Food Planning – Stocking up
I have to admit that one of the most daunting Prepper Tasks would be to plan your food stocks, particularly if you are trying to build up to a three year plan… on a budget. It would be simple if you have the cash to just go buy several pallets of “A Year’s Supply of Food for 1 (or 2 or 4)”. But since we all have various preferences for what we eat, you might find toward the end of the “year” you are stuck with a whole bunch of [name the food you don’t prefer] for the remaining weeks (months?). The best way to plan your food stock is to monitor what you eat now – keep a log over several months or a year. That will give you the best indicator of what type of food you naturally prefer. In this article I want to go over how to build up your supply not just so you have variety that we all like in our diet but you can also make it sustainable. Let’s go over four points: Water, food storage, the food itself, and essential tools.
1-Water: Let’s face it – you can’t store all the drinking water you need, much less water for other uses. At roughly one gallon drinking water per day (if you are not particularly active), 365 gallons for a year is seven 55 gallon drums. How many in your family or group? You can see that storing all that water would take a lot of space. Once stored it is not very mobile. And it is not necessary. If you don’t have a well or a standing body of water near by, then you should be looking at rain catchment (assuming you don’t live in the desert). Although you can always boil non-potable water for drinking, having a variety of filter and or chemical treatment methods will insure you have all drinking water you need. I store about 30 gallons in my home (mostly in two liter soda bottles) and rotate it. This should be enough for over a week for my family. We have two great articles on American Society of Preppers that deal with this subject in detail so you can read more on this if you are so inclined (Essential Water Supply and Water Treatment).
2-Storage Facility: Food lasts longer is a cooler, darker place. If you have a basement or cellar this is a great place to store some food. You certainly don’t want to put your food stocks in a shed that is not climate controlled or in the attic. If you don’t have a basement, you should consider installing in a root cellar (which can also double as a fallout shelter or a refuge during a tornado). Just remember whatever space you intend to use it should be easy for you to inspect your stock for damage and pests. Lots of shelving, walkways around the shelving to access food and inspect stock, vector control measures like traps or rat poison to discourage mice from setting up shop. Of course you have to rotate your stock – FIFO or First In First Out.
There is also one thing that complicates your storage: you really should have more than one place that you store food so if one cache is compromised (pests get into it, it gets damaged or stolen / raided), you still have other stores. This is particularly important if you are forced to bug out, you may have caches hidden in other areas. You might keep a supply pre-loaded on a trailer (assuming you can move by vehicle) just for this contingency.
Likewise – your stock needs to be cross-loaded. Pick the size of your package but you might want to limit storage in one place to a certain amount of food that constitutes a complete menu for that period. Again, if you have to move you can easily grab everything you need in one go.
3-The Food: this is a big subject but let’s try to keep it simple. I recommend a mixture of food sources to include buying some now to stock your pantry. For food you buy, work from a budget. Make sure you take advantage of sales especially of distressed good (damaged, dented or broken) – you just will probably need to repackage it. See if you can get some food from your local food bank, in many cases it will be for free. And of course, buying in larger quantities will reduce your cost per pound.
Survival Rations: you can get some 3 day packs of food bars that will provide 3600 calories (400 / bar x 9 bars). The taste is ok but you will lack variety (so get some different flavors). Shelf life is advertised as five years. This would be your bug out food in an emergency.
Freeze dried is the lightest and if properly stored will last years if not decades. It can also be a little pricy but I recommend you have several weeks worth of freeze dried food on hand. Light weight if you have to bug out. Mountain View and Wise make some great tasting entrees.
Canned: Canned goods will keep for a long time. Some studies indicate 50 years or more. However, for prepping purposes you should plan on keeping foods no more than two years: one year to get through the winter and the next year if for whatever reason you have a bad harvest. Easy to store and resistant to spoilage. And cost is reasonable for most items (tuna, most veggies and fruit) but can be pricy for beef or chicken (or bacon!). Note that canned good include things in glass jars like sauces and even juices. You should pick up some extra canned good every time you go grocery shopping and pretty soon you will have a substantial pantry. Downside is that they are heavy and would be harder to move if you had to relocate. Depending on the space you have available and how much you can store.
UHT: although I don’t prefer the taste, UHT liquids have a longer shelf life, up to a year.
Dry goods: again these have a longer shelf live and since they are dried, they are not very heavy. Pasta is what usually comes to mind in this category. Again pick up some extra every time you go grocery shopping and pretty soon you pantry will be full.
Bulk items: you might want to pick up some bulk rice, wheat berries, oats, or beans. These are essentially dry goods and you might have to vacuum pack them in mylar bags and then place inside some 5 gallon buckets with gamma lids. Don’t forget to add desiccant to suck up moisture and oxygen.
Cooking staples: corn starch, cooking oil, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar. These are items you may not be able to make or grow so it makes sense to pick them up and store them in your pantry.
Spices: bland food can get much more appetizing with just a little spice. Buy in bulk for significant savings. Try to grow some of your own, your window sill could be your spices’ makeshift greenhouse.
Coffee and tea: again if you like coffee or tea, it may not be available after the SHTF, stock up now.
The LDS have a basic on line planner for how much food you should store. Check it out at https://providentliving.com/preparedness/food-storage/foodcalc/ but it is pretty basic. If you are looking for something a little more detailed, check out https://sciencebasedlife.wordpress.com/2011/04/30/what-you-need-for-a-one-year-emergency-food-supply/ but the best is to monitor your current diet and tailor your pantry for what you like to eat.
Seeds: have a seed stock so you can plant next year’s harvest while you live off items in your pantry. Depending on what will grow in your area you should be growing your own fruits and veggies and canning whatever excess you have. Don’t wait until the SHTF before you start dipping your toe in gardening, start learning now.
Meat, eggs, dairy: these are items that are harder to store if you don’t have a freezer but if you check out our articles on Rabbits, Chickens (and Ducks) and Goats – these are three animals that you can raise yourself that don’t require a lot of space and will provide fresh meat, eggs, and milk, butter, and cheese. If you add some Honey Bees you get the bonus of the hive pollinating your crops and sweet honey that keeps forever.
4-Essential tools and equipment: food grade buckets, gamma lids, mylar bags, and desiccant packages for food storage, canning equipment and mason jars, a wheat mill, a sausage grinder, and a cold press and you should be ready to process and store food for your pantry. Whether you smoke, salt, pickle, ferment, can, freeze or dehydrate, make sure you have the equipment you need to accomplish the task.
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