There are four critical factors that determine the shelf life of your long term food storage items. If you are looking to start a food storage program for your family, or you already have one, then you must know these four factors in order to obtain the maximum shelf life possible.
The four factors are as follows. The temperature of the storage area, the moisture content of the food, the atmosphere in the storage container, and the storage container itself. Let’s look at each of those factors.
1) Temperature of the Storage Area
Temperature has more to do with how long storable food will last than anything else. The bottom line is that if you are planning on storing your food in a warm environment, it will only last a fraction of the time it would last in a cool, dry place. Some feel that the optimum temperature is 40 degrees F or less. However, not many people will be able to achieve that. Another factor is that you a place where the temperature is relatively constant. Frequent temperature changes can also shorten the life of storable food.
In short, remember to store a cool, dry, dark place, where the temperature remains relatively constant.
2) Moisture Content of the Food
Foods with excess moisture can spoil in their containers. For long term storage, food should have a moisture content of 10% or less. This can be hard to achieve because the average person doesn’t have specialized equipment.
One option is to get freeze-dried foods, which are specially-prepared for this purpose. The moisture content of these foods has been taken care of in the preparation process.
3) Atmosphere in the Storage Container
Foods packed in air in storage containers will not store as well, as oxygen oxidizes many of the compounds in food. Nitrogen is a popular gas for storing food. It works very well.
Some people use oxygen absorber packets. Just place one in the storage container and seal. The one thing to remember is that the storage container must be able to withstand some vacuum pressure, as the absorber packet will create that as it absorbs the oxygen.
Most food units package food in nitrogen-packed #10 cans.
4) The Storage Container
To get the longest life out of your stored foods, your storage containers should have a hermetic seal (air tight). #10 Cans and sealable food-grade storage buckets work very well.
One very important fact about storage containers is that they must be food grade containers. #10 cans used for food storage often have an enamel lining. You can also buy plastic food-grade 5 gallon buckets.
If you buy a commercially-prepared food unit with #10 cans, then the second, third, and fourth factors are already addressed for you. In order to satisfy the first factor, you will still want to store the food in a cool, dry, dark place.
If you decide to buy plastic buckets, add the food, and seal them yourself, you will need to rent a nitrogen cylinder to fill the airspace in the buckets. When you do this, the oxygen will be displaced leaving only the nitrogen. Make sure you purchase food-grade quality of buckets. This is very important.
Remember these things when purchasing or creating a supply of stored food for your family.
Note – If you are specifically interested in the shelf life of Mountain House Freeze Dried Foods, please read this article: