Adventure, gardening, Meal Time, Motherhood

Long Term Storage: Food and Everything Else

If 2020 has taught anyone anything its that being prepared is something that is very much needed. I hadn’t really gotten very far in the past when attempting to store food long term or even as a rotating pantry that was big enough to last a long time if needed. After witnessing first hand not having the food my family needed during a time when food was scarce and some even hard to find such as meats or meat products especially those that are typically used in long term food storage. During that time when stores were near empty and this unknown virus at the time was lurking everywhere it seemed I became afraid. I had never been put in a situation like that where I had to ration food for my family. There was that lurking question, What if we can’t get more? Or What if we don’t have money to buy more?

Those are not questions that I had ever had to face as it was always there. I remember more than a few times where my husband and I had to make the decision not to eat or not to eat as much during this time because our kids needed it more than we did. We would do anything for them including starve because we can take it and that is just the kind of thing you do as a parent for your kids. It was at this moment when I realized how foolish we had been in our spending over the years and would need to change them in the future that was if things ever started to feel normal again. Lucky for us it has started to feel normal again and I know that this is not a feeling that everyone is feeling I mean normal will never be the same again and the normal we feel now is different of course.

Rotating Pantry Vs. Long Term Food Storage

It is important to prepare; that is one big thing I learned just a few months ago and that is exactly what we have been doing with whatever extra funds we have. We are preparing for the winter firstly then plan to continue preparing for the future. For our pantry it is planned to be a rotating pantry that is kept well stocked with foods that we will use everyday but replenished so that we have them on hand when needed. What do I mean when I say rotating pantry? Well that is basically a pantry that is constantly being used up and replenished by using up the older stuff first. The stuff closer to expiring should be used first then so on after that. Then you would buy whatever was used up to replace it in the pantry.

On top of a rotating pantry I am creating a long term food stockpile by using Mylar bags to store items such as dry beans, rice, flour, oats, ect. I suggest that when or if you choose to store food in Mylar bags you do extensive research on what you can store and how to do it properly so that it doesn’t go bad in the Mylar bags. I am not a professional at all and am just sharing with you what I have done and will share future updates on how they all turned out. For me I used 5 mil sized Mylar 1 Gallon bags and a plain old iron to seal up the bags and 1000cc oxygen absorbers to take the oxygen out of the bags. The recommended oxygen absorber for a 1 Gallon Mylar bag is 300cc-500cc I believe I ordered the 1000cc because I had a hard time finding the others and so that’s what I got. Now even though I got a much larger absorber means it will work just fine but I would have been fine with a 500cc as well. No big deal as it will do the job it needs to do!

Above are the bags I put together recently I did several bags of various types of dry beans and some bags of Jasmine rice as well. On each of them I made sure to label what the contents of each were with a black permanent marker and then wrote the date I packaged them up. Even though it may sound a bit funny on the beans I also wrote that they will need to be checked for rocks before using as usually you will find small pebbles that look like beans in with the actual beans. It is always better to be safe rather than break a tooth or worse!

How did I do this whole process of packaging and sealing them up?

  1. Well first I took each 1 Gallon bag and set it in a pitcher like the pictures below.
  2. Next I carefully poured each type of food I was storing in this case each type of beans in the correct bag in increments of 3-4 lbs. in each bag. I stored black beans, 16 bean soup, & pinto beans. Then of course a few bags of Jasmine rice as well.
  3. I sealed each bag with a hot iron on the edge of my table. (You can use a wooden board for this as most people do this but I figured this would work for me as I did not have a spare board lying around). I made sure to leave a space big enough to put the oxygen absorbers in later for the final sealing. I set them all aside for them to patiently wait until I was ready for that very last step of final sealing them.
  4. I made up 10 bags of food in Mylar bags, this is important because this was the amount of oxygen absorbers in one pack. I would be able to use all of the absorbers in that one pack so none was wasted because I do not have a canning jar to seal them in to keep them fresh for longer.
  5. For that last step I set up each bag in a tote and made sure each had that opening meant for the oxygen absorber opened enough to quickly put it in then seal it up when I set my timer, because you have roughly about 15 minute to get them in the bags and sealed up before they are useless. Note: to make sure they are good to even use check the pack for an indicator that should still be pink as ever package of oxygen absorbers should have an indicator sealed inside with them to tell if they have been compromised or are still good to use. Pink is good white is not!
  6. Once I got them prepped I started the timer and went to town placing the oxygen absorbers in each first then grabbing each bag to finish the seal with a hot iron. I sealed the bags on both sides to make sure they were sealed and to double check I checked each seam just to be sure. The whole process to add the absorbers and to then seal each of the 10 bags only took about 6 minutes.
  7. For best results I will be storing them in a tote that is a solid color with a lid. To keep the light out in our basement which will also be great because it is naturally dark, cool, and dry.

