We all know the importance of having food stored in case something happens. But what you may not know is that not all food can be stored for long term. There are tricks to help extend the life of your food, but there are some foods that just need to be avoided for long term storage.
Keep in mind that there is a difference between a best by date and a long term shelf life. Best by indicates the period of time that your food will be at the best flavor and contain all of its nutrients. The long term shelf life will be the length of time your food is still edible although it may have lost some of its nutrients or original flavor. With a long term shelf life, you can expect to get more than 5 years of food storage and for some items you may get 30 or more!
Flour and Grains
DON’T STORE:Flour – Most people use flour in their day to day recipes and may think it’s a great place to start for long term food storage. However, flour doesn’t store long term. At most you can expect your average shelf life to be a year and a half. In flour form, the oils have been released and will begin to go rancid and will affect the taste of your food. Anything you make with rancid flour will be inedible and a loss.
DO STORE: Wheat – In whole form your wheat could last for 30 years or more, making it a great long term storage solution. It also has the benefit of being healthier than your store bought flour. The nutrients start to degrade the moment it is processed or ground, so use it within a couple days to a week for maximum nutrition.
Cereals and Oats
DON’T STORE: Breakfast Cereals – Your children may live on Cheerios, but they don’t store long term. Usually a couple of months to a year is the longest you will get. Like flour, these have the potential of going rancid, but think about leaving a box in your cupboard. How long until your cereal goes stale? Yuck!
DO STORE: Oatmeal and Whole Grain Cereals – You can find these packaged for long term. They may have a shelf life of 20 or more years and are a healthier option for your family. Incorporate them in to your menu now to ease the transition and widen the food pallets of your children.
Fruits and Vegetables
DON’T STORE: Canned Fruits and Vegetables – Yes, we know, these can last for years! Over time, however, they will begin to change texture, taste, and even color. Your beautiful can of green beans may become a slimy slop you put on your plate and unless green beans are your absolute favorite food, you may not be able to stomach the idea of eating them.
DO STORE: Freeze Dried Foods including Fruits and Vegetables – These items have had the water removed and are dry. That means they can have a shelf life of 10 to 30 years depending on the variety and if they are packaged for long term. Think about opening some peaches after 30 years and still having them look and taste like peaches. Don’t forget to get your protein with some freeze dried meats!
DON’T STORE: Brown Sugar – Brown sugar can last forever, but after about 2 years it will be hard and difficult to use in recipes. If you have brown sugar, use it and rotate it in recipes to keep your supply as fresh as possible.
DO STORE: Sugar and Molasses – Separately these items can last much longer! Sugar has an indefinite shelf life when dry and molasses can store for up to 5 years in a cool, dark, and dry environment.
Oils and Butter
DON’T STORE: Oils – Oil is essential to baking, but it has a short shelf life before going rancid. Olive oil has one of the longest at about 2 years. However, most oils will only last a couple of months to a single year.
DO STORE: Butter Powder or Shortening Powder – These items have had the moisture removed and are blended to create a powder. They can have a shelf life of more than 10 years and are easier to use in your recipes. No need to be nervous if you’ll like them, you’ve probably eaten them already if you have ever had a just add water baking mix from the grocery store!
Oily and Dry Grains
DON’T STORE: Oily Grains and Nuts – Like the oil above, or even flour, oils are your enemy. Grains such as brown rice, flax seed, or even your nuts like peanuts, cashews, and almonds, will go rancid with time. These items are best used for short term storage.
DO STORE: Whole Dry Grains and Legumes – Dry grains include wheat, barley, white rice, rye, millet, and peas, with a slew of others. Legumes come in everything from navy beans to kidney beans, to black beans. These are all fantastic for making flowers, sides, and using them in soups. They are great at filling you up and are relatively cheap, making them great options for long term storage.
By rethinking some of the items you store for long term storage, you can be better prepared for an emergency. You won’t be forced to eat green beans that slither down your throat or trying to eat rancid bread. Instead, you’ll be sure that your family can eat healthy, nutritious, and delicious foods in the event that something goes wrong.