In the previous articles in this series I introduced the concept of “layers” in relation to emergency preparedness. I explained how you can address risks/threats associated with emergencies, disasters, and grid-down by layering your preps to mitigate each specific threat/risk. I also went into detail of defensive and medical layers to mitigate threats and risks for yourself and your home. If you didn’t read the earlier articles I would suggest that you do. It will make this post much easier to fully understand.
- Layers…a key to emergency preparedness: Part #1 – Introduction
- Layers…Part #2 – Medical Aid
- Layers…Part #3 – Communications
- Layers…Part #4 – Water
- Layers…Part #5 – Shelter
What are we trying to accomplish when we talk about food in relation to being prepared for emergencies, disasters, and grid-down? Simple, we don’t want to starve to death or become so weak from malnutrition that we can’t meet our responsibilities. We have to be concerned about malnutrition and starving to death. That being said, let’s apply the “layers” theory to this area of prepping.
Remember, you and your family are in the center of concentric circles representing layers of starvation prevention. Let’s start from the inside circle and work outwards.
What are we trying to accomplish when we talk about food in relation to being prepared for emergencies, disasters, and grid-down? Simple, we don’t want to lack sufficient caloric intake that we are unable to do what is required of us, or worse, die. That being said, let’s apply the “layers” theory to this area of prepping, my ideas might surprise you a little bit.
Normal pantry food – This is the food that you eat on a normal everyday basis.
So being the simple man that I am I want to have 90-dyas worth of food in the house at all times. Your normal, everyday, run of the mill food that you and your family eat on a regular basis.
Yes, 90 days, you heard that correctly. What’s the problem with that? You are going to buy the stuff anyway, just get it done and put it in the pantry. Think of all the gas you would save only going to the store every other week rather than every other day? Think of all the money you would save buying quantities of food items that are ON SALE!
So, oh my gosh you need 90-days worth of food in the house right now!!
No, you don’t. Calm down, relax, it will be OK. Read on…
Don’t make this more complicated than it is. If you like spaghetti sauce and you eat it every couple of weeks and use 2 cans each time, then go buy 12 cans the next time it comes on sale. Same thing for all other can goods that you use.
If your budget is tight – no problem there either. If you watch sales closely from all the food stores then only buy items in quantities when they are on sale. And if you can’t afford 12 cans buy 6 or whatever you can afford. But buy something more towards storage each time you go to the store! Have a plan!
A couple thoughts:
- Buy what you use, if you don’t eat canned spinach, don’t buy it.
- Rotate your canned food every time you bring it home, pull the old stuff to the front, and put the new stuff in the back.
- If the dates on the can are about to expire don’t worry about it. Those dates are “best if used by” NOT “eat it and die date.”
- If your spouse just can’t bring themselves to eat out of date canned food then ask your neighbors or friends if they would like it. If you don’t have friends like that – get some. If you can’t give it away – take it to the local food pantry, soup kitchen or homeless shelter.
MRE’s – These are military grade Meals-Ready-To-Eat with heaters.
So you do need options to provide decent meals to your family during short-term emergencies. Granted, if you have a BBQ grill that is an option. But ask yourself…Do you know how long will your propane tank last before it needs refilled? Will you be able to get it refilled?
Have you ever seriously considered grilling in the dead of winter? Do you have a back-up propane tank (or 4) that is kept full? Do you have a natural gas stove? What happens if the gas is disrupted?
What if you don’t want to draw attention to yourself by lighting up the grill? Or worse yet, some big cooking fire? Or what if you don’t want to draw attention to yourself by the aroma of hamburgers and ribs cooking on your grill? What if you are having to relocate and can’t take a grill? Or you’re traveling and don’t have time to fix a cooking fire, etc.?
Sorry about all the questions, but as you can tell, I am trying to stimulate you to really question your situation and your Normalcy Bias. To solve this issue I believe in short-term emergency food storage made up of MREs.
Yup, good old fashion military grade MRE’s. You can take them anywhere, including a backpack. They are 100% self-contained, including the heat source. They are nutritionally balanced, packed with calories and sometimes include treats like M&Ms and Skittles. Very hard to beat!