    You want to make sure that when storing food it is sealed in some container to keep bugs out, that it is somewhere cooler to keep it from spoiling, and also that it is not somewhere that will get wet or where there is moisture even if the food is sealed in Mylar. Always take precautions because it could mean the difference between starving and not starving some day!

Setting Up a Rotating Pantry

My family has been fortunate to be able to purchase some Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers for longer food storage but it is not required. They are a bit expensive and a lot of places were starting to go out of stock and weren’t expected to get them in anytime soon at least the correctly thickened ones that are meant to last a long time. As there are different sizes of thickness for Mylar bags that effect the ability for the bag and product inside to last for longer and shorter time frames. The recommended thickness is at least a 5 mil or higher as they tend to give the longer storage times versus a lower thickness of a bag. They will hold up better and will keep their seal when they are thicker. I got all of my Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers from a combination of stores Pack Fresh USA and Discount Mylar Bags; I would recommend going directly through these companies rather than through Amazon because you would be in direct connection with the company selling to you rather than through another party. I find this to be the best way to do any kind of shopping for stuff like this.

I have done lots of research even before covid happened I had started this process before just never finished it well never really got going just learned about it through research. I have gotten a late start to this now and I think a lot of people have; so let me make something clear Mylar bags are not a necessity and you shouldn’t feel like you have to do food storage quick at the moment at least. Right now during this time where stores are restocking and people are calm is the time to build a food stock pile or rotating pantry nice and easy. No need to panic buy or rush.

Panic buying will only drain your bank/funds and leave you with nothing or possibly very little depending on when you do your panic buying which is usually at the very last minute possible when things have turned for the worse. Pretty much three months ago for a lot of people including myself. Instead be smart about your food purchases so by that I mean whenever you get your regular groceries grab some extra stuff that you don’t need and this should not be limited to food think about all of the things you need on top of food to make your lives easier like soaps, dishwashing detergent, laundry soap, feminine products, diapers, wipes, sanitizer, cleaning products, medications, and so much more! Just when you can grab a little extra when you are shopping and over time you will be surprised on how much you can accumulate by doing this. I suggest that you shop clearance items and if you are able to freeze things grab extra dairy products or meats and freeze them. You could even learn how to can food but that is if you can find the equipment needed for canning as of lately it has been quite scarce. You should figure up how much you and your family will need for at least a 3 month span then start accumulating that amount of extra stuff and food. Then after that continue to at least 6 months.

Other Things to Think About

So now you have established a plan and possibly started accumulating your Rotating Pantry now what? Well there are some things that you should think about which kind of ties into when I previous talked about storing food in Mylar bags it is sort of the same for any form of food pantry like storage. Where and how are you going to store your pantry and household items? This place should be dark, cool, & dry and free from insects or rodents if possible. If you do have insects or are worried about items be sure to place the items that would be vulnerable to damages into airtight lidded containers that are a hard plastic. Items such as boxed pastas, instant potatoes, or anything that would sustain damage from moisture, light, heat, insects, or rodents should be placed inside such containers. And then of course store these items so that they are easy to rotate so I would recommend organizing them for sure instead of just tossing them in a tote. This will be my next thing I need accomplish in my pantry when I can get all of the storage totes that I need to get that is.

Food and household items are very important things to stock up on but there are other must haves to think about. For instance if you have pets or other animals you need to think about keeping a food source open and readily available for them long term. You should also think of how you would provide clean water not only for them but for you and your family as well. A way to sanitize and clean your water so it will be drinkable is just as important as having a food plan. Then if you have animals depending on you as well as a family you need to think about how to accomplish this whether you get a water filtering system, invest in rain barrels for water collection from rain/snow, or if you invest in some sort of purification plan from other sources. There are a lot of ways to obtain fresh clean water you just need to figure out what will work best for your family and any animals you have!

Now what if a scenario happens that forces you to utilize your food pantry & water system for purification but the power goes out. What would be your plan for a power shut down? Most people depend on electricity in there homes to survive in these modern times but it would be wise to have a back up plan if the power grid were to shut down suddenly. A generator would be something to invest in but one with enough power to power items such as freezers and refrigerators’ or AC units and other important items that run on power. With this being something that would help keep freezer running which are important for my family because it preserves some of our food I would suggest a solar powered generator. Stocking up on enough fuel to run a gas powered generator long term seems like it may not be the right choice since a power grid outage would also effect surrounding business such as gas stations and fuel is a resource that would have to be replenished once it ran out. It would be very unpredictable to assume that you would always have access to a gas station in the future if something like this scenario ever happened in real life. Unless the sun all of a sudden goes out of commission you would have the best luck with a solar generator along with proper knowledge of how one works ect.

Speaking of knowledge being able to accumulate knowledge both in your head and in a physical book will be of great value because a book will generally last longer than the internet. The more knowledge you fill your mind with now will be able to help you in times that may happen later on when that knowledge isn’t readily available to learn at that time. Maybe you print off information from the internet, buy books, or simply copy from the internet or books by long hand if you don’t have access to a printer and also cannot buy books. There are tons of ways to accumulate knowledge but definitely worth investing in it in the end.

