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You can spend a fortune on food for long term storage, but if you don't protect your investment, that money could be completely wasted. Proper storage containers don't have to cost a fortune. You can glean many different kinds of containers from things that would normally be thrown away. Once you've alerted friends and family that you are seeking these containers, you will likely be given more containers than you could ever use!
Food must be protected from three specific u201Cenemiesu201D: oxygen, moisture and pests. Proper containers are like an insurance policy on your food. Careful storage practices combined with the right containers are (Hint: Before repackaging your dried foods for storage, send the item to the deep freezer for a couple of weeks to kill off any mealy bugs or pests that could be lurking in the product.) Choose your storage location carefully, because even the best storage practices can be hampered or derailed completely by rodents , extreme temperatures or excessive moisture.
Soda Pop Bottles
One of my favorite methods of storing dry foods is in leftover soda pop bottles, because the containers are a freebie! Our family doesn't drink much of it, but we do get the occasional club soda. Other folks drink lots of it, though, and are usually happy to pass their empty bottles on to us, especially in our city, where we pay for garbage disposal. This method is not for extremely long term storage but will keep food fresh and pest-free for 2-3 years. Date your bottles and rotate them out of your storage pantry into your kitchen within a reasonable amount of time. Rodents will chew right through plastic, so this method is only to be used when you are reasonably certain that mice cannot access the storage area.
When opting for this method, look on the bottom of the bottle for the code. You want to find the word u201CPETEu201D or u201CPETu201D. This is the recycling symbol and it indicates that the bottle in your hand is at the lowest risk of breakdown that will cause toxins from the plastic to leach into your food.
We use these bottles for water storage and dried food storage. I've used them for sugar, salt, beans, rice and flour with absolute success.
For food storage, wash your bottles and be sure that they are thoroughly dry. If they have moisture in them, your food will be ruined. Use a funnel to pour in your dried foods. If you feel the food requires it, you can fold up a desiccant packet and shove it into the bottle as well. I've used them for sugar, salt, beans, rice and flour with absolute success.
Other Plastic Containers
As mentioned above, the recycling code u201CPETEu201D or u201CPETu201D means that a container is one of the most food-safe and unlikely to pose a health risk, assuming it is not exposed to high heat.
Other plastic containers that I have washed and reused for storage have included coffee jars, peanut butter jars, juice jugs, ice cream tubs, pretzel jars, dog treats and protein powder canisters.
Plastic containers that do not close tightly are not recommended for anything other than very short-term storage. Things like margarine tubs, yogurt or sour cream containers or plastic dip containers are better used for leftovers. Never microwave your food in plastic.
Lots of store-bought food comes neatly packaged in glass jars. While these lids cannot reliably be resealed for canning using a hot water method, they do close tightly and work well for dried food storage.
Tess Pennington joined the Dallas chapter of the American Red Cross in 1999 Tess worked as an Armed Forces Emergency Services Center specialist and is well versed in emergency and disaster management and response. You can follow her regular updates on Preparedness, Homesteading, and a host of other topics at ReadyNutrition.com.