I have a little trick I would like to share with you today for dehydrating greens, such as dandelion, kale, spinach and escarole.
Some of you may have watched the video on YouTube I titled, Garbage Soup. That is where I toss all kinds of old veggies or cuttings into a bag in the freezer until I have a gallon bag full. Then I put them in a pot with several gallons of water, and simmer them to create a delicious vegetable broth. It is a simple habit to build that helps reduce your family waste and gives you a kitchen staple you have created yourself. No more buying stock or broth from the store for recipes. I have another example to share with you today of the old-fashioned adage, waste not, want not!
Pretty much every grocery trip, we buy a bag or two of spinach to eat sauteed, in omelets, soups or as salads. Sometimes we also buy kale or turnip greens. We grow our own escarole and dandelion greens, too. We always have the best of intentions when we grab those greens – we intend to eat them right away. But often we end up with more than we will eat in a week, and greens can go south very quickly.
What do I do with them when they are starting to look a little weary?
One of two things…
a) I simply wash them & shake them dry. If you have a salad spinner, you can use that because they get the leaves very nicely dry. Next, I lay the leaves in a thin layer on the drying racks. You want to have good air circulation, so don’t lay them on thick. You may chop them lightly to reduce drying time if you would like.
Set the dehydrator for the proper temperature (125 F if not humid, 130-135F if humid), and let the greens dry completely. This will likely take several hours. I like don’t like to set this up in the evenings because I do check on them multiple times to see if any greens have stuck together. This is better for me as a morning task.
When checking, you want to make sure to pull apart any thick areas of leaves so that there is no hidden moisture. Moisture could trigger your greens to mold in storage. Then, simply allow them to dry completely.
b) If I am short on time and can’t prep them for dehydrating right away, I often just grab the bag, close it tightly, and toss it into the freezer for a few days until I CAN dehydrate them. Taking greens, like spinach, from the freezer is sometimes a little easier for me to fit them into my day for drying. I can break the frozen greens into smaller pieces and sprinkle them on the mesh drying trays, rather than the racks. Again, making certain that the greens are laid out in a thin layer. I set the dehydrator a bit higher at the beginning for frozen greens. I start out at 135F degrees because they are already humid coming out of the freezer – they will seem to have a bit more moisture than fresh greens. After a couple of hours, I reduce the temperature to 125F degrees, and allow to dehydrate until completely dried.
A lot of people do not know what to do with this dried spinach once it is done. It is so easy to use in soups, sprinkled on salads, in casseroles, made into powder to be added to smoothies, tossed into muffin or sweet bread mixes – it works best in blueberry or zucchini muffins and breads. The possibilities are endless!
Please note that your dried spinach is recommended to be stored 6 months or less based on optimum conditions. But if you keep a rotation of jars in your pantry, always adding the newest to the back of the shelf, you will have a constant supply of greens hidden in your food supply! Just think of the hidden nutrition you could be adding to your meals!
Can you also dehydrate spinach in your oven? Yes – if your temperature goes as low as 150F degrees you can! Above this temp your spinach will likely cook, rather than dry. But if you haven’t been able to pick up a dehydrator for yourself as yet, this might be a great option for you to try!
I hope this sparks you to start storing dried greens for YOUR family as well!
Blessings and Shalom!
A few years ago, I discovered a great way to help discourage vine borers on my squash plants and cucumbers. Then, CHIPMUNKS happened. A couple years in a row they have decimated my bean seedlings as well as many other plants I would put into the ground. Looking for a way to discourage or prevent their attacks, I decided to try my trusted solution for vine borers to see if it would work against other creatures. This year on just about anything going into the vegetable garden I was going to use - squash socks. I mentioned them in our video and blog on how to use TP tubes for seed starting! I have also discussed them before in other videos, blogs and social media posts.
Up here at our elevation, we are just getting deep into full blown garden season – both flower garden AND veggie garden have ended the spring plantings, and I will be starting second crops of several items this coming week. We still have a few veggies and fruits needing to be direct seed, as well.
It is tough sometimes because we are usually quite a bit behind the rest of you – every spring I see YOUR gardens already producing lots of yummy veggies while we are just getting things into the ground. We live above 2500 feet in the Appalachians and things work differently up here - we have to wait a week or so after everyone else is already done putting in their plants and seeds before we even start. Most people use Mother’s Day as their marker, but up here we often frost the week after Mother’s day. Some years we can start planting around the 20th of May, finishing up getting everything into the ground by June 1st or so. Other years we may still be planting the 3rd week of June. This also affects when we will get invaders we want to do away with.
