Saturday, November 22, 2008

Weekend Roundup and Q & A #5

The New York Times put out an article about increased Spam production and retail sales during this "recession" time. Being married to a Spam enthusiast, I'm curious, do you include spam in your food storage?

Meat is one of the last things we think about with food storage because canned meat is expensive, even Spam! Have you thought about canning your own meat? Liz walks us through how to can chicken using a pressure cooker. Check it out.

Each Saturday we will
post some questions that readers have asked with some (hopefully) good answers. Please be patient as we try to answer all your questions. More questions? Email us!

Previous Question and Answer Posts:
Question and Answer #1
Question and Answer #2
Question and Answer #3
Question and Answer #4

Other Informative Posts:
All About Oats
All About Beans
Let's Talk About Wheat
All About Rice
All About Rice Storage

Would you happen to know of any good companies to buy freeze dried foods from? Most that I have seen only carry it in the #10 cans and once it is opened it needs to be eaten within 2-3 weeks. You are not going to go through an entire #10 can of broccoli, for example, in 2-3 weeks. So I'm looking for a place that carries food storage packaged in smaller containers, like pouches. Do you have a company you can recommend??

Most companies that are selling dehydrated foods in small packages are companies who cater to backpackers or campers. The problem is their food is not very affordable. Backpacking, I've learned being married to Mountain Man, can be a very expensive hobby. For example, Harmony House Foods is a company that Mountain Man has purchased dehydrated foods from in small packages. Here's the kicker: a 3 oz pouch of onions sells for $2.95 which works out to be 98 cents/ounce. The LDS Cannery sells 40 ounces of dried onions for $6.65 or 16 cents per ounce. Here are some other alternatives:

In "Just Add Water" by Barbara Salsbury, we read dehydrated vegetables will last ten plus years if vacuum sealed (or stored in those #10 cans or foil pouches). After you open it, as long as you keep a tight-fitting plastic lid on your can, it will keep "as long as is required to use it." Even if it takes several months to use the food up, the flavor and food value won't alter, although the food will become softer because every time you open the can you expose the food to air. One idea is after you open a #10 can, divide the contents into portion size in ziplock bags, remove as much as possible, and seal tightly. Then you aren't exposing the extra dehydrated foods (that you aren't using at that time) to any extra air.

Another option would be to grow a garden and dehydrate your own produce. Or purchase produce at rock bottom prices and dehydrate it yourself. Then you can store your food in portion size packages according to your family's individual needs.

Where do you buy your dehydrated foods? I know you can get some things at the LDS canneries, but they don't seem to have a very wide selection. I've seen many sites suggest bringing your own foods to can and using the church's equipment, but where do you get the food in the first place? I'm interested in buying things like dehydrated celery, carrots, freeze-dried fruits, etc. Any suggestions or favorite stores?

I have actually never bought dehydrated food outside of what Mountain Man has for backpacking. We keep saying we need to buy some but right now we're focusing on buying wheat, rice and beans for our basic food storage. It's more important to me to have filling food before good tasting food. That being said, now I know Hannah has a food dryer, I'm planning on borrowing it multiple times next Spring/Summer and dehydrating produce from my garden or when produce goes on sale. Since I already have access to a dehydrator, that will be the least expensive option for me. I will most likely store my dehydrated foods in jars or ziplock bags because I'm not interested in storing it longer than a year or so since we are moving in a few years. However, if you were to dehydrate your own, you could take your big batches to the cannery to can for a storage life of 10 years plus.

Harmony House Foods, from the previous question, offers freeze dried food in larger containers too. They offer a 20 lb (320 oz) package of dried onions for $99.95 which works out to be 31 cents/ounce. What it is packaged in now will last 24 months or so, but you could take it to the cannery and package it there for longer storage. This wouldn't be economical for onions, obviously, but may be for the things the LDS cannery doesn't offer.

There are many other companies like Harmony House, that's just the one I'm acquainted with. Gee, I really hope I did my math right. Wouldn't that be embarrassing?

I'd appreciate some advice on the subject of what to buy (in terms of wheat) and how to store wheat for both short and long term.

