring the whole milk found on supermarket shelves. Granted, it does taste slightly different, but it’s not bad to drink, and after a week or two, it seems to “grow” you. Studies have shown that skim milk powder can be stored for over 15 years with little change in value when kept dry and moderately cool. 60 lbs per person.
After you’ve got the basic four foods (wheat, sugar, milk powder, and salt) in the desired ratios, it’s a simple matter of adding other foods when you have the extra money. Pinto beans, white rice, peas, soybeans, dried peas, whole corn and canned meats, fruits and vegetables can be added for a more varied diet. Don’t forget to add pepper, baking powder, baking soda, canned yeast, dried eggs, cooking oil, multivitamins and minerals, and an extra vitamin C capsule.
how to store
I store all my grains, soy and powdered milk in food grade plastic buckets. There is a lot of confusion and controversy about whether or not barrels are food grade. The #2 inside the small triangle at the bottom of the bucket means it’s made of HDPE plastic, which is food grade.
I got it from the paint section of my local hardware store. They’re also available at Walmart, but I’d prefer to buy from a local business owner if possible. Sometimes they’re even available for free from bakeries and restaurants, just make sure they only hold food, not paint, chemicals, or anything else that could make you sick or dead.
Food packaged with oxygen is not stored like it would be in an oxygen-free environment. An oxygen absorber (available from Nitro-Pak) removes air from the closed vessel, leaving an atmosphere of 99% pure nitrogen in a partial vacuum.
Do not open bags of oxygen absorbers until ready to use, as they will absorb oxygen from the surrounding air and become useless. Get everything ready before unpacking. Any unused absorbent can be stored and placed in a small canning jar until needed.
Be sure to have everything ready before you start. Then pour the food you plan to preserve into the buckets, a little at a time, shaking each bucket as you fill it to settle and distribute the contents. Fill each bucket about ½ inch from the top, then place three oxygen absorbers in each bucket of food.
Quickly put the lid on each barrel, then place a plank on top and tap with a hammer or rubber mallet to close it. After a few hours, the absorber creates a vacuum that “pops” the lid on the barrel, indicating a well-sealed environment suitable for long-term storage. Be sure to include the date, contents and weight on each label and write on the front with a permanent marker.
The next question is where to put all this food? Lack of space is a major disadvantage of living in a 26-foot travel trailer. Almost everything needs to be stored outside. Even in most homes and apartments, life can get cramped as more and more trash fills the space. One option is to sell some stuff you don’t use, maybe clear out a large closet and fill it with the food you’ve stored. You need to look at your personal situation and available space and store your food accordingly.
Most of my food is stored in the outbuilding behind the trailer. It might not be the idea to build, but it’s dry and shady in the summer. I took some concrete blocks and placed a 4×8′ sheet of plywood on top to form a platform to stack the buckets and keep them off the ground. I’d love to have a cellar large enough to accommodate most of my food storage, but now I have to deal with imperfections.