- Cooking Basic Food Storage
- Cooking Without Power
- Food Storage
- Fuel Storage
- Home Production
- Risk Evaluation
- Staying Warm Without Power
As a basic rule, food loses its nutritional value over time. Eat as many fresh foods as possible for optimal nutrition. That being said, building family food stores requires some food to be stored for a period of time. It is best to rotate stored foods regularly to ensure best texture, flavor and nutrition.
In a perfect world, we would all have amazing food stores which were perfectly rotated eliminating waste and deterioration of foods. Since it is not a perfect world, and we have food which ends up beings stored past its prime, it is important to gain an understanding of what happens as food ages and how old is too old.
I have learned that really old beans can take forever to soften and can develop a slightly bitter taste when not stored properly. Canned peaches retain calories but get soft and mushy after 10 years.
Storage conditions will significantly impact the quality of stored foods. The general rule for shelf-stable foods is the lower the temperature, without freezing, the longer the useable shelf-life. For detailed information on optimal storage read, "Enemies to Your Food Storage" and do the best you can to store your food under those conditions.
Estimated Shelf-life of Common Food Storage Items
The information below assumes the product has been stored in airtight container with a reduced oxygen environment and stored in a cool (65 degrees or less), dry location.
30+ years-- Hard grains such as buckwheat, dry corn, flax, mullet, Kamut, wheat, spelt, and triticale will store for a very long time due to their hard outer shell. If that outer shell is compromised by grinding or cracking, the storage life is dramatically decreased.
30+ years -- Honey, granulated sugar (do not use oxygen absorbers), salt, baking soda, and corn starch will store for an indefinite period
25-30 years-- Legumes/beans store for many years. As beans age, the lose their natural oils and will not soften up easily. Older beans may still be used by grinding them into flour or using a pressure cooker to soften them. Great for longer term storage and packed with nutrition.
25-30 years -- White rice is a good candidate for longer term storage while brown rice is not.
25 years-- Soft grains such as barley, oat groats, rolled oats, quinoa, and rye do not store quite as long as hard grains. They are still great candidates for longer term storage.
25 years -- Freeze dried foods
20-30 years-- Dehydrated fruits and vegetables will maintain caloric value but nutritional content will gradually decrease over time. The product must be completely dry and snap when broken to avoid botulism.
20 years-- Pasta such as macaroni and spaghetti will store longer than flour.
20 years -- Dehydrated instant and non-fat milk will store longer due to a lower fat content.
10 years -- Total vegetable protein products made from soy beans known as TVP
5-10 years-- Dehydrated dairy products such as milk, whey based products, cheese, butter, eggs, etc. have a shorter shelf life due to their high fat content.
5-10 years-- Ground or broken grains or seeds such as ground flours, cornmeal, cracked wheat, germade, gluten, mixes, etc. should be rotated regularly for optimal nutritional content.
2 years-- Yeast should be stored in the original packaging. Two years is the recommended storage life but we store it in our deep freeze and have used 10 year old yeast that was still viable.
< 1 year-- Granola and brown rice are not good candidates for longer term storage due to high oil content.·
It is always best to rotate food storage to decrease waste and insure your family is eating the highest quality food possible. Sometimes that just doesn't happen.
We were given some food storage which was purchased in 1960 and stored under the stairs in a basement for 45 years. It was still in the original packaging and we had the opportunity to experiment. One of the #10 cans contained dehydrated applesauce. It wasn't bad. The wheat was fine and made great bread. We did not consume it all because of the decreased nutritional value but it was interesting to experiment and note that it would have provided life-saving calories if necessary. The #10 cans did a great job of providing a protective environment for the foods.
Another time we were given several hundred pounds of grain which had been in a basement in sacks and square metal cans since the early 1970s. There was rust on the cans but the wheat looked fine. We did not feed this to our family because we were unsure of where it had been during that time. The chickens loved it!
Recommended links for shelf-life studies:
Washington State University - http://www.whatcom.wsu.edu/family/facts/shelflif.htm
"If a product is correctly processed, it should remain safe until opened or the seal is broken. The U.S. Army has found that canned meats, vegetables and jam were in "excellent states of preservation" after 46 years. However, long storage is not recommended. For high quality (versus safety), the broadest guideline given by the U.S.D.A. is to use high-acid canned food (fruits, tomatoes and pickled products) in 18 to 24 months, and low-acid (meats and vegetables) in two to five years."
Emergency Essentials - http://beprepared.com/article.asp?ai=579&sid=INEM327&EID=ALL0608d&lm=emer&bhcd2=1213479534
There are two ways to define "shelf-life."
· "Best if used by" is the length of time food retains most of its original nutrition and taste
· "Life sustaining" is the length of time food will preserve life and is still edible
Minerals and carbohydrates do not change significantly during storage
Proteins can deteriorate and denature.
Fats can go rancid by developing off odors and flavors.
Vitamins may be destroyed by light, heat, and oxidation.
Calories are not destroyed during extended storage.
Brigham Young University -- http://www.providentliving.org/content/display/0,11666,7797-1-4222-1,00.html
"Findings of recent scientific studies conducted by a team of researchers at Brigham Young University show that properly packaged, low-moisture foods stored at room temperature or cooler (75°F/24°C or lower) remain nutritious and edible much longer than previously thought. The studies, which are the first of their kind, increase the estimated shelf life for many products to 30 years or more (see chart for new estimates of shelf life). Previous estimates of longevity were based on "best-if-used-by" recommendations and experience. Though not studied, sugar, salt, baking soda (essential for soaking beans), and vitamin C in tablet form also store well long-term. Some basic foods do need more frequent rotation, such as vegetable oil every 1 to 2 years."
"While there is a decline in nutritional quality and taste over time, depending on the original quality of food and how it was processed, packaged, and stored, the studies show that even after being stored long-term, the food will help sustain life in an emergency."