We have finally arrived at the last installment of the Top 5 Priorities of Emergency Preparedness. Food storage is critical to be able to survive a disaster. In our modern society we can go to the local grocery store any time of day or night and buy whatever food we need. It is so easy and convenient that we don’t consider what we would do if that resource was not available. The idea of food storage can seem so drastic when we have a fully stocked Wal-Mart right around the corner. But, speak with someone who has gone through a hurricane and ask them how quickly the store shelves get cleared out of canned food and water. Not only will those food stuffs disappear within hours or days, but they will not be replenished quickly. At that point you will have to rely on your own food storage to survive. You may have to survive only days, but it may be weeks or even months.
Because food storage is a very in depth topic I will do my best to keep it brief. Here are the areas that we need to understand:
- Why – Specific reasons why you should store food?
- What – What type of foods should I store?
- Where – Where should I store my foods?
- How – How much food should I store? How do I get started?
- Who – For whom should I store food? What should I consider when I am storing food?
First, let’s talk about why you should have food storage. Here are 4 great reasons:
- Insurance – As we have discussed in previous posts, food storage is on the best insurance policies you will ever buy. And best of all, unlike other insurance policies, you can still use it even if you don’t ever really need it. Just remember, when the house is on fire, it is too late to buy fire insurance. You need to prepare ahead of time by having your food storage in place when you need it.
- Hedge against inflation – As fuel and oil prices go up, so do food prices. This will happen. Since July 2008, oil and correspondingly gas prices have come down a ton, but never fear, they will go back up. The food you buy today will be considered a deal 20 years from now when it is still usable and good. That is also why you buy long shelf life items.
- Peace of mind preparedness – What is peace of mind worth to you? With so many worries in our lives isn’t nice to be able to take one off the list? Having your food storage in place and being prepared will help you diminish the fear cycle that we experience when we watch the evening news.
- Food storage is a sound investment – Every expense in your life is some kind of investment. Money spent of long term food storage will pay dividends as a usable insurance policy, as a hedge against inflation and by giving you peace of mind.
Now, let’s talk about what food you should store. Here goes:
- 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.
Now, you know why you should have food storage and you know what to store. So, let’s talk about where to put all this stuff once you get it. Store the food in a cool, dry place. This one you have heard over and over, but it is the rule of thumb for storing your food. Two things cause your food to loss nutritional value and spoil: oxygen and moisture. Hence the dry place. Keeping your food storage cool slows down spoilage dramatically. The cooler, the better. Make sure you have your food stored in such a way that it has little or no contact with air.
Basements are perfect for food storage because they maintain a steady cool temperature year round. But many people across the country don’t have basements, so storing your food at room temperature (typically 75 degrees year round) will be just fine. I know a lot of people that store their food in cases under their beds or in closets. Just make sure you can get to it when you need it and it won’t get damaged.
I recommend keeping your food off the ground and in the original packaging as much as possible. By keeping the food off the ground on shelves or stacked, you will prevent the food from being damaged by somebody stepping on it, dropping it or kicking it. You also want to keep your food in a place where you can get to it, but that isn’t in the way. If you dent a #10 can it may affect the seam of the can and thereby affect the shelf life.
Also, by maintaining as much of the original packaging as possible, you will prolong the shelf life. So, if you buy a bunch food of in #10 cans, keep the food in the #10 cans. You may even want to keep them in the cases that they were shipped to you in. You can repackage your food in zip lock or even vacuum sealed bags, but it will reduce the shelf life.
Let’s talk about how much food you should store and how to get started. Basically, you want to have at least a 3 month supply of long term food storage. Meaning that is food that will store for at least 10 years. You have that much food for each person in your family. After you reach that point keep adding to your storage until you feel comfortable. To get started, just do what you can. Work within your budget and buy the food you need. The most important part about getting started is to get started today!
Who should you have food storage for? Of course yourself, but also everyone in your family. Make sure you take into consideration children and special diets as you store your food. You should also consider your neighbors and others in the community that might be in need of your help. Just make sure you have enough food to take of your family and neighbors if possible. It is always better to have more food than you would need, just in case.