Tip #11 in Emergency Essentials' 15 Tips for Shopping for Food Storage: Understand the pros and cons of the different kinds of packaging.
So, you’re investing good money in becoming prepared for emergencies. Great choice—hooray for you!
Once you’ve got some supplies accumulated, your next job is to protect the food you store so it will last—you want it to be tasty and nutritious when you need to use it. There are a few basic tips we can recommend to help you do this. Food intended for long-term storage (dehydrated and freeze-dried) has five major enemies:
- Pests(insects and rodents, not your hungry nephew!)
The first enemy, warmth, has more to do with where you store your food than anything else—a cool, dry place is best. But not everyone lives in an area where a cool basement is an option—nor does everyone have a designated spot for all their stored food. Many of us have to tuck it in closets, under beds, or behind sofas. Whatever works, right?
Just remember that the cooler you are able to keep your food, the longer it will last. Don’t store it in the attic, an outdoor shed, or a garage where temperatures fluctuate between extremes. Extremely high temperatures are especially detrimental, so don’t store your foods in a place that experiences high temperatures, or you’ll be sadly disappointed in the result. If there’s an air-conditioning vent behind that sofa, stack your food around it.
Replace the coolest places you can—preferably 70° F or below. Lots of people have done some really creative things to protect their stored food. One family even built a small room onto their carport specifically for their food storage. They sprayed the inside walls and ceiling with insulating foam, added shelves, and installed a room air-conditioner in the only “window.” They feel the cost of running the AC for this small area is very reasonable compared to the cost of replacing all their food.
The packaging used for your food storage should protect it from the remaining four enemies: light, oxygen, moisture, and pests.
|The various packaging options offered by Emergency Essentials.
Light can cause vitamin loss and undesirable changes in color, proteins, and fats or oils. For this reason, opaque or dark-colored cans or pails that keep light out are the best. Provident Pantry Superpails are white but opaque, so they keep most light out, but it’s still better to store them in a dark area. Cans do not admit light.
Oxygen exposure is detrimental to stored food. If you’re packaging your own dry foods, add oxygen absorbers (powdered iron in a paper packet) on top of the food before sealing. The iron particles within the packet oxidize (rust), absorbing oxygen in the process. Amazing, isn’t it? A good use for rust—who would have known? Provident Pantry foods are packaged with appropriate oxygen absorbers, and at Emergency Essentials, Inc., we also sell packs of oxygen absorbers that you can use when you reseal your opened foods.
When you open a can or pail of dried food, you will Replace used oxygen absorbers inside. Discard them; they have done their job. After opening your stored food, pour the unused portion into either a metallized or heavy-duty zip-lock bag and seal it with a fresh oxygen absorber inside. Once a package is opened, keep it as cool as possible and plan to use it up within a few weeks or months, depending upon the food, as its shelf-life has been shortened.
Packaging that keeps oxygen from getting to stored food also keeps moisture out, which prevents mold and fungus. Provident Pantry’s Superpails are equipped with a rubber strip inside the lid which creates an airtight seal. Another great product, Gamma seal lids, fit Provident Pantry round pails and most similar standard pails. They come in two pieces: (1) the adapter ring, which you push down onto the top of the pail until it clicks, and (2) the lid itself, which screws into the adapter ring. This forms an airtight seal, as well--and allows for easy access to your foods with no tools needed to open the pail.
If rodents and insects are a problem where you live, there are some simple things you can do to discourage them from invading your stored food. One of the best things you can do is buy food storage packed in cans and airtight pails or buckets.
Cans. First of all, be aware that sealed cans are absolutely impervious to both insects and rodents. Once the can is opened, we suggest pouring the unused contents into a metallized or heavy-duty zip-lock bag and sealing it (don't forget a new oxygen absorber). Replace the bagged food inside the can, and cover with the plastic lid provided. A really determined rodent can chew through these lighter plastic lids, but he won’t bother unless he can smell the food inside. Using a sealed metalized or zip-top bag inside the can will eliminate those food aromas.
Pails. Sealed pails should also be a total deterrent to both rodents and insects. Superpails are lined with metallized bags which are sealed airtight so no food odor escapes, ensuring that pests won’t be attracted by the smell. As with cans, once these are opened, reseal the remaining food inside, wiping up any food dust or spills, and top with an airtight lid, like the Gamma Seal lid.
If you store MREs and have any concern that rodents might chew into them, store them in a sealed pail or Superpail, and they’ll be safe. Other products that you might purchase from the grocery store that come packaged in paper, plastic, or cardboard may attract pests. If possible, seal these in pails as well to protect them.
|Contents of a SuperPail are packed in a metalized bag inside
the pail for extra protection of your food storage items.
A storage area that's scrupulously clean and spill-free will go a long way toward discouraging the interest of mice, ants, roaches, and the like. If you do end up with a pest problem, take the necessary measures to eliminate them and protect your emergency supplies. Most of the time, though, these measures won’t be necessary because the types of packaging listed above will be enough protection for your stored foods.
Keeping your food storage safe, edible, and nutritious in the long term is just as important as getting it in the first place. Be sure to store your foods so that you can eliminate or reduce the impact of warmth, light, oxygen, moisture, and pests. It’s worth the effort!