Several of my urban friends have asked me how to get started on food storage and “Prepping”. So what this document is all about, is an attempt to put as much information for starting your short and long term food storage and how to do this all cheaply – in one, all purpose, get started document. My friends like it and I hope you will too.
The following information has been accumulated from many sites over many years, with the majority on food storage being from LDS or LDS related sites. Outside of rural farms, ranches, homesteaders or Preppers and survivalists - LDS people are the pros for concise information on food storage for natural or man-made and their case, spiritual emergencies.
If you prefer to use non-spiritual sites for reference, please go to one of the following Preparedness and Homesteading sites or just do a search on preparedness, homesteading, survival and country living. If you do a search on food storage, you will get mostly LDS and retailers of food storage and supply type sites and have to sift through pages of results to hit “pay dirt” how-to information.
From the Prepper home page, either search for your state or providence “Prepper” group or click to follow a link to an affiliate group. There are Prepper networks all around the world as well. The homesteading, small farm/ranch and country living sites are very similar. Many have blogs and there are lots of blogs out there too. These sites also have information on food storage.
If you want to sift through the standard governmental run-around to get to information, then go to the Red Cross, FEMA or Homeland Security for food storage information. All three have specific “preparedness” programs that include food storage. However, be forewarned, being the government, they lack a lot of detailed how-to’s.
A great place to search for “survival” and “old time skills” are the Universities of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan or Maine and their extension services. They have all kinds of stuff on hunting and smoking the kill, to how to set traps, how to can and jerk meats and foods plus lots, lots more.
Then there are the living farms and recreated colonial and Native American type villages that you can visit or vacation at and learn some of life’s basic forgotten skills, often with hands-on instruction.
A Little Bit on Food Storage History
History shows us that in “times of yore” food preservation and storage was a critical part of everyday life. Cold storage or root cellaring (started in caves and holes dug in the ground) along with; drying, jerking, smoking, salting and curing methods to preserve food, have all been in use for eons and then “improved” or made easier via modern technology.
Food storage for 3-5 months is still the norm in rural and northern areas. Homesteaders and country folk who live in these areas have; canned, smoked, dried and root cellared, etc their foods for centuries to survive the more extreme isolating winters in their area. Even today, this is done because it is very common to lose electricity for several days to a week or more and have to rely on propane gas and woodstoves for heating and cooking. They know they cannot use the modern tools of frig, range, freezer and microwave for storing and preparing food when the power goes out. They know they can’t just hop in the truck and drive to a store – so they store food to last all winter if necessary.
Why consider food storage?
Think about it. If the electricity goes off in your area for several days, in the worst season of the year, what will you do with what you have in your home? Is your heat gas or electric? Your frig, freezer, microwave, toaster and washer will be unusable. Depending on the length of the outage, the food in your frig and freezer will go bad before you can use it, even if you can cook it with a gas range.
If this is an urban citywide outage, water will go once the pipes are drained and become depressurized, as all big cities tend to use electric pumps to feed the main water lines. This may take from under one hour to a day depending on the size and age of the city water system. If you have a well and your water pump is electric – then count it out.
Gas for your vehicles will be unreachable because all the pumps at the station are electric. Perishables and frozen or refrigerated foods in stores will go bad. In long outages, food will not be delivered to stores. Fast food and restaurants will be a no go too.
One thing is for sure – You CANNOT count on any government or emergency agency to come to your rescue in a timely fashion. The only things you can count on are yourself (physical, emotional & spiritual), your knowledge and skills and the supplies you have on hand.
Before you start your food storage plan
Decide WHY you want to store food and how to USE it with your everyday meals. This is important or you will be wasting your money as well as the food. Stored food is not just “put on a shelf” and “forget it” until the power goes out. To keep it nutritional, tasting good and to keep from wasting your money, it must be used routinely. Use will facilitate rotation. Each season will yield more garden produce to be stored; or each week and month, more canned goods will be added to the pantry. True, some of these items may keep for decades, however many will not.
Most people will start a food storage plan out of necessity because they live in a rural area that is sparsely populated and has server winter or summer storms that put them in a non-electrified and isolated status. Others will do this because of other natural emergencies that occur frequently in their area like; tornados, hurricanes, floods or earthquakes. While others like to be prepared for even man-made disasters and emergencies. And still others have a spiritual reason to be prepared for anything that may alter their current living environment to one less plentiful and technical.
