There are many different kinds of foods that you can stock up on.
There are five major categories of commercial food storage:
- Freeze Dried
- Frozen (home freezer)
- Canned Food (commercial and home)
- Plastic Retort Packages (AND Military Meals)
Deciding which is the best food for you to store depends on a lot of factors. Cost is important of course, but so is shelf life, tastiness, ease of preparation and use, and ease of actually getting the stuff in your home.
Freeze Dried versus Dehydrated Food
How Do They Work And What Are The Differences
Moisture Content. The main objective with food preservation is to remove the moisture so that the food doesn’t decompose, grow mold, etc. Dehydration removes about 90-95 percent of the moisture content while freeze drying removes about 98-99 percent. Foods that you dehydrate at your home will typically have a 10 percent moisture content level while foods that are dehydrated professionally will have a lower moisture content – which increases the shelf life.
Shelf Life. The moisture removal has a direct impact on the shelf life. Most dehydrated products like dried fruits, vegetables, powders and texturized vegetable protein (TVP), also known as textured soy protein (TSP), have a 15-20 year shelf life. However, dehydrated items like honey, salt, sugar, hard wheat and oats have a 30-year shelf life – sometimes longer. Freeze-dried foods will have a longer average shelf life. Freeze-dried fruits, vegetables, just-add-water meals and real meats will have a 25-30-year shelf life.
Nutritional Content. According to research by the American Institute for Cancer Research freeze-dried foods retain the vast majority of the vitamins and minerals found in the original food. However, when compared to fresh fruits and vegetables, freeze-dried foods did lack in some vitamins – like Vitamin C – which break down very rapidly. Dehydration doesn’t change the fiber or iron content of food. However, dehydration can break down vitamins and minerals during the preservation process and retain less of their nutritional value when compared to freeze-dried food. Dehydration tends to result in the loss of Vitamins A and C, thiamine, riboflavin and niacin
Cost. Usually dehydrated foods are going to be cheaper than freeze-dried. If you’re on a tight budget, dehydrated foods are definitely the way to go. We have a mix of both.
The Main Similarities
Storage Requirements. There isn’t a difference in storing food that’s freeze-dried or dehydrated. The cans or buckets are all the same size.
Pros and Cons of Using a Freezer for Food Storage
Pros of Freezing:
- It’s fairly simple to do! It’s very familiar to most of us.
- You get the most input into what you are storing. It’s the best way to preserve the original freshness and taste. You get to buy what you want to freeze and can even save your own fruits and vegetables from your garden.
- You can freeze virtually any kind of food… solid or liquid!
Cons of Freezing:
- You are limited to where you put your storage food to the size of your freezer. It’s all in one place.
- In almost every natural and unnatural disaster you are going to be without power. Studies suggest that if you don’t open your freezer, food will stay frozen for up to two days. A generator can solve this problem, but then you have to store fuel, and the noise of a generator can make you a target to those without food.
- To achieve the maximum frozen food shelf life you will have to protect them from moisture loss and air exposure.
How Long Does Frozen Food Last:
Like with any storage method, how long you can store food for will depend on the specific type of food. Frozen foods can last only a few weeks in some cases, but more often then will be fine to eat after several months. After a year, most foods will start to taste “off”.
Storage Times Listed are for QUALITY ONLY; Frozen foods remain safe indefinitely!
Here is a basic chart of storage times for keeping food in the freezer.
- Bacon and Sausage 1 to 2 months
- Casseroles 2 to 3 months
- Egg whites or egg substitutes 12 months
- Frozen Dinners and Entrees 3 to 4 months
- Gravy, meat or poultry 2 to 3 months
- Ham, Hot Dogs and Lunch Meats 1 to 2 months
- Meat, uncooked roasts 4 to 12 months
- Meat, uncooked steaks or chops 4 to 12 months
- Meat, uncooked ground 3 to 4 months
- Meat, cooked 2 to 3 months
- Poultry, uncooked whole 12 months
- Poultry, uncooked parts 9 months
- Poultry, uncooked giblets 3 to 4 months
- Poultry, cooked 4 months
- Soups and Stews 2 to 3 months
- Wild game, uncooked 8 to 12 months
Pros and Cons of using commercial canned goods for food storage
Note: This report isn’t long enough to discuss home canning in depth. Watch for a future report which will discuss home canning in depth!
Pros of Commercial Canned Goods:
- It’s very easy to do. You buy the cans at the grocery store and put them away for later use!
- You are buying exactly what you like to eat! Taste is a huge factor in nutrition!
- The food is already prepared, so your prep time is greatly reduced.
- Cans are usually smaller allowing for more variety in what you are eating. You don’t have to consume an entire #10 can of something before you move on to something else.
- Commercially canned food is usually done at the peak of freshness, so the quality is usually very good.
Cons Commercial Canned Goods:
- The smaller the serving size, the more it usually costs. Basing an entire families food storage requirements on commercial canned food will cost more than dehydrated or freeze dried food.
- The shelf life of canned food is much shorter than dehydrated or freeze dried foods.
- We recommend this web site for the best information on shelf lives, use-by dates, etc. It’s an awesome site! http://www.stilltasty.com/
- Storage Times are usually for QUALITY ONLY; Although canned food loses its nutritional value over time, it doesn’t necessarily go “bad” merely because it’s old.
