Food Storage 101 – Our Early Mistakes

As we had a number of water-related posts during the flooding in Nashville, this week we will be doing a full run of food-storage related posts.  As we’ve stated on this blog before, all supply storage is simply a bridge to help us to get from the beginning of an emergency to the end.  It doesn’t replace developing a mindset (fortitude) that allows us to be a rock for our family when they need us most, nor the skills that might be able to provide for us long term (gardening, cooking, splitting firewood, fishing, hunting, etc).

Let’s talk food storage

Whether you have relatively little room in your home to store extra food and toiletries or enough space to put away several years worth of vittles and toothpaste, there are a number of reasons to store food.  In today’s economic climate, the potential for losing one’s job would be at the top of my list of reasons to start a program.  Imagine knowing that if you lost your job, you wouldn’t have to buy, or would only have to buy a limited amount of, food for a month, 6 months or a year.  A good food storage program provides peace of mind.

However, it’s not going to happen by magic, and there are quite a few potential pitfalls.  My families ‘road to food storage’ included more than a few mistakes that I will share in the hope that yours will be more fruitful, and quicker than ours was.  Before I move on to the Advice and Beans Food Storage Plan in Wednesday’s post, I’ll list some of the things we did wrong.

My biggest Oopses

Error 1)  I first stored one thing, rice, in large quantities.  Don’t!  While I was at least doing something, I hadn’t really developed a plan.  Rice requires a lot of water to cook, and in an emergency situation, water might be hard to come by.  By extension, boiling water requires a lot of energy…and fuel might be just as challenging to come by if the power is out, as I don’t have a generator or wood stove.  Finally, while I like rice, I don’t like just rice…appetite fatigue would strike on a diet of just one item within a matter of a week or two.  Plus, while rice would provide the calories my family needs to survive, it wouldn’t contain many of the essential vitamins and minerals as well.

Error 2)  I can be a bit thick-headed at times, so I doubled up on the rice-buying error by then buying 100 pounds of white wheat (But it was a steal at around $10 for high-quality wheat!).  When I bought it, I had no idea what to actually do with it.  I didn’t have a way to grind it into flour to make bread or cookies with it.  I didn’t know how I was going to store it.  Heck, I didn’t even know if I liked it.  Since then I have come to appreciate our supplies of wheat. However when first starting out, do not buy things you are not sure you will, or can, use!

3rd error)  Not eating from our food storage.  I eventually thought I had things squared away…I stored more water for our rice.  I had a fuel plan.  I had stored a larger variety of food…red wheat, white wheat, oats, flour, beans, sugar, salt.  Notice a pattern yet?  I didn’t have anything to actually eat without effort.  Everything would need to be prepared, but because I didn’t eat from my food storage I didn’t realize it.  One of the main components of any good food storage plan is:  Make sure you have something you can eat right now!

So now you know our dirty little secrets, and they were some big ones!  No one just wakes up one day knowing how to store food in the perfect manner for their family.  However, what is one of the tenets here at Advice and Beans?  Persistence.  I had a goal, and I was going to move toward that goal until I got there.

Through a number of resources, such as an LDS friend at work who also stores food, as well as reading some James Wesley, Rawles, I eventually came to the obvious solution, and one that I had read about a long time prior, but had not internalized:  Store what you eat, eat what you store.

Yes, I had a ‘well, duh’ moment. 

At that point, for the first time, I actually developed a plan.  So don’t do what I did and follow this advice:  Plan first, buy later.  Know what you are trying to accomplish, and only purchase items that meet those objectives.  If your house’s power goes out every time a gentle breeze blows, buy more food that you can eat without cooking it.  If water is going to be a potential challenge, pasta and rice should not make up a huge portion of your food storage.  No one’s food storage plan is going to be exactly the same as everyone else’s.  Your plan needs to be adaptable, flexible, and maintainable.

Wednesday I will lay out a simple, comprehensive framework for a food storage program that you can then adapt to your needs, whether you decide to keep a 2-week or 2-year supply on hand.

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05 2010

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  1. DON #

    why don’t you sell food grade buckets?

  2. Jay Morgan #

    I started similar to you, except I always like it on the cheap. I love it when someone wants to buy food grade 5 gal buckets. Talk about a shipping nightmare. When I first started I knew I would need buckets if I ever got something to put in them. I got a tip that many large grocery stores that have a bakery dept will go through bunches of buckets of icing and pie filling. I found two stores that swore that they throw them out. Then I found one that said they recycled them but if I wanted one they would give it to me free. I put them in the corner of the shower and let the hot water overspray work on the remains in the bucket and eventually wipe them out and off with a soapy rag.

    I first zeroed in on wheat because I learned from the LDS and others that if properly stored it last for 30 years retaining 99% of all it started with. I didn’t want a part time job rotating stock. I was trying to find a feed mill where I could find raw wheat for horses or other stock. The best friend that had horses feeds a premix horse food that has all the minerals and other goodies mixed in but she asked if I could wait for a few months and their 40 acers of winter wheat would be coming in and we could get some out of the combine. I walked away with four five gallion buckets of wheat berries for the farmers avoided cost. (Very cheap) Sifted and blew a fan through it to get the field trash out of it and put dry ice in the buckets before I sealed them. I planned to work the wheat to flour with a cheap electric coffee grinder. Three dead used coffee grinders later I got a Wonder Jr flour mill. Ever since getting the flour mill I have tried to make bread weekly. Thee would be nothing worse than when the SHTF to have buckets of something and have no idea what to do with it. I was originally told that you can’t make bread out of 100% whole wheat flour. They are wrong. If at all possible I share half of the bread I make with the farmer family. They love the idea of eating something they raised. I am on schedule to get 5 gal buckets or wheat, corn, soybeans, & oats this year. (They planted the oats as a cover crop to help the alfalfa get started. The alfalfa is the cash crop goal but they will still combine the oats and hope to cover their cost. After the first year it will be an alfalfa field. As each year goes by I am doing research on what I have to play with and what you can do with it.
    I guess my approach was to have fun and learn as I go. I spend a lot more time learning good from bad and separating the two but that is a part of learning what you got. I do buy cans of beans and corn by the case as I get the opportunity but not in near the quantity I have grain. I am not ready for the world to come to an end tomorrow but I am a lot closer than I was 5 years ago.

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