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Storing foodstuffs – Where and how?

In the UK we don’t really do much on the food storage side. We buy our food in sealed tins or sealed bags and store them until we need them. They when they are opened we use them until they are empty or no longer safe and we discard them. Occasionally, we put opened packages in the refrigerator, forever after called the fridge, or plastic or glass sealed containers to keep them usable longer. It isn’t that much of a problem for us, for one thing we don’t get goods that are perishable in bulk generally. That means they are used long before they go off and don’t need any storage.

Everything else we have just needs to be stored in a cool dry place and as the weather never gets that hot here we can store things safely in the pantry or a cupboard. It is worth checking though. I stored some items in my loft which was cold in the winter but when I went back in the summer it was sweltering hot even when the day was not particularly hot and storing anything in an artificial environment, with a cooler, defeats the object. If there is an issue then things can get ruined by a power outage. The garage and sheds also suffer from temperature extremes making them impractical for storage of food as well.

It is a pity that not many of us have a basement or a root cellar which was standard back in the old days. Planning laws and rabbit hutch building means that cellars are not part of a modern private house never mind a council house unless you are lucky enough to live in a rural area. I would like to build one but planning regulations say ‘No’ and I have several curtain twitching neighbours so doing it myself is not an option. Alternatives then are to extend my pantry and reduce the size of another room or convert a room into another store room. Only problem there is that all my other rooms have windows in. It would require that to be dealt with in some way by removing the window and bricking it up or leaving it in place but sealing it up internally.

In the meantime I’ve also been looking at storage containers. The ones I like, the food grade round air tight pails hold 25 litres but like everything else they are expensive to buy new. I have found that these containers can be sourced from fast food places if you know who to ask and ask nicely.

I’ve always been concerned about sealing containers without purging them of air first. Few of the sealed bags you buy are purged of air but I would guess that they do not have the same moisture laden aid we use in there. Tin and bottles are heat treated and usually support low pressure so any leaks or contamination can be detected. So what can we do about the air in our sealed containers?

From looking around the internet it seems that the most popular way is to put the silica gel into the containers, seal the container, and let them absorb the moisture within. Then open the container, remove the silica gel sachets and replace them with new unused sachets and reseal the containers. These containers can now be stored.

However, there now seems to be a new way of doing this. Using Nitrogen gas. Nitrogen is heavier than air and contains much less moisture. You put the gas hose into the container and let it fill up replacing the air. You then seal the container and the gas keeps the contents moisture free. As well as foodstuffs the nitrogen can be used to protect any other item that is susceptible to moisture. You can get the gas at welding shops. I’ve not tried this myself but will be trying it soon. If anyone has any experience of using Nitrogen in this way then let us know in the comments.

22 comments to Storing foodstuffs – Where and how?

  • half

    I haven’t used these guys but they sell mylar bags and o2 absobers. After a long look I think there the only ones in the UK.
    http://www.theselfsufficiencyshop.co.uk/47-mylar-long-term-food-storage

  • Skean Dhude

    Half,

    I’ll have a look at that site. There are so few here.

  • Lorenzo Panaflax

    http://www.browfarm.co.uk/online_store/milling_grains.htm

    Not tried them, but they sell whole grain in 20kg storage bins and ship for free!

    Worth checking out…

  • Skean Dhude

    Lorenzo,

    Thank you for that. Just what we are looking for. I’ll be having a look there myself.

  • half

    I’ve ordered wheat several times from brow farm with no problems,also got my grain grinder from there. The grain grinder is ok for the price, need to put the wheat through it a couple of times to get it fine enough for bread making, its also pretty small, ok for one but would be harder work for a family.

  • Skean Dhude

    Half,

    The feeling I get from the US is you buy one big solid grinder that could do enough bread for a small town in one go. Then you get a spare.

    I know a farmer that grows grain here. I’ll have a word with him next time I see him and see what he can do.

  • Silent Storm

    Okay this may be a stupid question but… Is it okay to store tinned food in your loft/attic?
    I know that it suffers from extremes of temperature during the summer and winter months, but does this effect tinned goods in anyway?

  • Skean Dhude

    Silent Storm,

    Generally, Yes, it makes a difference but it depends how hot it gets. heats destroys vitamins and changes the taste.

    Best kept cool and dark.

  • Justin

    Mylar, O2 absorbers and silica gel works well for me. I don’t have the room to store huge amounts (pretty much maxed out at 550k calories) so try to store what I eat most of the time. This said, I don’t use that much wheat (I can’t physically eat that much bread or pasta) or rice so these are my long term storage items. Got about 40kg of both.

    I know that my stores that will last the 3 of us (my family) over 3 months on full ration but also know that my close family don’t prep so I will need to support them too. This leaves us just over 50 days on a starvation ration (not including kitchen stocks) so really only just enough time to get more food production going in the garden…

  • Skean Dhude

    Justin,

    Where do you get your Mylar, O2 obsorbers and silica gel from?

    I think you will find that 50 days is not going to be enough to grow food from scratch for all of you. You will need more stored or have a fairly large garden going now. If you have a large garden then I suspect it will be stripped long before you could harvest it by neighbours etc. You should put more away, get your close family members to start prepping or if they won’t then you will need to do it.

    This is going to be the big issue in a survival situation as who you think are close family have close family not on your list. Just another two won’t matter until you have enough stored for a few meals. Remember OPSEC.

  • Justin

    In relation to the mylar, etc I used to import from the USA but there is someone on Ebay from the UK now.

