There is so much to be considered when it comes to food storage that it can stop a person in their tracks. Even the thought of trying to explain the process in one blog post is daunting, but I will do my best. Start with your notebook, and a budgeted amount for storage foods. I mentioned the notebook in another post. I have mine broken down into sections, one if which is food. There I have my needs broken down further by the place I will buy them. How did I calculate the amount of food I need? Good question. There are plenty of websites out there with static charts, and even some that will calculate based on age and number of people, how much food you need for a given period of time. I recommend the various food guides put out by the LDS church as a simple place to start- see the 3 month list specifically. Finally- and don’t worry about this now- I have a spreadsheet that has monthly goals in it based on my budget and including my entire shopping list for the year. For example, January’s needs might consist of a bucket of dried soup mix from Costco, a cash allowance for “the mattress”, and extra filters for the Big Berke. You can just lay this out on paper, by month, once you have an idea of your budget and what your priorities are.
Understanding Storage Foods
First, storage foods come in different forms- there are foods from the grocery store- both canned and dry, then bulk food- larger amounts of things such as rice and beans, then foods specifically designed for storage- sealed buckets, bags of freeze dried or dehydrated food, and MRE’s. The obvious benefit with this category is the ability to tear open a package and eat, or only needing hot water for the meal. Then comes seeds and gardening, storage of foods you’ve grown, and drying and canning. There are recipes for cooking stored foods to consider. Storage food recipes can be very different from typical recipes for fresh foods. And how will you cook you foods? I recommend starting simple- canned goods, one pot foods such as pasta, oatmeal, or rice. As you expand to more complex dishes you will need more ingredients and the means for cooking them. Don’t forget to consider the amount of water you will need to cook, and clean up afterwards. Last there is the question of where and how to store your foods. I store canned goods in their original, flat boxes. I use 5 gallon food grade buckets with Gamma Seal lids for bulk items such as rice, flour, and sugar. The buckets sit on the basement floor, everything else is on wire shelving.
There are a few basic rules that should be applied when stocking your pantry. First, buy foods you usually eat- don’t plan on trying new foods or new recipes when you are in a less than optimal situation. And don’t purchase foods just because they are a good deal- don’t buy 50 pounds of inexpensive, dried parsley unless you really like dried parsley. As part of your preparation you need to cook with the foods you are buying, especially if you are buying bulk dried beans for example, and have never cooked them before. All stored foods should be dated and rotated out as you purchase newer goods. Remember the first rule- buy foods you usually eat- this is how you keep your pantry fresh.
Buying Food For Storage
The simplest way to start your preparedness pantry is to purchase extra, non-perishable foods the next time you go to the grocery store. Look for canned foods that are on sale- this is one way to move yourself along with your purchasing. Do your regular shopping, but if you spot something you normally use and it is on sale, add it to the pantry. You can use this method to supplement any lists you have come up with.
If you have a Costco membership you have a great resource for large packages, canned goods, and bulk items. They offer plenty of storage foods online as well, 5 and 6 gallon buckets of everything from dried beans or vegetables, to pallets full of buckets to keep a family fed for a year or more. Most of these have a 20 or 25 year shelf life. Be careful though, make sure you try the meals you buy before you invest in multiple buckets, or a pallet full. Read the ingredients list for the bulk items or meals you are considering, especially if you are dealing with allergies or a limited diet. Many storage foods are relatively healthy, but many contain preservatives, or excessive sugar or salt. Read the reviews on the foods as well- there are usually plenty of them.
Having a supply of food on hand for an emergency just makes sense. Don’t wait till something happens to start planning and preparing- do it now. Any advanced preparation you make will be helpful, if not essential to survival some day. Even if you don’t have time to make a detailed plan, a budget, or shopping list today, at least start stocking up. When “it” happens (fill in the blank yourself for the “it”), you don’t want to be standing in a breadline, or searching grocery store shelves only to find them empty. We’ve all seen plenty of images of these unfortunate people in recent months and years- make sure you don’t become one of them.