WHAT FOOD SHOULD I STORE?
The first real tip here for ‘Food Storage 101’ is this: Store what you will eat! You can spend lots of time analyzing calories, nutritional content, and other factors, but I think the bottom line here is if you store what you eat on a daily basis, I think you’ll be just fine.
Here are more basic tips to get started with food storage:
Note: When I said “you’ll be just fine” regarding simply storing more foods that you already eat, let me emphasize that this philosophy will get you through all short term emergency situations, most medium term disasters, but will probably come up short in the event of a complete long-term collapse (but that’s not ‘Food Storage 101’) ;)
Storing what you regularly eat will also help with adequate rotation of your food storage.
If you store foods you’re not eating, they will just sit there and not be rotated.
Start with a look at what you currently have in your pantry & cupboards and expand on that first. If you have the room, I recommend you keep a ‘working’ pantry that you will use on a daily basis for your meals. Your working pantry should be in or near your kitchen. It can simply be some well stocked cupboards, a closet or an actual pantry (small ancillary room to the kitchen).
In a separate place you should keep your ‘food storage’. This is where you will take from to restock your pantry. Again, depending on your space, this can be in a basement, garage, spare bedroom closet etc. (Be aware of the four things that affect food storage). There are several reasons for having a separate storage — Ever hear the saying “don’t put all of your eggs in one basket”? After all, in a true SHTF scenario, better to have some of your food compromised, than all of your food!
As a general rule, canned foods make an excellent food storage item. Typically, most canned foods have a shelf life of several years, some even longer. For more information on canned food shelf life and Use-by Sell-by dates, read this.
Canned foods come in many varieties such as vegetables, meats, soups, fruits – to name a few.
Most canned foods in an emergency situation will not require that you heat or cook them before eating them. This is (could be) important!! They may not taste as good cold, but they will sustain you. Canned foods are already processed adequately for safely such as heat treated – so they are perfectly safe to eat cold.
They often go on sale too, so take advantage of great sale opportunities and stock up quickly.
Another choice for food storage are bulk foods. Generally they are more cost effective because you are buying them in bulk quantities.
Many of the foods that you can buy in bulk are items such as rice, grains and beans. If you are not familiar with cooking these items from ‘scratch’, you will need to educate yourself now. Cooking-baking with whole grains (making your own bread, etc.) takes a little practice. Better to learn now. Besides, they are so much healthier for you.
Buying bulk food items is taking it to the next level (and beyond). Here is a food storage calculator based on recommendations from the LDS community who are very active in promoting food storage.
MREs (MEALS READY TO EAT)
While a good overall food storage plan involves variety and diversity, you might consider adding some MRE’s (Meal Ready to Eat). One reason is you could have a nice hot meal without having to cook (some MRE’s come with a disposable ‘heater’ packet which provides a chemical reaction sufficient to heat the food).
Another plus is the portability of these meals. They are small and easy to store, perfect for an evacuation scenario and keeping some in your 72-hour emergency kit. They can also be surprisingly tasty (they’re better than they used to be years ago). One disadvantage is that they can be pricey and they are not meant for long-term consumption.
Many people forget this as a ‘food’ prep item. Heirloom seeds are a ‘must’ for every prepper in order to grow your own food. These should be stored properly and rotated every year or two. Check your packets for an expiration date. As seed packets are not expensive, it’s a very minimal expense to rotate these. More importantly though, you better know how to successfully grow a garden! Practice now, because mistakes WILL happen and you’ll need to learn.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE ENOUGH?
I don’t know if you can ever really be sure if you have enough. ‘Enough’ is a personal opinion based on your own assessment of the risks that we face. Let me tell you that I have been a prepper for years, and still I occasionally find something to add to my food storage.
As an example, I remember years ago after beginning storing food and supplies that I realized one important item that we did not have in our storage…….COFFEE! That’s right, I had absolutely no extra coffee in my stock. You better believe that the next time it went on sale, I went out and picked up a number of vacuum sealed cans to start my stock of coffee. (A great barter item too!)
A few months later, I realized that I did not have many additional spices beyond my working inventory. Coffee and spices both would add to providing a degree of comfort and zest in a survival situation. Appetite Fatigue can set in quickly – so consider diversifying your food storage with comfort foods, etc.
‘Enough’ depends on how many people are in your family and how long you want your food storage to last. One thing I can suggest that works for me is to ask yourself every time you take an item from your pantry, “Do I have enough of these?” Many times that simple question will prompt me to add an item to my storage.
Another trick that helps me is really browsing through the supermarket when I have some extra time. I’ll walk up and down every aisle looking at everything that is on sale. Occasionally, I come across an item and decide to add it to my stock. The key is to simply think about it. That’s the first step that leads to action.