“If you wait until it’s raining, you’re out of luck.”
This sounds like a simple thing, but the concept is apparently beyond some people…Buy and store what your family eats. Really? Fraid so. It’s kind of hard to rotate your food storage if you aren’t willing to use it and eat it regularly. The best reason to store what your family eats is that in a time of emergency, if you’ve only stored the basics like wheat, beans, rice, etc. and your family’s diet is suddenly changed, you and your family’s stomachs and digestive tracts are not going to be cooperative and calm. Times of stress are not the ideal occasion to suddenly change your whole diet. This is especially true for children and the elderly. You always hear the idiom “If you’re hungry enough, you’ll eat what you have.” This is not true. It has been proven that small children and the elderly have been known to starve to death rather than eat food that they don’t like or unfamiliar with. In addition, our digestive systems are used certain foods. Wheat, beans and rice might be great “staples”, but if you can’t digest them you can be in real trouble. I personally have some health issues that would make it downright dangerous to try and live off a diet filled with wheat, beans and rice!
This is an example of what I’m talking about. A while ago I was talking to a young lady about her newly begun food storage. “You know,” she began, “I’ve dreaded doing my food storage for years, its seems so blah, but the way national events are going my husband and I decided we couldn’t put it off anymore. And, do you know, it really hasn’t been hard. We just bought 20 bags of wheat, my husband found a place to get 60 pound cans of honey, and now all we have to do is get a couple of cases of powdered milk.”. Envisioning this in my head I shuddered and asked, “Do you know how to cook with your wheat?” “Oh,” she laughed, “if we ever need it I’ll learn how. We only like white bread and I don’t have a wheat grinder anyway.” This lovely young lady had just made every major mistake in storing food (other than not storing anything at all.) And she’s not alone. Unfortunately, I have found many people’s storage starts out looking just like hers. So, what’s wrong with this storage plan? There are seven serious problems that may occur if you try to live on these basics:
- VARIETY -Most people don’t have enough variety in their storage. 95% of the people I’ve talked to only store the 4 basic items we mentioned earlier: wheat, milk, honey, and salt. Statistics show most of us won’t survive on such a diet for several reasons.
Many people are allergic to wheat and may not be aware of it until they are eating it meal after meal. I myself don’t have any wheat in my storage. Neither my husband or I can tolerate wheat, so why would I store it?
- Wheat is too harsh for young children. They can tolerate it in small amounts but not as their main staple.
- As I mentioned earlier, we get tired of eating the same foods over and over and many times prefer not to eat than to sample that specific food again. This is called appetite fatigue. Young children and older people are particularly susceptible to it. Think outside the box. Store a variety of other grains, just make sure they are ones your family likes to eat. Also, if you can tolerate them, store a variety of beans. This will add variety of color, texture and flavor. Variety is the key to successful food storage.
Don’t forget to include a good supply of the spices you like to cook with. These flavorings and spices allow you to do many creative things with your grains and beans. Without them you are severely limited and will get bored very quickly. My husband is amazing. Give him a bottle of cheap onion and garlic powder and he can make anything into a great meal!
One of the best suggestions I can give you is buy a good food storage cookbook. I will have one available for pre order in about 2 weeks called “Now That I’ve Stored It… What the Heck Do I do With It?!” Go through it (or any other book of your choice) and see what your family would really eat. Notice the ingredients as you do it. This will help you more than anything else to know what items to store.
Keep a food diary for a month. Include everything! Beverages, snacks, everything you eat for a month. This will not only show you where you are wasting money (can you say McDonald’s 19 times?), it will also give you a basic idea of how much you need to store. Next, you will need to translate your diet into foods that can be stored.
