Storing Food Safely in the Summer Heat

There’s a war going on. You can’t see it, but it’s real just the same.

The good guy in this war is your food. That’s what sustains you in good times or bad.

But your food has enemies trying to attack it. Regardless of whether your food is in the refrigerator, freezer or pantry, or sitting out somewhere.

Who are these enemies? Well, there are four main ones. They are – in no particular order – light, heat, oxygen and moisture.

The goal of these not-so-fantastic four enemies is to destroy the taste, vitamin and mineral content, and even the safety of your food.

Attacking from within

How do these enemies work? Light can deplete the vitamin content of food.

When moisture gets into food, bacteria can grow. When food is exposed to air, the same things happen.

Heat is also a nemesis. High temperatures can break down food faster. The storage temperature for most food should be between 40 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

These enemies can be particularly dangerous in warmer weather, which is right on our doorstep.

High temps wreak havoc with food

When the temperatures heat up, food is negatively affected. The resulting breakdown produces nutrient loss. And it changes food’s flavor and appearance.

Some bacteria that do not grow when temperatures are moderate will suddenly experience a growth spurt when temperatures get higher.

A U.S. Department of Agriculture fact sheet reads: “The risk of spoilage jumps sharply as storage temperatures rise.”

For every temperature rise of 18 degrees Fahrenheit within the moderate temperature range where most food is handled (50-100 degrees), the rate of chemical reaction is approximately doubled.

Summer storage strategies

It’s essential to keep your food stockpile in a cool, dry place. Basements and root cellars are ideal. But if you don’t have one, find the coolest part of your house and store it there.

Air circulation is also very important (once your food is properly sealed). Use fans periodically if necessary.

Keep electrical lights off in that vicinity when you don’t need them. Stored food loves the darkness.

Store your food away from damp areas. Excessive moisture causes microorganisms to thrive, and results in chemical reactions.

Proper packaging helps

There are a number of different ways to package your long-term food stockpile to protect against the enemies. Some are more effective than others.

Food-grade buckets. This is one of the better ways to store food. These buckets come in gallon sizes (and even five-gallon), so they hold a lot of food. Look for buckets with gamma lids, which form a more airtight seal.

Boxes and cans are fine for short-term needs. But you can’t count on them for long-term storage. They are too easily damaged, and compromised by critters. In fact, we should add pests to our enemies list. They want to get inside whatever is containing your food and devour it before you get a chance to enjoy it.

Glass jars. Some people like to keep certain foods such as grains in glass jars. They certainly look nice. But unless you live in an area of the country that never experiences earthquakes or extreme storms, that might not be the best idea. If you use them, keep them away from sunlight.

Plastic containers are inexpensive and easy to use, and pretty much unbreakable. After you’ve filled the container, place plastic wrap over the opening before putting the cap back on. The downsides are that plastic can leach into food, and humidity is not well regulated. And pests have been known to chew through plastic.

Mylar bags top the list

The single best way to store your food is in Mylar pouches. For one thing, they are durable. That’s why NASA uses Mylar to protect astronauts. These bags can take some bumps through the years without bursting.

And, of course, they are equipped to fight the four enemies of food: light, heat, oxygen and moisture.

Look for sealed Mylar pouches with less than 2 percent oxygen content, rather than cans or buckets.

This is your best choice, and it’s the way we seal and protect our 4Patriots Survival Food.


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