Emergency Preparedness Part One: Food Storage
Those of you who aren’t too caught up in the trivialities of life or Hollywood, and are actually paying attention to what is going on in our economy (and no, mainstream news and Associated Press articles do NOT count) are hopefully coming to the realization that we are on a one way course into disaster with no U-turns in sight.
More and more and more people are beginning to wake up and realize that things could get really ugly, really quickly, and they are starting to think about what they can do now to get prepared. I have found myself answering a lot of questions and lending a lot of advice to those considering food storage, and I am encouraged to know that so many others are getting their houses in order. The more people who can feed themselves, the better off we’ll all be.
You don’t know how I pray that nothing disastrous happens in our country. I fear mostly for my children’s sakes. I can only hope that somehow we are able to dodge this bullet called hyperinflation (or worse) and still maintain the country we know and love. And even though I truly pray that the Lord will deliver His children from this crazy world before it implodes, I just can’t help but think we’re gonna have to ride out this wave for a while. I truly believe it is He who is warning us to get prepared.
Since it seems I’ve been giving out a lot of the same advice and information to those who are asking (and maybe even loved ones who aren’t asking), I thought it would just be best if I wrote an entire series on the subject for everyone to read, and you can ask me any other questions you may have as we go. I’ll have to write in several parts, as there is a lot to cover, and I will probably miss some stuff but will do my best to be thorough.
Today, we’ll talk about Food Storage.
What do I need to survive a long term emergency situation?
A Year’s Supply of Food. This means enough shelf stable food to sustain every member of your family for an entire year. And it can’t be just rice and beans. You’ll need, and appreciate, a nice variety!
(Read my post on The Easiest Way To Build Food Storage On A Budget)
Here are some things you’ll want to stockpile:
Wheat (Wheat Berries)- Flour will go rancid after a few months; wheat berries store for decades. You will need a wheat grinder to turn these into flour; I’d recommend a hand grinder in case you are without electricity. (We have a Wonder Junior Deluxe Hand Mill, you can check out my review of it HERE.) I’d also recommend storing Soft White Wheat (or pastry wheat) for making pancakes, quick breads, and other breads that don’t need yeast; you could use hard wheat for these, but pastry wheat is cheaper. You’ll also need Hard Red Wheat and Hard White Wheat for making loafs of bread and other recipes which do call for yeast. Hard Red Wheat has a bolder flavor, and makes a denser loaf. Some people prefer using Hard White Wheat, as it gives a milder flavor and softer loaf. And yet others recommend mixing the two for a good balance, which is what I am doing.
Beans and Lentils- Cheap and very nutritious! An important source of fiber, protein, carbs, iron, and vitamin B. Store a variety: Pintos, Black Beans, White Beans, Navy Beans, etc.
Rice- Although Brown Rice is better for you, it will go rancid quickly. White Rice will store for 30+ years, and makes a great filler in many recipes.
Rolled Oats- Not only for oatmeal, but also for cookies, breads, meatloaf, etc. Store Quick Oats and/or Old Fashioned Oats, depending on which recipes you plan on using.
Dried Corn- For grinding into cornmeal. If you don’t use cornmeal normally though, this isn’t really a necessity. I hardly ever make cornbread, or use corn tortillas, so we probably won’t store much of this.
Sugar- A major staple!! Especially if you want to be canning jellies, jams and preserves, and stuff like that when they come into season. Also, you should store some sort of drink mix or tea bags, just to break up the monotony, and you’ll definitely want a sweetener for those. (Plus, you do not wanna live with me when I’ve been without sweets for too long.)
Pasta- Another cheap and filling staple. Store Macaroni, Spaghetti, Lasagna, ABC shapes for the kids, etc. Don’t forget to print out this recipe for homemade noodles as well, just in case you run out. Cheese is expensive, but if you can store up some cheese powder and/or dehydrated cheeses, that would be nice in pasta dishes. Don’t forget spaghetti sauce! You can make your own from canned tomatoes and spices. Find a good recipe to plan on using. Ingredients to make Stroganoff and Alfredo sauce would also be a nice way to mix it up.
Powdered Milk- For drinking, and for using in recipes. THRIVE powdered milk is the absolute BEST for drinking and for cooking with. You won’t find any other powdered milk that tastes as good as this does.
