The language of long term food storage – defining and clarifying terms, product options and related information
As the awareness and motivation to store food provisions for extended periods of time grows with every alarming headline, I have been asked to once again post one of the important 15 Foundational Articles. This is valuable basic overview of long term food storage issues.
I am frequently asked, especially by newer preparedness planners, for a concise overview of food storage basics. I am thankful for many new readers that have found this blog in the last few months, and I feel that this article: A Comprehensive Primer on Long Term Food Storage is so important that I am posting it again as we approach critical times. It is directed towards the serious planner who requires information that summarizes the key points of the food storage process.
With so many preparedness websites and blogs and so many instant experts it becomes increasing difficult to know who to trust and what to believe. This is by no means an easy task. It takes serious research and asking the right questions – and expecting accurate answers – discerning the truth is challenging and daunting. I know this is difficult because I not only receive numerous phone calls for help, I personally have seen and heard distortions, inaccurate information and blatant deception.
For over 40 years I have been intimately involved in the preparedness, outdoor recreation and natural foods industries – as a retailer, wholesaler, manufacturer, educator and consultant. You are invited to read any of the articles at this blog that relates to your interests and be serious about answering the many questions posed and researching what I have conveyed. I hope you will trust my experiences and insights.
Cook versus No-cook
A primary decision needs to be made, as it relates to the specific long term food provisions that you want to procure. Do you want foods that require cooking or do you want foods that require no cooking – or perhaps some of both?
Cooking required food reserves are simply foods that need to be cooked – boiled, fried or baked – in order to be eaten. Examples include: traditional grains and beans, pasta, bread – egg – pancake mixes and some soup and stew mixes.
No-cook food reserves are foods that can be eaten as-is, or after hot or cold water is added to the foods, and being reconstituted for a short time, are then eaten. Examples include: freeze-dried and some dehydrated ingredients, meals and mixes, granola, supplements, fruits and powdered drinks.
- Readily available
- Low cost
- Familiar to those currently cooking from scratch
- Basic unprocessed foods
- Requires a significant supply of water and energy (heat source – gas – electricity – wood –etc.) – both of which may be in short supply during emergency conditions especially in vulnerable locations
- Requires time to prepare – could be a significant disadvantage during the chaos of an emergency
- May be difficult to prepare if one lacks cooking and recipe creation skills
- Beware of so called “long term” pouch food companies that use the marking line of “just-add-water” and “freeze-dried” meals. Many companies use these terms to give the impression that their foods are easy to prepare and have freeze-dried ingredients which have a positive reputation. Read the labels carefully! Many companies market their meals as “freeze-dried” yet they contain no freeze-dried ingredients! Also, you must cook these meals in order to prepare them.
- Small amount of water required to reconstitute ingredients and meals
- In emergency situations, freeze-dried foods can be eaten as-is
- Pre-blended meals are familiar and nutritious if manufactured by reputable companies
- Minimum time to prepare – could be a significant advantage during the chaos of an emergency
- Easy to use
- Higher cost for food preparation technologies utilized
- Food ingredients are processed to some degree
Pouch versus Can
These can be commercially available dried food products packed in pouches and cans, or empty pouches and cans for do-it-yourself packing. Pouches referred to in this section are ones that have a good quality metal foil barrier with an adequate thickness as one of the components in the layering of the pouch (3 or more layers required). Metalized, transparent or plastic only pouches are not suitable for long term storage of food. Cans are rigid-wall metal cans with the proper seal.
- Convenience of smaller units of product for storage
- Empty pouches are readily available online for do-it-yourself
- Relatively inexpensive
- Easy to use
- A good variety of meals and ingredients are available from established and reputable manufacturers
- If properly sealed with an oxygen absorber and stored properly, shelf can be 5 to 10+ years
- Very susceptible to puncturing and pin-holing (rough handling, squeezing, bending and forcing a pouch into a container may create very small holes in the pouch). This compromises the integrity of the seams and pouch material resulting in the loss of an oxygen free atmosphere.
