Do you like snacking on raisins and dried apples? Do you keep dried onions for soup emergencies? Do you preserve food from your garden?
Whatever your reasons, storing dehydrated food is a great way to prepare for whatever comes. If you store them right, these products will stay good for years.
Read on for tips on keeping dehydrated food storage.
1. Package Food Yourself
When packaging food yourself, you have several storage options. Different choices will provide various levels of protection against moisture, heat, light, or insects.
If you are dehydrating food yourself, make sure you have removed enough moisture. Fruit should be less than 20% moisture, with no beads of moisture visible if pressed. Vegetables should be less than 10% moisture, brittle enough to shatter if hit with a hammer.
Before sealing each package, add an oxygen absorber to extend shelf life, reduce mold, and keep food from turning brown. They are best used with baked goods, flour, seasonings, fruits, vegetables, and meats. They aren’t needed for storing grains such as wheat, beans, corn, and peas.
Plastic PETE bottles such as soda bottles can be used for food storage if they are clean and dry. Oxygen can pass through the PETE, but you can package the bottles in mylar which provides an oxygen barrier. You can also store water in PETE bottles.
Glass jars, such as those used for canning, can also be used to store dehydrated food since they can be tightly sealed. Using glass lets you see if any moisture is trapped inside since the moisture will accumulate on the side of the bottle. Since glass lets light through, the food inside may degrade over time.
When packaging newly dried fruit, you may want to boil or “scald” the jars ahead of time to kill bacteria.
Many people store dehydrated items in FoodSaver vacuum bags to reduce the amount of contact with air and prevent moisture damage. If you are storing powder or contents with small pieces, slide a paper towel around the contents before sealing the bag. This will prevent particles from being vacuumed into the FoodSaver machine.
Mylar bags are convenient because you can cut them to any size. Since they’re opaque and airtight, they protect contents against light and oxygen. They also protect against insect damage but can be gnawed through by rodents.
2. Buy Prepackaged Food
One advantage of buying food storage is that you don’t have to package it yourself. You may even be able to buy packaged food in bulk quantities. Make sure that you’ll be able to use the full amount of each container after you open it.
Food storage often comes prepackaged in #10 cans, which stack nicely and protect contents from light, air, insects, and rodents. You may also find #10 cans a convenient size if you’re able to work through the contents of a can.
Food Grade Buckets
Buckets stack nicely and store a lot of food. If a product is professionally packed in a bucket, it has also been protected against certain kinds of infestation.
3. Rotate Your Storage
Some dry foods last almost indefinitely, including wheat and sugar. But some foods, such as flour, oatmeal, or dried fruit, have a limited shelf life. So you need to figure out how to use food before it expires.
When you design your storage system, make it easy to put new purchases in back while cycling older food towards the front. Write the dates and expirations on each item you buy or package. Once you’ve opened a large container, be prepared to repackage it into bags or bottles so that you can use some of the food, and preserve the rest.
There are also other reasons to go through your food storage. It’s a good idea to try reconstituting dried goods, cooking with ingredients to make sure they work, and tasting what you’ve stored. Then, if there is ever an emergency, you’ll know how to use what you have.
4. Choose a Dark, Cool Storage Space
Even when your food has been packaged well, storage conditions can affect how long it lasts. You will need to store food in a dry, well-ventilated area.
If your food is packaged in transparent containers such as plastic or glass bottles, choose a space that is usually dark. Light can cause food to degrade.
You should also try to choose somewhere cool. A storage temperature of 40 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit is optimal. You may even store some dehydrated food in the freezer to prevent oils from going rancid.
5. Prevent Rodent Damage
Once you have packaged your food to protect it against light, heat, oxygen, and insects, you still need to consider rodent damage. Rodents can chew through many types of packaging. They might also be attracted to food smells or dropped crumbs.
Use Bins and Buckets
If your food has been packaged in PETE bottles, plastic bags, or mylar packets, store these in resealable plastic or metal bins or food-grade buckets. Avoid wooden cabinets or boxes with gaps. Keep the surrounding area free of crumbs and debris which might attract pests.
Use a Sealed Storage Container
If you don’t have a dedicated storage area that can keep your food secure, you may look into buying steel storage containers. Steel containers come in all sizes, including 10 feet, 20 feet, and 40 feet long. Unlike a wooden shed, they’re tightly sealed and are rodent-proof.
If you use a steel container for storage, you can also use it to store food packaged in boxes, plastic, or paper, such as cereal, pasta, soup mixes, or bags of dried fruit. Rodents won’t be able to get to them inside a container.
Start Your Dehydrated Food Storage
When you package food properly, use it before it expires, and store it under good conditions, you can create a rotating pantry that keeps you stocked against all sorts of emergencies. Your dehydrated food storage will stay safe for years, and it’ll keep you safe, too!