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Basic Long-Term Food Storage #172307
02/17/2020 03:29 AM
02/17/2020 03:29 AM
Joined: Oct 2001
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Basic Long-Term Food Storage


By James Kash

Long-term food storage has played a pivotal role in humanity’s survival. For thousands of years, foods have been preserved in some form for winter use. The Native Americans caught and dried fish each year to supply food to the tribe. On the eastern continents, people fermented grapes into wine, along with threshing and storing grains to be ground into flour during the winter. One hundred years ago, a house pantry was a common feature in the home and played a role in storing the family’s food supply. Potatoes, canned vegetables, canned meats, jams, jellies, and pickles were frequently used out of storage and were featured in many meals.

Today, the same attitude is not as prevalent. Since the invention of modern-day refrigeration and the availability of fresh foods year-round, many people feel that long-term food storage is no longer necessary. Most folks visit their neighborhood grocery daily to procure foods they need for the day’s meals or some may even go out to eat every day. In our modern society that demands fast-paced living, many people find themselves at odds with the homestead pantry.

However, having a good supply of grains, meats, fruits, and vegetables is not only just plain smart but very cost-effective.If you walked into my basement pantry right now, you would see jars of canned green beans, canned beef chunks, glass jars of brown sugar, glass jars of pinto beans, and a hefty supply of white buckets filled to the brim with bread flour or sugar. I believe that long-term food storage has a place in everyone’s home.

Reasons to keep a pantry
Long-term food storage plays a pivotal role in emergency preparedness. A homestead pantry is not for hoarders, it is for smart, organized people who want to keep their well-being intact in times of crisis.

Keeping a pantry allows you to keep a family budget in line by having low-cost foods and other essential items at ready access. Most of the foods that line our pantry walls were grown, hunted, or slaughtered right on the homestead, but we still buy some of our food. The pantry allows us to purchase commonly-used items in bulk and lay them back for future use. Recently, we found a good sale on potatoes at our local grocery store. The sale was too good to pass up. We purchased 100 pounds and then canned them up, resulting in more than 41 quarts and 12 pints of potatoes. We saved almost half the cost of buying them at regular price.

The pantry is also pivotal in planning the homestead garden and livestock projects for the year. You should plant foods to fill your pantry. If you are low on tomato products, then plant a lot more in the garden. If you are running low on chicken, raise more and keep the pantry at a comfortable level. In good years, lay back as much as you can. Hope for the best and plan for the worst.

Stocking the homestead pantry
The homestead pantry should include what would normally be used (plus extra) and anything that might become necessary if the situation permitted it. Our food storage pantry includes a variety of foods that can put together many meals.

The pantry should be functional, above all. Stock foods that you eat, and eat the foods that you stock. I suggest before you begin planning your long-term food storage that you sit down and make a master list of everything needed to put your frequently-cooked meals together. This includes everything from salt to salmon. Use this master list to stock your pantry.

Fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are essential to a well-stocked pantry. These foods can be stored a few different ways. They may be laid up as canned or dehydrated foods. You might ferment, pickle, or even simply store these foods. In our pantry we keep plenty of green beans, sweet corn, greens, summer squash, a few varieties of tomato sauce, tomato paste, tomatoes, tomato juice, peppers, winter squash, onions, sweet potatoes, potatoes, peas, carrots, peaches, apples, blueberries, pears, blackberries, and applesauce.

A good storage pantry will store food in a few different ways. The primary way to store food should be what is tallied into your yearly amounts and should be stocked diligently. For our family, that is mainly by home canning. It should also be stored in a convenient way. For example, we have dozens of quarts of home-canned apples in our pantry, but we also have quite a few dehydrated ones and if we are lucky, we store quite a bit in the fall to use fresh.

You will need to store quite a bit of these foods. Simple math can be used to get a ballpark figure. For example, if your family uses two cans of sweet corn (almost) every week then you need to multiply 2 by 52 (number of weeks in a year) to get an estimate of how much to store, and that equals 104 pints of corn for a year. Something I like to do but don’t always get to is to build in a backup in this, by figuring up ten percent of the number to store. Ten percent of 104 equals 10.4. Obviously you cannot have .4 of a pint, so you may just add 10 extra pints of corn to the 104. This is to make sure you will have extra. Then of course if one year you have tons of one crop, lay back as much as you can and just don’t grow as much the following year. This year our green beans simply have exploded so we are canning them up like mad. Next year, I won’t put very many out so that we can grow more of another crop. Preserve as much as you can when you can. That way when it isn’t available you’ll have plenty.

Eat the oldest foods in your pantry first. Plan your meals around the pantry. This is generally how we determine amounts to store, since we have been preserving food for a while. If you are new to food preservation, you need to watch what you eat regularly so you can begin to plan your garden and determine how much to store in the long-term food pantry. I do not recommend freezing these foods because electricity can be unreliable; we either can (our primary method), dehydrate, or store our foods fresh. With our potatoes, I like to have around 400 to 450 pounds stored fresh in the pantry. I only list that amount on my tally sheet — I don’t list the five dozen pints and quarts of canned potatoes because it gives us wiggle room during a time of crisis (whatever and whenever that may be). Basic foods should be the only foods categorized for food storage. Any homemade convenience foods (commonly called meals-in-a-jar) should be counted separately and replaced as needed. Again, this is to keep the homestead pantry comfortably stocked so it will be able to provide our needs abundantly when duty calls.

Most of these foods are grown in our garden. However, a few years ago my carrots didn’t take off, so we bought some in bulk from Sam’s Club. That worked well for us, and we still utilize this practice when a good sale comes around or when a crop doesn’t make it. If you are near a farmer’s market, you can sometimes get good deals at them. Veggies can also be bought on sale from local grocers as well. If you don’t have any interest in canning or preserving, you can buy some of these fruits and vegetables already canned in stores. You can also buy dehydrated emergency foods from preparedness supply stores. However, it is not nearly as economical (or tasty) as growing and canning your own fruits and vegetables.

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Canned vegetables make up the bulk of our pantry. In the photo above, literally hundreds of jars of tasty vegetables wait to be used in home-cooked meals.