The bottom line: Don’t be so quick to toss out or donate those canned food items sitting on your basement shelves just because they hit their printed expiration date. When all else fails, open them and use your senses to determine if they are still edible (they probably will be). (Swollen cans are the best indicator that something is wrong—bad food also smells bad)
When in doubt some high heat from your stove and an iron skillet can serve as another method by which to “cleanse” the food prior to eating it.
Plastic Retort Packages (AND Military Meals)
Note: This report will be an overview of the various military meals (MREs and such). Watch for a future report which will discuss military meals in depth!
What Are They?
We’ve seen them all over the place! Those who are veterans remember them as the pouch that holds the entrée in the MRE. Most of us have seen them in the grocery stores as the “flexible can” in quick, ready to eat pouches.
In science terms, it is a heat resistant bag made of laminated plastic films. It is then heat sealed and sterilized by pressure cooking in a retort (autoclave). As a result, the retort pouch contains heat treated food that is safe from micro-organisms.
Pros of Plastic Retort Packages:
- Lighter than canned food.
- Because it’s flexible, it can take more “abuse”.
- Because it’s flat, it’s easier to store.
- It’s easier for individuals to eat as most of them are in single serving packages.
Cons of Plastic Retort Packages:
- Convenience usually comes with a cost! Individual serving sized food costs more.
- Shelf life is very dependent on the temperature at which they are stored. Not a good food to store in the trunk of your car in the summer.
So, What is the Best Food to Buy?
We don’t think any ONE type of food is the best.
We do think that a combination of all of them can be useful.
Storage of Fruits and Vegetables
Freeze Dried or Dehydrated are clearly the choices. Price is the huge factor here, with dehydrated fruits and vegetables being very reasonable.
Storage of Meats
Canned meats are the tastiest, and we recommend home canning for meats (WATCH FOR A REPORT ON HOME CANNING OF MEATS SOON!)
Storage of Single Serving Foods
Retort packaging is the most convenient to store, carry and eat.
In part 2-A, we’re going to talk about how to achieve the cost savings of buying in bulk and still allowing you to achieve family happiness by having a variety of foods that they love to eat!
8 thoughts on “Surviving for 90 Days Part 2 – Food Storage”
When freezing meat of any kind, pre-freezing it and them vacuum sealing it in the plastic freezer rolls, the quality and shelf life in the freezer is extended exponentially.
We have eaten meat (beef, chicken, pork) that has been frozen with this method for several years, and the taste is just as good as when first frozen.
As for canning meat, we use the raw pack method. Refer to your Ball Canning Book.
I have a question regarding another method of food preservation: vacuum sealing. Of course, “I read about it on the Internet.” Sooooo, the reason I’m asking here is for input from people that have (hopefully) actually tried this method and can comment on it.
The basics are, well, basic: put some food of choice in a Mason-type jar, toss in an oxygen absorber, close jar tightly, put jar away somewhere. The theory about why this works is just as basic – the O2 packet takes all of the oxygen out of the jar (best to use one with a higher capacity than the jar, or 2 or 3 smaller ones); with no oxygen, no mold or bacteria (save anaerobic ones) can survive. From what I’ve read, people are putting things like pasta, sugar, salt, M&Ms, unmilled grains, etc. IOW, only dry foods (Clostridium Botulinum is something nice to avoid).
A variation on that is to use a vacuum pump while sealing the jar, and to forget about the O2 absorbers (or to also use them, but if your vacuum pump works that’s a waste of time, money and effort).
Thanks for any helpful advice (including a couple of wisecracks, if appropriate).
We vacuum seal dry and dehydrated goods in both the pint and quart Ball jars. We do not use oxygen absorbers, as we have not seen a need for them.
The Food Saver Vacuum Sealer Machine that we purchased 10 years ago, has been one of the best investments for food storage that we have made.
Thanks for the comment and the prompt that I need to discuss this one in a blog post. You commenters are what helps make this subject better.
To make a real long story short (for the response) we do store dry goods in mason type jars and in some of the various bags that are out there. It works. Heck, if you are freezing things, putting the stuff in something where you removed the air will make them last longer in the freezer.
There are different types of bags you can use (seal a meal, mylar, etc). Some work with every type of sealer, some only work on certain sealers.
Oxygen absorbers and dessicants are a blog post of their own, which we will do.
Watch for a very detailed examination of this topic soon. We’re also looking at the retort bag concept too. Expensive right now to experiment with, but we plan on doing it soon.
Apoligies if you already mentioned this, butI would also like to point out something basic about the whole 90-day thing: it is a fantastic goal, even if not enough for a truly monumental disaster. However, most people would take at least a couple of years worth of saving funds and buying things, not to mention accumulating knowledge, to get there. Many people know this, and may see it as such a difficult goal to achieve that they will not even start. This is surely not your intention.
If I may, let me suggest that everyone not yet at 90 days simply build up to it one week at a time. It isn’t too hard or expensive to put away a week worth of food, water, medicine, sanitary supplies, etc. Do that, and then just keep repeating until you get to 90 days. If you run out of time before disaster strikes, at least you have 7 or 21 or 56 or whatever days stocked.
BTW, a few months ago I read an article about “micro-prepping.” Basically, it said the same thing. It’s emphasis was on having most people at least a little prepared. So if a disaster hit, if most folks had a week of food, water, meds and TP, there wouldn’t be any big problems until a week went by. Hardly ideal, but realistic and certainly better than nothing. Of course, for anyone reading this site and these articles, micro-prepping is just a start.
Thanks again for doing these articles…they will surely save lives.
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