Just like every other year, I had to fight my impatience this year to put things in the ground right away. But FINALLY! It was time a couple weeks ago and I started putting in squash plants, cucumbers, loofah, and direct seeding green beans. Then I planted tomato and pepper seedlings right after that.
If you have seen my posts on social media, you have heard me rant about our plants being nipped off just after sprouting – mostly by those ridiculous chipmunks. So, because of the chipmunks, and even some slugs, we needed protection on just about everything this year. I prefer to deter as much as possible without using chemicals or DE. Diatomaceous earth can be a great help, but it can affect and kill some GOOD bugs as well as bad. I am very careful with using it. These squash socks are a great solution to protecting many plants without using any treatments at all, plus they also help with chipmunks and larger slugs.
Throughout the year, in a grocery bag hanging in the pantry, I place all the mesh veggie bags we can save. Veggie bags just like these. Come springtime, depending on length of that mesh bag, I cut it into sections using scissors – each produce bag yields 3 or 4 sections.
Here’s what I do: for the squash plants, I usually cut a nice section of bag long enough to protect the section of vine at the base, nearest the ground. Beyond this first section, as the vine creeps along the soil, you can cover sections of the vine with soil to help protect other sections from the vine borers – the vine may also set additional roots along the way, drawing up more water and nutrients to feed the squash growing along it.
With our Cushaw and zucchini plants, I took the seedlings from their TP tube pots, placed that soil plug into the mesh sleeve I created, slid that sleeve into the hole I had dug, then covered the roots with soil – leaving the “squash sock” about an inch below the surface.
For the first planting of green beans, however, I dug the hole directly in the garden, set the bottom edge of the bag a bit below the surface, placed seeds in that hole, then covered seeds with soil. As the beans grow, they will grow up through the bag and it will help to protect them. Why not just wait until they sprout to put the socks on the seedlings sprouting from the ground? Because last year, the chipmunks and possibly some squirrels dug up all our bean seeds as I planted them. THIS will make them more difficult to dig up. As plants grow inside the sock, chipmunks won’t be able to lop them off and eat them, either. This will also deter rabbits that sometimes sneak in.
The good news is that it is working tremendously – the green beans are already almost a foot tall! They are doing so much better this year, and it appears they ALL came up. As usual, the squash plants are doing well, too – the Cushaw seem to be doing the best and are well protected!
One big warning I need to pass along – after growing season, pull up your squash socks. Especially if you are going to machine till in the fall or next spring, PLEASE!!! They cannot be reused because they are too brittle the next year anyway. If left lying around they also can become a hazard for wildlife wandering into the garden for leftovers like seeds or greenery left behind after harvest. I just toss them into a grocery bag and into the trash. Also don’t leave them in the ground thinking they will break down – they really won’t. Although they are made of a plastic that ought to deteriorate after a certain time, I have never seen this happen. Plus, when you go to till your veggie beds, those socks will tie themselves around your tiller tines and make a HUGE mess. Yes, I speak from experience! In fact, my little tiller recently dug up a white mesh bag from the very first year I used them to protect squash plants! It tied itself around the tiller and made a dreadful mess – and was also evidence of how long it might take for them to break down!
I have been using these bags for 4 growing seasons now and love them for protecting plants and now seeds, too. I do have to say, in all the time using them, I have not had a single plant die or be infected by vine borers at the base of the plant. Not one! I HAVE had a couple of butternut plants get attacked down the line where I didn’t remember to cover the vines with soil.
Now you have a simple, easy, free, recycling idea to help protect your garden AND increase your production for your family.
I hope this idea helps.
Blessings and shalom!
Today let’s take a few minutes to talk about toilet paper tubes. Yes, you heard me right!
At the advice of a friend last year, I started saving TP tubes for seed starting. I had never heard of this before, so I definitely had not done it before. I have used egg cartons and a lot of other containers, but this was new to me.
I decided to keep a simple grocery bag hanging in the bathroom cupboard. When the roll was empty, I just dropped the old tube in that bag and in springtime, VIOLA! A bunch of free seed pots to use.
I wasn’t sure how they were going to work, so I didn’t want to start ALL my seeds in them, just in case. I only used them for some of our cucurbit seeds – butternut, pie pumpkin, and cushaw. However, I have to admit – now I wish I HAD used them for everything!!!
I wasn’t sure I was going to like them, yet as time went on and things began to grow, I discovered I LOVE them! I am now planning to start saving them for even more plantings. We are going to need a 2nd planting of green beans, cucumbers, and maybe even zucchini in a few weeks. I also want to start growing little “patches” of herbs like chamomile, dill, oregano, sage, and basil, as well as a crop of autumn peas. I am hoping we can save enough tubes by fall for some other cool crops, too.
