In a perfect world, food would never go bad. You could just leave it wherever and it would be perfectly fine even six months later. Unfortunately, the world doesn’t work that way. For homesteaders and preppers alike, trying to find the food with the longest shelf life is a never ending challenge.
In our efforts to be as self reliant as is reasonable, and looking for new ways to keep the bills down, I first focused on different food preservation methods. Then, I sought out the right equipment. Though some of the food preservation equipment took a little to save for, the payback has been incredible! I’ve learned so much from reading and then experimenting over the last few years. Today’s article is intended to introduce people to the concept of storing whole foods versus processed products for their emergency plans. If you aren’t going to use it up in the first year, you may want to reconsider
In our efforts to get away from the boxed and canned (store bought) food, I learned about canning my own, using a vacuum sealer to the fullest, and dehydrating. I haven’t bought sage, basil, or oregano in years! When you pay almost $6 for a 2 oz. bottle of ground sage, your perspective tends to change.
While all of this is good and wonderful, increasing shelf life with things like mylar bags and food storage buckets will only take you so far. I started wondering what, if anything, I could do to try and increase the shelf life (and stability) further. As usual, I took to the internet to research all I could! Here is what I found.
The Longest Shelf Life Starts with Whole Foods
Have you seen those large tins of flour that claim to last 10+ years? Just because they’re factory sealed doesn’t mean it will last for a long time. Though the food may technically be edible in 10 years, it doesn’t mean there will be any nutrition or taste like you’d expect.
The point is: when food is broken down from its whole form, the clock has started ticking. Though the enemies of food storage are a constant threat to any food, once you start to process whole foods, the clock picks up speed. Consider whole coffee beans versus ground coffee. Which one will last longer? Retain more flavor and what about nutritional value?
Preserving your food for the long term is wonderful but wouldn’t you make it that much better if you could? If you have these items in your long term storage, consider switching them out with the whole-food alternative.
Coffee Grounds – Store whole beans instead of ground coffee! The oils will stay intact longer. When you grind it down, it releases the oils and fragrance (which equals flavor) and allows more oxygen and moisture to get in there which breaks it down. Note: If you want to store for very long term (more than 5 years), consider storing green coffee beans that haven’t been roasted yet.
Flour – Flour is the same as coffee in that once you grind it, the quality begins to fade. Storing wheat berries is a much better option, for several reasons. First, it takes up less room than ground flour (1 cup wheat berries = 1.25 cups ground flour +/-), second the berries last considerably longer as is, and finally, the overall cost is lower.
Corn Flour/Meal – Storing whole kernels is the way to go! Much like wheat berries versus flour, whole kernels can be stored instead of pre-ground. There is so much you can do with these simple ingredients, it makes sense to have them in whole form and grind as needed.
White Rice (Not Brown) – This is one area that is an exception. White rice will last longer on the shelf than brown rice will. Though brown rice is more nutritional than white, the process that makes the white rice actually increases its shelf life! Brown rice in mylar bags can last 1 – 3 years whereas white rice in mylar can last 25-30!
Take a look at your pantry and see what kinds of things you can store in their whole food form instead. Consider how certain meals will actually taste even better because you are using freshly ground ingredients or freshly processed from their raw state!
There have been several people asking about this topic and I would love to hear some tips and tricks in the comments below and I know others will appreciate the ideas, too!