Pickles, relishes, jams, and jellies

Everyone likes treats and sweets. Your pantry should be well-stocked with many flavors of homemade jams, jellies, and pickles. These give every meal a flair. Stock your shelves with your favorites in any amount you like.

I have a special place in our pantry lined with jars of blackberry jelly, orange marmalade, blueberry jam, strawberry jam, and many others. We also have plenty of sweet pickles, bread and butter pickles, and pickle relish to eat with our meals to give them a little kick. I also keep a few jars of pickled peppers to eat on homemade pizza. All of these items are not considered hardcore food storage. They serve mainly as a means of livening up meals with sugar, spice, and vinegar.

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A variety of salsas, relishes, and pickles will help add a little flair to each meal.

Meats
For quite some time now, meat has generally been frozen as the primary storage method for most households. I do not like to freeze meat (or anything else). A freezer can have a mechanical failure, the power can go out, or the food itself can become freezer-burned. I am sure some folks are gagging now at the thought of canned meat. It is not gross at all. Even a picky eater wouldn’t be able to tell the difference in most circumstances. I do not can all of our meats; I still like to leave the steaks, some beef roasts, and a couple packages of ground beef in the freezer to use fresh.

Regardless, for long-term food storage, canned meat is very convenient. It takes the work right out of cooking many meals, and I personally find meat an easy food to can. It allows meals to come together very quickly without the hassle of defrosting and cooking a package of meat. With canned meat, you just need to drain a pint of meat and add that to some tomato sauce, heat it up, and you’ll have a skillet of delicious homemade spaghetti sauce in 15 minutes. Canned meat generally works best in mixed dishes like soups, stews, sauces, casseroles, chicken salad, tacos, and sloppy joes. It is also more cost-effective to home can it, instead of buying it already canned. Canned chicken, right now, is priced around $2 for about a pint of a generic brand.

Starting amounts will need to be figured in the same way as fruits and vegetables. If you eat chicken once a week on average, then you will need to store around 52 jars plus an extra 10%.

We raise poultry and rabbits for meat. We had been buying half of a grass-fed beef for the past couple of years, but it got too expensive. However, next spring we’ll be raising a steer and a few pigs on Dad’s farm to add to our meat supply. Our family also enjoys hunting, which is another great way to lay food on the table. If you can’t raise your own meat, there are several options for folks to utilize, from buying meat from your local farmers to purchasing on sale at the grocery store.

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Meat is a great source of protein, and is the base of many meals. My pantry wouldn’t be complete without several jars of chicken, beef, and venison lining the shelves.

Grains, flour, pasta, and legumes
If you are like me, you eat an abundance of grain products every day. You may have oatmeal for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, and a hot roll to go with your chili. You may have popcorn for a snack later on. All of these meals involve some type of grain or legume. A good long-term food storage pantry will feature an abundant amount of grains, flours, and beans.

These foods are usually very inexpensive to buy and are very nutritious. A good long-term food storage pantry will have white flour, whole wheat flour, wheat berries, popcorn, cornmeal, rolled oats, rice, pasta, and a variety of dry beans. The amount you store will vary from house to house. I like to keep about 300 pounds of white flour, 20 pounds of whole wheat flour, 100 pounds of wheat berries, 50 pounds of popcorn, 20 pounds of cornmeal, 50 pounds of rolled oats, 50 pounds of rice, 25 pounds of spaghetti noodles, 5 pounds of macaroni noodles, 5 pounds of lasagna noodles, 5 pounds of egg noodles, 50 pounds of pinto beans, 10 pounds of white beans, 10 pounds of kidney beans, and 10 pounds of black beans.
The bulk of these foods will keep indefinitely. The oily germ in whole wheat flour and cornmeal will turn the food rancid after about a year of storage. That is why it is important to store an abundance of wheat berries and popcorn in your pantry — both store well and can be ground into flour or meal when needed. A grain mill is also essential to own to process your long-term food storage.

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You can keep some dry food in large glass jars on the pantry shelf. Pictured above is a just a small portion of our dry bean stores kept in jars for quick use.

I store these items in food-grade buckets on the pantry floor. You can get these buckets free from department stores and they make excellent storage containers. I also store some of these items in half-gallon jars on the pantry shelf for easy access. If the item was bought in bulk packaging, I empty it into a clean bucket and seal the lid. However, if it was bought in common retail packaging I usually store in the bag (after checking for holes) in a sealed bucket. The storage’s primary goal is to keep the food in and the vermin, bugs, and moisture out. Good storage is essential for a great pantry.

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Most bought-in-bulk items have to be removed from their original packaging for storage. I keep our bulk items in large, food-grade, white plastic buckets that have a rubber seal to keep moisture and vermin out.

Dairy and eggs
Most self-reliant families should keep a flock of chickens for eggs and a dairy animal or two. However, in long-term emergency situations, milk, butter, cheese, and eggs may not be available as plentifully as needed. For example, if you lose your main source of income, you may no longer be able to pay the feed bills which will cut off your abundant supply of milk and eggs. A good long-term food storage pantry will be able to battle against that.

As far as I know, there is no proven safe method of dehydrating dairy and eggs at home. However, it has been said that you may be able to can some of these foods such as milk, butter, and cheese. I have not experimented much with this so I cannot tell you either way. If you are interested in learning how to can these foods, you can find instructions in Jackie Clay-Atkinson’s book, Growing and Canning Your Own Food. However, for long-term storage, dehydrated forms of these foods are more favorable due to the fact they take up less space.

Dry milk is the most essential because milk provides many vitamins and nutrients which would be helpful to stay healthy during hard times. Not to mention, without a reliable source of dairy products many meals wouldn’t be possible. I’ve seen numerous survival sites list outrageous amounts of dry milk to keep on hand, and nothing is wrong with large quantity. We go through about a gallon each week with my family cooking heavily from scratch. It takes around four cups of dry milk to make a gallon of milk. This means that for a year’s supply we should have around 55 pounds of dry milk in storage. One of the cheapest ways to acquire dry milk is to get it in large boxes from stores like Walmart and then repackage it for long-term storage in glass jars. It should keep for several years this way, especially if you use an oxygen absorber. You can also buy it in #10 cans from emergency preparedness retailers. I like to keep several cans of canned milk on our pantry shelves for when I put together a quick casserole. They are usually found on sale during the holidays.