- No protection from animal destruction or penetration
- Must have quality materials used in pouch construction – difficult to ensure if buying empty
- Many commercial pouched foods are low quality and use questionable materials – must do research
- If do-it-yourself, pouch must be sealed properly
- Must be stored properly or there is a risk of damage
- Beware of companies marketing their pouches as 20 – 25 – 30 year shelf life – this is a scam
- The most reliable for long term food storage – 10 to 25+ years
- Properly sealed cans with oxygen absorbers, can create an oxygen and moisture free atmosphere for a very long period of time
- Rugged construction – can not be penetrated by animals (except maybe a hungry and aggressive bear)
- Easy to store and handle
- Increased cost for dried foods commercially packed in cans for long term reserves
- Not practical for most of the do-it-yourself packers – cans and sealing equipment are not easily obtained – when they are available they can be more costly than pouches and to be cost effective empty cans need to be purchased in large quantities
NOTE: If protected from potential breakage, properly sealed glass canning jars – quart to 1/2 gallon – with an added oxygen absorber, can be an excellent container for smaller quantity dried foods. Glass and metal are the only materials available with a zero gas transmission rate – required for long term storage.
Calories versus Servings
A common marketing tactic used by many food companies today is to promote a given number of servings in an assortment, and sometimes to even state that an assortment is good for a given period of time with a given number of servings. In the preparedness market place today, where people may have to depend on daily food rations for their nourishment, only knowing the number of servings in an assortment is close to meaningless and the information insignificant . Why? Because a “serving” quantity and quality can be anything the company wants it to be. You need more information.
The standard for comparing one reserve food product with another has traditionally been to compare the number of calories of similar products or meals. This is done by comparing the calories by either: knowing the stated calories and the weight in a given serving of a product; or the number of calories of a food product in a comparable sized pouch or container. This enables comparisons of similar items from different companies – comparing apples with apples. Even the government on their mandated nutritional information requires the calories be listed – and the source of those calories.
How many calories does the company recommend one should consume per day, and how many of their servings will it take to achieve this number?
Now you can do the math and compare the real cost and value of one companies products to another. What is the cost per quality calorie? What is the cost for supplying the proper number of calories for the time period in your emergency scenario? Don’t forget it is the quality of the calories that is critical. Sugar is not quality calories!
Here is the important issue: The RDA (recommended daily allowance) for the average adult person is 2,000 calories a day (reputable companies generally allow 1,800 to 2,200 calories a day in formulating their assortments). There are companies who promote a 500 to 1000 calorie per day allowance!
Generally long-term refers to a time period of three – four years or longer. Many seek food products with that will last up to 30 years. In the real world there are few situations where one would rely on 30 year old food, however with the application of the proper technology and storage conditions it is possible to still consume 30 year old food. Boxed, wet pack, frozen, high moisture foods and canned grocery items are not considered long-term for purposes of this primer.
This term refers to the viable and reasonable life that can be expected of a food product in storage. During this time the food product must still have significant nutritional value and be palatable and acceptable.
The 7 factors that effect shelf life and stability are: temperature – moisture – oxygen – infestation – handling – light – time
Simply stated, food storage refers to food provisions that one stores for a long term. These food products usually have a long shelf life and can be relied upon during times of need or emergency. There is a diversity of different foods in various forms that can be utilized for a proper food storage program.
This can be cost effective, customized, fun to do, involve friends and groups, localized and creative. Before you start packing your foods, be clear about what it is you want to store and for how long. Are the foods appropriate for your plans? Do you know how to prepare them? Do you have an adequate quantity? Do you have all the equipment necessary to prepare your foods? What is the nutritional quality? Are the containers you are using effective for long term storage?
Nitrogen/oxygen free atmosphere
Basically there are 2 reasons for wanting to store food in an oxygen free environment – (1) eliminate the possibility for infestation and contamination from insects and microorganisms, and (2) control oxidation, which leads to the rancidity of fats and oils, foul taste, off color, and nutritional deterioration. The lower the oxygen levels – the more effective in preserving the integrity of the foods stored. Lower oxygen levels are directly related to shelf life.