Before I go into any how-to portions, let me go over a few of the pros and cons I found with the TP tubes. Then I will explain how I used the tubes, kept track of them and what was planted in each.
TP Tube Pros:
~ Easy to fill with soil – I placed a bunch in a larger container, and just shoveled soil into them. Then I moved the filled tubes into their more permanent seed tray.
~ DEEPER soil than egg cartons provide, even if only using half tubes. This helped the roots grow deeper and are more hardy than seedlings in any past year.
~ they are easily kept together in categories or seed types by using old veggie tubs to hold them.
~ Helped the soil maintain a good level of moisture to aid sprouting.
~ When planting into the garden soil, tubes peel away easily if you want to plant without.
~ When planting with the tube, it held together well enough to be planted with the plants; then deteriorated easily into the soil. Takes about a month total to be gone in our soil.
~ Soft enough for roots to poke through if they need to.
~ A couple of the tubes fell apart in my hand as I was trying to plant in the garden.
Not enough to discourage me, though.
~ When I set outside the clear tubs holding which held tubes, the tubes DID pick up and hold a bit TOO much water during a big rainstorm. Caused me concern about seed and root rot. However, the next days were hot and sunny, so rot never happened.
Those are the only things I did not like! They are a big win for us for gardening going forward.
Several videos I watched showed that you can use paper towel tubes, too. I was not comfortable with these, though, and didn’t feel they would work for us – the brand we use is manufactured with a heavy glue holding the last paper towel to the tube. I don’t know what is in that glue and don’t want to take any chance it contains anything bad for the worms, garden or us. Especially worms – It took several years and great blessings to get a good, healthy community of worms in our gardens.
Online and in other’s videos you will see a lot of ideas on how to organize your tubes. I like to use things we have laying around or that will just end up in the trash – you know recycle or upcycle everything we can! I save large plastic tubs from bulk greens we buy for salads as well as from other fruits and veggies. Often, I simply use these tubs by adding soil and planting directly into them.
For this project, though, I took the TP tubes, cut four slits from the bottom, up about 3/4 of an inch. Then folded the bottoms closed to hold the soil. (See photos) If you would like to tuck the fourth flap under a corner of the first flap, it does then to stay flatter when you fill it with soil. Also, creasing the tube to the top along that same line as you cut the slits will help shape the tube into a little square – these fit nicely in the tubs. Finish by organizing them in the tubs and, if different types of seeds, remember to label the sections of pots with sticks or on the outer surface of the veggie tub. We own an Epson Labeler which has come in very handy this year in the garden! It prints the perfect size labels to attach to skinny sticks for marking the pots.
I do not glue or tape the bottoms. I don’t want to mess with the glue, for one, and tape in the garden would just be a mess and more trash in our soil. Having them simply folded somewhat loose makes the bottoms easily opened to expose the roots as I plant them into the soil. I also liked the loose bottoms on tubes that would be directly planted into the soil. The roots could break through more easily and set deeply into the garden soil.
Another quick thing I did to ensure I didn’t get anything mixed up if the tubes shifted in our plastic tubs was to place a piece of paper, cut to size, in between each section. In one plastic tub, I had six of each squash variety. So each section of six was labeled on the front with our labeller, then I separated each section of six by a simple notecard. Cardboard cut to size would also work.
The cushaw were the first seedlings read to go into the garden. I simply took the container with me into the garden, pulled each tube from the tub, peeled the tube off then, planted the seedlings. For the Cushaw, since they are a LARGE squash, I wanted to ensure that they set good strong root systems with nothing hindering their growth. With this my first year using TP Tubes, I wasn’t sure how easily the tubes would deteriorate. A day or so later, I planted butternut and others that were also started in toilet paper tubes, only these I left the tubes on. And NOW I know! The tubes deteriorate fairly quickly in our garden soil and were almost gone after about 2 weeks in our soil!
For those I wanted to try without, I broke away the TP tubes very easily by unwinding the tube like one of those grocery store biscuit cans! The roots were thick and strong inside, which held the soil in a sort of plug. I stuck the plug inside a “squash sock,” then planted that into the ground, and VIOLA! The cushaw are growing on their own now! I can’t wait to see their first blossoms come in a few weeks’ time.
Already thinking of cushaw and butternut in soups, breads, pies, and even autumnal DÉCOR!
