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.

Making Homemade Strawberry Jam

This past week, Deanna & I, made our first batch of homemade strawberry jam! I remember making jams and jellies with my grandmother when I was a little boy, but I forgot how easy it actually is!

Crush the Strawberries………….

Crushed Strawberries

Add pectin & Sugar…………

The sugar we used

 

Boil, ladle into jars, & water bath process them!

This is the recipe that we used:

Makes about 8 (8 oz) half pints
Strawberries, lemon juice, Ball® RealFruit™ Classic Pectin and sugar combine to create this homemade strawberry jam. Try out this recipe, then make it your own as you discover new twists to this favorite canning recipes.
LEVEL OF EASE: Easy
PRESERVING METHOD: Waterbath Canning
YOU WILL NEED:
  • 5 cups crushed strawberries (about 5 lbs)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 6 Tbsp Pectin
  • 7 cups granulated sugar
  • 8 Half pint jars (8oz) with rings and lids

DIRECTIONS:

  1. PREPARE boiling water canner. Heat jars in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Wash lids in warm soapy water and set bands aside.
  2. COMBINE strawberries and lemon juice in a 6- or 8-quart saucepan. Gradually stir in pectin. Bring mixture to a full rolling boil that can not be stirred down, over high heat, stirring constantly.
  3. ADD entire measure of sugar, stirring to dissolve. Return mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary.
  4. LADLE hot jam into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band until fit is fingertip tight.
  5. PROCESS in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.
Deanna testing the Jam

 

Make sure you check out the jam making video on the Save Our Skills YouTube Channel

Additional canning and dehydrating supplies:

Jar lifter, sure tight band tool, regular mouth jar storage caps, wide mouth jar storage caps, regular mouth lids and bands, wide mouth lids and bands, Jelly Jars, wide mouth pint jars, wide mouth quart jars, Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving, fruit pectin, non stick dehydrator sheet, Recipes for Adventure, mandolin slicer, ladle, magnetic lid lifter

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A Little Retreat from the Pennsylvania Winter

My parents have a place in Florida that they retreat to for the winter. Mostly my mother, however my father has been staying a little longer as the years progress. This year, my mother had asked two of my daughters to drive her car down and she was going to fly in. Somehow, that turned into a mini family get away for most of us.

My daughters drove their grandmother to the airport and continued their journey to Florida, three days later. my wife, Deanna, flew down to Florida to visit her parents. A couple of weeks later I drove down with my father to “help him drive”. I didn’t drive one inch of the trip! I got in the truck at 5:20 AM, we stopped once for gas and a couple other times for restroom breaks and arrived 15 hrs later!

Dad sticks around for that extra 2 weeks because we still have deer hunters coming in for muzzle loader season. During those two weeks he closes down his house and we winterize the hunting camp after the last hunters leave. We also load the truck with about 400 board feet of lumber. Dad places ads in the Florida papers for lumber and takes orders to be delivered, he says it pays for his trip to Florida.

Sorting lumber to be taken to Florida

My daughters flew back from their trip a few days before dad & I took off. It worked out perfect! They were able to get my moms car to Florida and visit with her for a few days, visit with their other grandparents, spend a little time running around Disney World, and make it back home to take care of chickens, rabbits, cats, dogs and be here for their brother, Sawyer.

After arriving in Florida, I spent a few days with my parents and then met Deanna and headed down to her parents to spend a few days. Deanna’s mother, Betty, has been going gangbusters canning and dehydrating! She bought us a 9 tray Excalibur dehydrator for Christmas and I can’t wait to get started!

Excalibur 9 tray food dehydrator

Betty has been canning chicken, ground beef, meatloaf, hamburger patties, beans, pie fillings, jams, and jellies. She usually had a water bath canner, two pressure canners and two dehydrators going at once.

Pressure canners
Canned Potato
Jelly that Deanna made

 

I’m not sure what brand of pressure canner she uses, but I have a couple of All American pressure canners that we will be using.

She also had this cool old utensil to pry off the lids from canning jars. It’s called a “pry-a-lid” and I believe she bought a few from ebay.

Pry-A-Lid

When Betty is dehydrating, she stores all of her dried fruits and veggies in quart and half gallon mason jars. She uses a FoodSaver machine with a jar sealer accessory to take the air out of the jars and secure the lid. What’s nice about that versus the bags is that you can reseal & reuse the jars over and over again.

FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer

Deanna and I helped out a little and learned a lot. I think Deanna is excited about getting started on the canning and dehydrating.

I also helped my father-in-law, Terry, rebuild the gate going into their back yard. The old gate was very heavy and mounted with hinges that were too small, so it had sagged over the years. The new gate uses the type of hinge and pin we use on the farm, lag bolt style gate pins. We also used an Adjust-A-Gate gate frame that Terry had purchased. I have to admit, I was a little leery of it, but it worked great and looked good too!

Installing 2 adjust-a-gate gate frames
Almost done

 

Putting on the finishing touches

All in all we had a great time visiting family in Florida, but now its back to the grindstone. I have a lot to do around the farm this winter!

 

Additional canning and dehydrating supplies:

Jar lifter, sure tight band tool, regular mouth jar storage caps, wide mouth jar storage caps, regular mouth lids and bands, wide mouth lids and bands, Jelly Jars, wide mouth pint jars, wide mouth quart jars, Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving, fruit pectin, non stick dehydrator sheet, Recipes for Adventure, mandolin slicer

Be sure to check out and subscribe to the Save Our Skills YouTube Channel https://www.youtube.com/user/SaveSkills
Follow us on Google+ https://plus.google.com/u/0/b/104557873869303516382/+Saveourskills1/posts
and Like our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/saveourskills
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Some links are affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, I may get a small commission if you make a purchase from these links. Thanks for your support in this way.