It is nearly impossible to find dehydrated eggs, butter, or cheese in the neighborhood grocery stores. These will have to be bought from emergency preparedness retailers. I would advise you to store about two #10 cans of butter and eggs per person in your household. Cheese powder should be stocked based on how much you use. It’s not as important to most recipes, and is more of a treat. You may also want to stock powdered sour cream and buttermilk in appropriate quantities for your family.

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No food storage program is complete without dehydrated eggs, milk, and butter. Several cans will serve you well on your pantry shelves.

Sugar and other sweeteners
Sugar will need to be packaged in much the same fashion as other dry goods. I like to store 100 pounds of white sugar, 15 pounds of brown sugar, 10 pounds of powdered sugar, 2 gallons of honey, 1 gallon of molasses, and 2 gallons of pancake syrup. You’ll find these necessary for cooking. The sugar should be packaged into food-grade buckets, and if possible you can leave it in the original packaging. I keep about 4 buckets of white sugar in our pantry to use frequently. I keep the other bag in a garbage can to protect it from vermin and moisture. I leave my other sugars in their original packaging and pack into clean food-grade buckets for long-term storage. Sugars will harden over time, but they will still be usable.
I keep our honey and molasses in glass jars on the pantry shelf, and I keep a smaller jar upstairs for daily use then add more to it as needed. We buy pancake syrup in bulk from Sam’s Club, and I keep it in the original jugs on the pantry shelf. Molasses and honey will crystalize over time. However, this can be fixed by placing the jar in very hot water to return the crystallized sugar back to liquid.

Cooking essentials
Without cooking essentials, the other storage food is pointless. Good bread is hard to make without yeast unless you use sourdough. Of course, even a simple biscuit can’t be made without baking powder. These pantry staples cannot be grown at home, and a good pantry isn’t complete without them.

I store around 10 pounds of iodized salt, 10 pounds of canning salt, 2 pounds of yeast, 6 pounds of baking powder, 1 pound of baking soda, and 1 pound of cornstarch.

The most important thing when storing these essentials is to keep moisture away. I store our salt in large, recycled jars that hold about five pounds each. I keep a pint jar of yeast in the fridge for daily use, and I keep the other pound in the freezer in order to keep it usable. I get baking powder in 3-pound packages and keep them in the original containers. Most of these will keep for quite a long time; however, baking powder and yeast will lose their leavening power after a while.

Fats and oils
Long-term food storage would not be complete without a good supply of fats and oils.

I store a variety of shortening, lard, peanut butter, vegetable oil, olive oil, broths, and stocks. Shortening, lard, and cooking oil are necessary to make most baked goods. Shortening is said to be good indefinitely, but lard and cooking oil can go rancid (within a year or two) if not rotated regularly. Peanut butter will also last quite a while in storage and is rich in protein, which makes it a very handy “survival food” It is used in a variety of sweets and is good on a slice of homemade bread for a quick lunch.

Most of these staples you can grow or make yourself such as lard, chicken broth, beef broth, and vegetable stock. Broths and stocks help form the bases of many soups and stews, and also can add a nice flavoring to recipes. Things like shortening, and vegetable oil will have to be purchased at retailers. Store as much as you will use in a year. I like to store about six 1-gallon bottles of canola oil, and 2 gallons of olive oil. I use them fairly often. I like to store about eight #10 cans of shortening, and a few jars of lard.

Convenience foods
Generally speaking, this is the least mentioned and sometimes discouraged member of the long-term food storage pantry. However, the real question is why would you not have plenty of convenient meals at your fingertips when disaster strikes? I’m not talking about TV dinners and frozen pizza. In addition to home-canned meals-in-a-jar, I try to stock a variety of cheap convenience foods to make meals quicker during hard times.

I have several jars of home-canned vegetable soup, chili, soup beans, baked beans, tomato soup, and sloppy joes. We use these to make a quick meal after a long day’s work or even as quick lunch. I do not tally it into my long-term storage plan because it doesn’t need to be relied on as heavily. I also stock some cheaply-acquired, store-bought convenience meals in our pantry. I have several boxes of macaroni and cheese plus several packages of ramen noodles for quick side dishes or lunches. It would be good to have a few cans of cream of mushroom soup and cream of chicken soup for quick casseroles. I find it handy to keep a good supply of cheap cake mixes on hand because it is so quick to whip up a good fresh baked cake. I try to get these items either on sale or from bulk shopping clubs.

Water
This is the most important thing to store and have access to. Humans cannot go past three days without water; then we would become severely dehydrated and die. FEMA recommends storing a gallon a day per person. Currently, for our long-term water needs, we collect rain water in a 1000-gallon tank which will provide enough water for our five-person family for 200 days according to FEMA recommendations.

In order to have water in a long-term situation, you need to have a renewable source such as a well or rainwater. Even more important is to have a way to purify it; don’t use it if it hasn’t been purified — you can never be sure what bacteria are lurking in it. For purification, you can use bleach, boil it for ten minutes (at a rolling boil), or purchase a water filtration system. However, if your water supply has any agricultural runoff, neither boiling nor bleach will take care of it. This water would have to be filtered.

Cooking skills
You can store vast amounts of foods, but if you cannot cook with them and prepare them then a well-stocked pantry is of no use to you. It is important to learn skills to prepare meals entirely from your pantry. I’m not just referring to making a light supper, but to a broader array of kitchen skills.

It is imperative to know how to bake. Baking breads, biscuits, cookies, and cakes will be essential if you cannot run to your neighborhood grocery and purchase these products. Baking is a great skill for men or women. Storing large amounts of flour and wheat will mean little to you if you cannot put together a loaf of bread. You’ll also need a way to grind your corn and wheat. So a grain mill is a must have item for long-term food storage.

You’ll need to be able to consciously cook in a frugal manner. Most of us probably do that now anyway. In short, don’t waste food. For instance, if you have a big meal on Sunday with a large roast, plenty of corn, peas, carrots, and potatoes it would be wise to throw this in a pot after you’ve finished and prepare a stew for your lunch and supper. That way none of those foods are thrown out, and you aren’t stuck eating the same food the same way. Many Americans throw away food that is still edible. By “reusing” food you will save tons of edible, tasty food that will turn into a nutritious meal.

