Food Storage Extremes – Avoiding the Expensive Pitfalls, by John L.

There are two extremes that you should avoid:

1. The Clueless Yuppie – The Yuppie typically has one jar of olives and half a case of Diet Pepsi in his refrigerator on average,e at all times. He has no Cash/Silver/Gold in the house, relies entirely on credit/debit cards, eats out all the time, and does not know how to cook. He would face instant starvation in normal times if he could not rely on restaurants or if the power went out and he could not use his cards. If he has a medical condition that requires prescription medications, he refills it only on a monthly basis and only when he is about to run out. He either has a sports car with no carrying/hauling capacity at all, or a breakdown-prone piece-of-Schumer-car guaranteed to fail at the worst possible moment.

2. The Deluded Urban Survivalist – Has dozens of 5-gallon buckets of wheat, lentils, rice, and beans in his garage or basement. Along with hundreds of cans of soups, canned vegetables, Emergency Rations, MREs, bottled water and toilet paper. He has never eaten or even attempted to cook with any of his “survival food”. He has enough “food” to last several years. It has never occurred to him that transporting his stored food may be necessary/impossible.

The Clueless Yuppie is in sudden dire straights in the most routine, predictable, foreseeable circumstances.  If the power goes out due to a simple winter storm, his cards are useless to buy food with and despite his wealth he never uses or has any cash. Even if he had some food in his pantry, he has never cooked anything in his life and would only burn/waste/ruin any food items that he might possess.

The Deluded Urban Survivalist is awaiting and “prepared” (he thinks) for an event that can never and will never occur. Let us consider; What event or events would result in you or your family being unable to buy sufficient food for more than 3-to-6 months yet not be so bad that you can loiter there [in a heavily-populated region] for several years? Would this event or events not also result in the complete breakdown of social cooperation, law, order, employment, banking etc? After starving for several weeks or months wouldn’t all of your neighbors, townspeople, co-workers, employers have fled (diaspora) to another city or state or region or country or be dead by now? Are you going to stay in your home alone in the dark and slowly eat your food for several years in the middle of the “disaster zone”? What if your extended family shows up at your house as refugees? Friends and church members? Are you going to let them all starve/flee while you continue to slowly eat from your massive food pile? When the starving beggars and/or anti-hoarding police arrive are you actually going to shoot them to defend your food pile, really? Come now, this is real life, not a B-movie.

The Deluded Urban Survivalist has also chosen the absolutely wrong food items to store which is why I wrote this and which we will get to in a minute. First, let us consider some actual disasters/circumstances under which having some food stored is of benefit to you and others:

Natural Disasters – Hurricane/Blizzard/Earthquake/Flood/Tsunami/Volcano/Drought/Firestorm/Power-Outage/Meteor/Solar-Flare/Heat-Wave. Man Made Disasters – Epidemic/War/Invasion/Terrorism/Arson/Rioting/Looting/Crime/Hyper-Inflation/Famine/Radiation/Poisoned-Water/Contaminated-Food/Job-Loss/Eviction.

In all of these scenarios the ability to hunker-down until conditions improve or quickly evacuate is vital. Neither the ability to Evacuate Nor the ability to Hunker-Down alone is sufficient. For this reason, it is of paramount importance that your contingency food storage be portable (by vehicle), long-lasting, affordable, practical, and easy to prepare.

First it is of paramount importance that you be aware of what not to buy and why:

1. Wheat – Wheat requires special storage conditions, an effective grinder to turn it into flour, raising ingredients to turn it into bread, an electric or gas oven or bread machine to properly bake, etc. Many online web sites recommend storing wheat because it appears on lists that are over a hundred years old (case-in-point the Mormons). In a crisis situation, the logistics of turning stored wheat or flour into bread is simply impractical.
2.  Five Gallon pails of anything (Rice, Lentils, Beans, Pickles, Mayonnaise, et cetera) or #10 Cans of anything! If a family of four cannot consume it all in one sitting then the rest will spoil due to lack of refrigeration. Buying in bulk deceives you into thinking that you are saving money, but you won’t be.
3. Canned soups, Canned vegetables, Canned or Jarred Sauces, Bottled Juices – Water is very heavy, very bulky, the enemy of food enzymes and longevity, and contains no calories.
4. Bottled water – It is infinitely more useful/practical to have (and use regularly) a water purifier(s) and a few 5-gallon storage containers.
5. Anything marketed as “survival food” , whether it be Costco Emergency Food Kits, MREs, Coast Guard Emergency Rations, Food Storage Kits, etc. If you can’t find it in your grocery store or don’t eat it regularly then don’t buy it. There is an old saying: “Store what you eat and eat what you store.” A crisis is not the time try to learn-how-to-prepare/what-other-ingredients-do-I-need food that you have never prepared and never eaten and do not know if you like or hate.