Some foods are more susceptible to oxidation deterioration than others. It is important to know how susceptible the foods you are storing are to oxidation, because as you will see the type of container you store your foods in may at some point no longer be an adequate oxygen barrier.
The serious and conscientious preparedness planner is encouraged to carefully and honestly answer these 12 crucial questions. These questions apply not only to long-term food storage planning, but also all preparedness planning.
- What are the circumstances or scenarios you have determined may exist that will require you to rely upon your preparedness supplies?
- How long will your emergency scenario last, and what is the duration of time for which you will be preparing?
- What attitude are you willing to embody and express during the uncertainty and stress of the emergency scenarios you have determined may exist?
- What preparedness knowledge do you personally have that is important in providing specific information and instructions needed during the emergency or emergencies for which you are preparing?
- During an emergency what facilities, stores, resources, supplies, and assistance is available in your area apart from family and friends?
- Are you dependent upon someone or something else to get you through and supply your needs during the emergency scenarios you presume will occur?
- Do you have a list of essential supplies you believe will be necessary to have on hand during your estimated emergency?
- Do you have an understanding of the financial implications of your projected emergency scenarios?
- What are the special needs of yourself, family, or others you care for that might arise during the scenarios you find likely?
- In your expected emergency scenarios will you be stationary and remain where you are, or is it possible you will have to be mobile and relocate?
- What means of communication do you have available to you during an emergency and with whom do you need to communicate?
- In your expected emergency scenarios what transportation options will be necessary and available?
Evaluate the entire list at 12 Crucial Questions of Preparedness Planning
The first step in the preparedness planning process is the acknowledgment that you have made a wise and sound decision and have chosen to take responsibility for you and your family, and to be prepared in the event of unforeseen circumstances. Be encouraged to continue this process with diligence, motivation, and discernment.
This process is basically undertaken in three phases – each one of which will take as much time as you wish to devote, and the degree of urgency you are experiencing.
- First, there is an initial assessment necessary to determine the direction you are heading.
- Second, there is further evaluation, research, and planning required to develop a firm foundation for the third phase, and to develop the clarity required for appropriate and accurate decision making.
- Third, there is taking action and assembling the appropriate provisions and critical information you have determined are necessary for your security and peace of mind. This phase is ongoing as you continue to evaluate, research, and build up your supplies and information.
The initial assessment
This consists of 6 basic questions that you are encouraged to answer that will lead you along the matrix to your destination:
- What is your attitude concerning emergency preparedness?
- What are the circumstances or scenarios and their severity you have determined may exist that will require you to rely upon your preparedness supplies?
- What is the length of time you will be affected during these scenarios that you will be required to rely on your preparedness supplies?
- For whom and how many are you preparing?
- Where will you be?
- How serious are you and how much time, effort, and money are you willing to devote to research, planning, and action, and with what help?
We live in a time of unprecedented options and potential scenarios that could create challenging and disruptive circumstances. What is required is serious evaluation of current events for taking effective action. The delivery of essential goods and services is so interdependent on a multitude of diverse factors, that a breakdown in any one area can have severe consequences on our daily life. Here are some potential scenarios for your consideration:
Acts of God – Man made disasters – Earth Changes: Earthquakes – Government Regulation/Control – Catastrophic Weather – Flood – Martial Law – Asteroid/Comet – Fire – Food Shortages – Pole Shift – Hurricanes – Societal Breakdown – Solar Flare/CME – Storm/Ice/Snow – Civil Disobedience/Riots – Tribulation/Religious – Tornado – Medical Emergency – Severe Earth Changes – Drought – Economic Emergency/Collapse – Power Outage – Major Accident – Mud Slides – Terrorism Attack – Tsunami – Biological/Chemical/Radiological Attack – EMP (Electrical Magnetic Pulse) Attack – Personal Issues – Bombing – Job Loss – War – Illness – Cyber Attack – No Internet – Unforeseen Emergencies – Financial Loss – Famine/Food Shortages – Grid Breakdown/No Electricity
Trusting Suppliers – Food & Supplies
Preparedness planning is a prudent and wise action to take. This search for provisions however, can create a dilemma – Who do you trust? Remember, you and your family are relying on preparedness products, especially food and water options, to sustain you during critical times. Some situations can be so catastrophic as to have life or death consequences. It is this very real potential scenario that compels me personally to take the process of emergency planning very seriously.
