Saturday, November 17, 2012

Being a Prepper - Long Term Food Storage Prep

In my last installment regarding food storage, I showed a picture of hard red winter wheat in the grinder.  I figured I'd start this with the actual wheat flour after it has been processed and ready to be folded into a loaf of bread, rolls, made into pancakes, or any number of foods that one might want to eat.

Of course, storing flour is a short term solution at best.  Processed flour will conceivably last a long time, however, after a year or so, the nutritional value of said product begins to diminish.  This is the reason I like to store my wheat in the hulls, unprocessed.  If stored up properly, it has to potential to last upwards of 30 years in storage.  You have to get it right, however.  Otherwise, it will go bad.  I have some pictures that I will show you regarding this that will clue you in on the good points and bad points of various types of storage.

Back when I was first learning how to store up food, I made a few mistakes.  I have learned from my mistakes, however, and have come up with a near foolproof solution to long term food storage.  This is an economical way to do it because instead of buying it prepackaged in a #10 can, we must first assemble the items we need.  By the way, this method of food storage isn't only for wheat.  If it is a dried good, unprocessed, then it can be stored this way.  I'm by no means an expert, and there are a few different ways of accomplishing this, but my method is easy, inexpensive, and effective.

In order to store with my method, you will need a few things:

1. Food grade plastic pale
2. Mylar food storage bags
3. Oxygen absorbent packets
4. An airtight lid

Step 1. Make sure your food grade bucket is big enough to accommodate the amount of food you intend to store.  I purchased my 6 gallon pale at Emergency Essentials.  Since I eat what I store, and store what I eat, I also invested in their resealable Gamma Seal lid, which snaps onto the bucket with an o-ring seal, but spins off for easy access without a lifting tool.  The spin off lid section is also sealed with an o-ring to keep air and contaminants out.

Step 2. Place the Mylar bag into the bucket.  The idea behind this bag is double protection against odor, light, and creatures that might nibble through the plastic container.  Mylar bags can also be bought at Emergency Essentials.  My bags are resealable, much like a zip-loc bag.  I use this because I don't need an iron or a bag sealer to reseal after getting what I need from it.

Step 3. Drop a couple of oxygen absorbing packets into the bottom of the bag.  Then fill the bag with product until there is just enough room in the bucket for you to fold your Mylar bag into it.  Place two more oxygen absorbing packet on top before you seal it.  Oxygen absorbing packets are cheap and can be obtained through Emergency Essentials here.  Tip: Since O2 absorbing packets absorb oxygen, it is important to reseal them when you don't need them. I vacuum seal the ones I haven't used in a FoodSaver to keep them ready for use when I need them.

Step 4. Push as much air out of the Mylar bag liner as you can and seal that puppy up, either with the zip-loc closures that I have, or using a flat iron method to heat seal the bag.  Then roll the bag into itself and stuff it into the bucket nice and well.  Leave enough room at the rim to allow a lid to be placed on it.

Step 5. Place your lid of choice onto the bucket and press firmly to seal.  Occasionally, I will use a rubber mallet to tap around the rim to insure a complete seal.  Remember to make sure your lid has an o-ring.  Those lids you can buy for 99 cents at Home Depot won't cut it.

Step 6. Inspect the container to verify it isn't cracked or broken.  Then take some blue painter's tape and with a Sharpie Marker, identify the contents and date it.  That's pretty easy.

Now for some caveats.  First, don't use just any bucket.  Buckets that have had paint, oil, chemicals, etc are not acceptable food storage containers.  My advice is to buy brand new FOOD GRADE containers.  Technically, you could store food in the containers without a liner, but remember that plastic permeates air, so some air will seep its way into the container.  The Mylar bag does not permeate oxygen, so your sealed food will stay sealed, free of air and bugs.  The problem with storing food in containers without bags is that insect eggs can hatch while in storage.  Yes, there are insect eggs in the food you eat. Get over it!  The presence of oxygen and a nutrient rich environment, like a bucket of grain, is ideal for young insect larvae to thrive.  One more advantage of the Mylar bag is that light cannot penetrate it.  Believe it or not, light sucks the nutrients out of food, rendering them nothing more than empty calories.  The combination of a food grade bucket and a liner provide ultimate protection against light and oxygen.

So what's the difference between a food grade bucket and say an orange Homer Bucket from Home Depot?  Well, food grade buckets are made in molds that use release agents that will not harm the food or humans.  Your run of the mill Home Depot buckets are made using mold release agents that are cheaper and are harmful to humans.  There really isn't a difference in the plastic itself.  The release agent, however, out-gasses over time and will contaminate food.  This is the reason there is a significant price difference between food grade containers and those that are not.  Be safe.  Spend the money now and buy a food grade container.  Don't be cheap and run the risk of getting some crazy form of cancer years down the road.  Your food storage is supposed to keep you alive - not kill you.

Store your food sealed against moisture, air, and anything else that might damage your food.  This is a picture of wheat, believe it or not.  It was stored away in a non-food grade container with no liner in a damp basement for about 3 years. When the food was transferred out of this container, evidence of moisture was present in the bottom. The food had to be discarded.  Moisture allows all sorts of mold spores to grow, bacteria to grow, and you end up with spoilage.

The storage conditions for your food storage should be as free from moisture as possible, cool, and dark.  That's a hard combination, but doable.  We chose a small room in our basement.  We have a heavy curtain at the window to block out the light, and the vent for the heater is closed.  It keeps the room in the ideal temperature range year round (between 50 and 70 degrees).  Since the room is finished, the moisture content is at acceptable levels.  Combine all that with the storage method I described above, and you have pretty solid way of storing your long term staples for years to come without spoilage.  The best part is that I have opened buckets of wheat I stored up over four years ago, and it tastes delicious when prepared into my wheat breads.

You don't need to go crazy and stock up all at once.  Buy a little at a time. Get as many buckets as you can afford at one time.  Go to Costco, the LDS canneries, etc to get your staple products.  The price of food goes up every year, so the more you buy, the more of an investment you are making.  Imagine buying a bucket full of wheat at only $6 today, and realizing 15 years down the road that your same bucket of wheat is worth twice or triple what you paid!  That's money saved as you start using your food storage over time.


Emergency Essentials
Food grade buckets
Oxygen Absorbing Packets 
Gamma Seal Lids
Mylar Bags


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