I made a comment on Iceagenow.info about food storage. Robert turned it into an article:
In comments on it, folks have pointed at some interesting pages and methods.
One is how to Freeze Dry Food At Home:
In addition to commercial freeze dryers (that can cost a few $Hundreds…) they cover a couple of interesting DIY methods. (I note in passing that a video about purchased freeze dryers doesn’t work anymore having been taken down) One method just puts the food in a freezer and waits a long time – with “frost free” freezers working better as they keep humidity low enough to sublimate ice. They other uses interleaved dry ice to accelerate the process.
A Little Bit of History
Freeze-drying was first invented during World War II to solve the problem of food being spoiled while shipped for wounded troops.
What You Will Need to Follow This Tutorial
You will need the following equipment (appliances) for the freeze drying process.
1. Freeze Drying with a vacuum chamber
The quickest and most efficient means of freeze drying is with a vacuum chamber. However, there is an alternative method available which is freeze drying with a freezer.
A. Freeze drying with a freezer
When and if a vacuum chamber isn’t easily assessable to you, however, you can still follow this tutorial and freeze dry your food. The only thing you need is extra time. This process works by chopping food into small pieces and place them on a perforated tray in the freezer (This method works much better in non-frost freezers). Once the food is frozen in the initial few hours extending on to the next week the process of sublimation should take over (all the moisture will be removed). Moreover, to ensure the process is working test the food by letting a piece thaw outside. If it turns black rapidly, it isn’t set yet. If the food color doesn’t change, move on to the next step of storage.
2. Freeze drying with dry ice
There’s another alternative way to freeze dry food, and that’s by the utilization of dry ice if the choice of above two mentioned methods is not available. In a small humid setting, water molecules are strained out of a material such as food. The food you need freeze-dried has to be surrounded with dry ice (CO2 in its stable solid state), this will create a near-zero humid setting, will drain the moisture extremely efficiently. You’ll need a box double in size to the amount of food you’re going to freeze dry (Tupperware would be a good choice). Then makes some pits on the lid for the various gasses to escape. Add equal amounts of dry ice and the food you’d like to freeze dry into the box. Alternating with one layer of dry ice, with a layer of food, etc. goes well together. Soon after this place the box in the freezer, to solidify the dry ice further for as long as you can. Inspect after every 24 hours till the dry ice vanishes. The food should now be fully frozen dried, and all set for storage.
They have a photo of freeze dried fruits and vegetables in jars, but then talk about “storing it” mostly as vacuum sealed bags:
Once you are done freeze-drying, for whatever reason you have chosen either with a vacuum chamber or not, set the food in airtight, moisture-proof bags. Moreover, you can use a vacuum packing machine if it is readily available to you.
However, Ziploc bags work fine too, as long as a vacuum can be created in them. Now you can seal them up and put them away in your preferred storage space.
I have a food vacuum sealer / bagger device I bought years back. It works OK, but in long duration storage the bags sometimes develop leaks and air gets in. It has an attachment to pull a vacuum on a jar, and I’d use that method for really long duration storage. But frankly, for a year or two, just in a plastic bag ought to be enough. If one starts to “puff up” with air, just eat it inside a couple of months ;-)
Long Duration Foods
This article lists foods that store for a very long time:
In addition to the indefinite life things like sugar & salt, and “the usual” beans & white rice, it has a nice list of other foods. Nothing really surprising, but a nice reference. It includes some links to other interesting articles:
1. Dried beans
Just like with rice, if you properly package dried beans they can last for up to 30 years. To get the longest shelf life out of dried beans they have to be stored in air-tight containers with moisture prevention to prevent the spoilage that happens in kept foods.
Sure, I mentioned above that dried beans every day might get a bit boring, but if you add these in with rice and a few different spices you can make a lot of interesting mixtures to have some contrast to your food stockpiles and the types of recipes you could create out of your doomsday stockpile.
For storing dried beans, it is recommended you stick with airtight sealable food storage containers and mylar bags which stop oxygen absorption for long-term foods. The bags help considerably to extend the shelf-life of almost all foods that you are looking to store. There are also a number of other ways that you might want to look at to extend the shelf-life of your foods as well.
