Long-Term Food and Water Supply
Because grocery stores do not make food
Seven Guidelines to Building a Long-Term Food Storage
Many Americans resist the idea of creating a food supply for a number of reasons. Some of the common questions that arise concerning this topic include: “How do I start my food storage?” or “What kinds of food should I store?” Others may wonder “Since I don’t cook, how do I prepare all these food items like rice, wheat and beans?” or “How do I plan a food budget for all this?” and “How do I rotate my food so it all doesn’t spoil?”
Below are seven crucial guidelines to building a long-term food supply that will hopefully answer the above questions and more.
1. Create a Meal Menu System. The Meal Menu System was a vital first step in starting our own family’s food supply. It enabled us to systematically formulate and execute our entire food plan. This system will work with any size plan and with any time duration. (At Level One, your first goal is to accumulate a three month food supply. You will later raise that to six months in Level Three. Our own family decided to go a step further and create a food supply to feed each family member for one year.)
Our very first step in creating a Meal Menu System was for our entire family to hammer out a list of nutritionally balanced dishes that we all liked to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
After coming up with a complete list of common meals that we all decided we could live with, we then decided how many times a week we would eat each dish. Our next step was to then break each recipe into their component ingredients, followed by the quantity of each ingredient used. We did the math and came up with how much of each ingredient we needed to buy to create one year’s worth of meals – pretty straight forward. For example, our family bakes two loaves of whole wheat bread per week. A loaf of wheat bread requires one pound of wheat berries, which when milled makes 3 cups of flour. (For milling purposes, we use the Blendtec Mill.)
Making our two loaves of bread per week for a full year required that we purchase 104 lbs. of wheat berries (2 loaves a week x 52 weeks equals 104 lbs.) We used this same process with the other bread ingredients like yeast, water, sugar, salt and oil.
It was through this kind of detailed planning that we were able to purchase and store our one year food supply. Our personal Menu Meal System requires a mixture of freeze dried, dehydrated and common supermarket pantry items. Many have very long shelf lives of 10, 20 and 30 years without refrigeration, if properly stored. In addition, our food costs are greatly reduced with this system compared to purchasing pre-packaged meals like store bought MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) or freeze dried entrées.
Finally, keep a written inventory of the foods that you are buying for your food storage. This will allow you to track what you have on hand against what you still need to buy. Your food inventory list will also make it easier to shop the sales, as well as help you avoid overstocking on any one item. Additionally, because you are eating what you are storing, it will help you minimize the impulse purchases that so often break the budget.
Undoubtedly, your Meal Menu System will require a lot of thought and effort in the beginning until you get the hang of it. But with time, and attention to detail, you will succeed in creating a food storage plan at a very reasonable cost.
2. Learn How To Cook Food Off-The-Grid. The second principle in creating your food storage is to take time to learn how to cook food off of the grid. What does “off-the-grid” mean? Cooking off the grid is a reference to cooking without any electricity or public utilities of any kind. When planning the meals for your Menu Meal System, you will want to envision cooking both with and without electricity. This is a very important strategy that will protect and empower you and your family in case the power grid goes down for a period of time. You may even want to practice cooking your meals “off the grid” to test and improve your abilities. You may be wondering how in the world you are going to cook a meal without your stove or microwave. Well, if our ancestors made it just fine for thousands of years without public utilities and modern appliances, so can you!
Two Recommendations for Off the Grid Cooking
Our family uses two off the grid cooking methods. One is called a rocket stove. Our wood-burning rocket stove is compact, durable, and is an essential component to our emergency preparedness equipment. Its fuel efficiency and performance burns about 60% less wood to cook a meal and is said to have 70% fewer emissions of carbon monoxide over standard stove fires. It can accomplish this by its design which acts as a ‘gasifier’ and in effect can burn the gases produced more completely. It can produce 23,900 BTU of cooking power. You can also use a Dutch oven for baking by placing it over the rocket stove. If you run out of sticks, charcoal and coal, and get really desperate, the stove can even burn biomass fuels like dried cow manure. (I wasn’t surprised to read the U.S. Army Field Cooks Manual from World War I suggesting using the same fuel then. I can’t say that I’ve tried that option yet and I don’t think I really want to.)
