Friday, October 1, 2021

Food Storage Season

For those of us who grow food, things start to get interesting after the first full week of autumn. Summer is over, the growing season is coming to an end, and we have the fruits of our labor to deal with. Most people who grow some or all of their own food try to plant a variety of foods that will mature at different times; this is to ensure a steady supply of edibles and helps avoid catastrophe in the event of a crop failure by not putting all of your eggs in one basket. Because of this mentality, we're dealing with food storage for a couple of months, with the bulk of it being harvested in the fall.

I don't preserve as much food as we did when I was growing up -- my family dynamics and living conditions have changed too much -- but I recall the annual rush to get all of the tomatoes canned and the sweet corn frozen. Fruits were either canned or turned into jellies and jams, cucumbers were pickled and put in jars (three or four different recipes) but we had moved beyond making our own sauerkraut (grandma still did that, though). Root crops (onions, garlic, etc.) went into the cellar along with the apples, peppers and a few other things that were hung from the basement ceiling to dry, and herbs were sealed up in carefully labeled jars. 

Meat cycled through the freezers with the seasons, with chickens going in during the early summer and red meat being processed and frozen in late summer. Fishing is a year-round activity (once the ice gets thick enough December-February) and small game found their way into the freezer from October to February. The only big game in my area are white-tail deer, and they're more of a pest than a food source to me; besides, the hunting regulations are so arbitrary and confusing that I have never needed to hunt the long-legged rabbits. If the system fails and we're in a crisis, I've helped process enough of them that I could make meat out of one and I have several methods of hunting them.

As  I recall, the main problem during the fall canning season was the shortage of containers and space to put them all. A few decades ago it was easy to put a smile on a housewife's face: all you had to do was bring home a few boxes of canning jars from an estate or garage sale, as there were never enough jars, lids, or rings for everything. Shelf space was the second problem. Even with a full basement and a good-sized pantry, the results of a good harvest would overflow into boxes and the surplus was often gifted to or traded with neighbors.

Preppers who choose to buy their food and store it can run into the same problems.

  • I tend to buy by the case; it saves me a little money and it's easier to transport while the cans are still in their box. I have my pantry with a storage room behind it, and once a box gets opened it gets moved to the pantry for use. The back room has sturdy shelves to hold the weight of cases of cans, and I'll be adding to the shelves as soon as I clear out some of the clutter that has found its way into the corners.
  • Rice and beans are staples of the prepper diet because  they're cheap, easy to find, and they store well, but finding a place to stack 20-50 pound bags where the rodents can't get into them can be a challenge.
  • One of my local prepper friends has standardized his purchases on the #10 cans (the large, almost 1 gallon cans that you see in commercial/institutional kitchens). A lot of the “preparedness” companies sell food in #10 cans, but you'll need to have a way to reseal the cans after you've opened them unless you're cooking for a few dozen people. It's difficult to eat a gallon of any one kind of food before it goes stale unless you can refrigerate, or at least close, the open containers.
  • Stored water takes up a lot of space and is heavy. We've covered several methods for storing water over the years; use the search box for older articles.

These are all things you need to consider as you plan your garden for next year, or find some extra money and invest it in food. Ask yourself Where is all of that food going to go until we eat it?


  1. Re: rice and beans. There's a local barrel/container company that sells very nice 55 gal plastic drums fairly cheaply. We just throw the bags of rice, beans and boxes of dried pasta into the drum until it gets full. Because the bags are very pliable, they deform to pack well. We then seal the top of the drum. It's completely rodent-proof. Further, you can stack the drums (though we don't have that many).

  2. FYI, Number 10 cans are the same diameter as large coffee cans. Save the plastic lids to seal cans that have been opened.

  3. When you use and rotate your stores year round, it's always food storage season.


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