Friday Food Storage – and Food Pantry – Quickie

Sharon April 17th, 2009

Yet another thing I’ve been neglecting – my weekly food storage suggestions.  And I’ve wanted to restart these because of something really cool that struck me recently, about how I might use this project not only to help people build up their pantries, but also to enrich local food pantries that are desperately in need.  For those new to this, my “Friday Food Storage Quickie” is an attempt to break down food strorage into a manageable project, reminding you to pick up a couple of items each week to build your stores.

I’m stealing a new idea from my mother’s church.  Every week, they call for donations to the food pantry, and what they found was that donations were fairly inconsistent from week to week.  But when they changed their call from “please bring canned goods” to “this week we are going to buy peanut butter (or cereal or soup or whatever) and donate it” nearly everyone remembered to contribute.  While generalities didn’t stick, it was really easy for people to remember to bring a few jars of peanut butter.

So I thought I’d try this here – to make at least one of the items that I encourage you to get something that is a good donation to your local food pantry.  And for those who are not yet struggling, I would encourage you to pick up a couple for your family – and one or two to donate.  As we all know, food pantries are really feeling the pinch, with dramatically increasing need and lower donations, and these are our neighbors we’re feeding.  Obviously, if you are already giving your limit, you shouldn’t feel any pressure – but if, like me, you aren’t always good about consistent donations, maybe this will help a little, and I’m going to try to post one every Friday.

 One note – a lot of the foods that food pantries need most are not extremely healthy foods, or ones that I generally recommend as major parts of food storage.  The reason is that many lower income families are working multiple jobs, some have no cooking or refrigeration facilities, for example if they are living in subsidized motels, or the person doing the cooking is extremely disabled or very young.  It may well be that the best they can do is open a tuna can or heat up canned soup.  And while I’d like to see people eating higher quality food, if you can’t give it away because people can’t or won’t eat it, those people won’t be fed.  So there’s a balance to be found here, but the priority should be on making sure families don’t go hungry.

 So this week, we’re going to concentrate on two items.  The first one is one we’ve done before, but that bears repeating – popcorn.

Why?  Because popcorn is the one whole grain that even people who won’t eat whole grains will usually eat.  It is a snack food, which makes it valuable if you ever have to produce 3 meals plus snacks from scratch – it is quick, easy and delicious.  You can use it as breakfast cereal, you can grind it for cornmeal. 

You do not want microwave popcorn for this, but the regular stuff, as local as you can find.  If you want to donate some, pick up the microwave kind, though, since most people don’t know how to use regular popcorn anymore, sadly.  I’d skip the artificial-butter-flavored-grease, though. 

The second thing we’re going to buy this week is peanut butter.  Why?  It is good, it is high in protein, it is high in fat (this is actually an advantage in food storage, if not in daily life), most people without allergies will eat it happily, and it makes them happy – like popcorn it is a taste of normalcy.  Moreover, it is your best friend in a crisis – the peanut butter sandwich is a low time, low energy, benign survival food.

 If you have a manual grinder, the easiest way to get the best tasting and freshest peanut butter is to store whole peanuts.  Otherwise, look for shelf-stable peanut butters without transfats in them – Skippy has a brand.  You can keep using natural peanut butter for daily use, but having some emergency backup is good.

If you are allergic to peanuts, and can afford/eat other nut butters, those are good too.  If you are not, as they say “from peanut butter” and like marmite or something like it better, more power to you.

If you are donating the food pantry, you probably want regular old shelf-stable peanut butter, but if you can, don’t get one with trans-fats.   It will be gratefully received. 

In addition to stocking up each week on a couple of food items, I also try and remind people of one “preparedness” item or project they might not be up to date on.  This week’s reminder is about fire safety equipment.  First of all – batteries for your smoke detectors (and carbon monoxide detectors if necessary) are a good thing to store. Real Goods sells a 10 year smoke detector battery, but some extra backups are extremely valuable.  You do not want to lose power and lose your smoke detectors. 

 Also, if you don’t have an ABC fire extinguisher, you need one.  If you have one, and have never read the manual, and don’t know how to use it, do it today.  Remember, in a power outage or extended crisis, you may be using candles, kerosene lamps, oil stoves, wood heat or other less familiar things that increase your risk of fire. 

Finally, you need a fire safety plan.  Have you practiced getting out of your house?  Taught the kids?  Do you have an escape ladder on the second or third floor, if necessary?  Do you have a family meet up plan?  One of the single most likely-to-happen crises is that you have a fire.  Make sure you also have a plan for it, and that everyone is familiar with it.