Be creative. This is just as essential as any other skill. Learn how to make something out of nothing. Turn your vegetables and grains into works of art that provide a flair and taste that is normally not seen. In a survival situation, the beans and rice every day won’t do anything to improve your attitude.

If you don’t know how to preserve food, now is the time to learn. Preserve foods in ways that are convenient, and that do not require freezing. If a survival situation lasts longer than a year it will be imperative that you can replenish your stockpile. Learn how to preserve foods in an efficient manner. As most of my recommendations are canned items, I suggest you learn how to can different types of food. You will also need to be able to grow these foods. If you don’t garden, learn how to. The stocking guidelines I suggested are primarily based on foods that can be grown or slaughtered on a homestead. That is essential.

You will also need the tools to make the most of your food storage: adequate cookware, a grain mill, canning equipment, several dozen canning lids, a water bath canner (for high-acid foods), and a pressure canner (for low-acid foods). I also suggest you have a back-to-the-basics cookbook to help you along the way. I suggest Jackie Clay’s Pantry Cookbook. It is probably the best one I have ever seen that keeps your family’s comfort and your food storage in mind at the same time.

Cost-effective and smart, that is the best way to describe a stocked, long-term homestead pantry.

James Kash is an 18-year-old homesteader from eastern Kentucky. James raises a good portion of his family’s food supply, including an abundant amount of vegetables, fruit, poultry, eggs, and honey. James is an avid canner and preserves almost all of his summer and fall bounty.


"The time for war has not yet come, but it will come and that soon, and when it does come, my advice is to draw the sword and throw away the scabbard." Gen. T.J. Jackson, March 1861
Re: Basic Long-Term Food Storage [Re: ConSigCor] #172343
02/22/2020 01:08 PM
02/22/2020 01:08 PM
Joined: Oct 2001
Posts: 19,812
A 059 Btn 16 FF MSC
ConSigCor Online content OP
Senior Member
ConSigCor  Online Content OP
Senior Member
Joined: Oct 2001
Posts: 19,812
A 059 Btn 16 FF MSC
Storing Food The Right Way


By Jackie Clay-Atkinson

My husband, Will, and I firmly believe that every family should have two years’ worth of food stocked up at all times. Just like our grandparents before us, we believe that it brings peace of mind and satisfaction to have enough food and supplies on hand that we can coast through any future hard times with ease.

One question about food storage keeps popping up: “How long is my stored food good for?” Folks are concerned with the safety of their families and don’t want to serve them food that has gone bad.

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Store-bought fresh foods

Obviously, fresh foods such as dairy products, fruits, meats, and vegetables will have a much shorter shelf life than canned or frozen foods. Meats need to be used or repackaged and frozen very soon after their expiration dates to avoid spoilage, because blood in the meat breeds bacteria. If you buy meat that you won’t be using immediately, either can or freeze it. Once cooked, most meat stores in refrigerated conditions for up to a week.

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Once canned, meat will remain tasty for decades!

Dairy products should be used within a few days past their expiration dates because milk will sour and cheeses will mold, especially after having the containers opened.

It’s hard to determine the storage length of fruit. Some store-bought fruit has been picked very green and will rot before ripening. Generally, store-bought apples will last for at least a week on the counter or a month in the refrigerator. Peaches, plums, cherries, and nectarines can vary greatly, depending on how they were picked and treated. Hopefully, they will last a week or more in the fridge.

Most store-bought vegetables will stick around longer than fruits will. Potatoes, held in a cool, dark place (not in the refrigerator) will usually keep for several months. Carrots, kept in the bag in the crisper drawer of a fridge, will keep for at least a month, usually more.

Cauliflower and broccoli will discolor and become limp after several days in the fridge. Luckily, their cousin, the cabbage, will stick around a lot longer. Keep it wrapped in plastic and it should still be good weeks after being purchased.

Peas, fresh green beans, and salad greens usually only keep for several days in ideal conditions in your crisper drawer in the fridge.

Both bell peppers and hot peppers store pretty well in the fridge. You can expect them to stay fresh for at least a week and often two weeks or more, especially when kept in a sealed container.

Store-bought canned foods

Let’s take a look at the main reason people don’t want to chance eating “bad” food, which is food past the freshness date. The expiration date stamped on canned foods is simply a suggestion or a “best by” date. Initially, the freshness date was used for perishables such as milk, meat, and refrigerated foods, where it is an indicator of how long these foods remain fresh. Then it was added to canned groceries.

The good news is that the freshness date is not an indication of when canned foods start to go bad. In fact, nearly all store-bought canned goods, like home canned foods, will keep nearly indefinitely right on your pantry shelves. After the freshness date, the food still looks, smells, and tastes just like it did before that date. Unless the can has damage such as sharp dents, creases, poke holes, or rust spots, it should remain perfectly good for years.

How do I tell if my store-bought cans have gone bad?
You can tell if a store-bought can of food has gone bad if the can bulges out on the side, caused by gases formed due to decomposition inside, or if a can has rusted through. A can that spurts out liquid when opened should be discarded, as should one with food inside that either looks or smells bad.

If the can looks normal, opens normally, and the food inside looks and smells fine, your can of food is okay to heat and eat.

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Nearly all packaged foods are dated with a “best by” date. With a few exceptions, canned and packaged foods remain good far beyond this suggested date.

Home-canned foods
All canned goods store best in a dry, cool, dark location. Moisture leads to rust, which is the most common cause of canned foods going bad. The rust eventually eats through the lid of the jar or can and lets in outside air, at which point the seal is gone and the food is no longer safe. A cool temperature will help canned food maintain its texture and flavor. A dark location is best because jars of home-canned foods sitting in intense light will become discolored — potatoes will darken, peaches will bleach out in color, corn will turn brown, and apples will often turn an unappetizing tannish-grey.

Like store-bought canned goods, all of your home-canned foods will remain edible for years if stored in cool, dark, and dry storage conditions. I still have some of the pie cherries I canned when my oldest son, Bill, was four. (He’s now 40!) And I can still make a cherry pie out of them that will knock your socks off. I have home-canned wild mushrooms from Montana that are 22 years in the jar and chiles from New Mexico that are 20 years old … both of which are perfect in every way.

