Archive for the 'Food Storage' Category

How Much Food To Store?

Sharon January 6th, 2009

On this subject I’ve got some prior writings, so we’ll start with those:

 1. Getting a two week basic supply up:

2. Why two weeks really is not sufficient:

3. Very super cheap beginner food storage with help from a mouse friend:

But rather than tell you how much food to store (although I’m still going to suggest a 3 month minimum if you can manage it), I thought I’d talk rather about different strategies as embodied in different quantities and approaches, what they can do, and what the downsides are - because everything has costs and benefits.

So here are some possible approaches and quantities:

1. The “I want some Extra Food, But I Don’t Want To Pick a Time Frame or Feel Like I Have to Buy One Particular Thing” approach.  This way of going at it says “I’m just going to buy an extra of all the storage-ready things, or can as much of my garden as I can, but I’m not going to set formal goals for myself or try and calculate how much I have.

Pluses of this strategy: No pressure, minimal planning, you are sure to get food you’ll eat since you are buying what you eat anyway.

Downsides of this strategy: If you normally eat things that aren’t storable, you are probably getting a somewhat unbalanced menu, you don’t get the economic benefits of narrowing down what you want and buying in bulk, and you don’t really know how long it would last you.

Who this might work best for: People without time and energy to approach this another way, people intimidated by thinking in terms of big sacks of grain, small families of adults, people who aren’t very worried about the future.

2. The “I want the Two Weeks that FEMA/The Red Cross say I need” folks.  This way says “At least at first, my priority is to get two weeks of food so that we can endure a short term crisis caused by a hurricane, ice storm, etc…”

Pluses of this strategy: You know you have a supply, it isn’t very costly to build up this much, most disasters so far really do involve rescue in two weeks, it doesn’t take a lot of space to store this much food, you are probably mobile with it - you don’t have an investment in anything you can’t stick mostly in the trunk of your car.

Downsides of this strategy: More costly, since bulk purchasing probably won’t be an option unless you have a large household, Quite a few disasters, including a couple in just the last few years have involved longer periods than two weeks, so it might not be adequate, Doesn’t provide much of a cushion for an economic crisis (ie, job loss), for such a short time you might not feel motivated to rotate/eat what you store, store what you eat, and thus a shift to “emergency food” may be more disruptive than you expect. 

3.  The “Three Month Supply Strategy.”  This is my personal minimum recommendation, particularly if you are really integrating it into your daily diet (ie, rotating, eating and maintaining) because it allows you simply stop shopping for a while, if, say, you have an economic crisis and can’t afford to, or a major illness and don’t have the time.  It also fits with existing government guidelines for quarantine measures in the case of an epidemic - that is, the US and Australian governments, among others, are assuming that you might have to be housebound for 3 months at a time, but they don’t have any good plan for how you might actually eat during that period.  So perhaps you should ;-) .

Pluses of this strategy: Three months is much less overwhelming and intimidating than a year’s supply, storage is probably manageable for people in all but the very tiniest homes and apartments, cost is fairly manageable for many people - even on food stamps it should be possible over time.  This quantity really is the first at which economies of scale can be used, getting lower prices for cases and bulk quantities.  If you integrate this into your daily eating, this also means no major dietary shift if you have to rely on this.  For those in moderate climates, three may be sufficient to cover one mild winter season or summer dry season.  Shopping frequency declines because you don’t run out as often.

Downside of this strategy: If you have to leave or evacuate your home, you risk a major economic loss, accumulating three months of food, even very gradually can be too expensive for low income households, requires you to make space to store and manage food, requires you to rethink menus and adapt your eating to eat what you store, etc…, takes time to manage, particularly if you plan to home preserve some or all of it.  Shopping frequency only can decline if you have some kind of powered vehicle or help getting everything home - this can be tough on people living in dense cities who don’t like carrying 50lb sacks of lentils on their bikes or on the bus.

 4. Six months supply: This is a nice, solid amount of food.  It does require some real space to maintain and store it, but it gives you a lot of options, including eating your stores down during mildly inconvenient times, just to save money.  If you keep this much, you’ll almost certainly be living the “food storage lifestyle” :-) , that is, your diet will involve a lot of these ingredients.

Pluses of this strategy: You have a lot of food, and can weather  a lot of long term crises, particularly economic ones very well.  You should have to shop only rarely - once a month or less for non-perishables.  By the time you have this much, you should probably be able to produce a fairly varied diet from food storage.  This is the traditional quantity for those in cold or very dry climates with a long season in which nothing grows - you’ll be able to get from one growing season to the next.  Since food prices have been even more volatile than energy prices in some ways, the odds are good that you’ll be saving money in the longer term, prepares you for major societal upheaval if you worry about that sort of thing.

Downside of the strategy: Costs a fair bit to accumulate, may well be out of the range of many people. You then have a large investment in food and could lose it in a flood or fire.  Requires a considerable amount of space and maintenence.  If TEOTWAWKI never actually happens and you don’t eat your food down, you may feel rather silly.  When people ask you how much food you have stored, you’ll probably be embarassed ;-) .

5. “Everything but the kitchen sink… 1 year or more.”  This is the strategy of prudent nut-jobs all over ;-) .

Pluses of this strategy: You have a giant, wonkin’ quantity of food.  The zombies can come - you are all set.

Downside of the strategy: You have a giant, wonkin’ quantity of food.  You may get bored waiting for zombies ;-) .

 More seriously this level of food storage means that you almost never have to shop (the grocery store is your pantry) - you can reduce trips out for anything other than perishables (and may not that depending on what you’ve got growing or preserving) to once a quarter.  Assuming you can come up with the money to keep your home, you could stay tight even through a bad growing season and an extended job loss.  In a shorter term situation, it allows you to feed more than yourself, allowing for extra guests, and generosity without fear of deprivation.

