Food Storage 101: Where Do I Begin?
October 25, 2010 by Peggy Layton
In my last article, Prepare Your Own Personal Home Grocery Store And Pharmacy, I introduced you to the need to store food.
Now we’re going to begin with step one in the six-step process to help you make sure you have an adequate supply of food should a crisis occur.
Select and clean out a room to make space for your grocery store and pharmacy. It should be the coolest place (temperature wise) in the house: Usually in a basement, but preferably away from a furnace room or other heat source. If you can seal the room off so the heater vents don’t heat the room, it will stay cooler. Other good locations are root cellars or insulated and heated garages where the temperature stays constant between 40-60 degrees Fahrenheit. But remember, the room you choose should stay dry at all times.
Closets, under stairways, spare bedrooms, an unfinished part of the house, crawl space or under beds will work as well. North walls are cooler because they are away from the sun exposure.
If your room has dirt floors or cement, use wooden pallets to elevate the food up off the floor. The containers should never come in contact with the ground. The cans will rust and moisture can get into the buckets.
Bricks with wood across them will work to elevate the food up off the floor. Shelves should be designed so that a simple rotation system can effectively allow the oldest food to be used first and the newest food to be held within the shelf life period. The air must be able to circulate around the food to keep it dry. Keep the powdered milk, dairy products and oils closer to the floor level to keep them cooler.
We included some pictures of food storage rooms in my last article that I feel are well planned out and organized. These should give you some help on shelving ideas.
To insure proper rotation, always date the cans and put the newest cans to the back and use the oldest dated cans first. If you elevate the bottom shelf you can store camping equipment, coolers, propane stoves, sleeping blankets, etc., under them.
The shelving units pictured have a piece of wood across the front. This keeps the bottles from falling out and breaking. You can custom design your home grocery store and pharmacy to exactly what you need for your family.
Shelves can be built to accommodate No. 10 gallon-sized cans and still have plenty of space for 5-gallon buckets of beans, wheat, rice or pasta on the floor. The floor is a good place for coolers, Dutch ovens, propane stoves and camping equipment. A helpful hint is to keep all like equipment together so you can find it. If you can’t find it, you haven’t got it. This includes canning equipment, tools for the garden, garden seeds, camping and recreational equipment, medical supplies, batteries, flashlights, candles and all other emergency supplies. Remember, organization is the key.
Storage of wheat and other grains and beans is all right in the garage because the freezing temperatures will kill bug infestation. The garage should be vented to let out the heat in the summer. All non-grain or bean items should be kept inside a room that stays between 40-60 degrees F.
Do not store food in an attic because it will get too hot and the food could perish quickly. If the washer and dryer are located in your food storage room they must be ventilated properly to prevent moisture on the food. Freezers, refrigerators, furnaces and water heaters should not be located in your storage room because they all give off heat, increasing the temperature.
Seal all cracks and crevices where mice or insects might get in. Keep mouse or rat poison hidden in the room. Mice will ruin any unsealed buckets or cardboard containers. I have personally thrown away a lot of food because the mice have gotten into it, especially the wrapped items like yeast and Meals Ready-to-Eat (MREs) or military meals.
The mice can eat right through the Mylar® foil. Keep all of these items in buckets with good sealing lids.
I have also had moth infestation. The little worm larvae eat right through the Mylar® also.
Heavy plastic containers, jars or metal cans with tight-fitting lids will keep mice and insects out. Also stick a bay leaf in with grains, flour, beans, legumes and similar items to keep them from getting bug infested.
Do not leave any food items that have not been sealed properly on the shelves for any length of time. The most common insects are ants, roaches, earwigs, moths, silverfish and flour infestation insects such as beetles or weevils.
If you spill any food, clean it up immediately. If your room becomes bug-infested, clean out all infested food items. Throw them away. Clean all shelves with an insecticide such as Malathion or Diazinon; and spray all cracks and crevices. Do not spray it directly on food or equipment.
Never store chemicals in the same room as the food.
Organize the equipment that you have on hand and decide what equipment you need to purchase, according to the chart in my book, Food Storage 101: Where Do I Begin?, and the needs of your family.
Some of this equipment could include a Dutch oven, propane cook stove, electric grain mill, hand grain mill, juicer, canning equipment, vacuum sealer and a pressure cooker.
Other things to remember: Gather a 3-month supply of any prescription medications you can’t do without, plus any over-the-counter medications you use regularly; store one gallon of water per person per day (minimum three month’s supply); and if you plan to garden, gather any seeds you will need. Some good choices are sweet corn, garden peas, summer squash, banana squash, cucumbers, beets, carrots, cabbage, celery, onions, potatoes, tomatoes and spinach.
And a good book on how to cook with what you’ve stored can also come in handy. I have several available on my website, www.peggylayton.com.