Rotating Your Food Storage
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“Rotating Your Food Storage,” Ensign, July 1982, 61

Rotating Your Food Storage

Self-reliance in food storage does not come merely from knowing what we need and then storing it. We must also rotate our food so that our health is not endangered and food and money are not wasted.

The quality of food in storage deteriorates over a period of time. Insects, rodents, chemical breakdown, loss of nutrients, rancidity, dark, mushy fruits, and off-flavors are among the enemies of food storage. Shelf life differs according to the type of product and the storage conditions. If properly stored in a cool (40° to 60° F.), dry, dark, well-ventilated room, some items such as whole grains, sugar, honey, and pastas will store almost indefinitely. Most canned goods will store two years or more. But for many items—refined grain products, mixes, canned berries and citrus fruits, etc.—the shelf life may be a year or less.

The higher the temperature is in the storage area, the shorter the shelf life is. Canned and dried foods are very susceptible to high temperatures; package mixes containing fat products become rancid much faster, as do bottled oils and peanut butter. The rate of loss approximately doubles for every twenty degrees the temperature rises.

Light may destroy the flavor and pigment of bottled and packaged foods. Heat and moisture increase chances for infestation, mold, and chemical reactions which may cause food deterioration.

For most storage items, a rule of thumb is to store no more than you can use in a year’s time, and to use your stored food on a regular basis. Determine how much of a particular food you will use in a year’s time, then use the food according to a plan. Each time you make a new purchase, date it and place it behind or under the old. An ongoing inventory will help you keep track of what you have, what you have used, and when you replaced or added to it.

If you live in an apartment or small home with little or no storage room, you should still be able to store canned foods in closets, behind screens, and under beds.

The best way to rotate foods is to use them. If you develop favorite recipes using foods in your storage, you will be prepared to use and enjoy what you have stored. It is particularly important that your basic storage of wheat or other whole grains or equivalent, salt, sugar or honey, oil, and non-fat dried milk be used regularly. If you have never eaten wheat, and then suddenly find yourself living on wheat, you may develop health problems. Similar consequences may result from eating only freeze-dried (low moisture) foods if you have not made them a part of your regular diet. Thus, even though these foods may have an indefinite storage life, it is useful to rotate and use them whenever possible.

Your emergency supply of water should be checked every four to six months for cloudiness or other evidence of contamination. Use what is stored to water plants, wash the car, etc., and replace it with fresh, clear water. As with other storage, it will then be ready to use when you really need it. Shirley Nielsen, Welfare Services