Long-term food storage isn’t really a necessity for most people in the modern world, but it can help you stretch your dollar and your food supply.
Meal prepping can spare you precious time and money, and in case of an emergency, it can even save your life.
Canned foods are a great option for long-term food storage, and canning your own foods at home allows you to control the ingredients and know exactly what you will be putting into your body when it comes time to use the food.
Many store-bought canned goods contain tons of unhealthy additives and preservatives.
Canning your own food not only enables you to prepare the food to your flavor preferences, but also lets you store food without adding any harmful chemicals or unnatural ingredients.
How Long Do Home Canned Foods Last?
The shelf life of your home canned food depends on the type of food you are storing. In general, most home canned foods have a one-year shelf life.
This is typically shorter than store-bought canned goods, which are full of additives to keep them from spoiling for longer.
Store-bought canned goods have a shelf life of about 2-5 years. However, while opting for store bought canned goods may make them last longer, you are sacrificing valuable nutrients and consuming harmful preservatives in exchange for that longer shelf life.
How Can I Extend the Shelf Life of My Home-Canned Foods?
Just because home canned foods may not last as long as some store-bought canned goods doesn’t mean that it isn’t a recommendable or efficient method of food storage.
You just have to be conscientious and take certain measures to get the most of your home canned foods.
If your food has gone bad or is contaminated, the can will swell or explode. If the can has a popped top, broken seal, or any leaks, the food has most likely gone bad and should be discarded.
Here are some steps you can take to make your canned food last as long as possible and get the most use out of them:
Food rotation system
Implementing a food rotation system will help you use up the oldest canned foods first, saving the most recently canned items for later. Mark the cans with the date you prepared them, and be sure to use oldest cans first.
Proper storage space
It is important to store your canned goods in the right environment to extend the shelf life for as long as possible. In general, canned goods are best stored in a cool, dry, dark place.
A pantry or basement with temperature control is best. Most canned foods should not be kept in the refrigerator or in direct sunlight.
Choose the right storage container
There is a reason why many foods come in cans instead of other packaging options. While clear mason jars may be more aesthetically pleasing and allow you to see what is happening inside, metal cans are your best bet for proper food storage.
They have the added benefit of blocking out light and some heat while providing an air-tight seal.
What to Avoid
Just like there are certain steps you can take to extend the shelf life of your canned goods, there are also things you should avoid in order to keep your food as long as possible.
If your stored food becomes wet or exposed to moisture in any way, throw it out. Moisture is a breeding ground for bacteria and pests.
Heat shortens the shelf life of canned foods exponentially. If your canned foods have been exposed to high temperatures or direct sunlight, throw them out. Light and heat makes the food go bad faster and create a more welcoming environment for pests.
Opening and resealing
Once you have opened a tin of canned food, the clock has started ticking on its expiration. In most cases, you should not open a can of food and then reseal it expecting it to last just as long as when you originally canned the food.
By opening the can the food has been exposed to oxygen, moisture in the air, and a change of temperature, all of which can allow for contamination. Use up any can you open first before opening another, and avoid opening and resealing multiple times when possible.
Dirty containers or unwashed food
Make sure your cans or whatever storage container you choose is thoroughly clean and dry.
Not only does this help prevent contamination, but it also keeps any residue from seeping into your food.
Also, be sure to carefully wash any foods before canning to remove surface bacteria and pesticides.
Now that you know the basics, you can confidently and safely get the most use out of your home canned foods.