All I know for sure is that in all my years of prepping and planning for homesteading, I have never before seen such a proliferation of information and groups on the subject like I have in the last 5 years. Something must be up to make people worldwide feel this need. So whatever your reason is, identify it and proceed accordingly.
Getting Started and not going broke
“You can only eat an elephant, one bite at a time.” Or, as my grandson would say: “How many drops are in a bucket?”
Basic Rule: *Make a Plan*Keep It Simple*Start Small*Stick to What Works for you and yours*then Go for It!
- Determine why you want to store food for longer than general everyday and weekly use.
- Study what you and your family normally eat and drink in any given week. Include condiments needed and comfort foods. Although nutrition is vital to survival, comfort foods are just as vital for emotional survival. So be sure to include all the snacks, treats and deserts. Don't forget your pets.
- From your weekly common meals decide what cannot be stored long term and research if there is a substitute that your family would enjoy in its place.
- Determine the space needed to store this type of commonly consumed food for a 2 week’s supply. Then decide where and how to store this. The weekly storage needs can then be modified to include the timeframe you wish to ultimately store food for – one month, several months, one or two years. Simple yes, but forget very day fresh food and center on storable foods – cans, dried, etc. Routinely use the stored food at least 2-3 times a week.
- Document your family's common weekly activities. Include pets, work, school, sports and the like. This will tell you where you may need a 72-hour emergency pack, if additional packs are needed and how many packs you will need overall. (In the Appendix is a link to an Emergency College Student Go-pack check list.)
- Add new activities to your family’s activity/vacation list like: Gardening, Canning, Bread and Jam/Jelly Making, Making Cider and Vinegar, Spinning and other skills of past or current homesteading. Plan to learn and do at least two to four each year. Many Colonial and Mountain Man Rendezvous, along with Native American festivals and fairs, have hands-on learning activities that you can participate in.
- Research long term storage containers and their costs. Be sure to look around your home to determine what can be used that you already own. Remember, the air tight, water proof container you already have may NOT be suitable for food storage as is, but may still be useable if lined with a product that is ok to use with human food. Like certain plastic or mylar liners or bags.
- Design a budget that includes food storage accumulation and purchases, for the food as well as the containers, back packs and for any new activities you have added, along with your normal budgeting items. Consider this to be at least $10 extra dollars per normal grocery shopping trip. Ok so you might have to reduce eating out to once a week, instead of every two or three days. So what, it won’t kill you and this is for your future survival. Now is the time to learn how to distinguish between wants and needs and to avoid the “buy now, pay later” philosophy and adopt the “save now and buy later” mentality. When the electricity goes out you will be grateful.
- Create your first two family "go-packs" for home and vehicle. Plan on making a pack once a week or month, depending on your budget. Remember you are creating the individual go-packs for each family member and your pets next.
- Start an "Emergency Gab-n-Go Binder" and fill it with important information particular to your family. Make a section for Food Storage and Go-Packs to add a record of your purchases to. (There are several online downloadable and or printable forms that are listed in the Appendix that are perfect for this.) Add a "Recipes" section for commonly used recipes or recipes you have modified to utilize stored food. Recipes make a good mini-checklist for shopping too.
- Make a Rotation System and plan at least a monthly Menu Calendar that utilizes your stored food items or pantry. As you make monthly menus add them to the Emergency Binder. Routinely use the stored food at least 2-3 times a week.
- Create your weekly or monthly food storage needs shopping list and stick to it. You may want to have an initial list to accumulate the storage containers and go-pack needs. Then another one to use year round for the actual food items themselves as you will be using these food items on a regular basis. Be sure to stick to your budget.
- Set a Start Date and proceed.
I know the modern version of these are much more tasty and nutritious than what existed back in the 1970’s when I did a ton of backpacking and hiking around the country; but after recently tasting “the latest and greatest” I still would NOT want to live for a month, yet alone a year or more on these food sources. They are perfect for the short term, especially 72 hour go-bags or emergency survival bags. They are light weight and store almost forever.
There are many sites and stores that sell these MRE’s so I won’t go into them here, however, I would suggest going with the few firms that are recommended by LDS. LDS evaluates what they recommend based on nutritional value and shelf life, as well as, flavor - You just cannot go wrong. Emergency Essentials and Mountain House are at the top of the LDS list. You can find both brands at BePrepared.com. This is big business, so a simple Google search will return pages and pages of results. If you plan to purchase some MRE’s, at least ask a person who hikes and backpacks frequently for their recommendations.