Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Prepping for Beginners Part II - Planning and starting your food storage

In my last post, I covered the basics of food storage items.  Now that you have a better idea of how to protect your food for long term storage, let’s talk about starting your food storage.  When we first started prepping, I got discouraged by how little we had stored.  It was very tempting to dip into our savings and order the freeze dried meals sold in plastic buckets just to feel like we had a more substantial start for our food stores.  I was ready to order a hand grinder and wheat berries so I’d be able to grind our own wheat to make bread with…Then I realized that they weren’t the right choices for our family.  We don’t eat a lot of whole grain bread because it upsets my stomach.  I don’t know the first thing about grinding wheat into flour.  The freeze dried meals didn’t seem to have a lot of protein in them, and they weren’t terribly budget friendly.  The smart preppers, the ones who’ve been doing this for a good long while, said this: Look at what you and your family eats currently and start building your food storage around that.  An emergency survival situation is not the time to suddenly discover you hate freeze dried beef teriyaki, or that sprouted wheat is just about the worst thing you’ve ever tasted.  Do NOT fool yourself into thinking, “Well, if we’re hungry enough, we’ll eat it.”  Yes, you may eat it because it’s all that’s available however the point of food storage isn’t just to have enough food to see you through an emergency or survival situation, but to have things that are nutritious, as well as familiar and comforting.  There will be enough upheaval in your life already without introducing new and unfamiliar foods into the mix.  There may be a time when you have to, but if you can keep some of the familiar foods you’re used to in your storage, it can make life that much easier.  This is especially true for families with young children, or picky eaters.  

It's only a good deal if you've already tried it and know you and your family will eat it.

The second daunting aspect of starting our food storage was realizing how much was needed for just one person, for a full year.  We’re not talking luxury items, but the bare bones: 400 pounds of grains, 120 pounds of legumes, 16 pounds of powdered milk, 10 quarts cooking oil, 60 pounds of sugar or honey and 8 pounds salt.  Now multiply that for a family of 4.  Breathe, deep breaths, don’t panic.  I know those calculations probably just made your head spin, they certainly made mine at first.  Here’s the thing: you don’t have to get everything all at once, and it doesn’t make sense to start storing large amounts of items that your family has never eaten before.  Get some of those buckets with freeze dried meals as a back up or to help supplement your food stores if you really want to, but shop for your storage the same way you’d shop to stock your kitchen pantry.  We keep a spreadsheet of what we have in our food stores, and it’s customized to what WE eat.  Bear likes canned ravioli, so if it’s coming up towards the “best by” date, we purchase more to replace the old, and he takes a can to lunch with him.  For example, under the “heat and eat” section, our spreadsheet might look something like this: 

Heat & Eat Canned Goods
Servings Per Container
Serving Size
# of Cans
Caloric Total
Chef Boyardee Overstuffed Beef Ravioli
1 Cup
Chef Boyardee Overstuffed Italian Sausage Ravioli
1 Cup
Chef Boyardee Chili Mac
1 Cup
Chef Boyardee Jumbo Spaghetti & Meatballs
1 Cup
Spaghetti & Meatballs (Aldi Brand)
1 Cup
Heat & Eat Total Calories


To calculate how long this would last, we factor our daily caloric intake at 1,500 calories a day.  Most recommendations state 2,000 calories a day, but we typically tend to eat less than that, so we’ve modified our calculations to reflect that.  We divide the total calories by 1,500.  Then we divide by the number of people in our household.  That resulting number would be how many days worth of food you have.  Keep in mind that this isn’t the end all, be all to our food storage, but an example of one way we started building ours with store bought canned goods that were on sale.  (prepper tip: write the expiration dates on the tops of your cans in permanent marker so you can easily see when you need to start rotating your canned goods out into your regular pantry.)  We have separate sections in our spreadsheet for legumes, grains, pantry essentials, meat, and other items that are in our normal, every day diets to include large cans of collard greens and sweet potatoes.  (Because we’re Southern preppers, after all!)  I even have a section for spices and bouillon.  If you were one person, and Hurricane Sandy were to hit tomorrow, you could hole up in your apartment and have enough food for 11 days with just the above section.  You might be sick of Chef Boyardee by the end of it, but it beats digging through a dumpster to find food.

I’ve learned how to pressure can meat, and feel so much better knowing we have tasty, fresh chicken (or beef, pork or venison) to enjoy.  I eat oatmeal at least 3 times a week, so it’s in my food storage.  I have regular all purpose flour stored in mylar bags inside my food grade buckets, because I’d rather work with what I know, than be faced with having to work with hand grinding wheat berries to make bread, tortillas and baked goods.  We included brown sugar in addition to regular sugar to our storage since we use it quite often.  Take advantage of the buy one, get one free sales at your local grocery store, and don’t forget the buy one, get one sales on vitamins and supplements to add into your food storage as well; price match at Walmart, coupon like a crazy person, and watch how your food stores start to add up.  Carve a little bit out of your budget to purchase items in bulk whenever possible – powdered milk, for example.  We got a great deal on a 14 pound bucket of powdered milk from Amazon and added 21,140 calories to our food storage.  That’s 2 weeks worth of life sustaining calories for 1 person if they were to live off the milk alone.   I buy generic or store brand items and with the savings I buy extra cans or bags of beans, rice, etc.  to put into our storage.  The point is, start storing what you already eat and know how to prepare.   

Another trick that saved my sanity was to set smaller, short term goals for food storage.  The ultimate goal is to have enough food to provide for our family for a full year if not more, but it’s so hard to feel like you’re making progress when you’re looking at a goal that large.  Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is your food storage.  Set small goals: enough food for a week, enough food for 1 month, enough food for 3 months, enough food for 6 months, etc.  Each time we’ve hit one of our short term goals, it felt like a victory and we breathed a little easier knowing we at least had that much in our stores. For us, it's become a way of life - every trip to the grocery store includes buying items that will be added into or used to replenish what's in our food storage.  Now that it's become a habit, it's much easier to keep up with, and we're able to focus on filling in any gaps in our storage, or continuing to increase it with a tactical shopping plan, ie, we're good on canned tomatoes, but we could use more canned potatoes.  Then we know what to shop for, and in my case, what I'll need to can in bulk. 

Now that you have an idea of how much of the basics one person needs to survive for a year and some general ideas on things you can include in your own food storage to make the hard times a little easier, get on out there and start prepping! 

Till next time, y’all! 

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