7 Ways to Improve the Shelf Life of Your Foods

hether you have leftover produce from your garden or if you’re looking to grow a food stockpile for emergencies, one of your top priorities has to be keeping that food edible for as long as possible. Throwing food away only means one thing: that you’re also throwing money away. So, without further ado, let’s see a few ways to do this.

#1. Seal Your Food like a Pro

What do I mean by “like a pro”? There are advanced ways to seal certain foods such as rice, pasta and beans, the most popular one being putting them in Mylar bags and adding a few oxygen absorbers. The O2 absorbers contain a fine iron powder which, when it comes into contact with air, creates a nitrogen environment which removes all oxygen and prevents any microorganisms from developing.

#2. Get a (Second) Freezer

Foods will last longer in the freezer than in the fridge: up to 3 months versus up to 9 days for bananas, 6 to 8 months versus 4 to 5 days for pasta and so on. You can find plenty of shelf life estimations online which suggest that getting (another) freezer is the best way to maximize the shelf life of most foods that can’t be preserved using the method above, with Mylar bags and O2 absorbers.

Of course, during a blackout you’ll not only be left without electricity for days on end, but also with a countdown to consume all the items inside your fridge or freezer (before the ones form your pantry, root cellar or before fresh food).

The only ways to maximize shelf life then are to keep both of them chock-full, and to open the door as few times as possible. One thing you could do as you empty your freezer is to put bottles of water inside to keep it full. You’ll also get to enjoy ice cold water.

#3. Dehydrate

Whether you can get a food dehydrator or just use the sun to do it, you can use this method to increase shelf life. Probably the biggest benefit is that it’s a lot easier than canning and, as far as I know, there’s no risk of botulism.

Some of the foods you can dehydrate include: apples, apricots, tomatoes, blueberries and even beef jerkey, though this last one is a little more complicated.

#4. Get a Can Rotator System

Or make one! There are some tutorials on youtube that show such systems. Your best bet would be to make one from wood, although I’ve seen one made of thick cardboard that looked pretty nice. Of course, if you don’t want to complicate things, you can just buy one from Amazon, they start at under 30 bucks.

Why do you need one? It helps you organize your #10 cans so you always eat the oldest one. It uses the FILO methodology (which stands for First In, First Out) and, although it’s not really a way to increase the shelf life of your cans, I just had to include it in this list because it’ll help you avoid throwing food away.

#5. Keep Your Pantry’s Temperature Steady

Most people know that, the lower the temperature, the longer their food will last. However, not many people know that temperature variations affect shelf life as well. The way I see it, if you live in Alaska and keep your food in the attic because it’s cold all year round, you’ll still see decreased shelf life due to variations in temperature.

Quick tip: avoid storing eggs and milk in the refrigerator door, if you want to maximize their shelf life. Because the door gets open several times a day, temperature variations will affect both of them.

#6. Fix the Humidity Problem in Your Basement

If you have mold in your basement, you’ve got a problem. And the only way to fix it is to make sure you ventilate it, either by opening one of those small windows (if you have them), or by installing a ventilation system (and having a back-up energy source in case the power goes out for a longer period of time).

#7. Keep Your Dry Ingredients in Glass Mason Jars

So long as they also have good lids, they’ll keep moisture and pests away. Sugar, cocoa powder, and various spices and herbs will last longer.

Final Word

If you’re interested in food preservation techniques and in prolonging the life of your foods, you’ll find dozens upon dozens of food preservation techniques on the Internet. Take them all with a grain of salt, try to find actual research backing them up, as well as checking that the same advice is given on multiple websites. In addition, make sure you use the right techniques on the right foods, keep in mind most of them can be stored in multiple conditions (fridge, freezer, pantry) with various numbers pertaining to shelf life.

Neiman-Marcus $250 Cookie

There is an urban legend that a customer asked for the recipe for these cookies and was told she could have it for “Two-Fifty”.  When she was charged $250 she got her revenge by sharing it with everyone.  While this story is not true and there are several other versions with different store names, the cookies are still very good.

Print Recipe
Neiman-Marcus $250 Cookie
Course Cookies
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings
cookies
Ingredients
Course Cookies
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings
cookies
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Cream Butter and both Sugars
  2. Add Eggs and Vanilla
  3. Mix Flour, Oatmeal, Salt, Baking Powder, Baking Soda
  4. Add Chocolate and Nuts
  5. Scoop out onto parchment lined baking sheet
  6. Bake at 375° for 10 Minutes
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Battery Disconnect Switch

I have a 1994 F-150 truck that has some electrical problems.  Notably, there are the remnants of an alarm system in it.  This alarm system also has a kill switch function that at times disables the truck.

Since I use this truck infrequently I’ve battled this alarm and the battery draining for years.  I have tried a couple of times to have this alarm system removed, but have been unsuccessful in finding all the parts.  Therefore I’ve resorted to addressing the symptom rather than spending any more time, effort and money to remove the alarm system.  To do this I installed a battery disconnect switch.  A couple of quick turns of the green knob either connects or disconnects the battery from the electrical system of the vehicle.  Now when I want to use the truck I tighten of the knob and it starts right up.

