Food Storage and Where to Start

The first food prep everyone should make (and I mean EVERYONE) is the simple 72-hour preparedness kit. Both the Red Cross and FEMA recommend everyone have at least 72 hours worth of food, water, and other necessities in case of an emergency. In localized emergencies, many people are left without power or water for up to 3 days (in the case of Hurricane Katrina, we obviously saw that 3-day lead time extended out, but hopefully the government has learned its lesson and that will not be the case next time). Though only having a 72-hour supply of necessities for your family may not seem like much, it is a fantastic start. The task of preparing your family from scratch for the endless list of possible disasters can be a daunting one, which is why a 72-hour preparedness kit is a great (and very cheap) place to get you moving in the right direction. A short-term preparedness survival kit will give you an idea of almost everything you will need for the long term, you just need a lot more of it.
The one to three month food supply, now we’re getting somewhere! After getting together a small, few day kit, my husband and I decided to slowly increase our supplies. The average family has approximately one weeks worth of food in their cupboards. That does not include things many people buy every few days, like milk and bread. That only includes snacks, cereals, pastas, etc. To increase your supply from what you currently have in your kitchen to a three month supply all at once is possible, though doing it quickly can also be very expensive, and we couldn’t afford to do it all in one day. We started with water and canned goods. Many grocery stores sell 3-liter jugs of water for about $1.00. I generally pick up two or three jugs a week when I do the rest of our grocery shopping. Several of these jugs are always rotated in our fridge, being refilled with a filter system. The rest are stacked in the corner, the pile slowly growing. I also purchase extra canned goods when I go grocery shopping. I shop around, so I often find great deals on canned goods, and when I find those incredible deals, I stock up. But even without anything being on sale, I buy at least five to ten extra cans of food each week. At our house, we use the first in, first out method for storing our canned goods, so the most recent purchases are always placed in the back of the row. I also go through all our cans about once a month and take an inventory, check expiration dates, and make sure the cans with the latest expiration dates are still at the ends of the rows. The key to accumulating canned goods and using the first in, first out method of storage is to be truly conscious of what you are buying. The other week, our grocery store was having a killer sale on canned beets, and I mean killer deal! Did I buy up a ton of canned beets? Absolutely NOT. Having 50 cans of beets does me no good if my family refuses to eat them. If I had purchased them, their expiration date would have come before I had managed to get even one beet in my son’s mouth. Large quantities of food that nobody will eat will not do any good. We buy the things we eat on a regular basis. That way, we are always using the cans and rotating them through, while also adding to our supply. Another thing I stock up on when I go shopping is non-essential foods. Generic fruit bars or pastry tarts can be purchased for very little money. Though definitely not essential for your health or survival, comfort foods can provide that few minutes of delicious relaxation in an otherwise overwhelmingly stressful situation. Finally, salt, sugar and honey are also things to consider for your food supply. Salt can be used as a preservative, and our bodies need salt on a regular basis. Sugar can turn cooked carrots into a candied dessert. And there’s honey. Honey can be left on a shelf for long periods of time, to the point where it crystalizes… then you can heat it up, melt it back down to a liquid, and eat it. Honey is a wonderful thing, though the price has gone up, so when I see it on sale, I buy several.
The 6-month supply… now our cupboards are really getting full. When we started thinking about longer term, we decided to invest in a few #10 cans of freeze-dried food. The #10 cans of food have shelf lives of up to 25 years, and each contains 25 to 30 (some more) servings. Though more expensive, two or three every month or two is absolutely doable, even on a budget like ours. In shifting to more long-term thinking, we also purchased several large buckets for water collection, should that become necessary. Bleach was also added to my regular shopping list, and we always make sure we have plenty of matches and lighters. We wanted to make sure that if something truly devastating happened, we would always be able to gather water and make it safe to drink. I do still purchase jugs of water when I go to the store, but our supply will most likely never be enough to go out six whole months. See, storing water for a family of four, at approximately two liters per person, per day (more if using lots of energy), is hardly possible for most people. For a six month supply, that’s 1,440 liters of water, and that’s ONLY for drinking! That doesn’t even include water you may want to bathe with! Where do you put that much water?! I know we don’t have the space at our house, which is why we’ve planned for gathering water on an as-we-can basis, should it ever be necessary. And of course, for the six month supply, the continuous purchasing of the items listed under the one to three month supply is a must.
To go beyond the six-month supply of food, just keep stocking up. Learn to make dinners using random ingredients. I often throw several things together with a few standard spices and see how my family reacts. If they like it, that means I have one more meal that I can make in a pinch, using only canned goods. Practicing using the only items you will have is a good thing to do. If our power and water went out tomorrow, I would be able to make dinners with what we have, no problem, no panicking. Everyone should be able to feed themselves and their family without the usual amenities and without it being a big deal. The last thing I need if SHTF is to have two crying, freaking out children who are feeding off my fear. When I know what I’m doing, my fears dissipate. Practice makes everything easier. And though I’m a good cook, it’s taking me lots of practice to become a good cook using no gas or electricity. But it can be done. I will continue working on it, and I would suggest everyone work on it if possible. Be prepared for anything.

  • @runsolo

    Wonderful post.
    Thank you!
    I will refer back to this as I build my food stores.

    • When It Hits

      I will be posting more on food storage as I go. I must say, I’ve been away for a bit, but now I have started to use coupons to save my family money while also prepping. A great thing to coupon for is pasta… if stored properly it can last for quite a long time. 🙂

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