These Survival Food and Water Mistakes Could Kill Any Prepper

I‘m sorry I’m being so drastic, I rarely use the word kill but in this case it’s important. Some of these mistakes could be lethal even before SHTF, if part of your stockpile rotation process includes eating some of it now.

These aren’t your average food stockpiling mistakes, as you’re about to witness. So let’s see them!

Lethal Mistake #1: Stockpiling Food They’re Allergic To

How frustrating would it be to stockpile a lot of peanut butter, for instance, and suddenly discover that you’re allergic to peanuts? Right now you have the luxury of eating something else but what if peanut butter is going to be the last food in your pantry and you won’t be able to eat anything else?

Solution: make a list of all the things you and your family are allergic to and plan your food stockpile accordingly. Even better, go to a clinic and take one of those allergy tests that will check to see if you’re allergic to dozens and dozens of substances. They’re quick and don’t hurt at all.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you should NOT hoard peanut butter simply because you’re allergic to it. Maybe your family isn’t and you don’t want to deprive your children of this comfort food when they need it most, right?

Lethal Mistake #2: Improper Home Canning

Who could argue that canned food is not the best, cheapest and most popular prepper food on the market? Canning is not that hard if you follow the recipe to the letter but it can lead to a very serious illness called botulism. Using proper canning techniques is critical to avoid this horrible disease that has the worst of symptoms: double vision, being tired, and barely being able to move.

There are two types of canning methods: water bath and pressure. The first one is easier but only works for certain types of foods that are high-acidic. If you want to make absolutely sure you don’t get infected with botulism, pressure canning is recommended. This is because the temperatures used are even higher which kills the Clostridium botulinum bacteria.

Before you eat canned food, you should carefully inspect the container. If it’s swollen, cracked, bulged or if the food is foamy, discolored, or smells bad, you should throw away that food immediately.

Lethal Mistake #3: Letting Air Inside Their Stockpiled Food

There’s a good reason why we use mylar bags + oxygen absorbers for the vast majority of the survival food we stockpile (if you’ve read my article on the best 37 foods to hoard, you probably noticed that).

Here’s what happens. A lot of the foods we store for long-term survival have fat in them. In time, this fat reacts with oxygen which makes the food go rancid. Storing food in Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers inside the bag, prevents the food from spoiling. You do need to make sure the bags area sealed tightly, though.

Lethal Mistake #4: Reusing Canning Lids

You can reuse the canning jars but NEVER the canning lids. The jar lids have rubber gaskets around them that must be flat to ensure no air gets into the jar. When you use the lids once, the gasket is dented which means using it again will let air get through. If you plan to can your food, then canning lids are actually a fantastic item to stockpile more than you need of. They will probably be hard to find post-collapse so you can also use them for bartering purposes.

Lethal Mistake #5: Re-purposing Milk or Juice Containers to Store Water

Using plastic jugs or cardboard containers that used to hold milk or juice is a big no-no when storing potable water for your survival. These containers cannot be properly cleaned and you can bet anything that bacteria is going to start growing inside. You may not know it until SHTF and you go to use the water.

Lethal Mistake #6: Eating Wild Game Without Cooking It First

OK, so you probably never experienced this, but it doesn’t hurt to know about it. If you’re out there in the wild, you’re starving, and you finally manage to catch something, don’t rush to eat it raw. You need to cook it, otherwise the parasites and bacteria in the animal could cause you serious harm.

Lethal Mistake #7: Eating Wild Mushrooms

There are literally thousands of mushrooms in the United States with only about 100 species being poisonous. Nevertheless, attempting to eat them, will surely put your life in the hands of Lady Luck. Many non-poisonous mushrooms have look alike counterparts. It’s nearly impossible to distinguish between the ones that are ok to eat and the ones that aren’t.

Unless you’re really really familiar with the types of mushrooms that grow in your location, I strongly suggest you suck it up until you find something else to eat.

Lethal Mistake #8: Using Trash-Can Liners to Store Food

Many of these are actually treated with pesticides,so the last thing you want is to store food in them!

Lethal Mistake #9: Storing All Their Food in the Same Place

If your house is looted or if a hurricane knocks it down, you’re left with no food and your chances of survival are strongly diminished. Then what?

You should never put all your eggs in one basket when it comes to your food stockpile. Some of the other places you can store part of your prepping supplies include:

  • your bug-out vehicle
  • your bug-out location
  • your barn
  • your tool sheds
  • in fake garbage bins in your backyard

Lethal Mistake #10: Ignoring The Storage Temperature

Most people know they need to store their food in a cool, dark place, such as a basement. But there are still those who store food in their garage when temperatures can skyrocket during summer months. This can be lethal.

