Saturday, May 30, 2009

Store what you eat and eat what you store

This post is an overview of some basic ideas of how to get started with your food storage.
  • The purpose of food storage is to have food on hand for yourself and your family in time of need, so the food you store should be food that you like to eat.
  • Regularly eat the food you have stored, and regularly replace it. This way, the stored food will retain its nutritional value, and will still taste good.
  • Of course, if properly packaged and stored, many foods will last for decades.

Start small--set a goal to have enough for one month:
By gradually setting aside food, it is possible to accumulate storage for one month, then three months, then six months, then a year.

First idea to get started with food storage--Make a list:
Write a list of main dishes that you regularly prepare for dinner.
For example, your list might include: Stir fry with vegetables, chicken and rice, spaghetti, taco salad, chicken noodle soup, sandwiches, etc.

Next, categorize food items needed for the meals on your list:
On a separate piece of paper, title five columns:
1. Grains/Bulk foods 2. Canned goods 3. Frozen foods 4. Fresh foods 5. Other items.

Now, take each main dish that you wrote down earlier and write the ingredient for that dish under the appropriate columns.
For example, the main dish of "stir fry" would have "Rice" in the "Grains/Bulk foods" column. It would have "vegetables" and "chicken" under the "Frozen foods" column. It would have "soy sauce" and "corn starch" under the "Other items" column.

Calculate amounts needed:
If you have 30 main dishes on your list, then that is about the amount of food needed for a one month supply. If you multiply that amount by 12, you will have the amount needed for a one year supply.

Remember lunch and breakfast:
Repeat this same exercise with lunch foods and breakfast foods.

Side dishes:
Of course, most meals aren't just a main dish, they also include side dishes. It is probably a good idea to store food for side dishes, but I personally haven't worried too much about side dishes because most of our side dishes are fresh fruit and vegetables and garden salads which are hard to store. Also, in hard times, I figure if we have ingredients for main dishes we'll still have something nutritious and filling. (Also, knowing how to make something such as bread is useful for "hard times" because bread is so filling. If we were living exclusively off of our food storage and were able to make bread to eat if we were still hungry after a meal, that would be very helpful) (For this reason, we also store plenty of flour and other bread ingredients).

Another idea: keeping a record of foods eaten and used over one month:
If you are trying to figure out what food to store for your family and in what quantity, and the idea listed above doesn't suit you, here is another idea:
Tape a paper to your refrigerator. Then, for one month, record the meals you ate, and the ingredients used. At the end of the month, you will have a good record of what is needed to feed your family for one month. Multiply this by 12 and you have the amounts needed for a year's supply. You can then divide the items on this list into the columns I suggested above.
This is actually the system we used when we were beginning our food storage, and it was helpful and accurate, but painstaking to keep track of everything for an entire month.

Shopping and storing:
Once you have your food listed into columns, it is easier to start accumulating a supply. The easiest and least expensive to purchase and store are the "Bulk/Grain items." This is a good place to start, too, because these foods are nutritious and very filling. Bulk grain items are available from the church Home Storage Center at very good prices. You can purchase them in bulk and bring them home to store in your own containers. Or, you can put them in the #10 tin cans or mylar pouches. If you have questions about the Home Storage Center you can look on the church's Provident Living website ( or call the local center at (816) 453-2398. I can also help answer your questions.
Next, begin storing the "canned foods" and "frozen items" and "other items." These items often come on sale and then you can stock up. Some stores will give you a discount when you buy large quantities, and retailers such as Costco and Sam's Club often have good prices on bulk foods such as these. Also, every year in early June, Diana coordinates a bulk purchase of frozen food from Bithell farms. This is excellent fruit and a good price. If you are interested, call Diana.
The last category on your storage list is "fresh foods." Obviously, we cannot store fresh foods in our long term storage as "fresh" foods. However, we can often find many of those foods "frozen" "canned" or "dried." If "fresh" foods are a large part of your menus, then it is a good idea to find the same foods prepared a different way to keep in your food storage. Diana also coordinates a bulk purchase from Emergency Essentials each month. They sell many of these types of foods in bulk quantities. Contact her if you would like to have information about Emergency Essentials.

Find a good system for storing and rotating food:
I have posted a few ideas of how to store/rotate food in earlier posts. I hope to post some more ideas soon. A good system will have the food easily accessible when you cook. This usually means that some of the food is in or near the kitchen. The other food can be in a basement or other storage room. Find a system that works with where you live and how you cook. If any of you have good ideas, please comment and I will add them here.

Many food storage items can be stored in buckets and on shelves. However, if you have a deep freezer, it can be a valuable asset to your food storage. Many items store well in a freezer, such as meats, cheese, yeast, bread, fruits and vegetables. If you do have a freezer, you may want to consider what you would do if the power were out for a long time. A generator is a good solution for this.

