Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Prepping Basics: Storing Bulk Food Supplies PART 1

Continuing in the Prepping Basics series, I want to talk about #2 of 12 basics everyone should consider in order to be prepared for an emergency or crisis: Storing Bulk Food Supplies. I'm going to break it up into three parts because my post would be really long otherwise:

1) Part 1: basic considerations
2) Part 2: location for long term storage
3) Part 3: containers

I don't know everything there is about food storage. Just like you, there is lots to learn and most of it comes by trial and error after lots of reading! I'm a mom who is interested in the subject and blogging about it helps me to think these things through. So I appreciate any kind comments at the end if you know of something else on the topic that Homestead Revival readers should know!

Because each person's home and needs are different, all I can do is provide an outline of things to bear in mind when beginning to store food. However, there are some basics that should be considered by everyone. That is the aim of this post.

Keep in mind that I want to be as sustainable as possible, but having a 6 month to year supply of food would buy our family and neighbors a bit of time if we needed to increase the size of a vegetable garden or if we weren't very successful at year-round  gardening yet. So while I plan to work toward sustainability, food storage is also necessary.

The ideal situation for long term storage would be a root cellar, but I'm guessing most of us don't have this option. At least not at this particular point in the game. If you can solve your storage issues by building one of these, by all means do so! The book on the left, Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits and Vegetables, is an excellent resource if you are interested in researching this topic further. I always thought that a root cellar would be out of the question in California because of earthquakes, but then I got to thinking about all the wine cellars around the state. Since these are along the same premise, I figure that it's certainly possible. Someday...

Part 1: Basic Considerations

1. Climate. You don't want your food in a situation where the temperature is fluctuating a lot, too warm, or too humid. Bugs thrive above 80 degrees and food is best kept at a temperature below 70 degrees. You don't want it to freeze, so bear that in mind if you opt to store some items in your garage. A constant temperature of 70 is going to be more preferable to a wildly fluctuating situation of 40 to 70 degrees. If your pantry has a window like mine, use a blackout shade that can be pulled up when needed, but down the bulk of the time.

If you are storing your food supplies in a pantry or laundry room, keep in mind that appliances like a deep freeze or washer and dryer will heat up the room and cause it to vary more (the same goes for heating units, boilers, etc). I forgot about this when I put my deep freeze in my walk in pantry. Convenient? Yes, but I'm constantly monitoring this during the summer when the old deep freeze runs too much. Put a thermometer in your long-term storage area so you can keep an eye on things.

Don't depend on an air conditioner to keep food cool. If the electricity is out in the summer, consider what you are going to do to keep the food from spoiling. A room on the north side of the house is more likely to remain cooler than a room on the south side. Is the house shaded by a tree? That might help as long as you don't have a disaster that brings the tree down on your food storage area! There are devices on the market that will run on a generator to keep a room cool, but that won't work indefinitely. Think really LONG term when selecting an area and you'll have one less thing to worry about. 

2. Vermin. Yes, that ugly word. Mice, rats, and such. I've even found large lizards in my pantry! Be sure that the room is well sealed around baseboards, ventilation,  windows, and such. If you're using dunnage racks to keep things off the ground, move them away from the wall to prevent harboring by vermin. You may wish to set mouse traps regularly as well. Once you see evidence of these critters, you better get on it ASAP! Any food that they've penetrated should be discarded. More below on containers that will be a deterrent. 

3. Rotation. Once you start acquiring items, you'll  need to consider how to rotate the food so that the oldest products are used first. There are some great expensive devices on the market, but an old fashioned shelving unit will work fine with a plan and a little investment of time. Some people like to mark their goods with a sharpie, writing the date right on the item. Others, like me, just like to move things forward each shopping trip. I use a marker on large boxed items only, not individual cans of food.

4. Disaster Safety. Don't store your food in the basement right under any water lines or under a ground level window where water might enter (actually, this would apply to any storage area in the event of a ruptured pipe). And be sure you keep things off the ground at least several inches. I don't own a basement, but I've heard of them flooding enough to know that you need to consider this. This applies to anyone living in a flood zone even if you don't have a basement! Now that I can relate to! Our first apartment when we married was just feet from a river. And it flooded regularly.

For those of us in earthquake country, run a wire in front of cans on your shelving unit, or nail boards, or something to keep them flying off the shelf. Unless you're new to the area, you've probably already bolted the shelving unit to the wall up at the top. This is just standard operating procedure!

Tornado alley. I've lived there, too. If you have a storm cellar, this might be an option. But be sure you have enough room for your family down there, too! Again, keep in mind where waterlines are located and elevate the food off the ground in case of flooding.

On my next prepping post, I want to talk about some location options. Some of us may need to be very creative, but it is possible.


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