Numerous preparedness dealers and websites have recently appeared on the scene, and many are claiming the virtues of their products and are hoping to take advantage of current demands. I have been in this industry for a long time, and I have seen numerous companies come and go as political, economic, or prophetic issues dominate the news. With the advent of the internet, it has become even more difficult to assess the reliability of online companies.
Many companies are conscientious and dependable – as a previous manufacturer of food reserve products I have had business relationships with a number of these companies over the years. Unfortunately many are very questionable. I have examined their products, their data, and the accuracy of their information – it ranges from inadequate, to unclear, to erroneous. It is hard to believe that businesses promoting products and information essential for survival in an emergency can be fraudulent and dishonorable, however there are companies who prey on fear and greed and are not principled nor respectable.
To package meat products legally, shelf-stable food manufacturing establishments must be federally inspected to comply with the strictest USDA standards for truthfulness in labeling, ingredient conformity, wholesomeness, and cleanliness.
NOTE: The six conditions listed are chosen because these are factors in which we have the control to optimize for the longest reliable shelf life. TIME is the one factor that we can not control – and it does have a significant effect on the shelf life of various foods. Nutritional value is lost with many foods over time. To know with certainty the viable nutritional value of all food reserve items at any given time after a lengthy period of storage – is at best complex or most likely mere conjecture and guesswork. What we can do is to apply proper planning procedures – do your research with trusted resources, rotate and consume your storage foods, and be realistic about how long you will really need the foods you choose to store.
- Temperature– This is the primary factor affecting the storage life of foods. The cooler the better. 40 degrees-50 degrees would be great. Room temperature (65 degrees-72 degrees) or below is generally fine. Avoid above 90 degrees for extended periods of time. The longer food is exposed to very high temperatures the shorter the edible life and the faster the degeneration of nutritional value. Note: There are some “foods” available for emergency preparedness that are known as “emergency food or ration bars.” These products are generally referred to as “life raft bars” because they were originally designed for life rafts and can withstand high heat for extended periods of time. They primarily consist of white sugar and white flour, and were not meant to be the sole source of nutrition for a long period of time.
- Moisture– The lower the better. Moisture can deteriorate food value rapidly and create conditions that promote the growth of harmful organisms. The moisture level contained in foods varies depending on the type of product it is. Have foods in moisture barrier containers (metal, glass) in high humidity areas. Note: Mylar bags or plastic buckets are not a long term (over 5 years) moisture or oxygen barrier. The moisture and gas transmission rates through these materials vary depending upon the specifications of the manufacturers. Plastic absorbs gases, moisture, and odors. Note: Be careful where you store dry foods in cans. Very cold flooring or any condition where there is a dramatic temperature differential may cause a build up of condensation inside the container.
- Oxygen – A high oxygen environment causes oxidation, which leads to discoloration, flavor loss, odors, rancidity and the breakdown of nutritional value in foods. It also allows insects to feed on dried food reserves. Without oxygen, insects cannot live, nor can aerobic (oxygen dependent) organisms. Whole grain and beans have natural oxygen barriers and can store for long periods of time in low humidity and if free from infestation. All other processed grains, vegetables, fruits, etc. must be in a very reduced (2% or less) oxygen environment for long term storage. Note: Mylar bags or plastic buckets are not a long term (over 5 years) moisture or oxygen barrier. The moisture and gas transmission rates through these materials vary depending upon the specifications of the manufacturers. Plastic absorbs gases, moisture, and odors. The best long term storage containers are glass and metal.
