1. Keep it cool. Heat accelerates bacterial activity and enzymatic processes that drive food spoilage.
2. Keep it dark. Light energy breaks down proteins in food and also contributes to heat.
3. Keep it airtight. Oxidation reactions spoil food. Rust is a familiar destructive oxidation reaction. Seal food tightly in glass or plastic. Opaque mylar bags occlude both air and light.
4. Store what your family will eat. One-hundred pounds of legumes look great on the shelf but will get fairly tedious in the long term without a little variety.
5. Rotate your stock. Feed the family regularly from your emergency stash and replace what you eat.
6. Distribute the cost. Preparing shelf-stable foods can be expensive. If a machine like the Harvest Right Freeze Dryer is appropriate for your circumstances, consider splitting one machine among several like-minded families.
7. Include spices and seasonings. Dry seasonings typically have a naturally long shelf life if kept cool and dark, and can make a world of difference when preparing otherwise bland foods.
8. Always consider water. Dehydrated foods require it for reconstitution and you can’t go more than about three days without it regardless. A proper water filter will make even the nastiest sort drinkable.
9. Include like-minded friends. From Mayberry to New York City, humans do better in communities. Communal gardens allow families to pool resources and accomplish more than they might on their own.
10. Make it fun. If properly packaged, shelling peas, drying jerky or freeze-drying fruit can be fun for kids. From repairing the roof to disposing of roadkill, in my homeschooled family everything is an educational opportunity. The science behind food preparation is fascinating.
This article originally published in THE NEW PIONEER® Spring 2015 issue. Print and Digital Subscriptions to THE NEW PIONEER magazine are available here.