BTW, when you save a lot of TP tubes, it may seem like a daunting task to fold all those bottoms, but in reality, it doesn’t need to be. Start early in the winter getting them ready for spring plantings. Pick a day or evening when you are just sitting watching TV or listening to podcasts. Grab your bag of tubes, a pair of scissors and an extra bag or bucket to toss the folded pots into. Then fold while you enjoy your latest programming!
Most people I know remember to save the little 4 or 6 pack planters that hold the annuals or perennials added to gardens in spring. We wash and reuse those which aren’t broken. Over the years, though, many of these have ended up in the trash, leaving me with several trays with no little 4 or 6 packs. NEXT planting, I plan to re-use several seed starter trays and fill them with TP tube starts rather than 4 or 6 packs. I am hoping this will provide another way to minimize cost and maximize production from our garden.
And that’s it in a nutshell! Or rather in a toilet paper tube! If you are looking for a way to cut some corners or costs, I would say that saving the TP tubes is an idea that can easily be incorporated into your gardening plan.
Blessings and Shalom!
from Judith Garton
We enjoy adding greens to our winter soups. Kale, spinach, escarole, mustard, dandelion. They all go nicely in many of the recipes we enjoy. Sometimes it is nice to just toss them into even creamy asparagus or potato soup. Yes, I know, it might give soup a funny green colour, but it is nice to know it is a quick and easy way to boost the nutritional content of your winter meals.
For years I have simply tossed the bags of greens into the freezer and let them sit until we needed them. Part of our issue was budget and not being able to afford extra jars. Another part was the inavailability of jars on the market. I now have more jars to use and more shelf space in our pantry, too!
I have been saving a lot of jars and lids over the last year which can be used for short term storage, and now have a new plan! I don't need to use all our canning jars, but will build our food quantity and variety!
Starting next week, I will be removing all those blanched greens from the freezer and start dehydrating them. I will be storing them in sealed jars in the pantry for the same use. Why am I doing this? There are several reasons.
1) Dehydrating will increase the shelf life by enough time that we can use them next fall as soup season starts.
2) I am running out of freezer space! With our finances being blessed to be a bit better over the last number of months, we have been able to put up more foods in our food storage. And have built more shelf space in the pantry. Having a fuller freezer and pantry is such a great blessing we have been looking forward to.
3) These greens can now be hidden in other foods, too, such as smoothies, sweet breads or muffins!
These are just a few ideas. Most of all, the dehydrated greens will end up taking up less space over-all. I can fit several bags of greens, once dehydrated, into one jar. That will take up less than one-sixth of the space the frozen bags took up.
Maybe next week I will have some photos to share with you as the process begins. As spring progresses, I will even be dehydrating NEW greens as well - dandelion and mustard will hopefully be ready soon for harvest. Then spinach and hopefully even escarole in several weeks. Being able to produce our own pantry stable short-term storage reduces our need to rely on others for taking care of our needs as life gets more interesting.
Blessings and Shalom - Judith
Literally, just like that, overnight, everyone became preppers.
For years we have listened to people claim preppers are radicals, self-focused, isolationists. Yet spring of 2020 proved that they aren’t as nutty as people thought. Have you heard me say that before? Probably – because for years I have heard it about myself.
Yet, how many times did you go to the store over the last number of months and find the paper product shelves empty with NO toilet paper shipment anywhere in sight? What about canned foods, foods in jars, and canning jars had vanished? It seemed for us, most of our local stores had PLENTY of fresh produce and frozen veggies, but meats and all the prepared foods were completely gone. All because of a virus and government control.
The lock-downs and quarantines are only one of the reasons why people have, for years, looked to storing foods for longer term. Some will say that prepping, is ONLY for times like this – when the world looks like it is going to Hades in a Hand-basket.
Well, I am here to tell you that food storage and prepping are for ANY emergency or sudden need.
I will give you a personal example. When my parents moved from Tucson, AZ to far western New York state, their first full winter was a DOOZY! Dad used to talk about how they had gotten 18 FEET of snow up by their house. I will say, that was over the course of the whole winter, but it was a bad year. Even when it melted, it didn’t melt all the way.
At one point, my folks hadn’t been able to leave the house for a few weeks or so. Suddenly, Mom called me one day and said, “Judith! I finally get it! Three weeks without leaving the house and I realize – we need food storage! Help me out! What do I buy first???” Mom and Dad were TIRED of eating Campbell’s soup two and three meals per day. We spent some time that day putting together a list for her, dad, the dogs AND the cats!
A quick note here: I happen to believe that if you are willing to take on the responsibility of animals, you ought to have foods storage for them, too. Not just pets, either, as even livestock will need to be fed during times of trouble.