Finally one of the last things that is important to think about in preparing for just in case scenarios in this post is that you should make yourself familiar with growing your own food some way and all of the knowledge needed to not only grow your food but to also preserve it and keep it going year after year. It would be wise to learn this skill even if you just have a few plants in containers growing on a porch or if you have a full on farm with animals and crops. Being able to grow/raise your own food will be valuable if you ever ran into future scenario where food was scarce again not only for eating but also as a way to barter for other items that you may need and don’t have. You should not leave any stone unturned when it comes to learning new skills and preparing for the future just in case something like what happened just months ago happens again or much worse! Get prepared!


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Motherhood

Garden 2021 Plans

Well 2020 has been a wild ride and quite frankly I am ready for it to just be over, can we just skip the rest of 2020 because it feels like it may just continue this spiral downwards. Like most people I can’t take anymore of 2020 its just gotten to that insane level and we are only halfway through! In a previous post I wrote about my 2020 garden and how it was doing or really not doing this year. Some things that I planted have still yet to produce anything at all such as my broccoli & bell peppers however a lot of other things have started to fruit. I now have 3 official tomatoes, 4 watermelon growing strong, & like 30 ears of sweet corn growing. This year was sort of an experimental variety to see what grows best in ground vs. in containers; also because we didn’t get the timing down. The verdict is in and the ground will be the best option for our family and next year we will have more time to be able to that.
I have been busy with a whole lot of different things in our household. Home school prep, slowly stocking up for fall, quitting my job due to Covid, applying for help, & simply just trying to figure things out! There has been a whole lot of unexpected things happen this year and I don’t for see that quitting anytime soon. I think that we all should just get used to 2020, because it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon! In the spirit of preparing I am working on preparing my outdoor space alongside my inside space, meaning I need to get my prep-work done for next years garden now the best I can because who knows what is coming next. It doesn’t look like anything good that’s for sure. In a past post I mentioned that I needed to make the ground that I have to work with well workable the best that I can. For part of this years garden I used a tarp and placed it over the grass to prevent weeds or grass from growing anymore and to kill the grass so I could then in turn use it easier. I also just needed a clean-ish space to set all of my garden containers with out having to move them for mowing. That sounded like a complete nightmare so the tarp was the way to go. In doing this I discovered that putting more tarps or mats down over the sections of land that I wished to use for my next garden would be the way to go. I would in turn be able to work the land a little better and easier.
I don’t have any kind of equipment just a shovel that I borrowed from a family member. I will be getting my own and hopefully some kind of storage system for everything as well. My main goal is to be able to work the ground easier and without the right tools that will be near impossible. I am not really worried about weeds but I will be looking into ways to combat them for sure. I want to be able to dig into the land so that I can plant in ground and not have to use containers for anything really. In order to plant anything next year I need to have seeds. Just like anything else I am stocking up on, seeds are a necessity. They are a food source that if kept in the correct storage area they will last a very long time. I hope to make a seed library that will house thousand of seeds that my family and I can use for years to come as part of our main food source.

Everyone is stocking up on a lot of things including seeds so finding them online or in store is going to continue to become hard to find. It is best to start gathering the items you and your family will need in the future now even if you don’t get everything it is best to at least try to get some of it. I have had to compartmentalize a lot of items, picking and choosing what I will be getting this time around and what I will not because we cannot afford to get it all at once. If you are one of those people who can afford it all then go for it but we are just doing the best that we can for the time being. I definitely don’t want to go into the Fall of 2020 with out anything prepare because at this point in the game I feel like that is a very stupid move. Big things are coming well really bigger things are coming and I don’t want to be someone who is scrambling to get things done when it comes around. I don’t want that for my family. If you are not thinking about the future now then you should start because what just happened a couple of months ago with stores not getting what they need is going to happen again. The supply chains are not going to be able to keep up if/when people start buying up everything again. Food/item shortages are going to happen again! Be prepared.


A good tip for beginning your path to being prepared is to start planning a garden or something of the sort for spring 2021 now. You should lay it all out and figure out what it is going to take to get it done! What seeds are you going to have on hand? When are you going to start your seeds? When will you plant in ground? Are you planting in ground or container? Do you have a plan for watering? Do you have a way to protect your garden? What about pests?
These are the questions that you should be thinking about. Now a days a garden isn’t just a hobby it is also a source of food for your family you need to take this seriously and protect it! You will work hard to grow your own food, it takes a lot out of a person but it is definitely worth it in the end if you take good care of it. I don’t think a lot of us ever thought we may one day have to worry about not having our normal life things. We get so used to having these comfort items that we can’t imagine our lives with out them and I believe that those comfort items can disappear again like they did not too long ago. So don’t get too comfortable; things are changing constantly!

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