16 Responses to “Friday Food Storage – and Food Pantry – Quickie”

  1. Fernon 17 Apr 2009 at 8:01 am

    On a ‘what’s worth donating to food pantry’ – we’ve 3 unopened boxes of matzos. If *I* can’t face eating it the rest of the year, I don’t suppose donating it to a food pantry makes any sense.

    Fern, muttering and going back to cookbooks…..

  2. Sarahon 17 Apr 2009 at 8:43 am

    Fern — there are probably plenty of food pantry recipients who haven’t been eating it all week and might be quite happy for what are essentially overly large crackers for putting peanut butter on.

    I’d been under the impression that donating food to food banks wasn’t as efficient as just donating money, because they can get bulk/charity discounts and thus get more food to people for your $10 or whatever than you could at the grocery store. Does this only hold true for larger food banks or larger donations?

  3. anneon 17 Apr 2009 at 8:53 am

    I want to second you on the popcorn and peanut butter for food banks/pantries. I used to work at a local food bank, and many of our patrons were homeless or living in shelters, which meant they had no cooking facilities so a lot of our canned food was useless to them. Also, people tended to shy away from stuff labelled “organic”, they didn’t trust what they didn’t know. Specialty foods were a mixed bag, our urban neighbourhood is low income and so has a lot of immigrant families, those folks welcomed foods that might be strange to us but familiar to them. However too much specialty food was hard to give away. Also, anything to do with babies was in big demand: pablum, babyfood jars, paper diapers, etc.

  4. Rosaon 17 Apr 2009 at 9:19 am

    For grinding your own peanut butter – do you roast the peanuts or grind them raw? And, is there a hand grinder you can buy a nut butter attachment for? I still don’t have a good hand grinder, and that would totally influence my choice when I get one. I can actually buy peanuts at our farmer’s market sometimes, but so far I’ve only boiled them for soup.

  5. paulaon 17 Apr 2009 at 10:26 am

    I really like the weekly update your pantry routine — it would help me a lot to know how long the food item lasts and how much is needed for a year, a month, or a week. Should I go buy 12 jars now? Or, is it likely we will revisit this item (and the popcorn) in 6 months so pantry would stretch longer given the expiration dates.

  6. Iraon 17 Apr 2009 at 11:13 am

    Another option, for those who don’t have the desire to shop for food for the food bank, is to donate cash. Our local food bank has a huge monthly electric bill to keep their freezers and refrigerators running, not to mention their cost for driving the 200 miles roundtrip to their nearest food source, Flagstaff, once a week.

  7. Laurie in MNon 17 Apr 2009 at 11:24 am

    Very glad to see this feature back! Sometimes all of the thoughts and concepts here can get a bit overwhelming for someone who hasn’t really thought much about food security and long lasting emergencies. Breaking it into bits really, really helps.

  8. Shambaon 17 Apr 2009 at 11:54 am

    One advantage of cash for a food bank sometimes is that they may have a “matching funds opportunity” so that cash donations from the public will be matched by an organization. My local food bank has a campaign going for this for this month and if I give them say, ten dollars, the organization will also give them ten dollars.

    this food bank snet out a flyer about the matching funds with the information that their demand for food had gone up 90 some percent from the previous year for the month of February . Yikes!


  9. Chadon 17 Apr 2009 at 12:28 pm

    Ira: your food bank might want to look into having their supplies carried from Flagstaff by a shipper who is willing to donate space on a truck they already send there to a local retailer.

  10. MEAon 17 Apr 2009 at 1:40 pm

    Motzo ideas from a goy. You can crush them will a rolling pin and have motza balls and pancakes all year, extra cheap if you buy the boxes at knock down prices after the holiday. You can also coat them with melted sugar and brown butter, bake them at 350 for 2 or 5 mins, and then spead with chocolate chips — not that I’d acutally do anything go fattening and bad for you .

    And odd food storage story.

    At work, about 10 mins before my lunch break, by dad called to suggest I go to the local Acme on the way home as it was closing to make way for a Kings (which I gather is a more upscale market). And everything was marked way down.

    I broke my rule about not driving home in the day short of a real emergency, and was glad I did. I had only 20 mins, and managed to spend $240 on dried beans, enriched rice, peanut butter, ginger and black pepper, organic dried stock, dried peas, tuna in cans, corn in cans, pasta (in honking big bags), parmason cheese, and (sorry to say) 4 boxes of the prepared stuffing mix that is my younger daughter’s fav food, as well as kitty litter, cat food, and soap. And olive oil and 2 gallons of vinigar.

