Buy more of the canned and boxed food that you normally eat.
In this post about food, I am going to write about preparing for a short-term to a very long-term emergency situation, so let us begin.
For a short-term emergency, buying more of the food that you normally eat is the best way to prepare. Now this food should be boxed food such as macaroni & cheese and crackers, and canned food such as fruits, soups, and meats. I have provided some links to help you get started.
While you are making a list of the canned and boxed food you and your family will eat, I want you to think about how you are going to cook this food? Are you going to heat the food? Do you need water to prepare the food? How are you going to clean up afterwards?
For a short 3-day emergency, paper plates and napkins, plastic utensils and cups, and other picnic supplies might be a good idea. Have enough for each person to have a clean set of utensils for each meal, this includes plates. To save on cups, write the person's name on the cup and have everyone reuse their cup. Make sure to have extra cups, kids and some adults seem to always throw their cups away.
If you are going to need water to prepare the food, you will need to add to your water supplies. An example: Mac & Cheese takes 6 cups of water, according to the directions, to make. That is 6 more cups of potable water you will need to store. If you are going to wash the plates and utensils, you will need even more water.
You can probably get away with eating directly out of the can/box for three days, but warm meals will be needed during the winter.
There are many ways of heating your food. If you have barbecued, cooked over a fire, or have a wood stove, you can heat your emergency food for eating. Remember, you will need fuel to last during the emergency you are planning for.
Charcoal must be kept dry, same with wood. With wood, you will also need kindling. Propane lasts as long as the container, but you will need a propane stove/grill. Liquid fuels, such as Coleman gas, are flammable. Store your gas and liquid fuels away from the house. Lastly, remember the matches.
I put my matches, about 2500 strike-on-the-box matches, in a small 30 caliber ammo can. This protect the matches from humidity, and if they ignite the ammo can keeps the fire contained.
Now cooking inside the house can be dangerous. Do not, Don't, Never use a charcoal stove inside the house or enclosed building or tent. The burning charcoal produces carbon monoxide (CO). This stuff is deadly.
Don't let the list of things keep you from preparing for a short-term emergency because you probably already have all the needed stuff, except for the extra food.
I need to stop for a moment. While I take a break, I want you to read "Seven Mistakes of Food Storage" by Vicki Tate.
Preparing to have food for a longer emergency, two to four weeks, is a matter of storing more canned, bottled, and boxed food, but you can't put this amount of food in a box and forget it. You will need to start rotating your food.
There are a few ways of rotating your storage food. One method is to buy all the food at once and put it on your shelves in the basement. When you need something, like a can of pears, you go to the store and buy a can of pears. Go down to the basement, take a can of pears off the shelf, and put the can that you bought in the back. This insures you always have fresh canned food, if there is such a thing as fresh canned food.
This method insures that you have food now; additionally, this method also insures that you have food that you eat, but it has at least one problem. Most people don't have $500 to immediately drop on food plus their normal food bill.
A variations of the above method is to buy one or two extra of the canned and boxed foods you normally eat every time you go to the store. Put the extra food on the shelf and rotate as mentioned.
Another method of rotating your food is to build special shelves. The shelves are a set of ramps. As a can is removed, all of the cans immediately roll one spot down the ramps. If your grocery store has the new Campbell's soup displays, open up the display and observe. Some refrigerators have soda can dispensers with the ramps. Just use a can, then buy another can and add to the top of the ramp as needed.
This method is OK, but you have to know how many cans a set of ramps hold, and it wastes a little space. Each set of cans needs its own supports for the ramp, more money and more complicated to build.
To save money, I watch for sales and stock up then, and I buy store brand products instead of the major name brands. Be careful, some store brands taste slightly different from the national brands of food.
Some people will tell you to buy your food in bulk at the warehouse store, I usually don't recommend this because you have to pay extra money up front for membership; the sizes of cans could be too big, wasting food; and you and your family might not like the food.
Another thing to avoid, remember the opinions, is MREs. Meal Ready to Eat are specialized meals developed for the military. They have greatly improved since the meals first came out; however, you have to like them. At about the same price as two cans of fruit, 2 cans of vegetables, three cans of tuna, and a bottle of water, you get one MRE. MREs are expensive but convenient.
If you have decided to store food for only a couple of weeks, stop here and read the first four links. I invite you to continue reading even if you are only preparing for a short-term emergency.
If you have decided to prepare for a longer emergency, such as hyper-inflation, civil or nuclear war, or a multi-year emergency, this section is for you.