But MRE’s have distinct drawback – they tend to produce constipation when eaten for any length of time. If you are in a combat or hunting situation, that might be a bad thing when compared to the alternative. However, under normal situations constipation is probably not high on your Christmas wish list. I have discovered a miracle cure for that unfortunate condition – granola bars. I pack 2 granola bars with every MRE, a soft/chewy one and a crunchy/hard one. Eating a granola bar with your breakfast and then again with the main part of the MRE at lunch, they keep your system moving along.
So you might be thinking about now how much of this food category should you have on hand. And that is truly a great question with no single standard answer. I am thinking about 4-days worth of MREs for each person in your house. A case of MREs contains 12, so think a case per person. It will cost you $50 – $100 per case depending on where you buy them. I buy them at gun shows for $40 – $45 per case.
Freeze dried meal pouches – My next layer of food storage preparations is just a little more complex but far tastier, bordering on a fancy feast…Mountain House meals in the pouches. Why Mountain House brand? Those are the ones I really like the best.
Let’s get into why freeze dried pouches are my choice:
- Easy to store with a long shelf life.
- They taste great.
- You can eat them right out of the pouch. A little dry to be sure but you can do it.
- Small, you can put them in your backpack with no problems.
- A cup of boiling water and you have a gourmet meal.
- You can eat with only a spoon or better yet…a spork.
- Light weight.
So again, you might be thinking about now how much freeze-dried Mountain House pouch food should you have on hand. Again, that is truly a very valid question with no single standard answer. I am thinking about 4-days worth of freeze-dried pouches for each person in your house. Each pouch of food will cost you between $4 – $8 depending on the meal and specific food you get. But count about $6.50 per meal on average. That $78.00 per person for the 4-days worth of food.
Freeze dried food in #10 cans – These are different main dishes (i.e. lasagna) that have been freeze dried and then packaged in commercial grade #10 cans. Stays edible for 15 – 25 years.
This is a kind of a tricky area for me to lay out there for you. It would be easy to just say “I recommend X” and go on. But this is a really important part of your food storage. It is also a very expensive part of food storage. This is the part of food storage that will stave off “food fatigue.”
Food fatigue is where you are eating a lot of the same food day after day and it is bland and boring. Like eating oat meal everyday without anything to jazz up the taste. Rice, bean, oats, and wheat will keep you alive and healthy but it is horribly bland and you will get tired of eating it. Well, that is till you get hungry again and then it will taste great!
Why 45 days? Seems to be the outside time-frame for most emergencies and disasters. For situations such as food chain disruptions or social problems it gives you a transition period that you can use to stabilize your specific situation. For a “grid-down” event where the food chain is permanently disrupted, 45-days isn’t near long enough. However, you can use this food to “spice-up” your long-term staple foods.
Should you store more than the 45-day minimum recommendation? Absolutely!! More for you to eat during TEOTWAWKI (grid-down) situations or when you retire if the world doesn’t fall apart in the meantime. I practice what I preach, I have more, significantly more, to make sure that my long-term food staples don’t food fatigue me to death.
I thought through different scenarios and a really good way to deal with them – an ultimate solution if you will. Some of the scenarios I considered:
1. Extended winter storms with grid-down
2. Hurricanes without any infrastructure left
3. Flooding with complete grid-down
4. And longer-term food disruptions or societal/economic issues
• Tasty meals to avoid boredom and/or gastronomical revolt
• Nutritional to maintain high energy levels
• Very easy to fix with minimal preparation
• Redundant ways to prepare meals (cold or hot, water or no water)
• Easily stored, transported and concealed
So the most obvious answer to me was cases of #10 cans of freeze dried meals. They come in astounding variety, Sweet & Sour Pork, Chicken Tetrazzini, Ham & Eggs, Granola and milk. They also have standard fruit, grains, meat, vegetables, etc.
What is needed to prepare and serve this kind of food? Best case scenario, a cup or small pot, hot water and done. Worst case scenario, just open the pouch or can and eat it.
There are lot of brands of freeze dried food out there that make incredibly good entrees. Some of my personal favorites are Mountain House, Thrive, Saratoga Farms, and Augason Farms.