Once canned according to approved methods, home-canned foods are one of the very best ways to ensure your family has tasty, nutritious food in your pantry for years and years. Let me stress the word “approved.” There are still folks who, despite warnings to the contrary, process their vegetables in a boiling water bath canner when they should be pressure-canned for safety. This is a huge error. While it’s true that our grandmothers did this, it has been found that Clostridium botulinum is not destroyed even with lengthy processing in a water bath canner. To kill the bacteria that causes botulism, a deadly form of food poisoning, all low-acid foods such as vegetables and meat must be pressure canned. Pressure canning processes the food at 240° F, and when foods are held at this temperature for the required amount of time, this dangerous bacteria and its toxins will be killed.

Jams and jellies that have been put up with paraffin, like Mom and I used to do often, will not last as long as when processed in a water bath canner. I used to use odd jars that didn’t accept bought canning jar lids to save myself money. I filled them with hot jam or jelly, then poured melted paraffin on top to seal the jars. This worked, until mice chewed through the paraffin. Then I started putting the used caps back over the paraffin. This helped the mouse problem, but sooner or later the paraffin would shrink away from the jar. Then air would get in because the lids were not sealed, and the jam or jelly would mold.

I learned my lesson and as the newer canning books instructed, I began using pint and half-pint canning jars to hold my preserves. I added a new lid and ring to each jar and processed them in a boiling water bath. Now my jams and jellies last for decades with absolutely no mold, fermenting, or mouse damage.

If you don’t process your home-canned foods correctly, don’t expect them to safely store on your pantry shelves for years. Buy a good canning book, such as Growing and Canning Your Own Food, then read the directions every single time you can food. I still do, and I’ve been canning for more than 50 years.

How to tell if your home-canned foods have spoiled
First of all, let me repeat now: If you have used approved canning methods and have followed directions, there is very little chance that your food will ever spoil during storage. This includes meats, fish, vegetables, fruits, pickles, jams, jellies, and much more.
But there is always a chance that a lid’s seal will fail during storage, causing the food to spoil. This usually happens because a small piece of food has blown up onto the rim of the jar during processing. The lid will apparently seal, but during storage, the seal fails and the food spoils.
Here are common signs that your home-canned food has gone bad: severe discoloration or darkening of light foods, the seal of the jar has failed (instead of being firmly indented, the center of the lid can be pushed down with a finger), the food looks nasty, there is a foul smell upon opening the jar, there is mold on the food, or there is unusual sediment in the bottom of the jar.

Sometimes there are black deposits on the underside of the jar lid. This does not mean that the food has spoiled; it is just a chemical reaction and the food is still fine.

Even if the food seems fine, always bring each jar of pressure-canned food up to boiling temperature (210° F) for 10-15 minutes (depending on altitude; higher altitudes require more time) before eating. This may be done by boiling, baking, or frying, as each recipe requires. This will kill nearly all harmful toxins, bacteria, molds, and yeasts that might not have been discovered when opening the jar.

Frozen foods
While I can much of our food, I sometimes hold some in the freezer until I get around to canning it up. The reason I do can up most of our food is that once in the jar, it is good nearly forever. Unfortunately, frozen food does not remain good that long; usually about a year is tops. And then there’s always the threat of the freezer dying or the power (if you’ve got it) going out unexpectedly. This happened to me years ago, and I still remember the shock when I discovered our full freezer melting down! I spent 48 hours straight canning madly as the food went soft. I did get a large part of it canned up and saved, but we ended up carrying a lot of vegetables and fruit out to the pigs.

[Linked Image]

Well-packaged frozen meats, such as our home-raised pork, will remain good for more than a year.

It’s true, freezing food is quick and easy. But canning is more sure!

Keeping food for a longer time in the freezer often depends on how well you packaged it in the first place. If you just toss the store-packaged item in the freezer, you can count on less storage time than if you re-pack or additionally wrap a food. Air is the enemy of frozen food. Seal out the air and your food will keep much longer. Freezer burn is the result of air getting to your food. This causes white spots on meat and unappetizing flavors that you can’t mask with seasonings or spices.

Here is a basic chart for the common recommended length of storage in a freezer at 0° F, which is the recommended temperature to maintain frozen foods:

[Linked Image]

If you take the time to double-wrap your meat or vacuum-seal your foods, you will more than double the life expectancy of frozen foods.

Stored garden produce

Some garden produce will only keep a short while, such as lettuce. Other produce will keep well for many months if given ideal storage conditions.

It is nice to have a root cellar in which to store your harvested fruits and vegetables. If kept cool with the proper humidity, foods will remain garden fresh for much longer than if kept at room temperature in a back closet. But not everyone has a root cellar or the means to build one. We have had great success storing food, regardless of where we lived, by using a little common sense.

Here on our homestead in northern Minnesota, we keep our potatoes, fruit, carrots, turnips, rutabagas, and cabbages in a corner room of our unheated basement. The temperature all fall and winter remains between 40-50° F. In the summer, the temperature rises to about 50-55° F. Our root crops stay crisp until our next fall harvest.

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Potatoes and other root crops store for many months (up to a year for potatoes) in covered plastic totes down in our unheated root cellar. A good storage variety of onion will store well over winter when kept in baskets or net bags in a cool, dark area.

When I lived in New Mexico, we didn’t have a basement. We kept root crops in the ground until freezing weather hit, then stored them in an unheated walk-in closet in the spare bedroom. We kept the door closed except when we brought out something for dinner. The temperature remained between 35-40° F. As the spring temperatures warmed, so did our closet. By June it was around 60° F, and our food storage was about done for the year. The potatoes and root crops were getting wrinkled and sprouting. My mom kept her harvest in an unused small bathroom with air conditioning and a sealed, insulated window. Her crops lasted much longer than mine did.

If you have a heated basement, you can make a small room in a corner that is away from the heat and use insulation in the walls to keep the warmth out. Adding a vent via a window that can be opened to the outside will also help keep the “root cellar” cool. (Don’t let it get below 34° F, or your crops may freeze.)

