Humans have always stored food, perhaps not in specific food storage bins or food storage containers, but we have nonetheless understood the principle of saving up for a rainy day. Like Jean de la Fontaine famously penned in La Cigale et la fourmi (The Grasshopper and the Ant), we don’t want to be begging our neighbor when our rations become scarce.
We have evidence that Ancient Egyptian and Greek civilizations stored and preserved food. In Ancient Greece, ceramic pots were used to store food throughout the Bronze Age and especially during the Early Bronze Age. Beeswax was commonly found in ceramic collections and was most likely used as a sealant. In Ancient Egypt, underground pits have been discovered that were used to store grains and other food as early as 5400 BCE. These examples from primal societies are lessons on how to store food in order to survive.
Storage and camping food are essential today for a number of reasons. We’ll discuss uncertainty in the environment and the economy, as well as health benefits.
With the increasing rate of natural disasters that have occurred around the world, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has recommended that 72 hour kits be prepared with food, water, and other necessities. The U.S. Government has even developed high-tech MRE food kits (Meals Ready to Eat) for troops and volunteers. These kits and provisions can be the difference between life and death in emergency situations.
In addition to natural disasters, sudden changes in economic conditions may leave families without proper supplies of food and water. For example, the global credit crisis of 2008 financially devastated individuals and families throughout the world.
Finally, with our fast-paced society, many food manufacturers are turning to preservatives to hurdle the complications of natural food aging. By properly preserving food, whether by freeze-drying or dehydrating, preservatives are no longer necessary. Freeze-drying and dehydrating food preserves food without harmful fillers while sustaining natural vitamins and minerals.
Though many methods exist to preserve food, we’ll take a look at the most common and talk about how to store food.
What does freeze-dried mean? What is freeze-drying?
The term seems daunting and somewhat intimidating, but the process is fairly simple. In 4 steps, the food or product is frozen then pressurized to remove any excess water. These 4 steps include:
The final product retains as much of the original shape and size as possible. In addition, without any water the final product is extremely lightweight. Despite the slight difference in texture, the freeze-drying process preserves the original flavor, nutrition, and scent of the food. Freeze-dried food is also shelf stable and perfect for emergency preparedness and long-term food storage.
The lightweight freeze-dried food is perfect for camping and is even used in space by NASA. Some common brands of freeze-dried food include Mountain House and Lindon Farms.
What is dehydrated food? How do you dehydrate food?
Dehydrating food is an ancient process used by the Aztecs and other civilizations. In addition to simply air-drying food with sun and wind, food dehydrators are now a common way to safely and efficiently preserve food. By using heat and airflow, a dehydrator decreases the amount of water present in the food, increasing its shelf life and reducing bacteria. Like freeze-dried food, dehydrated food is much lighter than the original product and is ideal for camping.
What’s the difference between freeze-dried food and dehydrated food?
Both products are lighter and nearly free of any moisture. However, freeze-dried foods retain the original shape while dehydrated foods are smaller and more condensed. Once freeze-dried foods are rehydrated, they return to their original state.
You’ve seen it in stores and surely used it before, but home canning is one venue that is cost- effective and efficient. Typically, Mason jars are used and after being filled, they are heated to remove any harmful bacteria or microorganisms.
In order to maximize the shelf life and safety of your long term food storage, keep these 4 “lows” in mind:
When storing any kind of long term food storage, whether it’s freeze-dried, canned, or dehydrated, make sure to keep it at a temperature of 75⁰F (24⁰C) or lower.
2. Low Moisture
Avoid any areas with high levels of moisture by considering storing food in a basement or a shelter. In addition to ensuring a dry environment, make sure to keep any items or food storage containers off the ground to guarantee a proper air current.
Oxygen absorbers are also extremely important in considering storing food with moisture levels less than 10%. Although not safe for all types of food storage containers (like milk bottles or non-PETE or PET plastic bottles), oxygen absorbers reduce oxygen levels thanks to the oxidation process from iron present in the small packets. Creating an oxygen-free environment is crucial to long-term food storage and can make the difference in extra years of safe food.
3. Low Light Exposure
By protecting food and water storage from light, you’ll help prevent the growth of harmful organisms that could drastically decrease its shelf-life. PETE bottles in particular should be stored free of any light.
4. Low Bacteria & Insect Presence
By storing food in Mylar or Metalite pouches, you can effectively shelter food from bacteria and insects. These multi-layered pouches keep moisture levels low and should be used uniquely for foods with moisture levels less than 10%. Plastic containers will further guard your food storage from rodents while providing a barrier to moisture and heat.