Those of us who live in Utah are used to the term food storage. While this is not necessarily a widespread practice in all other areas, it is a way of life here.
There are many good reasons for participating in this practice. It makes sense for gardeners to preserve and save extra produce for use during the non-gardening months of the year. It also can save money by allowing shoppers to stock up on frequently used items when they are on sale.
Tucking away some food can be part of a rainy day fund. In a stressed economy, jobs can end abruptly and it may take some time to secure a new source of income. That rainy day fund food will keep families fed and reduces grocery expenses to get families through to the next paycheck.
We tend to think of food storage as large supplies of wheat, sugar, oatmeal and oil. While this is a reasonable aspect of long-term storage, it is not the beginning and end of the process.
Begin by building a small supply of food that is part of your normal menus. Purchase a few extra items each week and build a one-week supply of food. It makes sense to plan menus for the week and purchase the needed items for those menus, but double the quantities on the list. Use one week’s supply and tuck the rest away. In this way you are actually saving foods that you would normally eat.
When you find a good deal on a food item that your family likes and you use often, stock up on it. Continue the process, gradually increasing the supply until you have enough for about three months of normal eating. Don’t get feeling smug and just leave that food on your shelf in case you need it someday. As you purchase more of those foods, use the stored supply first and add the newly-purchased items to the back of the line to be used later. In this way you don’t end up with a lot of outof- date canned and packaged goods that you may finally end up tossing out.
After you have a three-month supply of favorite foods tucked away, begin storing longer-term storage items such as wheat, rice, oatmeal, salt, oil and sugar. Properly packaged grains have a long-term shelf life. Properly packaged sugar and salt have an almost unlimited shelf life. The recommend shelf life of cooking oil is about one year. After a year, the oil may still be good, but will go rancid more rapidly after opening than fresh oil.
The question on long-term storage becomes one of quantities. Some of the point of saving these long-term items is that they will provide nourishment for a long period in an emergency situation. Learn to use these items and add them to your family’s diet so that their digestive systems will be accustomed to the extra fiber and they will develop a taste for it.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which has long recommended food storage, recommends that food storage should provide 25 pounds of wheat, corn, white rice (brown rice has a shorter shelf life) and other grains per month — or 400 pounds per year. Under proper airtight packaging and cool storage conditions, these can be stored for 30 or more years.
Dry beans can also be stored for 30 or more years and the recommendation is to store about five pounds per month or 60 pounds for a year per person.
In addition, it might be wise to store sugar, non-fat dry milk, salt, baking soda and cooking oil. Store some foods containing vitamin C and other essential nutrients as well as multivitamin tablets.
Powdered milk can be adapted to many uses. While many people don’t care to drink reconstituted powdered milk, the flavor improves somewhat when it is aerated during mixing. Special mixing pitchers can do this for you. Buy several brands and do a little taste testing to determine which you like best. If drinking it is unlikely, it is still useful in cooking. Canned milk is another storage substitute.
Powdered sour cream has a limited shelf life unless it is frozen.
If you store dried meats, they can be added for flavor to soups, stews and beans. Dried meat will store without refrigeration. Canned meats are also very easy to store.
Fats and oils not only help boost the calorie content of food storage, it adds flavor and changes the texture of foods while supplying essential fatty acids to the diet.
Sugar stores almost indefinitely and honey is a good substitute for sugar. Candy and other sweets help with appetite and are important ingredients in many home-cooked dishes.
The key to home storage is planning, rotating and using the products regularly so your family will become adapted to them. They are also a source of healthy eating. Plan ahead and reduce the worries in your life.