I know I have been negligent of this blog and those of my fellow bloggers.I am very sorry and have missed you,(you will be hearing from me). I had a few family ‘fires’ to put out, some health testing and our beloved dog, Mark, failed rapidly .We catered to him for a while but when he could no longer function, we put him to rest. He is missed.
Some of you may not know this, but I also post on blog shared with four other writers, “Four Foxes, One Hound”( http://fourfoxesonehound.wordpress.com/); four women, one man. I am the Friday Fox. We usually do theme weeks, we have open discussion and sometimes we have in guests to introduce readers to other writers.
“The Hound” sent an email to me a short time ago; he had questions on keeping food on-hand for emergencies and suggested that I make it a topic for this blog. With the severe weather-system season stepping in in most of the United States, now is a good time for that series, but any kind of problem can happen at any time, and people should be prepared.
I am not here to tell you to hoard food or become a survivalist, nor am I going to use scare tactics. But keep in mind that twenty years ago the Mississippi river flooded seven miles out of its banks and an ice storm that never affected my sister,( who lives near me), knocked mine out for four days and others in my area lost power for two weeks. Several years ago the remnants of a hurricane jumped over me and landed square on Louisville, Kentucky, knocking out some of their power for over a week; who would have known? You never know when something as simple as someone digging can disrupt your power source.
Any type of power-outage can be made a lot less stressful with a little planning, and that is what we will discuss.
What does this have to do with food and hosting? Well, it certainly has to do with food and you never know when an emergency, even a small one, can hit; it might just be when you have guests. And keeping extra supplies on-hand for either and emergency or for unexpected guests,(which should never constitute an emergency if you are prepared), is just common sense.
Here are the questions and answers that Jeff Salter and I exchanged:
I have several legitimate questions (& I want straightforward answers) … but it also occurred to me that this Q&A might make a good use of your food blog.
If you want to conduct it on your blog, that’s fine with me. Might get some helpful add’l input.
Questions about can goods shelf life
I’ve read / heard that standard, grocery-store canned goods (such as beans, peas, carrots, taters, corn, fruit, etc.) can last for MANY years … provided there are no bulges in the can. But I’d like to narrow that down since I’m setting aside some food for use during bad storms.
Absolutely avoid dented cans at all costs, as well as check for bulging regularly. When in doubt, throw it out! .Tomatoes/ tomato products have the shortest shelf-lives, with green beans a close second, along with canned milk products. Other beans do not have the shelf-lives that most other vegetables have. Creamed soups have shorter shelf-lives than broth-based. Still, ALL of the canned goods have several years; many far beyond their expiration dates, if they are not banged around. I keep mine in boxes in the back of shelves.
1. For a can with NO dates or codes: if I purchase it in Jan. 2013, how long is it predictably safe for consumption?
I would say at least the very minimum is two-three years for tomatoes and the short-lived ones. Other canned goods for five years or more, perhaps with some degradation of quality.[But not safety]
2. for a can with codes but no way to decipher the code: would the answer be the same as above?
Yes, but make sure you purchase them at stores that do big turn-over. Don’t pick them up from a country store, a ‘quick-stop’ or a generally non-food store,(such as a drug store), where they may have been sitting for a long time to start with.
[If you live in an area with slow-turn over in your local grocery store, consider making a trip to a larger city to stock up on staples].
3. For items marked with a date — what does the date mean? Does it mean it should be SOLD by that date? Eaten by that date? Or does the date have some other meaning?
It depends . Some actually say ‘Sell by:”; Some say “Best used by”, otherwise, it is a ‘use by’ date. It isn’t a magic number. There is lee-way there.
4. A few items indicate “Best when used by ____[date]___”. How many years after that date would they still be “good” (i.e., safe)?
No hard and fast rule, Jeff. Some products just don’t keep their full taste, texture and flavor as well as others. Eagle Brand turns dark, but is edible. Canned beets will be perfect for years afterward. Canned potatoes can get pretty soft after a number of years, but corn is usually fine. Tuna packets are a God-send, but nonfat dry milk goes stale, as do instant mashed potatoes.
5. What other tips do you have about storage & usage of typical grocery shelf canned goods?
If you have a dry basement or cellar, it is a good idea to put them there, but off the ground. Any place that is out of direct sunlight and dampness and kept from getting too hot or too cold.( never allow them to freeze). Don’t keep them where it isn’t usually climate-controlled, like a garage or barn.
Try not to move them around; the less they are bumped or shaken , the better , the longer the life. Try to keep them in boxes and mark them as to content and dates.(Which I had forgotten to do: dates).I am about to re-check my stash and see if I need to rotate, or use and replace with new stock.
That is the best and most realistic way to keep a supply of emergency foods; buy what you like and generally use and then you can go ahead and use it when it has been around for a while then replace it with newer ones.
The last time I tucked boxes away I made variety boxes, instead of all-one type of vegetable or food .For instance, I put different types of vegetables and fruits with canned milk and tuna, sardines &/or canned meat products. I also keep sugar and honey and some jellies, plus we keep peanut butter and canned and jarred nuts,(and we rotate that stock often). I also keep dried fruits on hand. If worse comes to worse ,(our reservoir pumping station went down once), we keep a couple of gallons of regular bleach, ( and rotate it, as it breaks down). You can purify water with it…so I keep lemonade mix and instant tea to make it palatable if we do need to drink it.
I do have some Deer Park water ‘pods’ on hand, as regular ‘milk-gallon’-type water containers do not last; they break down and leak; I have no idea why.
I don’t know if we come across as ‘survivalists’ or paranoid, but, you never know, right? I could be taken ill, as I have been and not been able to shop like I’d like or Joe might be out of work and we just might need to live off of these without an national or regional emergency. I have taken to cooking most of the food that I put in our freezer. That way, if we lose electricity, we could more easily eat or share the food and lose less, plus have less fear of not getting it cooked properly. Although we do have a generator which we used mostly to keep the freezer going when we lost power for several day with an ice storm s few years ago.
I also try to keep extra basic first aid and hygiene supplies ,(heavy on the hand sanitizer) as well as extra cleaning supplies and paper products, (i.e.: paper towels, toilet paper, paper plates and cups, plus plastic cutlery.
Was I clear? Do you have any more questions or did I skip something? Let me know.
Yes, the rest of you, too, please let me know if you have any questions. I will be expounding further on what types of foods and supplies are good and finding room to store them, which can be a challenge. (You have more storage in your place than you probably know.) I also want to go into practical safety features such as heating and lighting options.
I hope to hear from you, my Friends .