It's Time To Get Serious About Food

Dictator Hater
The Frugal Zone

20 December 2008

As the days roll by, the news for the economy is not getting any better. It's time to get serious about how we are going to survive in this crisis.

I know I talk a lot about food and the importance of storing it. And I will talk about it a lot more. Food is life itself and so is water. If you have never gone hungry, other than being on a diet, then you have no idea what you are in for, if it ever happens to you.

Hunger and thirst can drive people to do things they normally would never do. These two conditions have driven people to beg, to lie, cheat, steal and even kill. You can hardly blame them, when their very existence is threatened by the lack of life giving food or water. Just as a scuba diver can be pulled underwater by a drowning diving buddy, a hungry or thirsty person could easily cause harm to someone he knows who possesses what he needs to survive or allow his family to survive.

Once you've decided stocking up on food is the way to go, you need to set a goal that determines how far into the future you wish to secure your food supply and where to store it. Even if you don't have much room, you can creatively store much food. Under the bed, in closets, behind couches and other furniture are spaces that can be used to store your goods. Securing your food supply should not be something you do out of fear of impeding doom. It is something that is positive and it is like insurance of sorts. When I was a kid, having a supply of food for winter was not only common, but necessary. It's quite frightening to know that most people do not keep enough food in their homes to last for more than a few days, if that.

There are many rules involved when storing food. What I consider the number one rule is to keep your stash a secret as much as possible. Sure, it's great to try to warn others to stock up, but in doing so, you are also letting them know that you are stocking up. It's only natural to most of us to want to help others, but remember to exercise some caution when discussing this matter outside your home. There are going to be some people who laughed at your squirrelish ways and failed to prepare, but you can bet that if they didn't prepare and it all hits the fan, you and your stock of goodies will definitely be on their minds. This doesn't mean that you have to turn hungry people away, but it does mean that you had better be prepared to protect what you have in the event food is scarce and the grocer's shelves are empty. I am sure you can think up lots of ways on your own to do this, so I am not going to waste time in this article about that. The best thing to do when stockpiling is to keep a very low profile about it.

Stocking up on foods that you do not normally eat is not what you should be doing. Beans, rice and flour are what jumps into most people's heads when they think about stocking up. Dry goods are a very necessary part of stockpiling foods that store over long periods of time, but there is a lot more to it than that. I am going to give you the short list of what should be in a good, balanced food stash. Everyone's stash list should look somewhat different, if they are doing it right.

THE BASICS: Beans, lentils, white (not brown) rice, flour, sugar, salt, cooking oil, yeast, powdered whole eggs and powdered milk are a good solid basis for staple foods. All of these store well if packaged properly and kept at cool temperatures in a dark place. Flour is best kept frozen, it will last well beyond any date stamped on the package, at least two years longer in your freezer. Yeast is also best kept in a freezer and it should keep a good many years, but if in an original airtight package, it should last at least 2 years, if refrigerated, even longer. Sugar and salt, kept away from moisture and insects will keep indefinitely. Beans, lentils and rice need attention, too, though many people think you can just throw the bags somewhere and they'll keep forever. This is not the case, even these items require some care. Store white rice for long term, brown rice only lasts about 6 months before it goes rancid. White rice, though not as nutritious as brown, will last a lot longer. These items should be removed from their original packaging and sealed in food grade buckets. Mylar bags should be used inside the buckets along with oxygen absorbers. With this method, you can keep these items in storage for many years, store non-fat powdered milk the same way. I recommend buying powdered eggs already prepacked for long-term storage due to the possible instability of this product. Store whole grains (in a bucket with mylar and oxygen absorbers) for extremely long-term stashes, but make sure that you own a grain mill and know how to use it. Also, educate yourself on the different types of wheat available, how they behave when using them to cook with and how to use them. It does no good to store unfamiliar foods that you do not know how to use. Probably the only thing worse than that, is not storing any food at all.

VEGETABLES AND FRUTS: These can be purchased at the grocer's (for now) and cans are the cheapest. Make sure you always check the expiration dates when buying and only purchase the ones that expire latest. The canned goods I bought last week have best used by dates into the year 2011. It is important to keep an eye on these dates and use the oldest ones first. Don't buy collard greens unless you like and eat them normally. That goes for everything else. Only buy what you and your family are used to, what you like and what is going to be eaten. Just because something is on sale, doesn't mean it's a good deal if it ends up expiring on your shelf once you get it home. You can also buy freeze dried fruits and veggies that are prepackaged and already in the proper packaging for long term storage. This is an expensive proposition, but even so, you should have some of these on hand if at all possible. And, last but certainly not least, grow a garden when weather permits to further supplement your food supply. If you know how to pressure or hot water bath can foods, then buy on sale and supplement your stores that way, also, it goes without saying, if you can grow enough food to can, you will be that much further ahead of the game.

MEAT: Don't forget the meat, unless you are a vegetarian. Meat can be bought on sale and frozen, dried or canned at home. And you can buy dried or canned meat at the store. If you don't like Spam and you will not eat it, don't go out and buy a ton of it. Speaking from experience, I can tell you that Spam is one food that you will get tired of in a hurry if you eat it too often. My idea of meat useage during times of difficulty is more as a flavoring, using it as a condiment instead of slapping a 16 oz steak on someone's plate as part of the main course. You will probably have less meat in your stash than anything else, so learn to make soups, casseroles and other dishes that use a minimal amount of meat products. Meat is available in meals ready to eat, but it is very expensive when purchased that way. My canned meat stash consists of Spam, corned beef, chicken, canned fish, vienna sausages and potted meat. Remember the expiration dates.

FAT: Though everyone in America seems to be deathly afraid of fat these days, it is an essential part of the human diet and can add much needed calories. Coconut oil stores best, vegetable oils have a best used by date and can go rancid. I buy cooking oil and use it, then replace it as I go. My coconut oil stays on the shelf and will not be used until absolutely necessary.

COMFORT FOODS: Jello, pudding, hard candies, soft drinks such as Koolaid and Tang should be a part of your food storage program. These types of foods and drinks keep boredom from taking over when eating completely out of your food stash. It's the little things that help people keep their sanity in times of trouble. Don't scrimp on the comfort foods, you will not regret it when that time comes.

When you are trying to develop your food stash, don't buy all one thing in quantity one month, such as all rice, thinking you will get beans next month and veggies and fruits the next. Try and get a variety of foods into your stash as soon as you can. This is important for nutritional balance in the event you're put into the position of having to live out of this stash sooner than you may have thought. If it turns out you still have time to continue building up your stash, then you can concentrate on quantities of one certain food at a time after that. The trick here is that we do not know exactly when we may be forced to live from our food stores. It could be next week, next month or five years from now.

Even if our economy was humming along just fine, storing food is still something we should all be doing. There are natural disasters that can occur, unexpected job loss, ill health and a myriad of other problems that can put us in a terrible financial bind without much or any notice. Food storage makes good sense, no matter what conditions we are facing. With unemployment becoming such a problem here in the United States, wouldn't you feel a lot better if you knew you were not going to be looking at an empty cupboard while waiting for that unemployment check to arrive? If you have enough food to tide you over for a few months or even weeks, you will be thinking more clearly about other things of immediate importance than worrying about your and your family's hunger. Taking hunger out of this equation is of utmost importance.

Past articles by Dictator Hater:

The Big One

Economic Self-preservation

What's That Smell?