- Infestation – Examples include rodents, insects in all their stages of growth, mold, microorganisms, and any other creatures that get hungry – large or small. The proper packaging and storage conditions are required to control infestation and not allow critters to both get into the food, or have the necessary environment for them to flourish if they are sealed into a container – such as in the form of eggs or spores.
- Handling – Rough handling can not only damage the food itself, but it can also adversely effect and compromise the integrity of the container in which the food is stored. Glass of course can break; any pouched item can develop pin holes, tears, or cracks. The seams on buckets and cans can be tweaked, twisted, or damaged to allow oxygen to enter the container.
- Light – Food should not be stored in direct sunlight. Both for the potential of high temperature, and its affect on food value. Sunlight directly on stored foods can destroy nutritional value and hasten the degeneration of food quality, taste, and appearance. Foods packed in light barrier containers do not pose a problem with the affects of light.
This is a specific technology that refers to foods which have been frozen and dried at low temperatures in a vacuum chamber. Moisture is removed by a process known as sublimation. The term “freeze-dried” is often used to designate a dried food product that requires no cooking. Some meal blends will contain a variety of no cook, freeze-dried, dehydrated and other drying technologies.
Unfortunately, there are currently unethical preparedness food “marketing” companies that claim to provide “freeze-dried” foods, however their foods either need to be cooked and/or contain little or no freeze-dried foods at all. Buyer Beware – read ingredient declarations and preparation instructions.
- Foods retain the highest nutritional value, taste, texture and appearance.
- Foods do not “shrivel up”, therefore retaining their original shape.
- Foods reconstitute easily in hot or cold water- can be eaten dry if necessary- no cooking required in preparation.
- The only method used to dry meat products for long term shelf life.
- The chosen method of drying by the military, pharmaceutical companies, supplement manufacturers, and those concerned with nutrition and flavor.
- The lowest moisture content obtainable- resulting in long shelf stability.
- Excellent for fruits, vegetables, and meats.
- Very lightweight.
The Benefits of Freeze-Drying – From a Major Processor’s Site
- Retains original characteristics of the product, including:
- Reconstitutes to original state when placed in water
- Shelf stable at room temperature – cold storage not required
- The weight of the freeze-dried products is reduced by 70 to 90 percent, with no change in volume
- The product is light weight and easy to handle
- Shipping costs are reduced because of the light weight and lack of refrigeration
- Low water activity virtually eliminates microbiological concerns
- Offers highest quality in a dry product compared to other drying methods
- Virtually any type of food or ingredient, whether solid or liquid, can be freeze-dried
- Retains original characteristics of the product, including:
- Energy intensive- requires special equipment.
- Higher cost.
- Limited number of processors.
- Note: There are many newer technologies which can dry specialized foods such as grains, beans, pastas and some vegetables and still retain taste, nutrition and “no cooking required” reconstitution- at a low cost.
This is a general designation for all foods that have had water removed. It includes a number of different products and dehydrating techniques. Methods of drying include:
- Air drying
- Spray drying
- Drum drying
- Belt drying
- Most commonly “dehydrated” refers to: vegetables, fruits, spices, and beans.
- Spray dried items include- milk powder, dairy and cheese powders, fruit powders, vegetable powders, egg powders, and oil powders.
- Most “dehydrated” vegetables and fruits are dried at high temperatures for short periods of time.
- Reduced weight
- Long shelf life
- Lower cost
- No waste- compact
- Easy to use- large variety
- Many suppliers
- Many products like corn, peas, and green beans have to be cooked to reconstitute, resulting in increased time and loss of nutritional value.
- High temperature drying of some items reduces nutritional value and taste.
- Texture of some products is altered from original.
The items in this category are wet packed in foil or plastic “flexible” packaging. MRE is a military term that stands for “Meals Ready to Eat” and was designed as combat rations for the military. Retort (available in many grocery stores and catalog companies) refers to the heating process, which give these products a longer shelf life. Self-heating meals are packaged entrees that contain everything necessary to have a hot meal anywhere. The individual flameless heaters were developed for the military.
- MRE’s are complete meals- entrees, side dish, dessert, drink, and condiments- all in one large pouch.
