By Beth Buck
A famous saying: Food storage is meant to be eaten, not kept around for your grandchildren to inherit.
[caption id="attachment_18729" align="alignright" width="300"]
Using your food storage results in delicious meals.[/caption]
Ok, so maybe it's not that
famous, but that is something my dad always said. Probably because I actually inherited food storage from my grandparents, some of which was so old it could no longer be classified as food. How can one keep this kind of waste from happening? Why, rotation, of course!
I once mentioned
we preparedness types like to sit around and swap stories about food storage gone bad. Here's one amusing anecdote from my days as a newlywed, and we lived in a poor part of town in an old house that had been converted into multiple apartments.
When our quirky downstairs neighbors moved out, they left a bunch of stuff in their part of the shed. The landlord asked them to retrieve it, and they did this by emptying the unit of their food storage and leaving it in the driveway. When they never came back to get it, they told us we were welcome to any of the 500+ lbs of expired canned goods, which we did because hey, we were poor and it was food. Or at least, we thought it was. I found a lot of ex-food in that pile that would have been nice to have if we'd had access to it two or three years earlier. Much has been written about the fluidity and uselessness of expiration dates, but there comes a point where no amount of “it-only-expired-last-week-style” bravery will turn a box of rancid insect-ridden pancake mix into something edible. On a completely unrelated note, did you know that you can make dulce de leche at home by leaving a can of sweetened condensed milk in a hot shed for four and a half years? #lifehack
You can probably imagine how frustrated all this made me. A lot of the stuff in that hot driveway was at one time delicious, and at the end it had to be thrown away for health reasons. I felt like protesting in front of the Capitol building with a sign that said, "Rotation NOW!"
Sadly, this kind of thing happens a lot. I know it happens a lot because while this was my first experience with bad food storage, it was not my last and I am not even that old.
My quirky downstairs neighbors made not one but several mistakes with their food storage. Let's go over them now and identify how to avoid them.
1) They acquired a lot of food storage all at once.
While this is not in itself a bad thing, it's very common for people wanting to get their long-term storage in order to purchase large amounts at one time wanting to get it out of the way. Then they rest on their laurels, patting themselves on the back for a job well done. Because it's often expensive to acquire food storage this way, people are less likely to want to break into it even when the need arises. “That was expensive,” they think. “I have to save it for emergencies.” It's better for your wallet and your psyche to build it up over time, then you won't feel bad when you use it.
2) They stored their food off-site
. You might not think the shed in the backyard counts as “off-site,” but as far as food-storage goes, it is. Out of sight, out of mind. You shouldn't even keep your food storage in your basement if you hardly ever go down there. Same with the garage.
3) This caused them to never think about or look at it again
. How are you supposed to know what you have in your food storage if you can't see what you have? You need to keep constant tabs on your supply so you can identify what you have and consume it before its expiration date. Eat what you store, store what you eat. That alone will solve 95% of your rotation problems. There's no need for fancy shelves or a complicated system of organization by date of purchase if you'll just take a look at what you've got every once in a while. Don't store canned beets if you don't eat canned beets. Don't buy a case of cake mixes if you never intend to actually eat them.
[caption id="attachment_17935" align="alignright" width="300"]
Store your emergency food in a cool, dry location.[/caption]
4) They put their food storage in an environment prone to extreme temperature fluctuations
. Heat is the enemy of food storage. It alters the taste and nutrient content and makes things expire sooner. Sheds in the backyard are the worst. Garages are no better. Unless your attic is temperature controlled, keep your food storage out of the attic, too. Someone once asked me about the crawlspace under their condo that was often damp. That's another no. No, no, and nope. If you don't have a giant walk-in pantry, you can put food storage in all those nooks and crannies in your house where most people keep clutter: under beds, in closets, behind couches. You'd be surprised how much food storage you can keep even in the smallest apartment.
If you are guilty of making these mistakes, don't feel bad; it happens. Everyone has done at least one of these at one point or another.
If you have a favorite “alas, if only I'd rotated my food storage!” story, please comment and tell us all about it.
Beth Buck has been involved with emergency preparedness since her very earliest years. She enjoys hiking, martial arts, reading, and writing about food storage. Beth lives in the Intermountain West with her family.