The downside is that it takes time, money and energy to manage and accumulate.  It is a fairly tough thing to transport, so if you have a fire or a flood, you’ll lose your investment.  It is probably best suited to people who are unlikely to evacuate.  It takes space to store, which is fine if you’ve got it, but since you pay for floor space, might push up your housing costs.  And if you don’t pay attention to it, you will lose some of your investment.  Is cheapest if you do some of the putting up yourself, which takes time and some equipment.

So what’s your plan, if any?


Food Storage Class Syllabus and Intro

Sharon January 5th, 2009

Ok, my next series on food storage starts tomorrow morning - exciting stuff. I do have a couple remaining spaces if anyone wants to register last minute.  If by some chance you sent me a registration request and never heard back, please email me ASAP to make sure you are signed up for the discussion group.  And if you are taking the class, make sure you register for said discussion. 

Now here’s the plan for the rest of you following along here:

Tuesday, January 6: Introduction,  Food Preservation vs. Food Storage, Personal Food Security and Community Food Security, Getting organized, How Much? Finding Resources

Thursday, January 8: Getting started with food preservation, setting up the Kitchen for Preserving, Putting Together a Pantry, Equipment you Don’t Need,  Equipment You Might Need, Beverages and Treats

Tuesday, January 13: Getting Others to Think About Food Storage, The Problem of Shopping, How to Get Started, How to Find Out What Your Community Has Already, Low Cost Strategies for Building a Reserve, Preserving Foraged Foods

Thursday, January 15: Getting Started with Canning, Fermenting and Dehydrating.  Year Round Food Preservation, Preserving Dairy Products, Building a Balanced Pantry, Food Storage Menus I

Tuesday, January 20: Ideas for Spreading the Knowledge, Teaching others to Store and Preserve, Foodie Food Storage, Special Circumstances, Special Diets, Specific Audiences

Thursday, January 22: Filling the Gaps, Things that are not Food, Cooking Equipment, Getting Loved Ones on Board, Food Storage and Evacuation, Condiments

Tuesday January 27: Food Storage and Preservation as a Cottage Industry, Food security and schools, Community Kitchens and Community Stockpiles, Water Issues

Thursday, January 29: Personal Food Storage, Community Context.  “But Won’t the Marauders Come and Take It?” Getting Really Organized, Making It Fun, Menus Part II, Wrap Up.

I’ll be building on my two previous courses, so if you are interested in a particular subject, you might want to search the site looking to see what’s already there.  I’ll be posting lots of links to both old posts and new resources. 

 I can’t wait!


Friday Food Storage Quickie: Feed Someone Else

Sharon December 5th, 2008

Ok, usually these focus on little things you can do to improve your own food security.  But this week, I want everyone to put a little extra effort into improving the food security of others, at whatever level they can.  What can you do?  It varies based on your income, where you live, how shy you are, etc… but everyone can do one or two or three of these things.

And since I’m asking you to do stuff, I thought I ought to give back a little. I’ve got a signed copy of Kathy Harrison’s wonderful book _Just in Case_ to give away - it is a terrific book, the clearest and wisest guide to getting started on preparedness that I know.  Sign up in comments for a drawing, I’ll let one of the kids pull a name out of a hat, and I’ll send you a copy.  Make sure you mention in your comment that you are in for the drawing, and we’ll draw on Monday and announce the winner!

1. Talk to someone about having a reserve of food - it could be a family member, a friend, a person at church or even someone you meet in the supermarket.  It could be as you are checking out at the farmstand “I know, doesn’t it look like a lot of potatoes - but given the times, it feels important to have some food, in case times get even tougher.”  You can talk to one person or a group of 50 - preach from the pulpit or chat over tea or by the watercooler.  But talk to someone about why it is important to have some food stored up.  You don’t have to discuss peak oil and climate change - you can talk about unemployment and what grandma did.

2. Offer to help someone get started with food storage.  Talk to a neighbor “I just noticed that tuna and rice are on sale - these days food prices are so high - would you like me to pick up a couple of extra bags or cans for you?”  If someone you talked to wants to know more, well, show them/tell them what you’ve been doing.  Start a neighborhood preparedness group, and get together once a month.  Start a buying club, or a food price stabilization group - everyone gets together and tracks the sales, or orders wholesale or helps find good prices. 

3. For those not in the dead of winter like us, talk about the food resources around you.  Are fruit trees going unharvested?  Could they be gleaned and given away to the food pantry or shared with friends?  Are there wild foods you could introduce a friend, a neighbor, a niece or nephew too “Look, honey, that’s lambs quarters.  It doesn’t look like they spray here or it is too near the road, so let’s pick some for a salad.”

4. Give the gift of food security.   Trying to figure out what to give people for the holidays?  What about a gift certificate to the local farmer’s market or a membership in a coop, a basket of produce from your garden or root cellar,  a book or class on food storage and preservation?  Perhaps you could give a young person you know with their first apartment the gift of an afternoon of “setting up the pantry” - you can help them shop, clean and set up.  Or perhaps you might teach a friend how to can, dehydrate or make gifts of food.

5. Donate locally.  Give food, money, and whatever else is needed to local charities. Keep a close eye on your food pantry - particularly after the holidays.  If you don’t have money to donate yourself, at least spread the word that the battered women’s shelter desperately needs food and toiletries, that the soup kitchen needs someone to bake bread, and that the animal shelter needs kibble.  One charity I like is - they give free organic seeds to prison gardens, food pantry gardens, school gardens - anyone who needs to learn to grow food.

