Creating a survival cache takes time, money, and a great deal of effort, but there's a few things that can go wrong which renders everything you've done redundant. Every single item you've purchased and stacked on the shelf has a cost, and bad storage techniques can ruin your investment. I don't know about you, but personally I wouldn't be burning $50 bills willy-nilly. When you're not taking proper care of your food storage situation that's exactly what you're doing. Spoiled, inedible food is just the same as throwing out your cash. But that's not all. Food that's been improperly stored can turn rancid, and a single bite can make you very ill, perhaps even life threatening depending on the situation. Luckily, there's a few ways around this, and that's what we're going to cover today.
Heat Too much heat can ruin food in just one day, which means your supplies need to be kept in a temperature-controlled location. Ideally, this is an insulated room that has a temperature between 50 and 70 degrees. Don't let it fluctuate if you want to extend the shelf life of your food even longer, and be very wary about dumping your extra supplies in the garage or the attic because you've run out of space. If its food that's not meant to be frozen, cold temperatures will spoil it just as fast as the heat will.
Air and water The air that surrounds everything is one of the biggest enemies to food storage. Within the air is oxygen, and along with it a whole host of moisture that works quickly to turn food bad. Seal your food to keep the air out, using mylar bags, moisture and oxygen absorbers to extend the shelf life of products like flour and wheat. Exposure will turn it stale, and that's not pleasant to eat. In a similar fashion, too much moisture will cause mold to grow, making your carefully prepared supplies toxic to eat. Be very careful of anything you store in cardboard boxes because they're porous, and even thin plastic can let moisture through. This is best prevented by your choice of storage space, do not keep your food supplies anywhere damp, like a wet basement, in the laundry room, or under the kitchen sink. Everything dry, like rice and beans, needs to be stored in airtight containers to keep the moisture out.
Light It's surprising, but sunlight is very good at degrading the nutritional quality of food, which makes it important you store all of your supplies in a dark space. Basements are especially good, but you could also hang black-out curtains in combination with food-quality storage buckets to create a supply cache in your home, whether it be in a room of its own, or a closet. Be wary of leaving the curtains open if you opt to store your supplies in a normal room, sunlight hitting the containers can heat up the contents enough to cause it to spoil.
Critters If you've got bad storage habits, it's very easy for small bugs to get in and ruin your entire food supply. Wheat and flour are two favorites that weevils love to get into, but cockroaches and ants will also be drawn to areas where there's food. Invest in bug killers and food quality storage containers to keep them out, but these aren't enough to keep out the larger critters. Rats are very persistent, and can chew through just about anything, so also set traps and keep a regular check on your supplies to determine if there's been anything coming to investigate. If there is, plug up any entry points, and set traps as well as baits to keep the rodents under control.
Time One of the most overlooked destroyers of food is the inevitable passing of time. Imagine you've gotten all excited about survival and have invested thousands of dollars in bulk food that you've stacked in your basement, and you haven't touched it for 5+ years. Unfortunately, this situation is more common than you think. The trouble is when you finally get to it, the expiration date is so far expired it's no longer safe to consume the contents. Instead, follow the ‘first-in, first-out’ rule. It helps if your shelves aren't stacked against the wall and you can reach items from both sides, and do regular checks to ensure that anything coming close to expiring is brought upstairs and incorporated into your daily meals, before it goes bad.
Chemicals They've just got a nasty habit of spilling, especially if you've been storing them for a long time. In an unventilated area, the fumes and chemicals can also penetrate your food, making it unsafe to eat. Instead, follow a simple rule and create a second supply cache for your chemicals. Keep paints, fertilizer and especially pesticides as far away from your food supply as possible, but if you really have no choice, store the cleaning items on the bottom shelf in case they do leak, they won't drip onto your food supplies.
Bacteria If you're preparing any foods, such as dehydrating or canning your latest score from your garden, always wash your hands thoroughly before with antibacterial soap. The tiniest bacteria can grow and spoil entire batches of canned produce, which you'll probably only notice as mold or fungus growing inside the jars when you eventually get around to needing them. At this point there's no way to save the food, I'd chuck the entire lot away, jar and all, to reduce the chances of breathing in any spores or contaminating any other supplies. Always wash your hands.
People The final threat on our list is other people, especially younger family members. Your kids will not understand why they're not allowed to touch the stores, and may rummage through packages without resealing them properly afterwards. When you finally notice, it may be too late. Anyone who has access to your supply cache needs to understand that the food is not to be touched until you give the all-ok, and until then just leave it alone. Without food, you're not going to survive, which makes it so important you don't make any mistakes with your supply cache. Follow these rules, and do your best to ensure your food lasts as long as possible, isn't left to spoil, and is there to be relied on when you really do need it. Getting it right may just save your life.