In this article, we discuss the pros and cons of DIY Food Preservation vs Bought processed foods. The reason for this is that there can be a considerable difference in price and the quality of the food. No matter what the reason is for your storing food, Whether it is for camping, hiking, survival, prepping, the cost, quality and weight play a role.
What is Food Preservation
Food preservation is the prevention of the growth of microorganisms (like yeasts), or other microorganisms and also the slowing of the oxidation of fats that cause the food to go rancid. Some methods work by introducing benign bacteria or fungi to the food to protect it. It is done to make the food last longer.
Some processes used can make food keep for 20 years and more. Unfortunately, these processes do not work on all foods and the food’s shelf life differs from type to type.
Store bought processed food usually have chemicals, hormones and antibiotics in them which, although it protects the food, it has an adverse effect on our health.
Whether preparing food yourself or buying it from a retailer, one must look at the ingredients. When preparing your own food for storage, it is important to consider the following:-
- The type of food you are preparing
- The preparation method being used is it suitable for the food being prepared
- what is the food being prepared for, Hiking camping or long term storage
- Is there refrigeration available,
- is there suitable storage for that particular type of food.
- What packaging method are you going to use, volume packed, bottled, bagged etc.
- What size packages are needed? Packaging for 1 person will entail different consideration to packaging for a family of 5
- Preparation methods available when the food is to be consumed. If there are no cooking facilities available uncooked or dehydrated food storage might not be an option.
What Is In Processed Food
This subject is suitable as an article on its own. There is so much to look out for in foods, I will write an article on it at a later date. I will, however, give you a heads up on some things to look out for.
Let’s look at the DIY scenario first:-
- you need to ensure that the food you are working with is in good condition. Bruising, aged and dirty foods are not suitable for preserving.
- Make sure that you use the correct method of preserving different foods
- do not cut down on the ingredients as they are usually important. With pickling, the salt plays an important role
- Be careful about using chemicals. I believe in keeping to as many organic ingredients as I can. I keep away from GM products and synthesized products.
Store-bought products are a different kettle of fish because;-
- you do not know the quality of the food that went into the tin in the first place.
- You also do not know what chemicals and other products they use in the production of store-bought food.
- The contamination actually begins long before the products get to the processors.
Recently, in South Africa, we had an outbreak of listeriosis which affected hundreds of people and killed over 80 people. The outbreak was found to have originated from Enterprise and Rainbow chicken products such as polony, viennas and other processed meat products. So when I talk of processed food issues, it is because they are real, deadly and not so uncommon.
What Do You Expect
This is something you must determine before you start preparing any food for storage, especially long term storage. What do you expect from your food:
- How long must it last?
- How must it be packaged, for 1, 3 or maybe 5 people per package? Remember, much of the food, once opened, must be used immediately, especially if there is not fridge for things like meat, fish etc.
- Is weight an issue? Can it be bottled or, if it is being carried in a backpack, should it be vacuum packed or dehydrated?
- Must it be sugar-free for diabetics, Low in fats and oils for cholesterol suffers etc.?
- How must the bottles, packages to be packed for transport or are they being kept at home in a root cellar, pantry or freezer?
- How much of a factor is cost? Do you have a budget to buy a lot of finished product in or must you only buy the essentials?
To Make Or To Buy
Before deciding to DIY or to buy food in, you need to consider your circumstances. There is a lot to consider and your decision can have an effect on you and your family. Don’t rush into it but also, don’t put it off. Whichever of the two methods you decide start now.
If you decide to go the DIY route, your deliberations have not yet ended. You now need to see what tools and equipment you need. You will find that you probably have most of what you need. If you are shot of something, don’t rush out and buy. There is probably a way to complete the task without it or you could probably borrow one from a friend if you cannot make one of your own.
I, as far as possible, try to find and teach methods of preparing food for long term storage without having to buy it from a store, for the following reasons:-
- Bought goods are expensive
- When they are finished, where do you get more if you are in survival mode? You had better know how to make it yourself or you will probably be going without, and that could be a problem.
There are, however, factors that can affect whether you buy or make your own food products:-
- If the circumstances are urgent
- If your facilities do not enable you to DIY
- If you do not have time to make sufficient food products to really build up a sufficient supply
- You do not have access to suitable food for processing.
If you chose to purchase your food supply from stores, you should take care in what you purchase and ensure that it has as little salt, preservatives, sugar etc as possible. This usually means that the products will be more expensive. so I would suggest that you stick to your list.
If your emergency plan means you staying at home, then you need to prepare proper facilities for storing your food safely. You will need a cool dry place, a cool damp place and they will probably have to be dark. It does not necessarily mean that you have to build a cellar. You can make use of a cupboard if you have enough. The alternative is to build a suitable cupboard outside, in the garage, studio or any other place that has room.
A lot of items can simply be stored in Plastic crates and stacked in the garage with all the other survival equipment that you have prepared.
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