Lethal Mistake #11: Not Freezing Pasta Before Storing It

Pasta is stored the old fashioned way, inside Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers. However, there’s a catch. Pasta has these larvae eggs that start developing over time. Freezing pasta for a few days before storing it away long term, prevents this problem.

Lethal Mistake #12: Feeding Their Pets The Wrong Food When SHTF

As you may or may not know, not everything we eat is also good for our pets. Give your dog enough chocolate and it could die. What you should do is stockpile pet food for lean times along with bug-out bags for each of your little friends.

Lethal Mistake #13: Not Keeping In Mind Their Medical Condition

If you’re a diabetic, you obviously can’t stockpile the same foods everyone else is, right? I’m no doctor so you should definitely check with yours to make sure that the foods you’re about to hoard are indeed good for you.

Lethal Mistake #14: Failing at COMSEC

You can have all the food in the world but if you tell anyone, that news will spread and the wrong (read desperate) people are going to hear about it. In times of social breakdown, they might not hesitate to take you down to get to your food or water supply. COMSEC (which stands for communications security) simply means keeping your mouth shut (even when you feel like bragging about what a good prepper you are!).

Lethal Mistake #15: Keeping Expired Antibiotics

Again, I’m no doctor, by my extensive research has shown that it’s best not to mess with expired antibiotics, particularly if they’re in liquid form. This is somewhat controversial, but make it a rule never to take antibiotics past their expiration dates. You’re better safe than sorry.

Lethal Mistake #16: Cooking When They Aren’t Supposed To

The smell of cooking is going to attract a lot of zombies post-collapse. People who will do anything for a scrap of food. When you are in this situation, it’s best to avoid cooking altogether if you can. Focus on things like canned food that will not tip anyone off that you have what they need.

Lethal Mistake #17: Not Washing The Edible Plants They Find

This is of particular importance in the city, where you risk picking up plants (as part of your foraging efforts) that have urine and pesticides on them.  Though I haven’t heard of people dying from eating clovers with pee on them, I have heard of a few dying from drinking from soda cans that had rat pee on them. You can’t always see animal urine, feces, or pesticide residue.

The bottom line: you should always wash every edible plant you intend to consume.

I added these here simply because they make sense. They won’t kill you but they will temporarily affect how your body will function.

Mistake #18: Eating Freeze-Dried Food Without Adding Water

I haven’t heard of anyone actually trying this but my guess is that the absence of water is going to dehydrate you a little bit, and that’s something you don’t want to see happening post-collapse. Being fully hydrated will be so important for your energy level.

Mistake #19: Eating Snow

Eating snow, without melting it first, takes extra energy for your body to heat it. The last thing you want in an emergency is to expend much-needed energy and lower your core body temperature. Plus, the cold feeling you’re going to experience in your throat and stomach is not going to be pleasant, I assure you.

Take the time to melt the snow and if you can, remove some of the pollutants by purifying it, and then drink it.

Mistake #20: Not Having the Tools and Knowledge to Process and Eat the Food

If you have a lot of cans but no can opener, it’s going to be tough to make it. Yes, there are ways to open cans without a can opener but you expend more energy. If you stockpiled a lot of whole grains but you have no grinder, again, it is going to be tough. If you store food items, but have no idea how to cook them in a post-SHTF situation, you’re pretty much stuck.

Mistake #21: Putting Only One Food Type Inside a Bucket

The reason is simple. If you have to bug out when disaster strikes, you’re gonna have just a few minutes to load as much food as you can in your car before you get out of there. So, in the event that you can only grab one or maybe two buckets, it will make life easier if there is a small variety of foods in each bucket.

Of course, each Mylar bag should have only one type of food but you can put various separate Mylar bags into one bucket.

Mistake #22: Putting Oxygen Absorbers With Sugar

Nothing bad will happen if you eat the sugar, but putting O2 absorbers into your sugar is going to really solidify it. When you open it, you’ll have a solid block of sugar, you just don’t want that.

Mistake #23: Using Bleach past its expiration date

Few people consider that bleach only has a shelf life of about 6 months. You need to rotate it twice a year. Failing to do this could compromise your water stockpile.

The good news is that bleach has a lot of other purposes besides purifying water, so it’s not a total waste of money:

  • disinfecting your bathroom and kitchen
  • chlorinating a well
  • and doing laundry, of course

Final Word

What was the one big food or water stockpiling mistake that could have killed you? Let everyone know in a comment below.

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About Dan F. Sullivan

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My dad was military. My grandfather was a cop. They served their country well. But I don't like taking orders. I'm taking matters into my own hands so I'm not just preparing, I'm going to a friggin' war to provide you the best of the best survival and preparedness content out there.

