Luckily, most kids like raisins.
When you’re talking long-term food storage or preparedness, chances are you might end up with some foods and/or forms of food preparation that are a little foreign to your family.
When it comes to fruits, it’s just fun.
In the style of yesterday’s meat, protein and fat long-term storage post, I’ll tell you a little about what we do around here, naturally, that would help us be prepared in an emergency. It’s the things I do because I want to eat real food, frugally, not because I’m trying to be prepared. I imagine that the result of this series for me will mostly be to make sure I’m overstocked on some of these items instead of just stocked. A baby step. I like those.
Also, as with all these real food preparedness posts, I invite you to participate by leaving ideas in the comments. I will update the post with new thoughts so that it is the most comprehensive resource it can be.
How to Store Fruits for Long-Term Preparedness
Assuming you’ve eaten all the frozen blueberries in your freezer in the first few days of a problem, you can rely on:
- canned fruit
- home-canned fruit
- dried fruit – purchased or home dehydrated
- freeze-dried fruit
- UPDATE: growing your own tree! (see comments)
Don’t forget to check out the preservation and storage techniques post with all the pros and cons of the various methods.
We do keep dehydrated fruit around as a means of preserving the summer produce, particularly strawberries and apples, both of which I also make into fruit rolls. Being seasonal, however, if we ran into an emergency right about now, we’d be right about out. As a preparedness effort, I should probably dry out a bunch of bananas regularly and try to keep them on hand.
The issue with dried fruit, either home-dried or purchased, is that it doesn’t last forever. You can only keep on hand what you’ll actually continue to go through naturally in a year’s time or so. The trick is keeping more on hand than you need – we can eat a lot of raisins, dates, and dried pineapple, but it’s all too easy to run out. (Don’t know what to do with dates? Try the dried fruit and nut bars – 14 variations! – in Healthy Snacks to Go.)
UPDATE: Cool link from a reader to Alton Brown on dehydrating.
Any sort of canned fruit, simply because it’s cooked, has fewer nutrients than fresh, frozen, dehydrated or freeze-dried fruit. I’m just about to the point where I might not buy any more canned fruit, even though it would last a really long time. Whenever I have it on hand “just in case” I don’t have any other choices for fruit, it ends up getting past its expiration date.
I’m thinking pretty strongly about stocking up on some freeze-dried fruits. Advantages include:
- lightweight and compact for storage, travel
- lasts 25 years without opening it! (UPDATE: see comments for some experience that says “not that long.”)
- seriously tasty, especially as finger foods for toddlers
- UPDATE: Reader says that Brigham Young study shows that dehydrated foods, kept in glass (not bags), in a dark place keep for 30 years.
The only downfall is that it feels expensive. It’s probably not any worse than dried fruit from the store, but that’s pretty expensive, too.
The fact that I could stock up one time and not have to worry about using the food for 25 years is pretty awesome!
How to Store Vegetables for Long-Term Preparedness
Veggies are tougher. I’ve never munched on dried pepper. If the beauty of dried and canned fruit is that you don’t have to cook it to eat it, the downfall of dried vegetables is that you really do need to rehydrate and cook them. That takes both water and a heat source.
We dehydrate vegetables, mostly tomatoes and peppers, not because we like them, but purely to make use of inexpensive summer produce after I run out of room in the freezer for peppers and the energy for canning tomatoes. (The photo above is a tomato “roll” with pureed tomatoes, but I’m terrible at actually using it up. They don’t rehydrate as well as I’d like into tomato “sauce” or “paste.”)
Other veggies that are great for the dehydrator include zucchini, onions, garlic, herbs, and celery…who can add to this list? You CAN dehydrate just about anything, but what will you actually use as you go in your day-to-day cooking? As for onions and garlic, unless I grew my own and had to dehydrate or lose them, I wouldn’t bother since it’s so easy to purchase minced onion and garlic. UPDATE: reader dries out greens to add to sauces, smoothies. Awesome!