- All items in this category require no refrigeration and have a shelf life of 18 months to 2 years. MRE’s can last 3- 6 years if stored in cooler temperatures.
- MRE’s were designed by the military to be eaten for no longer than one month at a time. Extended reliance on MRE’s exclusively could cause digestion issues.
- Items are excellent for immediate use and easy preparation of familiar foods.
This category includes dozens of varieties of grains, beans, legumes and seeds, and can be utilized in numerous forms such as; whole, cracked, flaked, instant, flour, pasta and sprouted.
- Very economical- little cost for significant nutritional value.
- Easily obtainable.
- Stores well for long periods of time.
- Versatility of preparation options and diversity of uses – many can be sprouted.
- Historically relied upon during emergencies.
- Reproducible – grow new crops.
- If prepared and utilized properly, can fulfill total nutritional needs for some time.
- Can require large quantities of fuel and water to prepare.
- Requires significant preparation time to utilize all the diverse benefits.
- Susceptible to infestation if not properly stored.
- Requires preparation knowledge. Most people do not know how to prepare basic commodities.
- If not prepared properly or suddenly introduced into the diet in quantity, grains and beans can cause significant digestive problems.
- Heavy- Not easily transported if you need to be mobile.
- Many people have allergic reactions to foods in this category.
- If you rely on only grains and beans for nourishment for an extended length of time, you may have problems digesting these foods; especially if you don’t normally incorporate them into your diet. Preparation diversity is critical.
- It is essential that those who choose to rely on commodities know how to properly prepare and use them. It is important to obtain good cookbooks and product information before you buy. Do not count on only a few grains and beans- diversity is very important.
- Smaller grains (such as millet, amaranth, quinoa, and teff) and smaller beans and legumes (such as aduki, lentils, split peas, mung, and small whites) will require less time, fuel and water to prepare. Most are great for sprouting
- Combine like sized grains and beans when cooking for a complete protein meal.
- Pressure cookers and pre-soaking of most beans will significantly reduce the cooking time of grains and beans.
- Newly “rediscovered” ancient grain varieties such as amaranth, quinoa, kamut, teff and spelt, are highly recommended because of their superior nutritional value, unique taste and preparation convenience – available at natural food stores.
- To reduce cooking times for whole or cracked grains, try adding a handful to a thermos, or similar insulated container, add boiling water and let sit all day or overnight. (Use at a ratio of one part grain to one +/- part water by volume). Add dried fruit, nuts, sweetener etc. and enjoy a no cook hot cereal.
- Uses for wheat:
- Whole grain, cracked, flaked- cook for a hot cereal or side dish.
- Flour- baking, pancakes, sauces.
- Sprouting- eat raw or add to bread.
- Soaked wheat (rejuvelac – a cultured sprouted wheat drink) – soak cleaned wheat in pure water 1-2 days. Drink water and eat wheat.
- Gluten for protein source- rinse flour many times to produce gluten product. Cook in recipe.
- Wheat grass juice- grow wheat in shallow trays with soil or outdoors in the ground, cut at 6″-10″, juice wheat grass, mix small amount with fruit or vegetable juice.
- Diastatic malt- ground and powdered dried wheat sprouts, a natural sweetener.
This is the category people are most familiar with and the one most will start with when beginning a storage program.
- Store products you are familiar with.
- Shelf life varies. If possible contact manufacturer. Generally canned items will last 1-4 years, glass jars 6 months- 2 years, boxes and packages 6 months- 1 year. Many folks believe quality canned foods stored in cooler conditions will last years beyond ‘best used by’ dates.
- Buy extra each time you shop.
- Buy case quantities.
- Rotate supplies.
- This category contains items that will complement and supplement other food reserve programs.
