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99 Capacities Series – Capacity #5: Store Food without Electricity

The fifth capacity I introduced in my eBook is that you must store unused foods without electricity. In it I state that:

“Specifically, what will you do with leftovers from cooked meal? Should they be stored in a cooler, consumed a few hours later, tossed out, or fed to the dog?”

I didn’t offer much advice there, did I? That’s probably because I didn’t have a great idea of what to do when I wrote the eBook. The thing is, there’s no wonderful answer to this problem. It seems we (as humans) have had this problem for millennia or more. ;)

Anyway, above all else, you should understand when food becomes potentially unsafe. The general rule is that bacterial growth occurs between 40-140 degree Fahrenheit. So, this is the danger zone for both uncooked, and cooked foods. Also, specific foods are more susceptible, such as meat, fish, poultry, dairy, etc. Of course, any foods can provide a medium for bacterial growth.

What to do?

My first suggestion would be to utilize technology where you can. If you’ll reference a previous post in this series on keeping perishable foods viable where I mentioned the Koolatron Cooler then you can keep unused foods viable for days or weeks, assuming the cooler is not being used to keep uncooked foods from spoiling (and you have gas in the car).

You could also use the traditional non-powered cooler and ice method. This also assumes you can get your hands on ice cubes, blocks of ice, or even dry ice. I would suspect that this isn’t going to happen in most cases.

Another idea would be to attempt to can (via water bath or pressure methods) any unused foods. I’m not so sure about this idea, however. I’ve never attempted to do this and I have to imagine there are reasons why you should NOT do it. But, even if you could, then you’re going to need the ability to do so (including a burner, fuel, water, etc). I would skip this idea altogether.

The next idea would be to keep foods as cool as possible and then simply eat them for the next meal. I know this idea isn’t much better than the previous, but there isn’t much else you can do if you haven’t got the resources to deal with such a problem. Since the danger zone of bacterial growth is roughly between 40-140 degrees Fahrenheit, the cooler food is kept the less likely it is that bacteria will grow. (Note: that’s the reason why refrigerators keep foods BELOW 40 degrees!) I should point out that this idea isn’t recommended either. Even a few hours is enough time for bacteria to grow and become dangerous. Use at your own risk!

How to keep foods cooler?

But, just how can you keep food cooler if you HAD to? Well, consider root cellaring. The book  Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits and Vegetables is a very good reference for building one. (I used it to build one in a previous house.) Since most root cellars will passively keep temperatures at least below 60 degrees, you’re well on your way to reaching the 40 degree mark. In fact, my root cellar routinely reached below 50 degrees in the winter time with no active cooling at all; I could nearly reach 40 degrees with some active venting.

That reminds me, use nature to your advantage. For instance, if it’s winter and it’s colder outside than inside, then stick your foods in a vermin-resistant container or location and store both used and unused foods outside.

Another thought would be to bury your food… literally. Do a YouTube search and you’ll get the idea. Understand that this thought uses the same cooling principles that a root cellar does but without all the formalities of building a permanent structure.

Other Ideas

There are other ideas such as smoking meat and salting fish. You could also try things like waxing hard cheeses, and coating eggs with mineral oil. Certainly, you’ll need to know how to perform these techniques. Practice them now!

I would also encourage you to stock up on an assortment of long-term storage foods that can be substituted for otherwise perishable foods. You can buy powdered eggs, cheese, milk, and so on from a variety of sources.

The last ditch effort is to, as I mentioned at the start, throw them out or feed them to the dog. Of course, you could just have one heck of a meal and eat… everything. ;)

Note: This post is part of an ongoing series detailing the ideas from my free eBook, The 99 Capacities You MUST Acquire BEFORE Disaster Strikes You!, which you may freely download here.

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