The Six Enemies of Food Storage

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I recently decided that I should up the ante when it comes to the items in my food storage and holy moly, have you seen the price of beans lately?  Last summer I purchased a goodly quantity of  beans at Costco and paid $14.95 for each 25 pound sack.  And now, $19.95 for the very same quantity.  That is an increase of 33%!!  With those kinds of prices, you can bet that I am paying close attention to my food storage habits.1133973_old_fashioned_canned_food

When the SHTF it won’t be a surprise when the grocery stores are all cleared out in a day or two and shortly thereafter amenities such as refrigerators and electricity will no longer be available. That’s why having an extensive knowledge of food storage techniques and actual preparation is so important.

For the past year, I have explored many areas of preparedness, but now, with the escalation in food prices, I have taken a keen interest in food and food storage.  And whereas I know a little about a lot of things, food and food storage are two areas in which I have learned the most and am able to share the most.

So, with so many new readers here at Backdoor Survival, I am posting some information on the six enemies of food storage.  And for those of you that are experienced preppers?  Well if you are like me, every time you read the same old stuff, more sinks in so it does not hurt to read up.  Consider this a refresher course.

What are the six enemies of food storage?


As you will see, each of these factors is interrelated in such a way that there is a domino effect with all of the tiles falling upon each other and ultimately affecting your stored items in a cumulative fashion. Let’s briefly address each one so that this becomes clear.

Temperature:  The optimal temperature for food storage is between 40 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.  And within that range, the lower the better.  To give you an idea of why a cool-ish temperature is best, think about this:  the storage life of most food products is cut in half for every increase of 18 degrees Fahrenheit (or 10 degrees Celsius).

The second factor when it comes to temperature is consistency.  So if you have a location where the temperature is 40 degrees one day and 70 the next, there is going to be some loss in quality and shelf life.  Let me put this another way.  If you have stored your food in a garage where the temperature fluctuates between summer and winter, the shelf life will be based upon the highest temperature not the lowest.

Moisture:  The ideal level of humidity for your stored food is 15% or less.  I live in Washington State where the humidity is typically 60% or 70% or more.  The way around the humidity and moisture issue is proper packaging. And with packaging, there are lots of choices including Mylar bags, food grade buckets with or without gamma seals, vacuum seal bags (such as the FoodSaver), Mason or canning jars and more.

What you decide to use will dictate how much light your food is exposed to (remember those dominoes?)

Gamma lid 3

Oxygen: The presence of oxygen allows bacteria, microorganisms and pests to thrive and survive in your food.  In addition, many nutrients oxidize in an oxygen rich environment. Fortunately, the use of oxygen absorbers can suck out the oxygen in your food containers, leaving only product and nitrogen (which is not harmful).

Light:  The easiest way to explain how light affects your stored food is to equate light to energy.  When the energy of light zaps your food, it transfers some of that energy to the food itself, degrading its nutritional value, taste and appearance,  This is especially true when it comes to the fat soluble vitamins such as Vitamins A, D and E.

Pests:  Pests are another problem.  Moisture and humidity provide a breeding ground for bugs and larvae of all types.  In some climates (mine) mice are a problem.  It is important to be aware of the pests that are particular to your geographical climate and further, that you set a barrier between your food and the critters.  In addition to a physical barrier, the use of oxygen absorbers or diatomaceous earth will eliminate the oxygen (air) that most pests need to survive.

Time:  The final enemy is time.  And while there are many items that have an extended shelf life of 20 or 30 years, unless they are properly packaged and stored, the optimal shelf life will be considerably less.   If you really do desire products with a 30 year shelf life, I suggest you look at some of the commercially packaged alternatives at Emergency Essentials and others.  These days you can even find products packaged for 30 year storage at Wal-mart and Costco.

That said, once you get the hang of things, it is pretty easy to package up the bulk items yourself and there are plenty of tools and tips for doing so all over the internet and YouTube plus of course, right here at Backdoor Survival.

The Final Word

The intent of this article is to give you a top level overview of the considerations you need to keep in mind as you begin to acquire food products for long term storage.  There is so much more of the story to tell and over time, you can expect me to go into far more detail on each of these storage considerations.  In the meantime, I have already written quite a few articles providing how-to’s and other information that will assist you in combating these food storage enemies.

Depending on your interest and needs, you might want to check out the following articles posted within the last year here on Backdoor Survival:

Food Storage Part I: A Primer on Oxygen Absorbers
Food Storage Part II: Unraveling the Mystique of Mylar Bags
Food Storage Part III: Food Grade Buckets, Lids and Gamma Seals
Food Storage Mistakes and Goofs

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!

Bargain Bin:  For your consideration, some items related to today’s article.

Mylar bags & Oxygen AbsorbersWhat I love about Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers is they protect against every single one of the food storage enemies.  Prices do vary but for the most part, they are inexpensive and easy to keep on hand.  And while you can seal them up with a FoodSaver, some tubing and a common clothes iron, I find it infinitely easier with a cheap hair straightening iron that you can pick up $20 or less.

