Last time we talked about the very basics of food storage and how using a food storage calculator will be helpful. We, also, discussed some of the commercial products available. This time we are going to start looking at some of the ways you can prepare your own food for storage.
The advantages of preparing your own food for storage are you know exactly what’s going into your food and it can be quite a bit less expensive. The biggest disadvantage of preparing your own food for storage is the shelf life is usually more limited than that of the commercial products. Most home prepared food storage will have a shelf life of three to five years, although there are exceptions.
Before we get started on any kind of DIY food storage, we need a way to store them. Making up a large batch of anything won’t be useful if we don’t have any way to package them. We are going to start with dry goods, today, so we will want to a have a few large food grade buckets, with tight fitting lids, available. I get a large variety of buckets, from 1-gallon to 6-gallon, from a couple of local restaurants. Do note, pickle buckets are usually in the 5-gallon or 6-gallon size, which is a great size, but it takes a long time to get the pickle smell out of them.
Ready to get started? Let’s start with one of the easiest of the DIY food storage products. I was talking to my friend Linda, from Food Storage Moms, last week and she asked I post my baking mix. This simple recipe is comparable to Bisquik and, if you collect the flour and sugar when they go on sale, or purchase in bulk, will cost about 1/4 to 1/3 of the price. At full price it will be about 1/2 the cost. The links in my recipe are to the large packages I purchase.
This recipe is revised from a 1952 pamphlet distributed by the University of Virginia Extension. I use unrefined coconut oil, rather than shortening. Coconut oil melts at about 76º F. If you don’t have a place to store your mix that will stay below about 74º F, replace it with shortening.
Large Batch Baking Mix (makes 29 cups – double for 5-gallon bucket)
5 pounds (approximately 20 cups) flour
3/4 cup double-acting baking powder
3 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons cream of tartar
1/2 cup sugar
2 pounds (approximately 4 cups) coconut oil (can replace with shortening)
2 1/4 cups dry milk
In a large bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, salt, cream of tartar, and sugar. Cut in coconut oil until the consistency of cornmeal. Store in tightly covered container at room temperature. Use anywhere you would use Bisquik.
I put some of the mix in a 1-gallon container, to put in the cupboard for regular use, and the rest in a 5-gallon bucket. I’ve used this as old as six years and it’s still been good. I would try to rotate this mix about every three to four years, though, and more often if you can’t keep it somewhere relatively cool.
Here are a couple of easy survival bar recipes with a really long shelf life. Although I have a food dehydrator, I prefer the oven method of drying. They tend to have a better texture and are less crumbly when dried in the oven.
A number of sites share this recipe for Homemade Survival Bars, some claiming it as their own, but I don’t think anyone knows where it originated. I’ve been making these since the 70’s, back in my back packing days. The last time I moved, I found a few of these bars in the back of the pantry. I’d made them 23 years prior to finding them. I opened one up and smelled it… it smelled fine, so I took a little taste and it still tasted good. These bars are very sweet and aren’t very good as far as nutritional value, but they will provide you with energy and calories.
These Chocolate Chia Survival Bars are my favorite. They taste great, but aren’t as sweet and pack more nutritional value than the homemade survival bars. I make these for a quick pick me up at work, so I haven’t had any that have been around for any length of time, but, from the ingredients, they should last pretty much as long as the homemade survival bars. For storage, I wrap either of the above individually in tin foil, place the wrapped bars in gallon size zip-lock bags, then seal them in a bucket.
Nuts are also great for long term storage. I purchase 5-pound packages of natural raw almonds. They are great for baking, sugaring, spicing, or just eating raw. Here are a couple of my favorite simple recipes. Almonds are my favorite, but you can always use other kinds of nuts, or a mixture.
Preheat oven to 300ºF.
In a medium saucepan, combine water, sugar, and cinnamon. Bring the mixture to a boil. Add nuts and return to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until liquid is a thick syrup.
Use a slotted spoon to move nuts to a shallow ungreased baking pan and spread out nuts. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from oven and spread on foil lightly greased with coconut oil, butter, or cooking spray. When cool, package in airtight
For a sweet and spicy treat, replace cinnamon with 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper.
1 – 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons olive oil or cooking oil
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon bottled hot pepper sauce
3 cups nuts
In a skillet mix chili powder, curry powder, garlic salt, cumin, ginger, and cinnamon. Stir in olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, and hot pepper sauce. Cook and stir over low heat 5 minutes to mellow flavors.
Place nuts in a bowl; add the spice mixture. Toss to coat evenly. Spread pecan halves in a single layer in a 15x10x1-inch baking pan. Bake in a 325ºF oven for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Spread nuts on foil and cool completely.
For storage, I place nuts in zip-lock bags, then seal them in a bucket.
Now you have a few simple ideas for making and packaging your own food storage items. Don’t forget to label your buckets with the name of what’s stored inside and the date it was made.