- EXTENDED STAPLES -They say never put all your eggs in one basket. Well that’s just as true with food storage. It’s best to store a mixture of dehydrated and/or freeze-dried foods, MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat), as well as home canned and store bought canned goods. Each type of food is best suited for different situations. MRE’s make sense during the first day or two of a natural disaster or when the power is out. MRE’s are very expensive though. I keep Hormel meals for my 72-hour pack and canned soups and pasta for additional storage options. The Hormel meals have a shelf life of about 18 months and can be eaten cold if necessary. The reason I like them better than canned goods for my 72-hour pack is that they are lighter and pack easier than the cans. Whichever way you choose make sure your choices are easy to eat and won’t stress you. Eat them all cold a few times! I’ve discovered some items are great warm, but make me want to gag when they are cold. Don’t wait until it’s an emergency to find out you don’t like something cold. Also, make sure you have at least 4 days’ worth of meals you can eat right out of the container. While I have a camping stove and don’t need to worry about cooking, you might not! Make sure you’re OK if the power is out for a few days.
You should then have at least 3 months of the items you eat every day. This is where your frozen foods such as fresh meat comes in. These are the food stores you will regularly cycle through. This is the food you will use during short term personal emergencies. Make sure you add cooking oil, shortening, baking powder, soda, yeast and eggs. You can’t cook even the most basic recipes without these items.
I also recommend incorporating a mixture of long term storage foods into your diet now. These include commercially available freeze-dried and dehydrated foods. I prefer freeze dried for quality and taste. You should have a mixture of pre-made meals and storable ingredients.
- VITAMINS – MINERALS AND NUTRITION-Vitamins and minerals are an important consideration in our lives always. They are especially crucial during times of stress, particularly if you have children, since children do not store body reserves of nutrients as adults do. Our bodies need more vitamins and minerals in times of stress. A high quality multi-vitamin mineral supplement and a natural high potency vitamin C are essential to your food storage.
- QUICK AND EASY AND PSYCHOLOGICAL FOODS -Quick and easy foods help you through times when you are psychologically or physically unable to prepare your basic storage items. I’ve been there. Sometimes you just don’t have the emotional fortitude to cook. This is where the MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat), or store bought ready meals (such as Hormel) come in. Freeze dried and dehydrated camping meals are also good. If you have kids (or husbands) don’t discount canned pasta and soup. My husband will gladly eat many of these right out of the can if I let him! Psychological Foods (Comfort Foods) are the goodies – Jell-O, pudding, candy, etc. – you should add to your storage. Hard candy is a must. It is a good source of sugar. Don’t forget beverages! Pre-sweetened Kool-Aid, hot chocolate and instant coffee are all musts for your food storage list. These may sound frivolous, but I’ve known many people who have lived entirely on their storage for extended periods of time. Every one of them said these were the most helpful items in their storage to normalize their situations and make it more bearable. These are especially important if you have children.
- BALANCE -Time and time again I’ve seen families buy a year’s supply of wheat, then buy a year’s supply of another item, and so on. Don’t do that. What happens if you have an emergency three months down the road and are stuck with nothing but wheat and dried milk? This will not be a happy situation, believe me. It’s always important to keep “well-balanced” as your mantra while you build your storage. Buy several items, rather than a large quantity of one item.
I have an acquaintance who became a “prepper” …well at least in his own mind. He had a six-month supply of rice, dried kidney beans, wheat and dried milk. He thought he was in high cotton. Of course, he also had more survival gear than I’ve ever seen outside of Cabela’s! He was in the audience at one of my seminars and came up afterward to tell me I was full of moose mush and he could live just fine on what he had stored…well, I asked him to put his mouth where his food storage was. I told him I would live strictly off my food storage for a month and so would he. We would Skype every evening and check in with each other…telling what we had eaten, how we felt, how we had slept the night before etc. Long story short, after 8 days he gave in. At the beginning, he was psyched and sure of success…then the diarrhea and gas started (he had never eaten many beans before) …then he became constipated…he couldn’t sleep…he had a headache…then by the 8th day he admitted he couldn’t make himself swallow the food anymore. Hmmm…I on the other hand was just fine because I stored what I regularly ate and didn’t notice a difference at all…well, except for not needing to go to the store for a week…
- CONTAINERS -Always store your bulk foods in plastic food grade storage containers. I have seen literally tons and tons of food thrown away because they were left in boxes and sacks, where they were highly susceptible to moisture, and became an all you can eat buffet for insects and rodents. If you are using plastic buckets that are not food grade, make sure they are lined with a food grade plastic liner available from companies that carry packaging supplies. Never use trash can liners as these are treated with pesticides. Don’t stack them too high. In an earthquake, they may topple, the lids pop open, or they may crack. A better container is the #10 tin can which most preparedness companies use when they package their foods.