Honey- For recipes. Also good for sore throats and coughs.
Vegetable and Olive Oil- For baking breads, homemade salad dressing, frying foods, etc. If you prefer a different type of cooking oil, then substitute that instead.
Salt- Not only for flavoring foods. It is important to store Iodized salt, along with any other type of salt your family uses (ie: Kosher, Sea Salt, Canning salt). Iodized salt contains Iodine, which is an essential trace mineral our bodies need to stay in good health. It can also be used for preserving meat.
Yeast- Don’t forget to store this for baking breads.
Baking Soda- not only for cooking, but cleaning as well.
Spices and Condiments- Look through the recipes you plan on cooking from your food storage to see what spices you’ll need. Learn how to make your own Ketchup, Mayonnaise, Salad Dressings, etc from these spices and other ingredients, or stock up on your favorite condiments.
(Read my post on Food Storage, Bulk Spices, and My Must Haves for a list of all of the spices I recommend storing.)
Canned and Freeze Dried Fruits and Vegetables- Even if you plan on having a garden, you can’t depend on it giving you enough food to last an entire year. Store up foods your family normally eats. We eat a lot of green beans, carrots, corn, potatoes, and peas, so that’s mostly what we’ve got stored. I’ve also got tomato sauce, paste, whole and diced tomatoes for using in recipes. The same goes for fruits; applesauce, mandarin oranges, peach slices, pineapple bits, and fruit cocktail are among our cans. Don’t forget the jams and jellies, and pie fillings!
You can get fruits and vegetables freeze dried or dehydrated, though freeze dried foods last much longer.
Canned and Freeze Dried Meats- Although we plan on having our own chickens and other small animals to butcher, along with hunting for wild game, we know we won’t be able to depend on these options always being available. Buy chicken, beef (you can even can ground beef!), and other meats you eat a lot of and can them yourself, or buy already canned meats. Tuna is another good thing to store, if your family likes it.
Freeze dried meats are surprisingly delicious, and super easy to toss into your favorite dishes just as you would fresh meat. TVP (textured vegetable protein) is also a cheap, high protein (soy based) meat alternative which is also incredibly tasty.
Dried Potatoes- Could come in the form of instant potatoes, freeze dried, potato flakes, etc.
Dried Onions- Dehydrated or freeze dried slices, diced, minced, whatever.
Vinegar- White and Apple Cider; for cooking, medicinal remedies, and disinfecting/cleaning.
Coconut Oil- for baking (and soap).
Chocolate or Cocoa- for sanity.
Molasses- for baking, making brown sugar, etc.
Lemon Juice- for cooking, dehydrating and canning.
Peanut Butter- if you like it. We eat a LOT of peanut butter around here.
Cream Soups- Cream of Chicken, Cream of Celery, Cream of Mushroom; for recipes.
Cheese Powder- or dehydrated cheeses; for recipes
Powdered Eggs- Even if you have laying hens, it wouldn’t hurt to have some of this stored up. You’ll need eggs in a lot of recipes.
Popcorn Kernels- just for fun.
Powdered Drink Mix or Tea Bags- You can order different flavors of powdered drink mix in bulk, or get them from a restaurant supply store. We drink a lot of sweet tea, so we have gallon tea bags stored up.
Coffee- If you are a coffee drinker, and even if you’re not, this would be good to have on hand. You might need that extra boost of caffeine. I’d suggest storing coffee beans instead of already ground coffee. Again, a good hand cranked wheat mill will do a great job of grinding coffee beans.
Pectin- For canning.
Once you have enough of these basic staples stocked up, you can think about other treats for your food storage. Some people like having dessert mixes, hot chocolate, pancake mix (like Bisquick), and other convenience foods on hand. I’d say definitely spend your money on more substantial foods before splurging on these things.
How much of all of this food do I need?
Fill in the number of people in your home on this spreadsheet, and it will calculate how much food storage you need. You should also go through your recipes and make a plan as to which ones you’d use from your food storage, then calculate how often you’d plan on cooking that meal per month. This will tell you how much of these ingredients you’ll need as well.
How do I store all of these foods?
