The Advice and Beans Food Storage Plan
First, let me state up front, I’m not claiming any of this as my personal inspiration. In fact, this plan takes bits and pieces from several sources, including the LDS, James Wesley, Rawlesand my mother’s common sense. You might also find it odd that I sell long-term storage products (oxygen absorbers and Mylar bags), and yet I’m not going to push the ‘buckets and beans’ approach to food storage.
That’s because while I think rice and beans have their place in a looooong-term storage plan, such as if you decide to store 1-2 years of food or more, for any plan 6-months or less, it’s only honest to admit you can probably store your everyday eats and be just fine. That doesn’t mean you should store just your regular diet, but it will most likely make up the bulk of your storage.
So what’s the plan?
1) Plan first, store later.
If you read my post from Monday, you know that I made some horrid early food storage mistakes. These stemmed mainly from a lack of planning. As you read through the whole plan, think about what your most common meals are. For me, breakfast is the same 5 days a week, a bowl of Special K and some Apple Juice. Dinner is pasta, chicken, or meat and potatoes at least 5 times a week as well. Thus, when we shop, we pay special attention to finding good deals on those foods.
Next, thing about how you are going to organize your food. If you buy in bulk like I did, you can rapidly fill up some shelves! (We’re at 4 and counting)
2) Have something available to eat…right now.
It is incredibly important to have a certain amount of ‘portable and painless’ food in your plan. Emergencies and disasters can be exhausting, and having to think about cooking right at the beginning is just one more unnecessary burden.
My wife and I meet this in a couple of ways. First, have a couple of cases of MRE’s. These are not the C-Rations your dad or grandad told you about that they ate in the military. While they are not gourmet, I rather enjoy most MRE’s. If someone is picky about hot food, make sure you get the one’s with heaters, as they are only a tad more expensive.
I also now store food I can readily cook with my Jetboil Camping Stove. Things such as Progresso soup, cocoa and coffee.
Finally, we always have on hand, sealed in plastic totes, various snack packs, Oreo’s, ritz crackers, and peanut butter. Again, nothing is gourmet and we wouldn’t want to live on it long-term, but we have a variety of filling, family-friendly food.
These types of foods provide plenty of nutrition and calories for a short-term emergency up to perhaps a 7-day power outage. The MRE’s are also convenient if you have to send someone out for some reason, as they are self-contained and have a high calories count. (Typically 1500-2000 for civilian MRE’s)
Some other foods that you could store for this purpose, but that we don’t (in quantity at least) are Slim Jim’s Mean and Cheese packs (an easy 200 calories that doesn’t taste horrible and is not just meat), power bars (these need to be rotated faster than you might think though), and dry soups such as Cup-a-Noodle (assuming you also store a method to boil water if the power is out)
2) Don’t switch your diet if you don’t want to.
While my wife and I now rather enjoy cooking with our ‘beans (and wheat, and oats) and rice’, after doing an examination of expiration dates, I’ve come to the conclusion we didn’t have to.
By checking expiration dates, you will know how much of a given food you could store without worrying about any of it going bad. For example, if you eat 6 cans of green beans and canned corn per week, and the average expiration date is 2 years away, you could store 600 cans of green beans and canned corn and never worry about it going bad! Next, take a look at your peanut butter. I eat the Smucker’s Natural Peanut Butter and it has a relatively short shelf life, around 6 months. I eat about 1 can per month. In my basement, I have 6 cans stored. However, my wife eats regular Jif, which has almost a 2 year shelf life, so we store more of hers than mine.
If you do this for every food that is in your pantry, you will find that you can keep larger stocks of 70-80% of your regularly groceries and avoid some of the hassles associated with ultra-long term food storage. Obviously the one challenge is perishables. For me, that means I also store dry milk, a grain grinder so we can make flour if we need to (whole wheat is much better for you anyway!) to bake bread, and sufficient water to cook with.
3) Make sure you rotate.
Our food storage set-up makes it very easy to rotate our foods. When I need peanut butter, I just go downstairs and get it. When I come in from the grocery store, it is right next to our food storage racks. I simply drop off all my food storage food and take the rest of the perishables upstairs. Usually it sits on the floor til the weekend when my wife or I go down to properly organize it.
Some folks might not have such an easy set-up, but in order to not waste food, some method should be established where you are always eating the oldest.
4) Buy some of each.
Don’t do what I did, and make sure if you decide on a 6-month food storage plan, you don’t buy just 6 months of green beans on one grocery run, 6 months of peanut butter the next, etc. That is a surefire way to make sure you only have half-a-pantry when something bad does happen.
5) Buy in bulk and on sale.
While this might sound like it contradicts point #4, it doesn’t really. This rule really took effect for us after we had a good base of food storage. Once we were in a position where we didn’t go to the grocery store every week, when we do go to the store, we are now much more able to focus on items that are on sale.
However, even earlier on if you see a great deal on one particular item and you have the cash to purchase it, don’t hesitate. For example, I was in Walmart last week and I saw Apple Juice 96oz containers on sale for $1.50 (regularly $2.06). While many people might walk out with 1 and save themselves $.56, I know I will drink it and thus bought 10 and saved $5.60. Sure, it takes up some space, but we’re set up to do it and I’d rather not go back 2 weeks later and find that the price is now $2.25! Also, at $15 it is definitely a good portion of my allotted food storage money, but not enough that I didn’t also pick up some extra canned peaches (also on sale).
At your regular grocery stores, find out where and when the deals are. For example, I religiously check Publix’s buy-one-get-one page. If you have access to a Costco or Sam’s Club, take advantage of both buying in volume and at lower prices. Aldi’s, Dollar General, and Sav-a-Lot are also local venues where we find great prices.
6) Include something sweet.
This is a must! Chocolate chip cookies, Thin Mints, or some M&M’s all store well enough in cool environments to last a minimum 3-6 months. Both adults and kids need some normalcy during an emergency, and something sweet definitely fits the bill. For something that lasts a little longer, consider jello (if you know you’ll be able to make it) or hot cocoa.
If you are interested in much more detailed information on long-term food storage, I really like the ladies from Food Storage Made Easy. I only wish the site wasn’t quite so girly (Mostly kidding)! And I especially find it interesting considering of all the food storers’ I know, well more than half are guys. I’m going to add them to the links page tomorrow, so don’t worry if you don’t go visit them today.
A special note, for those without a lot of space, start with their great article on small spaces food organizing.