It’s a common misconception that squash and pumpkins need to be kept cold. For years I hauled mine down to our basement or piled them in unheated areas of the house, only to carry the soft, rotting squash/pumpkins out to the pigs and chickens after only a few months. Then, by accident, I found that both pumpkins and squash love being stored at room temperature! I’ve had both squash and pumpkins last well over a full year when simply stored in an out-of-the-way area of our living space.

[Linked Image]

Squash and pumpkins remain good for months, even years, when stored out of the sun in regular household temperatures.

If properly stored in cool temperatures with plenty of humidity, all root crops can last well through the winter and spring. We store ours in plastic totes in our pantry/root cellar where there is no outside light. Any light whatsoever will cause potatoes to start sprouting and other crops to start growing roots and leaves.

Apples, when stored in proper conditions, will keep until about May or June, depending on the variety. A winter apple, kept at a temperature of about 32-33° F in very high humidity (90-99%) will remain solid and tasty well into spring. But if you store the same apple at 50° F, you will shorten its storage capability to less than half the time.

Summer apples simply won’t store much past a month, no matter what the storage conditions are.

Pears do not store nearly as well as apples. Even with proper storage conditions, such as required for apples, pears will seldom store longer than two to three months.

Peaches, nectarines, and cherries store even more poorly than pears, so simply refrigerate small amounts and freeze or can up the rest.

Eggs
When our chickens are in peak production in the spring and early summer, it seems like we’re flooded with eggs. It’s then I make plenty of egg salad, deviled eggs, pies, and pastries with plenty of big meringues, cookies, and custard pies.

Unfortunately, you can’t can eggs (other than pickling them).
You can freeze the inside contents of eggs and they’ll remain good for about 12 months if sealed against the air. To freeze whole eggs, simply mix the contents of the egg by pressing through a sieve and packing into freezer containers, leaving ½ inch headspace.

Or you can separate the eggs and pack whites in one container and yolks in another. Be very careful not to add air bubbles. Remember, air is the enemy of frozen food storage! Separate the eggs and to each six yolks, add 1 tsp. sugar or ½ tsp. salt so they don’t get tough. Press the yolks through a sieve to mix without adding air bubbles, then pack as you did for whole eggs.
When you want to use the frozen eggs, thaw them, then use. Two Tbsp. whole eggs are equivalent to 1 egg in a recipe; 2 Tbsp. egg whites are equivalent to 1 egg white; and 1 Tbsp. egg yolk is equivalent to 1 egg yolk.

Folks have asked me for years and years how to store fresh eggs for long-term storage. I’ve submerged eggs in waterglass, which is sodium silicate mixed with water, in a crock for storage over winter. It works, but it is really nasty, reaching deep into a cold crock and getting cold slime on your hand and arm every time you want an egg! And the funny thing is that since then, I’ve simply stored cartons of fresh eggs down in our unheated pantry, all winter, with no preparation at all! You must be sure the eggs are not cracked or they’ll spoil.

(Did you know that “fresh” store-bought eggs can be up to several months old before you buy them?)

Dry foods
Dry foods such as flour, sugar, rice, beans, and pasta are very easy to store long-term with very little preparation. Where some folks take the time to “oven can” jars of these foods, I store all of our dry foods without special treatment. I just put the original plastic or paper bags inside a gasketed plastic pail and shut the lid. This keeps out all moisture, insects, and dampness. Some of the foods I store this way are: brown, confectioners’, and white sugar; split peas, lentils, dry beans (such as navy, pinto, and kidney), chocolate chips, shredded coconut, white rice, and pastas. Larger bags containing dry foods are stored in the original packaging, inside plastic garbage cans. These foods include unbleached flour, 50 lb. bags of popcorn, wheat, rye, dry milk, and rice. Mice and rats can chew through plastic garbage cans, so metal cans are best.
So how long do these foods store like this? The answer is simple: pretty much forever! As long as they remain dry and undamaged by insects or rodents, these supplies remain tasty and useful for decades!

Exceptions to this are whole-grain foods such as whole wheat flour, brown rice, and whole cornmeal (that hasn’t been degerminated). These foods will only keep for a few months at tops without going rancid. To make them last longer, store in the freezer. Because we live off grid and don’t keep a freezer running indefinitely, we store wheat, rye, and corn whole and grind it only as I need it, a few weeks’ worth at a time. Brown rice must either be kept in the refrigerator or in an unheated location during our long Minnesota winter to store for months at a time.
Nuts, in the shell, will often store for years without becoming rancid. Once they are shelled, they will only last for several months. This is why I can almost all of my shelled nuts. It is very quick and easy. These canned nuts will last for decades without getting rancid. To can nutmeats, all you need to do is to spread them out on a cookie sheet in the oven and turn the temperature to 250° F for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep them from scorching. Fill dry, sterilized pint or half-pint jars with hot nutmeats, leaving 1 inch headspace. Cap with hot, previously-simmered lid and screw down ring firmly tight. Pressure can at 5 pounds pressure for 10 minutes. If you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet, consult your canning book for directions on increasing the pressure to suit your altitude.

If you have had trouble with pantry moths in your dry foods, you can freeze your food for several days before storage to kill the moths. Another treatment is to heat your dry food in the oven between 110-150° F for 15 minutes. (Don’t heat it at higher temperature, or it will destroy some of the nutrients in the food.) Or you can treat buckets of dry food with dry ice by adding ¼ pound of dry ice, placed on a piece of brown paper bag, on top of the food, closing the lid to allow some air to escape, then waiting half an hour. Peek to make sure all of the dry ice has evaporated. If not, close the lid and wait another 5 minutes. When it has evaporated, remove the paper and seal the bucket.

Any dry food can become infested with grain-eating insects such as the Indian meal moth or flour beetle if the container it is stored in is not airtight. These insects can crawl through amazingly small cracks! Signs of meal moth or pantry moth infestation are webbing inside the container and small “worms” in the food. Other insects are detected by the presence of bugs in the grain.

These insects commonly infest flour, cornmeal, cereals, and bird seed, but they can also infest rice, dry milk, dry pet foods, dried fruits and vegetables, and dry oatmeal.
Treating and protecting dry foods from these pests is easy and cheap, making your long-term storage pantry safe and effective.

