The Fourth 3 – the 3-Month prep: Your choices for setting up food stocks
If you are going to have three months’ worth of food on hand, this takes some organization and planning. We (you) are essentially tripling the amount of food you will keep on hand and the first consideration is going to be – where are you going to store this food?
Since food stock should be rotated out as it ages and used before it expires: your storage space cannot just be a closet jam-packed with sealed buckets of chow. You need to be able to pull items that are older and place newly acquired items at that back of the line (called FIFO – First In, First Out). You will need some space to move around and shift stock. I have seen some neat organizers that you can build yourself that permit you to load your most recent purchase at the top and pull the oldest can from the bottom (does your FIFO system by gravity). This works for canned goods but not breakable containers like you mason jars.
Additionally, you may buy bulk items (like wheat berries or flour, rice or beans) that are stored in large containers but once opened have a reduced shelf life – you might pull this container and repackage the contents in smaller containers (that are more appropriate to your daily requirements). You might end up staging some food from your long-term storage area to a more accessible pantry.
You need to be able to inspect your stores and insure that pests or vermin have not infiltrated them. So you need to have a “warehouse” that is cool and dark and relatively dry (as we discussed in the Three week prep for food storage). Basements are a good choice. You certainly don’t want to put your food stocks in a shed that is not climate controlled or in the attic. Basements tend to remain cool even in the summer without additional energy consumption. But 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 rat poison to discourage mice from setting up shop.
If you have been monitoring your food consumption and have established a menu for building your food stocks – you can now begin organizing and building stock. Building a menu is a science. A friend of mine worked logistics for Burger King. He had a meeting with Waffle House to discuss supply chain. He was amazed that they knew the components of each meal down to the ounce. Their organization was thorough and they had their costs down to the gnat’s a**.
I am going to use breakfast as a sample. One, it is an easy meal to plan so I suggest you start there. Two, since everyone’s taste varies so much, this is just a sample to show you how to work through the process.
Breakfast for family of four: Eggs, toast, bacon or ham, milk or juice, coffee. It you want to mix it up with some pancakes or French toast a couple times a week. Not sure if you want plan on cereal in your food stock as I am not sure it will keep that long on the shelf.
Eggs: two per person per day = 3 ½ dozen for four meals. Plus some salt and pepper. If you make omelets plan for cheese and some vegetables and/or mushrooms. Your pancakes and French Toast also use eggs so this makes almost 5 dozen per week.
Toast: two slices of toast plus butter = half a loaf a day and probably close to half a stick per day. Add some jelly or jam but a large jar should last you for the month. Add the bread (or flour) for the pancakes and French Toast, you need enough flour for five loaves of bread. And nearly seven sticks of butter. Making your bread from scratch? You will need some yeast and some olive oil.
Bacon: half pound per meal = 3.5 pounds per week. Substitute with Canadian bacon, sausage, or other meats.
Milk or juice: 16oz per person = 1 quart a day. Almost 2 gallons per week. Coffee: a 30.5 oz can makes 240 cups. One can should last your family of four over a month.
French Toast and Pancake ingredients include baking powder, sugar, salt, more milk (and buttermilk), cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla extract and maple syrup.
► Buy it now and store it. This may be the easiest choice for many, you can control how much you are going to budget and build up stock over time. If you are picking up some SPAM this week at the grocery store, pick up a couple extra cans. Particularly if there are specials (2 for the price of 1) or coupons.
Look over the breakfast menu and what can you buy and store without refrigeration? You can get powdered eggs, powdered milk or UHT, jam in the jar, make your bread from scratch. Pretty much everything on our breakfast menu comes in a form that will store for several months so you could provision everything from the store. My suggestion would be to buy an extra week’s worth of food every week over the next several months until you have three months in storage. That way you can pull a week’s worth of food from your pantry each week for consumption using the FIFO method. Eventually you have 12 weeks of food in stock and now you only have to buy what you need for the week (although it will be placed in your stock and you will eat what you bought earlier). Do the same for your lunch and dinner menus.
► Fruits, veggies, and grains: Produce it and preserve it. Since we are looking at a three-month period, this is a good time to start looking at what food items you can grow or raise on your own property. You might wish to grow some spices and herbs indoors since only small quantities are needed. If you plan to start a garden, start small and build up. You should also look at planting some perennial scrubs and trees around your yard so you can have fresh fruits to augment your stock. You are going to have to decide how to preserve your produce: pickling, canning, dehydrating… Just imagine that you cannot go out and purchase some items – how would you grow them?
► Eggs, meat, and dairy: raise animals for food. It doesn’t take much land to raise some animals. Chickens or ducks for eggs (and some meat). Rabbits are a great source of protein, they breed quickly and can be harvested quickly. They also have the benefit of being small enough where you won’t have to worry about preserving the meat. Likewise, goats are small and easier to handle than cows for your dairy requirements. But you can consider having some larger animals (geese or turkeys, pigs, and cows) if you have the land and are willing to spend more time in caring for them. I will mention bees for honey. Again, if you could not buy it at the store, how would you raise it?
► Fish, trap, hunt, forage: this certainly can be a method of augmenting your food stock but unless you live in an area where game is plentiful, this is probably not the way to sustain yourself without storing, growing or raising food on your property. There is a reason that man went from hunter gatherers to farmers….
► Establish a food warehouse for storage of three month supply
► Build your three month menu
► Start purchasing extra food each shopping trip
► Determine what you will grow, pickle and can the harvest you cannot consume
► Determine what animals you might raise, preserve the products you cannot immediately consume
► Rotate stock using FIFO (First In First Out)
► Include your 3 month stock in your current consumption
► Pull from stock, prepare your meals according to your menu
► Replenish stock
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