It is extremely important that you store your foods properly. Nothing would be worse than to open a bucket of grains to find it crawling with Weevils, or to find that a mouse has been enjoying your stockpiles before you could! Take a few extra steps to ensure that your food will still be good when you are ready for it. Many of these things can store practically indefinitely if well protected.
Buckets- When looking for a bucket to store your grains in, you need to make sure that you use a food grade plastic bucket. You can’t just run to the hardware store and buy buckets. On the bottom of a food grade bucket will be an HDPE, with a number two within a triangle of arrows. I’ve read that the colored buckets, even if they have the #2 on them, are not safe. If you wanna be safe, get white buckets.
You can find these for free, or sometimes for a small price, at your local bakery. Just ask for icing buckets with a lid. Size doesn’t really matter. Gratefully take any and all they offer you! You can also order them online, but they are pricey. Gamma Seal lids are awesome, but again, are pretty expensive.
#10 cans- You can buy some food items already packed in #10 cans, which are about 3/4 gallon; these will already be prepared for long term storage. If you have a cannery in your area you can buy bulk foods and can them yourself using their equipment. Packing #10 cans yourself is definitely the cheaper of the two options.
Mylar Bags- Some people seal their food in mylar bags before putting them in a bucket. Although it isn’t necessary, it is an added protective measure. Personally, I feel safe enough with just a well sealed bucket. You can buy these online and at survival stores.
Oxygen Absorbers- You’ll need to put these absorbers in your buckets, and #10 cans if you are filling them yourself, along with the food you’ll be storing. They will absorb all of the oxygen in your container, killing any bug eggs that might be ready to hatch out in your foods. Make sure that the container you will be putting these in is airtight.
As soon as you open the sealed bag of absorbers, they will begin working. You have about 10 minutes to get them into a bucket and sealed before they start losing their potency. If you will not be using them all, store the extra oxygen absorbers in a small glass jar tightly sealed until ready to use again. They will lose a little bit of strength since they will have absorbed the oxygen in the jar, but not much.
Oxygen absorbers come in different sizes; 100 CC, 300 CC, 500 CC and 2000 CC. It is recommended to use one 500 CC absorber per #10 can. A 5-6 gallon buckets needs two-three 500 CC absorbers. You can get these online, at survival stores, and cheapest at LDS canneries.
Diatomaceous Earth (DE)- A naturally occurring substance, safe for consumption as long as it is “food grade” DE, and not what you will find in swimming pool supplies. Mix one cup of DE into every 40 lbs of grains and legumes; approx. 1 cup per 5 gallon bucket. Do this in small batches to ensure that every kernel is covered in the powder. Use a mask when mixing to avoid inhaling this product. You might wanna protect your eyes as well. You can order this online, some garden centers and feed stores also carry DE. Read the ingredients on the bag before buying to make sure that other chemical insecticides have not been added.
Iodized Salt- Add 1 cup of salt to a container of pasta to keep weevils out. You won’t be wasting the salt, ’cause it will still be usable when the pasta is gone.
Where do I store all of this food?
Consider converting a large closet into a storage pantry.
Build more shelves in existing closets, as high as it will go. Clean out unnecessary accessories, gadgets, and kitchen tools you never use from your cabinets, and use that space for food storage.
Raise every bed in your home to accommodate small buckets.
Stack large buckets in every corner of every closet, as much as possible. If you have a garage, basement, or root cellar, you are very fortunate!! Use this space to the best of its capacity! Make sure you take preventative measures in protecting your food from water damage in flood prone areas. Just keep in mind that the food needs to stay relatively cool. Hot, humid places should be avoided.
Make sure that you are using the more perishable items in rotation, paying attention to expiration dates. Some things will only last for a year no matter how well they are stored. Use these foods in your every day cooking, and replace them as you go.
Phew! Well, I think that covers that. Did I miss anything? Obviously, water needs to be stored, but that will have to be an entirely different post.
Hopefully that will help you get started, or motivate you to finish storing up your year’s supply. If you have any questions, I will do my best to answer them for you.
*Since writing this post, I have become a consultant for Shelf Reliance, a top quality distributor of long term food storage and emergency supplies. If you are interested in purchasing any of these products at an up to 30% off discount, send me an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll be happy to get you hooked up with my savings!
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