I didn’t just help mom put together a list of foods to buy her next trip to the store. I asked her what she had IN the pantry and in the freezer – already. And we walked through some healthier meals for the two of them using what they have on hand. My folks were pretty resourceful, so it seemed odd to me that they couldn’t think things through. I think it was just that they were so used to eating more prepared foods and instant dishes. Habits they had developed over the years because both worked full time jobs. Once I helped mom see how much she already had, it made it easier for her to see what things to stick things in her weekly grocery bill and restock their pantry shelves for the next snowstorm or emergency.
Whether flood, tornado, hurricane, loss of employment, or pandemic. Whatever situation or emergency might affect your ability to run to the store to purchase your normal food items becomes a reason for you to keep food storage ready.
In my adult lifetime, I have had to live on food storage at least four times. All of those times involved a financial issue or hardship. Yet I know others who have had to do it because of being cut off from supplies – for example, a family’s home was on the other side of where a bridge washed out. It took over 3 months to repair. They had to use food storage until they could leave again.
My mother experienced even more times where she was trapped. After dad died, she was stuck for a few weeks at a time alone because of snowstorms and drifts blocking the roads enough that she could not get to town. Because she was ready with both supplies and recipe ideas, it was much less a hardship for her than it was early on.
There are a number of reasons for having preparedness supplies in your home other than Armageddon. If you stop and think about your home state, you can easily see the weather patterns, fire hazards, flooding, and other dangers that could leave you trapped and needing to live on what you have stored.
Evaluate your situation, get things stocked and ready now, and when the next adventure comes along, your stress may be greatly reduced because you are ready and able to feed your family, in spite of conflict going on around you.
Blessings and Shalom.
Not exactly a prepper portion, but...
Sharing a funny little trick I did the other day that might help others. Everyone talks about how easy it is to clean a cooking pot of burnt on gunk with boiling water and baking soda. Well, last week, after a few little Thanksgiving mishaps, our burner drip pans were a MESS! I was trying to scrub them in the sink, thinking how much I could use a nice steel wool scrubby or old-fashioned powdered cleanser to get them clean.
As I stood there using elbow grease and dish soap, a thought hit me: What about that boiling water and baking soda method for pots and pans?
So, I grabbed a deep pot that would fit a few, added water, placed the burner drip pans one at a time in the water, sprinkled in some baking soda on top of it, then added another one, doing the same thing until three were in the pot. I only added three so that I could use the fourth burner to cook the pot.
I set it on the burner and brought it to a strong boil, then turned it down to medium to keep the boil while allowing it to simmer a bit. After about 5 minutes, using tongs, I pulled them out one at a time and scrubbed each with my standard dish sponge. I was amazed at how clean they came! Are they perfect? I have to say, no – that is why you won’t see a photo here. They still need some deep scrubbing to get some deep set-in burnt spills, but it should be easier now that they have been boiled.
I wish I had thought of this years ago – It would have made it so much easier so many times. I hope that maybe this idea will help you make your clean-up easier, too – especially if you spill Thanksgiving Turkey juice all over the top of YOUR stove like I did!
Now, if only I had a pot big enough to fit the entire enameled, stove top!
Blessings and Shalom!
Another message I keep seeing very frequently is that storing dry foods in glass jars is safe for you to do at home AND that those foods will ALSO be storable for 25+/- years. I would like to address both of these as questions.
1) CAN you store dry foods in glass jars safely at home? OF COURSE!
2) Will those foods last 25+/- years in glass? This is a little more complicated – CAN they last that long properly stored in glass jars? MAYBE – and that is a HUGE maybe. For many reasons. Let’s take a closer look at both of these.
In the three decades I have been into food storage, I have used many methods in my home storage programs – large cans (commonly called #10 cans), mylar bags, buckets, and even glass jars – all for dry goods. I have also used several methods of ensuring greater longevity: a professional canning machine which dry seals dry goods into #10 cans, vacuum sealed mylar, vacuum sealed glass jars, plus plastic bottles and buckets sealed with oxygen absorbers, and plastic bottles sealed without oxy packets.
When it comes to glass jar dry sealing or vacuum sealing, I want everyone to understand this is simply a dry pack, vacuum sealed method of canning with a home vacuum sealer. I am NOT talking about water bath or pressure canning of wet foods – I am simply talking about dry goods.
I have canned or bucketed just about any kind of food: dry milk powders, potato flakes and pearls, beans, grains, pastas, dried fruits and vegetables, sugars, and much more. At one point, I was responsible for putting up and rotating a food storage program that SHOULD last 6 people right around 1 full year. A bit longer if rationed well.