6. Help someone in need directly.  Maybe you don’t have money, but you’ve got an extra coat, some home canned food that you can’t give through the food pantry, and you can give someone who lost their car to the Repo man a ride to pick up her son at daycare.  Ask around through religious institutions, social service programs and schools, and you’ll find someone you can match up with and help.

7. Don’t forget the world’s hungry.  As things get bad here, the food crisis has gotten knocked off the front page.  That doesn’t mean it has gotten better - the world is full of desperately hungry people right now, and they need our help.  Donate money - my  favorite programs are the heifer fund, and the Mennonite Central Committee, but you may have your own.  Feel free to suggest more in comments.

8. If you don’t have money to give, or even if you do, make sure you also remind governments to keep their commitment to the World Food Program and the world’s starving people.  We’re throwing billions away on keeping the rich institutions - but the US and other nations haven’t ponied up their promised donations to keep people from starving to death.  DO NOT let them get away with it.

What Else?  Anyone have any suggestions?  How many of these can each of us do this week?  And don’t forget to put your name in for the drawing before Monday!



Friday Food Storage Not-Quite-So Quickie - $5 Week Beginner Food Storage

Sharon October 17th, 2008

This is a guest post by a little mouse who’d like to remain anonymous.  I think she’s written a superb piece for such a small creature, and that this might help someone who feels unable financially or personally to begin with food storage to take a step.  The piece is long, but valuable I think.

The Curious Tail (er…Tale) of How This Piece Came to this Blog:

I was surprised … no, shocked…when I heard Ms. Anon E. Mouse squeaking
at me yesterday afternoon.  Ms. Mouse and I have frequent chats, but always
before they have been in the dead of night, when EvilKitty is safely shut
into the laundry room, dreaming of catching a…….well, never mind that.
The dogs are also sound asleep, and only the twitch of a paw or a soft
puppy-bark reveals that rabbits are romping through their dreams.

‘Ms. Mouse,’ I said, ‘What are you doing out of Mousel in broad daylight?’
(Ms. Mouse does have her little harmless affectations and naming her Mouse
Hole after a village in Cornwall is one of them.  She spells it the way it
is pronounced.)

‘Urgent, urgent, urgent,’ squeaked Ms. Mouse in reply.  ’It has come to my
attention that some Feckless and Foolish Humans have no food storage

‘Yes, I’m afraid that’s true,’ I replied.

‘Everymouse knows that food storage is important.  Everymouse has bread
crumbs, cheese and peanut butter set aside for an emergency!’ squeaked my
small friend.

‘I have even heard,’ continued the furry creature twitching her ears, ‘that
some humans think they don’t have enough money for a basic food storage.’

‘Yes, I’m afraid that’s true also,’ said I.

‘Foolish humans!  I always knew that mice are more intelligent!’ said Ms.
Mouse in reply, hastily adding ‘Present company excepted, of course,’ so as
not to hurt my feelings.

‘I’ve written a Very Cheap Food Storage Plan for foolish humans,’ continued
the benevolent rodent, ‘and I want you to send it to Sharon so that she can
use it.’

‘But Ms. Mouse,’ I protested ‘Sharon is a sophisticate,’ I continued ‘She
already knows about food storage.’

‘Cat?  Cat?  Where’s a cat?’ exclaimed my furry pal in alarm, glancing
nervously over her shoulder.

‘No, no, Ms. Mouse,’ I reassured her, ‘Not that kind of cat.’

‘Oh,’ she said, mollified.

‘But even if Sharon is a … sophisti…no, I cannot say that
word.  Even if she is knowledgeable, how do you know that she doesn’t have
friends or neighbors who don’t already know these things?’ demanded Ms.

I was forced to admit that I don’t know.

‘So,’ instructed Ms. Mouse, ‘Send it to Sharon! But don’t reveal
my identity,’ she instructed.

‘But Ms. Mouse, don’t you want to be credited with the Plan?’

‘No, no, no, positively no.  No time to answer questions, no time at all,’
she replied.

‘OK, OK, Ms. Mouse,’ said I, ‘Would you care for a thimbleful of mint tea?’

‘No, no, must rush, must rush, work to do, work to do,’ exclaimed the

‘What are you doing now, Ms. Mouse?’ I inquired.

‘Must rearrange food storage, must move bread crumbs behind cheese to make
more room for winter food,’ squeaked Ms. Mouse.  ’Must go, must go, must
go:  too much work to do!’

And with scarcely a twitch of her ears, Ms. Mouse scampered back into
Mousel, and dragged out a very long piece of paper.

‘Here’s the Plan,’ she exclaimed, ‘Send it to Sharon!’ and off
she disappeared into Mousel.

The ANYWAY, Very Cheap, System of Food Storage for
Emergencies and/or Inflation for People Who Think They Cannot Afford Food

While people in other countries MAY think that their government will come
to their assistance quickly in a natural disaster, and Americans *used to*
think this, we know from bitter experience in New Orleans that this is no
longer true,  More recently, three entire years after Katrina, we know that
many, many people in Houston received very inadequate help after Hurricane

We have a very large country, very prone to natural disasters of one
kind or another. Hurricanes, forest fires, earthquakes, tornadoes, ice
storms, mud slides:  fortunately, the bad effects of at least some of these
disasters can be mitigated by sensible preparations.

Americans have also seen TERRIBLE inflation in food costs for the past
year.  Foods costs across the USA vary a lot by area, but my husband and I
estimate that - in our area - the prices for foods have risen from 30% to

These figures are, of course, not reflected in the official
government-issued statistics on inflation; the government removed both food
and energy costs from the inflation statistics a while ago.  But we are
experiencing this terrible inflation in food costs, and we know darned well
what we are experiencing.  We aren’t stupid.

