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July 09, 2019 3 min read

Even if you are not a prepper, you should store food. Should you lose power for more than a few days due to an ice storm, hurricane or other natural disasters, you won’t be without food if you plan ahead. Even if you have the money to get food, you’re out of luck if the grocery store is closed or you can’t get there. Having a six-month supply of food prevents the unexpected from making you go hungry for a few days or longer. Additionally, storing fresh food while it is in season, whether you grow and/or harvest it yourself or get it from a farmer’s market, is less expensive than buying food throughout the year. Many foods stay good for over a year if they are prepared and stored properly.

Foods That Do Not Store Well

Some foods simply do not store well, such as lettuce, summer squash and potatoes. None of these foods may be frozen successfully, though potatoes and summer squash may be canned with fair results. Potatoes tend to get soggy, especially if they are overcooked before canning them. Canned potatoes are great for stews and casseroles if you do can them.

Summer squash and zucchini squash may be frozen, but they tend to lose almost all flavor within a few weeks. The USDA seems to have removed recommendations for canning these squashes; however, old recipes call for processing pints at 10 pounds of pressure for 25 minutes for pints and 10 pounds of pressure for 30 minutes for quarts. At the end of the time, turn off the heat and let the canner lose pressure on its own before you release the lid.

Basic Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Food Prep

Whether you plan on freezing, canning or freeze drying food for storage, it must be prepped properly or you will have issues with the food spoiling or getting contaminated. In addition to prepping food properly, you must know which method is the best way to store different foods.

  • Pick through all food and remove anything that is overripe or has bad spots. If you will be cooking this food prior to packing it for storage, cut out the bad spots instead of throwing the food away. Freezing fresh fruit requires the food to be in excellent condition. Remove stems from the food.
  • Wash the food in cool water, ensuring you get wax, chemicals and other impurities off the outside of the food, even if you are going to peel it. If you need to scrub it, use a soft bristle brush.
  • Go through the food and cut out any bad spots or discard the bad piece of food.
  • Pat the food dry and process. If you are freezing the food, make sure it is completely dry to minimize it freezing in a large clump.
  • If you have a chest freezer or space in an upright freezer, layer parchment paper on sheet trays. Spread fruit or vegetables on the sheet trays, ensuring the pieces are not touching. Place the sheet trays in the freezer overnight. Once the food is frozen, pack it in freezer bags. When you are ready to use it, you’ll be able to get just what you need out instead of thawing the entire bag.

Make sure you wash canning jars in hot water. Putting them in the dishwasher is preferable. Always boil the lids and the rings. Leave the lids and rings in the hot water until you are ready to use them. Pick them up with tongs or a magnet so you don’t contaminate the lids.

These methods keep most foods edible for up to a year or two. For a long term food supply, you may want to consider freeze dried food.

Canning Tips

Use the proper method for canning foods: water bath or pressure cooker. Many foods may be canned in a water bath. However, some foods must be canned in a pressure cooker. If you are not comfortable using a pressure cooker, freeze that type of food. Jellies and jams should be pressure canned, though many have success with the water bath method. Always check a canning book such as the Ball Blue Book for the proper canning method.

Freeze-Dried Food

Even if you freeze or can your food, you may still want to have an emergency food supply for evacuation emergencies. The emergency supplies should be light enough for you to carry. Valley Food Storage offers several different kits or even individual packs of food that last for up to 25 years. This alternative needs to be rotated between frozen and canned and is great to have on hand for easy travel.