Food Storage - How to Begin
Wouldn’t it be nice to have so much food stored that you could eat comfortably for weeks or even months without going to the store or spending money? Farm families from generations past used to do that all the time. They managed it by growing food, preserving food, and storing food. It was a lot of hard work! So, we aren’t going to really get into how hard they had to work. We are just going to consider how they managed it. This would be your ‘Bug In’ infrastructure where you get to stay in your home as opposed to a ‘Bug Out’ scenario where you actually have to leave your home. Surviving at home is much easier and more likely than actually leaving home so this is the place to begin prepping. In planning home food storage you are making a very real effort to provide for the needs of your family in everyday life and in case of an emergency situation where food is not readily available or your budget has taken a cut. A word of caution here is that you do not want to go out and start spending money without a plan. You will wind up with a lot of food that no one likes, no real meals planned, and hardly any better off than if you had spent the money on a night at the movies!
To begin ask yourself, ‘How did farm families manage their ‘bug in’ food storage?’
They counted how many meals they had to eat from harvest to harvest.
They counted how many people had to eat at each meal.
They took into account how much food was needed per meal.
They looked at the food supply that was available.
They canned or dried enough food for the number of meals they needed. They put up as much as they needed with as much extra as was possible. (My grandmother explained all this to me. She even counted how many jars of fruit she needed for desserts from harvest to harvest.)
Today a prepper has the option of setting a modest goal for food storage. Let’s say you are starting with the goal of having an uninterrupted supply of food for four weeks. Begin your food storage project by taking a week or more paying careful attention to the meals you do eat at home. If you happen to notice that you use a jar of spaghetti sauce two times a week then you would need to have eight jars of sauce stored in the pantry. I use spaghetti sauce instead of tomato sauce or ketchup. I even use it in chili and taco meat. You may not use it all. The point is to notice every single item necessary to make the meals you and your family eat on a consistent basis. Then you need to count up enough of all ingredients to last a month.
You also need to consider that you may be eating more meals at home. Unfortunately there may be at least some time that you don’t have electricity. To be on the safe side you need to have four weeks of canned food! It needs to be canned food that you actually eat now.
Breakfast items are easy in that you can use cereal, instant oats, pop tarts, and other things that are not expensive and really easy to prepare. They can be nutritious or empty calories. For this to work, it has to be things you eat now. You can’t store a month’s worth of healthy foods if you aren’t eating those foods now. You may begin now gradually making a shift to foods that are considered healthier. Just don’t waste your money on Healthy Choice cereals if what you eat is Lucky Charms. There is no question that the ONLY pantry that is going to help you is a working pantry. That means you are constantly using the food you have and replacing what you use.
You and your family may only use a can of salmon every couple of weeks or even once a month. If it makes a major part of a meal that everyone likes or at least tolerates it would be a good idea to have extra because that can be the main part of meal that doesn’t require refrigeration.
Let’s say that you want food for 3 meals a day and two snacks for 28 days.
Breakfast – one box of raisin bran makes ten bowls of cereal. You need 2 bowls for breakfast – so a box lasts 5 days. You need approximately 6 boxes of that cereal. Or 3 boxes of raisin bran and 3 boxes of captain crunch for variety. Milk is a potential problem unless you have a goat in your backyard that someone milks every day. Powdered milk or canned milk is a good alternative. You can actually get used to either one.
Lunch is often something as simple as tuna or peanut butter on crackers. Often people buy their lunch. There may be times when that isn’t possible so you do need to consider how many lunch meals you would need if you were unable to buy groceries for a few weeks.
Supper is normally the meal with the most variety. No one can actually give you a list of what needs to be in your pantry. You have to personalize it. Count the ingredients of your favorite meal, and try to have enough on hand to make at least eight meals just like you usually do. Then count the ingredients of you and your family’s second, third, and fourth favorite meals. Try to have enough ingredients on hand to make these meals eight times. That is your four favorite meals eight times which equals 32 meals, so you are a little ahead of your 4 weeks goal. This is also a good time to look closely at the cheapest meal your family is willing to eat. You may want to store enough ingredients to make that meal eight times first! It is simple enough when you break it down like this. If you have refrigeration you can cook a double meal for supper and use the rest for lunch the next day. My grandmother said she usually cooked a big meal at lunch and they had left overs for supper. It was approximately the same amount of food as two meals, but she only cooked once.
Snacks are necessary to most people. Your snacks can be as easy as popcorn with or without butter. Snacks can be pre-packaged or homemade. What are you eating for snacks now? Things that are handy all the time are mixes that require water as the only ingredient you need to add. If it is a snack that everyone loves a little too much you may have to store that somewhere besides the regular pantry.
Refrigerated items are more difficult of course. You can keep a four week supply of eggs if you have refrigerator room by paying careful attention to the freshness date on the carton. Butter, sour cream, and cream cheese are also things that refrigerate well over time. However, they can be expensive if you don’t actually use them.
Bread can be frozen, but it doesn’t taste as good. If you toast it tastes pretty good. Bread mixes have long shelf lives so they are an option. Pancakes make a nice bread. You don’t have to drown them in syrup. Just eat plain or with butter like you would hot biscuits out of the oven.
Cheese stores well, so can you think up any meals that have cheese as a main ingredient? Grill cheese sandwiches or cheese nachos or cheese quesadillas are options that make a reasonable meal any time of day. What kind of cheese do you like and how much do you use when making a meal? Try to keep enough on hand for at least eight meals.
Don’t forget soup mixes like baked potato soup. They have a long shelf life and can be the starting point for fancier dishes like ‘cheesy baked potato soup’, clam chowder, or chicken soup. If you use crackers at all you need at least four week supply of crackers. It is simple. How many crackers do you use in a week times 4. Crackers have a long shelf life so this is something that can be stocked for fairly long periods of time. If you prefer to make your own soups you need to have enough ingredients on hand to make at least eight meals.
If you have a cool place you can store potatoes for a month easily.
Rice, beans, quinoa, and flours of many kinds store well for months.
For me, meal planning is the beginning of food storage. Setting a goal of having four weeks of meals is a doable goal.
I suggest you group the ingredients for each meal together in your pantry. I know some ingredients will overlap with other meals. Of course refrigerator items and freezer items can’t be stored in the pantry, but you get the idea.
Remember the goal isn’t to store food that you never use.
The goal is to store food that you use all the time.
Always put your newer goods to the back of your storage area. You will automatically use the items at the front which will be your older items. That way you won’t have to worry about freshness dates being expired.
Don’t worry about sticking to my suggestions list. Do what works for you. You may want to gradually build up eight meals of all your favorite meals, or you may want to start with one meal and buy the necessary ingredients for that meal first. A good way to go is to buy what is on sale or items that have good coupons that week. Your personal shopping style and budget will direct you there.
You probably won’t have the budget to go out and purchase twenty eight days of meals in one trip to the grocery store! Write down your own master list of groceries and do what works for you. It won’t take that long once you get started.
Once you have a solid four weeks of food stored, your goal is to at least maintain that amount of food. You may decide you want to step up to eight weeks or even twelve weeks of stored food. Honestly, a full year is not a ridiculous amount of food. You never know what the future holds. It could be something as simple as an unexpected expense like paying for a wedding, or a decision to take a nice vacation. Just eat the food you have on hand and spend your money on something else! In the meantime take food storage seriously!
Ps – get a good manual can-opener – get two!
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