In this article we’ll discuss different levels of storing food, advantages and disadvantages of each and some places where you can get food, long term storage packing and some references.
I categorize food into different ‘levels’ based on when they are useful. Things that are ready to eat, such as MRE’s, and others that only need such as dehydrated meals from Mountain House and Wise Foods, I consider as ‘immediate’ or short term. These foods are typically high in sodium, and in the case of the dehydrated meals their portion sizes are half of what you would need when extending high energy in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. These foods are great for the immediate aftermath because they are essentially ready to eat, they can be kept in your ‘get home’ or other packs. However you cannot survive long term on these foods, and they are expensive when you start to add up what you would need to feed a family long term.
MRE’s are available from numerous sources however if you have a local source this is best as you can check the dates before you buy. Some places are selling MRE’s than are close to their expiration date and you don’t know under what conditions they have been stored. Before you buy case loads try a few, some people like some of the menu’s, some like others, it’s a matter of taste.
With the dehydrated meals there are lots of menu options as these meals have been made for the backpacking community for years. You can even buy ice cream! At a per-meal cost they tend to be expensive. Again, before you buy a 72-hour bucket go to a local store and buy a few samples. Mountain House can be found in most WalMart’s as well as your outdoor stores. Other providers are Wise Foods, Augason Farms and Emergency Essentials. This is by no means a complete list, there are many others. In addition to complete meals these suppliers have cans of individual products, such as peas, carrots, beef, etc.
Another source of basic dehydrated foods is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS). In almost every major city they have a storehouse. Part of the storehouse is the Home Storage Center where anyone can go in and purchase food in #10 cans and 25lb or 35lb bags. There is a fairly good selection and you can buy individual cans or a case of 6 cans. It used to be that most of these Home Storage Centers had the facilities to allow you to purchase the 25lb bags and then the cans or mylar bags and seal them there, however that now seems to be limited to the Center’s in Utah. I will discuss how to store your food a little later in this article. While you can order the products to be shipped if you have a Center within driving distance it is far cheaper. I would suggest you download the order form and fill it out before you go. They accept cash, check and credit the last time I checked.
Another method/source of ‘medium term’ food storage is home produced and canned. If you have a garden you can grow extra crops and can them in Mason or Ball jars. Most crops can be stored by canning. The Ball canning guide gives information on canning produce as well as a large number of recipes you can make and can. If you don’t have your own garden check for local farms who allow you to go and pick your own, failing that a local farmers market. In addition to canning vegetables such as carrots I also make large batches of chili, beef stew, chicken stew and other meals and can in 1 pint jars. These are a portion size. I also can quart jars when I need meals for a group. If you are at altitude, as I am in Denver, then you must remember to adjust your canning time.
I’ve seen articles on how to can dry produce, such as powdered milk and rice, in an oven. However heat is an enemy to long term food storage so why would you start out by heating it?
As I mentioned in part 1 of this article the LDS has been encouraging their members to do food storage for years. You will find a large number of sources by searching terms such as ‘lds food storage’ or ‘mormon food storage’ etc., these are web pages put together by individual members of the church. One source has collated lots of information and put it into the “LDS Preparedness Manual.” It is available as a free pdf or you can order a hard copy for about $22. It is well worth the money as I don’t think you can print it at home for that cost, with over 500 pages of information on all aspects of preparedness.
Other sources of bulk food are places that supply restaurants and most towns have a grain store where you can order all kinds of bulk food including oats, rice, wheat, etc. In Colorado one such store is Golden Organics who have an extensive inventory, including non-GMO products. Buying in bulk can save you considerable money and this is another advantage of having a CPT group.
When trying to determine how much food you should store there are a number of things to consider. As I mentioned in the previous article what are you preparing for? If you are considering worst case scenario, that the lights are going to go out from a solar flare or EMP then you need to have about 18 months of food. This is based on the fact that it would be one complete growing cycle before you could harvest your own crops. There are a number of calculators on the web that will give you an idea of the types and quantities of food you should have for a given number of people for a given time, search ‘long term food storage calculator.’ Try a number of them and compare.
Once you have determined how much you ’should’ store add 10%. This is for the people who may come to you or your CPT who haven’t prepared. This can be in the form of the basics such as rice.
The second thing you need to consider is where you are going to store that much food. You need somewhere dry, hopefully temperature controlled, rodent free and secure. Any outdoor storage is going to attract rodents and you will be surprised what they can get through given time!
In addition to where you are going to store food you need to consider how. The original packing is not going to preserve food for years, however the right storage and most grains, rice etc. will store for 30-years. Air, moisture and heat will destroy the nutritional properties of food. Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers are the best way to preserve your food. I get my bags from DiscountMylarBags.com. Many videos and articles will suggest storing in 5-gallon mylar bags placed inside 5-gallon buckets. This is good if you are storing bulk food for your group or have a large family where an open bucket of food is going to be used in a short time. However if you are storing for a 2-person or single person family then 1-gallon and 2-gallon bags are more appropriate and you are less likely to have food waste. If you use the smaller bags you still need something to put them in. I’ve found the plastic bins/totes used by many stores to ship stock work well. They come in a number of different sizes and colors and are stackable. They are also easy to move with a small hand cart. A good source for them is Global Industrial. I use the smaller size for canned goods and a larger size for mylar bags.
If you do store bulk foods such as wheat, you also need to get a good wheat grinder. Buy the best you can afford and some spare parts because when you find yourself in the situation that you need to use your stores you will not be able to go on Amazon to order a new one.
You also need to learn how to prepare meals with long term storage foods. A couple of excellent books are the LDS Basic Food Recipe books.
Whatever methods you choose to use to provide long-term storage for your family it is a much easier project if you have a group to help. Bulk purchases are cheaper and a ‘production line’ to can or store in mylar bags makes it much easier and quicker. If you choose to store some of your supplies in a temperature controlled storage facility then you can share the costs.
As I mentioned in the first article, don’t let the costs of buying 12+ months of food scare you away from starting. Start somewhere, buy some cans from your local LDS Home Storage Center, buy a 25lb bag of sugar at your local Costco or Sams Club and put into 1-gallon mylar bags, but start somewhere.