Next it is important to acknowledge what can’t/shouldn’t be bought ahead of time [because of short shelf lives], and that will have to be purchased in the possible hyper-inflationary future (hopefully with hyper-inflated Silver )

1. Fresh produce – Fresh Vegetables contain enzymes without which it is impossible to effectively and properly digest stored food. (Dehydrated Vegetables can be bought ahead of time and retain most of their enzymes). Fresh vegetables can be grown in a garden, but a garden cannot be evacuated. [JWR Adds: But a sprouting kit can be!]
2. Fresh Fruit – Fresh Fruit is vital to health and one of the most neglected and least bought items in the grocery store. Some dehydrated fruit in the form of trail mix is a good idea.
3. Eggs, Cheese, Sauces
4. Bread

Now for the point of this article, what to buy. You will notice that these items are:
1. Low in water content
2. High in calories
3. Compact, Lightweight, portable
4. Practical, typically requiring only the addition of hot water or a little cooking oil to prepare.
5. Long lasting (easily several years if also stored in a vacuum bag in a cool/cold room) – I highly recommend buying a FoodSaver Vacuum Sealing system. The plastic bags give the added protection to stored food against flood, insects and vermin. Most of your stored food should get this extra protective treatment.
6. Inexpensive – if the average person can’t afford it, it is not practical.
7. Delicious – This is very important. Many people make the mistake thinking that they will be happy and grateful to eat anything in a crisis situation. History shows conclusively that this is not the case. You will want comfort foods more than ever.
8. Work in numerous recipes. It is very important that you have recipes and a meal-plan with good variety planned out before you go to the store.

My Recommended List:

Peanut Butter – Any size up to 48 oz. Skippy or JIF, don’t get fancy. If Oil is floating at the top of the Jar then it is probably an organic-health peanut butter, don’t bother. Nutella – made from Hazelnuts, Cocoa, Sugar, and Palm Oil (mainly) this spread is excellent. Jelly in small Jars – Jelly is like condensed dehydrated fruit that doesn’t need re-hydration. Small Jars are important to avoid spoilage. Get several kinds in flavors that you like. Crackers – Wheat Thins, Nabisco, Saltines, etc. The Entire box can be placed in a vacuum bag and sealed. Trail Mix – stored in independent serving sizes in a vacuum bag.

Rice-A-Roni/Pasta-Roni – a variety of flavors that you have already eaten and know you like. – Vacuum Pasta Side Dishes – In Pouches Dry Pasta, Dry Macaroni, Dry Egg Noodles, Ramen, Noodle bowls Flavored Mashed Potato Packets – that only require the addition of hot water to prepare. Instant Scalloped Potatoes Instant Stuffing Dehydrated Hash Browns – Costco typically carries these. They require hot water and a little cooking oil to prepare. Instant Rice – store this in a vacuum bag. Hamburger-Helper/Chicken-Helper/Tuna-Helper

Canned Tuna – (preferably in oil) for use in casseroles Canned Chicken – for use in casseroles and with Rice-A-Roni and Pasta-Roni products. Corned Beef – as a substitute for ground beef in your recipes, such as Hamburger Helper Spam – Only if you are a spam enthusiast and regularly eat recipes with it.

Macaroni & Cheese – Buy Kraft brand, do not try to “save money” buying a cheaper brand. The quality/edibility of other brands is terrible. Velveeta Cheese – Don’t buy “reduced fat” Velveeta. But the real thing. Seasoning Mix Packets Dry Soup Mixes Beef/Chicken Bullion Cubes Dehydrated Milk Pouches – be sure to get the small boxes that contains pouches, not the large boxes with loose milk powder inside. Dehydrated Milk is necessary for recipes that call for small quantities of milk (such as Macaroni and Cheese).

Pancake/Waffle Mix – get the “Just Add Water” kind, not the “Add Water, Milk, and Eggs” kind. Brownie Mix – get the “Just Add Water” kind, not the “Add Water, Milk, and Eggs” kind. Cake Mixes and frosting – Like Candy, Cake Mixes are derided by those who see cakes as a luxury. Pie Filling – Pies are the ultimate comfort food and are worth the small amount of water weight that comes with their ingredients. Cooking Oil, Shortening – for frying and for use with Cake Mixes Olive Oil – In small 1-liter or 1/2 Liter bottles Butter – Canned Butter is available and recommended, but common Butter sticks take a while to spoil if refrigeration is unavailable.