If you have never heard of rocket stoves, you should know that they have been tested and proven to be effective in real disaster situations. They are used around the world by many humanitarian organizations, in Red Cross shelters, and in refugee camps. Personally, we own a Stovetec brand rocket stove.
Another off-the-grid cooking recommendation is to use a solar oven for your baking dishes. The solar oven cooks food by using the radiant heat from the sun. You can use your solar oven to cook any food that you would normally bake in a gas or electric conventional oven or stove. We have baked bread, cakes, casseroles, chicken, beef, fish, boiled stews, soups and steamed foods in our own solar oven. Best of all, it requires no electricity – just the power of the sun! The brand of solar oven that we own is called a Sun Oven. The manufacturer, Global Sun Ovens (www.sunovens.com), claims that it can reach cooking temperatures of 360 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit! But our oven has only reached a peak of 360 degrees.
I would highly recommend that you explore the topic of off the grid cooking even further. Also, you should consider adapting your Meal Menu System for off the grid cooking with a rocket stove or a solar oven.
3. Refer to the USDA’s MyPlate Guidelines and Guide to Macronutrients. As you develop your Meal Menu System, it is wise to refer to the five groups of the USDA’s MyPlate. If you are currently on a healthy diet, you might want to skip this section. But if you’re not, like most Americans, you might think about using the food guidelines to improve your diet. The five food groups are vegetables, grains, fruits, protein, and dairy. (Sorry but ice cream, cake and candy are not a food group.) A healthy diet relies on a good balance in the quantity and variety consumed from each group. Your basic nutritional considerations should also be based on MyPlate as well as the three macronutrients, which tells us what our nutrition levels should be in each food classifications. While it isn’t a perfect model, it does require us to make reasonable choices as to the quantity and quality of the food we eat.
Since these guidelines are largely ignored by Americans, obesity is at epidemic proportions. Today, many Americans consume a diet that consists of lots of sugar, salt, fat, and empty calorie processed junk food. If that weren’t bad enough, we live largely sedentary lives which create a trifecta of conditions that perpetuate this national health malaise. This makes the MyPlate guidelines all the more important in developing your long-term food storage choices. Even a basic understanding of MyPlate and macronutrients will go a long way to creating a more balanced and nutritious food program.
If you need a refresher in food intake patterns, calories and anything that has to do with a healthy diet, I recommend you spend some time with the comprehensive information and helpful tools at the USDA MyPlate website. I particularly recommend the resources in the article, What Is MyPlate?. You’ll get answers to questions like: “How much should I eat from each of the food groups?” “How much fiber should I be eating?” and “What counts as a serving of grain? Of fruit? Of oil?” If you are preparing a food plan with a loved one with special needs, the information on this site might be invaluable.
As you begin evaluating the various commercial long term food product lines offered out there in the marketplace, you will want to compare them with the five food groups in MyPlate. This will help you determine which food lines offer enough of the quality and variety that you and your family likes to eat. If not, you may have to resort to multiple product sources.
4. Know Your Food’s Shelf Life. The next step in successfully creating a food storage is to know the shelf life of each of the foods that you wish to store. Of course, when it comes to nutrition, fresh food is almost always best. Fresh foods, especially the organic variety, purchased from the outer perimeter of your supermarkets are always the most nutritious. But, because they spoil quickly, they will never become the mainstay of your long term food storage. For this reason, we are compelled to compromise and turn to processed foods for the long term.
Most of the foods that you will be storing, with the exception of some grains and legumes, will need to be processed using the freeze-dried or dehydrated methods.
The freeze drying process extends the shelf stable life of foods for many years while preserving most of their nutrients. Freeze-dried foods, for the most part, do not lose their original color, shape, size, texture or taste.
The food dehydration process, in one form or another, has been around for centuries. This preservation process, however, does not remove all the water from food, which usually leads to a change in the food’s color and texture. Moreover, the remaining water left in the food often results in a shorter shelf life.
Consider the fact that canned freeze-dried eggs, butter, and processed cheddar cheese will last ten years without refrigeration. Freeze-dried beef, pork and chicken meat might last 10 to 15 years. Other proteins like beef, chicken and bacon TVP (texturized vegetable protein) can last between 25 – 30 years if stored properly!