Storing enough food to last a year or longer is going to take a lot of preparation on your part; additionally, you are going to spend some money. Your choice is going to be how much?
The Latter-day Saints (the Mormons), as a group, are probably the experts on storing food for a long-term emergency. They have many quotes, teachings, and other recorded lectures on the importance of storing food. As individuals, the record isn't so good, so don't expect an individual Latter-day Saint or their family to have any food storage.
The Mormons command their members to store a year supply of food. They have central storehouses, called Bishop Storehouses, where members can get their food. If you know some Latter-day Saints that are willing to help you, you are in luck. The available food is centered on the basic four. Basically, the Latter-day Saints store wheat, sugar, salt, and dried-milk.
Heed Ms. Tate's warnings in "Seven Mistakes in Food Storage."
If you don't know any Mormons, you are going to have to do this on your own. The Mormons use to use only steel #10 cans; the cans hold a gallon of product. The Mormons started to switch to mylar bags placed in cardboard boxes in the late 1990s.
Both containers have their advantages and disadvantages. Steel cans are rodent proof, but they rust. Mylar is rust-proof, but the bags and boxes don't resist rodents very well. The steel can method also requires bulky cans and a special machine to seal the can. The can sealing machine can be expensive.
Because of these extra expenses, I am going to write about using mylar bags and food-grade 5-gallon bucket for you food storage program. I like this method. If you want different methods of storing your food, read Alan Hagan's "Prudent Food Storage FAQ version 4.0" for other options.
First, you need to order your mylar bags, oxygen absorbers, and 5-gallon buckets. I use new buckets because I only have a local source for new buckets. These buckets are #2 HDPE plastic, food-grade buckets. Supposedly food-grade and non-food-grade buckets use a different mold releasing agent when the bucket is manufactured.
Just so you know; a mold releasing agent is a chemical the manufacturer puts on the equipment to make it easier to remove the bucket from the equipment when the bucket is made
It is OK to use used-buckets. The rules for using used-buckets for food storage are the same as water storage, clean and only had food in them.
Second, you have to buy your food. There are different places to buy your food. Whole food stores, organic-food stores, feed stores, warehouse stores, and ethnic-food stores are a few of the places to buy food. Depending on your source of food will depend on if you have to pay any extra shipping cost.
Whole food and organic-food stores will have a variety of grains and beans fit for human consumption. Their products will range from organically-grown grains and beans to traditional farm-grown grains and beans. Warehouse stores may have only one type of grain and one type of bean. The feed store usually must order grains fit for human consumption, and an ethnic-food store will only have bulk food specific to that ethnic group. Call or visit to ask about their policy on ordering and availability of food.
When you are putting up your own bulk food, you have to plan in advance. All of the materials must be on hand before you get your food. Food in paper sacks are a poor storage container, but an emergency might dictate your getting food before the canning supplies. I would rather have 3 sacks of rice and beans and no canning supplies during a food emergency then all of the canning supplies and no food.
Next, you have to decide if you want your food in big mylar bags or little mylar bags. If you decide little bags, you will need to cut up the big mylar bags and make small bags. To make a big bag into smaller bags: take a big mylar bag and fold in half. Cut along the fold. Fold and cut as needed to make smaller bags.
Once you are finished cutting, you need to seal the edges of the bag. Make sure to leave one edge unsealed.
To seal, take an electric clothes iron, set on high, and iron the edge, flip over and iron the edge again. I usually iron one-inch seams. This is a skill; it takes a little practice.
When using small mylar bags, I fill all the bags first with food. I put in one or two oxygen absorbers, then seal the bag with the iron. Then I put the sealed bags in a box or 5-gallon bucket.
For large bags, I put the big bag in the 5-gallon bucket then fill with food. I put in four 500cc oxygen absorbers, push some of the air out then seal the bag with the iron. Once you open the bag of oxygen absorbers, you have to move quickly.
I always have all the food, I am doing that day, placed in bags first. Then I open the oxygen absorber's bag and put in the absorbers, push the air out, then seal. If you have two irons and a helper, it goes a lot quicker.
I usually get 35 pounds of wheat, rice, and sugar; 50 pounds of salt; and 25 pounds of beans in their own separate bucket. I put my beans in smaller mylar bags before I put them in the buckets.
