There’s no point in stocking up your pantry if you don’t store your food properly. Before you buy that 25 pound sack of oatmeal or you harvest all those vegetables from your garden, think about how you plan to keep it safe for the long term. None of these supplies are particularly expensive or difficult I’ve listed these in no particular order of importance. Obviously, not everyone will use everything on the list. Find the technique or techniques that work for you. No piece of equipment is worth anything if you don’t use it.
1. Foil Pouches aka. Mylar Pouches– These thick foil bags come in a variety of sizes, and are perfect for storing most foods. Look for multilayer plastic and aluminum bags that are at least 5 mils thick. These bags will protect against moisture, light and insect infestation.
You can get the bags with a zipper top, which is great if you need to get into the bags and then quickly seal them back up. For longer term storage, foil bags should be heat sealed. While many sites say that the bags can be sealed with an iron, in order to be certain, you may want to eventually invest in an Impulse Heat Sealer. Most bags can be resealed with a heat sealer once it’s been opened.
Include an Oxygen absorber with the food before you seal the bag, this will make the bags tighter, but not rock hard. Check the seal to insure it’s tight. Store the pouches carefully to avoid accidentally poking a hole in them.
Shelf life of these pouches is around 10 years.
2. Glass Containers– The wonderful thing about Glass Jars is that they are easy to find and use, you can wash and use them over and over, and they are fairly inexpensive. Glass jars that have a lid and rubber seal will be airtight, so you won’t get oxygen damage. Bugs and other vermin can’t get in to glass. And because they are clear, you can easily see what’s inside.
The down sides of glass are obvious, glass fragile. If you use glass, it needs to be protected. As a Californian, I’ve learned that having the jars on shelves behind doors or screens that close securely is the best bet. (An earthquake can swing a door open and send jars flying). If you are storing for long term, you need to keep the foodstuffs in a dark place, since light can easily penetrate the glass and spoil your food.
Glass will keep food safe for 20-30 years, as long as the seal is tight.
3. #10 Cans- What is a #10 can? Metal cans used by the food industry are standardized, and given a number by size. This does not mean a #10 can holds 10 ounces or 10 pounds (oddly, they hold 102 ounces). The 10 is just a number assigned to a can that is sized 7 inches tall by 6 ¼ inches in diameter. (That little can of Tomato soup you just bought comes in a #2 can).
They fit on shelves and in canning machines. You can often find #10 cans with plastic lids, like the ones on coffee cans. If you plan to do long term storage with metal cans, you may want to invest in a proper can sealer.
Food stored in cans should last for 30+ years.
4. PETE Bottles- Simply put, these are airtight shelf stable plastic bottles that juice or soda comes in. You will see the letters PETE or PET or the #1 on the bottom. Any other plastic bottle will let in too much oxygen, or leak. PETE Bottles are essentially free with your purchase of juice, which makes them quite economical. They can be reused over and over. Check for leaks by sealing an empty bottle and holding it under water. Squeeze it! If no air comes out, you can use it safely for food storage. Wash and dry the bottles completely before repurposing.
Fill them with grains or dried food, add an oxygen absorber, then wipe the edges of the lid before sealing. Keep out of the light!
Food stored in PETE bottles should last 3-7 years.
5. Plastic Buckets– Use BPA Free FOOD GRADE buckets that have never been used for anything except food. I know that the laundry detergent from Costco comes in great buckets, just don’t reuse them for food.
You can store bulk grains or dry food in buckets or you can load the buckets with foil pouches. Because they are rather heavy duty, buckets will keep out most pests. It is possible to find inexpensive 5 gallon buckets, but you need to check to make sure the lids are still tight. Luckily you can buy lids separately, and they come in a universal 12” size.
It’s a good idea to stock up, since the lids are the first thing to get damaged. To make things more complex, there are a few different types of lids; standard and Gamma seal. A standard lid is just that… you pound it on, and pry it off (best to have a tool for this). A gamma lid comes with a screw attachment that snaps to the bucket, then the lid screws on. Gamma lids are much easier to get on and off.
Store the buckets at least an inch off the ground for air circulation. Also, you don’t want to stack them more than three high, because you might crack the lids. Food stored in properly sealed pails, especially when the food is first sealed into mylar pouches, should last indefinitely.
6. Oxygen Absorbers– All the great containers in the world won’t preserve your food if it gets oxidized. Oxygen absorbers are little food safe packets that contain iron powder. These absorb the oxygen in the food. Use oxygen absorbers in Metal cans, foil/mylar pouches, PEET Bottles, and glass jars. These inexpensive little packets will keep your food safe.
It’s not just important to have food stockpiled for long term storage; you want to make sure that your food is kept safe for when you need to use it. Regardless of whether you choose cans or buckets, mylar pouches or jars, storing it the right way will save you down the line when you need to eat, and your food is good to go.
Prior planning and preparation prevent poor performance…..