Practicing Your Food Survival, by M.B.

After reading one of James Wesley Rawles books about five years ago, my husband and I began our prepping journey. It has been a long and eye-opening experience. In the beginning, before we were prepped, we were terrified our world would immediately deteriorate. Rushing into a buying frenzy, we purchased as much volume of materials as we could afford. We were quickly compiling our supplies, planning storage areas, and generally operating in a frenzy. Having a list of areas of focus was helpful, and we did not really waste energy in the wrong places. We started by using a lot of information from the Rawles books, as well as other Internet-based resources. We divided procurement responsibilities between my husband and me. Being the designated food procurement person, I tried to be organized in my approach, buying only food I thought we would eat and focusing on food storage and rotation practices. I did invest time and energy in trying various freeze-dried products and brands, some of which we began using on a day-to-day basis. Our milk is entirely from powder. I found a brand of powdered milk that we love. Our family can’t even tell the difference! Bulk yeast purchases and canned butter became part of our ongoing living supplies, too. As much as possible, I have tried to incorporate survival supplies into our ongoing lives. Meat purchases were of particular concern, since it seemed to me that would be a challenge later. We are in an area of the country where game hunting is prevalent. Unfortunately for us, we do not care very much for the taste of the game that is common in our area here. So after testing numerous brands of canned meats, I have invested heavily in purchasing a variety of my favorites. I also purchased quite a bit of fresh meat that I have frozen. It is worth mentioning here that my husband and I both love fish. So, our largest investment was building a small pond and stocking it with several varieties of fish. It also provides an additional secure water source and an entertainment venue for the grandchildren.

My husband built shelving for our storage area, which has helped me to be more aware of what we used and how often we used it. I cannot stress enough that you need to have some type of system that will work for you to measure and identify your ongoing usage. Without organization of some type, you will be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of your supplies and challenged trying to remember where you put things. You will find yourself buying things for future use without knowledge of whether you even like what you have purchased. You may find that your usage is seasonal, too. Yes, of course, we have a large supply of beans and rice, too, but hopefully we will not have to live only on those. Variety is important to us, as I suspect it is to many of you. If a bit of advance planning allows us to have variety, I think it will be well worth the time.

We are learning a great deal about gardening and preserving our produce. Both skills are ongoing efforts. Having secured a large supply of canning materials and loving the entire preserving culture, I find this part of our journey fun. We purchased a large supply of non-GMO seeds from our area as well as secured tested, family seeds. We even separated our seeds by things we will grow and seeds we can barter. Seeds and more seeds, this was my mantra. This garden is our second, each one teaching us more. Canning supplies and more canning supplies, that had to be a good thing, right? Learning how to use a pressure canner to shorten our processing time had to be a good use of my time, right? I am practicing different recipes for jams and jellies and am enjoying each and every one. What fun I was having with all this survival business!

However, I must say that the one thing I overlooked in all our efforts was actually “practicing” for the day when we would be totally dependent on our acquired food supplies. My husband has been much better at this “practice” business than me. He has gone for self-defense training, and he not only learn, he also regularly practices what he learns. I just assumed once we had our one-year supply of food, seeds, and supplies we would be all set with food. After all, our garden is producing well, and we have lots of supplies stored now. So why was I still feeling unprepared? I theorized it must be that I needed to practice alternative methods of cooking without electricity. So after much thought and discussion, we decided to invest in solar power for critical appliances. We also purchased a camp stove and devised new ways to tie into our propane supply. I even had my husband get out our cast iron cooking pots and build a fire, so I could practice cooking over an open flame. I got more practice. I practiced and practiced and got more experience. Yet, I felt something was still missing. Could it be that I needed to practice utilizing our stored supplies?

Yes! It was time to practice our food survival plan. This meant living entirely off our food supplies for one full month, with no trips to the store to purchase anything. Our first test run was in the dead of winter with family here, who will be with us when SHTF. At first, I thought we were doing pretty well, using our regular powdered milk and baking our own bread (which I did regularly anyway). Using only our canned or frozen meats, along with an occasional meatless meal were all included in the practice. I do buy our eggs from a neighbor and fully expect to continue even after the SHTF, since she is a fellow prepper. However, a few things did come to light through this exercise.

  1. When I prepare meals for other family members, who will be here with us after SHTF, it will take more supplies than I had planned. We need to have additional basic items, such as butter, sugar, flour, and cheese put aside to insure we can handle the additional volume and eating preferences. Tracking our supply usage by week brought this to light. The interesting thing we discovered was our meat supplies fared much better than we anticipated. With some extended family with us during this exercise, they had no idea of our exercise and thought things seemed normal.
  2. We also have more need for sweets and coffee, sugar, and flavorings than I realized. I did not come close to running low but did use more than I had allocated by week. So adjustments are being made to my ongoing grocery and stocking lists.
  3. I also realized we did not have enough garlic. It may seem like a small thing until you fix your favorite spaghetti sauce without fresh garlic. The canned garlic has very little taste, so adjustments were made to our garden plan. See how all the learning ties together?
  4. The biggest eye opener was that we did not have enough fruit. While we have canned and dehydrated fruit in our stockpiles, we did like the taste. I know, when we are hungry we will be willing to eat anything (even tasteless commercial fruit), but if we can make some minor adjustments now we might not have to sacrifice later. Our small orchard is not yet fully producing, but we do have various berries which I use primarily for jams. Fruit is definitely a long-term investment, and it was clear we needed to invest more heavily in this area. The investment and effort of adding more berry bushes and more fruit trees is moved up on our prepping priority list. Also, I saw the importance of freezing more of the berries, rather than just making jam and jelly.

Another step was to practice our survival supply use in two different seasons: once in summer (when we could supplement with fresh veggies, fruits, and herbs), and once in winter (depending entirely on our stock supplies). Training in both seasons has been very instructive, especially as it relates to volume of supplies required.

We are already making plans to have two plantings of potatoes, carrots, garlic, and beets this year, rather than only one. This will insure we have enough to meet our needs over the winter as well as during the summer season. The number of our tomato planting was ramped up this year, because we used all our tomatoes and sauces before the new season’s harvest was ready. Our food menus vary quite a bit by season, too. In winter, I prepare more soups, chili, and heavier meals. Summer meals were lighter and often meatless, simply because we were happier eating all veggie meals. By coordinating and practicing food procurement and survival, I was able to realize how all these areas work together. Much the same as my grandparents used to invest in planning each year’s garden, we now do the same. Every square inch of garden space needs to be maximized.

World pressures continue to build, and having a practiced food plan and seasonal adaptations helps me feel more confident, knowing our gaps and areas of focus. Without the training I realize that even with a large stockpile of food we would not have had the correct types of supplies. Since we all have so much invested in preparing for the future, it seems that testing ourselves from time to time in all the various areas is an invaluable step. It not only helps you know where there is a gap or weak area, but it will also help you be a better overall planner for whatever may come.