These are good questions, and hopefully this post will give some ideas on how to have a food storage that matches your lifestyle.
- Store frozen fruits and vegetables in your freezer. Freezing retains most of the nutrients from fruits and vegetables. Frozen fruits can be used to make healthy blended drinks, such as smoothies and slushies. Many frozen fruits are delicious slightly thawed. Some vegetables can also be frozen and successfully used in everyday eating. Frozen peas, for example, can be thawed by placing them in a bowl of water, then placed on a counter for 30 minutes. Drain the water and serve on a garden salad. The peas will retain their bright color, flavor and crispness. Experiment with freezing the fruits and vegetables you commonly eat. For tips on freezing fruit, see the April 2010 post on this blog.
- Many fruits and vegetables can be dehydrated. Dried fruits and vegetables are available in many supermarkets. These are shelf stable and can be stored for many months while still retaining their flavor and nutritional value. Dried foods are typically more expensive than fresh foods, but it would still be feasible to store a week's worth, perhaps even a month's worth of dried foods. Because they are more expensive, rotate them only as seldom as needed (just prior to their expiration date, for example). It is also possible to dry foods yourself. home food drying equipment can be purchased for less than $100 at many emergency preparedness stores, sporting goods stores and even some large supermarkets. They are fairly simple to use, but the investment would only be worth it if you have a lot of home-grown produce or a good source of fresh produce, along with the time investment.
- Consider storing freeze-dried fruits and vegetables. Many commercial emergency preparedness companies sell freeze-dried fruits and vegetables. These are high quality and have high nutritional value, but they are considerably more expensive than fresh fruits and vegetables. It wouldn't be practical for most budgets to regularly buy, eat and replenish these. However, most of these freeze-dried fruits and vegetables have a long shelf life (at least 5 years). Consider purchasing a month's supply of freeze-dried fruits and vegetables, then storing them in a cool, dark place for 5 years. At that time, use them for eating, then replenish them and store the newly purchased items for another 5 years. I'm not endorsing any particular company, but Emergency Essentials is very popular and has high quality products. You can find them at: BePrepared.com or at 1-800-999-1863.
- Even if grains or carbohydrates are not part of your everyday diet, consider finding at least one grain, bean, or pasta that you can eat regularly (even if only once or twice a month), then store that item. Grains, beans, and pastas are economical to purchase and can be stored for a long time. However, it is important that you do eat whatever you have chosen from time to time so your body will be used to digesting it if you needed to eat it in an emergency. Oatmeal is one good option for this. Oatmeal is delicious served with fruits. Oatmeal can also be milled in a blender and used as a flour for making pancakes and other items. Rice is another good option because it is easily digested.
- If you have a medical condition which dictates your intake of wheat, grain or carbohydrates, it is a good idea to find foods that you can store. It may be helpful to consider, "What would I eat if I had nothing else to eat?" or "What would I eat in a true emergency." Answer that question, then find foods that will fit your diet. Keep at least a small store of them on hand, enough to last for a week or a month.
If you have experience storing food for these circumstances, I would be grateful to add your ideas and resource recommendations here. Please contact me or post a comment.