I have a booklet, printed by the church in the early 1970's, that gives a fairly good outline about food storage. It has information about what to store and why. There is a section about gardening and several pages of recipes. It really isn't much different from the information now available on the Provident Living pages. So why do I get a headache every time I go near that book?
Food storage has always been a difficult subject for me. In the past, counsel has been to start with "the basics"...like several hundred pounds of wheat, powdered milk, beans, sugar and water. Sorry, but that never sounded "basic" to me. Even storing those simple items requires and understanding of how to properly store and use them. Where do you keep all that wheat? Should you use it or let it sit for 30 years? What about "real food", like canned goods and pasta? They don't last as long so that requires more diligence and knowledge.
Even as I am writing this I can feel my shoulders sagging, my spirit sinking, my head reaching out for a nearby ache. Seriously, the idea of FOOD STORAGE triggers physical symptoms of dread and disgust.
That being said, I know that it is a very important principle. In fact, I have a certain amount of passion about having things on hand to help you and your family in times of need. It is just good common sense. I am always shocked when people literally have NOTHING in their cabinets.
During the depression, my great-grandfather owned land, animals, and a cotton gin which allowed him to provide for his family during the depression. My grandmother often speaks about how hard she had to work but they did not suffer as so many others did. I can remember, so many years later, going to visit my grandparents. They still had chickens, a garden, fruit trees, and shelves full of home-canned food. That was just a part of life for them.
There is a school of thought among the LDS people that one day, there will be a great catastrophe that will last for one year and that is why we need a year's supply of food. Maybe that is true, but I am not holding my breath for that. There are much more present and simple reasons to be prepared for whatever may come. Natural disasters, economic downturn, health problems, war, the list goes on. It may be that we need to rely on our own resources when others do not.
Here is an example. Several years ago, there was a lot of hype about the Y2K virus. There were horror stories about how as the year changed from 1999 to 2000 the lights would go out around the world and we would be plunged into a world of devastation. Nothing that was remotely connected to computers would function. We would be hurtled back at least a hundred years, forced to rely on our own preparation. There would be looting, chaos, bloodshed, disease, the list went on. Of course none of that actually happened.
One family I knew was passionate about the need to be prepared for this dark event. They were very forceful about having not a one year supply of food but 3 years supply. Their passion was unsettling. At the same time, I did not feel the weight of anxiety that this family and others seemed to feel.When the world kept spinning after midnight, I wondered about this family. They were so sure that they needed that large supply of food. Were they deceived?
Shortly after the new year, the husband lost his job. Although they had some income, he did not find an adequate job for, you guessed it, 3 years. During that time they had to rely on their food storage to ease the burden of their lower income. Although the reason may have been wrong, they still needed the food storage they had been inspired to collect.
From time to time I have been asked about food storage. What do you do? What do you suggest? How can I get started? My first thought is "What on earth makes you think I know anything about food storage?" But when I take the time to think about it, I realize that I have some knowledge of this subject...and plenty of opinions!
So, here are a few ideas I will pass on today about food storage. I find them all to be practical and steps in the right direction. It is my firm belief that we are blessed for our efforts, even if they fall short of the perfect goal. I hope you can find something useful in this list.
1. Buy a little extra. When I go to the store, I try and buy things I know I will use. If the Mac & Cheese is on sale, I will buy at least a dozen boxes. I always buy several jars of spaghetti sauce and pasta. These are things we eat on a regular basis so there is no reason I can't have extra on hand for whatever might come up...like feeding extra people on a moments notice! I do this just to save time and effort but if you are more methodical, you can build a substantial stock of food in a fairly short time.
Just be careful that you don't buy too much and end up throwing it away before you can eat it! Once I bought several cases of hamburger helper, which we didn't eat very often. I noticed that it was passed the "Best if used by" date but I tried it anyway. It was AWFUL!!! I threw away a whole case of it! In short; Buy what you eat and eat what you buy.
2. Buy non-perishable items. When visiting my Sister-in-law, I noticed about 2 dozen sticks of deodorant under her sink. I thought "She has teenagers but isn't that a little overkill?" She explained that she bought them on sale, with coupons, for almost nothing and stocked up. I realized that there are plenty of things that don't go bad and can be stored indefinitely. Soap, paper goods, toothbrushes, cleaning products, etc. If you can get into a routine of buying them on sale, with coupons, in bulk, you can have quite a supply for almost nothing. And lets face it, no one wants to be stuck in a crisis without diapers and toilet paper!
3. WATER!!!! If I have learned anything from Hurricane Katrina and the recent earthquake in Haiti, it is that we don't last long without clean water. For long term use, it probably isn't practical to store water. Purification tablets or bleach would be better. But the first thing I did when me moved this summer was begin to store water in juice bottles. We have quite a supply now, enough to survive for several days if we couldn't get clean water. That alone had given me tremendous peace of mind. And all it cost me was a little effort.
4. Learn more. I don't know how else to say it. Learn how to cook over a fire or camp stove. Learn how to grow things. Learn to make things from scratch. Learn to can food. Learn new recipes. Experiment now, when you are not stressed out by a crisis. If your homemade bread is like eating rocks, oh, well. Try again another day. If your garden is eaten by animals and bugs, learn how to protect it. Whatever learning we do can only be beneficial to us later. Maybe we will never have to use that knowledge. Isn't it better to know it and never use it than need it and not have a clue?
My sister-in-law has a "food storage night" once a week. They prepare an entire meal from items in their food storage. I think this is a great idea. They have been able to try different products, like dehydrated cheese, and see if they want to buy more or not. They are also learning what they can and can't do with their food storage. They are learning that they can drink powdered milk if they have to. Basically, they are acquiring a taste for the things they have stored.
5. Don't forget the money! I think I have mentioned this before but you would be amazed at the number of people who think money is just for spending. It isn't. It is a tool just like anything else in our society. The more we learn about it and how to use it effectively, the better off we will be. Money may not solve all of our problems but having a little saved is better than a bunch of useless junk when disaster strikes.
6. Don't forget the fun. A friend of mine who is a food storage fanatic said she always made sure there were ingredients for cookies in her food storage. Her philosophy was that during a crisis you need a little comfort food. I agree. Not that we should go overboard, but having some candy or chocolate chips tucked away can do a lot to ease the emotional side of a crisis.
Along the same line, it wouldn't hurt to have "fun" things in a 72-hour kit like books, card games, crayons. We always think of "basics" as what we need to survive. If you have little kids, having ways to entertain them can be a matter of survival! Even if you don't have physical things on hand, have a list of games, songs and stories you can use to entertain yourselves if need be.
Now, you might be thinking "Where do I put it?" The favorite suggestion is under the bed. It seems everyone says that! Under tables, dressers, in the back of a closet, under the grand piano. I have heard all of these. My guess is that most of us have much more space than we realize. It is just a matter of using it well. Even as I sit here, there is enough space on either side of our computer desk to stack several cases of food... if we had them. It also depends on what you are willing to give up. Will you give up the neat, magazine look your home has to store some extra cases of green beans? What?! You don't live in a catalog? Then what's the problem?