OK, moving right along - what can we do?

Can you scrape together $5 extra each week for about three months (at MOST,
and maybe you will need the extra $5/week for less time than this)?  If you
can, I can suggest a food storage plan for you.  If you cannot, then I
cannot help you with storing food.

I believe that most people can manage $5 extra per week for about three
months (at most - and it should be less time than this, as you will see in
Part Two). This can be in food stamps instead of in actual money;
food stamps will work for this.  If you can get food from a food pantry or
food bank, that will also help.

If you can get more money together, you can accomplish this plan faster.
But if you can only get that little bit extra money together - and not
permanently, only for a while - you can do this plan; you cannot do it
*instantly*, but you can do it.

In what follows, I’m assuming that you live alone. If you live with other
people, you’ll need to increase quantities.

1.  First step:  Set a goal, make a plan, write it down.  Write down what
you need to do each week to accomplish your goal.
The initial goal I suggest is this:

Initial Goal

To have on hand, at all times, enough water to keep you alive for one

To have on hand, at all times, enough natural and nutritious food -
no junk food - to keep you alive and functioning for one month *without
needing to cook anything*.

This food must not require refrigeration, and it must keep for a fairly
long time.


This - to me - seems like a very reasonable *initial* goal.  When you have
accomplished this initial goal, then you can stop and re-assess the

You may want to stop there.  You may want to increase the variety of food
that you store.  You may want to get some means of cooking in a power
failure (assuming that your kitchen stove is electric, which is the worst

You will probably cook some of the foods that I suggest *in normal times*.
But you can safely eat these foods without any cooking at all, if

If you need to evacuate the area, if you have a car, or a friend or
relative with a car, you can take some of this water and all of this food
with you.

If you need to evacuate the area and you must do it by public
transport, then you can only take what you can carry.  Some things cannot
be helped.  So there’s no point in worrying about them.  I try hard to be
prepared for what I can be prepared for, and to let the rest go without
fretting about it.  I pretty much succeed at this now.

OK, so how are you going to accomplish this initial goal?

First, you must learn and follow the Basic Rule of Food Storage:  Use what
you store, and store what you use.

This means that you must ONLY store what you will actually eat.  You will
*regularly eat all the items you store*.

People with more money can afford to buy other foods for storage.

But people with very little money - like you and like me too - cannot

I am assuming also that you can only get to a regular, normal supermarket.
So I’m going to suggest a plan that can be accomplished completely, totally
at a normal supermarket (as they exist in the USA, the UK, Canada, probably
Australia and all of Europe and so on).

If you have an Aldi’s you can get to, or a Wal-Mart Supercenter, these will
probably have the same foods cheaper, so that would help.  If you can get
to a store that sells bulk foods, you can probably get one particular item
cheaper, so that will help.  But if you cannot - OK, you can do this at a
normal supermarket.

Don’t forget - you are going to set your own goal (which may be the goal I
suggest or may not).  And you are going to write down a plan to accomplish
this goal; week by week.

Then you will start on your Plan.

Here’s what I would suggest for Phase One of your Plan.  Phase One may take
you a week; it shouldn’t take more.

1.  A hand-operated can opener.  I think there are people who only have
electric can openers (I myself have never had an electric can opener). If
you only have an electric can opener, then please buy a hand-operated can
opener the first week.  It can be a cheap one.  You can buy these in normal
supermarkets, although perhaps a Dollar Store will have one cheaper.

2.  If you have a gas stove, make sure that you have matches.  We have a
gas stove; it has electric ignition.  But when the power is off, we can
light the top burners (only) with a match.  We cannot light the oven with a
match, because the burners are sealed in and inaccessible. But we can light
the top. So far as I know, you can light the top burners of ALL gas stoves
with a match.  So buy a box of matches if you don’t already have them.

4.  Do you have a bottle of multi-vitamins on hand?  If not, please buy a
bottle of multi-vitamins.  They don’t need to be expensive ones, the
cheapest ones available will do.  If you can only afford a small bottle,
buy a small bottle now and get a larger bottle later.  We try to keep one
year’s supply of multi-vitamins on hand.  But please get enough for at
least 30 days, that’s important.

3.  Store enough water for a month.  Water should definitely come before
food: people can go without food an awful lot longer than they can without

So far as I know, everyone who has running water in the USA and Canada can
safely drink the water that comes out of their taps.  You cannot afford to
buy water.  So you will store the water right as it comes from the tap. You
are going to store enough water to keep you alive for a month.

This is a minimum of one gallon per day.  You’re not going to drink a whole
gallon of water any day, but you are going to wash your hands at least once
per day and you can splash some water on your face (then catch it in a
dishpan or pot and use it to wash your hands).

So you’ll need 30 gallons for one person, for one month.  What can you keep
it in?

You may already have this much water: if you have a hot water heater in
your home or apartment, see if you can figure out to drain it.  You might
need to slide a dishpan under the drain place, but you can probably do

I don’t want you to do it now; I just want you to know that is a
possible source of water if you need it.  I want you to know how to do it
if you need to.  If you cannot figure it out, ask someone who knows how if
you possibly can.

Large, empty clean soda bottles, with tops, are great for storing water.
Ask everyone you know if they can please give you the empty bottles if they
drink any soda at all.

Empty clean apple juice bottles are equally good - or any fruit juice
bottles.  Ask everyone you know to give you fruit juice bottles.  I drink
V-8 juice occasionally, and it comes in very nice reusable bottles too.

Empty clean whisky or wine bottles are also fine - again, ask everyone you
know.  (Some cheap wine comes in gallon or half-gallon glass jugs - these
are perfect.)

If anyone you know buys bottled water, those bottles are fine too.

