Preparedness Email - Week 27

What Kind of Food to Store



Two Kinds of Food Storage

First, there is food in the pantry that you eat regularly and you replace it every week or every month. This short-term food storage in constant rotation. It may be canned or boxed food. It may be fresh foods that last a while, like onions or potatoes.

The second kind of food is specifically designed for long-term food storage (5-25 years). These foods are specially processed (freeze dried, dehydrated, vacuum sealed), and may even be stored in airtight containers that can withstand a flood. These products are typically sold by specialty companies like Thrive, the Ready Store, Legacy Food Storage, Wise Food Storage, etc*.

One common mistake people make is to purchase a bunch of costly packaged food and think they're done. There are several problems with this approach:

  1. Long-term storage food often comes in an unfamiliar form. Freeze dried cheese doesn’t look or act like fresh cheese. When you buy a big can of it, you've now got an open can of something you don't know how to use or how to cook. The taste isn't familiar. Chances are you won't use it because you don't know how to use it. Food that you won’t eat is actually worse than food you do not have!

  2. Quantities are very large. A #10 can is quite large. For some products it could take a person a year to use it up. And once you open the can and expose the food inside to air, it won't last a year. You could easily end up throwing away a large amount of your food and food dollars.

  3. Food preparation may require tools that you don't have. A properly packaged 5-gallon bucket of wheat berries has a shelf life of 30-50 years but if you want flour you need to be able to grind them, and then you need to be prepared to cook with a flour that behaves differently than store-bought flour.


A good rule of thumb should be this: if you have never used it (or don't really like it), it should NOT be part of your food storage plan!

So for many people, their emergency food pantry should be based on the food that they have in short-term rotation rather than specialty food from an emergency company. It's less costly. It's easier to find. You know you like it and you know how to use it.

What you may not know (yet) is how to store it properly to prolong its shelf life. Transition Longfellow is hosting a book group reading Sharon Astyk's book, "Independence Days: A Guide to Sustainable Food Storage and Preservation." The group meets on the 2nd Thursday of the month at Moon Palace Books. On July 12, we'll be reading about various food preservation techniques. (The book is out of print but can easily be found online.)

If you do choose to buy long-term emergency food from a company that caters to "preppers," begin to incorporate those foods into your daily life in slow rotation. Become familiar with how to prepare the foods in ways you and your family enjoy.

Consider joining with others in Transition Longfellow to have a "cooking date" where you can try new recipes and new techniques together. Post an invitation on the Longfellow Transition Facebook page. Make it an adventure!

Your Task This Week

  • Decide if you want to use primarily short-term or long-term food in your 3-month pantry.

  • Research some of the companies listed above (and Google to see other companies) so you have a sense of costs and quantities. You may want to include some of both kinds of food in your emergency food plan.

This email series -- brought to you by neighborhood volunteers at Transition Longfellow -- is designed to help you become more prepared for extreme weather emergencies. Transition Longfellow does not recommend any specific product. Images or links are for illustration purposes only.

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