13 comments

  1. Avatar

    Mistake would be NOT providing for oral Hygiene. Tooth decay and gum disease can lead to many deadly diseases. Tooth brushes are pretty inexpensive and baking soda, which lasts forever BTW, can be used to brush with. so stock up on both!

  2. Avatar

    The use of oxygen absorbers is the one thing I’m unsure of. Does anyone know what we did in times past before they were available?

    • Avatar
      Dan F. Sullivan

      Hi Ian,

      You can learn more about oxygen absorbers here. As far as other methods of preservation are concerned, you can see more on this page.

    • Avatar

      in regard to the “old days” of long term food bucket storage – prior to the early/mid 1990s it was bare bucket and dry ice purging – if equipped some preppers used inert gases like nitrogen also – lots of fun in the good old days …

      before the 20″ X 30″ 5 gallon size mylar bags became commercially available – you needed to DIY bags by cutting sheets and heat seaming the edges ….

      because the available mylar bags were small there were no large capacity 02 absorbers – 100CC were most common – used to have to dump 15-20 absorbers in a bucket ….

    • Avatar

      When I freeze meat,I use a double zipper freezer bag,zip it all the way except leave
      enough room to insert a drinking straw.Put the straw in the little space & suck a lung full of air,pinch bag,exhale.repeat.I’ve been doing this for 30+ years. LONG
      before vacuum sealers.Works as good & a hell of a lot cheaper.

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    Strongly recommend a re-write of item #14 COMSEC.

    COMSEC is a VERY small portion of OPSEC (Operations Security). Your entire operation (and activities) are at risk, not just communications.

    On a dark night, the light of a single birthday cake candle will give away your position from a mile away. Cooking odors only will point you out a few hundred feet away. Noises also travel a great distance; the sound of your generator, sound of chopping wood (not to mention the roar of a chain saw or log splitter), yelling for someone to bring you something; physical security – making sure your stuff doesn’t just walk away. Even the odor or your latrine will travel farther than cooking odors. Information security – keeping your mouth shut. Studies have shown that who YOU tell is generally not a problem. The problem comes from who THEY tell. You may trust the minister’s wife, but do you trust who she just mentions your information to? The farther away you get from a source, the less emotional involvement there is and a desire to protect the source. Even something as innocent as “someone over around Sheephead crossing…” provides a search area. They don’t need an actual map or street address.

    I’ve heard over and over again on talk shows, callers saying “I’m discussing this with my neighbors (church members, school PTA, etc.) and we are going to pool our resources.” Most preppers can only afford (or have space for) their own personal needs (and their family). When these “others” have relatives or friends that show up, you are going to be expected to include them in the “pool”. Every bite you put into someone else’s mouth is a bite you take out of your own child’s mouth. Cruel? Yep, but it’s also the hard, cold slap of reality right to your face. Same for sharing extra from your garden – fine if you just drop it off at some central place, just don’t say where it was grown. If they know where it’s grown, it becomes a “known source.” And, what else might you have I can also use?

    What you practice in peace time is what you will do in war (habits die hard). You can be your own worst enemy and not even realize it – and kids are the biggest blabber mouths of all.

    If you have already violated OPSEC, your chances are already reduced by around 90%.

    You can download US Army FM’s on OPSEC and other security measures for free.

  4. Avatar

    I learned decades ago, if you don’t want everyone to know it, DON”T TELL ANYONE.

    Sorry for yelling, but I can’t underscore here.

    • Avatar

      Darrell.
      You were right to “yell” it.Sometimes that is the only way to get people realize
      the seriousness of the situation.

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    Very informative article & website.Thank You! I am new here, and will visit frequently. I recently purchased a 21 QT Pressure cooker and lots of quart jars with lids. I was NOT AWARE that pressure lids could NOT be reused….of course I have never canned in my life before…but..I have numerous books. Thank You.

    I would offer to your readers they may want to pursue a Well Bucket that can be used to drop into their well should we lose power due to an EMP event. Of course, you will need to know the depth of your well so that you have enough rope to lower the well bucket which will fit into the 6-8 inch well pipe and are about 3 Feet in length.

    Cheers
    Ken

  6. Avatar

    Lethal Mistake #5: Re-purposing Milk or Juice Containers to Store Water

    Milk Jugs Right- Juice Containers if washed with Peroxide And set out side the sun will kill any bacteria

  7. Avatar

    I totally disagree with the idea of stockpiling food in fake garbage cans outside. Potentially is an original idea but inside the can the temperature rises to hell during summer and the continuos up and down of temperature from day to night will destroy any kind of food

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