I won’t make specific recommendations on what food to purchase. What I will do is suggest you purchase the food you like that can be put over rice and beans. Using rice and beans as “extenders” will easily extend your good tasting food by 2 – 5 times. And that is important to fighting off food fatigue but maximizing the food storage you have on-hand.
The next thing I would like to suggest is consider are fruits. Fruits will contain valuable and required vitamins to your diet. They are also great to add to oatmeal to add a little zip to an otherwise bland tasting bowl of oatmeal. Dehydrated apple slices from the LDS store are a great snack and extremely affordable. That is six #10 cans of apple slices with a 30-year shelf life for under $54.00!!
I think later I will go over an extensive list of foods that would be good to purchase for a great diet that has flavor and nutrition. But for now, I think you have enough of an idea to get started. Here is one suggestion on what to put in those cases:
1 Beef Teriyaki with Rice
2 Granola with Milk & Blueberries
3 White Rice
Case #2 –
2 Beef Stroganoff
2 Scramble Eggs with Bacon
2 Spaghetti with Meat Sauce
Case #3 –
2 Chilli Mac
2 Garden Peas
2 Sugar Sweet Corn
Case #4 –
1 Hearty Beef Stew
1 Noodles and Chicken
2 Cinnamon Apple Slices
2 Peach Slices
All of the food mentioned above is Mountain House brand. I think Mountain House has the best quality and flavor of all the freeze dried food brands. With four cases of food you can see that your family can eat for a pretty decent length of time.
So here is a one of those “best kept secrets” that will make your food storage life a whole lots easier…LDS Home Storage Centers. Yup, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints believe so much in food storage that they make is very easy and very affordable to purchase properly canned (#10 cans) long-term food storage. There are two options;, 1) on-line store with a more limited list of available foods, or 2) a great variety of foods you can purchase. Either way the time and money you save will be amazing.
Note: Sorry, for those of you living outside the USA neither option is available to you.
Nonfat Dry Milk
Hard Red Wheat
Hard White Wheat
To purchase these items you go to the website and order just lie you would any other on-line store. The shipping is unreal low so the price doesn’t go way up to ship the food to you. Normally it is $3.00 <click here to go to the LDS on-line store>
Now, if you are near one of the LDS Home Storage Centers that are scattered around the country it gets even better. At these locations the pre-canned food available it amazing! The order form provides you the shelf-life, and the weight per can, plus obviously the price. So you know exactly what you are getting. I have bought from them before and I am telling you that the quality of the food is outstanding! I really really like the apple slices as a snack. They rock!!
You can find an LDS Home Storage Center by visiting the website locator page: <click here> We use to do a”group order” for interested folks. We would gather orders from folks and just send a couple people in a pick-up truck the 110 mile round trip to buy the cases of food. Everyone who didn’t go would chip in gas money. Then the food would be delivered to one location, someone’s garage, where everyone would pick up their order. A BBQ of hamburgers and hotdogs would always be a nice social event to top it all off.
In my perfect & ideal world I would buy these items in this order. I would buy a single case of each first. Then once I got that done, I would start over and keep buying until I felt I had a year’s supply of food in the house for the entire family. In priority order:
• Apple Slices
• Onions, Dry
• Wheat, Hard Winter
• Rice, White
• Sugar, Granulated
• Beans, Pinto
• Oats, Quick
• Milk, Nonfat Dry
• Potato Flakes
• Four, White
• Beans, Refried
• Beans, Black
Yeah, it’s going to take some money to do this. However, in my way of thinking I would rather have all this food storage and not need it, than need even some of this food and not have it. Remember, you can always eat the food! Even if you wait until your retirement years, you can still eat the food!
The way I looked at it – this is part of my IRA, 401K, pension or whatever you want to call it. It will help reduce the food bills when I am retired, if I don’t need the food before then.
Couple comments about food from the LDS Store:
- The apple slices are incredibly good!!!! I can eat them right out of the can as a snack. I also put them on my cereal. You can bake them in a “bread” like banana bread.
- The refried beans are some of the best I have ever tasted. They are dried, and you reconstitute them with water. And man-o-man they are good!
- The dried onions are very flavorful. They can add a lot of flavor to otherwise drab meals.
- Carrots are not real flavorful but they add some color and nutrients to otherwise drab meals.