It is very important to understand that there are specific requirements when storing dried foods. Those things are:
- keep it dry
- keep temperatures between 40 & 60 degrees F if at all possible
- out of light, especially sunlight
We will go into these in more detail in future blogs, but let's quickly summarize each. Keeping food dry should be obviously important - wet dried foods promote bacteria, fungus, and other foul growth to occur in foods which will cause them to spoil very quickly and may even cause a toxicity that can make people sick, or even die. Keeping foods airtight helps keep foods from spoiling as well because moisture can sneak in through that open-air as well as bacteria and possibly even creatures. Temperature helps maintain lengthier storage times which is important if you do not rotate foods as quickly as some families do. And finally, light destroys nutrients in stored foods.
The first three of these can be maintained fairly well in glass jars that are vacuum sealed. However, glass jars allow light in, and in fact block little to no light at all. In some cases they may even magnify the light as it passes through the glass. There are some glass jars that are lightly or even darker tinted, especially greens and browns, but these will only reduce light, not block it well enough.
This last reason is the biggest reason why I do not recommend vacuum sealing in glass jars for long term food storage. For our personal storage, I do not dry-pack, vacuum sealed store foods in glass jars for longer than 2 years. AND this two years is HIGHLY dependent upon our home temperature AND the food inside! Foods that are higher in moisture, such as many dried fruits, I do not store more than 6-9 months. This ensures two things: 1) we are eating a nicely balanced, well-rounded diet on a regular basis; 2) we are rotating our foods fast enough to not allow for contamination or deterioration.
Some say I am overly cautious, others say I am way too overly cautious! Personally, because something contaminated can seriously be dangerous, I prefer to err on the side of caution and sensibility, rather than risk anyone's health or life.
Plus, storing this way just plain tastes really yummy!
In recent weeks, while preparing these blogs articles and scripts for videos, I actually learned through the updated information on my top resources that I am no longer actually erring on the side of caution in some cases of specific fruits we store. In fact, some of my resources mention that dehydrating and storing specific fruits and vegetables is ONLY good for 3-6 months.
I learned early on that you need to have access to at least 3 reliable resources which teach how to properly store dry foods. No matter how much of an expert we believe we are on a topic, there is ALWAYS changing information. This is especially true in the area of storing foods at home. This changing information often comes through studies done by these reliable resources.
My resources almost always originate from or through cooperative extension offices and/or universities. This is because they are always challenging and testing the old methods as well as new ones to help people ensure they are feeding the healthiest and safest foods to their families. These institutions publish regular articles, books, PDFs, and other writings which you can print or purchase to keep on hand in your own notebook or binder in case you have questions.
Currently, my favorite links are:
#1 - https://nchfp.uga.edu/how/dry.html
University of Georgia – National Center for Home Food Preservation. I listed this one as the first one because it is referenced in many other resources I used to use. Right now, it is actually referenced in a few articles on my #3!
#2 - https://njaes.rutgers.edu/food-safety/home-food-preservation/
Rutgers University Cooperative Extension - I have followed Rutgers Co-op Extension for decades – I believe I have followed them since I started learning to do home water bath canning way back when I had two little toddlers at home. I find they are very reliable and quite qualified.
#3 - https://extension.usu.edu/foodstorage/
Utah State University – Utah is home of one of the largest home food storage centers in the world - the Mormons. Because of their strong beliefs in family preparedness, the universities there do a great bit of study in storage methods. Just looking at the scientific references USU uses to back up their articles shows how in depth this organization goes with their preparedness safety:
Another resource is found on the USDA website.
It is my hope and prayer that this article will help you better prepare your family's food storage system. May it be one that is filled with delicious and healthy foods that will keep your family strong in times of trial and trouble. Whether large or small.
Here's a hot topic on the minds of many of our friends out there. With all these emergency directives going on around the United States, I keep seeing a particular claim pretty much everywhere – blogs, videos, podcasts, radio shows and even advertisements proclaiming how easy it is for you to store dry foods for up to 25 years. You will sometimes even see us talk about companies and products who state this. We have one link on our website to an affiliate program we enjoy for freeze dried foods that make this statement, too.
The question, though which needs to be asked, is not CAN you store dry foods for that long, but SHOULD YOU store foods for that long. Because the simple answer to the first question is: YES, you CAN or rather MAY be able to store some foods for up to 25 years - in a dark basement, root cellar, or closet, hidden away from the world, under controlled conditions.