Well, it really depends on your family. As a Latter-day Saint, I have been instructed to store a one year supply of wheat (and other things) for my family. So I have both hard red wheat and hard white wheat stored in #10 cans and foil pouches under my beds and in my closets. Wheat stored in this manner will last 30 years plus, so I don't mess with this. Unless I am totally out of wheat, which doesn't happen now that I'm working on my 3-Month Supply, I don't even touch the wheat. I'm not in a position financially to be able to rotate through this storage so I just stock up on it when I can and leave it alone. I'll rotate it in 25 years or so.

This wheat though, won't do me ANY good if I don't know how to use it and if my family isn't used to eating it. So, I also invest in wheat to use for short term. I personally buy a 25 lb bulk sack of wheat that I leave in my pantry and dip into to make whole wheat bread and other things. One bag usually lasts us 3-6 months of casual use. I hope to be able to buy another sack next cannery trip so I can have two in my pantry at any time. That way if there was an emergency I could kick up my wheat consumption so our other food storage would last longer. I couldn't find an exact number, but my guess is wheat in bulk sacks like mine will store for several years if kept in a cool, dark place. I mean, think about Little House on the Prairie, where the farmers would store their wheat for planting all winter long. What? That's not research?

My long winded advice is this: buy wheat for long term storage that is sealed and treated to last 30 plus years. You can do this yourself or buy it through the LDS cannery or somewhere else. Keep your short term wheat storage accessible so you can actually use it. And remember only grind what flour you need at a time, because once the wheat is ground into flour it goes rancid quickly.

Are you able to purchase items from an LDS cannery if you aren't Mormon?
Yes you can! You need to check into the cannery nearest you. Some food storage centers will require appointments and others are on a first come first serve basis, it just depends on the location. If you have a problem getting into the cannery for any reason, or are just nervous about trying it, make a Mormon friend, and have them walk you through the process. Mormons are really nice. I should know since I am one.

You can also order food storage items like beans, wheat, and rice online through the LDS Distribution Center You will have to sign up, but all that requires is your name and address, and is purely for processing and shipping information.


1. I have a few giant bags of white rice, but am uncertain what I need to do to them to make them last.

I feel the same way about rice. I buy rice already treated in #10 cans or pouches for my long term storage and I leave those alone. For my 3-Month Supply I keep a couple of bulk bags from a warehouse in my pantry, we go through rice pretty quickly though because Mountain Man loves it.

If you want your "giant" bags of rice for long term storage I would take them to a cannery and can them. You can bring your own food to the cannery and just pay for the supplies (cans, oxygen absorbers, etc). For shorter term storage, you can buy food grade five gallon buckets from a restaurant supplier, or someplace like that, and store your rice in them.

2. How do you store your rice? I'm considering two cups in a freezer ziplock, then a number of those bags in a sealed mylar bag in a 5 gal bucket with a gamma lid. I'm thinking that the freezer bags will be more resistant to puncture, and two cups in a bag would be easier to handle and each would last longer than a large bag.

I read a thread on a survivalist forum about how to treat rice for storage in 5 gallon buckets. The commentators were saying that they put their rice in freezer ziplocks (sturdy) in portion sizes and then freeze the bags for two weeks or so to kill any bugs that may have been on the rice. Then they stack the bags in the bucket and stick the gamma lid on. It's really interesting to me how everyone does it. But like I said before, we go through rice like crazy, so I just keep my sacks in my pantry. I like them there so I can keep my eye on them.

3. I was just wondering if you knew what advantages there were between using lids that snap on or twist on for the 5 gallon buckets. Other than the huge price difference between the two kinds of lids and the fact that you save your knuckles if you choose one over the other, do both kinds provide the same storage security and shelf life?

I had to do a little research on this because I'm pretty clueless on the 5 gallon bucket thing. I have three in use, one for my sugar in my pantry, and two in the garage with dog food in them. We have problems with pests down in the South. I bought them four plus years ago at Home Depot or Lowes. Meaning they aren't food grade. But the dog and I are both still alive so I guess it's okay. But I don't recommend it--definitely make sure your 5 gallon buckets are food grade quality.

About the lids, it looks like the difference between the two is convenience and price. The gamma lids (twist off) have an easily removable lid so you can get in and out of your buckets easily, but they are more expensive. The regular lids you may have to hammer on to achieve the seal you want, but once it's on correctly it should keep your food fresh. You may have to invest in one of those claw type bucket openers to help you open those. They are a doosy once closed tightly.

