Okay people. Take a deep breath. If you felt overwhelmed in the past, the idea of getting a food storage built up might really weigh you down. So before I say anything else, let’s all step back and remember some axioms like “baby steps” and “slow and steady wins the race.” I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and we are encouraged to build up a two year supply of food–but we are also told to not buy it all at once. We should build it up slowly. The first step is to shoot for a goal of a three month supply.
Let me also say that this post is not intended to be an all inclusive post on food storage. One post couldn’t cover it, and this blog isn’t a food storage blog. I think that some information to get us jump-started is applicable. Being prepared for emergency situations is a part of being a parent. But I can’t give you everything you need to know here. There are plenty of websites and blogs out there on food storage. I will link some helpful ones for you. I hope to give you enough to get you motivated, get you started, and get you pointed to some helpful resources.
WHY HAVE FOOD STORAGE?
I think this should be pretty basic and obvious. You want some storage so that if there is some sort of adversity that comes your way, you will be able to care for your family. Five years ago, I think this was harder to convince people of, but since then, we have seen devastating tsunamis, hurricanes, earth quakes, and an economic crisis. I am guessing most if not all of us are already convinced that bad things do happen to good people and it is a good idea to be prepared in case it happens to you.
You know what else? Sometimes it is just nice to not have to rush to the store. We aren’t up to two years food storage completely, but we are getting there. This summer, I have been grocery shopping two times…yes, two. One time was because we were hosting a BBQ at our house for Independence Day.
After McKenna was born, we similarly didn’t go shopping for quite some time.
Now, I currently have a garden bringing in produce and we have a dairy deliver our milk, so our fresh products are covered. It is great to not have to worry about going to the grocery store if I don’t have time!
So food storage isn’t just for huge emergencies like losing a job or having a natural disaster. It can also be just to lift a burden when life gets hectic.
Another benefit to food storage is that you can save money overall on your grocery bill. More on that later.
HOW MUCH FOOD SHOULD I STORE?
Exactly how long of a storage you have built up will depend on how much space you have available to you for storing food. Some housing in some parts of the world simply does not allow for an extensive food storage (like small apartments). When we first got married, we lived in a tiny apartment. Fitting one weeks worth of food in that place was a challenge. So evaluate and do what you can. Get creative with space. Don’t forget space under beds!
If space is of no limit to you, then your first goal should be a 3 month supply. I would guess most people can handle a three month supply space wise if they put some effort into it. But you have to realize that the way you cook will impact how much space you need. If your meals all consist of processed foods, that will require much more space than if you create meals mostly from scratch (ingredients). More on that next.
Once you have the three month supply, increase your goal. Our goal is two years for items that will keep very long-term (like hard wheat). Other things we have as a one year goal. Set your goal for what you can do–space-wise and money wise.
Oh, and I am aware that in some places, building up a food storage supply is not legal. If that is the case for you, don’t do it.
WHAT KIND OF FOOD SHOULD I STORE?
Some people say you should store only foods your family eats. They say to make a list of your regular meals and store what you need to make those meals.
Others say to store ingredients, like hard wheat. They point out it is easier to fit three months worth of wheat in your house than three months worth of bread in your freezer. This is a point to consider.
I take the stance of somewhere in between. First of all, I never used to cook with hard wheat. But considering space matters and the longevity of wheat (it can last up to 40 years if stored correctly), I thought it would be a good idea to make it part of our life. I have two years worth of wheat in storage for my family.
When it comes to vegetables, I much prefer fresh veggies, and following that is frozen. I like the taste of frozen better than canned because I don’t like salt. But frozen green beans do not last as long as canned green beans, so I plan to can and store some green beans so we have those if needed. I will be doing that with various vegetables over the years. Another issue with frozen veggies is that if your freezer dies, so do the frozen foods. You can’t put all of your eggs in one basket, so to speak.
A trick to food storage is keeping it rotated and not letting it go bad. So you can have a good supply of something like peanut butter, cereal…whatever that you regularly eat and just rotate through it. Those would be foods that don’t last that long.
But then you have your foods that can last quite a long time that you might not normally use. Back to my hard red wheat. We don’t use that daily. It lasts 40 years and I see no reason to need to rush through it. If we get in a situation where it is wheat or starve, I am sure wheat will be just fine to us. But I try to have some regular use so it isn’t such a shock and so our our systems don’t go too wacky with the sudden introduction of wheat to the diet (not pretty).
As you store food, try to make sure you have a meal out of it. A couple of years ago I loaded up on the past. I had spaghetti and macaroni coming out of my ears! Then a few months later a friend was talking about canning spaghetti sauce and it hit me; I had all of this pasta and nothing to eat it with! Sure, pasta is better than no food, but if the Israelites can get sick of Manna, we can get sick of plain pasta. So try to cover condiments that will make meals more enjoyable for the family.
HOW QUICKLY SHOULD I BUILD THIS SUPPLY?
Do what you can. Don’t go into debt for food storage; that is quite counter-productive. Set some manageable goals for yourself.
HOW CAN I BUILD A SUPPLY EASILY?
This is what I do.
First, I have a list of recommended amounts of food per person in the family. There are some large categories (sugars, milks, grains, etc.) and I try to build things up in there over time. Around here we have canneries and dry packs where we can go get food, but I have also seen the same things at our grocery store. Think bulk (you know, like Costco or Sam’s Club). Some small local chains might also have things.