I personally am not a fan of bulk storage of any kind. If one of your bulk containers becomes damaged, you lose the entire content of the container. It makes for more work in the beginning, but I prefer to transfer bulk items like flour and rice into smaller, more manageable packages. I use a vacuum sealer to make one to two pound pouches and then store these in larger food grade buckets.
- USE YOUR STORAGE -This is where I get my mantra…Store What You Eat. One of the biggest problems I see is people storing food and not knowing what to do with it. It’s vital that you and your family like to eat the things you are storing. You need to know how to prepare the foods you’ve stored. This is not something you want to learn under stress. Your family needs to be used to eating these foods. A stressful period is not a good time to totally change your diet. I’m going to repeat this, if you’re going to store the typical “food storage” items like wheat, get a food storage cookbook and learn to cook them! It’s easy to solve any food storage problems once you know what they are. The young lady I talked about earlier realized what she had stored was a good beginning, but not enough. As she said, “It’s better to find out the mistakes I’ve made now while there’s still time to make corrections.” This makes a lot more sense.
In emergency preparedness, a 72-hour kit is widely considered the first step in becoming prepared.
This unobtrusive little back pack will spend its time sitting in a closet or some other area close to the front door. It can be grabbed in a moment’s notice, should you have to leave your home with little or no warning.
About 10 years ago, we were living in a small community way out in the country, when a neighbor’s home caught fire at 3 AM. Everyone got out of the home safely, but the fire quickly spread and destroyed this family’s home. Everything was lost. What did they have left? Only the pajamas on their backs. They lost literally everything. They didn’t even have shoes on their feet. I’m sure they wished they’d had a good 72-hour kit. Fortunately, the whole community pulled together for them. But not everyone is this lucky. Sometimes, whole communities are affected at the same time. Back in 1978 I remember a news story about a tiny farming community that had to be immediately evacuated for several days because of derailed and leaking butane filled rail cars. Before that, everyone here thought this was a place where disasters ‘never happened.’ Seventy-two hour kits would have been handy then as well. It’s not necessary that you live in a tornado or hurricane alley to need a 72-hour kit. Every family needs one for the unexpected.
A 72-hour kit should contain all the essential things your family would need to take you through 3 days of being on your own. Why 72 hours? It generally takes the disaster relief agencies at least 3 days to move in and set up before offering assistance. Generally speaking, you’re on your own during this time. Depending on how bad the situation is, it could even be longer.
In any type of disaster things will be bad. Not having the necessities to sustain your life and the lives of your family could turn an otherwise manageable problem into a personal cataclysm you could never recover from. Prepare now for life’s surprises.
An emergency kit should be stored in a heavy duty back pack, not a bag with handles like a duffle bag. You want to have your hands free in case you need to do any walking. A tough, waterproof bag with lots of pockets is best. I prefer one with an aluminum frame because it holds its shape better and is easier to distribute the weight in. As a bare minimum need to include the following types of items in your bag:
- First Aid/Preventative Aid, such as a First Aid Kit
- Light, Heat, Fire making including a flash light and spare batteries, matches and candles
- Navigation aids like GPS or a compass and maps
- Food and water for 4 days
- Personal Hygiene & Sanitation items including toilet paper and wet wipes
- Personal Items should include extra house and car keys, copy of important papers such as titles etc., a watch, pencil and note pad
- Emergency Gear such as a whistle, space blanket and hand warmers
- Clothing Maintenance and Repair like a sewing Kit and spare shoelaces
- Cash including $100 in small bills, $10 in Quarters, Credit Cards, Debit Card and a few blank Checks
- Communication equipment such as pocket radio, cell phone or Two-way radio
- Sleeping bag
- Water purification tablets
- Clothing including socks, underclothing, a jacket and hat