By Lee Flynn
When you first start implementing an emergency food storage system, you might quickly feel overwhelmed by everything that’s out there. Should you focus on building your pantry, or making sure that you have a garden that will sustain your family in the event of an emergency?
Where on earth are you going to put enough toilet paper to last your family for weeks or months at a time? If you look at the project as a whole, you’ll become overwhelmed quickly. Instead, choose one of these five tasks that can be accomplished in less than an hour–and then walk away when you’re done and save the rest for another day. Starting with a small piece of the project will help keep you working on it over time, which will ultimately mean a more efficient, comprehensive food storage system.
Make a Recipe Box
One of the most common mistakes people make when they first start down the food storage path is not having any idea what to do with the contents of their pantries. It’s great that you have a six-month supply of rice and beans, but if an emergency arises, what are you going to do with those foods? Are they already regular parts of your diet?
Sit down and create a recipe box or binder full of recipes that you’ll use if you have an emergency and need to dip into your food storage rations. Make it your goal to prepare one of these recipes each week to introduce your family to these foods and make sure that you’ll like them. Preparing the recipes will also help you learn what you really need in order to make the food palatable–or even edible! Spices, for example, are more important than you think–and many of them will last for a long time. Also, pay attention to the tools you’re using. If you lose electricity and your only can opener relies on it to work, all those cans of food won’t do you a lot of good.
Organize Your Pantry By Date
You know that food storage will be valuable in the event of an emergency, but you don’t want to spend a fortune on food that you and your family are never going to use! Throwing away food that has gone bad simply because it was in your food storage area will only lead to frustration with the entire process–not to mention the fact that you’ll have to restock your food storage from scratch all over again.
Instead, organize your pantry by date with the items that will reach their sell-by date first in front and newer items in the back. Since you’re already cooking things that need these ingredients, when you cook with them, you pull from the front, then replace them with your next grocery run. This helps keep your food storage fresh and allows you to easily rotate out food before it goes bad. As an added bonus, you’ll also be able to easily determine what foods your family never uses, which means that you won’t need them next time.
Don’t Forget Water
Water is one of the most important necessities of life. That means that storing water is an important part of your emergency preparation. You’re going to be drinking water, cooking with it, and washing with it. At a minimum, you should have enough water stored for each person in your family for two weeks. At a rate of one gallon per person per day, that can add up to a lot of water!
Clear out space for that water and commit to filling plastic milk jugs and soda bottles, buy the big jugs from the grocery store, or buy 55-gallon barrels–whatever you need to do in order to ensure that you have access to water when you need it. One quick way to make your water add up fast? Every time your family empties a juice, soda, or milk bottle, fill it with water and tuck it into your water storage area.
Choose Your Comfort Foods
What foods would be the most comforting to your family in the event of an emergency? Try to store some of those foods away in your emergency food storage. Remember, it’s not all about practicality. Food is also a comfort in the middle of hard times, and having a special treat can make a big difference in your family’s mood. This might include stockpiling the ingredients for your favorite baked goods, tucking several bags of Halloween candy back behind the cans of more practical food, or adding chocolate, pickles, and spices to your food storage.
Develop a Plan
You aren’t going to be able to grow your food storage overnight; and if, like most people, you’re on a tight budget, you need a plan to incorporate food storage into your regular grocery shopping. One way to do this? Whenever you pick up non-perishable items, instead of getting one, grab two or three of the same item.
For example, if you’re cooking spaghetti, instead of picking up one box of pasta and one jar of sauce, get three of each. This will help increase your existing supplies without breaking your budget. Just remember to plan ahead! You don’t want to find yourself with sixteen jars of pasta sauce and no beans, rice, or peanut butter. Don’t forget quick emergency food, too: supplies like dried fruit, oatmeal, peanut butter, and crackers are just as important as beans, rice, and wheat that might take longer to prepare.
Building up your food storage is a process. You don’t have to jump in and immediately have it all figured out. By taking a few steps when you have time, you can help increase your food storage substantially over time. Building up your food storage means protecting your family in the event of a food shortage, so don’t be nervous. Jump in and start your food storage today!