Friday, May 7, 2010

Prepping Basics: What To Store (Part 1: Food Items)

In step 3 of the Prepping Basics series, I want to talk about what families should actually store in order to be prepared. This, too, will vary from household to household, but once again, we will look at some guidelines that will help you to think through what you may need. 

I realize that there is a place and need for things like a three-day emergency kit, first aid items, or other scenarios one should consider, but the goal of this post is to concentrate on basic food supplies in the event that you are at home and need to make meals during a crisis.

Determining What To Store

1. In order to start making a list, you'll need to ask yourself some questions:

• What does my family like to eat on a regular basis?
• What do they consider "comfort food"?
• What health needs does my family have in terms of food? Any allergies? Diabetics? Baby formula? Gluten free items?
• What can I cook easily and quickly when under pressure or pressed for time?
• What can I cook that doesn't require a lot of ingredients or too many steps?
• What can be made strictly from pantry items, not fresh ingredients? (If there is an electric outage, you may wish to make your fresh items first, but at some point, you may need a meal of non-perishables).
• What methods of food preparation would be available to me if the electricity were out? The gas off? The propane tank empty or damaged?
• What other non-electric appliances would I need for preparing an item?
• What can I cook with a limited water supply?
• What do I regularly grow in my garden that can be used for meals?
• What other homestead resources might I have available to me? Eggs? Milk? Meat? Herbs?

2. By answering these questions, start to form a list of meals that would meet your family's requirements. Plan a variety and include comfort foods that will give your family a sense of well being and security. When the world seems out of control, a familiar meal can be very comforting. At the very minimum, have 10-12 recipes you can use.

Photo Credit: Muffet

3. Go through each recipe and make a list of ingredients that you will need in order to prepare each one. Be sure to include amounts for one meal each.

4. Calculate how much to purchase of each item for a three month period (or longer if you are going to be stocking for a 6 or 12 month period and buying in bulk).

5. Start purchasing needed items. However, do not make the mistake of buying only wheat for a year and wait six months to buy baking soda, baking powder, or even yeast.  Purchase everything you need for a two to four week period. Then repeat the process. This way you are quickly prepared to ride out the more common 1-3 day outages or other smaller events. Your immediate needs will be covered for a few days. However, if you try to purchase a large quantity of one item and it uses up all your cash so that you can't buy the other ingredients for several weeks, you may find yourself unprepared.

Food Storage Calculators

Another way that you can calculate food needs, is to use a free food storage calculator. You can google one or click here. These calculators use your basic information about the number of people you plan to feed and the number of months worth of food you wish to store in order to project the basic sundry items you'll need.

Additional Items Needed For Food Storage

Don't forget that you will need certain items such as:

• matches
• non-electric can openers
• non-electric mills if you have grain stored
• an alternative cooking method with necessary supplies (such as a grill); solar oven
• cookware that can be used over an open flame (if necessary)
• a couple of dishpans for washing up and conserving water
• dish soap
• bleach for sanitizing (if necessary)
• cases or jugs of water if you don't have a water storage system
• condiments or items to make them from scratch: apple cider vinegar, oils (watch expiration dates)
• paper plates (in the event that the water is shut off or very scarce - like out west!)
• extra salt, vinegar, and baking soda for various uses
• extra cooking oil of your preference (watch expiration dates as some oils can go rancid)
Items and ingredients for making bread if you usually purchase it (and a very basic recipe that you've practiced baking in a dutch oven, solar oven, or other means)

Photo Credit: davidsilver

Inventory Management

Living several miles from town, I am not able to run to the store if I run out of an item. This has led me to keep stock on various items so that I don't run out. Whenever I reach for the last or second to last item, I add it to the grocery list so that I can purchase more. By doing this, we almost never run out of an item. 

To take this a step further, I'm hoping to develop Inventory Tags this summer. What's that you ask? Well, I'm envisioning small laminated tags for each item that I regularly stock in my pantry (kind of like the re-ordering memo that reminds you to buy more checks). I'm going to just stick it on to the appropriate item as a reminder that when I reach that particular can, jar, or bag, it's time to buy more. This will keep us eating from our food storage without letting it get too low at any one time.


Just a word about MRE's. While these serve a purpose (existing during a crisis), they are not really designed for living prepared as a way of life, which in my mind is a different matter. I hope you will consider living in such a way that storing a bit of food is a stewardship issue, not a fear issue. 

If you have a family of boys who think it's cool to play army and eat rations, then by all means, buy MRE's and have fun while dining. But if you are thinking of the homestead as a haven of rest and refreshment, a place to practice hospitality while meeting the basic needs of life, then think beyond the MRE. It may be a benefit to have both, but each family should decide that issue.

Hope this post has you thinking and ready to organize the pantry with supplies!


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