Canning. Canning dates back FAR. It was invented in France in 1809 as a way of preserving food for the army and navy. There are two types of canning - water bath and pressurized. I only have experience with water bath canning, but it is really easy. It is a little time consuming, but more due to the food prep and sterilizing of jars than the actual canning part. I really like the Roots & Branches Stainless Steel Multi-Use Canner with Temperature Indicator. I bought it on Amazon for about $160 and it was well worth the investment. I LOVE it! Since we also use our deep freezers and freeze dryer for food storage, I have used it primarily for making jams and chutneys with all the fruits from our farm, but I plan to can veggie spaghetti sauce next! It has a temperature indicator on the top of the lid with zones to tell you when to start timing. It's simply amazing. Advantages are that you can store food for 1-2 years generally and it is very safe (provided you follow all the precautions and directions for each type of food you are canning). Disadvantages are the investment in a canner - they run anywhere from $75+ and canning jars/lids (you can only use the lid once, so need to stock up on additional lids - not rings which can be reused over and over). Also, there is risk of food-borne illness if you do not can properly.
Top 3 Things to Consider...
#1 Water: Sources & Storage
Water is simply the most important thing to think about when preparing for a possible crisis or loss of power. There are four things to consider around water: inside stores, backup water source, filtration, and purification.
1) Inside Drinking Water Stores. Most folks will get a few gallons of bottled water and think that's enough for a crisis, but one gallon per day per person is what is recommended for backup storage. To accomplish this more economically, it is better to think in reusable, stackable five gallon storage containers. After researching different ones and looking at reviews, I settled on the 5 gallon Samson Stackers. They sell them in sets of six or eight. Figure out how much water you need for each family member, ex. a set of 8 five gallon containers would provide enough water for one person for 40 days (8x5=40). Be sure to recycle older water out from time to time and water your garden, etc.
2) Backup Water Source. If people are on city water, but lose electricity there is a chance that they will only lose the ability to have hot water since it is pressurized. Wells however use a pump to extract the water out so unless you have a backup form of electricity, you won't have water! If you have a well, either have a backup generator or design a gravity fed water system that can work if you lose power. With city water, you are basically connected to the grid so there is a bigger risk of contaminants in the event of a disaster and you may lose water for that reason. Bottom line, we all need a backup water source! Do you have walking access to a pond, river, stream, or even a pool (ideally your own)? If not, you should consider a rainwater collection system for backup. There are many to choose from, but make sure they are made from food-safe plastic or metal.
3) Filtration. When collecting water from a rainwater system, or from a pond, lake, river, stream or pool you will need to put it through a filtration system and purify it before drinking it. I like the Big Berkey Water Filter. https://theberkey.com/
4) Purification. It is also important to purify outside water sources with drops that can kill bacteria and parasites that could be in the water. There are many brands out there, some are chlorine based and others are biofilm based. For travel sized, the LifeStraw consistently wins top reviews as it apparently allows people to drink straight out of rivers, etc. I haven't used it, but it sounds promising. https://www.lifestraw.com/products/lifestraw.
#2 Food Storage Area
A root cellar is nothing fancy or sophisticated. Truthfully, it is any storage location that uses the natural cooling, humidifying, and insulating properties of the earth. For most folks, that means a cooler, darker basement area, ideally with higher humidity so fresh fruits and veggies won't dry out. There are many photos and youtube videos about how to set up an area (some are in our Food Prepping Videos section) but it's very easy to do. Ideally, if you have an unused room in the basement (finished or not, but not the room with the furnace/utilities) where you can set up some shelves and it is cool and dry (and mold free), that's pretty ideal. You can store fresh fruits and veggies (especially root vegetables, onions, garlic, potatoes, squash family) and canned foods in here.
#3 Food Storage Methods
There are different ways to store foods. For longer shelf life, the three top ways to preserve food for longer periods of time are freezing, canning or freeze drying. There are other methods (some of which I will share in the video section), but we will focus on these three here and go into the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Freezing. This is the easiest and most well known way to store foods for longer periods of time. The only thing you need is a freezer and freezer/food safe containers/bags and off you go! The advantage is that it is super easy to do, takes almost no time (other than transferring the food into a new freezer container), and there is nothing else to buy. The biggest disadvantage is that freezers need electricity to run. If you lose power for an extended period of time, you will also lose all of the food in the freezer as well unless you have backup power (like a generator). Foods are also subject to freezer burn and taste alterations (some freezer foods taste like the plastic containers they are stored in). You are also obviously limited in space - you can only freeze what you can FIT in your freezer! Investing in a couple of deep freezers is a great idea even if you choose to can or freeze dry as well. You should note that when lockdown measures began when Covid started, you could not find deep freezers anywhere! Keep that in mind and plan ahead.
Freeze Drying. This is the KING of food storage, but it is an expensive option as freeze dryers run $2,000 and up. You can freeze dry anything from fruits and veggies to cooked lasagnas and raw eggs! This is the only one I know that is even remotely affordable for home use. There are three different sizes, and there are sales from time to time when you are able to get one for less (like we did). For things like sliced bananas it takes about 24hrs or so to process. You can store the food for shorter term use in jars. For longer term storage, you can use mylar bags with oxygen absorbers (Harvest Right sells those as well) or vacuum seal jars for anywhere from 3 - 25 years shelf life! Pretty amazing! There are loads of videos on youtube with folks doing how-to's on the different types of foods that can be dried. You can also buy freeze dried foods online or in stores, but they can be really pricey. I have seen many brands of four week emergency food survival buckets that contain a variety of freeze dried storage foods. These are a good option if you can't talk your spouse into a freeze dryer. ;-)
DISCLAIMER: The information on this website shall not be construed as medical, legal, financial or any other type of professional advice. These are only resources that our family has found helpful. This information here should not be used to prevent, diagnose, treat or cure any disease and is not evaluated by the FDA. Please consult with your family physician or other professionals for medical, legal or any other advice.