So, you are thinking about delving into the world of stockpiling your food? Before you rush out and buy up your local supermarket (not something we’d encourage) save yourself a lot of time, money and frustration by investing some effort up front to make sure it works for you.
There are generally two reasons why people choose to stockpile food.
The first are those who wish to plan for unexpected events. These are people who may have found themselves caught short in a natural disaster or live remotely. The current pandemic has certainly brought the idea of stockpiling to the forefront for many.
Saving money is also a reason why you might choose to stockpile. Buying in bulk for discounts or simply buying extra items when they come on sale, can make good financial sense. It can also save you money not having to duck out to the supermarket for a handful of groceries that lead to more impulse buys.
Where do I start?
Step One: Determine your budget
Before purchasing the drum of rice you spot on a shelf, work out how much you are wanting to put towards items. It makes sense to start small. Experiment and see what works before going all gung-ho. We suggest you clock some experience under your belt before you dive on in.
And of course, if your primary motivation is to save your family money then you’ll most certainly want to keep an eye on whether it’s working.
Step Two: Find some space
Are you planning to store things at the back of your pantry? Are you lucky enough to have a dedicated pantry or alcove to set yourself up? Rookie error is to jump in and buy bulk only to realise that for the next year you’ll be jumping over lentils to get your morning coffee.
Ideally whatever your storage arrangement, it should be dry, away from direct sunlight and not exposed to the extremes of the weather outside.
Step Three: Start with a system in mind
Any benefits from stockpiling are quickly obliterated if you unexpectedly find neglected, expired items that you forgot about. When looking at your storage space consider how you are going to make sure that you know:
- When food was packed and expires
- Where each food item is located
- What is in the container, without having to open it.
Labelling items as you go, as well as keeping an inventory of what you have, will make sure you don’t over purchase on some items and also make sure you rotate your stock – last in, first out style.
Step Four: Choose your foods wisely
Not all foods lend themselves to being stored long term. Food items that are good candidates for storage have low moisture content and a low oil content. Moist foods have shorter shelf lives whilst high oil content foods run the risk of going rancid.
And don’t assume that one food category has the same characteristics. For instance white rice stored correctly can be stored for decades. Brown rice on the other hand lasts for less than a year.
Dry foods that are great for long term storage include wheat, spelt, corn, rolled oats, lentils, white rice, beans (black, white, pinto and kidney) and pasta.
Dehydrated fruits and vegetables must be very low moisture and dry enough to snap. Food that fits this brief include dehydrated potatoes, carrots, celery, peppers, onions, and potato flakes.
Step Five: Choose your storage container
There are a wide selection of containers that can be used for long term storage. Each have their benefits and your choice may be guided by the storage space you have available and your budget.
Great for long-term storage of dry and low-oil content foods. Foods inside do not react with the metal can due to a food-grade enamel coating inner lining.
- Good for portion control.
- May be pre-labelled with contents and expiry dates.
- Cans may rust if exposed to humid environments. Best kept off the floor with good ventilation.
- Once opened, need to be consumed.
These wonders of science are metallic bags made from the resin PolyEthylene Terephthalate (PET). This material provides a non-porous barrier to the outside elements – light, oxygen and moisture. They come in a variety of thicknesses (measured in microns) which affects the flexibility of the pouch as well as their ability to store food long term. Check out the Pro-Ex range of Mylar Bags available in 100 and 110 micron thickness.
- Effective protection against moisture and insects.
- Available in a variety of sizes to cater for the food type.
- Dry foods can be easily packed and sealed at home using an iron.
- Not rodent proof, so if you live with these critters you’ll need to place pouches inside a bucket or box.
PETE (POLYETHYLENE TEREPHTHALATE) PLASTIC BOTTLES
Thoroughly cleaned, sanitised and dried, plastic bottles can be repurposed for long term storage. Remember to avoid using bottles that were previously used for non-food items.
- Cheap storage option.
- Clear plastic lets you at a glance check the contents.
- Over time oxygen will permeate the plastic so, not an option if looking to store long term.
- Need to be placed out of the light to prevent the food degrading.
Food-grade plastic buckets with gasket seals are good for grain storage. Like their plastic bottle cousins, avoid nasty surprises and don’t re-purpose buckets that previously held stove cleaner.
- Can store large volumes of dry goods.
- Cheap and re-usable.
- Available in a variety of shapes and sizes.
- Like plastic bottles, plastic buckets do over time allow oxygen to pass through and degrade food.
- Odours from previous contents can linger and contaminate stored food items.
Can be re-purposed or expensive canning jars.
- Easy to see food contents and their state.
- Variety of sizes and shapes available.
- Non-permeable, glass does not allow oxygen or water to seep in and spoil food.
- Glass is fragile.
- Large glass jars can be very heavy.
- Require protection from sunlight.
Step Six: Keep food fresh and bug-free with treatments
Dry ice can be used as a method of removing oxygen from a bucket. The carbon dioxide ice is heavier than oxygen and displaces the oxygen from a container. Hold off sealing your container until the dry ice has sublimated (changes from solid to a gas). This may take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours. When the bucket is sealed, the lid may pull down slightly indicating you’ve made a partial vacuum. If the dry ice hasn’t fully sublimated, the lid will bulge and the pressure needs to be fully released before sealing.
Make sure the ice does not come in contact with food directly and burn it. Couple with desiccant packages if moisture control is also an issue.
A word of caution, at -78.5C dry ice is much colder than regular ice. Direct contact with dry ice can burn your skin. Handle only with insulated gloves and keep out of reach of children and pets. Avoid inhaling the carbon dioxide gas, making sure you are in a well ventilated area when handling dry ice.
Oxygen Absorbers remove oxygen from a sealed container which kills adult insects and prevents larval insects from surviving. Iron powder within Oxygen Absorber sachets absorb oxygen causing the iron to rust, trapping oxygen and creating a nitrogen-rich environment. Removing oxygen from the air prevents microbial or mould growth, stops your food from spoiling, and the original flavour and texture are retained.
Oxygen Absorbers work best when containers are non-permeable such as mylar bags and glass. Pro-Ex offer a range of Oxygen Absorbers sizes. How many you need will depend on the size of your container, the type of food and how much air space occupies the container. Save yourself the mental maths headache and head over to our calculator for your result.
Silica Gel Desiccants
Commonly found in our medicine bottles and new handbags, desiccants remove moisture from an environment. Moist air can cause rust, corrosion, mildew, fungus and mould to grow. Like Oxygen Absorbers how many you’ll need depends on the container, food volume and the type of food. Check out our handy Silica Gel desiccant calculator. Pro-Ex offer a range of Silica Gel from 1/2g through to 500g sachets.
Some final tips before I leave you to embark on the long term food prepping journey.
- Start small and find out what best suits your budget and storage limitations.
- Keep an inventory so you don’t overbuy.
- Keep track of expiry dates so food doesn’t go to waste.
- Buy food you would not normally eat. A deal doesn’t alter what your taste buds can’t stand.
- Overinvest. We can all get a buzz from a good deal, but don’t go into debt for it.
- Buy that much you’ve a trip hazard. At the point home renovations are needed, it may be time to reassess your endeavours.
Protection Experts Australia have been in the desiccant and absorber business for more than a decade. Check out our range of mylar bags, silica gel and oxygen absorbers. Contact us today for BULK pricing.