For all my food in mylar bags, I label the top of the bag, where I sealed the bag, with the item's name. An example is "Black Beans." Before I seal the bucket, I write the name of the item and how many pounds are in the bucket, on the lid. An example is "Black Beans, 25 lbs." Once I seal the bucket, I place a label with the item's name, the weight, the package date, and the expiration date on the side of the bucket. An example is "Black Beans, 25 pounds, Nov 2008, Nov 2016."
If you use a bucket opener, you are able to reuse the bucket and lid. You could probably reuse the bucket and lid even if you use a knife and screwdriver to open the lid.
Bucket openers/lid lifters come in plastic and metal. I have given plastic openers to friends and family. I have about 5, 3 plastic and 2 metal. (Remember PACE)
All of the food gets stored in a cool, dry, and dark place, the basement. If you don't have a basement, you will have to get creative in your storage. There are many creative ways, a table made of buckets, just add a table cover; under the bed as a bed frame; staked along a wall with a curtain covering the stack.
One outside storage method I have seen was called a pallet root cellar.
Don't put your food storage in a hot place like the garage or attic.
Now there are ways to reduce your cost. You can use animal/feed-grade food. You can omit the mylar bag, and use metal 55-gallon open head drums for your storage containers.
If you use animal feed, make sure you are getting animal feed with nothing mixed in. No molasses, no minerals, no vitamins, no mixes of different grains, or cracked grain. Cracked grain will not last as long as whole grain.
Do Not, Don't, Never get seed for your food storage. Seed is treated with chemicals to resist rot, fungus, and other nasties. These chemicals will harm/kill you.
Omitting the mylar bag in the 5-gallon bucket will allow water vapor to enter the food. Yes, it takes a little while, but the food will not last as long.
There are two types of metal drums, open-head and closed-head. A closed-head metal drum has two small holes in the top. Soda syrup usually comes in a closed-head drum. The top of an open-head metal drum is totally removable. The top has a grove and a seal that seals the drum tight.
To use the cleaned drum, open the top and put your sealed mylar bags inside. When filled or finished, close the drum using the provided clamp. Just like the water barrel, these weight 350 pounds or more when full.
OK, you have 350 pounds of wheat, 150 pounds of rice, 125 pounds of various beans, 70 pounds of sugar, 35 pounds of salt 356 multivitamins for every man, woman, and child in your family. What do you do with it?
Eat it! You have to get use to using these foods. You have to use these foods in recipes. Learn the spices that your family likes then add the spices to your food storage. You have to learn to use the machines needed to use it, and buy the wheat mill and the corn mill, the pasta maker, and etc. The local library is a great source for information on baking and cooking using whole food such as wheat, corn, rice, and beans.
You will also have to learn how to use different cooking methods solar ovens, slow cookers, pressure cookers/canners, hay boxes, and masonry ovens just to name a few because electricity and propane may not be available.
The above advice includes the dehydrated and freeze-dried foods that are available. As far as I know, Mountain House is the largest supplier of these dehydrated and freeze-dried foods.
They sell from their website and they have many retailers. You have to shop around to find the best deals. Different retailers have different prices for the same product, some include shipping and some don't.
Just like MREs, these foods can be expensive, but the freeze-dried foods have a 25 to 30 year shelf life. So if you want, you can feed a family of four for about the price of an economy-size sedan.
For really long-term food security, you will need to learn how to grow, raise, and can your own food. Once again the local library has a wide variety of books on gardening, raising sheep, chicken, goats, and other animals for food. The library also has books on organic gardening, making compost, and other chemical-free vegetable and fruit growing techniques.
So start your food list, give some folks a call, check out a few books from the library, and I'll ...
See you next week!
Be Prepared with a Three Day Emergency Food Supply:
Food and Water in an Emergency by the American Red Cross:
Keeping Food Safe During an Emergency:
Seven Mistakes of Food Storage by Vicki Tate:
Viking Preparedness - Cannd Food Shelves
You will need to scroll down to "Canned Food Shelves"
Mormon Basic Four - Appropedia:
Mormon Basic Four and Other Food Storage Plans:
then click on "Food Storage" on the left hand side of the page
then click on anything under "Food Storage Programs"
Such as Ester Dickey's 40+4, Mormon table of 4, or Kearny's Survival Food Plan
Prudent Food Storage FAQ version 4.0 by Alan Hagan:
Prudent Food Storage FAQ version 2.5 by Alan Hagan:
Pallet Root Cellar:
Cooking With Food Storage Ingredients
Cooking With Food Storage Ingredients: Dry Beans