    In relation to the 50 days, you’re right, it isn’t enough but it is all I can do at the moment. It is really a 3 week store for 14 people that can be extended to 50 if necessary. 50 days should be enough for the fast growing crops like the trusty radish, turnip, swede, etc I’v e gone for fast growers. Radish are ready in 35 normally. Planting in flower beds etc will confuse quite a few theives. My garden is not big enough to feed all 14 of us but would be a base off of which to forage. I am not an expert in wild plants but have taught myself quite a bit from books. Maybe enough to get some of us through, maybe not. I live within 1km of open fields and countryside so could possibly do it (also rabbits, pigeons, etc.)

    I know it’s not right or ok but shotguns will make a great deterent to thieving neighbours. All the rest of my plants (apart from the ones stated above) will be pulled, eaten or preserved as soon as the shtf.

    By close family, I really mean that. My wifes family (5),my family (6) and us (3). I have spoken to everyone in the close family about storing food but I haven’t told them how much we have. They think I’m just nuts so I don’t push it too far with them.

    OPSEC is high on my list. No one apart from close family know how much I store either. I have spoken to others I know but when they start losing interest, I leave it. No point flogging a dead horse, especially one that could come back and bite me, zombie style…

  • Skean Dhude

    Justin,

    Thanks for that. I’ll go and have a look.

    I’ll accept your advice on the fast growing foods but suspect it will not be as easy as that. I can see the flowers and anything that looks edible to be eaten. It depends on your area though and how well you can hide 14 people.

    A shotgun is nice but a crowd of hungry people can get past that especially when there are only so many shots. Not forgetting some of them may be armed.

    I’ve been accused of looking at this very darkly. I like to think realistically. If you look at it properly you can plan for it.

    OPSEC is good but that many family must have other family members who they don’t want to lose and what you don’t want is some outside your house looking for food a week after an event banging at the door shouting about sharing food. Be careful there.

  • Justin

    Point taken regarding the edible food.

    Regarding the shotgun, four of them, over 1000 cartridges. But again, point taken.

    I look at my situation as bleak and the chances of survival slim but I’m going to try and get through if it all goes to hell. Have a plan for making the house ‘unappetising’ to other people if the shtf. It will not look defended and occupied but somewhere that won’t provide a reward and will likely prove a mistake. Can’t say much more really. Just plays on fears I’ve notice most people have. Difficult to explain.

  • Skean Dhude

    Justin,

    It’s down to attrition. Wearing you down and swamping you. Stone throwing, traps, setting fire to things when you are asleep, kids as shields. It will be the worse situation you can think of.

    I also plan tomake the house unappetising. Collapse the stairs, keep quiet, keep a few hidey holes going. That is the basis for my moral question a few wees ago. What to do when/if it gets detected?

  • half

    Don’t forget sprouting, only takes a few days for a crop and can be grown in doors anywhere. Full of vits and mins, usually more so than the full size plant.

  • Skean Dhude

    Half,

    Sprouts are something on my long list. They could very well be the difference between life and death for many of us as they can be grown easily, don’t take up much space and grow quickly.

    They are on my list to do an article about.

  • Kat

    I ordered from LDS Europe:
    http://store.lds.org/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/Category3_715839595_10557_21003_-1_N_image_0

    Dry-Pack Pouches
    These 7-mil-thick pouches each hold one gallon of dry food for home storage. The pouches protect food against insects, moisture, and oxygen. Pouch material is a laminate of polyester, aluminum, and food-grade polyethylene. Inside dimensions are 11″ x 13″. Products packaged in the pouches should be low in moisture and oil content. An oxygen absorber packet should be used in each pouch for all products except sugar. The pouch sealer (item number 81383) provides an optimum seal for this pouch. 250 pouches per case.
    US$ 94,– Euro 70,50 free shipping

    Oxygen Absorber Packets
    These packets absorb the oxygen in stored dry food to help preserve product quality and protect the food from insects. To be effective, packets should be used only in containers that are a barrier against moisture and oxygen. Containers that work well with absorbers are foil pouches (item number 81381), metal cans with seamed lids, glass jars with gasketed metal lids, and PETE plastic bottles with twist-on lids. Absorber packets do not work well in containers such as plastic buckets or zip-seal plastic bags. Products stored with oxygen absorbers should be low in moisture and oil content. Each absorber is adequate for up to one gallon (four liters) of dry food. The bag of absorbers can be resealed with the impulse sealer (item number 81383). Unused absorbers can be stored in glass canning jars. By package only; 100 absorber packets per package.
    US$ 12,– Euro 9,– free shipping

    They have good and fast service.

    Kat

  • Skean Dhude

    Kat,

    Welcome and thank you for that link.

    If you click Kat’s link you will get redirected to a pop up to set a cookie to your location. Once set it is quicker to click the link again and go direct to the store if you don’t want to read the rest of the LDS site. It then allows you to buy in real money, GB pounds, rather than monopoly money.

  • Eatmoreveg

    hi are mylar bags nessesary instead of plain plastic i ask because mylar has metal in it which could be found buried with a matal detecter

  • Skean Dhude

    EatMoreVeg,

    Very good question. Mylar is non porous and so will not leech air from the atmosphere. It means you can seal then with an inert gas such as CO2 or Nitrogen to extend the storage life of your goods.

    Perhaps it is the metal that stops it leeching.

    Interesting about the mylar being detectable with a metal detector. I would have thought it would have to be buried really close to the surface because there is not that much of a volume of metal. Anyone tried it?

  • Been storing food for year in mylar bags and using oxygen absorbers to preserve – so far so good and has helped me out in a bind when things are tight (financially) – I have bought my stuff from this UK seller with no issues at all and they have great variety of oxygen absorbers at great prices (and bags when they are in stock)

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