As most of you know, my family buys food items in quantity when the price is right. We go to North Carolina to a discount grocery store for most of our food. The prices are a fraction of what you would pay for exactly the same item in a regular grocery store. The selection is limited, so we go fairly often. We buy case lots of the things we want when they have them.
We also periodically buy dehydrated food products, packed in nitrogen flushed mylar bags and then stored in pails. These are basic food stuffs, like onions, potatoes, white and red wheat, flour, corn meal, rolled oats, sugar, salt, corn, and similar foods.
All of our long term storage food is tucked away in climate controlled spaces. Year round, we keep these spaces cool and dry. This helps preserve the food, although it would still be relatively safe if we lost power because the main storage rooms are below ground level and so they stay at a fairly constant temperature and humidity level.
This week I've been cooking with food that has been stored for a while. Here are some of the things I've used.
Apple cider. This went into storage on 9 November, 2012. The "expiration date" has long since passed, but the cider was still sweet and good, and had not gone off to be come "apple jack." That means it hasn't fermented.
For the most part, I store powdered drinks. They keep forever. I have several cases of the little plastic cans of fruit drink power Del Monte used to put out. They are largely sugar, and not particularly good for you, but they do have flavor and people get tired of drinking plain water.
I tried storing pomegranate juice in plastic bottles, because that's one of my favorite drinks. Unfortunately, despite the high acid content pomegranate juice didn't store long term. I don't know why.
I like onions, and use them to cook with quite a bit. The dehydrated onions I used this week were stored in early 1999, and they are just as good today as the day they went into the can. I have both number 10 cans and pails of dehydrated onions, both systems seem to work fine.
I had pork and beans for supper last night. The can was from a case stored in May of 2002. As far as I could tell, there was no difference whatsoever in taste or texture between this can and one that had not yet expired.
Pork and beans are dirt cheap. We can buy them for about 25 cents a can at the discount grocery. You can use pork and beans as the basis for any number of dishes. I like to add bacon or sausage to mine, and have it with white rice or mashed potatoes. The possible combinations are nearly endless and really just depend on what people like and their own imagination.
Clearly, pork and beans are a good storage item, and one you can put away in large quantities without bankrupting yourself.
Canned beans stay edible for decades. I bought six cases of canned beans in 2001, which would be 14 years ago. Of those, only one showed any signs of age. That was a case of Great Northern Navy Beans. It was perfectly edible, but the sauce in the can had thickened and the beans had a texture I didn't like. What we didn't eat, I fed to the dogs. Incidentally, your animals can eat things you might not want to take a chance on. I had a case of DAK hams, and after about seven years one of them had some slight air pressure differential when I opened it. That was probably just due to frontal pressure, but with my imagination I was concerned it might have gone bad. I cut it up and fed it to the dogs in their food, they enjoyed it, and so it wasn't wasted. The other hams in the case all proved to be fine. I had food poisoning once, after I ate a pork roast my wife told me was bad. That experience has left me with an inclination to caution on the issue of possibly tainted food.
This week I've been having Spam for breakfast. It went into storage in September of 2005. No changes in taste or texture, and no spoilage. There are a lot more canned meats on the market than there used to be, and even our Walmart is carrying a large selection of canned beef, corned beef, fajita beef, meatballs, et al. I still put our long term meat storage money into country hams, spam and DAK hams for the most part. You can do a lot with these, it just takes some spices and some imagination. Spam used to be cheap, but it isn't anymore. A can costs about $2.50 at Walmart. Still, most people have a hard time staying strong on vegetables alone, so you have to fill that gap somehow.
This is some hard data on specific types of food and how long I know I have stored them without ill effect. It's easy to find theoretical information on the web about how long something can be stored, but most people deal in generalities. These items I've written about, I've used this week and the storage data is right off the can or bottle.