Shocking news! Building an emergency food supply can be one of the easiest activities on your prepping agenda. Now that I have your attention, let me explain.
Consuming food is something every human on the planet does on a daily basis. The content of our daily diet may differ, along with the source and quantity of food, but we all eat. What that means is that we already understand the dynamic of shopping, storing, and preparing food.
What is left, in prepper-speak, is what at first appears to be an overwhelming task of acquiring food for storage purposes. The reality, however, is more like kicking your routine food acquisition plan up a notch. It really does not get more complicated than that and in this article, I will show you how.
Before we start, let me warn you. This is not rocket science. Furthermore, I first shared many of these tips in 2013 and guess what? They still work. That said, a few things have changed so I will point those out along the way.
10 Crazy Simple Strategies for Building an Emergency Food Supply
1. Take Your Time and Go Slow
If I can cite the number one reason people become overwhelmed when even thinking about putting aside an emergency food supply, it is the perceived sense of urgency that it all needs to be done right now. And this, for many, results in complacency and inaction. Don’t fall into this trap. Begin with a three day supply and gradually build that up to a week. After that, add to your emergency food supply week by week until pretty soon, you have three months of food stored away for you and your family.
Remember, it is perfectly okay to start out by picking up just 2 or 3 extra cans of meats, fruits or vegetables during your weekly trip to the supermarket. Do what you can at a pace that your are comfortable with and ignore any message you get from others (including prepping forums and websites) to do it all at once.
2. Spend Your Money Wisely
There is no reason to break the budget while building an emergency food supply. Before heading out to the supermarket, view local ads and find specials that will allow you to purchase more for less. If you are so inclined, use coupons and if allowed, shop on “double coupon” days.
Warehouse clubs such as Costco have coupons too so don’t overlook those booklets that are sent out monthly. Often times the savings are huge. If you do not belong to a warehouse club, perhaps you can tag along with a friend or call ahead and see if they will give you a one-day shopping pass.
Consider shopping at one of the many Dollar Stores or even in the back aisles of the drugstore. Bargains abound as I recently learned when I picked up a dozens of name-brand canned vegetables for fifty cents a can.
3. Scope Out and Optimize Your Storage Space
Finding space to store your emergency food supply can be a challenge, especially if you live in a small home or apartment. Get creative, starting with a walk around tour of your living spaces. Locatios often overlooked are under beds, way up high in closets where you can add another shelf, and under dressers, desks and sofas.
My number one tip, though, is to go through your cupboards and closets and remove those items that are duplicates, that you rarely use, or that you do not use at all. For example, in your kitchen, how may different pots and pans do you need? My guess is that you use the same two or three over and over again. Stow the extras in the basement, attic, or garage, or give them away to charity. Trust me, they will not be missed. The same thing applies to seldom used clothing, shoes and sports equipment.
If you are truly serious about finding the space for your emergency food supply, you will toss those miscellaneous odd-ball items that are only used once every three years. This alone will free up space for some additional canned or dried food items.
4. Stick to the Basics
Monitor what your family eats for a week and use that as a guideline for getting started. The advantage of doing this is you will learn what your family likes so that you can shop accordingly. You would be surprised at how many people can’t remember what they ate yesterday let alone a week ago. Try to write everything down so that you don’t have to rely upon your memory.
Keep in mind that bulk foods such as beans, rice, oatmeal and powdered milk are staples in the survival food pantry. Relatively speaking, they are all (with the exception, perhaps of the milk) inexpensive. These are basics, yes, but if you are just getting started, why not begin with the food your family eats – but only in canned form?
Also, do not forget to store at least one gallon of water per person per day along with your emergency food supply. More is better.
5. Don’t Make it a Chore
Storing food for an emergency can be challenging but it does not have to be a chore. Eliminate the panic of attempting to get it all done at once and the process can almost be fun and game-like. Searching out deals – either with coupons or at sales – can be an adventure in and of itself. Involve the kids by asking them for suggestions and helping them make selections that they will enjoy eating.
Continue the adventure by learning to cook with traditional storage items such as the bulk food items mentioned above (beans, rice, oatmeal and powdered milk). Adding condiments of various types will result in delicious meals not only now, but after an emergency when good tasting food will be a comfort.
6. Be Mindful of Food Storage Conditions
Notwithstanding finding space for your emergency food supply, consider the storage conditions in your home. The enemies of food storage are temperature, moisture, oxygen, light, pests and time. Then there is the two legged variety (such as teenagers!) who eat everything in sight, including your emergency food.
While not all household conditions are perfect, be aware of the six enemies of food storage and do your best to mitigate their effect on your precious food supply. This means you should avoid storing food in garages that are 90 degrees in summer and 30 degrees in winter. I am repeating what I said before but it is important: empty your cupboards and closets of excess stuff and stow these items in the basement, attic, or garage. This will make room for you to store your food inside your main living area where the ambient room temperature is stable.
7. Learn From Your Mistakes
Everyone makes mistakes when it comes to food storage and trust me, I have made my share of them. One mistake I have made is to not take my own advice and stock up on something I truly dislike. Another is to stock up on sugary drinks in #10 tins from a well-known food storage company. What was I thinking?
You know your own eating habits the best but lest you think you are infallible, review these 15 Common Food Storage Mistakes.
