Friday, February 8, 2013

9 Tips for Building an Emergency Food Supply

Gaye Levy, Contributor
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These days, it seems as though everyone has something to say about emergency food and emergency food storage. You will find advice telling you not only what to buy, but how much to buy, where to buy it, how to store it and to a lesser degree, how to eat it.

For the food storage newbie, all of this information can be overwhelming. And for the experienced food storage maven, every new piece of advice will have you wondering whether you have done it right or whether there is a better way. To use one of my favorite laments, it can all be too much!

Today I am going to do us all a favor and offer some crazy simple strategies for building an emergency food supply.

Take Your Time and Go Slow

If I can cite the number one reason people become overwhelmed when even thinking about putting aside an emergency food supply, it is the perceived sense of urgency that it all needs to be done right now. And this, for many, results in complacency and inaction. Don’t fall in to this trap. Begin with a three-day supply and gradually build that up to a week. After that, add to your emergency food supply week by week until pretty soon, you have three months of food stored away for you and your family.

Remember, it is perfectly okay to pick up only 4 or 5 extra cans of meats, fruits or vegetables during your weekly trip to the supermarket. Do what you can at a pace that your are comfortable with and ignore any message you get from others (including prepping forums and websites) to do it all at once.

Spend Your Money Wisely

There is no reason to break the budget while building an emergency food supply. Before heading out to the supermarket, view the local ads and find specials that will allow you to purchase more for less. If you are so inclined, use coupons; and if allowed, shop on “double coupon” days.

Warehouse clubs such as Costco have coupons, too, so don’t overlook those booklets that are sent out monthly. Often times the savings are huge. If you do not belong to a warehouse club, perhaps you can tag along with a friend or call ahead and see if they will give you a one-day shopping pass.

Don’t overlook shopping at one of the many Dollar Stores or even in the back aisles of the drugstore. Bargains abound as I recently learned when I picked up a half dozen cans of DAK ham for less than $3 each.

Scope Out and Optimize Your Storage Space

Finding a place to store your emergency food supply can be a challenge, especially if you live in a small home or apartment. Get creative, starting with a walk around tour of you living spaces. Places often overlooked are under beds, way up high in closets where you can add another shelf, and under dressers, desks and sofas.

My number one tip, though, is to go through your cupboards and closets and remove those items that are duplicates, that you rarely use, or that you do not use at all.

 For example, in your kitchen, how many different pots and pans do you need? My guess is that you use the same two or three over and over again. Stow away the extras in the basement or storage locker or give them away to charity. Trust me, they will not be missed. The same thing applies to seldom-used clothing, shoes and sports equipment.

If you are truly serious about finding the space for your emergency food supply, you will toss those miscellaneous items that are only used once every three years in order to free up space for some additional canned or dried food items.

Stick to the Basics

Monitor what your family eats for a week and use that as a guideline for getting started. The advantage of doing this is that you will learn what your family likes so that you can shop accordingly. You would be surprised at how many people can’t remember what they ate yesterday let alone a week ago. Try to write everything down so that you don’t have to rely upon your memory.

Keep in mind that bulk foods such as beans, rice, oatmeal and powdered milk are staples in the survival food pantry. Relatively speaking, they are all (with the exception, perhaps of the milk) inexpensive. These are basics, yes. But if you are just getting started, why not begin with the food your family eats – but only in canned form?

Also, do not forget to store at least one gallon of water per person per day along with your emergency food supply.

Don’t Make it a Chore

Storing food for an emergency can be challenging but it does not have to be a chore. Eliminate the panic of attempting to get it all done at once and the process can almost be fun and game-like. Searching out deals – either with coupons or at sales – can be an adventure in and of itself. Involve the kids by asking them for suggestions and helping them make selections that they will enjoy eating.

Continue the adventure by learning to cook with traditional storage items such as the bulk food items mentioned above (beans, rice, oatmeal and powdered milk). Adding condiments of various types will result in delicious meals not only now, but after an emergency when good tasting food will be a comfort.

Pay Attention to Storage Conditions

www.OffgridOutpost.comNotwithstanding finding the space for your emergency food supply, consider the storage conditions in your home. The enemies of food storage are temperature, moisture, oxygen, light, pests and time. Then there is the two-legged variety (such as teenagers!) who eat everything in sight, including your emergency food.

While not all household conditions are perfect, be aware of the six enemies of food storage and do your best to mitigate their effect on your precious food supply. This means you should avoid storing food in garages that are 90 degrees in summer and 30 degrees in winter. Empty your cupboards and closets of excess stuff and stow these items in the garage. This will make room for you to store your food inside your main living area where the ambient room temperature is stable.

Rotate Out, and Replenish In

Nothing lasts forever, so periodically go through your emergency food supply and rotate out the oldest items. You can do this once a year or even every two years. Just remember to replenish what you remove.

The exception to this rule is if the food items have been packaged for long-term storage, either by the manufacturer or yourself. How to package for the long term is beyond the scope of this article, but you will find plenty of tips in the following three articles here on Backdoor Survival:

Food Storage Part I – A Primer on Oxygen Absorbers
Food Storage Part II: Unraveling the Mystique of Mylar Bags
Food Storage Part III: Food Grade Buckets, Lids and Gamma Seals

Keep Track of Your Stuff

Once you get going, it will be easy to lose track of what you already have. The best way to overcome the state of confusion you will experience six months down the road is to start keeping track of your stored items now – from the beginning. Use a spiral notebook, a computer spreadsheet, or a clipboard and a pad of paper. Update your inventory with the item and date of purchase as it goes into storage and of course, mark it off as it rotates out.

