Short Term Food Storage

In addition to a long term food storage, it is important that we store items that have a shorter shelf life. These foods add variety to our diets. They will also help life feel more “normal” at times when we have to eat from our food storage. Foods in this category include canned fruits and vegetables, cereals, canned beans, peanut butter, and frozen foods and pasta. Because these foods have a shorter shelf life it is important that we learn how to store and rotate these foods properly. These foods go on sale regularly so learning how to store and use them can also help us save money on our grocery bill.

Canned goods will last several years if stored in a cool, dry place. Expiration dates can be used as a guideline, but they do not mean that the food will definitely expire on that date. Food companies are generally very conservative in the dates they give so often food will last beyond that date. So how do you know if something is spoiled and should not be eaten?
  • bulging cans – If the top and bottom of a can of food is bulging, not flat , and gives when you press on it, the food is spoiled and the can should be thrown away.
  • Leakage – if there is evidence on the can or the shelf of leakage, the food should not be eaten
  • Rust – a rusty can can also be evidence of leakage, but the rust could be caused by a humid climate. If there are small spots of rust in different places on the can, that is probably caused by moisture in the air and the food is fine to eat. If, however, there is a lot of rust along one edge of the can, that is most likely caused by leakage and the food should be discarded.
  • Smell and sight – After opening a can always look at and smell the food. If it smells or looks funny, discard it. It is always better to be safe than sorry.
I want to point out that over the years I have thrown away relatively few cans of food. And almost always it is food that I have not rotated as I should have and it is long past the date the manufacturer gave.
How do know what canned goods to store? The obvious answer is to store the foods that you will eat. But often, canned goods aren’t as good as their fresh or frozen counterparts so how can we rotate them if we don’t want to eat them?
  • Use canned vegetables in soups or casseroles.
  • Learn to can and preserve food. Home canned fruits, especially, are much better than their store-bought counterparts.
  • Store convenience foods that can be used for a quick meal when you don’t have time to cook from scratch. This will also save money because you don’t have to resort to fast food. Items that are in this category are soups, chili, spaghetti sauce, dried pasta mixes, etc.
  • I also like to keep some canned beans (black beans, kidney beans, etc.) even though I can easily cook dried beans in the pressure cooker. It is nice to have some cans on hand for when I need to throw together a quick meal.
How do you rotate canned goods? A set of rolling shelves is an easy way to rotate canned goods, but it is not the only way.
  •         When you are putting groceries away, make sure to place the new foods you just bought behind the items that you already have on your shelves.
  • ·        Keep a Sharpie with your food storage so that you can label the top of the can with the date. I like to label things with the date I bought it. It is easier for me to look at the cans and easily tell which is older than if I label things with the expiration date.
  • ·        Periodically go through your food storage and rearrange things that are not in order. This is also a good time to check for foods that are getting close to their expiration date and plan a way to use those items soon.

I also like to keep baking powder, baking soda, and yeast in storage. They need to be kept in a cool, dry place and rotated carefully. They will also store longer in drier climates than humid.
Frozen foods are also part of your short term food storage. One problem with frozen foods is that in the event of a natural disaster where you lose electricity, you will lose your frozen foods. For this reason, I do not like to rely on frozen foods as our only short term food storage. As a side note, many people include generators and the fuel to run them in their storage so that they would be able to keep their refrigerators and freezers operating in this situation. Other people have dedicated solar panels and outlets that plug in directly to that panel for this purpose..
Frozen foods will not spoil while they are frozen, but their quality will diminish over time. Proper storage is the key to frozen foods maintaining their quality. Meats should be wrapped well in plastic wrap. I usually keep the meat I buy in its original packaging, but put it inside another bag as well. I often just use one of the bags in the meat department in the store (like the produce bags.) Having a double layer helps protect from freezer burn. I buy meat in bulk when it is on sale and then divide it into smaller portions and freeze it. One method I use for freezing ground beef is to divide it into the portion size I want (I do half a pound for each portion). I spray a large cookie sheet with cooking spray and place the portions of meat on the tray, not touching each other. I then put the cookie sheet in the freezer. Once the meat is completely frozen, I place it in freezer bags and return it to the freezer. This also works with chicken pieces or chicken breast, pork chops, and other cuts of meat.
When you buy a stand alone freezer buy one that is not frost free. You will have to defrost it about once a year, but it keeps food better than the frost free freezers. To be frost free, they have a heater that turns on periodically to keep ice from forming on the shelves. That causes some degradation of the food.
Fruits and vegetables are also good items to store in the freezer. Freezing is an easy way to quickly store produce from the garden. Fruits can be washed and placed directly in containers or bags in the freezer. Vegetables need an additional step before freezing. There is an enzyme in vegetables that causes them to age. That enzyme is not killed by freezing, but it is killed by heating. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Place the vegetables in the pot and blanch for about 2 minutes. Remove them from the pot and place in containers and freeze.
Dairy products can also be frozen. Milk can be frozen right in the jug. Cheese freezes well if it is grated first. Otherwise it becomes crumbly. Butter freezes beautifully. Cream cheese becomes grainy if frozen, but I discovered recently that by blending it in the blender (after it had thawed) it became creamy again. Freezing all of these items makes it possible to stock up on them when they are on sale.
We have seen so many blessings as we have learned to obtain and use our short term food storage. We have been able to live on a relatively small food budget each month. We have had plenty of food in times of emergency or financial difficulties. We can go through a busy time where we don’t have a lot of time to go to the store, and still have plenty to eat. I hope all of you will love the food storage hobby as much as we do!


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