Food Storage in 87 Easy Steps

If you haven't read Monday's post, start there.  We live in a very different world than our grandparents, and most of us don't have the time, resources, or knowledge (not to mention the desire) to "put up" all of our own food.  But that doesn't mean that we don't need a stock of food and other household supplies to help us "weather" tough times. 

First Step is to Plan: 

Think about your needs, your potential “winter”, your potential emergencies - times when you might have to scale back. Prioritize what is most important to you. 

Lists! I love making lists, and the computer is key for this.

Household Items: Make a list of all the consumable items that you use on a daily basis: shampoo, paper towels, Q-tips, laundry detergent, pet food. Think about how much you’d use in 90 days. Then think about things you might only use weekly: cleaning supplies, stamps, cat litter. Then monthly: vacuum bags, furnace filters. Finally seasonally: yard waste bags, for instance. Work out the numbers to 90 days -- try not to be overwhelmed.  Just start the list and work on a few items.  Once you've found a rhythm, you can add items easily and "catch up."

Food: Make a menu for your family of 7 breakfasts, 7 lunches and 7 dinners. Try to come up with meals that aren’t heavily dependent on fresh ingredients. If you like a salad every night, that’s great, but it won’t last long. Consider planning with a frozen bag of vegetables or a canned item. Write down the ingredients needed. (An excel spreadsheet is good for this.) Make sure that these meals are ones that your family enjoys and will eat. One on my list is spaghetti dinner: 1 lb pasta, 1 jar of pasta sauce, 1 lb of ground beef, onions, California blend vegetables, bread, butter, and garlic powder (for garlic bread), etc. Then I multiplied by 12. That’s right, twelve jars of pasta sauce, 12 pounds of ground beef, etc.

I’ve been buying these items as they are on sale. Not long ago, I found our favorite pasta sauce on sale for $0.99/jar. I also found our favorite pasta on sale for $0.99/box. Could I have found something cheaper? Maybe, but I’m filling our pantry with the food that we like. I’ll be looking out for a sale on ground beef to put in the freezer.

Water: It’s going to be hard for anyone to store 90 days of water, but storing water is a good idea. A reasonable plan is to plan to store at least 7 days for your family (at least 1 gallon/person/day).

Second Step is to identify a Space: 

If you’re lucky enough to have a pantry, then this a no-brainer. But if not, consider underneath the stairs, in the basement, in the spare bedroom, the upstairs bedroom, a heated garage, a large cabinet. You may have to find more than one place to store your food. This can also be a work in progress as you realize what, where, and how large you need exactly.

The Third Step is to slowly build up your supply: 

Budget for your food storage. Before you go to the store, identify what you need, peruse the weekly ads. Start with the basics - a few complete meals, some bottled water. Then go from there. If you’re buying laundry detergent because you need it, throw in an extra to store, especially if it’s on sale or you have a coupon.

The Fourth Step is to use it: 

Rotate your food. Use the oldest stuff first and put the new stuff in the back. Replace what you’re using.  When I grab items from the pantry, I write them down on a list I keep on the fridge.  When I get home from grocery shopping, I put pantry items away in storage (at the back of the shelf).

The Fifth Step is to review: 

Take a look at what you’re truly using and what you’re not. Use up or donate the older stuff. Identify any lifestyle changes that require different supplies. New baby in the house? You need diapers.

Always always remind yourself that you’re taking steps to protect your family in the event of an emergency.

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