Sunday, August 19, 2012

Review of Progress - Food Storage

Going down the list of priorities in Rawles’ How To Survive The End Of The World As We Know It, I wanted to know how I’ve done.  I didn’t have an inventory list of food when I first started so I can’t compare perfectly but I still can compare then to now.  We have a vegetable garden, I've put in over 50 fruit trees, we pressure can, boiling water bath, and dehydrate.  We raise chickens and eggs, ducks, and sheep.  At some point I'd like to get back into goats.  I just don't have time to milk so we don't have goats. 
Lay in an honest one-year supply of storage food for your family:
Start by increasing the quantities of canned foods that you use on a regular basis 
I’ve always had a good supply of food on hand.  When I started I had a four foot wide, two foot deep shelf unit (four shelves) plus another unit about the same size with five shelves.  These shelves held everything: my canned goods, dry beans, seasonings, candy, pasta, boxed mixes, everything. 

This past year we built a “home store” that is a separate room for food.  I have 4 four-foot wide shelves that are 1 ½ feet deep.  The units have 6 shelves each. This means I have almost 100 linear feet of shelf space to hold my food.  And, the shelves are pretty full.  I also have the old shelf units in the other room.  They hold the “monthly” food so instead of going to the home store we get most of our food out of that pantry and then resupply that pantry from our home store. 

Buy some short-term Get Out Of Dodge foods that don’t require adding water
Short-term means stuff that you really don’t want to be eating all the time.  I have at least 8 cases of MREs.  It’s not really very much food since there are three of us.  I probably should stock up on more of these.  About half are actual military style MREs.  They will last a good long time so they can just stay in storage.  We don’t normally eat them as part of our food storage program.  The other type of MRE that I like, and we do rotate them, are called Heater Meals.  They are a main dish that comes with its own heating bag.  You put your main dish in the bag, pour the salt water that’s supplied into the bag, then fold it over and let it do its chemical reaction magic.  The food will cook and be boiling hot in about 5 minutes.  These main dishes are stored in a heavy duty zip lock back along with snacks, handwipe, drink mix, etc.  It’s a do-it-yourself MRE.  The Heater Meal only has a couple year life so it needs to be rotated (aka eaten!).   I should probably stock up on more actual MREs and more Heater Meals.  They both cost a lot more than home made.  If I make our own MREs using pull-tab cans of tuna, beef jerky, etc. it would be a lot cheaper but they would have to be rotated much more often than the military style MRE or even the Heater Meal style.  End result?  Still lacking buy better than most people I know...because they have none!

Build a large supply of wheat, rice, beans, honey, and salt, in five or six gallon buckets
We have several hundred pounds of wheat, all stored in 5 gallon buckets. That’s heavy enough; I don’t want to go to six gallon buckets. Same with rice.  I went on a rice buying kick last year and every time I went to Costco I’d buy two 25 pound bags.  I’d throw them into the freezer for a week then take them out, have them sit on the counter for a few days to make sure there wasn’t any residual moisture, then pack into Mylar bags in five gallon buckets, put a paper towel on top, then seal up the bags and close up the bucket.   I do rotate these as we eat a lot of rice.  Every time I use up one bucket (25 pounds) I buy two more bags.  Rice is so cheap.  Less than $25 for 50 pounds.  We have several gallon cans of honey.  I bought the bee hive, which I’m going to put together this winter and purchase bees this spring…unless I have the good fortune to fine a swarm.  We also have sugar.  It’s easy to store and I do the same thing when I use sugar up.  I keep it in 2 gallon containers.  Each container holds 10 pounds.  When I use up 10 pounds I buy two more 10 pound bags.  I’ve bought it in 25 pound bags but the price is the same per pound and the smaller bags are easier to handle.  We have close to 100 pounds of sugar.  It will keep forever if kept dry and away from ants, so why not stock up?  Actually if the ants get in you can just scoop them out.  Do I have enough of these basics?  No.  And I won’t until I have a lifetime supply.  After all, if I expect to live another 30 years I could easily stock up on 30 years worth since they don’t go bad.  Come to think of it, I do have a 30 year supply of salt, even if I do lots and lots of pickling. 

Rotate your storage food consistently, using the first-in first-out inventory methodology.
All canned goods have the date on the cans or boxes written in big black Magic Marker across the front.  Between marking each and every item and putting the newest on the bottom or in the back, depending on if they are stacked or not, it takes a while to put the stuff all away.  Most of the time I don’t have things that are too far out of date.  Unless you get the storage packed foods, you will have foods out of date.  After all, most food you buy at the grocery store has a use by date of a year at most.  How can you store two or three years of stuff if it goes out of date in a year?  Easy, you don’t worry about the date as long as it still tastes and smells good.  Everything is still used in date order.  It does make me wonder if I have a bunch of items that are out of date, is it that I don’t like that item?  If that’s the case I shouldn’t keep including it in the home storage. 