I have mixed emotions on long-term staple food, I really do. First, you absolutely must have it. Second, it is very cost-effective to buy. Third, you really don’t need to rotate it, it will last 20 – 30 years in good storage conditions (i.e. not in your garage). Fourth, it will provide the basic nutritional requirements to keep you and your family alive. Fifth, you will suffer from “food fatigue” very quickly. Food fatigue sucks.
Here’s the deal, I don’t see “long-term staples” as what you are going to eat for any length of time. At least not by itself. What I am getting at is this, it will be used in conjunction with other foods. Here is what I mean…
If you’ve been reading the previous articles in this series you know I suggest that you have a wide variety of foods. But let’s just talk about “soup” for a minute. Let’s say you have a can of soup in your pantry storage; chicken noodle or beef vegetable. It is nutritious by itself but not real filling and offers little protein, which your body will need during tough times. So you supplement it with your “staples.”
You cook a ½ cup of rice, a ¼ cup of pinto beans, and ¼ cup of wheat “berries.” Then you mix those ingredients together with your can of soup and BINGO! You have a great tasting meal with far more nutrition, plenty of protein and it far more filling. You can even share it with someone else to make a single can of soup even more effective and efficient as a food. Throw in some crushed red pepper flakes and you really have a very tasty dish!
This combining of staples with more palatable food will greatly improve the nutritional value of your meals and give it some acceptable flavor as well. Test the idea, cook up the beans, rice, and wheat berries; mix them together in a bowl and eat. Yeah, how does that flavor work for you? Yes, it is nutritious to be sure but the lack of taste will quickly burn you out; hence, the term “food fatigue.”
Another way to leverage your long-term staples is to combine it with food you’ve hunted. In this example take a rabbit that you have snared, by itself it does provide protein and bulk. But now take the same rabbit, and then cook up the same mix of rice, beans, and wheat berries. It is now far more nutritious, with way more protein and a whole lot more bulk. If you cooked the rabbit over a fire then it adds even more flavor to the mix as well.
Throw in an onion, a leak, a carrot, beat, beans, peas, potato or anything else from the garden or from the wild and you have a very tasty meal. The key is the extra bulk, nutrition and protein coming from your stored staples.
This “long-term staples” was one of the very first areas of food storage that I focused on when I started buying my food storage. Why? It’s cheap. I was able to buy large amounts of the basic staples for a much smaller amount of money than I could have for #10 cans of freeze dried meals. I could have gone with the fancy freeze dried foods but they are far more expensive than the staples I was buying.
So I bought the following in priority order:
- Pinto Beans
For my source I used The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. When I purchased the majority of mine it was all through their warehouse system. Now they have an on-line store now where you can purchase a wide variety of long-term staples at prices that simply can’t be beat anywhere else. Why so cheap? They want people, all people, to have food storage for when the tough times come.
The food is canned in #10 cans and packed for 20 – 30 year shelf life. Look over the portions for each and it is roughly a month’s worth of food for one person. Yes, it is the boring “food fatigue” stuff but it is food and can sustain a person for a month.There are recipes in the boxes as well on how to use the those basic six foods. It is a really good deal at only $22.00 – $40.00 per case.
If you do as I suggested above, you could eat fairly decently with just cans of soup, your staples and then thrown in a little spice here and there and you have it made. Then add a can of tuna or chicken and you are really living. Now here is a little secret to share with you, they also have things like onions and carrots on-line to purchase as well. Buy a case here and there of each type of food , add it to your basics and now you are really living…it’s called stew!
Seriously, look at how much food you could purchase quickly by going through the LDS church and their website. It can be an instant shot in the arm to your existing food storage, or a great way to jump start your food storage from scratch.
So here is what I would buy from the LDS website in order:
- 1 case of rice
- 1 case of wheat
- 1 case of onions
- 1 case of dehydrated apple slices.
- 1 case of carrots
- 1 case of pinto beans
- 1 case of black beans
- 1 case of onions
- 1 case of dehydrated apple slices.
- 1 case of carrots
- 1 case of refried beans
At this point you now have approximately a year’s supply of food for one person.
