Make emergency food yourself – the best tips

It's good if you have an emergency supply of your own in times of crisis. With which you can feed yourself and your family for a certain period of time without having to visit the supermarket. In some articles on our site we go into more detail about which groceries you should have in stock at home. However, you do not have to rely solely on commercially prepared products. Because there are also some methods that you can use to preserve food yourself.

Especially if you have your own garden and grow fruit and vegetables there, you have access to fresh food. The same applies to shopping at the farmer's market. Or just think of the seasonal offers from the discounter, such as asparagus in spring and apples in autumn. With these products you can upgrade your menu and fill up your pantry with the leftovers. Do not worry! You don't have to be an expert in the kitchen or have studied for many years. Here are a few ways we're going to show you how to preserve food for a long time or create an emergency home supply.


1. Drying

Food drying has been used by humans for thousands of years. It was vital to our ancestors. The removal of water preserves fresh food and removes the breeding ground for bacteria, viruses and mold spores. As soon as the liquid content drops towards 10%, the shelf life increases.

In the meantime, dried fruit has become a luxury good in the trade. The taste of the food is intense and tasty. Which is due to the fact that during production the tasteless liquid evaporates and only the flavorings remain. You don't have to dig deep into your pockets to add dried items to your stash. However, you should bring your time, because the process takes a long time. During the dehydration process, the temperature rarely exceeds 60°C, but it can take up to 20 hours. In special dehydrators, this process can be controlled easily and simply. To try it out, however, it is enough to dry the food in the oven with the door not completely closed. Stick a cooking spoon in the oven door to allow the evaporated water to escape.

Almost all fresh products are suitable for drying. Special care should be taken when using meat. It must reach a sufficient temperature to kill bacteria such as salmonella. 

You can also make the dehydrated food storable by vacuum sealing. This also prevents insects and rodents from getting to the food. Because they also literally like to eat your supplies.


2. Store in cans

Food cans are a convenient and clean way to store food. The history of canning dates back to the 18th century when French Emperor Napoleon was looking for a solution to feeding his soldiers. Since then, the process has been used by farmers and private individuals to preserve their harvest for the winter. 

Once canned, the contents of the can have a shelf life of more than five years. If you also want to pack food in metal cans, you need a standard sealing machine and empty cans. After sealing, the contents are brought to a boil for about two hours. 

Don't use cans with lids that bulge outwards. This is almost always a sure sign that the inside is spoiled.


3. Boil down

Boiling is a popular method of preserving food and is currently being used more and more by younger people. Not only as a crisis precaution. With this type of preservation, fresh ingredients or complete meals are filled into jars with screw caps and boiled in boiling water for about 2 hours. The temperature depends on the contents of the glasses. The heat kills the microorganisms that cause spoilage. At the same time, the air is removed and the contents sealed. Once cooked, food can be kept for 5 years or more. As long as you pay attention to a few things. 

  • Only use screw-top jars or special mason jars
  • Working hygienically is important
  • Not every ingredient can be preserved by boiling. Pure dairy products, for example, are unsuitable.
  • Despite the heat, onions and bones can form fermentation gases and spoil the entire contents of the glass. Remove bones and sauté onions sufficiently before preserving. 

Sterilize the jars sufficiently before filling them with food. By the way: Filling in hot jam or marmalade has nothing to do with preserving. Here, the high sugar content is responsible for the long shelf life.

Note: Did you know that dry food, such as biscuits or bread, can also be boiled down?


4. Freeze drying

This is a complex form of preservation. After freezing, the products are exposed to a vacuum, with water vapor escaping. Or to put it another way: This type of drying leads to sublimation. This refers to the special property of water to go directly from the frozen state to the gaseous state. 

Once sealed in an oxygen-tight pouch, freeze-dried products are impervious to oxygen and moisture. This is how astronaut food, for example, is preserved. And you could even use this process to preserve ice cream. However, making it at home is relatively complicated and expensive. You need a special freeze-drying machine. One option would be to share this machine with like-minded people, which minimizes your costs. 

