This article is a follow up to the original article of "Being Prepared: Some Questions to Ask Yourself" that involves are more in depth perspective on food storage basics. This article will talk about the questions you need to ask yourself in regards to food, the different methods of food storage/preservation, and the things that you can either buy or do yourself depending on your budget and time.
- How much food does your family need per day?
- How long do you want to be prepared for (aka how long you can eat without going to the grocery store?)
- Do you or your family have any food allergies?
- What are your food storage abilities or limitations?
- What foods do you and your family like eating?
Food Storage/Preservation Methods:
The two biggest questions to ask yourself first is numbers 4. and 5. What are your food storage abilities/limitations and what you actually like to eat in order to determine your preferred storing/preservation method. Do you have a true root cellar or can build one? What areas of the house can you store food in (preferably a natural cooler area that's consistently in the 50s of the house like a basement works well)? How often does your power go out? Think about how much space you have in any cupboards, closets, basements, cellars, freezer, etc.
Answering those questions can help you determine the best method of preservation for you. For example, since we live on top of a mountain on bedrock which restricts our ability for a root cellar or basement, I use the freezer and dehydrator a lot. I also use my bedroom closet, which is big enough for some shelves and has an air vent with no windows, for canning and food buckets. The closet isn't the most ideal place since it doesn't stay consistently in the 50s but it's the best with what we have. In case the power goes out, we have a generator. If you have a true root cellar or basement you are pretty golden since your food should be safe without electricity.
Freezing, in my opinion, is by far the easiest, cheapest, and less time consuming method since you pretty much just have to cut up/prepare the food and throw in the freezer. Some things like veggies you have to blanch to keep their nutrition/texture values, but most fruits you can just put in the bag and straight in the freezer. You can also make whole meals then just dethaw for a quick lunch or dinner. Most frozen items last about a year. The biggest down fall to freezing is you need power, so if you ever go weeks without power you will need a generator or some source of energy to keep it going. Our house also came with a regular freezer and a big deep freezer so we didn't have to spend extra money on equipment with this method.
My next preferred method of preservation is dehydrating. Like freezing, it's on the cheaper end, especially if you use your oven, but you can get decent sized dehydrators for $60 on amazon (also look for them at yard sales). Dehydrating does take a lot longer and you will also need power. Technically you can do it over a fire but I've never tried that so I'm not sure how well that works. It takes several hours to dehydrate foods but most items will last for a few years in your cupboard. I also like dehydrating since you can do many things with it like make your own shelf stable soup mixes, seasonings, chips, etc.
The other two methods are expensive in the start and also time consuming but last a while in your cupboard or root cellar. If you don't have the canning materials, you'll definitely spend a few hundred dollars on stuff. Canning also takes some time to learn but once you learn it, it's easy. Freeze drying I have never done before since you need special equipment that is expensive which is why I buy a food bucket once or twice a year from an emergency supply company. Check out some food buckets here: www.thehandycupboard.com/collections/pantry-essentials. These two methods are the longest lasting methods when done right (anywhere from 3 to 25 years shelf life!).
All four methods of preservation you can do on your own (cheaper but more time consuming) or you can purchase (more expensive but less time consuming) from a grocery store or emergency food supply company. It can be a little expensive to get started if you don't already have the equipment for each method, which is why my predominate methods are freezing and dehydrating.
Your local grocery stores may have all four methods of preservation but check the labels and expiration dates especially with dehydrated and freeze dried foods. Most of those don't last as long as what the emergency supply companies provide (check this article for more information about the difference between the long term pantry foods at grocery stores vs. emergency supply companies: https://beprepared.com/blogs/articles/grocery-vs-emergency-shopping-guide?pp=0&epik=dj0yJnU9b2NNWHBmSllaVlp1VXNQbGlUUWpJemstRk9HWXVRdTYmcD0xJm49LTB2ejQzM3JwMGFKQ3A0VXNPWXFMQSZ0PUFBQUFBR0t0MDJ3)
After reading about the different storage methods and taking into account your storage limitations, don't forget to choose foods that you and your family actually like to eat too!
So given the different methods of storing, your budget, storage abilities, and how much time you have, you can start formulating your plan of what foods to keep in case of any emergencies. I hope this helps! Let me know any other food storage techniques that you use.