Now, go look in your food pantry and freezer, see what you have in there and imagine how you would use it to combine with the food outlined above. You probably just instantly grew it to 14 – 18 months worth of food storage.
So there you go, adding long-term staples can drastically improve your food storage situation. You can take your food storage from a month or two to well over 6 months to a year or more.
I often get asked the question, “How much long-term food should I have stored?”
That’s a tough answer for most people. However for me it was easy to get that answer, I just kept buying food storage until I felt inspired that I had enough. I know people who have years worth of food storage; I am talking 4 – 8 years worth of food storage! Now, granted, a lot of it is long-term staples but that is OK! Food is food and when you are hungry it will taste like a feast.
Why do they have that much food stoage? Well, again, the answers vary quite a bit for each prepper. A couple have told me that they have large families, including extended family members, and they want to make sure that they can feed them all.
I also know a family or two that have purchased that much just because they felt inspired to do so. They feel they will be called upon to feed lots of folks; and that is OK too. And then there is a family or two that want to use their food storage as a bargaining/bartering chip. For me, I think I will be called upon to feed other people, so I bought food until I felt inspired I had enough.
Think about it – food becomes in short supply and people are getting hungry. You’ve stored a considerable amount of food, far more than your family needs. A family in the neighborhood who your family enjoys having a BBQ with. You and your spouse have enjoyed a double-date or two with them over the years, and your kids go to the same school. The dad is a retired Army Ranger and his wife is a nurse. So, you think you might want to try and work out a little deal where you band together with them?
How about the guy around the corner who is a Emergency Room Doctor?
The options and possibilities are only limited by your imagination. Yes, operational security is important, you don’t want them knowing that you are sitting on a pile of food. But being able to feed them can buy a lot of assistance and maybe even loyalty. Or, better yet, the start of a preparedness group.
And you know how I feel about precious metals if you read my article “Silver & Gold…Really?” <click to read>. In “grid-down” situations I look at food as even more valuable than precious metals. Food can be used just like precious metals to “bribe & buy” in exactly the same way. The only difference…food will become more and more valuable as times goes on.
There are a lot of reasons to have food storage, but it like any number of prepper topics, you are either sold on it or not. You either believe in it or not. But food storage in the most practical and realistic terms is a “no-branier” in virtually every way possible.
- In emergencies and disasters your food storage can feed your family and a few others till the food distribution chain is back up and running.
- If you ever become unemployed your food storage is just like a savings account and will help you get through financially.
- If you never eat it for any reason you will still retire at some point. Look at your food storage as part of your retirement account.
- Food storage makes a great investment. Have you ever heard the price of food going down?
- And finally, “grid-down.” You can be the hero and save your family from starving to death. And if you have stored enough food you can be…well, you can be pretty much whoever you want to be.
Snares – This will be a short topic. I want you you to have snares on hand. The wire small game snares, big game snares if you need/want them. They are 24-hour a day hunters, but the don’t use up valuable ammunition, make no sound, and inexpensive to put into action. I personally like pre-made wire snares myself.
The game you catch can supplement your food storage or be bargained away to neighbors . And that is worth a whole lot!
NOTE – Notice that I have not included home canned items in this list. The reason is my opinion of their stability and transportability. Since 99.9% of all canning is done in glass jars I think they are not suitable to be considered as anything other than normal pantry food, I do not consider them in any other category. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with you having 1 – 2 years’ worth of normal pantry food. As I look at all those glass jars though I see a big problem trying to transport them anywhere and have them remain intact. Also, I seem them as less than desirable for rough condition of any kind in a “grid-down” scenario. They are “glass” and are easily broken. But I love home canned fruits and they have a place in the food storage plan. I believe it is under the “normal pantry food” category.
Related Articles –
- Normalcy Bias
- Emberlit Stove
- Olicamp Stove
- MSR WhisperLite International Stove
- Silver & Gold…Really?
Articles in this series –
- Layers…a key to emergency preparedness: Part #1 – Introduction
- Layers…Part #2 – Medical Aid
- Layers…Part #3 – Communications
- Layers…Part #4 – Water
- Layers…Part #5 – Shelter
- Layers…Part #6 – Food
- Layers…Part #7 – Power
- Layers…Part #8 – Closing Thoughts…
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