Most readers of this fine blog are well beyond the preparedness novice level. People in this more advanced category often forget their mindset, questions, and concerns when they first became involved in the field of preparedness. This is the case whether the prepping neophyte is preparing for a few days of inconvenience resulting from an ice storm, or a long-term survival ordeal as a result of a massive attack on the national power grid.
It is also the case that most articles submitted to web sites across the internet are intended for those readers who are far ahead in their journey toward self-sufficiency or preparedness.
From time to time, however, I believe that it is useful to see articles that help those who are taking their first tentative steps in prepping/preparedness. This information can help them to make good choices as they begin their path toward their ultimate objective. As with so many areas of human interest, bad choices at the beginning of the journey will have consequences that negatively impact the result. Here are three assumptions:
- Let’s assume that you are a typical American and that, for family or compelling professional/financial reasons, you are unable or, simply, unwilling to pull up stakes and to re-locate to an area that will allow you to live an independent, self-sufficient lifestyle.
- Let’s assume that you are realistic about the fact that your preparedness efforts will involve storing “beans, bullets, and band-aids” and other provisions and equipment for use when times get spicy.
- Let’s assume that you fully understand that, if/when the “balloon goes up,” you will either make it, or not make it with what you have on hand at the time. You will sink or swim with the resources you have accumulated and that it is likely that the cavalry won’t be coming anytime soon–and perhaps not for a very long time.
A Rescue Yacht?
When it comes to preparing for hard times, then ask yourself whether you want to choose the rescue “yacht” approach or the “lifeboat” approach.
By saying the rescue “yacht” approach, I mean becoming the type of person who completely understands that the cruise ship that we call everyday society might sink one day. After this happens, this person using this approach plans to be safe on the equivalent of a yacht he has prepared for this purpose.
This person expects to live quite well after the ship goes down, and he is willing/able to spend a very considerable amount of money for pallets of freeze-dried entrées in order to provide for himself and his family for the duration of the calamity–and to do so quite well. The old series, “Doomsday Preppers,” for example, sometimes featured individuals who had the financial resources to make this happen at the missile silo or the former government facility they had purchased.
Let’s look at the “yacht” approach a little closer and say that you, yourself, adopted it. Say that you go whole hog and all in with your preparedness efforts. If you decide to buy No. 10 cans of excellent freeze-dried Beef Stroganoff, for example, you can find it on Amazon for around $37 per can as I write this. (It can be found at cheaper prices during sales, of course, and it can be bought cheaper in bulk quantities—but, hey, work with me here.)
There are 10 servings of Beef Stroganoff per can, but only about 260 calories per serving. So, for a per serving expense of $3.70, an adult male will get about 1/8 of his daily caloric needs, unless, of course, he is sitting and reading a book all day, in which case he will get about 1/5 of his daily caloric needs per serving.
For a really active male in the prime of life, and for a male who is involved in strenuous activity (cutting firewood comes to mind), if that Beef Stroganoff was his only sustenance that day, that is one can with a price tag of $37.00 each day. (I understand that no one is likely to eat only Beef Stroganoff for a day unless the person had nothing else available. The example is for illustrative purposes only. You can check for yourself what other freeze-dried entrées and freeze-dried vegetables cost.)
How’s that $37.00 expense each day for, say, 6 months or a year going to fit into your budget? If it is no problem, good for you!
Now add the necessary amounts of the same Beef Stroganoff for each adult and child in your family/group. Still good? Then really good for you!
But if that expense is just “beyond the Pale” with regard to the actual financial resources you can afford to use (or are willing to use), then you might want to consider very seriously the “lifeboat” approach. As with a basic lifeboat following a maritime calamity, you understand that the circumstances will be less than perfect, but you also understand that being in a lifeboat certainly beats treading water.
I took a short course this year where the instructor took students to a river flood plain and pointed out edible plants that Indians ate when times got to be particularly tough for them. They wouldn’t touch these plants in good times, he said, but, when nothing else was available, they did eat them to survive. Thus, they were “survival food.” I had never quite thought of the issue that way when I used the expression survival food.
A survival plan using a lifeboat approach needs to be relatively inexpensive, nourishing, and tolerably flavorful. A word comes to mind on this issue of survival food: staples. Another word comes to mind: calories.
While the following is hardly comprehensive, it is my opinion that you will be well-served if you add significant amounts of certain basic staples to your larder in order to provide the calories that will get you through a long term and serious crisis.
Inexpensive Staple Foods
Hard red and hard white winter wheat will provide essential calories and sustenance by way of your “daily bread.” Wheat grain can also be boiled and served like oatmeal, with sugar or honey, and, perhaps, cinnamon added to start the day. Wheat can also be sprouted in order to provide greens for the diet when fresh garden vegetables are not available over a long, harsh winter.
Long grain white rice is an excellent source of carbohydrates. It also provides many vitamins and nutriments. (Brown rice is more nutritious, but it does not store well.)
Beans, such as Pinto Beans, are a good source of carbohydrates, fiber, and protein. They also provide a considerable amount of vitamins and minerals.
During my survival “journey” I learned about the LDS approach to preparing for hard times. The Mormon Church has always emphasized food storage with basic staples. I read somewhere that until around 1950, it recommended that members store 5 years of food for each person in the family. I understand that it currently recommends storage of 25 lbs. of grain—wheat, corn, rice, or other grain—per month, per individual. It recommends 5 lbs. of beans per month, per individual.
