Food Storage: Basics You MUST Have to Start Your Food Storage Plan Off Right
About four years ago, my husband and I read William Forstchen's novel, One Second After. It was recommended to us by one of our neighbors, and boy, was it eye-opening! Not being preppers at the time, we really hadn't given much thought to any kind of emergency preparedness beyond the typical flood or heavy snow. But this terrifyingly realistic fictional account about what a family experiences after the grid goes down due to an EMP (Electro-magnetic Pulse) made us sit up and take notice---and our preparedness journey began!
For the record, William Forstchen is not some kook. He has worked in Federal Government agencies that deal with this topic and has extensive knowledge. The introduction was written by Newt Gingrich who discusses (among other things) the fact that the electronics grid in our country has not been "hardened off" adequately since the years of Ronald Reagan in the early 1980's. Frightening stuff, especially after reading One Second After and obtaining a glimmer of understanding of the potential ramifications of this kind of catastrophe.
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After reading One Second After together, my husband and I began our prepping education in earnest. Like most people, we decided to start with food. Well, I guess I decided to start with food. My husband, like many men, was more in tune with our defense. So my personal big questions became: How do you start preparing for emergency food storage? What kinds of foods should you have? How do you know when you have enough? Do you ever have enough?
So, I wrote this article with the complete beginner in mind. But even if you already have food storage going on, I recommend taking a look because I have found that everyone's opinions differ. It's a really good idea to have a broad view of the topic, then make your own decisions.
Things to Take into Account Before You Start Your Food Storage
Assume the Worst
Deciding what foods to store away for a crisis is really not a simple decision. Since you don't know what kind of emergency you're storing food for, you really need to assume the worst case scenario: That you won't be able to go to the store for anything. I could go into all the potential things that could create this kind of situation, but that's for a different article.
Think About the Foods You Will Actually Use
Having good food storage is not about buying cases of Doritos or any other processed foods. In fact, those types of foods don't store well and have a relatively short shelf life. Also, the packaging is terrible and attracts bugs and rodents.
Therefore, you want to give some thought to the foods that will have a relatively long shelf life that you can truly find useful in making meals for your family.
Plan to Not Have a Working Refrigerator or Freezer
Many people freeze foods and consider that type of food preservation food storage...however, for preparedness, freezing your foods may not work for long. In the event of a power outage or the grid being completely down for any length of time, you really need to think about having foods on hand that don't require refrigeration.
Choose Food Items Well
You want to keep foods on hand that will provide the maximum calories and nutrition for the space they are taking up. You should also consider usefulness: Can you use the food item in a variety of different ways?
What are Must-Have Foods for Your Emergency Storage?
Here's My Basic Start Up List:
**Note: I'm not going to give you specific amounts, because you'll need to think about how many people you are storing food for. Obviously, the needs for a family of five will be different than those for a small family of two. It also depends on the time frame you have in mind for your food storage. Are you storing for three days? Six months? A year? Now on to that list!
Choose vegetables such as tomatoes, corn, green beans, etc. that can be used in simple recipes. Canned vegetables will also contain nutrients you need. The liquid can be used for cooking too, and it will retain those nutrients!
Especially if you have children, keeping canned fruits helps out for the happiness factor. Like canned vegetables, canned fruits will also contain healthy nutrients.
Stockpiling canned meats is SUPER important because you may find that good sources of protein necessary for sustained energy might be hard to come by. Tuna, salmon, chicken, anchovies, and others are good choices. Notice, I left out SPAM (YUCK), but even that or Vienna Sausages would be useful.
Dried Veggies & Fruits
We have an Excalibur Dehydrator, and all summer it's going, dehydrating vegetables, herbs, and fruit for later use. If you run across vegetables & fruits on sale at the store, you can grab some up and dehydrate those if you don't have your own garden! It's a great thing to see rows of dehydrated foods lined up in Mason jars. Using dehydrated foods is also a great way to have access to foods out of season too! The initial expense seems kind of high, but this is one expense I have never once regretted.
If you don't dehydrate your own foods, you can buy freeze dried foods too! Or check with Deseret Industries--they have locations where you can purchase large No. 10 cans of dehydrated foods, including potatoes, carrots, celery, onions, and more for really GREAT prices. I think they ship, too!
Other options include raisins, cranberries, prunes, apricots, and lots more!
One item you'll need if storing dehydrated food in Mason jars like I do is Oxygen Absorbers. These actually help seal the jar as the oxygen gets absorbed!
Jerkeys, meat protein bars, meat sticks, summer sausages, etc. are additional ways of storing meat for that all important protein source.
I haven't tried this, but I have heard you can toss jerkys and other dried meats into stews or other liquids you are cooking to help flavor the meal and soften it up too!