Mixes and pre-packaged foods

There are a lot of different mixes and pre-packaged foods at your local grocery store. Some store well; others not so long. Generally, the foods with fat added store less well than those that do not contain fat or oil. One brand that is notorious for not storing well is Bisquick.

I’ve had very good luck keeping cake mixes for a year or more, and complete pancake mixes for longer than that. Once opened, these mixes should be used quickly, so make sure to store them in the original package.

An easy fix to keeping mixes for long-term storage is to make your own. Simply mix up a big batch of your favorite mix and omit the shortening, butter, or oil.

One thing to remember when storing foods that are pre-packaged “instant” meals like Hamburger Helper: For what they are, they are very expensive! You can do better yourself and the results will taste great and store much longer. Plain pasta and rice mixed with home-canned or dehydrated foods make a great meal from scratch.

Spices
It is commonly said that spices only last for a year and then they lose flavor and should be tossed out. This is okay for chefs, but for common cooks like me, spices are great for years — provided they are kept in an airtight container. I’m sure it’s true that fresh spices add more flavor per pinch than old spices do. But if I’m using older spices, I am just careful to taste along the way and add more if needed.

Oils and shortening

Oils such as vegetable, corn, canola, peanut, and olive oil will remain fresh tasting for years in most cases if they are left unopened. Once opened and exposed to both air and warmer kitchen temperatures, all can go rancid quite quickly. Most of the time, however, oils will remain good in the kitchen for at least several months, longer if kept in the refrigerator. Oils are one of the things in my storage pantry that I buy in smaller bottles. True, it’s cheaper to buy large bottles. But if you don’t really use that much oil in a month or two, the remainder can go rancid and you’ll end up tossing it out. I’d rather pay a little bit more and not have any go rancid.
Shortening is another fat that is handy in the pantry. Unopened cans will last for many years. Once opened, however, the shortening will eventually turn rancid. To lengthen the time it remains good, keep refrigerated once opened or store in a very cool place. Opened cans of shortening should get the “sniff test” before each use. If it smells okay, it’s fine to use.

Dehydrated foods

Dehydrated foods, like dry food supplies, last for decades with minimal care and no pre-treatment. Whether you stock your pantry shelves with home-dehydrated foods, store-bought dehydrated foods, or purchased preparedness foods, be assured that they will last for years and years.

We have many foods in our pantry that I dehydrate in my kitchen all year long. These include blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, apples, plums, diced carrots, sliced and powdered onions, citrus powder, diced peppers, sliced potatoes, peas, corn and parched corn, jerky, sliced tomatoes, and more. I buy raisins, dehydrated cherries, cranberries, and dates at the store. I buy dehydrated eggs, cheese powder, bacon or taco-flavored TVPs (textured vegetable proteins), powdered sour cream, and shortening from preparedness companies.

Dehydrated fruits and vegetables, when properly dried and stored in a cool, dark, and dry location in an airtight container, last indefinitely. Likewise, so will most preparedness foods, bought in #10 cans, although the “recommended” shelf life is said to be only about 15 years. To lengthen the storage life of all dehydrated foods, keep them cool! Foods stored in temperatures of 80° F store for only a few years; at 40° F they’ll store for several decades.

[Linked Image]

Home-dehydrated foods, such as these strawberries, stay tasty in airtight containers for decades.

I store all of our home-dehydrated fruits and vegetables in sealed glass jars down in our pantry, in our unheated basement. Store-bought dehydrated fruits are kept in their original bags inside of gasketed plastic buckets in the same basement. My preparedness foods remain in their cans on my pantry shelves until they are opened. Once opened, I move them to my kitchen and use them until they are gone.

One dehydrated food requires special consideration: home-dehydrated jerky. In the old days, jerky was made to store. It was dried to the texture of a stick — very hard and brittle. Today’s commercial jerky remains soft and chewy due to chemical preservatives. Home-dehydrated jerky should be stored in the refrigerator to prevent mold. Dry it down past the “leathery” stage, right to the hard-as-a-stick stage of dryness. If this is done, jerky will remain good in an airtight container for months or even longer. (It never lasts that long around here!)

[Linked Image]

After most of our sweet corn has been eaten or canned, I let the rest mature on the stalk. Here’s Will with a big bag of shelled dry corn ready to go into airtight storage containers to be ground for cornmeal later. It will remain good for years!

Yeast and leavening agents

Yeast is essential for baking breads and rolls. Unfortunately, it does not remain good for long. And as it weakens, the breads lose their nice puffy rise and pretty soon you’re taking dense, flat loaves out of the oven. I buy my yeast by the pound, locally or from a preparedness company. By keeping a pint jar of that yeast in the refrigerator and a pint jar in the freezer, I’m assured of yeast for at least a year. In the refrigerator, it will keep for at least a year, while frozen yeast keeps for several years (recommendations vary from 5 to 15 years). One thing I’ve learned is that if you buy vacuum-sealed bulk yeast in one-pound packages (the ones that feel like a brick!), then freeze them, they seem to last indefinitely. On the shelf, unopened, I’ve found they remain good for several years. You do not need to bring yeast up to room temperature to use it in a recipe.

Other leavening agents such as baking powder and baking soda have very long shelf lives, especially before being opened. You can expect them to last for decades in your pantry, then for several years on your kitchen shelf. But you should rotate them because they will lose their leavening ability and your baked goods will slowly become flatter and flatter until you are not getting compliments on your baked goods anymore. Of the two, baking powder will “go” first, years before baking soda. Always store both of these where moisture is not a problem. Storing them in a cool, dark location will make them last much longer than storing them in a sunny window.

Salt
Table salt will remain good indefinitely. However, after long-term storage it will often get hard in the box. Therefore, it is best to pour your salt out of the box, into a sealed, dry container for long-term storage.

If your salt should get hard, don’t throw it out. Place it in a clean, old pillowcase and work it over with a hammer or rolling pin. Then press the particles through a sieve. The old treatment of placing a few grains of white rice in a salt shaker does wonders for keeping the salt from getting chunks or setting up in a salt shaker.

Rotating your food to keep it fresh and tasty
No matter what foods you store, no matter how you store it, food should always be continually rotated to keep using the oldest food first. No matter how you store your food, it will eventually lose some nutrition, taste, and appearance.

