Every household needs to have some amount of food in storage. How much food to store is an individual decision that depends on your financial resources, storage area and other factors. Ideally, you need enough to feed your family for six months, but start with shorter goals, like one week, then two weeks and then a month — some kind of incremental plan won’t bust the budget or throw you into panic buying that can easily lead to burnout and buyer’s remorse.
Canned goods. Generally, commercially canned foods are good for two to five years from the date they were packed. High acid food such as tomato sauce will not keep as long as a can of beans, for example. Canned protein such as tuna, chicken, corned beef and even bacon (yes, you can now buy canned, cooked bacon) have a shelf life of five years or longer.
Canned foods lose vitamins as time goes by, so you will want to rotate your food supply so you are using and replacing items before their “use by” dates.
Rice. White rice should be used within two years after opening, brown within six months as it has more protein. You can extend the shelf life of white rice to 10 years or longer when properly sealed and stored.
Flour. You can count on all-purpose flour lasting well for three to six months in its sealed bag, up to one year in the refrigerator and longer if stored in a freezer.
Sugar. Sugar is one of the few products that lasts indefinitely. The only problem it presents for cooks is that it can harden. For this reason, plan on sugar having a useful shelf life of about two years.
Vacuum sealer. One of the best ways to store anything, especially dry items in bulk, is in glass canning jars that have been vacuum sealed. I own a FoodSaver vacuum-sealing machine, which I wouldn’t trade for anything. I use it every day of my life. I have a supply of wide-mouth glass canning jars in varying sizes that I use to keep everything from chips to crackers and rice to flour fresh, with the use of the wide-mouth jar sealing accessory. Vacuum-sealed two-quart canning jars of white rice are good to go for at least 10 years. My vacuum sealer is one of the best investments I’ve ever made. I suggest you consider investing in one if you are serious about food preparedness.
It may require a little creativity on your part to find space for your new food reserves. Just keep in mind that most of us have space currently occupied by stuff we never use and really don’t need.
Under the bed. If you have room under your beds, you can use shallow plastic containers to hold canned goods and sealed dry goods.
Closets. Walk in your closet, turn around and look above the door. This space is open in many closets and a great place to add a wire shelf for lighter foodstuffs. Be very careful as you don’t want cans to roll off and land on your head.
Under stairs. That space under the stairs leading to your basement or second story may seem useless for its odd shape and lack of accessibility. But take a second look. With some simple shelves, this space just might be ideal for food storage.
Mary Hunt is founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website. You can email her at mary@everyday
cheapskate.com, or write to Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2099, Cypress, CA 90630.