However, storage-wise, particularly if you have a limited amount of storage space, dehydrated foods are a great choice because they get so darn small when you take all the water out! (Adrienne will tell you more about that.)
I don’t can vegetables at all (other than tomatoes) because I don’t have a pressure canner, but I also don’t know that I would because of the nutrient loss, nor do I buy them canned, because I don’t like the added sodium, the high heat required (we’re a “lightly steam” or “saute” family), or the ideas of the cans themselves.
If I had canned vegetables on hand, I wouldn’t use them. If I become convinced that canned foods ARE a necessary part of preparing for emergencies, then I’d have to buy some (on sale) and mark in my calendar when to donate them to a food pantry so that they’re before their expiration date, then restock my own. That’s more work than I have time or space for right now.
Here are the top veggies I’d recommend keeping on hand:
- canned tomatoes and paste, sauce, etc. (important to consider BPA in the can linings, so certainly can your own if you are able, or buy tomatoes in glass jars. The problem of course with home-canned seasonal tomatoes is that you’d be just about out during a spring or summer emergency.)
- dried vegetables, whatever makes sense in your situation (i.e., do you have a garden, local produce to purchase, what does your family eat? It’s not really worth home dehydrating store-bought vegetables, since they’re already some distance from the field.)
- freeze-dried vegetables (as with fruits, it’s time for me to try some freeze-dried vegetables, because I want to keep them around for 25 years!) UPDATE: see comments for a side-by-side comparison of freeze-dried vs. dehydrated. Excellent info!
- root vegetables, stored whole (I try to keep lots of onions and potatoes on hand but still run low at times. Laurie of Common Sense Homesteading does a fabulous job keeping a garden for 3 seasons and storing whole vegetables. Learn about storage crops from her!)
Related: Rutabaga Recipes
The resource I have in my home that will teach me how to use the foods IF I want to dig deeper into home dehydration is called Making the Best of Basics. It’s written by James Talmage Stevens, who has been doing the prepping thing for decades and appreciates the value of cooking from scratch. I’ll actually be on his radio show this Monday, May 23rd, from 9-10:30 EST; you can find more information and listen (or download after the fact) with the big red button here.
For more How-to information on canning and dehydrating, check out the extensive links at this post.
Nutritional Information on Freeze-Dried Foods
I talked with Tracy, who sells Shelf Reliance products, and she sent on some nutritional factoids about freeze-dried foods to satiate my curiosity. I’m pretty happy with what I learned:
The biggest misconception is freeze dried is the same as dehydrated, which is not the case at all. Dehydrating requires a heating process that removes nutrients, and then sugar or other preservatives are added to prolong the shelf life. Freeze drying involves removing 98% of the water and oxygen from foods to preserve them. With the freeze dried products from Thrive the shelf life is 20 – 25 years unopened and 1 -2 years after opened.
If you look at the ingredients on the side of the cans of our fruits and vegetables, you will see the only ingredient is the product itself. So no sugar or other harmful chemicals.
It’s not sourced, but also in Tracy’s information was this about canned foods, which lines up with everything I’ve ever read about the nutritional value of canned goods:
The heating process during canning destroys from one-third to one-half of vitamins A and C, riboflavin, and thiamin. For every year the food is stored, canned foods lose an additional 5 to 20% of these vitamins.
The bottom line in my opinion is that fruits and vegetables are much easier to store and use than meats and proteins, but both are an important part of a healthy diet.
Remember to eat what you store, and store what you use. What fruits and vegetables (and in what forms) does your family eat anyway? That’s what you want to stock up on.
What fruits and veggies do you find most helpful to buy/prepare in bulk, both for frugality’s sake and preparedness? (And of course, what did I miss here?)
Disclosure: I am affiliated with Making the Best of Basics and will earn commission from sales of those books, but I wouldn’t recommend anything I don’t use in my home. Also, if you shop at Amazon or Honeyville starting here, I get a small kickback. I do affiliate for Emergency Essentials, but I am not associated with the other companies I mentioned for freeze-dried fruits. See my full disclosure statement here.