I don’t know about you, but I have always hated to waste things. Even before it was considered environmentally responsible to recycle, I would snatch paper out of the trash and re-use the back side before sending it off to the trash bin. The same thing applied to food. I simply hated to waste those bits and scraps of leftovers and eventually found a use for them in what I call “garbage soup”.
For a lot of us, hating to be wasteful was a result of having too little money in our younger days. I have worked from the time I was a teenager and never took anything I had for granted. The scrimping and saving for rainy days was ingrained in me. I believe that is the case with a lot of preppers; we always knew we needed to save during times of plenty to cover ourselves for those rough patches in life. The only difference is that now we save for more than a rough patch or two; we save food and supplies to last us for six months, a year, a decade and longer.
In this journey to save for the future – and whatever the future holds in store for us – I have made some food storage mistakes. I like to call them goofs for no other reason than I like to laugh at myself after the fact. Anyway, today I would like to list some of my food storage goofs as well as some other common mistakes that are typically made in the quest to implement a long term food storage plan.
Common Food Storage Mistakes
1. Number one on the list is storing food you don’t like or will not eat no matter what. We have all done it: purchased an item while it is on sale because it was a deal. If you won’t eat it now, what makes you think you will eat it later? Spending money and using your precious storage space on food you will not eat is just silly.
2. Not rotating out of date food items. This happened to me. A number of years ago I purchased a few dozen boxes of cake mixes because they were really cheap. Duh! After a couple of years, the leavening was dead so I wasted good eggs and a half cup of canola oil on a cake mix that only rose about a 1/2 inch in the oven. My recommendation? Label everything with the date of purchase. Sharpie pens were created for this purpose. Keep a log, or a notebook, or reminders in your Outlook file. But rotate your stored food items well in advance of the pull date.
3. Storing everything in the same place. Think about it. If everything is stored in your basement and the basement is flooded, you may have a problem. I know, you are thinking that everything is packaged in moisture proof packaging. If you have 3 feet of water in your basement, that will not matter since you will not be able to get to it.
4. You do not know how to use it. Remember when I wrote about wheat? For heaven’s sake, do not purchase wheat if you do not know how to use it. (Of course it would not hurt to learn how to use it. Check out the book How to Live on Wheat.)
5. Storing a lot of basic foodstuffs but no comfort foods. This happens to me here at my home. I may be here by myself for a few weeks and am too lazy to go to the store in town (20 miles round trip). So I go for three weeks eating basics – no fresh fruit, no cookies, and no Tim’s chips. Eat well, and eat healthy but be sure to allow for a splurge once in a while, too.
6. Improper storage temperatures. This is something you may not think of. I recently purchased 6 jars of mayo on sale for less than half the normal cost. They are being stored in my crawl space cellar and not in the garage where the temperature can reach the 80s in the summer. This will prolong the shelf life considerably. The same thing applies to almost any food that you want to store for longer the 6 months or a year.
7. Not storing liquids to reconstitute your dried items. Have you every tried to cook rice without water or broth? How about pasta? Enough said.
8. Not planning alternate fuel sources for cooking. This should be a no brainer. When the power goes out, you will need a fire, a grill or a portable stove.
9. No condiments or spices to wake up the taste buds. Salt, pepper, some chili powder, mustard, sugar, honey – the list is endless. These items do not need to cost a lot nor do they need to take up an extraordinary amount of space. When push comes to shove, however, your eating experience will be greatly enhanced by having a few things on hand to enliven the taste of your stored food stuffs.
10. Not enough variety. Truth time. I can go for days eating the same meal of baked potatoes over and over again. But most people need and want variety. This is especially true for children, the elderly and the infirm who may already be picky eaters. Plus, you need a variety of foods in order to get a full complement of nutritional value for your meals.
11. Purchasing food in inappropriate sizes. YMMV but I prefer to package my food in small, manageable sizes. Items stored for the long term (beans, rice, lentils, cereals, dog food etc.) have been stored in 1 gallon Mylar bags and not the larger, 5 gallon size. I take four or five of these small bags and put them in a bucket or Rubbermaid bin so that I can pull them out for use one at a time. For me this is more practical since there are only two in my family. Plus, if there is a short term emergency, I can pull out what I need without having to repackage the whole megila.
12. Improper storage containers. This applies to a lot of things. Here is an example: do not store you rice in a bucket that previously held pickles without pre-packaging the rice in a Mylar bag. Pickle-flavored rice may taste good if you are pregnant but practically no one else will appreciate this exotic dish. Make sure your food storage containers did not hold toxic chemicals in a prior life and make sure your containers are moisture and pest-proof.
13. Purchasing a kit without evaluating the contents. This is another lesson I learned the hard way. Before purchasing a kit of any type, look at the contents and decide how many of the items will be truly useful. If there are items you don’t want, can you give them away to someone else? Look at the total cost. Is the kit still a good value even though you will not use everything?
BTW, this also applies to bulk sized product at Costco, Sam’s or other warehouse type stores. In many cases, I will purchase a giant sized package knowing that a third will not get used. Even so, the purchase is a good value. But do not assume this – sometimes it is better to pay more per ounce for a smaller size.
14. Don’t worry about a 25 or 30 year shelf life if you are 70 years old! I am being a tad bit cynical and facetious here but really, if your lifespan is 20 years, don’t worry too much about 30 year items. Sure, you can give them away, donate them, or use them in less than 30 years but the point is, don’t stress if the items you store away have only a 10 or 20 year shelf life. Go back to mistake #10, “Variety”. It is better to have a mix of items with varying shelf lives than to get hung up on extremely long storage life.
Wow. I didn’t realize how may food storage mistakes were out there for the taking. I am old so over the years, I have made many of these mistakes myself. If you learn from just one of my mistakes, or shall I say goofs, then SurvivalWoman will be happy!
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
Backdoor Survival Tip of the Day: You do have a hand operated can opener in your emergency kit, right? Well check it out and if it is gunked up and gross, give it a healthy shot of WD-40 and let it sit for about 10 minutes. You can then brush away the grime with an old toothbrush, easy sneezy.
Every wonder how I came up with all of these tips? Well, unless I disclose otherwise, I have used all of them at one time or another. Many came from a book I purchased a number of years ago: Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Things. For less than $11, this is a great resource for your less-it-better library.
From the Bargain Bin: Amazon has the Kingston 4GB flash drive for $7.99 (you need one for your survival docs) and the Lodge 12-Inch Pre-Seasoned Skillet is $18.97. And finally, the price of the price of 20 Gallon size Mylar Bags & Oxygen Absorbers. The price is now $16.99, down almost $5 from a month ago.
And finally, don’t forget to check out Emergency Essentials for your long term storage food items. Check out the July specials, including 20% off on prepackaged meals.
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