- Mark date purchased on container
During emergencies it is important to have foods available which are special treats and personally satisfying. These include:
- Fruit drinks- sodas (all natural of course)
- Candy- crackers- chips- cookies (also all natural)
- Chocolate- drinks and bars
- Puddings- cake and muffin mixes
- Dried fruit and nut mixes
- Teas- herb teas- coffee
- Meat Jerky’s
It is not only a good idea to eat fresh sprouts normally; it is an essential during any prolonged emergency where fresh vegetables are not available. Sprouts are live, highly nutritious nutritionally dense foods that contain essential elements for healthy living. They contain enzymes, amino acids, vitamins, minerals and much more. In an emergency it can be your only source for important nutrients. They are easy to grow and cost very little for so much value. You can sprout grains, beans, seeds and nuts.
- Get a good book on sprouting.
- If possible, use only non-sprayed, pesticide free seeds – preferably organically grown.
- Sprouting equipment is easily assembled with household items such as glass jars, screening, cheesecloth, or you can buy a number of different sprouting kits.
- Sprouts are usually eaten raw, and some sprouts can be lightly cooked like beans or used in baking like wheat and rye.
Very important in emergency situations when a nutritional diet may not be available.
Many products have 2 to 3 year shelf life.
- See your natural food store for details.
- Many products can prevent health problems and illness naturally.
- Whole food green concentrates are highly recommended. Also, multivitamins, green products, B-complex, vitamin C, seaweeds and immune system strengtheners.
With an abundance of fresh foods always available, canning and drying your own is very cost effective.
- Obtain books and literature on canning and drying.
- Take classes and talk to experienced individuals.
- Get the proper equipment or learn how to build you own.
- Know how to properly store canned and dried foods.
- Canning supplies can be scarce in an emergency. Stock up on jars and lids.
If the scenarios you anticipate to occur indicate a disruption of normal food supplies for a long period of time, then you will want to consider planting and maintaining a garden. Obtain quality, non-hybrid, organic if possible, fresh garden seeds. Get good gardening books and equipment. Learn how to properly store seeds – this is critical – for next seasons planting. Different seeds have varying viability and germination rates over time.
- It is always a good idea to know basic gardening techniques. If you have a long term planning strategy, gardening is a must for a continuing supply of fresh and nutritional foods.
- Identify the best foods for your local growing zone.
- Consider building a green house.
- Learn how to compost.
- Use non-hybrid- open pollinated seeds. You can then harvest seeds for the next season.
- Learn how to save seeds properly. Store seeds in as cool and dry a location as possible.
- In an emergency situation emphasize “whole plant varieties”. These are plant varieties that can be eaten whole at any point in the growing process. Examples include:
– Carrots – Cauliflower
– Beets – Chard
– Lettuce – Dandelion
– Cabbage – Kale
– Broccoli – Celery
– Radishes – Herbs
– Save seeds of wild edibles.
- Using shallow trays with a thin layer of rich soil, learn how to grow wheat and barley grass for juice (highly nutritious!), and unhulled sunflower and buckwheat for fresh salad greens
Appliances/Equipment- Food Preparation
- Cooking pots/utensils
- Solar oven
- Alternative stoves- grills- grates
- Portable stoves that use twigs, pine cones and small wood pieces
- Fuel- gas/diesel/propane/wood/charcoal/fuel oil/kerosene/shelf stable additive for gas or diesel
- Sprouting jar/rack
- Wheat grass juicer
- Canning equipment/supplies
- Pressure cooker
- Cleaning supplies
- Food containers- plastic/glass/plastic bags/foil
- Package your own- equipment/supplies
- Camping equipment
- Non electric can opener
- Clean water of course is essential for survival. While it is possible to go for weeks without food, after 3 days survival is at great risk without water. Make absolutely sure you answer the following questions.
o How much water do you have available to you in an emergency?
o Will you have enough to clean foods you have stored?
o Will you have enough to cook foods that require lengthy boiling (beans, grains, pasta)?
o What quantities will you need to reconstitute “no cooking required” freeze-dried and dehydrated foods?
o Will you want to wash pots and utensils?
o Do you know how to obtain, store and/or purify water?
o Will you have enough water for sprouting and/or gardening?
- Plan on at least 1/2 gallon a day per person to survive. One gallon a day per person is considered minimum for drinking, basic food preparation, and basic hygiene. Two gallons for basic bathing, laundry, and cleaning.