A note on storing/rotating food:
For the most part, we regularly eat what we have stored. The exception to this is that we don't eat a lot of powdered milk at this time. In times of unemployment and very limited grocery budget, we have used powdered milk exclusively, because it was just $1 a gallon. Since we currently drink store-bought milk most of the time, this is how I rotate my powdered milk storage: I try to keep a pitcher of re-constituted powdered milk in the fridge, and I use it for cooking (soups, breads, almost any recipe that calls for milk) (except for puddings--puddings won't set up if you use powdered milk). I also have a few recipes that call for dry powdered milk. One recipe is for homemade pizza crust and the other recipe is for a chocolate shake that tastes quite a bit like a Wendy's frosty. I found that recipe on a website called Hillbilly Homemaker.
So, while it is a good idea to eat and rotate the food that you store, if there are foods that you want to store, but don't want to regularly eat, there are probably still ways that you can use them a little at a time. Another example is with flour. If you prefer white flour, but want to store wheat flour, you can try mixing a little wheat flour in with your white flour (from as little as one cup of wheat flour in a big bin of white flour to a half wheat/half white mixture).

Another note on bulk/grain items and bread:
Bulk/grain items used to be the main product in food storage. There has been a shift from that now, and it is recommended that we store what we eat instead of storing 500 pounds of wheat that we will never eat. However, I think it is a good idea to learn to use bulk/grain items, even just a little bit. Here's why: They are economical to purchase, they store well long-term, they don't take up much storage space, they are nutritious and filling, and they are in keeping with the Word of Wisdom. So, even if you don't "like" wheat or other grain items, I still think it is a good idea to use them every once in a while (maybe a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast once a month, for example), and to have a little of them stored. I think it is also a good idea to know how to make at least one bread item (white bread, wheat bread, rolls, breadsticks or biscuits) and to store the ingredients to make that time (yeast, flour, sugar, shortening, or whatever your recipe calls for).

A note on menus that don't use bulk items/grains:
Some people (such as diabetics, for example) have a particular type of diet. Others prefer a menu of fresh vegetables. If your diet does easily fit into the guidelines listed above, then it is important to find food storage items that will fit into your specific menus. An easy way to begin would be to think: If I needed to live off of my food storage for a few days or weeks, what would I want to have stored? (This is probable for a number of reasons from personal financial needs (unemployment) to wider economic circumstances, to a natural disaster (such as a flood, tornado or earthquake) when access to grocery stores may be limited. In this case, you might not be able to eat like usual, but what foods can you store that would be closest to what you typically eat? The answer may be in purchasing high-quality freeze-dried foods (from a company like Emergency Essentials, for example). These are more expensive and you may choose NOT to rotate them, but to keep them on hand for an emergency. Another alternative is to grow a garden which would provide food in the summer and fall. Many vegetables and herbs can be grown in small quantities inside a house. Potted plants can be grown year-round on a kitchen counter or on a table near a window in any room of the house.

A note on "other" items in food storage:
Some of the "other" items in your storage list may be nice ingredients to have, but not essential. Others, such as baking powder, yeast or oil, may be necessary to make foods such as bread. Be sure to store those "essential" items are part of your food storage. It is also nice to have "other" ingredients on hand to give flaovr and variety to the foods you have stored. Some examples are below:

Spices and flavorings:
Most spices and flavorings are very inexpensive and store well for a long time. They are an invaluable part of food storage, because they can create variety and good flavor in many ordinary foods. Some ideas of spices and flavorings to keep on hand are: vanilla, cinnamon, brown sugar, honey, jam, jelly, bouillon, garlic, salt, pepper, ketchup, barbeque sauce, salad dressing and cheese.

Many families, especially with young children, are accustomed to eating snacks throughout the day. Although it is not practical to have a year's supply of snacks on hand, it is a good idea to have some snack items in your food storage. Examples of snack foods that store well are: raisins, dried fruit, flavored drink packets and crackers.

It is a good idea to think of holidays and birthday or other traditions that your family has which involve food. For example, if you celebrate birthdays in your family with cake, and you don't make cakes and frosting from scratch, it might be a good idea to store cake mixes and frosting for the birthdays in your family. An easy way to do this would be to buy a cake mix for every person at the beginning of the year. Put them on a shelf in your food storage and use them during the year. Replace them at the beginning of the next year.

Medicine and Illness:
If you have certain dietary needs or medical needs, be sure to include those items in your food storage, too. For example, for a while one of our children took a medicine that was mixed with applesauce. We kept several packages of applesauce in our food storage. Other items to think about are soda crackers, chicken broth, juice and Gatorade.

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