My cousin, Cousin S., has a nifty method with buckets. She keeps her 3-Month Supply storage (like sugar, flour, etc) in 5 gallon buckets, 2 per each. She has one bucket with a gamma lid (easy off) that she has for daily use, and the other just has a regular lid on it. When her bucket with the easy off feature is empty, she'll switch her lids, and then fill up the empty bucket with the regular lid back on. That way she knows when to rotate and only has to open the regular lid when she runs out. If I had more pantry space, or a basement, I might try that method. Then you only have to pay for half as many gamma lids, but still have the storage you need.

4. Does anyone know how long rice will keep in the pantry? I bought a 25 lb. bag at Costco and have used half of it in 3 months. If it'll keep for a couple of years, can I just buy 2 more bags and rotate them? I have a bunch of the #10 cans in my garage, but that rice doesn't taste as good.

I liked this article. Evidently, there was rice found at an archaeological site cooked normally. Meaning rice will last indefinitely. However, there will be texture differences over a number of years. I like to just keep my rice in bags in my pantry, but then again we eat a lot of rice, so a bag of rice won't last longer than 6 months. If I were you I would break down my storage into long term and short term. It's easier to keep track of and rotate the rice you're using regularly and then you don't have to worry about your longer term storage. One reason your garage rice might not taste very good is that it's being stored in your garage. Unless your garage is heated/air conditioned you shouldn't have your food in there. You should always keep your food in a cool, dry and dark place for optimal storage. Check out this awesome chart on pantry storage life.


Anonymous said...

From researching different prep sites it seems that if your 5 gallon bucket is white and has a number 2 inside the triangle it is food grade plastic. It must be white to be food grade. If you think about it it really makes sense - it would not be cost effective to run foodgrade, then non, then clean up & inspect again.

I was able to get a deli bucket that frosting came in, it wasn't a twist on but did have a nice rubber gasket that makes a very tight seal. Perhaps that might be another option.

Anonymous said...

Great information. I'd love to know where to get the wheat for storing.
And sorry to do this to ya, but I'm tagging you. I was tagged and now it's your turn. There is more information on how you are supposed to tag it forward here:

Someone You Know said...

Abs, Hannah, and Everyone Else,

www.YouTube.com has a few videos on using 5-gallon buckets for food storage




I personally stored 70 pounds (2 * 35 lbs) of long-grain white rice for about 10 years using this method. I am currently eating my way through one of the buckets of rice.

After, I opened the mylar bag; I just take out what I need from the big mylar bag using a measuring cup. The bag is still in the 5-gallon bucket (with the snap-on lid loosely placed on the bucket)

I get my long-grain white rice from Sam's/Costco/local Asian Food Market. For wheat, I buy it (350 pounds at a time) from a local whole foods store because it seems the local LDS Bishop's Storehouse is prohibiting non-LDS from using/buying from the local cannery.

If you buy your wheat from someone else (non-LDS cannery) make sure it has 10% or less moisture content for the best long-term storage. The LDS storehouse wheat is already dried to that level or below.

Mountain House, Alpine Aire, and Rainy Day are a few brands I can suggest to your readers. They have a variety of package size from single serve to 50-pound bags. They also have many dealers, so you can buy local and pick-up saving on shipping.

I agree with your cousin S. Those gamma seal lids are convienent, but you don't need one for every bucket. Plus they're $6+ compared to $3 for a snap-on lid.

I also agree, with you, that we should first store the inexpensive bulk long-term food such as wheat (350 lbs), rice (125 lbs), beans (75 lbs), oats (?? lbs), sugar (70 lbs), and salt (35 lbs) before buying the freeze-dried food.

Thanks. Y'all have a very informative blog.

Cecily said...

I don't know if this is cannery-wide, but my local cannery just stopped allowing people to bring in their own food to can. You can check out the portable canner if you have food from home to can, but you cannot bring outside foods in.

Anonymous said...

That's a great idea, using the gamma lids just on the buckets that are currently being used. I can't believe I hadn't thought of that...and it would also keep you from forgetting which bucket was the newest, should they ever get moved around or mixed up.