You see, certain foods, when stored correctly, ARE shelf stable for as long as 25 years. Many people claim that grains of wheat discovered in Egypt, dated to over 4000 years old were tested and determined to still be edible, even after that length of time. I used to have some wheat kernels that came from a company touting the fact that containers COULD be stored for 35-50 years.
Notice the words I keep using – CAN, MAY, COULD, SHOULD. THESE are key.
The first thing to know here is that these claims are made based on the fact that the food would be stored under optimal conditions for storing. What ARE optimal conditions???
According to Utah State University, the optimal temperature for storing many foods for long term is 40-60 degrees. Over the years, I have seen variances on this going up to as high as 50 degrees F on the low end, and 70 degrees on the high end. BUT we will go by the current standard as this IS something that experts in food storage study on a regular basis. On their website, USU states, “United States Department of Agriculture, USDA, states that for every 10.8 degrees in temperature rise you decrease the shelf life of stored food by half.” Imagine that! BY HALF!
This means: If the proclaimed storage life of a food is 25 years at 40-60 degrees, yet you store it at 70.8 degrees, you could have already cut shelf life to 12.5 years.
We have seen how easily it is for higher temperatures to decrease the storage time, or even destroy the dry goods you have stored. This can happen very quickly without your knowledge - especially if temperatures rise extremely high. Many people do consider temperatures when storing foods, and they make certain they have a location that stays within this range. BUT, in many homes, that location is within the walls of the living structure! THIS can be an issue - Americans are so used to central air conditioning and heating in our homes. But what happens without power in the summer-time? Temps in the home can go up in no time at all, even with open windows and fans running.
In recent years there have been issues with rolling brown outs in cities and states out west, especially CA. Right now, Sept 2020, there are a lot of overwhelming forest fires in the west and many areas are told to shut off AC units and don’t open windows. Arizona is a great example this year. Many typical daily temperatures have been well above 100 degrees F!
What happens if you live in an area of the US where brown-outs and black-outs happen frequently? Or you have a power outage as we did in 2018 after a massive storm? What if you are storing your dry goods out in an out-building on your property and temperatures rise? How about in a room in the home that doesn’t have as good cooling as the rest of the home? You must take those times into consideration if the temperature of your storage facility rises above the standard optimal temps for food storage. This can apply to canned foods as well.
We had a personal experience with high temperatures when we moved to West Virginia. We packed up a lot of our storage items into large shipping crates to have them moved and delivered to our new home. We had some delays in settlement and ended up storing our foods and supplies in those crates outdoors, late June for over 2 weeks. Because of this, knowing the temperatures had reached well over 150 degrees inside our crates, as we opened foods from our supplies, I checked to ensure they were good and had not spoiled or gone rancid. Sadly, a few things, were spoiled. For example, white rice, brown rice and some pastas were completely inedible – you could SMELL how bad they were! The brown rice I could justify because it has a shorter storage time than white rice. But white rice has a much longer shelf life as does pasta. This was store bought pasta, which one might not think would go rancid quickly. Yet, it had.
Heat is just one environmental influence which can affect your storage time. The other end of the spectrum is dangerous, too – freezing. Freezing can compromise can and jar seals, cause jars to rupture as they freeze and thaw, and even affect the storage life of dry goods. This last one is especially true if as the temps change up and down condensation forms inside your wheat kernels, for example. This may be extremely rare, especially since the majority of dry grains have an extremely low moisture content when stored. But I have had it happen to a bucket of wheat. The moisture caused the wheat to be extremely bad when I opened that bucket – again, you could smell the stench.
ALL of these details MUST be taken into consideration when you are thinking you are putting dry foods up for LONG term storage – especially since, if only 10.8 degrees higher decreases your storage time by half, that temperature increase can happen way too easily for us to disregard it. You know, in our own home, during the SUMMER MONTHS WITH AN AC RUNNING, our house temperature during the day is set around 72 degrees F. That is already at the point of compromise for long term food storage calculations. We keep our thermostat a bit lower than many. You see, according to recent releases from the US Department of Energy reported by CNN, “The US Department of Energy also encourages homeowners to keep their thermostats at 78 degrees when they're home.” If you are keeping your food storage in the closet or a storeroom because it is the only place you have, then you may decrease your storage time dramatically - to roughly around 8.5 years or so.
So you see, when we go back to the initial question of CAN YOU store foods for 25+/- years? Yes, you MAY be able to under optimal conditions, but the REAL question is SHOULD YOU, and I would have to say emphatically – NO. You SHOULD NOT try to store foods for more than a few years at a time.