If you cannot find ANYTHING else, then you can keep water in clean plastic
milk jugs.  They are not the best container, but they are better than not
keeping any water at all.  Milk jugs will become brittle and break
eventually, but they should be OK for a month. (Meanwhile you can work on
getting better containers.)  Wash milk jugs very carefully and rinse,
rinse, rinse - then fill with water and keep them out of the sun.

If you have any empty 5-gallon buckets, they will be fine too.

I do not recommend drinking water from a bucket UNLESS THAT BUCKET IS FOOD
SAFE; some are, but some aren’t.  Would I drink water from a bucket that is
would; it would be an awful lot better than no water at all.

You might be able to get large buckets by asking at a doughnut shop - the
icing for doughnuts comes in buckets.  They are food safe.  You might be
able to get some from a supermarket bakery and again they will be food safe
- also perhaps from a sandwich shop.

If you have a cat, you may have empty cat litter buckets.  I do NOT
recommend drinking water stored in a cat litter bucket - although they are
not dirty: the actual cat has been nowhere near them.  They are not
food-safe plastic.  But if you have no other possible way to store water,
it would be better than having no water at all.  Maybe you have a friend
with a cat who will give you some of these.

You don’t need to treat water in any way if you replace one-third of it
every month.  Just count how many bottles of water you have stored, and
dump out, rinse, and refill one-third of them each month on the first of
the month.  Then none of the water will be more than three months old.

Where to put the water?  Let’s just say this:  if you really want to do
this, you’ll find a place to put the water.

I will also make one more suggestion about water:  for some natural
disasters, people have considerable warning.  Hurricanes do not sneak up on
people; ice storms or blizzards generally don’t either.  We have warning.

I have always seen advice to fill your bathtub with water if you think the
power may go off.  It seems to me that this is terribly bad advice:  I have
always tested the bathtub in every one of the many, many places where I
have lived and every single one of them has a slow leak through the drain.
No bathtub that I ever lived with will store water overnight - in the
morning, it’s all gone.

But what you can do is to put any kind of large container(s) in your
bathtub and then fill the container(s) with water.  I’m thinking here
specifically of the very common 18-gallon Rubbermaid or similar totes used
to store various items. Many people have these around.  But ANY large
container will do for this purpose.

That way, if the container should spring a leak, OK, it’s in the tub
anyhow, no problem.  If the container does not spring a leak, you’ll have
more water.

You can flush the toilet with this water or drink it (in an emergency only)
or wash with it, whatever.  If you have warning, you can also fill any
large pots and pans you have with water, and any 5-gallon or cat-litter
buckets you have too.  Fill any containers you have with water if you have
warning of a hurricane or ice storm.

You should be able to accomplish the initial water storage goal (and the
can opener, matches, and multivitamins, if necessary) within one week.

Next you sit down and think about water.  You might decide to store more
water, or you might decide that this is enough water.  You can work on
getting better containers for the water too, especially if you had to use
milk jugs - they will become brittle and fall apart eventually.

Congratulations on a job well done!  You’ve accomplished Part One now.  Now
we’ll move right along to Part Two.


By the way, I’m calling this the ANYWAY, Very Cheap System of Food Storage,
because you are going to eat these foods *anyway*.  You’re going to eat
them as part of your regular diet.

People with more money can store foods that are different from their
regular diet.  People with very little money cannot do this.  They must
store foods they’ll eat anyway…. problems or (hopefully) no problems!

In Part One, you took care of water storage for a month. You also
determined that you already have - or you bought - a manual can opener, and
matches if you have a gas stove, and at least a month’s supply of

Now we need to think about food.  The initial food goal I suggest is this:

To have on hand, at all times, enough natural and nutritious food -
not junk food - to keep you alive for one month *without needing to cook

This food must not require refrigeration - and it must keep a long time.


This seems to me a very reasonable *initial* goal; after you have
accomplished this, then you can reassess the situation and decide where you
want to go from there.  You may want to stop there.  You may want to get
more varied foods.  You may want to get some way to cook in an emergency.
You may want to continue to with more of the same foods.

OK, how to accomplish this initial goal, and to spend the minimum necessary

This is what I suggest; but I caution you:  you are going to be eating
these foods *regularly* and *anyway*.  If you are allergic to any of the
foods I suggest or cannot eat them for some other reason, or you just
cannot stand them, then you need to find a substitute.

The quantities given are for one month for one person.  If you have more
than one person in your household, you will need to increase the

The first food that I suggest you buy is rolled oats:  you can buy - in
every supermarket that I have ever seen in the USA or Canada - regular
rolled oats or quick-cooking rolled oats.  (I hope you can eat oats; it is
difficult to find a substitute for them because you can eat them uncooked,
and that is not true of most grains.  I know of two possible substitutes,
but they cost considerably more.  More on that later.)

Please don’t buy instant oats which are generally jammed full of sugar and
artificial flavor and are a rip-off. But regular or quick-cooking rolled
oats are a very valuable food.

You may call these ‘oatmeal’ or (as in the UK) ‘porridge’ or ‘porridge
oats’.  They’re the same thing.

The usual brand I see in supermarkets is Quaker Oats.  Store brands would
be fine, and might well be cheaper.  If you can get to a store that sells
foods in bulk, they might well be cheaper there.

Yesterday, we bought regular rolled oats - in two large plastic bags - at a
little general store here that has a few bulk foods.  We paid $0.71 per
pound - we bought approximately 15 lbs of rolled oats.

I eat these regularly.  My husband also eats ‘porridge’ for his breakfast
regularly - he prefers the quick-cooking oats and he has enough on hand at
present; so we didn’t need to buy any for him yesterday.

We’ll come back to the price per pound in a little bit…..