Anyone who has vehicles or tractors that are used infrequently may find such a disconnect switch to be of value.  Of course you lose any saved settings in something like a digital radio, but to not have your battery drained is worth it.  Many newer vehicles have phantom loads that consume power, in small amounts, but never the less are there.  I have heard that the Toyota Prius has something like a parking or storage mode where the engine will start periodically to recharge the batteries.  I suspect this has a much bigger phantom load than other cars.  Older vehicles should have no phantom load.

Lead Acid batteries do have a self-discharge rate of about 5% per month so you cannot just disconnect a battery and expect it to stay good forever.  That is why there are such things as trickle chargers, to keep batteries topped up and keep the batteries from being damaged by discharge.  Take care of your batteries and they will take care of you.

 

Ultimate Knife Sharpening Guide – New e-book

Patrick Roehrman over at MT Knives has just released an e-book on Sharpening Knives.  Right now it is free if you buy his Beyond Razor Sharp video.  I got the video when he did his Kickstarter campaign to fund it.  While I have not taken full advantage of everything the video has to offer, it has helped me.  It is the kind of thing you need to watch several times and practice what was demonstrated and is definitely worth the price of the video.

 

 

Swapping A Mower Engine – Part 2

As I worked through the various alignment issues I think I finally got it ready to go.  The problem was the shaft on the new engine is not only longer but it isn’t milled down to 1″ all the way to the mower housing.  The pulleys need to line up or the belts will lose power and could be damaged.

According to a friend that is a small gas engine repairman the shafts are cut off all the time if they are too long.  The only problem is if your application gets something screwed into the end.  If you cut it off you might not have enough threads left or the hole could be too shallow.  In my case I’m using pulleys with a key-way and a set screw, so cutting the shaft was no problem.

However I did have a problem with the air supply to the cut-off tool I was using.  My air compressor just couldn’t supply volume to run the tool, so I had to pause cutting and wait for the tank to fill back up with air.  A better solution (other than a much bigger air compressor) is a cut off disk for my 4-1/2″ angle grinder.  These cut of disks are very thin, which is a good thing as that means the cut is narrower so less material is removed which means less heat is generated.  With any kind of metal-cutting heat is always a concern, if you were to just use a grinding disk it would cut a much wider slot and generate a lot more heat.  It will also take more power from the tool so if you are at the limits of what it can do you might find your tool stalling out and maybe burning up the motor.  If the piece you are working gets too how it can ruin the heat treatment.

Next step testing it out.

Start With A course Grit When Referbishing A Cutting Tool

If you are like me you keep an eye out for a good deal on used tools.  Poorly maintained cutting tools like chisels, planes or knifes can sometimes be bought at a great value because they do not cut.  After all what good is a cutting tool that does a poor job of cutting?  Many times the cutting edge is rolled and/or has nicks in it.  This requires a considerable amount of material to be removed and if you start with too fine of a grit you will find yourself spending a lot of time and still not getting it done.

If you have spent more than 5 min and you are not down to fresh metal across the whole line that you are sharpening then you need to move down to a coarser grit.  Many cutting tools have one side flat and you should always start with that side.  Resist the urge to tip that side up to shorten the amount of time needed to sharpen it, however that would be a mistake.  Tools like chisels and plane irons will not function properly if you don’t keep the back flat.

You want to use something hard and flat for an abrasive.  An affordable step many take is to use sandpaper.  However it needs to be on something flat.  A piece of marble tile that costs a couple of bucks and some spray adhesive works great.  If you have a table saw you can also the cast iron part of it to sharpen on with sandpaper.

So the moral of this story is to not be afraid to move down to a courser grit when you come across a badly damaged tool edge.  Maybe even down to 80 grit.  Look for creating an even scratch pattern across the cutting edge, once you have accomplished that you are ready to move on to finer grits.

Swapping A Mower Engine – Part 1

I have a DR Field & Brush Mower from the early 1980’s.  This is an amazing tool for clearing land and property maintenance.  However I’ve been having problems with the engine for the last two years and finally it seized up this month.  I considered trying to fix the engine, but after 35 years of use I’m not sure how worn out this engine might be.  A replacement Briggs was something over $500, however the 8HP Harbor Freight Predator brand was a bit less than $250 so I decided to give that a try.

The first step is removing the old engine and making sure the replacement is as close as possible.  In this case the old engine was an 8HP horizontal shaft engine with a 1″ keyed shaft.  I needed the pulleys from the output shaft and if I couldn’t get them off I was going to take a saw to the shaft and then drive it out.  However the puller worked easily.

You do have to be careful with the 3 jaw pullers and they can exert a tremendous force on the parts involved.  If you get to the point where you are really putting some force on the screw you have to start considering which part you might have to sacrifice.  If you need to save the shaft you can cut the pulleys of if the engine is bad anyway cut the shaft.

Another trick is to heat the parts with a torch.  if most of the heat is directed on one of the two parts stuck together you will get expansion that could be enough to break the connection between the two.  You will not be able to see it with your eyes, but the differential rate of expansion is there and you only need a small amount of movement to free up a joint or connection that is stuck.

Next mounting the new engine.