A couple years ago we tried some Cracker Jacks that had been in the decorative can for about 15 years.  We spit them out right there at the table.  They were horrible!  In a quest for dessert we spied a can of chocolate chips.  They were just as old.  They were edible.  Not great but edible.  I don’t think there’s anything else in the house that is that old. 

I did find a couple of jars of grape juice that I canned in 2002.  10 years old.  Why not?  It may not have had any vitamins left in it but it still provided some calories.  That’s it for old food.  The oldest of the expiration dates on store food is 2011 and the oldest food I have from home canned is 2010.  All in all, we are doing a good job rotating food. 
Store extra food for charity and barter
For those who really care and are really hungry, wheat, rice, beans, honey, and salt are the best foods to barter.  They are also cheap to buy and easy to store.  I’ve started saving the wide mouth Gatorade bottles to store these items in.  You can put about a pound of salt into a 20 ounce bottle.  It takes up more space this way than keeping it in the four pound box but it’s a guaranteed way to keep the salt dry.  It’s also easier to give away than saying, “just a minute, let me get out my 5 gallon bucket so I can give you a scoop.”  No, if you keep it on hand in the give away size, you don’t have to go to the stash. 

Foods for barter would be different than foods for charity.  I think I would go deeper into the stash getting more variety for barter than charity.  Why? I’m assuming that the person I’m bartering with is already prepared and they have something that I need.  In that case, a special food item would probably be more exciting than their everyday needs.  Charity, I believe, would require more of the basics.  Otherwise, they wouldn’t be looking for handouts.  And if someone is looking for a handout you probably don’t want to appear to have more than a little more than they do.  If you look too well to do in times of need you may be bringing trouble upon yourself in the future. 

So how am I doing overall on the food storage?  We are set for at least a year but I haven’t gone through and figured out exactly.  I probably should know whether I have enough for 12 months, 18, 24, 36, or what.  I would also like to put in more freeze dried and dehydrated foods.  That’s really going to be the direction of my upcoming food storage plan.  I’d just better hurry.


  1. I also feel the need to hurry and do/add more.

    You have a lot of stuff outside the storage so you could count that as well (I think, maybe it's not supposed to be that way).

  2. Even though I do have the fruit trees, garden, and animals I don't count them the same as what's stored. This year we had a hail storm in April which ruined the fruit crop. If I added up the fruit harvest from 12 of my 50+ trees, I picked about 5 pounds of fruit total. If I normally get 20-50 pounds of fruit per tree we should have had somewhere around 300 pounds of food from those 12 trees. 5 pounds compared to 300! We'd have starved to death if I didn't have food in hard storage.

  3. Monitoring the best-by dates of a well-balanced food supply that can last a few months is an important thing for everyone to do. Using that method, you can easily store over a year's supply of food from a regular grocery store. Keeping track of the dates is the key. My goal is to have enough food to span the time between one planting season and the next harvest time. Everyone should also have sufficient quantities of heirloom vegetable seeds of all types, properly stored. It wouldn't hurt to have a small bag each of organic fertilizer and agricultural lime stored as well. Then you are prepared to plant your garden as soon as the soil conditions will allow.
    I designed my own Excel spreadsheet to monitor my food storage best-by dates, and I am willing to share it with anyone that requests a copy. You tailor it to suite your own food storage needs. When you enter the number of people you are preparing for in the pink cell, it will calculate all your food supply based on the five main food groups, and tell you how long your supply will last. Visit Bob's Practical Prepping and get my email address and request your copy, with no strings attached, nothing to join or sign up for, and no BS.

  4. For my family's food storage, I started out by buying a few cases of long term rice and oats from the LDS site. Then I began really paying attention to the best by dates on regular foods in WalMart and other grocery stores. A person can easily store a year's supply of normal grocery store food without using any #10 can products. (I do have many #10 cans, so I'm not saying they're bad or not necessary.) This morning I saw a can of Alaska Salmon that had a best by date of September 2018! Canned Chunky Chicken at Sam's Club has a best by date of June 2016! So, the regular food is out there for your extended food storage, without having to pay terribly high prices for it.

    With products from the local grocery store for your food storage, expiring best by dates may never become an issue. I created a M.S. Excel spreadsheet to track my food storage by best by date as well as the five main food groups. I've been using it for over a year an it's spectacularly successful! I even use mine as a shopping list for items I've used. If you can use Excel and would like a copy of the spreadsheet, just request it by an email to me with "Spreadsheet" as the subject. I've received help from so many people when it comes to my food storage and prepping, that I'm just trying to pay it forward at this point.