Water Sources – Storage – Treatment
- Ponds, lakes, streams, springs, rivers, ocean (use desalinators or distillers only)
- Know all local locations before an emergency and check quality.
- Have non-electric collection options available – hand pumps, special buckets, and solar pumps.
- Bottled , commercial
- one to two year shelf life – Rotate.
- Around the house
- Pools, spas, waterbeds, hot water heater, toilet tank, hoses, pipes – purify before drinking.
- Collection ideas
- Snow, rainwater, dew.
- Survival techniques
- Plants, underground sources, moisture collection, solar still – get a good survival manual.
- Specially packaged purified water
- Water in small foil pouches or aseptic fruit juice like boxes – 5-year shelf life.
- Blue Can canned water – packed in specially lined aluminum cans with at least a 50 year shelf life.
- Large containers
- Food grade plastic, concrete, water bladders, cisterns – above or below ground.
- Small containers
- Food grade plastic – new is best, numerous types available (If previously filled with food or beverage, used containers can impact tastes and odors), glass. Never use container that held chemicals or cleaners.
- WaterBrick water storage containers in 3.5 and 1.6 gallon size containers are highly recommended.
- Portable hand operated purifiers- when rated as a “purifier” the device will kill viruses and filter bacteria and protozoa. Limited types available.
- Portable hand operated filters- will filter out most bacteria and protozoa. Many types available.
- Drip/gravity filters and purifiers – counter top transportable units that filter water slowly by gravity.
- Bottle purifiers- Easy to use, just fill and drink from bottle.
- Pen like devices- Insert in a glass of water. Utilizes ultra-violet light as a purifier.
- Desalinators- manual and electric. Removes salt from seawater.
- Distillers- electric and non-electric available. Steam distills and purifies any contaminated and salt water.
- Survival Still Non-Electric water distiller is highly recommended.
- Kitchen units- usually requires water pressure and uses carbon filter element. Some units can be modified to manual use.
- Boiling- kills viruses and bacteria after 10 minutes (add one minute for every 1000 feet above sea level). May not however kill cysts such as Giardia.
- Liquid chlorine bleach (5.25% sodium hypochlorite – only ingredient) – 6-8 drops (1/8 teaspoon) per gallon of clean water, double for cloudy water. For 5 gallons-1/2 teaspoon for clean water, 1 teaspoon for cloudy water.
- Iodine (2%)- 12 drops per gallon for clean water, double for cloudy water. Has distinctive odor and taste. Not for pregnant or nursing women or those with thyroid problems.
- Purification tablets- Iodine or Chlorine- Follow instructions on package. Some brands may not kill Giardia.
- Stabilized oxygen- A relatively new method of purification. Many swear by it, do your research.
- Katadyn Micropur (Chlorine Dioxide)- Effective against all microorganisms. Meets EPA purification guidelines.
- Colloidal Silver- New and becoming more widely available. Worth investigating. Reported to eliminate numerous harmful elements.
Water Storage Tips
- Store water in a cool, dry, and dark location.
- Store away from odors, waste products, and petroleum based products (if using plastics – plastic containers can absorb odors).
- Periodically check containers (6-12 months) and add additional additives if necessary.
- Water preservatives in liquid form are available.
- Rotate containers if possible with new water.
- Don’t use metal containers for long term storage.
- Use water filters on water stored for long periods of time.
- How much and what kind of fuel is available in your local area?
- If you want hot meals, boiling water or hot water for clean up you must have a fuel source. If the foods you store require cooking to make them digestible (grains, beans, etc.) you must have fuel to boil water. Sources include:
o Wood, pellets, pine cones, plants.
o Paper, trash, cardboard, cloth.
o Propane, butane-bulk and in small canisters.
o Natural gas.
o Heating oil.
o Kerosene, gasoline, diesel.
o Candles, paraffin, fuel gel.
o Coal, charcoal.
o Rice hulls, corn cobs.
o The sun- solar ovens, cookers.