8. Rotate Out and Replenish In But Only Within Reason
If there has been a major shift in my food storage thinking over the years, this is it. I used to believe that nothing lasts forever and recommended periodically going through your emergency food supply to rotate out the oldest items.
These days, I still recommend rotating but not to the point where you make it your career. I have read enough studies and have eaten enough ten year old food to know that if the packaging is in good shape, meaning well sealed, no dents, rust or leak in cans, the food is most likely okay to eat.
Additional Reading: What You Need to Know About Eating Expired Food
I say most likely because all stored food must pass the sniff test. If it smells bad, do not pass go. Throw it away.
Of course food that is packaged for long term storage, either by the manufacturer or yourself, is going to be fresher in look and taste. Presumably, there will also be less leaching of nutritional value.
How to package for the long term is beyond the scope of this article but you will find plenty of tips in the following three articles here on Backdoor Survival:
9. Keep Track of Your Stuff
Once you get going, it will be easy to lose track of what you already have. The best way to overcome the state of confusion you will experience six months down the road is to start keeping track of your stored items now – from the beginning. Use a spiral notebook, a computer spreadsheet, or a clipboard and a pad of paper. Update your inventory with the item and date of purchase as it goes into storage and of course, mark it off as it rotates out.
Note: Just because you are not going to be paranoid about food rotation does not mean you should ignore the wisdom of using your oldest items first.
10. Do Your Homework
Resources abound. With a modest amount of computer knowledge, you can Google around the internet to find all sorts of emergency food and food storage advice. Be an informed consumer. Learn about the foods that store well and also about pre-packaged meals that only require a bit of hot water to create a good-tasting and satisfying food experience.
Learn about bulk foods and cooking methods that your can use when there is no power to your home. Many of the websites selling food will have blogs as well as links to helpful information. Why not use them to increase your overall knowledge and become familiar with additional tactics and strategies for storing food for the long term in a hassle free manner?
The Final Word
These days, it seems as though everyone has something to say about emergency food and emergency food storage. You will find advice telling you not only what to buy, but how much to buy, where to buy it, how to store it and to a lesser degree, how to eat it.
For the food storage newbie, all of this information can be overwhelming. And for the experienced food storage maven, every new piece of advice will have you wondering whether you have done it right or whether there is a better way. To use one of my favorite laments, it can all be too much!
While it is true that an unexpected disaster could happen at any time, the reality is that we prepare for far more than a natural disaster. A sudden illness, unemployment and even expensive car repairs may all contribute to the need to prepare and to have food and supplies at the ready.
Learning to overcome the feeling of being overwhelmed as you begin to store food for an emergency or for the long term does not have to be daunting. Start with these crazy simple tips and you will be well on your way to becoming an emergency food storage maven.
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
Note: An earlier version of this article appeared in February 2013. This update reflects current thinking on crazy simple food storage!
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Bargain Bin: Today I share some of my favorite food storage tools. Whether you are just getting started or a seasoned pro, here are the items you will need when purchasing food in bulk for long term needs.
FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer: As long as the unit has an accessory port (and this one does), an in expensive FoodSaver will work just as well as the fancier models. The thing is, a more powerful Food Saver will only be incrementally more expensive so if you find one at a bargain price, snap it up. I own this one: FoodSaver V4440 2-in-1 Automatic Vacuum Sealing System and feel it is worth the extra cost.
FoodSaver Wide Mouth Jar Sealer: Already have a FoodSaver? If so, check out this jar sealer which can be used to vacuum seal your Mason jars. This is a great option for short to mid term storage of items such as beans, rice, sugar and salt. Store your jars in a cool, dark place and you are set with the added advantage of removing a small amount for current use without having to disrupt your large Mylar bag or bucket of food. There is also a version for regular sized jars. See Fast Track Tip #4: How to Use a FoodSaver for Vacuum Canning.
Mylar bags & Oxygen Absorbers: What I love about Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers is they protect against every single one of the food storage enemies. Prices do vary but for the most part, they are inexpensive and easy to keep on hand. And while you can seal them up with a FoodSaver, some tubing and a common clothes iron, I find it infinitely easier with a cheap hair straightening iron that you can pick up $20 or less.
60 – 300cc Oxygen Absorbers: This is one area where you want to make sure you are getting a quality product. Currently, a pack of 60 (in three 20 unit packs) is about $12 with free shipping.
Ball Regular & Wide Mouth Jar Storage Caps: I must have 30 or 40 of these. I love to use mason jars for pantry storage and for those items I go through quickly, I see no need to use the vacuum seal gizmo that goes with my FoodSaver.
Sharpie Permanent Markers: Sharpies were invented for preppers! And without question, Amazon is the cheapest place to buy them. Typically, the price on Amazon is less that $6 for a dozen.
Blue Painters Tape: You are going to think I am nuts but I actually appear blue painters tape that I can cut to size over standard labels. Ad added advantage is they are easily removed without leaving any sticky goo behind.
Conair Ceramic Instant Heat 2″ Straightener: An inexpensive hair iron such as this one is perfect for sealing Mylar bags. It can also be used on your hair so it can serve a dual purpose. For an even cheaper alternative, consider this one that works equally well but has smaller blades.
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