Survival Food: Shelf Life & Storage Issues


Canned Goods and Survival Food

While there may be a wide variety of opinions on the issue, the consensus appears to be that most non-perishable food items can and do last well beyond their expiration dates. To some degree, however, the time frame within which you should use your stored food will vary depending upon the nature of your objective. For this reason, there are varying levels of food expiration.

If you use your food within its marked expiration date, you will experience the food at its optimum taste and nutritional quality. As time goes on, chemical changes begin to occur. These changes can affect protein and fats, which directly impact taste. In addition, vitamins will be altered by these chemical changes, which will decrease the nutritional quality of the product.

Nonetheless, time does not tend to adversely affect minerals and carbohydrates, which makes up the caloric value of the food. As a result, if your goal is to have food with the best taste and nutrition, then you should consume the food within two to five years. If your goal is simply to sustain life, then your food realistically can last 20 years, 30 years, or longer, as its caloric value will remain largely intact. Thus, there is a huge difference between the “best if used by” expiration date that is printed on the food package and “life-sustaining” expiration of food.

Proper Storage Can Extend Shelf Life

With that said, food that has been opened should normally be consumed within six to 18 months. Opened food can often last up to five years or longer if it is kept well-covered and in a cool, dry space. This is a list of 9 Foods that can last forever even when opened. You can maximize the freshness of opened food in five ways:

1.   Scoop food out of a can instead of pouring it out—this limits oxygen intake.
2.   Place oxygen absorbers in your opened cans.
3.   Always cover opened cans with plastic wrap, or empty the food into a plastic container.
4.   Limit contact with humidity.
5.   Keep cans opened for the shortest amount of time possible.

Essentially, what is important to remember is that heat, moisture, light, and oxygen can all adversely affect the taste and nutritional quality of food.

Dehydrated and freeze-dried foods have a shelf life of 25 years or more. Freeze-dried foods often taste better and have more nutritional value due to how they are processed. They also require very little water and cooking time to prepare, which can be an advantage (especially in survival situations). Dehydrated food typically requires more water and a longer cooking time to prepare.

Exceptions to the Rules

One exception to these general food storage rules is oils and fats. These tend to go bad very quickly, and can cause heart disease and even become carcinogenic (able to cause cancer). If unopened and stored properly, these foods can last an estimated one to two years. However, opening these products shortens their shelf  life significantly.

The bottom line is if you are looking to stockpile foods simply for the purposes of survival, you should be happy to realize that most foods will last much longer than the expiration date that is marked on the outside of the can. As a result, you can typically rely on these foods for sustainability and survival.

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