Question number one. How much food do I really need to store? I suppose I need to ask the larger question. How much food will Boy and Girl raid from the cabinet during the middle of the night? OK, not really the larger question… How long do I think no food will be available or that I won’t have time or opportunity to grow my own food? What’s the worst case scenario compared to the best? What type of diet should I expect to keep in either of these scenarios? Do I want to store food for the future (disaster times) that I’m not really rotating or do I want to rotate everything? Money does come into effect here with some of my decisions. Oh, and getting my food storage attacked by moths makes me rethink things too – how did they get into sealed containers that were frozen for weeks prior to packing?
Let’s say I had as much money to spend as I wanted. Then my solution would be easy. I would buy a 10 year supply of freeze dried food. Yes, 10 year supply for at least 3 people. That would cost a hundred thousand. Then I would go to the grocery store and purchase everything canned and packaged item that I would use for three years, maybe four. Supplement this with fresh and frozen foods purchased on a biweekly basis and we’d be good to go. And every six months I’d restock the house with new freeze dried and canned and packaged items that were used in the past six months. Yes, we’d be set. But that is not my reality and it is not my goal. So then I have to define a realistic goal. Am I still interested in having a 10 year stockpile of food? Maybe. OK, yes, doesn’t everyone wish for this? Goals… Don’t forget to set realistic goals. Measure, benchmark, improve, repeat – that gets pounded into us at work, how about if I use some of that training at home? How about if I split up the food storage goals. What do I really want in a 10 year, 5 year, 2 year, and 6 month plan? Needs change. For instance, right now one of our favorite things to eat is anything with cheese. Cheese baked in crackers, cheese on tortillas, cheese on bread, cheese in noodles, cheese and eggs, and cheese with cheese! Therefore I purchased six cans of freeze dried cheese. That’s about 250 servings. Not too many considering we use at least one 5 pound bag of shredded cheese every month, which is 80 servings. My six cans would last about 3 months if we used cheese the same way we use it now. But would we? See that’s the big question that I have to answer. And it’s almost impossible to answer correctly because it’s all guessing and estimating. Sure I want to believe that in a SHTF new lifestyle that we would eat exactly how we do now. But that’s not really the case. Circumstances change. If TSHTF and I really needed to dig into my 5 or 10 year…or even my 2 year…food supply would I really need to buy that much cheese? If things were that bad, I’m thinking that I wouldn’t be working an hour away from home five days a week. I’d probably be home. Gee, if I were home for the 55 hours a week that I’m either commuting or at the office I probably could be more self-supporting at home. Would I be milking our animals and making my own cheese? Probably. I usually keep about 15-20 pounds of the shredded cheese at home between the fridge and freezer. So do I really need more than the 250 servings of cheese in freeze dried form? With the way my brain is, always wanting to be on the conservative side, I’d probably want to get another 6 pack. But no more than that. Cheese was an easy item to figure out. What about tuna fish? Or the canned beef and chicken that I buy rather than all meat being grown and butchered from home? One year’s worth in the pantry should do it because then I would have the time to increase my livestock from what we have now. OK, then I want two years to be conservative. How much is two years worth really? I don’t know. Since we eat maybe three or four cans of meat or fish each month how much would that increase if I wasn’t buying it fresh from the grocery store? 700 cans? Now one chicken lasts for two meals. Would I really be butchering three chickens per week? Would we butcher one chicken per week, and have fish or lamb or goat the other days? How much meat would we really eat? How many cans of cubed freeze dried meat should I have in storage? Right now I don’t have any. Should I? Or will our 35 chickens, 4 sheep (no spring lambs yet), or 1 goat be enough? Yes I know I need a second goat! I kept a list of everything that we ate in a week. Things sure are different on days I’m working and the grandkids fend for themselves compared to days I am responsible for all the food on the table. The kids were very heavy into yogurt, sugary cereal, pop-tarts, cookies, crackers, Dinty Moore beef stew, and top ramen. Throw in carrots, celery, and Koolaid and they are set. I suppose it’s a good thing that I actually give them a good dinner and good meals on the weekends. But their food is easy to store if I wanted to put up 150 cans of beef stew and 300 packages of top ramen. I could buy that much and then they’d decide they don’t like that anymore and would pick something else to eat every day! Wheat? One pound per day per person. 1000 pounds for one year for our house. Really? In 5 gallon buckets this means 40 buckets. That’s about one 55 gallon drum filled with wheat per person. That will feed one person for a year with little or no additional food to supplement. Well, if I really can grow it then I wouldn’t need to store as much. But growing and gathering and threshing is a lot of work, especially if I am thinking about the worst case scenario. Storing some 55 gallon barrels is an easy enough thing for me to do, and cheap enough too. Plus, I have the space for something that size. I haven’t really answered my first question of how much, have I? I do know that I have about 400 canning jars. That’s enough for one jar of food every day for a year, plus a little more. But there are three of us. Would 1 can of food be enough? Would there be refrigeration so we don’t have to eat everything in one jar and we could have a variety? We also have about 50 fruit trees. On a good year, if I put up every single piece of fruit produced, we would have more than 1000 pounds of fruit. The olives could produce all the oil we need. How much would that be? I have no idea. I have about 40 cans of spaghetti sauce. I was so happy to get them on sale for .88 each. But if I had spent the time in the garden, I could have canned the tomatoes into spaghetti sauce and saved some money. Or is it easier right now to spend the $40 on spaghetti sauce? Obviously last year I chose the purchase from the store route. I may do the same this year. I don’t know. Let’s go back to the wheat. One acre of wheat will grow somewhere between forty and fifty bushels. That’s 2400-3000 pounds of wheat or 6-8 pounds per day. That’s enough to cover the three of us if we ate 1 pound per person per day. Sugar and salt for preservation. I have about 150 pounds of sugar on hand. I have about 30 pounds of salt. Sure, I can use honey instead of the sugar. We have hive. All we have to do is get hit with a hive disease that kills them all. Then what? So we keep the sugar in the pantry. Besides Koolaid with honey? I haven’t tried lemonade with honey. I’m sure that will be good. I could get more salt since I can imagine putting up a lot of pickled products if things go south. If not, salt is cheap and lasts forever, so it’s not a total waste of money to keep it on hand. Cookies and crackers and other wheat based junk food… The kids love eating their junky food. I don’t really care if they do. I know they eat well when I’m giving them the food. I also know that the school provides free salad bar and they will actually eat salad every day, and not just for the dressing…along with their pop-tarts and cookies. I bought a ton of crackers and cookies for them. Then they didn’t like those and liked something else. So those just sat in the pantry. Then the oil or fat in them goes rancid or the moths attack and they all go to the chickens. What a waste of money. So I’m not doing it that way anymore. I don’t have lots of time to bake cookies or crackers. If TSHTF and I am home I will be able to bake those types of goods so I’m not really worried about having them on hand in super storage mode. I usually buy three or four boxes of pop-tarts at the dollar store. I also buy a box or two of crackers I like (mega-jumbo box of fishy crackers, plus Ritz). If the kids don’t eat them then I will but I won’t buy more until those are gone. So there’s never a real stockpile of crackers.
My pantry has over 100 linear feet of shelving. It’s also usually pretty full. Plus I have food storage in the mud room, plus more in the kitchen. Total over 150 linear feet. That’s a lot of food, jars, and cans that can be stored. But it’s also a large area for storing the wrong things. How much is too much? How much is not enough? I still don’t know. I’m still working on it.