3 Ways to Get Cheaper Food for Times of Greater Social Chaos

Keep Fresh Food Longer While Saving Money

There are many flashpoints for social chaos and securing a basic 30 day supply of reserve food for your family is a must. We want to offer you several ways to beat persistent and growing food inflation while feeding your family better and for less money.

FOOD SAVINGS STEP 1: Buying your favorite foods, fruits and vegetables, when they’re on sale and in season, then repackaging them to enjoy later is a great money saver. Make sure to buy these provisions at discount chains, such as BJ’s, COSCO or other large outlets. One of the best ways to preserve food longer is with vacuum packaging. Vacuum packaging removes the air from inside the bag and seals the bag so air can’t re-enter. Proper vacuum packaging extends shelf life and preserves valuable nutrients.

Many of your favorite foods are commercially vacuum packaged to keep in nutrients and increase their shelf life – coffee, cheese, fish, meat and deli meats, to name a few. Contaminants from the outside can’t get in because vacuum packing seals out spoilage bacteria, egg laying insects, and other agents that will ruin your food. As one example, the average shelf life of some fresh cheeses has increased to 10 weeks from 10 days.

Of course, if you should happen to seal any bacteria inside the bag, it may still be present later. So do be sure to follow proper food handling procedures.

Invest in a Home Vacuum Packing Kit

Vacuum packaging technology is also available to consumers. There are three main types of home vacuum sealers: manually pumped vacuums, sealers with fans, and electric vacuum sealers. Manual pumps are the cheapest, but it’s hard to get all the air out. It isn’t possible to form a tight seal around the food, so the food won’t last much longer than normal. Many fan sealers also don’t get all of the air out. The most effective are the electric systems, which extract all the air and then seal the bag. You’ll notice the seal is tight around all items in the bag. You’ll pay more to purchase one, but for our money, nothing is worse than having to throw away spoiled food.

While using a vacuum sealer, make sure everything is extremely clean – your hands, utensils, countertops, bags and the machine. And most of all, the food itself. Make sure no dirt is trapped inside when packaging and that produce is free of any blemishes or decay. If food has been washed, dry it thoroughly before packaging. Only seal fresh foods in top condition; foods that are nearing their expiration dates should be consumed or thrown away. Also, cut off any sharp edges like protruding bones, which may break through the plastic when sealed tightly. Most important, take a close look to verify that the machine has removed all the air and created a tight seal.

It’s key to remove and seal out moisture and oxygen from the packages to extend the food’s life and nutrients. Non-sealed items dry out because air contacting the food causes evaporation. In the case of foods stored in a frost-free freezer, this is known as freezer burn. Vacuum sealing prevents this evaporation creating longer storage times.

Non-perishable dry foods which have low moisture content, like nuts, coffee beans and rice, can last for two years with proper storage. Remember when storing these items to keep them away from pests, which can chew through the plastic bags.

Items that need to be refrigerated or frozen still need to be refrigerated or frozen after sealing. Refrigerated foods shouldn’t be out of the fridge for more than two hours to maintain their safety.

FOOD SAVINGS STEP 2: Consider contacting local butchers, farmers or specialty stores and buy a “side” or “quarter” of beef or pork. You pay a price per pound for the complete side (meat, fat and bones) and they butcher the meat to your liking. You make choices like how lean you like your ground beef, how many steaks and the thickness, and how small or large the roasts. Paying the same low price for top cuts of steak as ground beef can be appealing. With normal freezing the meat can last six months, but vacuum packing will extend the life in your freezer to one to three years. Many butchers will provide this service for you for an added cost.

Vacuum packaging frozen fish extends its life from six months to two years. If you buy cheese in a large brick, cut it into smaller chunks and vacuum pack it, the cheese will last four to six months in the fridge. With higher costs for organic and speciality foods, buying in bulk can save money. Sealing your food properly to preserve its nutritional value is important. Vacuum packaged food tastes better, keeps its nutrition longer and has double or more the normal storage life.

You’ll need to decide if the cost of the machine and the special bags is worth the investment. If you regularly buy foods and freeze them or would like to buy more when it’s on sale, this could be a great investment. When fruit and vegetables are on sale you can vacuum pack them and they will last twice as long in the fridge. For example, berries tend to be good for three to five days in the fridge but vacuum packaging can extend this to two weeks. Put vacuum-packed berries in your freezer and they’ll last for a year.

FOOD SAVINGS STEP 3: Investigate joining with friends to obtain buying privileges in local restaurant supply stores. You probably know someone with a connection.