Some storage methods require more frequent rotation. For instance, vegetables and fruits in your root cellar or basement need to be eaten relatively soon to avoid spoilage and waste. After I’ve stored these foods for several months, I begin canning and dehydrating some of them so that I don’t end up hauling buckets of softened or spoiled food out to the chickens and pigs, come spring.

Most frozen vegetables and fruits can be dehydrated. So if it’s nearing the end of their storage life, consider dehydrating them. Some can also be canned. Vegetables, especially, are easily thawed, heated, and then home canned for extended storage. Any loss of food is depressing and avoidable.

My home-canned foods are easily rotated by sliding the older jars to one side and filling the “slot” next to them with newly-canned foods. The older foods are then moved to the front of the new jars and are used first. Ideally a person should mark the lids of the jars with the date they were canned. I don’t ever get around to that but do make sure my “old” jars sit right at the front of the shelves so they get used first.

Many people stock up their pantry with long-term food storage items and just let them sit there, year after year, “in case some emergency befalls us.” This is a bad idea. Often these foods are based on whole grains, beans, legumes, and pasta. And if they don’t frequently cook with them, they don’t know what to do with these foods should some emergency happen.

It is very important that a family regularly uses some of their emergency preparedness foods in everyday family meals. I have done this for more than 40 years and my family doesn’t know the difference between “emergency foods” and regular, everyday meals. By using these foods regularly, you can easily rotate them, using the oldest foods first so they always maintain great taste, nutrition, and visual appeal.

There will be those of you who read this article and rear up in indignation saying, “I read on the internet … ” or “my home economist says … ” refuting the common sense of this article. I based this piece on my own experience of more than half a century of storing food, and also on the experience of hundreds of self-reliant folks that I talk to every single year. I hope you’ll stock up your pantry with plenty of food and not be scared off by marketing ploys, but instead will rely on your own experiences in storing food long-term.

Jackie Clay-Atkinson is a lifetime homesteader, living much of it off-grid on a shoestring budget. She and her husband, Will, have a 120-acre homestead in northern Minnesota where they raise their own cattle, goats, chickens, and turkeys. Additionally, they have an orchard, berry patch, and several large gardens.


"The time for war has not yet come, but it will come and that soon, and when it does come, my advice is to draw the sword and throw away the scabbard." Gen. T.J. Jackson, March 1861
Re: Basic Long-Term Food Storage [Re: ConSigCor] #172474
03/08/2020 01:04 PM
03/08/2020 01:04 PM
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Over the last 4 years I have tried to package up some dry staple foods in Mylar with O2 absorbers that I store in plastic totes.

I have rice, oatmeal, maltomeal, powdered milk, powdered potatoes, elbow noodles, dehydrated onions, various soup mixes, dehydrated refried beans.

These are all in thick Mylar with the propped heat seal. Just curious how long these are going to be good for? I could always start a rotation of cycling these out into my kitchen and bagging up new ones each summer, but don’t want to if not needed.

I packaged up dry meals like this for my bug-out-bag rations. I should probably test some of my older ones to assure they are still good.
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"Government at its best is a necessary evil, and at it�s worst, an intolerable one."
 Thomas Paine (from "Common Sense" 1776)
Re: Basic Long-Term Food Storage [Re: Huskerpatriot] #172476
03/08/2020 03:10 PM
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airforce Online content
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Originally Posted by Huskerpatriot
...I should probably test some of my older ones to assure they are still good.


Yep. When I first started drying foods,I seriously overestimated how long they would last, and ended up wasting a lot of food. (Not entirely wasted, I suppose, since they ended up in the compost pile.)

Don't trust the storage times they give you in books and magazine articles. A lot depends on weather, humidity, how they're stored, and even their freshness when you dried them.

Treat them like the rest of your food supplies, and make your dried foods a regular part of your diet. Rotate them out to ensure none of your food is going bad. And yes, that includes your store-bought freeze-dried foods as well. They may say they'll last for 25 years, but I wouldn't want to put that to the test.

Onward and upward,
airforce

Re: Basic Long-Term Food Storage [Re: ConSigCor] #172478
03/08/2020 04:10 PM
03/08/2020 04:10 PM
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We just got a pressure canner, and canning supplies this winter. I’m looking forward to putting up garden produce and canning meats. It has always scared me to have all that beef in the deep freeze (1/4 from my brothers farm each year) that would be wasted if we lost power for very long.

Stews, chili, soups, sloppy joes... would be nice to have a few shelves of these on hand... rotate out and keep fresh. Also nice for a “quick meal” rather than expensive and unhealthy other “fast food” options.


"Government at its best is a necessary evil, and at it�s worst, an intolerable one."
 Thomas Paine (from "Common Sense" 1776)
Re: Basic Long-Term Food Storage [Re: ConSigCor] #172479
03/08/2020 04:35 PM
03/08/2020 04:35 PM
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airforce Online content
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We've always preferred canning to drying. Of course, you're not going to can rice,or most beans or peas. But we only kept dried corn around long enough to find the time to can it. In my experience, if there's a single mold spore and a drop of water around, it's going to find its way into our dried corn.

Canning jars are expensive, but you only pay for them once. The lids you can only use once, but they're pretty cheap,and you can sometimes get them cheaper when you buy a few hundred at a time.

Onward and upward,
airforce

Re: Basic Long-Term Food Storage [Re: ConSigCor] #172480
03/08/2020 04:42 PM
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ConSigCor Online content OP
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You can dry can rice, beans, flour, pasta and other things in the oven. They'll last a long time.


"The time for war has not yet come, but it will come and that soon, and when it does come, my advice is to draw the sword and throw away the scabbard." Gen. T.J. Jackson, March 1861
Re: Basic Long-Term Food Storage [Re: ConSigCor] #172483
03/08/2020 05:11 PM
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We just got a huge pile of free 3 gallon square buckets from $am’s Club bakery department than had previously had frosting in them. Plan on putting beans/rice... in Mylar with dry ice (CO2). They will stack up nicely with little wasted space.


"Government at its best is a necessary evil, and at it�s worst, an intolerable one."
 Thomas Paine (from "Common Sense" 1776)

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