Storing your food effectively is essential if you want to keep enjoying your food for longer.
By learning a few new tips and tricks, you could save money, prevent illness and make your foods last for longer. It’s especially important if you grow your own produce or are living off-grid and want to benefit from the fruits of your labour all year round.
There are three tried-and-tested ways you can do this:
Here’s how each of these three methods works, including guidelines on how to store your preserved foods and how long you can expect them to last.
Dehydrating is one of the oldest methods of preserving food. Even back in prehistoric times, people would dry their seeds by laying them in the sun - a practice that continues in many places until today.
However, many people now use a hot air dryer that both speeds up and simplifies the process for our hectic modern lifestyles.
The method itself removes moisture from the food through evaporation to inhibit the growth of bacteria, yeast and mould so that it can be stored for longer periods of time.
It’s ideal for:
● Beans and lentils
● Grains, rice and pasta
● Low-fat meats and seafood
● Fat, dairy and egg-free sauces
However, the method doesn’t work well if you want to store fats, nut butter, avocados, dairy products, olives or eggs. This is because fats don’t dehydrate well and go rancid very quickly.
Don’t think you have to stick to single ingredients either. You can dehydrate whole meals if you want to then remove them from storage and rehydrate when required.
Just remember that they should contain little fat (you can always add it later!) Take them on your camping trips, to the office or simply whenever you want an instant meal to hand.
If you simply want to store your dehydrated foods short-term, you can pop them into a Ziplock bag or airtight container in the fridge. However, if you want to extend their shelf life, consider investing in an affordable vacuum sealer.
Dehydrated fruits, vegetables, grains, beans and rice will keep for approximately a year, and meat and fruit leathers around 2 months. The storage time can be extended if you use a vacuum seal and then freeze them afterwards.
Did you know that you can store a wide range of foods in your freezer?
Whether you’re buying in bulk when your favourites are on discount or stashing away your homegrown produce, knowing how to do it right will make a big difference to how long it lasts.
Here are some quick tips:
1) Always cool foods before freezing
2) Pack foods in single meal portions.
3) Leave space for foods to expand when freezing.
4) Maximise your space by using freezer bags for soups, stews, fruits and vegetables.
5) Label your foods with the date and what’s inside the package.
6) Lay individual items (like raspberries and cookies) on a flat tray, freeze then transfer to a freezer bag.
Frozen foods can be stored in a variety of ways including Ziplock bags, thick or coated wraps, aluminium foil, plastic or glass containers and even freezer paper.
Again, if you want to extend the life of your frozen foods, consider using a vacuum sealer either before or after they end up in the freezer. If you choose the latter, be careful of any sharp edges as they can pierce the packaging and destroy the airtight seal.
Most foods will last three months in the freezer before starting to deteriorate. However, this isn’t true for all foods and depends on the storage method you use. Technically speaking, you could keep foods in the freezer forever, but their quality and taste would suffer.
Canning has long been popular with homesteaders in the USA and is slowly gaining ground over here in the UK.
Although it can seem intimidating at first, it’s actually a fun and practical method of food storage that can feel quite therapeutic. The method involves sealing foods safely in a jar before applying heat to kill off any microorganisms that usually cause food spoilage.
It can be done in two ways: water bath canning and pressure canning (much like using a pressure cooker).
● Preserving jars with lids
● A large saucepan with a lid and a rack OR a pressure canner
● A wide-mouthed funnel and jar lifter
1. Clean your jars by washing them in warm soapy water or sanitising them and boiling the lids for 10 mins.
2. Prepare your canning method:
● If you’re using a water bath, place the rack inside, fill it halfway with water and bring to a simmer.
● If you’re using a pressure canner, place the rack inside and add 5 cm of water.
3. Fill your jars with food using the wide mouth funnel. Be careful not to burn yourself.
4. Remove any air bubbles, wipe the rims of the jars clean then place the lids on top and tighten.
5. Apply heat! Place your jars into the water bath or pressure canner.
6. For the water bath, bring the water to a boil, set your timer then turn off and leave for five minutes. For the pressure canner, lock the lid, turn on medium and allow steam to escape for 10 minutes before closing. Allow it to reach the required pressure then set the timer. Leave to rest for 10 minutes before removing the lid.
7. Leave the jars to rest for 12-24 hours to allow the seal to work correctly then store in a cool, dry place for up to 18 months.
You can maximise your food budget and enjoy your favourite ingredients year-round when you learn how to store your food effectively. Whether you choose dehydrating, freezing or canning, you can rest assured that your foods will stay just as nutritious and delicious.