When building an effective food storage, it is imperative that you make it accessible. I started thinking about this when I asked one of my kids to go downstairs and fill the counter-top salt container. They groaned. Oh brother. I have 50 lbs. of salt in a container downstairs, so what is the big deal?
Our food storage room is a little crowded because it is also the laundry room and the “don’t know where else to store it” room. This does mean that when we need to get something, it might involve moving things around a bit. I have found that human nature is a little lazy at heart and if you don’t make your food storage easy to get to, then you probably won’t use it like you should. In other words, if it is easier to run to the store to get the item you need than to find it in your food storage, then you need to re-evaluate what you are doing.
A friend of mine was telling me about her mother. She was an orphan that grew up during the depression and was hungry much of the time growing up. She swore that she would never let her family go hungry as long as she lived. She continued to build her food storage to take care of her family, even after they had grown up and left. When she passed away, my friend and her family went to clean out her house. What she discovered was a phenomenal food storage – most of which couldn’t be used anymore because it was way out of date or the cans had been compromised and they felt the food would be unsafe to eat.
Part of the problem was that the place she had it all stored was in a difficult place to access, the old time cellar under her house. The stairs were too small, only a four inch tread, and way too steep and difficult to access easily on a daily basis. It was really scary. Another problem was that she was buying enough food for her entire family, even though they had all grown up and moved away. There was no way that she could keep it rotated. As the family went through the food, they found that most of the food had expired and was unusable. It was very distressing to see all of that food wasted.
If you want to store extra for your family that has since moved away, give it to them now. Let them know that you are trying to help them build their food storage. If they won’t accept it, remember, there is only so much you can do.
You can eat canned food that is out of date as long as the can isn’t bulging, isn't rusted, and is still intact. The first thing to go with older canned is the nutrition. (When I say that the nutrition goes first, know that it is only by a very nominal amount and your older stored food will still have nutritional value.) If it smells bad or tastes bad, you definitely don’t want to eat it. One thing you can do if you are forced to eat food that might have possibly lost some of its nutritional value is to make sure that you have multi-vitamins on hand – that haven’t expired. You can eat the food to at least fill your stomach and give you calories, and take vitamins to make sure that you stay healthy.
The better way to go about it though is to just keep your food storage food up to date and rotated. The sad thing is, they ended up throwing a lot of food away, three truckloads worth. What a shame. The one happy ending about this whole thing is that she had stored a lot of water (two gallons per person, per day, for a two week period) and all of her wheat was still good.
Let’s get back to the storage part of this.
Storing food items has come a long way. We can still use those useful plastic five-gallon buckets, but we don’t have to have those obnoxious lids anymore that you have to have a special tool in order to get those stupid things off. Now we can get those adaptable gamma lids that just screw off. (Just an FYI – I don't use the gamma lids and I still have the hard to remove lids and TWO lid remover tools - that make it not so hard. You don’t have to go expensive in order to store effectively.) You can also buy, or even better, make those really nice shelves that help you easily store and rotate your canned items. I don't have those either.
Make sure to label your containers on all sides so that they can be easily identified. I like to use medical tape. I have found that it sticks really well to plastic and metal, and it doesn’t dry up and fall off like masking tape. Another thing I like about it is that if you do need to take it off, it doesn’t leave a residue. It is also easy to write on with a magic marker.
Remember – store lots of what you eat, rotate what you store and make sure that you can access it easily enough to make it usable. I know that we talked about storing your food storage in small areas, and if that is all you have – then definitely do so. Hard to get to food storage is better than no food storage.
If you have more space, then I would suggest that you make sure that you put your food in airtight (anti-bug, anti-water, anti-air) containers that are easy to store, easy to access and convenient to use and then make sure that you use it. That is important; it is better to use it than lose it. And get your water stored! I’m thinking of that expression – “JUST DO IT”!