This is Part 2 of a series discussing a few simple things each of us can do to increase our family’s chance of surviving, and more importantly thriving, during hard times… no matter how minor or serious those times may be.
In our last installment we talked about the importance of having a little extra water on hand. This time we’re talking food.
I don’t know about you, but I like to eat. I will eat at least a couple times today. I ate yesterday. I hope to eat tomorrow. If for some reason we couldn’t make it to Kroger, or if we just want to take a little strain off our food budget every now and then, I’m thankful we’ve planned ahead with these easy and relatively inexpensive steps .
Before we get into the thick of it… and just as a reminder, deciding to take care of your loved ones by keeping spare food, water, and some supplies socked away for emergencies doesn’t mean you’re a crazy person and your family should be the featured idiots on the next over-hyped reality TV show. Sure a major Hurricane Katrina type event can happen and throw things into chaos for a few weeks almost anywhere and anytime, but thankfully that is unlikely for most of us. More probable is a snow storm or heat wave knocking out the power for awhile, which usually leads to a panicked emptying of the local grocery store. More probable than a civilization-ending EMP attack is one of the bread winners in your family losing their job. More probable than the Ebola Zombie Apocalypse is your decision to move to a new Gentlemanly Homestead outside town and thus needing to float two mortgages for a few months until the old one sells.
For all of these possibilities, ranging from Smaller Inconveniences to Mad Max’s Thunderdome, it is a great idea to have a little extra set aside.
Just in case.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I find it ridiculous that most people have thirty days of dog food in their basement and only a couple days of people food in their pantry. And they think that’s OK. Our grandparents would not be pleased.
What are our basic physical needs again? (After skipping a pretty important one we can’t do too much about – Oxygen.)
So let’s talk food.
Store what you eat. Eat what you store.
Carefully track the groceries your family uses on a regular basis. Then the next time you’re pushing a wobbly cart with a squirming toddler in the seat to replace what you’ve gobbled in the last week… instead of buying one box of pasta or can of chili, buy two. When grubby little hands reach for the Mac N Cheese, grab an extra. This is an easy and inexpensive way to put something aside for a rainy day a little at a time and before you know it, you’ll have a nice little store built up in your pantry.
In addition to the peace of mind in knowing you have food on hand, just in case… there are other benefits to storing what you eat and eating what you store. You can now wait to buy when items are on sale. Maybe spaghetti sauce is on your shopping list, but they just increased the price of your favorite kind. If a few extra jars are sitting at home, you can wait for a future sale and shop on your terms and not the store’s. Additionally, ever had one of those evenings where you’re running home late, are dead tired, your beautiful kiddos (and maybe your spouse) are screaming for dinner NOW NOW NOW and the last thing you want to do is stop off at the store? Well, now you can head to your pantry instead.
Storage Foods. All those bags of quinoa and cans of soup can not sit on the shelf indefinitely. Even with rotating out the older goods, it’s difficult to use everything you’re Storing to Eat if you follow the recommended expiration dates. That’s when it’s time to introduce yourself to a few other long term storage options, starting with our good friend the MRE (Meal Ready to Eat).
MREs may not be the finest cuisine you’ve ever had, and you probably don’t want to drag it out along with a tripod for an artistic photo shoot atop the backyard wood pile… but they are complete meals and some are really quite tasty. They will be fine for five years, and if kept in a cool place, probably even longer. They’re great for throwing in a backpack or trunk for that weekend camping trip and require no outside energy (stove, fire) for preparation. A case or two doesn’t take up much space and makes a lot of sense as another tier of food storage.
Next, you want to stock up on some pouches of freeze dried foods. These will easily keep for seven years minimum and so long as you have the means to boil a little water you’ll be dining on some absolutely delicious meals.
This is also the step where Joanna and I got a little more serious about learning to can what we grow in our vegetable garden and can’t use right away. Add canning supplies and a dehydrator and you’ll be able to do a lot yourself here in Step 2. This includes some very easy work with food grade five gallon buckets, some mylar bags, oxygen absorbers, and tons of pasta, wheat, beans, and other staples. Just make sure you know how to cook with what you’re storing if you’re putting that away for a rainy day.
Long Term Storage Foods. Freeze dried foods are again your friend and there are offerings that last as long as thirty years sitting on a shelf! These can be a little pricey, but in addition to the security of knowing your family has a lot of easy meals available, it’s interesting to think of how much food prices have increased over the past few years. You may be paying about the same for a box of cereal, but have you noticed the box got smaller? Hmmm.
Storing away these #10 cans might just turn out to be a pretty safe investment for many reasons.
Of course, throughout these steps we’ve only been talking about storage. Another way to keep a little extra food on the table when the grocery isn’t an option or the budget is being pinched is to grow your own. If you’ve never dug your hands in the dirt, you’d be really surprised how much you can harvest with a little hard work and a little luck. Our goal is to someday use our gardens and small livestock to provide as much of our food as possible. That’s an incredibly tall order. So until we get there, Joanna and I sleep a little more soundly each night knowing that if a mini crisis occurs to pinch the budget… or the Walking Dead start roaming our neighborhood… our kids’ tummies will still be full.
Question of the Day: If your grocery store closed up shop tomorrow, how many meals do you have in your house right now?