This way of making emergency food yourself preserves nutrients and taste. In addition to fruits and vegetables, almost all foods, including meat, dairy products and complete meals, can be freeze dried. A long-term diet that requires some preparation and financial investment. The shelf life is between 2 and 20 years. 


5. Salting 

There are several methods of curing food, but all use salt, nitrate, nitrite, or sugar to remove moisture from food through osmosis. Many curing processes are also combined with smoking. This seals the outer layer of the food making it harder for bacteria to penetrate. An interesting way of stocking up when prepping. 


Curing with salt

Meat can be cured with salt in 4 different ways:

  • rub in 
  • insertion
  • Pickling in brine
  • Injecting a brine directly into the meat


Salting with sugar

This variant is often used for bacon, ham or other parts of pork. 

For this, the meat is dipped in a sugar brine and stored at very low temperatures. It is then hung up in a smokehouse to mature.


salting and smoking

To smoke meat, you need a special container. A smoking cabinet or chamber. Smoking is not difficult, but you still have to pay attention to a few things. For example, you need the right temperatures to avoid getting food poisoning from bacteria. The optimal temperatures for hot smoking are 65 – 140 °C. Depends on the type of food. With cold smoking, on the other hand, the temperatures range between 15 and 25 °C. 


6. Fermentation

Have you ever heard of lacto fermentation? The naturally occurring Lactobacillus bacteria help you to preserve food. 

The food is mixed with a brine of salt and water. The salt removes sugar from the products, which is absorbed by the bacteria and converted into lactic acid. The good news is that harmful bacteria cannot survive in this anaerobic, acidic environment. During fermentation, the salt also helps reduce the amount of oxygen. This also promotes preservation. 

Fresh products are just as suitable for fermentation as meat and milk. Note, however, that the taste changes significantly. Fermented foods can be kept for up to 12 months. However, some people report a shelf life of over 5 years. 


7. Vacuuming

Vacuum sealing works by removing air from the outer packaging. Without oxygen, microorganisms cannot grow, enzyme activities are slowed down and oxidation is inhibited. 

Almost all types of food can be vacuum packed. Ideal for preserving the products for emergency supplies. However, no liquid is removed during the process and no microorganisms are killed. Unless the food is dry, you will need to either freeze, refrigerate, or dehydrate vacuumed items. 

It is often recommended that you make your own vacuum sealer using ziplock bags, hoses and syringes. However, these homemade vacuum devices don't really work. This is because not all of the oxygen is withdrawn. In addition, there is no possibility for the opening to be sealed by heat. If you don't want to waste food, skip it and get a vacuum sealer from a store. These are already available in many supermarkets at low cost. Plus the necessary bags. 

The shelf life of vacuumed food is sometimes more than 5 years, provided it is stored correctly. Another advantage of this preservation method: neither insects nor rodents are attracted by any odor that may be emitted. The emergency supply is safe.


8. Store dry foods

Foods such as dried beans, sugar, rice, flour, and oats can have very long shelf lives on their own. It almost seems as if you don't need any preservation for these products. However, this assumption is wrong. Because the dried ingredients are particularly susceptible to pests such as moths and beetles. One of the reasons for this is that insect eggs are already in the food when you buy it. 

Almost always, an infestation of your supplies happens like this: You get dry produce and store it in the original packaging or in a container. The tiny insect eggs, barely visible to the human eye, hatch. Soon you will have larvae and maggots nibbling on the food. Even the simple plastic of the packaging is often not scorned by the voracious little animals. As soon as the insects get outside or you open the container, they happily spread further and infest other supplies.

Controlling an infestation of food moths or Colorado potato beetles is difficult and costly. And can make your crisis management much more difficult. It is advisable to discard any open or poorly packaged supplies. Glue traps and parasitic wasps can help solve the pest problem. However, their procurement is expensive and success does not come immediately. That's why it makes more sense if you prevent it.

Kill the insect eggs before you store flour and co. This is done, for example, by freezing for 4 days. Or you put the food in the microwave for 5 minutes. In addition, it is recommended to vacuum the dry food. It has a long shelf life, and you can also use it as outdoor food.

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