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Food Preparedness is for People Who Wear Tinfoil Hats, Right?
Why don’t more people have a food storage for emergency preparedness? I’ve often asked myself this. Really, it comes down to many factors. Some people don’t think they can afford it (they are living paycheck to paycheck). Others think it’s too complicated; how much should I store, how do I store it properly, what types of food should I store? And yet others think they don’t really need to have a food storage, that’s for weirdos. Wherever you fall among these people I’m here to tell you food storage is absolutely necessary and it’s easier than you think. Even if you’re on a budget.
Why People Don’t Food Prep & Why You Should
I honestly feel like the reason people don’t food prep is because they really don’t want to face up to the fact that one day their life might completely change. I mean who really wants to accept the idea that everything they hold dear could be taken away in an instant. Whether it be because of a natural or man-made disaster, loss of job, or some other catastrophe. It’s not something many of us want to even think about. The problem is usually not if something like that could happen. It’s a matter of when. This is why I think everyone should have some type of food storage.
During the recession of 2008, my brother lost his job. A job he thought would always be there. Thank goodness my brother had back up plans and a good food storage to rely on if needed. It’s honestly like having an insurance plan. So why the stigma surrounding people who practice emergency preparedness? People don’t look down on others for having life, disability, or flood insurance. Food storage should be treated exactly the same. So how do you start?
What Food Should I Store?
There are many different methods for storing food. Just as there are many different types of food that are good for storing. So what should you store? Well, that actually does depend on you. You have two factors to take into consideration.
1. What kind of foods will my family eat?
The number one motto of most people who prep is, “eat what you store and store what you eat”. The reason for this is so you will not waste money on food storage. I have heard way too many stories of people spending thousands of dollars on food for storage, putting it in the basement or garage, and never touching it. Then 10 years later they finally check on it only to discover that most of it has gone bad or been affected by vermin or the elements. Then there are those who buy a ton of canned food, store it away, and then find out years later that it is all expired. Food rotation is your friend. This is why we eat what we store.
Think about if you were in an emergency situation and the grocery store supply lines were interrupted for months. Would your family be happy living off of beans and rice for an unknown length of time? Don’t think that could happen? Think New Orleans after Katrina or more recently Puerto Rico. This is why you should start by making a list of the types of foods your family likes to eat that you can easily store. Morale is important so don’t forget the chocolate.
2. What Foods Are Good to Store?
There is a list below that gives the basic foods that are storable and their general storage time if done properly. But the best foods to store are freeze-dried, dehydrated, frozen, and canned. When you’re practicing food rotation the length a food can be stored becomes less of an issue. Basically, you want to purchase larger amounts of food, put the oldest in the front of your shelves and use them first. Keep an inventory of your food stocks with dates clearly marked on your containers. Every time you use an item mark it off the inventory and that way you will know what you need to purchase.
Great foods to store beside the basics:
- Wheat Berries (to grind your own flour)
- Freeze dried fruits and veggies
- potato flakes or beads
- canned soups and vegetables
- jams and jellies
- peanut butter
- bone broths (canned)
- frozen meats (if you’re doing rotation, freezer burn shouldn’t be an issue)
- vacuum sealed dehydrated produce
- herbs and spices
Some foods NOT to store over 6 months:
- Nut oils
- Crackers or cookies
- FLOUR (unless you have a large family and bake a lot)
How to Store Your Food Preps
So you gather all your food, put it in some buckets, and put in the garage right? Wrong! Food storage should not be pursued with the set it and forget it mentality. That’s a recipe for disaster. In my article, “Prepping For Emergencies a Natural Part of Homesteading” I talk about the enemies of food storage. If these rules aren’t followed you run the risk of losing all your food storage and wasting not only your food but your money as well.
The enemies of food storage:
- Heat (drastic temperature change)
Bulk items like rice, oats, sugar, salt, etc… store well in food-grade 5-gallon buckets in a mylar bag that has oxygen absorbers and has been heat sealed. Here’s a great video to show you how to properly store your bulk foods. Guildbrook farm is a great resource for learning about starting a food storage pantry. I love their videos!
With bulk food stored this way you can store in a garage or basement if there is temperature control, no risk of moisture, the food won’t be exposed to excessive daylight, and no access for pests. That being said, I recommend that if you have space it’s best to store your food preps in your pantry or even in spare closets of your home, or under the bed. I know that might seem silly, but you really should think of food preparedness like an investment. Having easy access to your food storage also makes it more likely that you will practice proper rotation.
Other foods like freeze-dried, canned, or frozen can last a while if still sealed. If you are purchasing from a food storage company they usually have a time products will last listed on the label. It will most likely give a recommended storage length for unopened and also for when you open. Once open, most freeze-dried foods will succumb to moisture and will only last on the shelf for a year. With home canned food there is a continual argument about how long food will last if properly sealed. Read my article about canning safety to give you a good idea.
But How Can I afford it?
Many people are able to buy a year’s supply of food from food storage companies like Valley Food Storage or Emergency Essentials. And for some, this is not an affordable option. The links I provided are of both company’s monthly plans and can be more affordable. But for those of us who know what it means to only be able to afford the basics of life, this can still be a hardship. To that I say, there is another way.
Here are some possibilities for those on a tighter income:
- Case lot sales: I have heard of these from people who live in other areas (never heard of it in the PNW). It’s when a store deeply discounts certain canned foods if you buy them by the case. This is a great way to stock up on basic canned foods that your family uses. It can be extremely cost-effective.
- Buying from discount food stores: We have a chain of grocery stores called the “Grocery Outlet”. They sell overstock items from big chain grocers at very low prices and you’d be surprised at what you can find at some of these stores. We also have Winco and I’ve heard Aldi’s is also a great discount food store. These type of stores make it easier to stock up on items. Some have amazing bulk food sections where you can buy 20lb bags of beans and other staples for very cheap.
- Restaurant supply stores: You have to be very picky about what you buy from these stores as it can get spendy really quick. But I have found that they have great prices on big bags of staple items.
- The Gleaners: Check out your area for a gleaners. This is a place where you can volunteer time and earn the ability to get produce and other items for free. The gleaners receive slightly damaged produce and other items from grocery stores or the remnants of farmers crops that were left after harvest. The food is still good to eat and can be canned or dehydrated to preserve it. Anyone can use the gleaners as long as they volunteer some time. Some gleaners have a small yearly membership fee. It’s a great option for supplementing your food stocks, it also cuts down on food waste.
- Growing your own food: You knew I was going to mention it because honestly, it’s my job. I will always recommend that families start their own garden. It truly is one of the best ways to become food independent.
Start Simple and Have a Plan
Whatever foods you decide are best for your family food preparedness, start small and keep it simple. Make a list and everytime you go to the store get one type of item for your food storage. Before you know it you’ll be stashing canned food under your bed. Just remember this is another type of insurance plan for your family. And it’s absolutely never too late to start preparing today for emergencies. The only time it’s too late to start preparing is tomorrow.