For foods your family regularly eats, I simply buy extra when it goes on sale. So when ketchup was ridiculously cheap, I tried to calculate in my head how much ketchup we go through in a year, then bought as much as I figured we would use within the expiration dates on the bottle.
Eventually, you will get to the point where you are only buying things on sale and your perishables. This leads us to…
HOW WILL I SAVE MONEY?
You will save money because you will only buy products when they are on sale for the most part. You won’t pay 2.00 a bottle for that ketchup because you bought it all back when it was .50. You aren’t buying out of need–just out of good deals!
HOW DO I CALCULATE?
This can be tricky. I will give you some estimates made by people more knowledgeable than myself on how much food you want per person in certain categories.
Then you have the hard items. How many cans of olives will your family eat in two years? I once did a survey. I created a spreadsheet and hung it in my pantry. For every box of pasta I opened, I put a tick mark in that category. For every bag of flour, tick mark. I did this for three months. Then I could multiply by 12 and see what we might use in a year’s time.
This isn’t perfect, though. There are several variables to consider. I cook differently in the summer than the spring. I use different ingredients. You also might be adding people to your family, and our children are growing and thus eating different amounts. You just can’t predict perfectly.
So if you do the three month survey, try to do it over two different seasons. September might be a good month to start because you would cover September, October, and November–hitting some summer, fall, and possibly winter weather. I wouldn’t do it over the dead of winter or dead of summer.
Then you can also keep track of what you buy over the years.
But you don’t have to get this OCD over it. You can take your best guess and go from there.
ONE YEAR TOTALS
Here is a list of categories plus totals for each adult. There are also ideas for foods that fit in that category. For each adult, you will need:
- Grains=300 pounds (cereal, cornmeal, flour, pancakes, muffins, oats, pastas, rice, wheat).
- Legumes/Beans=60 pounds (black beans, chili, kidney beans, lentils, pinto beans, pork n’ beans, refried beans)
- Milk/Dairy=16 pounds (evaporated milk, powdered milk, sweetened condensed milk, boxed milk)
- Sugar=60 pounds (brown sugar, corn syrup, honey, jams and jellies, jello, syrup, molasses, powdered sugar, pudding, sugar)
- Oils/Fats=25 pounds (butter, cooking oils like vegetable oil, mayonnaise, olive oil, peanut butter, salad dressing, shortening)
- Salt=8 pounds
- Meats and meat substitutes=20 pounds (canned chicken, canned tuna, canned turkey, chicken noodle soup and other meat soups, clams, spam, stew, Vienna sausages, TVP) You can also store meat in your freezer for a year (bacon, beef/roast, pork, sausage, seafood).
- Fruits=185 pounds (applesauce, dry fruit like dried apple chips or raisins, fruit cocktail, Mandarin oranges, peaches, pears, pineapple, etc.)
- Vegetables=185 pounds (beets, carrots, corn, green beans, green chilies, instant potatoes, mixed vegetables, mushrooms, onions, peas, pickles, pumpkin, salsa, spaghetti sauce, tomato paste, tomato sauce, tomatoes, yams)–vegetables can be canned, frozen, or dried.
- Cooking essentials=6 pounds (baking powder, baking soda, cocoa, vanilla, vinegar, yeast)
- Other (brownie mixes, cake mixes, casserole mixes, crackers, marshmallows, pie fillings, spices, vitamins and minerals, chocolate chips)
- Condiments (BBQ sauce, ketchup, mustard, specialty mustards)
By the way, for our kids, we just currently plan each child as half of an adult. So Brayden+Kaitlyn=one adult.
FOOD STORAGE IS DYNAMIC
A sad reality for me with food storage is that it is dynamic. There really isn’t a finish line with it. You might reach the goal, but you will likely be eating from it and deplete it down. As you can imagine, after a few months of no grocery store trips, my food supply is much lower than it was a few months ago. So it is this dynamic process. I am still trying to perfect the art of continually building it up without letting it consume my life.
HOW DO I TRACK/MANAGE MY FOOD STORAGE?
I have a spreadsheet where I can write down what I bought and how much I bought. I also add the date. This link from the Utah State University Extension site will give you ideas on managing food storage as well as spreadsheets you can use for inventory.
DON’T FORGET WATER
I think water is one of those things we take for granted. You don’t pay much attention to it until the city turns the water off for a few hours–unannounced! Then you suddenly realize how much you rely on water. Water can also be contaminated and be unavailable for several days. You don’t need a two year supply of water, but you want enough to sustain you, your animals, and anything else you might want to water, for at least three days. Many suggest a two week supply, which would be about 28 gallons per adult for drinking and washing/cleaning.
One tip with water–don’t store water containers on cement. The lime in the cement eats through the plastic. To avoid this, you can stack on shelves or packing crates. Also, do not store water in milk jugs, but two liter pop bottles are okay (yes, I said pop).
- Long-term supply guidance: http://www.providentliving.org/content/list/0,11664,7448-1,00.html
- Food Storage Info–CHECK THIS OUT: http://extension.usu.edu/htm/publications/by=category/category=157
- Food Storage Info from Shelf Reliance: http://www.shelfreliance.com/c/university/categories/Food%20Storage
- Food Storage Made Easy blog: http://foodstoragemadeeasy.net/
- Everyday Food Storage blog: http://everydayfoodstorage.net/
- The Pantry Panel blog (complete with extensive lists on food storage blogs and websites): http://mormonfoodstorage.blogspot.com/
Whew! I am tired! Are you tired? That is a lot of info.
If you have any fabulous food storage tips, please share. If you have any questions, ask away.
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