So that link is an article that mostly says keep things cool, dry, dark, and free of pests, but also includes some interesting bits like using oil to preserve eggs.
Some of the other storage foods are:
2. Rolled oats
3. Pasta products
4. Dehydrated fruit slices
6. White rice
7. Dehydrated carrots
Dehydrated carrots last for up to 25 years.
8. Dried corn (10+years)
9. Legumes: lentils and peas (4-5 years)
They state that in mylar oxygen absorber bags can extend that to 20 years for the beans. I would note that peas “get hard” in storage and then even with extended cooking do not soften. I avoid peas in storage. 16 year old lentils just in a jar were reasonably good and sprouted when planted.
It is possible that excluding oxygen slows the hardening of peas, but I’m not interested in doing the 5 year A/B test to find out ;-)
10. Canned baked beans and canned spaghetti
11. OvaEasy Powdered whole eggs (hard to believe it exists – these last for up to 7 years)
Pemmican is a survival treat invented by the Native Americans which was made from lean meat of local wild animals. The meat is dried over a fire, mixed with fat and flavoring berries and pressed into biscuit-sized snacks.
Bear Valley makes a range of pemmican products for outdoors regulars who are looking for a source of protein with a good taste and long shelf life.
13. MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
I’m not sure I’d consider Twinkies food. Their Trans-Fat level is what kept them unchanging, but it is more anti-nutrient than nutrient.
I’d add canned Ravioli & chili con carne to that 10. They have been a “go to” meal on the road for me for decades and some cans were in my “road bag” for a year or three before being “needed” when stuck on some job out in Hell And Gone without facilities. Can be eaten cold. One can got warmed in the break room microwave at a colo-facility 30 miles from somewhere Denver ;-)
Each of their numbers has a description / blurb. I’ve left that in for Pemmican since some folks may not be familiar with it.
For MREs: I kept a few dozen of these around for some years. At one year old they are fine. At 5 years they are OK. At 10 years in the trunk of the car in all weather, they are barely tolerable but better than nothing, maybe. At 15 years (found one that was hiding…) they are essentially inedible. Fats are doing strange chemistry. Oddly, the protein component was one of the more acceptable. Peanut butter was horrid and the “cracker” had a vaguely rancid fat overtone. The sugary desert “pastry” was still good.
In reality, while talking of 20 year storage life or even 10 year: Why?
Look, it is BEST to store foods you like to eat. If that is the case, then eat them!. Just rotate the stock by eating foods you like. Then you don’t need to store it for a decade or two. If you eat canned ravioli, spaghetti, SPAM, ham, and lima beans once a week each, just put 52 of each in your storage area. Eat one each week and put a new one on the far end each week. Now you are never storing it more than a year and you have a year supply of it. Similarly for sugar, salt, coffee, rice, etc. etc.
The one place that breaks down is when you need a replacement for, say, chicken. Say you have fried, roasted, or otherwise chicken 1 x week; but buy it fresh. Not wanting to eat only canned chicken, that’s something that needs an alternative. My suggestion is you put 26 cans of canned chicken in your storage, and then every 4th week find a way to prepare it that you like. Now your inventory turns over in 2 years, but you only have 1/2 year of inventory. So put extra dried lentils & rice in long term storage with it for the other 1/2 year worth of “chicken replacer”. In an Aw Shit you still have that year worth of food replacing your regular fresh chicken buys; but in normal times you are still eating fresh chicken 3 out of 4 weeks and only figuring out how to make good things from the canned stuff every 4th week.
Then the indefinite 15. Sugar / Salt, 16. Baking Soda, 17. Honey, 18. Bouillon, 19. Instant Coffee, Cocoa Powder, Tea, and 20. Powdered Milk.