    With more time I could have made better choices, but it was interesting to see what I chose. There was no poporn to buy (sad to say.)

    What was amazing was that in the hour or so since the sign when up in front of the store, and I checked, a lot of the shelves were stripped — the lines were getting very long (I’d been lucky and hadn’t had to wait more than 5 mins) and checked out quickly since I can do my own bagging and I could say, I’m buying 20 of those and the cashier could just push a couple of buttons in stead of swiping like made. What was moving most quickly were the generic and other cheap brands of staples, plastic nappies and “feminine products,” health and beauty, and snacks.

    I wish I brought cream of tatar, herbal teas, and first aid supplies.


  11. Green Assassin Brigadeon 17 Apr 2009 at 2:40 pm

    Ok I’ll donate Peanut butter(and the jam we found on sale) this week but for my own stores I’m declaring it Red Wine Week.

    If the zombies are to get me, I’m going out with a glow.

  12. Emilyon 17 Apr 2009 at 4:17 pm

    I’ve read that a meat grinder set on “fine” will make decent peanut butter from roasted peanuts. Has anyone tried this?

  13. ChristyACBon 17 Apr 2009 at 10:08 pm

    Wonderful post! Very glad you’ll be getting back to these tips. So easy to let things slide and a reminder of those is gratefully received here!

    Fire safety! Yes, we need a new second floor escape ladder and I had forgotten all about it. Thank you.

  14. Brigidon 18 Apr 2009 at 6:16 am

    Several local organizations in our town worked with the food pantry to hold a food drive at a supermarket. As people went in, we handed them a list of the foods most in demand, and inside the store, the locations of those foods were marked with balloons. Another group stood outside with boxes to collect the food as people came out.

    The big advantage to this was that it made donating easy, and most people can afford a couple of cans of something. But there was a subtler advantage as well: Our food pantry has to toss a lot of their food donations because they are expired; apparently people donate when they are cleaning out their pantries. Having the food drive at the store eliminated that problem.

    The supermarkets were happy to support it, of course, because it meant extra sales for them. And an impressive number of people came out with a small bag and a big bag—and handed us the big bag.

    Our food pantry does buy marked-down food from a local food bank, but the selection there seems to be limited, so food drives like this make a big difference. We also have a city-wide peanut butter drive near Valentine’s day, as that’s the food most in demand; one year we brought in 1,000 jars of PB.

  15. meaon 18 Apr 2009 at 10:03 am

    follow up to the sale:

    I was also able to stock up for my parents — and idea they’d been resisting for a long time — a combination of where would we put it and ‘In England, during the war, we didn’t horde’ — but I told them I’d set up the storage for them and just ignored the latter. (I’ve been ignoring for a while, truth to tell, including them in my stores at home, but I feel better if they have something in the house that will feed the longer than a week.)

    However, I didn’t have to set up the area. My 11 year old did that afterschool for them. She empty the bags in the kitchen, sorted everthing into catagories, then made up boxes (the cases that girls scout cookies come in — not to big to handle) either of things like spices or matches or organized my meals — i.e. some corn, some tuna, some ground Parmesan (which she, a cooking show watched, calls Parmigiano-Reggiano, some pasta. The meal boxes were her idea, and she wrote on the outside how many meals she expected each to make, either for 2 or 6-7 people. (That is my parents, my parents plus our household, or as she also noted, you could make up a 2 and a 6-7 meal and have enough for everyone (which is my parents, our household and my brother, wife and baby) or 2 of the 6-7 meal and feed everyone plus the grown up cousins (my SIL grown children).) The amount of math done by my little math phobic was amazing.

    And then she lugged everything downstairs to the dry basement, arranged it on a table, and and made a ‘map.’ She now wants to get them a dutch oven so they can cook in the fireplace, just in case.

    They say children learn what the live. She’s certainly pick up a good bit about food storage, and while she was happy to be gettign reading “just in case” she wasn’t worried about what the “just in case” might entail.

    Oh, and she also swapped there water storage bottles and commented that 5 gallons each wasn’t going to get them very far.

    Lot’s of credit here to Sharon who got my off the let’s just throw some rice in the basement and hope school of prepareness and in to the lets organize the rice and and get some beans and a few spices while we’re at it.


  16. Jessicaon 22 Apr 2009 at 7:16 am

    I’m confused about Skippy peanut butter. In my local walmart I took a look at a jar which proudly stated “trans fat free”. Then I checked the ingredients and it said “hydrogenated vegetable oil”. Surely that’s a transfat?

    Their site won’t let me email them because I live in Canada, so I shall call them.

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