It seems as if the beginning and ending of prepping is stockpiling food. I say that because that’s how almost all of us start out and it’s something we keep on doing, even after most of our preps are done. With no sure idea of how long we’re going to have to survive off of our stockpile, it just seems to make sense to keep letting it build, even past what we originally intended.
Yet at the same time that we keep adding to our stockpiles, there’s a concern about whether all that food will last. As it comes from the supermarket, most foods won’t last long. So, we tend to repackage much of what we buy, making sure that bacteria, insects and rodents can’t get to them. Properly packaged, there are actually a number of foods which will last much longer than you’d expect.
Of course, a lot of this has to do with how well we package and store these foods. Proper packaging needs to be airtight and critter proof. Removing the oxygen from the package can help, as insects need oxygen to survive, just like we do. Dry foods have to be really dry, without any chance of moisture contaminating them. So, it can be worthwhile to add silica desiccant packages. But all this is within the realm of possibility; even, at times, within the realm of factory packaging, so that we don’t have to repackage it.
Don’t forget that when they dug up the tombs of the Egyptian Pharaohs and Mayan Kings, they found food that had been buried hundreds or even thousands of years ago. While much of it was lost, there was still some that had survived all those years; mostly grains. And those ancient people managed to do that, without our modern methods of packaging and storing food.
How did they do it? To start with, they started with dry foods, because bacteria can’t survive in a dry environment; they need a moist environment to live. Then they put those foods in sealed containers, where insects and rodents couldn’t get to them. Those same keys will work for us, even better, because we’ve got better containers and better technology than they did.
So, what sorts of foods can we package and expect them to still be good 10, 20 or even 30 years from now?
Unlike baking powder, which doesn’t last for a prolonged period of time, baking soda will last a lifetime. The only thing you’ve really got to watch out for is that it doesn’t get wet. As long as you can protect it from moisture, it can’t go bad.
Granted, you can’t bake everything with just baking soda; but if you take some time looking in the recipe books, you can find that lot that you can do with it, even if you don’t have baking powder to use.
Many sorts of grains will keep indefinitely, if they are packaged to protect them from moisture, insects and rodents. In ancient times they did this with clay pots. Today, we can do it with aluminized Mylar bags and plastic buckets. Add an oxygen absorber and most of those grains will be just as good in 20 years as they are today.
Unprocessed, unground grains are best for long-term storage. Oatmeal is actually one of the best; not instant oatmeal but the original rolled oats. While that will take longer to cook, it will provide you with a wholesome, nutritious breakfast.
White Rice is actually better for long-term storage than brown rice is, as long as you follow the same process of putting it in an aluminized Mylar bag, inside a five-gallon plastic bucket.
One grain that you may not think of is popcorn. Actually, much of the grain found in the tombs of those kings was dried corn. While I doubt they had microwave popcorn back then, corn was often ground for making various kinds of bread and tortillas. You might want to have a hand-crank grain mill to go with your popcorn and other grains, so that you can use it for baking with. That will be easier to work with than the stone grinding they did and not leave chips of stone in your meal.
Pasta in a Bucket
As it comes from the store, pasta will keep on the shelf for about a year. That’s mostly because it’s not all that attractive to bugs and bacteria. But left that way, it will supposedly go bad, eventually. To keep it for the amount of time we’re talking about, something more needs to be done with it, like putting it in an aluminized Mylar bag, with the air sucked out of it, inside a five-gallon plastic bucket. Stored like that, pasta may just last till sometime in the next century.
You can actually buy pasta already packaged this way, as “survival food” or you can do it yourself. If you want a variety in your pasta’s shapes (And who doesn’t?) then you’re probably better off packaging your own.
If you’ve done any food preserving, such as canning or drying food, you’ve run across salt as one of nature’s preservatives. It draws moisture out of food, through osmosis. This kills bacteria, which need a moist environment to survive. So, you can imagine what a pure salt environment would do to those bacteria. The only thing you really have to protect salt from is moisture. Back to the buckets again.
Like salt, sugar is a natural preservative, although it is normally only used for preserving fruit. Like salt, it needs to be protected from moisture. But it also needs to be protected from insects, as many insects love sugar. Ants will go to great lengths to get to it, if the packaging isn’t strong enough to keep them out. So a bag, like the aluminized Mylar bags I mentioned isn’t enough, as ants can get through. This is one place you really need that plastic bucket, with a good seal.
Dried beans of all sorts are one of the staples eaten around the world. There are a large variety of beans, or legumes, sold on the market; some of which you may not be familiar with. Some can even be ground into flour, for baking with.
Chick peas, for example, are ground in the Middle East for making a variety of dishes. Make sure you stock up on good recipes for using your bean hoard, especially if you are stockpiling beans that you aren’t used to eating.
As with grains, beans don’t come from the grocery store packaged for long-term storage. You’ll need to repackage them in aluminized Mylar bags, inside of five-gallon plastic buckets. But once you do, they’ll keep a good 30 years.
Like sugar, honey will keep forever. But you need to make sure that you have pure honey. Some brands of honey, especially those which come from China, add fillers. You’re better off buying honey that is stored in glass containers, rather than plastic, as the chemicals from the plastic can actually leech into the honey.
Honey also has medicinal properties, so there’s more than one reason to stockpile it. But you really shouldn’t give honey to children under five, as it isn’t good for them.
Pure Maple Syrup
Real maple syrup, stored in a glass bottle or jar, will keep virtually forever, just like honey will. It is also healthy in that it is loaded with vitamin D. The key to keeping it for a prolonged period of time is keeping it in a sealed container. Once the container has been opened, it will start to crystallize.
The powdered milk you find in the grocery store isn’t really ideal for long-term storage. Not only is it not packaged to keep for a long time, but the milk itself isn’t prepared properly for long-term storage. However, you can buy buckets of powdered milk that are properly prepared for long-term storage, which you can count on keeping good for 20 years or more.
Just a note here; some of the survival food companies who packaged powdered milk for long-term storage; but you have to buy it from them, not the grocery store.
The Mayans prized Cacao (cocoa) as a food of the gods. It was considered to have incredible health benefits for those who ate it. It’s useful to energize you, in addition to its wonderful flavor. It will also keep virtually forever, especially when properly sealed away in a bucket.
Any true coffee snob will tell you that coffee needs to be fresh, to be good. While the rest of us might not notice if the coffee we used to make ourselves our morning cup was a couple of months old, we would if it was a couple of years old. However, freeze-dried coffee will keep virtually forever, without changing. One of the first foods ever freeze-dried, coffee is still one of the best.
Like coffee, tea will keep well for a prolonged period of time. But in this case, the tea leaves themselves can be kept; rather than needing it freeze-dried. The only thing needed, for keeping it safe, is to keep it in a moisture-proof container.
Believe it or not, soy sauce will keep indefinitely. It is a fermented food, which makes it impossible for it to go bad. Some other condiments are also fermented, like Worcestershire sauce, so they will keep indefinitely too. The key here though, is that it has to be in glass bottles, as the chemicals in plastic will leach into the food, if kept long enough.
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