Another good idea is to use a sharpie or a colored label to mark the purchase date on each item. That is the simple way of using the FIFO method of food rotation (FIFO = First In, First Out).

Do Your Homework

Resources abound. With a modest amount of computer knowledge, you can search around the Internet to find all sorts of emergency food and food storage advice. Be an informed consumer. Learn about the foods that store well and also about pre-packaged meals that only require a bit of hot water to create a good-tasting and satisfying food experience.

Learn about bulk foods and cooking methods that your can use when there is no power to your home. Many of the websites selling food will have blogs as well as links to helpful information. Why not use them to increase your overall knowledge and to become familiar with additional tactics and strategies for storing food for the long-term in a hassle-free manner?

The Final Word

While it is true that an unexpected disaster could happen at any time, the reality is that we prepare for far more than a natural disaster. A sudden illness, unemployment and even expensive car repairs may all contribute to the need to prepare and to have food and supplies at the ready.

Learning to overcome the feeling of being overwhelmed as you begin to store food for an emergency or for the long term does not have to be daunting. Start with these crazy simple tips and you will be well on your way to becoming an emergency food storage maven.

Bulk Food Storage: Best Investment of the Decade
10 Best Survival Foods At Your Local Supermarket

Read other articles by Gaye Levy here.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!

Gaye Levy, the SurvivalWoman, grew up and attended school in the Greater Seattle area. After spending many years as an executive in the software industry, she started a specialized accounting practice offering contract CFO work to emerging high tech and service industries. She has now abandoned city life and moved to a serenely beautiful rural area on an island in NW Washington State. She lives and teaches the principles of a sustainable, self-reliant and stylish lifestyle through emergency preparation and disaster planning through her website at SurvivalWoman speaks her mind and delivers her message with optimism and grace, regardless of mayhem swirling around us.


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Anonymous said...

It just breaks my heart. There is such a need to end hunger in the States yet this isn't going to do it and I'll tell you why. Unlike the 60's and the 70's the programs and initiatives people suggest nowadays are not for America (unlike the 60's and 70's)as a whole but are more of a political nature. For instance in the trailer it uses Michelle Obama as some sort of Goddess against hunger. The truth is any republican watching the trailer would turn it off right there at that moment and not get involved. Further this political bent fails to point out that Obama Michelles HUSBAND is responsible for hunger because of his policies. See the trouble? It's back to the right and the left, black and white, same ole. It's very much a tired old Third World Politique. Too bad because there is such a need to end hunger too.

Anonymous said...

The post above was meant for the "A Place At The Table" activist string posting above.

Anonymous said...

Great article Gaye, but I never read in these articles if preppers or anyone who is building a food supply are concerned about BPA in the linings of the large majority of canned goods these days. I understand in a time of crisis that food is food, but are there concerns since this food could be sitting on the shelf a while?

Don Avery said...

I have over 20 years of prepping experience and have been trained by professionals in food storage. Iam always amazed at how poorly thought out prep. intructions and "tips" are presented. There are dozens of websites thrown up by people who don't have a clue.

Anonymous said...

When stashing a supply for food keep in mind the SMELLS of food. You will have neighbors not prepared and starving and if they smell your food cooking they will kill you for it. Desperate people do desperate things. Starving people will also enter other peoples homes, at last resort, on a hunt to find food.

Hide Behind said...

It is a mindset that needs to be nourished first and it cannot be just a temporary fad it has to become a lifestyle and that takes time and a lot of minds energy to be expended before it becomes a normal part of your life.
Not that many years ago putting foods aside to be used even months later was normal and grocery needs were thought out weeks in advance.
Where on payday you bought items to last at least until the next payday and did not shop for just todays or tomorrows meals.
In Japanese manufacturing that hss since caught on here there is a practice they call can ban whereby you keep track of a periods need for supply and when the supply runs low. And you know hpw long resupply takes to replenish it before you run out.
Just as in when home canning was a norm the newest canned items go to the back of storage and as the oldest is withdrawn the newer moves forward.
Why do so many think that they need to buy items that can be stored for 5 or more years, that is not emergency storeage that is a lifetime of disaster.
Not only that most of it is hype because that is if not opened for that long and cost far more than other items whose storage life is only 1 to 3 years.
Properly canned goods in sterile glass canning jars will outlive most canned in metal goods even with the cans poisonous liners.
One illness we here little of today but used to be fairly common is tomain poisoning from cuts or eating from rusting cans.
Do not just throw away the idea of home canning ad a safe viable alternative to prepping.
Will admit that moving bulky and breakable glass jars is a pain in back or elsewhere and that having good dehyides on hand is great idea.
As to getting a family involved we a family of five would all work at canning as many as 50 quarts or 25 half gallon or a hundred pints of food in just one day.
As to a 3$ can of ham you could buy a ham tand can twice as large portion for half that price.
By home canning you can can a whole meal of soup or meats, fish or chicken witout having preservatives near them.
There are still home canners that use metal cans.
Start small and try canning your own hams and you don't have to scrape away whatever that slime is in store bought.

Darcy Hubbert said...

These tips really help so much. Being prepared really counts. This helps save people's lives during disasters.

Julie said...

Wow, that's such a scary thought. I'd never thought of that.

I'd probably pray that I'd have some to share with others but even them it would be a really difficult situation.

Just a quick question: Should I keep my food storage buying/storage quiet, just in-case there could be a risk of this happening?

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