Honey – Honey stores forever, is a great sweetener, high in calories, and requires no preparation.  But it in small squeezable dispensers, nothing bigger than 24oz. Sugar – for baking cakes/pies, sweetening coffee. It is a great calorie/morale booster. Maple Syrup – to go with Pancakes/Waffles.

Coffee, Tea – Can be stored in a vacuum bag. Coffee should not be ignored or thought of as a “luxury item” if you drink coffee regularly. Candy – Chocolates and Hard Candy preferably. Candy is the most neglected food storage item. It stores very well and is key to good morale. Once piece of candy with every meal in a crisis situation can be worth its weight in gold for moral-boosting.

Vitamins – a Multivitamin, Vitamins C, D, E and B-12 complex. These 5 vitamins taken once/week will ward off most nutritional deficiency diseases, and plug any gaps in your nutrition profile. Aspirin/Tylenol/Motrin/Bayer/Ibuprofen/Benadryl – Benadryl (Diphenhydramine) is an antihistamine that can also double as the perfect sleeping pill. Nyquil/Dayquil/Alcohol – for Medicinal/Morale uses. Vodka is the most versatile hard liquor; it will mix with just about anything.

I have not mentioned individual spices or condiments because in a [short term] crisis situation, these would be the last thing to disappear. That is not to say they aren’t important.

The Big Picture

As I’m writing this, tens of millions of American families are in the midst of a crisis situation. It is not the kind of crisis that makes a great disaster movie, but it is as real as a heart attack. I am speaking of course about the massive Job-Loss and Foreclosure-Eviction crisis. Let’s engage in a reality-check to see how our preparations could help or hurt in this “mildest” of disasters.

1. You and/or your spouse have lost your income/purchasing-power due to Job-Loss or Inflation. Welfare/Pensions/Unemployment/Disability/Food-Stamps/Whatever-it-does-not-matter checks are not enough. You don’t have enough money to buy food for the children. You stop paying your mortgage/rent in order to eat (which has to have priority). Eviction proceedings usually take at least several months. You have enough money now that you aren’t wasting it on your mortgage/rent to feed your family and to make some preparations.

2. The police arrive at your house/apartment to evict you and your family. Your two next-door neighbors the Clueless Yuppie and the Deluded Urban Survivalist are also evicted on the same day. a. You load what is left of your food storage into the back of your truck, SUV or trailer in a couple of minutes. b. You notice the police are having great difficulty moving the Deluded Urban Survivalists food storage out into the driveway. Several tons of weight have to be moved by hand-truck just a few feet but even that is a daunting task. The Deluded Urban Survivalist’s wife is calling him an idiot for wasting all that money on food that could have kept a roof over their heads or a car that works, and will now be stolen before dawn. c. The Clueless Yuppie’s wife is shocked at the speed with which disaster has struck her household. Why, just last night the family went out to eat at P.F. Chang’s and now the debit cards won’t work and they don’t even have enough cash for the McDonald’s dollar menu, or for the gasoline to drive across town.

3. Now that you have been evicted, your only choice for shelter/employment is Diaspora. You must move in with a relative in a spare bedroom, or perhaps a good friend has a big house with a spare bedroom for a few hundred dollars a month. Your relatives may be in another city, state, region or country. I hope you have saved up enough cash or silver to pay for gas. You have to find a new job and it does not matter how far away that new job is. At least you know that you won’t go hungry for at least a few weeks or months. That should be enough time. If it isn’t then extra food wouldn’t have helped anyway. You would have been forced to leave it behind.

JWR Adds: I disagree with one of the basic premises of this piece. It disregards the wisdom of relocating to a lightly-populated rural area before a crisis. And for those that are “stuck” in the cities or suburbs because of work or family obligations, it also discounts the importance of pre-positioning the majority of your storage food at a safe haven. (It could be tucked away in a hidden compartment in a dedicated retreat, or stacked in the basement in the full-time home of a country cousin.)

I also take exception the author’s misguided assertion that wheat is not worth storing. Even without a wheat grinder, it can be soaked into wheat berries, or sprouted. I don’t look at the 2,000 pounds of wheat in JASBORR as a “waste”. Rather, I look at is as several thousand breakfasts, even it is never ground into flour.

I do agree with the author’s emphasis on eating the foods that you store. There is a learning curve to cooking with storage foods. Get past that and work all the kinks out now, while the stress is minimal, not after the balloon goes up! By doing so, not only will you be eating less expensively, but you will also be rotating your storage foods, thereby minimizing waste.

Lastly, John L.’s mention that large containers should be avoided applies only to wet-packed foods! If you don’ finish everything in a #10 can or in a five gallon pail of a dry-packed food, you simply snap on a plastic lid and prominently mark it “Use This First!”. With that method it will be consumed long before it spoils.