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.
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.
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.