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Waste is not in my vocabulary. 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”. To this day, the dibs and dabs of leftovers are combined to make the most delicious soups you can imagine.
For many of us, an aversion to being wasteful is the result of having too little money in our younger days. Like many of you, I have worked from the time I was a teenager and never took anything I had for granted. Scrimping and saving for rainy days is ingrained in my DNA.
I believe that is the case for a lot of preppers; we have always had a mindset that dictated that we 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 as we wind our way through an uncertain economy, droughts, and the threat of an unexpected disaster.
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. I like the word too; it just kind of rolls off my tongue.
Today I list some of my personal 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. I hope you can learn from them.
14 Common Food Storage Mistakes
1. Storing food you don’t enjoy.
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 when it is on sale because it was a great 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 Not rotating out of date food items.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 has happened to me. A number of years ago I purchased a few dozen boxes of cake mixes because they were really cheap. After a couple of years, the leavening was dead so I wasted good eggs and a half cup of 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. However you keep track, 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 don’t know how to cook it.
Remember when I wrote about wheat in Wheat 101 for Newbies? 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 about wheat; freshly ground, it makes a heavenly loaf of bread. Check out the book How to Live on Wheat.
5. Storing a lot of basic foods but omitting 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. (Tim’s chips are a definite splurge!)
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 than 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. Rocket stoves and even propane stoves are inexpensive. If you can swing it, consider a tea light oven.
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 storing a variety of items.
I confess that I can go for days eating the same meal of baked potatoes over and over again. That said, 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 items in order to get a full complement of nutritional value from your meals.
11. Storing food in inappropriate or unmanageable packages.
Your mileage may vary, but I prefer to package food in small, manageable sizes. In my own household, 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?
This also applies to bulk sized products 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.
The Final Word
Are you guilty of any of these food storage mistakes and goofs? Can you think of others? If so, I would love to hear from you in the comments below!
Note: This article is an updated version of a similar article posted on Backdoor Survival in July 2011.
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
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My eBook, The Prepper’s Guide to Food Storage will provide you with everything you need to create an affordable food storage plan, including what to buy and how to store it.
Nothing scary and nothing overwhelming – you really can do this!
Bargain Bin: Here are some of my favorite food storage items. Whether you are just getting started or a seasoned pro, here are the items you will need when purchasing food in bulk for long term, SHTF needs. And for help with your food storage questions, check out my eBook: The Preppers Guide to Food Storage.
FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer: As long as the unit has an accessory port (and this one does), and inexpensive FoodSaver will work just as well as the fancier models. That is my two cents, at least.
FoodSaver Wide Mouth 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. There is also a version for regular sized jars. See Fast Track Tip #4: How to Use a FoodSaver for Vacuum Canning.
FoodSaver Accessory Hose: Most FoodSavers come packaged with an accessory hose. If yours is lost or damaged, be sure to purchase a host to use with your Jar Sealer.
Mylar bags & Oxygen Absorbers: What 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 for very cheap.
60 – 300cc Oxygen Absorbers: This is one area where you want to make sure you are getting a quality product.
Mylar Zip Seal Food Storage Bags: These are the zip seal bags that I used to package up my spices, herbs and butter powder. These are extra heavy, 5 mil bags. I found that the zip feature made packaging extra easy although I still seal the bags with my hair iron.
Sharpie Permanent Markers: Sharpies were invented for preppers! And without question, Amazon is the cheapest place to buy them.
How to Live on Wheat: Everything you need to know about wheat.
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63 Responses to “14 Common Food Storage Mistakes and Goofs”
Rice and beans paired together make a complete protein, making it a substitute for meat twice a week.
And how many of you with ” variety ” have enough stored to feed 5 ppl for 4 yrs? I’m gonna say very few.. great have some variety for short term .. but u better get used to basic for long term.. you would need a warehouse to store enough variety to last 4 yrs for 4 to 5 ppl.. I’d rather eat plain wheat or beans and live then run out of food and die of starvation… prepping is not about short term it’s about long term and survival.
Just as an FYI, the “LDS Starter Kit” has been discontinued sometime in the last few months (I must have gotten one just before they stopped offering them).
They told me that because they had a wider selection to choose from now, and also because the starter kit was seen an introduction to the pre-pack program, the starter kit was no longer considered necessary. That’s a shame. If you are looking for a smaller combination of items together, you can not get that but must buy larger amounts of individual items instead (by case). Could always split a purchase with someone though.
I know food storage should not be subjected to extremely warm temperatures. I live in a small apartment in the Phoenix, AZ area. I have very little space and cannot afford to run the A/C 24/7 especially if I am not home for an extended period of time.
I have a platform bed so that storage area is not available.
Do you have any suggestions of items that can be stored in a very warm area with extremely limited space?
Your platform bed, is it solid or does it have some hollow spaces? Those would work well for putting away freeze dried, dehydrate, some foods which you won’t be using often. I have one too and I have items stored there such as these. In your case, I would plan on rotating more often than what I do where I live now, though I have lived in desert areas. Even storing water, though it may not be desired, even warm/hot water is better than none. Do you have any access to a basement storage space?
Diana – I apologize for the delay in responding. Water, definitely, can be stored. As far as food, try packing up bulk food products in Foodsaver or Mylar bags with O2 absorbers. Date them and then rotate every one or two years. The flattened packets do not take up a lot of room. I even have some under and behind the sofa and under my dresser. (I have a tiny home.)
While the temperature may not be optimal, it would take awhile for the food to completely degrade. Just make sure that you store foods you like to eat so they can be moved to your pantry after the end of the first of second year.
Another idea is to put together a big tub of food (such as one of the 18 gallon Rubbermaid) tubs, and find a friend or relative to store it for you. Perhaps you can barter with them for something they need or want. The only issue with this, however, is to know and trust them well enough to ensure that they will not steal your stuff and use it for themselves if the SHFT.
Thank you for the information on the pet food storage. I have noticed that both the dog and cat food is very oily and wondered about the best way to store extra. I have really enjoyed all the tips and comments.
You mention storing dry pet food in mylar bags. This is NOT recommended. Pet kibble has oils in it that will become rancid much like nuts stored in mylar. The food quickly becomes inedible and distasteful to pets. Pet food is best stored in original package and placed in air tight container once opened. Pet food looses most of its nutritional value within 6 weeks after opening bag. So best strategy for planning for pets is to buy bags of dry food containing the amount of food pet typically eats in 6 weeks. Stock up on packages that size periodically and note package’s Use BY or expiration date. Rotate stock using bag within package date. Check date on package when food on sale. Many times it is on sale because close to end of shelf life.