You can eat these oats in one of three ways - and two of them do not
require any cooking because oats are actually partially cooked before we
buy them, as part of their processing.  This is why we can eat them
uncooked.  I do eat them uncooked, regularly, in homemade muesli.

1.  Cooked, in normal times.  Then you have hot oatmeal for some of your
breakfasts.  This is a very valuable and nutritious food.  Add raisins, or
other fruit, and if you wish, serve with milk.  My father didn’t put milk
on hot cereal (including oatmeal), he dotted it with butter or margarine,
then sprinkled a little cinnamon and brown sugar on it.  Hot cereal is nice
that way too.  You can cook oatmeal either on the stove top or in the
microwave.  Just follow the directions on the box.  If you cook it in the
microwave, it wants to puff up and get all over the place.  Use a VERY
oversized glass cup or casserole dish:  that will prevent this.

2.  Uncooked, and mixed with fruit and yogurt - this is called muesli.  I
eat it for breakfast most days.  Just the uncooked oats, fruit, plus
yogurt. Add raisins and sunflower seeds if you wish, during normal times.
You can soften the oats by mixing them with yogurt (or fruit juice) ahead
of time, or you can do it, and then eat them right away.

3.  As a cold cereal:  in this case (and I eat this too), you put the oats
in a bowl, add raisins if you have them, perhaps a sliced banana if you
have bananas.  Then you pour milk over them and eat them as a cold cereal.
If you have no milk, you could use fruit juice.  If you have no fruit
juice, you could use water.

The nutritional value of rolled oats (with no additions) is as follows:

Rolled oats, dry - 4 oz   Calories - 434
                         Grams of protein - 18

EMERGENCY - 8 oz of oats daily.  That would give you 868 calories and 36
grams of protein.  This is a *very* substantial part of a woman’s calorie
and protein requirements; it’s even a substantial part of a man’s calorie
and protein requirements, for that matter.

So I’m going to recommend that you wind up with 15 lbs of rolled oats *per
person* for storage for emergencies - figuring on eating 8 oz of them per
day.  I do *not* recommend that you eat this many ounces of oats except in
case of dire emergency.

I do recommend that you eat oats for breakfast two or three times per week
*in normal times*.  I do this, I eat about 4 oz of oats for breakfast
(about 1/2 cup), along with fruit and yogurt.  Or if I want a hot
breakfast, then I cook the rolled oats with raisins, then slice a banana on
top, and add milk.  It’s a very substantial and good-tasting breakfast.

How much will this 15 lbs of rolled oats cost?  Well, let’s assume that you
must pay more than the $0.71 we just paid per pound.  Let’s assume you pay
as much as $1.00 per pound.  The 15 lbs of oats will have cost you about

Once you have managed to save the 15 lbs, then you just keep replacing it;
never let it go much lower than this.  Or you can decide to buy more and
keep 20 pounds on hand, if you prefer.  Or 30 lbs or even 50 lbs.  I
wouldn’t keep much more oats per person on hand than that.  But they do
keep a long time.

Note that you are now buying the oats *as part of your normal breakfast
regime*.  So you don’t need to set aside separate ‘food storage money’ for
oats anymore; you can use your normal food budget for this.  This gives you
more money for other food storage.

If you cannot eat oats for some reason, the only two substitutes that I can
think of *that don’t require cooking, do not require refrigeration, and
keep a long time and are very nutritious* are sunflower seeds or
Scandinavian-style crisp bread, such as Kavli and Wasa Brod.  The crisp
breads are available in normal supermarkets.  The crisp breads are mainly
whole grains; they are nutritious.  I don’t know if sunflower seeds are
available in normal supermarkets or not.  If they are, you want to buy
uncooked, unsalted, sunflower seeds if at all possible.  They won’t keep as
long as oats or crispbread, however.  (Sunflower seeds would be a really
valuable addition to your oats, if you can afford to buy them.  In normal
times, they should be kept refrigerated or frozen.)

Now what other foods do I recommend you start buying for the *bare bones
minimal, cheapest possible, useful food storage*?

I recommend that you buy canned beans too.  Not baked beans, just plain
canned beans.  There are many kinds, they all have approximately the same
food values, and they all cost about the same as far as I know.  If you
live alone I suggest you buy the small cans of beans - approximately 16 oz
per can.  There are black beans, kidney beans, white beans, pinto beans,
many, many varieties.

In normal times, you can base many, many dinners on beans - tacos, chili,
soups, frijoles refritos, salads, beans and rice, etc.

In normal times, you’ll probably want to cook most of the beans (but they
are used in salads and cold plates too).  You don’t *need* to cook them.
You can buy one kind of beans only, or two or three, etc.

I base our dinners on beans *at the very least* two nights per week.  I
recommend that canned beans be rinsed very well with cold water before
eating (in normal, non-emergency times) if you are concerned about sodium.
Even if you aren’t concerned about sodium, I think they taste better if you
rinse them first.

You can find hundreds, probably even thousands, of bean recipes on the Web. is one of my favorite recipe sites; just put ‘beans’ in
the search box and you will be presented with 2008 recipes using beans!
That’s a lot of bean recipes.

Beans are *good food*, and they are a very versatile food.  They are also
good for your health.

I’m looking at a can of black beans; they are probably my favorite kind of
beans.  The can of beans has (the whole can, in total) 315 calories, and
24.5 grams of protein.  If you ate the whole can of beans, which I only
recommend in case of emergency, plus 8 oz of oatmeal, this would give you:
1183 calories, which - together with two other foods I will recommend in a
minute - would be enough for a woman to keep going for quite a while in an
emergency, indefinitely, in fact - unless you are already emaciated BEFORE
the emergency.  You also probably have at least some other food in your
house, which you could add to your diet.