As it turns out, the Mormons are a good source of many basic staples for storage needs. Note that they gladly sell to Mormons and non-Mormons alike.
Hard red winter wheat can be purchased from the Mormons in No. 10 cans. A case of six cans (33 lbs.) costs $21.00. Rice, another basic staple, can be purchased from the Mormons. A case of six cans (32.4 lbs.) costs $30.00. A case of six No. 10 cans of Pinto Beans (31.2 lbs.) cost $33.00.
I have also found that feed stores in many rural areas, such as the one in my old stomping grounds, carry hard red winter wheat and hard white winter wheat for less than $13.00/50 lb. bag. (You do not want to buy soft wheat due to its much shorter shelf life.)
I also find long grain white rice at a restaurant supply store near me for less than $9.99/25 lb. bag. Pinto beans at the same restaurant supply store were about $12.00/25 lb. bag a month ago. (There is apparently a temporary shortage.)
Wheat, combined with rice and beans, such as pinto beans, actually provides a huge part of your nutritional requirements, as well as, obviously, caloric needs. Adding vitamin pills to the larder will go a long way in meeting any deficiencies.
So let’s say that you purchase 50 lbs. of wheat from a feed store, and 25 lbs. of rice from a restaurant supply store. And let’s say you add 25 lbs. of pinto beans from a restaurant supply store. The cost of this “larder” would currently be around $35.00 for what amounts to more than 60 days of food for two people, less than the cost of one freeze-dried No. 10 can of Beef Stroganoff.
I say “more than 60 days” because you will have 15 lbs. more beans than the Mormons recommend, and because you will have been smart enough to take advantage of bulk prices. (A 4 lb. bag of pinto beans locally is about $6.00 in a supermarket. At a local restaurant supply store, a 25 lb. bag of pinto beans is about $12.00. You pick. Hint: It’s a Darwin Test.)
Is a combination of wheat, rice, and beans tastier than freeze-dried Beef Stroganoff, Turkey Tetrazzini, etc.? No, but we’re talking about what you can eat to survive for the long term, not for what you might choose for gourmet dining. This bland diet of grain and beans I mention would be “survival food,” not gourmet food. You will eat it to survive when you have no other choice.
Yet, I fully expect that, given what you already have in your pantry, and what you are likely to add over time, you can augment these food storage staples and stretch them well beyond 60 days with the “lifeboat” approach. These additional items in your pantry will help you avoid diet fatigue. The list of food items you probably already have and to which you can add the rice, alone, is probably very lengthy.
About diet fatigue, I view it as being somewhat similar to the aversion most people have to eating leftovers for very long. When hard choices need to be made, however, I am reminded that people in the Soviet Union were pulling wallpaper from the wall after the Russian Revolution or during World War II in order to get to the wheat paste used to hold it in place. You are likely to eat whatever you have in order to survive.
Just multiply $17.50 (that $35.00 I mentioned divided by 2) a month per individual for as many months as you believe are necessary, and I expect that you can afford the basic core of a much deeper storage larder than you ever expected, even if you have to build up that larder over time.
Besides the fat content in various food items you already have in your pantry, you probably already have cooking oil of various types. Fats are an essential, and, given their relatively short shelf life, add more from time to time as you slowly build your larder.
The Mormons say to plan for 12 months of hard times. Others say 2 years, and some say even 5 years. Even if you plan for only 6 months, you are far, far ahead of the average American. (Remember the expression, “We’re only 9 meals away from a riot.”)
The Mormons welcome non-Mormons to purchase the food from them, so don’t be bashful. Go to this site and click on the online store link in the first paragraph and see all of the items the Mormons will ship to your doorstep.
Compare those prices to others you find on the internet. I expect that you will be shocked.
Depending where you live, you might want to simply drive to an LDS Bishop’s Storehouse and make your purchases over-the-counter. Here’s a list of locations.
My figures for the monthly food expense mentioned above were based on feed store prices and restaurant supply store prices. Remember that you are paying a little more than feed store prices for the convenience of buying Mormon wheat, although the price of other basic staples they offer is rarely equaled elsewhere. (Note that the shipment will come in boxes that are clearly marked for their content, so you might want to purchase a smaller amount at one time, or perhaps have it shipped to different places. You know, OPSEC.)
After you have enough basic staples stored to satisfy your estimate of your long term needs, I suggest that then, and only then, you should begin to acquire the varied foods that will delight your palate during hard times.
If you do buy bulk wheat, store it in mylar bags that can be bought for about $2.00 each on Amazon. Search YouTube videos about how to use them. The mylar bags will hold 25 lbs. of grain and more. Place them in food grade 5-gallon buckets that you can find at Lowe’s. The buckets will protect the bags from punctures and rodent damage. Use oxygen absorbers, or add food-grade diatomaceous earth to the wheat to kill the weevils that are always present in wheat and flour. You can buy food grade diatomaceous earth at feed stores, online, and at other outlets. For humans, it is harmless to consume food-grade diatomaceous earth.
Whether you knew it or not, weevils and their eggs are almost always present in wheat. That is why many people prevent the eggs from hatching by keeping their flour in the freezer. But, hey, weevils increased the protein level of that delicious birthday cake you ate a while back, so it’s all good.
So, there you have it. You can choose the rescue yacht alternative and be comfortable for a day, or you can choose the lifeboat alternative, and, for basically the same money, be secure for 60 days. With which choice will you and your family be more secure in hard times? You choose. (And, again, hint: It’s a Darwin Test.)