FoodSaver Jar Sealer:  Already have a FoodSaver?  If so, check out this jar sealer which can be used to vacuum seal your Mason jars.  This is a great option for short to mid term storage of items such as beans, rice, sugar and salt.  Store your jars in a cool, dark place and you are set with the added advantage of removing a small amount for current use without having to disrupt your large Mylar bag or bucket of food.

From the Bargain Bin: There are many basic supplies in a survival kit that are inexpensive. Below you will find a list of some of these items. Most are less than $20 and many are less than $10. Take a look – do you have these items set aside for an emergency?

Grabber Big Pack Hand Warmers: This is something most people don’t think about. Put one in your car, one in your desk, one in your coat closet, and one in your emergency kit. Never be without portable heat when you need it. These air-activated Hand Warmers keep hands and fingers toasty for over 7 hours. Less than $9.

Adventure Medical Kits Trauma Pack with QuikClot: This trauma kit is designed to stop bleeding and control serious trauma at the scene so more advanced care can be sought later.

The Emergency Bandage 6″ (Israeli Bandage): This 4″ wide, all-in-one device consolidates multiple first-aid devices such as a primary dressing, pressure applicator, secondary dressing, and a foolproof closure apparatus to secure the bandage in place.

Cyalume SnapLight Chemical Light Sticks: Read all about light sticks at Lighting Your Way With Chemical Lighting.

Emergency Mylar Thermal Blankets (Pack of 10): You will be surprised at how warm these will keep you. Be sure to test one out in advance so that you have the confidence to trust the blanket in an emergency.

Emergency Shelter Tent: The Emergency Tent is a lightweight and compact emergency shelter. It is wind and waterproof and easy to set up and is roomy enough for two people. Less than $10.

Emergency Sleeping Bag: Another low cost item designed to keep you warm in an emergency situation.

Camouflage Nylon Military Paracord 100 Feet: I need to write an article on the many uses of paracord. Pick your favorite color but be aware that different colors are priced differently. Me? I get the color that is the least expensive although I must admit the camouflage is my favorite.

Potable Aqua Water Treatment Tablets: Potable Aqua Water Purification Tablets make questionable water bacteriologically suitable to drink. Easy to use and the water is ready to drink in 30 minutes. One 50 tablet bottle treats 25 quarts of water.

UCO Stormproof Matches, twin pack (50 matches): This is another one of those items most people forget about. Each match burns for about 15 seconds even if it is windy, rainy, or cold.

Streamlight 73001 Nano Light Miniature Keychain LED Flashlight: This small and super-bright light, features a high-intensity, 100,000-hour LED that will last up to eight hours on four alkaline button cell batteries which are included.

Books for the Survival Library: Here are some books for your survival library.

Clara’s Kitchen: Wisdom, Memories, and Recipes from the Great Depression: If you don’t know about Clara, be sure to read Depression Cooking: A Visit to Clara’s Kitchen.

Depression Era Recipes: A nice companion to Clara’s Kitchen (until I can come up with my own book, that is).

Holding Your Ground: Preparing for Defense if it All Falls Apart: I have not had time to write up my review (excellent!) of this book but I will tell you this. You NEED this book if you care about defending your homestead.

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The Six Enemies of Food Storage — 7 Comments

  1. Not to be too picky but I’ve always heard that it’s more like every 18 degrees in temperature change to double/half the shelf life of foods, not 10 degrees. Regardless, I believe that a consistent temperature is more important than actual temperature to shelf life anyway. Good post. Thanks.

    • I double checked my references and yes, you are correct when we are talking about degrees in Fahrenheit. It takes 18 degrees Fahrenheit in temperature change to half the shelf life of stored foods and 10 degrees Celsius to do the same. Thank you so much for pointing this out – I will make a correction to the article.

  2. I have found out that most Survival Foods sold by dealers that they say will last 25 years can’t show me any food that old. From my research, most foods will last in good condition for about 5 years, if stored properly. The best idea for Survival food is to rotate your food regulary. I have also noticed that a lot of Survival Foods packs have a lot of junk food in them.

  3. Do the items in blue lead directly to your website? I would prefer that you make the money rather than someone else. You are doing an outstanding job with this invaluble work. I would like to recommend Rodale Books. They cover everything about canning, gardening, trees, and so much more in several books. Also, Barnes & Noble has a LARGE hardback copy of the US Army survival, combat. etc manual that shows how to guild defensive postions 100 ways to Sunday, cook, build shelter, and everything else you might need in a SHTF situation. Much better than the little handbook, many diagrams, and more than woth the $20.00 they charge. I, as a old, tired, worn-out Marine have to give them credit,even though it hurts to admit, they got it right.

    • Thank you for the kind words. I am not certain I know what you are referring to about the links in blue but I do get credit for most of the sales made via links in my articles (but not all).

      Just understand that this is not about the money – it is about learning and sharing and establishing a community of like-minded people.

      Could you send me a link to the B&N copy of the US Army Survival Manual that is $20?

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