It would also give you 42 grams of protein.  This is not the RDA for a
woman’s protein, but it would certainly keep you going for quite a while,
well more than a month.  You wouldn’t develop malnourishment in a month’s
time if you were eating this much protein each day together with the
calories you would have.  Many women throughout the world live *their
entire lives* with lower daily protein figures.

Other beans have very similar food values.

What does a can of beans cost?  We can get them (or we could get them
anyway, until very recently for about $0.50/can ON SALE ONLY).  But let’s
even say that you need to pay $1.00 a can.  I don’t think you will, but I
don’t know what food costs in other places, after all.

If you plan to store 30 cans of beans (per person), then you would need to
spend $30.  BUT you can also start eating these beans regularly, as part of
your normal food.  And I would recommend that.  Then if you know that you
have eaten two cans of beans in a week, and you are still increasing your
supply of beans, you buy four or six cans.  Simple.

When you get up to 30 cans of beans, then reassess the situation.  You can
maintain that inventory, or buy more beans.  Up to you.

Let’s assume that you want to accumulate the 15 lbs of oats and the 30 cans
of beans before you start eating them…. You have now spent $45.  If you
can only spend $5 per week for food storage, this will have taken you nine
weeks.  If you can spend more, you can do it faster.

But it’s really not fair to consider these costs all as food storage costs;
you are going to put these foods into your regular diet, after all.  Some
of this money can come out of your regular food budget.

Now what other food do I recommend you buy as part of your basic,
bare-bones food storage?

I recommend that you buy cans of tomatoes too; they are very useful when
cooking beans (in non-emergency times as well as in emergencies).  You can
buy stewed tomatoes, or diced tomatoes, or whole tomatoes - they are
equally useful.  Perhaps the diced tomatoes are a little more useful.  You
can eat them without cooking them.  They are perfectly safe to eat

These will provide you some vitamins and some more calories (but not many).
They will also make the beans much more palatable.

So for a month’s storage for one person, I suggest you buy - as quickly as
your money will allow - 30 (small - 16-oz) cans of tomatoes. I recommend
that you use them as part of your regular diet also.

When you have 30 cans of tomatoes, you can either maintain that level, or
increase it.  Treat the tomatoes just as you are treating the beans: always
replenish or increase your supply of them.  Rotate them - eat the oldest
ones first.

The last recommendation for a basic, bare bones emergency food storage
supply:  I’d get cans or jars of fruit.  Applesauce is very useful and
nutritious, and most people like it.  If you live alone, get the smaller
jars.  It will make the rolled oats more palatable.  Many people normally
eat applesauce; it can fit into your normal food regime nicely.

I also recommend that you get some other fruit in cans - both my husband
and I like canned pineapple packed in its own juice, so we keep a supply of
that on hand.  If you prefer peaches, then get peaches, or some of each, or
some other fruit altogether.

I’d recommend building up to 30 cans or jars of fruit, just as you did with
the beans and tomatoes.  Treat the fruit just as you treat the rolled oats,
beans, and tomatoes - replenish whatever you use.

At the end of this plan, you’ll have the following on hand, and your supply
of these will not diminish:  you will always replenish them.

15 lbs of rolled oats
30 cans of beans
30 cans of tomatoes
30 cans or jars of fruit

All of these are now being eaten as part of your normal food regime, so all
the money to replace them should now come out of your normal food budget.

NONE OF THESE FOODS IS EXPENSIVE.  And you would have enough to live on for

Don’t forget to take one vitamin pill per day.

Now that you have one entire month’s food supply safely on hand,
congratulate yourself on a job well done!  Then think about what you want
to do next.

The foods I personally would add next would probably be raisins and dry
skim milk. Both would add interest to the rolled oats.  And you can use
both of them in your normal food regime.

The next thing I would probably want to buy is a guaranteed method of
cooking food:  Sterno would do (don’t forget that you need matches to light
it).  You can probably buy it in a normal supermarket or hardware store - I
have often seen it in regular, normal supermarkets.  You can build a little
holder for it from bricks.  Then you put your pot on the bricks, and the
Sterno under the pot.

After that, I would probably want a few herbs and spices - maybe oregano,
cumin, and chili powder for the beans, and cinnamon for the oats.  Some
brown sugar would be nice on the oats as well.  Maybe you already have
these in your kitchen.

I cannot think of any food storage plan that would be cheaper, and yet have
the following features:

1.  The food must all be nutritious.
2.  It must all keep a long time without refrigeration.
3.  You must be able to eat it uncooked if necessary.
4.  It must all fit into a normal diet.

If you do this, I absolutely guarantee that you’ll be glad, and that it
will give you a very good feeling of security.

I hope you will never have an emergency, but even if you don’t, you will
always feel a more secure with (at least) one month’s food on hand. This is
definitely worth the little bit of work and expense it requires.

You may want to continue and gradually build up to a three-month’s supply
or to vary the foods.  You may want to think about non-food items too:
garbage bags, a basic first-aid kit, whatever you would really need in an

But always keep that bedrock, bare-bones one month’s supply - always
replenish what you use.

Friday Food Storage Quickie

Sharon September 19th, 2008

Ok, last week concentrated on two common starches - pasta and popcorn.  This week, we’re going to try and diversify your holdings a little bit by adding some orange vegetables and dried fruit.

Why these two?  Well they are important for a couple of reasons.  Vitamins A and C tend to be deficient in most food storage diets.  Both most orange veggies and dried fruit are sweet, and many lend themselves to lots of familiar recipes.  Also, if you have to transition rapidly to a diet primarily of grains and beans, you may find that this leads to tummy trouble - a little dried fruit to keep things moving along is not a bad idea.