Some other reasons why I recommend not storing long term is this: In the 30+ years I have been into food storage, there have been several occasions where my household has had to live off stored food for periods of time. From experience, I have watched as both children and adults go through the process of transition as they go from eating regular daily meals to eating food stored for “emergencies.” Through those times I have learned a lot about different types of foods as well as how to use them.
Here are some tips:
1) One of the first principles I was taught decades ago is that a family needs to store foods they eat, then eat what they have stored through rotating your storage. What it means is this – whatever you currently eat on a daily basis is what you ought to store as food storage. But it also means that you need to learn NOW how to eat more basic foods and those foods which are more healthy for you and your family.
When someone first told me this, I had two young children. They ate a lot of instant cold cereals. I sat down, and watched how much they ate at one sitting, then I calculated how many boxes I would need. I was stunned! It was almost enough to fill one of their bedrooms in that tiny little house we were living in at the time! I would need one room just for breakfasts! So, I started making changes right then and there.
I can promise you that, if all we had for food storage because of space limitation was that instant cold cereals, our children living on Captain Crunch and Pop Tarts for several months or a year is not going to deliver a healthy family. Please know I am not picking on anyone – these happened to be some of the favorites of my kids when they were little! However, I do recommend you take the time NOW to teach your family to eat what you can easily store longer term in as small a space as possible. You will find by doing this, you will get more meals stored in a smaller amount of space!
You can make a lot of wonderful meals from the dry ingredients as well as canned foods you can keep pantry stable. I plan to go into more of these ideas in future videos..
2) If you are eating what you store, your food items will naturally rotate through and constantly stay refreshed. This will end up reducing the "threat" to your storage time from fluctuating temperatures. There is something else to consider, though, if you spring strange foods on family in an urgent need, the following is a strong possibility:
~ Complaining leads to conflict and a lack of peace in the home. If you are already under stress because of the drama of the situation, it is best to try to reduce as much stress as possible. This is done by changing the diet now, when life is more comfy. But remember to change somewhat slowly. An idea I used is to have the kids eat oatmeal once or twice a week. I also learned to make homemade granola. Doing this little by little helped my family move away from sugary cereals that were low in nutrition and into foods that were much healthier over all.
~ Family may not eat what you cook if it is foreign to them. You could end up with a lot of wasted foods. OR even more complaining ensues because they are HUNGRY from not having eaten. EVEN WORSE STILL, if people get “HANGRY” (hungry and angry all rolled into one unpleasant individual!) those yummy foods you stored for special treats could fall victim to theft as they try to compensate for their lack of comfort. When the disappearance of yummy foods is discovered it causes more conflict. A never-ending cycle.
3) Another issue I have seen over the years are those folks who store 500 lbs of whole grain wheat berries in buckets or cans, thinking they will use it to make breads, rolls, and such during times of trouble. All sounds good except your family eats only white bread. OR, they only eat store bought bread and have never had homemade.
Homemade breads are often quite different in texture and taste from store-bought. Instead, start now transitioning their taste buds.
4) FIBER! Often, the stored foods, especially whole grains, have a higher fiber content than what the average American is used to. If you suddenly start feeding high fiber foods to someone not used to it. . . let’s just say discomfort can happen. Let’s be as direct as possible, and yet polite as possible. Diarrhea, gas & gas pains, bloating, and over all illness can ensue. NOT something you want to face in an emergency.
Nutrition can also become a problem if bodies are not properly using foods they are ingesting. Especially when someone is expelling waste almost as swiftly as food is consumed because of intestinal disturbance. If your family is not used to eating what you are storing, you may find you suddenly go through your toilet paper storage a lot faster than anticipated, too! Changing a diet dramatically like that WILL CAUSE dietary distress.
To sum it all up –
CAN you store certain foods for up to 25 years? Yes, it MAY be possible to do so if ALL the conditions are optimal.
SHOULD YOU store foods for up to 25 years? I don’t ever recommend it when I talk with people about the topic. Because, a) the true storage time may have actually been reduced due to the storage temperatures, moisture, and other environmental conditions. and b) if you are storing it for 25 years, it isn’t something your family normally eats or is used to, and it may cause all kinds of conflicts should you suddenly need to eat it in a pinch!
Store the foods your family WILL eat, but do everything you can now while you can to transition them into a eating habits that are healthier and fit easier into the food storage lifestyle.
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Judith has over 20 years experience in food storage, herbs, essential oils, and prepping. She was a captain in the USAF-AUX, FEMA trained, Community Emergency Response Team member and NRA marksmanship award recipient. She shares her experiences with her readers offering tips and recipes.
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