I’d note that for my Goat Milk they sell powdered in tins. I’ve had one open in the fridge (with plastic snap on lid) for a couple of years at a time. When I run out of milk, I use it instead. I’ve never seen it “go bad”. I would expect jars of powdered cows milk to similarly last a very long time. I’ve also had “instant potato flakes” in jars last a very long time – I just don’t like them that much ;-)
Honey in long term storage doesn’t go bad, but it does start to throw sugar crystals. Don’t expect a 10 year old can of honey to be liquid and golden. It is more likely to be a granular solid in goo. Still tastes the same and works the same. ( I once got a 5 gallon can of honey from someone… it took a lot of years to get through that ;-)
Baking Soda must be in an air tight jar or it slowly reacts with moisture in the air.
Freeze Dried Coffee lasts forever even in a Go Bag in the car. (A decade of drinking it at various job sites when nothing else was available… Surprising how long one big jar lasts when you have just a few cups a year from it ;-)
I’ve had bouillon cubes in my Go Bag for 20+ years that seem unchanged. Mostly just flavored salt, though…
Canned goods are pretty much fine for 2 years. If you just buy 2 every time you need one, and put the other in storage, in one year you have a 1 year supply of canned goods. Then it is just ‘rotate the inventory’ time.
What I did instead was went to the Big Box discount stores (COSTCO and similar) and when I needed one can of green beans, bought 2 boxes of 8. One box to storage, one opened on the kitchen shelf. If you take a can down, add ‘buy a box’ to your COSTCO shopping. That gets to you to your “year supply” much faster and it is in nice stackable boxes. They make nice bases for end tables, work benches, etc. Put some cloth over it and a piece of finished wood on top and it even looks nice ;-) As you are buying at 8 x the run rate, it is only 6 weeks until your Green Bean supply is done. Then you move on to canned corn, or peas, or “whatever”.
For beans & rice, Walmart, Costco, etc. all sell 10 to 50 lb bags for dirt cheap. Just buy one of each and stick it in the pantry. When you get time, figure out what to decant the bags into for better storage. I bought 1/2 gallon glass jars. They work very well. You can also get gallon jars or 5 gallon plastic cans. The Pet Store has large plastic tubs with screw on giant lids for storing giant bags of kibble. They work fine for bulk beans / rice too. If you figure on 1/4 of your calories coming from beans and rice, that’s about 1/4 lbs per day per person. Call it 100 lbs for a year. That’s a 50 lb bag each of beans and rice. For about $100 you have 1/4 of your year done (plus cost of storage containers). Figure another 1/8 as pasta at similar prices. The rest can be your canned goods, MREs, etc.
If you are into baking, flour also keeps a very long time in jars and a giant bag is dirt cheap at the bulk sellers. Just don’t buy more than you will use in a year or two ;-) Pancake mix doesn’t keep as well, but does OK. If exposed to air the oil in it starts the rancidity cycle after a while.
Folks who do not like to bake, don’t like cooking dried beans, and think white rice is just not interesting: Well, you can just store a lot more cans of stuff. If you live by the can, store by the can. But really, one of my favorite meals is fish & vegetables steamed over rice in a rice cooker / steamer. Change that to a tin of kippers, and canned vegetables with rice and it is almost as good. Similarly, I make Scalloped Potatoes from a package (Betty Crocker). It needs milk and butter. I’ll add chopped ham and make it a casserole. It is almost as good made with Olive Oil & Powdered Milk and I find it a bit better made with bits of SPAM vs ham. It’s the added salt in the SPAM I think ;-)
The point being that if you make a meal “the usual way” 3/4 of the time, and with “stored alternatives” the other 1/4 of the time; you will turn over your stored items in no more than 4 years and also find out how to make it tasted good for “when the time comes”. Oh, and do note that dried packaged “meals” like the Scalloped Potatoes and Kraft Mac ‘N Cheese also keeps for a couple of years “as is” ;-) If bought in bulk at your favorite discount store, they and the various canned and dry goods, can be enough cheaper than the local grocer to pay for your stored food system.
So I really don’t see any reason to need food that stores longer than 4 to 5 years nor do I see the need for a lot of money to build or buy a food storage system. Then, since COSTCO sells a giant bag of carrots cheap, but too much for us to finish, I’ll be trying out the DIY freeze dry both as a way to buy bulk carrots cheap and not feel guilty when they spoil, and as a way to get more vegetables in storage without buying cans. (Canned carrots are icky ;-)