Food storage is a way of ensuring the availability of food and ensuring safety despite potential uncertainties ahead. But what exactly does it mean?
Food storage is a process that involves storing or keeping foods (both raw and cooked, perishable and nonperishable) in suitable conditions for future use. There are specific foods that store well, especially for the long term. There are also ways you can keep food to maximize the shelf-life for the future.
Sometimes you wonder how it is possible to get food when they are out of season. The simple answer to that question is food storage. A lot of people practice food storage without even knowing. For example, most homes buy food in bulk and keep them for later use. Another example of food storage is when we purchase perishable goods, process and package them in containers that will keep them fresh for later use, or cook food and put them in storage facilities.
After careful research, we have compiled a perfect guide to explain what food storage means. It can often be misunderstood or misinterpreted, but we are confident that if you keep reading, you will become an expert on the topic too.
What Are The Types Of Food To Store?
There are three primary types of food you can store.
- Perishable foods
- Semi perishable foods
- Nonperishable foods.
1. Perishable food
Perishable foods are foods prone to accessible decay; they spoil quickly. Perishable foods have a very short shelf span, except they are refrigerated.
Examples of perishable foods include dairy products such as milk, meat, fish and other seafood, eggs, fresh fruits, vegetables, cooked foods like stew, sauce, beans, cooked grains such as rice, oats, grits, fresh mushroom, and the list goes on and on. Note that most perishable foods are fresh foods.
2. Semi perishable foods
Semi-perishable foods are foods that fall between perishable and nonperishable foods. Semi-perishable foods do not spoil as fast as fresher foods, but they also don’t last as long as nonperishable foods.
They can go weeks without refrigeration. Examples of semi-perishable foods include onions, yams, potatoes, etc.
3. Nonperishable foods
Nonperishable foods are foods that do not decay or spoil quickly.
Nonperishable foods have a very long shelf span. Examples of Non Perishable foods include dried and canned beans, grains, dried fruit and vegetables, dried meats, Nut butter, granulated sugar, baby formulas, tea bags, grounded coffee, packaged pasta, amongst others.
Types of Food Storage
There are two types of food storage:
- Short term food storage
- Long term food storage
1. Short term food storage
Short-term food storage involves storing food for a short period. It spans two weeks, months, or one year. Usually, short-term storage is for convenience purposes.
2. Long term food storage
As the name implies, long-term food storage involves storing food for an extended period. It spans from one year up to thirty years.
When storing food for a long-term purpose, the moisture and oil content of the food is reduced to a very low amount to prevent decay or airflow that causes food to spoil.
Methods Of Food Storage
There are three main methods of storing food. They include refrigerating, canning, and use of storage bags.
1. Refrigerating and freezing
This storage method is used for fresh foods. Refrigeration is used to store fresh foods that will be consumed over a day or two. Freezing is used to store fresh food for a more extended period.
Refrigerating and freezing temperatures are able to store foods at ideal temperatures to allow them to be easily consumed safely.
This is a process that involves storing food in airtight cans. When canning, make sure to use food-grade plastic, glass, metal cans, PETE bottles, or foil pouches free of harmful chemicals that can be transferred to the food.
3. Storage bags
Storage bags are airtight bags used to store foods. They are made of jute, plastic, flax, and polymer blends. Jute bags are often used because they can withstand prolonged moisture exposure and extreme weather conditions.
However, it isn’t advisable to use plastic bags as they are made of chemicals that can be transferred into the food that puts your safety at risk.
9 Reasons Why People Store Food
As much as we know that food storage is for future use, there are reasons why people store foods. They include:
1. Everyday emergency
No one likes the feeling of being stranded. People store foods to avoid running out of spices or necessary ingredients when cooking at home.
2. Natural disasters
Natural disasters like hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and the likes are certainly what we pray not to come our way.
However, we can not always predict when they might happen and when they do, scarcity of food is bound to happen. This makes it much more important for food to be stored as a preventive measure to keep you and your family safe.
3. Pandemic outbreaks
Pandemic outbreaks always come with food shortages. For example, the most recent pandemic outbreak (Covid-19) led to a global lockdown. Many people suffered a lack of food because the markets and grocery stores were closed. In cases like this, having food storage will help you survive the times.
4. Economic crisis
If the economy of a country is unstable, it leads to inflation. There is usually a hike in prices, including food, whenever there is an economic meltdown. People opt to store food to help them survive until the economy gets stable or when their own financial situation is resolved.
Most people do not have the time to go grocery shopping every day. So it is advisable to store foods that can last for weeks or months to minimize the time required for shopping.
6. Loss of job
In a case where you lose your job, food storage helps you cut feeding expenses until you get back to your feet. Food storage is an excellent backup plan to survive financial hardship.
7. Health issues
When you’re sick, you’re unable to go to the market, or you might spend so much money on treatment that you’re down on cash. In this case, you can bank on your food storage to sustain you until you are strong.
8. Industrial purposes
Food industries store food to avoid running a shortage of raw foods for the production of processed foods.
9. Large scale food production
Farmers store foods so that the foods can be available even after their planting season. This is the reason why you can get any food at any time of the year.
Importance of Food Storage
Food storage is essential for the following reasons:
- It ensures the availability of food in and out of the planting season.
- Food storage reduces wastage of cooked foods which in turn saves money.
- Food storage sustains you during a financial crisis.
- In the case of natural disasters, you can bank on your food storage for sustenance.
- You can rely on your food storage when having time constraints.
- Food storage cuts feeding expenses.
- Storage keeps your food fresh and the nutrients intact.
Factors That Affect Food Storage
Some factors affect your stored foods, and they include:
Moisture and oil
The moisture content and oil content of foods determine their decay; the more water and oil content a food has, the faster it will decay or spoil. Thus, it is advisable to reduce the water and oil contents of food to a minimal level before storage.
The temperature at which food is stored is vital to its shelf life. Records from the United States Department of Agriculture, USDA, show that a 10.8 degrees rise in temperature of a storage place reduces the shelf life of the food by half. Therefore, it is advised to store foods within 40 degrees to 60 degrees temperature.
It is best to store food in the absence of air, especially for long-term storage. They make airtight containers or vacuum-sealable bags to eliminate airflow around your food to ensure it lasts longer.
It is advisable to store food in dark rooms as light can degrade their food value.
Infestation of food by insects is a significant challenge in food storage. Deep-freezing at zero degrees for a minimum of three days or four days can help treat an infestation.
Store food in airtight containers that are free of chemicals and airflow. By restricting both of these, you can keep food fresh for longer.
About THE AUTHOR
I have over a decade of experience in food and beverage management, including a ServSafe food safety qualification. As part of this qualification, I have been professionally trained in safe food storage.Read More About Mark Walker