Getting the Most out of Your Food Storage: Part #1
How we store food has changed quite a bit over the years. It used to be that food storage was done only by a small set of people that were looked at as extreme or on the fringes. Today, that perception has completely changed. Storing food in your home is not only widely accepted but is considered to be a very wise and prudent choice. In my own house growing up, we had a large storage room under our garage where we kept all kinds of food and other supplies for the family. My mom loved it because it was like she could go “shopping” in her own home and I thought it was cool that we had all of this food. My friends on the other hand thought it was a little crazy. Times have definitely changed.
I want to talk to you about how we can get the best value out of our food storage investment. I believe in keeping it simple. With our current economy we need to stretch every dollar to take care of our families. So, let’s keep it simple and focus on the following topics:
- Defining short term and long term food storage
- What should I get first?
- Filling out your food storage: identifying gaps and filling them.
Divide your food storage into two categories: short term and long term. Almost everybody has some amount of short term food storage. Short term food storage is food that will store for 2 years or less. Typically, this is food that you purchased at your local grocer and already have in your pantry. It includes items such as canned food, dry prepared foods and cooking basics. Pretty much everything in your pantry will store for at least 2 years. This constitutes your short term food storage.
You should have at least a 2 week supply of short term food storage. This food you rotate regularly because you are eating it every day. Most of the mistakes people make with their short term food storage are a result of confusing long term food storage with short term food storage. Here are the common mistakes people make with their short term food storage or food in their pantry:
1. They don’t buy what they eat – People end up buying what is on sale and not considering what their family actually eats. With your short term food items, it is especially important to make sure you buy food that your family will eat because it doesn’t store for very long. If you don’t use a lot of Cream of Celery soup when you cook, then don’t go out and buy a couple of cases of it. It is money that you could be using in other areas of your food storage.
2. They buy too much of one thing – Nalley Chili or Pasta Roni is on sale so you go out and buy cases of the stuff only to have it sit on your shelf for years. Be careful not to overbuy. Give yourself variety.
3. They don’t know what they have – Keep your short term food storage organized so you can see what you have. It is easy to make mistake #2 if you don’t know what is in the pantry.
So, bottom line with short term food storage is:
- Have at least a 2 week supply of food
- Buy what you eat
- Don’t buy too much of one thing
- Keep it organized
There is a phrase that I really believe in when it comes to life and food storage: “Know Thyself”. In order to get the most out of our food storage, we need to know how we use our food on a daily basis. If you rarely or never cook food from scratch, then you should take that into consideration when you store food. Some people can turn a bowl of flour into something delicious and some people (like me!) can’t. So, be honest with yourself on how you cook and how you would cook during an emergency. Don’t try to store food like your neighbor does, if you don’t cook like your neighbor does.
With that in mind, here are points to remember with your long term food storage:
- Store food based on how you cook – a 50 lb. bag of wheat is great, but you have to know how to turn it into food. That is why I really like the freeze-dried prepared meals like Mountain House and Saratoga Farms.
- Store food with the longest shelf life possible – To get the most out of your food storage investment, you will need to buy foods that will store for the longest time possible. Look at your food storage as an annual cost. If you spend 1,000 on food that will store for 10 years, your annual cost is $100/year. If you spend the same amount on food that will store for 30 years, your annual cost is $33/year. A big savings. It also means you have to rotate your food a lot less. Which means you will be able to use the food when you need it.
- Store a variety of foods – You should have prepared meals (like Mountain House) and fruits, vegetables and other staples (like Saratoga Farms) in all varieties in your long term food storage. The more variety, the better the nutrition will be and the healthier your food storage will be.
- Work towards at least a 3 month supply for everyone in your family – Having a 3 month supply of long term food storage will give you a good buffer against whatever emergency you may face. After you have built it up to that point, than move to 6 months, then 9 months and then a year.
- Store foods that are easy to prepare – Simplicity goes a long way in your food storage. Don’t store complicated foods or meals. You don’t know what resources will be available to you when you will need to use the food. That is another reason I like Saratoga Farms and Mountain House. You just add hot water and stir. No cooking is required.
Next time we will talk about how to get started with your food storage.