 What kind of orange vegetables?  What kind of fruit?  Well, it depends on you and your family - on what you like to eat, and on what you have the ability to store.  If you live in a place where your home is routinely in the 50s or low 60s during the winter - or if you can shut off a room and keep it quite cool, you have the optimal conditions for storing winter squash, pumpkins or sweet potatoes in their natural state.  Now these take up a considerable bit of space, so storing large quantities of these can be difficult - but if you can allot the space, the tastiest, freshest and most nutritious option would be to have grown or if it is too late for that, to buy in bulk from a farmer large quantities of sweet potatoes, squash or cooking pumpkins (jack o lantern pumpkins make good animal feed, but not good pies particularly).  Many small pie pumpkins may be available at a minimal price the day or two after Halloween, if you talk to local pumpkin dealers. 

If you don’t have moderate temperature storage, but do have a root cellar or cold storage space, another option would be to buy carrots in bulk and store them in the basement (or other suitable place) in buckets of damp playground sand.  Carrots have the advantage of being delicious raw, either straight or grated into salads.  Carrots are generally quite inexpensive as well.

But what if you live in an apartment and can’t store large quantities of orange vegetables.  Well, you can either purchase or can yourself canned pumpkin, squash and sweet potatoes - these are especially cheap around Halloween and Thanksgiving in most localities, and it isn’t a bad time to buy a large quantity.  These vegetables can be served more or less as is, baked or pureed with cinnamon, they can be added to biscuits and breads, make a delicious soup (I particularly like pumpkin-tomato) are good mixed into bean purees like hummus, used to flavor rice pilafs, and of course, pies.  A small amount of orange vegetable will ensure that you and your family have adequate natural sources of vitamin A.

What about the dried fruit?  Well, what kind of dried fruit does your family like?  Raisins?  Dried Cranberries?  Dried apple schnitzen?  Prunes?  And perhaps more importantly, since dried fruit isn’t cheap, is there any fruit you have abundantly that could be dried?  Right now, in my area, apples are abundant and often sold inexpensively by the bushel - and most northeastern households can dry them simply by peeling and coring and cutting the apples into rings, which are hung up and dried on strings in the house. 

Buying dried fruit in bulk is definitely cheaper than buying it in most packaged bags - and Sams Club type places sometimes have good deals.  If you can’t afford to buy local, or can’t find a local source, remember, you don’t need as much dried fruit as you do, say, dried beans - even a little helps flavor your oatmeal, provides a tasty, calorie dense snack for a child and helps with that little internal issue. 

There is one kind of fruit that I think is well worth making some effort to stock up on - dried elderberries. In some regions of the country, wild or cultivated elderberries are still on the plant and can be harvested for free.  In other places, these will have to be ordered.  But it is truly worth having some, so that you can make vitamin C rich elderberry sauces, syrups or other supplements.  As mentioned above, Vitamin C is the other nutrient that food storage is often short of.  Even dried, elderberries are incredibly dense in vitamin C.  Homemade elderberry syrup is not difficult to make (boil dried berries with a sweetener and a bit of water) and is a good treatment for various winter illnesses - but even more important, elderberries are a good regular source of C.  If not elderberries, dried rose hips are also excellent for this purpose.

Dried fruits make great pies (elderberries too!), great pancake sauces, good additions to rice pudding, oatmeal and other porridges, flavorings for cake and breads, and terrific snacks by themselves.  They open up wide the range of foods available to you if you have to rely primarily on your storage.  If you have kids, or adults with kid-like tastes for the sweet, dried fruits can be helpful in getting people adapted to their new diet.

Ok, what about non-food items?  This week, let’s check out our flashlight situation.  If you are like a lot of people, they live in a kitchen drawer with a lot of other junk in it.  Can you find them in the dark?  Do you have a flashlight at your bed?  Do the kids or other household residents have a light that can prevent an accident and make them feel secure?   

What’s the battery situation, for flashlights without cranks?  Do you have rechargeable batteries and a solar/crank battery charger?  When was the last time you checked the batteries on your flashlight?

Now is the time to go over your flashlight situation.  Generally speaking, I think most households need a few of these - a big one with a big light for dealing with a crisis in pitch dark - you don’t want to manage a broken bone or help a lamb birth, try and fix the water pump or check for a burglar with a teeny little light.  Plus, as one of my other readers pointed out, big maglight flashlights make excellent blunt objects just in case.

Then there are smaller LED flashlights that last a long time - try and have at least one headlamp, if you can - having your hands free to do other things makes a huge difference if you  have to do chores in the dark.

I also like the hand crank flashlights, especially for children.  They have the advantage of working even if you do let the batteries lapse.  Even though they aren’t environmentally sound, for the youngest kids, who may be scared of the dark, I find lightsticks to be a good alternative, and store a few.  That way toddlers and preschoolers, or children without the ability to manage a flashlight without breaking it can still have a sense of power and security and some light.  They don’t last all that long, and are a disposable item, so this isn’t a long term solution, but it does offer a short term way of handling a crisis.  Battery powered LED nightlights aren’t a terrible idea either.

Whatever you choose, have the lights, have the batteries and a way to replace/recharge them (honestly, recharge makes so much more sense that I can’t understand why anyone would choose the other alternative), and make sure you can find them easily and in the dark.  Because when you need them, you really need them.  Inexpensive flashlights are often available at Sams Club type warehouse stores and oddlots stores, and a quick trip through ebay suggests lots are available there.

If you’ve got the lights and batteries and things, now is a good time to make sure they are charged up, that everything is clean (ie, removing rust, etc…) and that things are accessible and that everyone in the household who might need to know can find them if they need to.


« Prev - Next »