Here's one of my most favorite snacks, and I try to keep these in our store room: Epic Bars! They come in lots of flavors, and you can get them on Amazon for much less than in the stores.
You should keep several containers of dried beans on hand. You can get all fancy with your beans, but your basic Pinto beans are really inexpensive and delicious too!
**If you don't want to keep dry beans for whatever reason (like if you don't like or know how to cook them), canned beans are also great---just keep in mind they'll take up a LOT more space.
I'll have an article soon about how to cook dried beans perfectly!
Many families on a strict budget do quite well eating beans and rice! Together they are supposed to make a complete protein source, too. Regardless, rice is one of those items you can add to just about anything, change it up with spices, and make some really great creations!
White rice stores best, but brown rice provides more nutritional value. I decided to keep both on hand, and I mix them. It always turns out great!
Yummy pasta! Pasta lasts a long time if stored properly, and like rice, it can be cooked in many ways to change up your diet. Just make some easy sauce using some of those canned tomatoes, spices, and maybe some of that jerkey---You've got a pretty tasty meal!
I have whole red and white wheat stored away from Deseret--lots of it. But when I started giving it some thought, I realized I would need something to grind it with. What if the power is out? So, I purchased an inexpensive hand grinder from Amazon.
If you don't want to store whole grains, you can store flour too. However, flour degrades faster than whole grains. Just some things to keep in mind.
Other grains you should store include rolled oats and quinoa (really a seed, but treated like a grain).
I'm just going to lump these all together in this category. Be sure you have plenty of baking soda, baking powder, salt for baking, yeast (keep the expiration date in mind), on hand!
I gave powdered milk its own section because it serves so many purposes. Although it doesn't taste that great, you can certainly drink it, add it to your oatmeal, and also use it to bake with.
Spices can make a bland meal taste gourmet! You can buy bulk spices at Costco, Amazon, or Starwest Botanicals (highest quality). Here are some spices to always have: Chili Powder, Smoked Paprika, Oregano, Thyme, Rosemary, Garlic, Onion, Cayenne, Turmeric, Curry, Jerk seasoning, and so many more. Don't forget Salt and Pepper!
Bouillon granules are also great to keep on hand. We store broth, but in case you run out or don't have any, you can make some great broth with a little chicken or beef bouillon.
Honey is best--especially if it local and raw. It lasts a long time, and can also be used medicinally. Also consider cane sugar. You can purchase large No. 10 cans from Deseret, too, so it will last up to 30 years! Those are the two best basics, but you might also want Molasses, as well as Maple Syrup (although it needs refrigeration once opened).
You can make your own with flour, baking soda, etc., however, if you have large bulk boxes of pancake mix, it makes life a little easier.
Keep in mind the rancidity factor, and be sure to rotate your oils. I store organic olive oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil, just in case.
Seeds & Nuts
You can't go wrong with powdered peanut butter! It's now available at Costco too! Nuts are GREAT to have on hand, but like the oils, you need to be sure to rotate because their shelf life is not that great. Sunflower seeds, flax seed, chia seed, and hemp seed and more are also great if you are into health and want to be sure you have the extra nutritional value. All these will go rancid, though, so just be aware of that.
Coffee and/or Tea
There are some people who just have to have their coffee! And tea! (Ahem.) So, I make sure we are always stocked up. I'm not a fan of tea bags, but if you don't want to deal with loose leaf herbs, then tea bags are a way to keep your tea. You'll need to plan for a good rotation cycle to avoid it going stale.
Nutritional Yeast is a GREAT cheese substitute, tastes really good, and is chock-full of nutrition, especially B vitamins. It's already dried, and will last a good long time!
Even if you don't drink, alcohol is a good food item to have on hand. If you learn to make tinctures, you'll be needing alcohol. If you have a person in pain from an injury, a little dose can really help. Alcohol is also an excellent barter item (as is coffee).
Final Thoughts About Beginning Your Food Storage Journey
Obviously, if you are like most people, you are not going to be able to run out and buy everything all at once. It just isn't affordable for most people. But you'd be surprised at how quickly you can get a good little stockpile of food items stored up with just a few dollars and some planning each week.
This list is certainly not comprehensive either. You could consider adding fermented foods (if you have a cold room) and many other items not mentioned. You'll start figuring it all out once you get going.
You know what's really become a great thing about our food storage? We are so far from town that if we run out of something, we can't just run to the store. It's truly a blessing to have a "store" in our own home! :-)
If you are interested in learning about fermenting foods for storage (in a coolish place), take a look at: How to Make Fermented Jalapeño Rings, How to Ferment Cranberries, Make Fermented Tomatoes (A Traditional Russian Recipe), How to Make Your Own Herbal Ale, and many more!
Do you store food for emergencies? How did you start, and what do you keep? I'd love to know your thoughts!
Hugs & Self-Reliance,
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