Most families aren’t financially able to buy a year’s worth of food that will only be for storage. It’s tough to fill your cart with food then stash it in your emergency food supply to wait for that rainy day. This is often a reason many people decide they can’t possibly prepare to survive an emergency. However, there are ways to make it not cost a fortune. You can help lessen the financial burden by learning how to preserve food at home.
Buying produce or meat in bulk is going to be much cheaper than buying cases of commercially prepared food. You can also preserve the excess from your garden or livestock. If you live in an area where there are farmers or farmer’s markets, you have an excellent resource at your disposal. Check Craigslist and the local ads to find some really great deals on food you can preserve.
Tips for Safe Home Food Preservation
Home food preservation is completely safe if you follow the guidelines. Before you prepare to preserve any food, here are some basic rules you will want to follow:
- Only buy food you will preserve from reputable sources if not growing your own.
- Don’t attempt to preserve food that is close to spoiling or shows signs of molding.
- Always clean and sanitize your utensils and preservation tools.
- Properly label each finished item with dates and description.
- Only use recipes that have been tested and proven. Do test runs before preserving a large batch.
- Try to limit the additives, like sugar and salt to canned goods.
- Check your equipment before starting and make sure it is in good working order. For example, pressure canners should have seals in good condition. Don’t use jars with tiny cracks. Avoid using bands that have rust.
- Always use new lids for canning food.
Methods of Food Preservation
This is one of the tried and true ways to preserve food that has been passed down for generations. Home canning is an excellent way to preserve everything from fruit and vegetables to stews and meat. You can use home canning for just about anything with a little skill, practice, and a pressure canner.
If you don’t want to purchase the extra canning equipment, fruits and jams can be preserved in a boiling water bath. They don’t need the extensive process of being put into a pressure canner and are an example of low cost preservation. Another method used to preserve dried goods is canning them in the oven. Low heat is used to warm the jars and the food inside. Then the lids and bands are placed on the jars once they are removed. The heat trapped inside will seal the jars, preserving the food.
There are some tricks and guidelines to follow to ensure you are safely preserving your foods. If you are not familiar with canning, it is a wise idea to attend a free or low-cost canning seminar at your local co-op or with a local prepping group.
Drying food is going to be the method of choice in a post-apocalyptic situation when electricity and fuel aren’t readily available. Drying food is just like it sounds. The sun will be your heat source. Food will need to be sliced super thin and either hung out on fishing line or placed on screens. This method can be used to safely dry meat, vegetables, and fruits. You can rub the meat down with salt to add flavor and to help it dry quicker.
While drying food in this manner is primitive, it doesn’t hurt to practice a little. It will help give you an idea of how long it takes to completely dry as well as how to properly cut the food.
This is another common method of preserving meats, vegetables and fruits. It is similar to drying, but the process is much faster. In today’s world, an actual dehydrator is used to dry foods in under 12 hours. Removing moisture from the food allows it to sit on a shelf without mold growing. The trick is to remove as much moisture as possible, but not to remove so much moisture the food becomes brittle or excessively hard. Food dehydration is a bit of an art form and you will want to experiment with dehydrating now.
When planning for life after a major event, you will want to use what is called a solar dehydrator. Building a box with legs that will set it off the ground is fairly simple and can be done with scrap wood. Use an old window or heavy plastic over the top of the box to generate heat and protect the food inside. You can use an old window screen as the bottom of your dehydrator. Place the food on the screen and place the glass or plastic over the top. This gives you a quick, effective way to dehydrate your food for storage without using any electricity.
Freezing is a super easy method of preserving food and keeping it in its most natural form. Freezing meats, prepared meals, fruits, and vegetables is an easy way to preserve food. HOWEVER, imagine putting all of your effort and food into the freezer only to have the power fail. Your hard work and family’s food would be destroyed.
While you can certainly preserve some food for those nights you don’t want to cook dinner, be cautious about freezing the majority of your food supply. It would be a wise idea to have a backup generator on standby if you have a freezer full of meat. This will help keep your food safe in short-term power outages.
Home food preservation is a valuable skill you must take the time to learn now, before there is a situation where it’s an absolute necessity. There is a learning curve. Knowing the ins and outs means you won’t have to worry about wasting a single morsel of food when it really counts. Experiment with all forms, but focus more on the drying and solar dehydration methods that will be your only options after SHTF.