Complicating matters a bit, the food selection process is a balancing act; i.e., food companies commonly use their own methods to extend their food product’s shelf life, like added salt and chemical preservatives. While this is very good for your long term food storage, they are probably not all that healthy for you. Besides, high salt and flavor enhancers like MSG make you thirsty. This could be a negative consequence if water is in short supply during a serious emergency. My advice is to try to stay away from the food products that use these added preservatives as much as possible.
One final, but very important, point is to make sure that you store all of your food supplies in a cool dry place. Extreme temperatures and conditions can drastically reduce your food’s shelf life.
5. Research The Food Preparedness Marketplace. There are many companies in the marketplace that offer preparedness education as well as food items for sale. For example, PreparednessHub offers a wide assortment of food storage meals in many different sizes and quantities. The company assumes that many people don’t know the first thing about the “how and whys” of food storage. On their website, they offer important educational information on all things preparedness. We like this site for its combination of education and items for sale. The food items they sell are packaged as full meals that are practically ready to eat, which makes them very convenient. The downside to PreparednessHub’s food items is that the ingredients include a host of preservatives, additives, and flavorings, which can lead to less than optimal health and wellness during a potential time of emergency.
Alternatively, Thrive Life offers simple and clean, one-ingredient foods (some are up to three ingredients) for those who desire better ingredients (and ones you can pronounce!), but who don’t mind doing a little extra work on the menu planning and recipe side. Thrive Life conveniently provides hundreds of recipes on their website that use their own food items as ingredients. Just be sure to print them off and keep them in a binder in case there is no Internet during an emergency situation!
Other online tools such as a Food Calculator will help you customize a food plan for any number of people. We have found Provident Living’s food calculator to be very helpful as a starting place for planning your food storage. You simply input in how many adults and children and how many weeks you want to plan. The calculator gives you an estimate of how many pounds of each food group (grains, legumes, fats, etc) you would want to consider storing. Of course, it is wise to customize the plan to fit your family’s unique tastes and preferences, as well as specific dietary needs like food allergies.
We do not recommend blindly following an online food storage plan because your family could end up wasting the food or not enjoying their meals. Imagine being in an emergency situation, which is already very stressful, and then having to eat food you did not enjoy or that did not satisfy your needs. Of course, you would be thankful for the sustenance, but you might wish you would have taken a bit more time and care with the types and quality of food you chose. Now is the time to plan so that won’t happen!
Listed below are the food lines available from Thrive Life that also fall under the Pyramid guidelines.
• Grain selections like white and brown rice
• Vegetable selections like carrots, potatoes, onions, and green beans
• Fruit selections like bananas, grapes, raspberries, and apples
• Dairy selections like shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream powder, instant milk, and vanilla yogurt bites
• Meat & Bean selections like grilled chicken, ground beef, black beans, and red beans
• Basics like butter powder, flour, and honey crystals
• Power Packs for 1-month or 3-month food supply and Variety Packs
Working with a food preparation company, like Thrive Life or PreparednessHub, can make the often-daunting task of creating a food storage much easier.
After calling one company, they sent our family a box of different samples to taste. I gave my wife, (remember, the pickiest eater in the universe,) the blind taste test between the Thrive food samples and another brand that we are familiar with (Walton Feed’s Rainy Day Foods.) She preferred the Thrive brand, except she could not identify, by taste, the chicken TVP (Texturized Vegetable Protein). It simply did not taste like chicken. She gave the Thrive food samples a “thumbs-up.” We sampled all of their food, except their grains.
In the end, I determined that the Menu Meal System works well with the Thrive food product line. There is one caveat, however. Because of their limited food line, you may have to supplement some items, like desserts (depending on how elaborate your recipes are), with more standard canned pantry items. I found the shipping charges to be very reasonable so that should not be a hindrance to you.
6. Always Use the First In, First Out (FIFO) Food Rotation System. As you purchase your emergency food supply, you will want to develop a system which allows you to know which of your food products need to be eaten based upon when they were bought. Therefore, you will need to develop your own system of food rotation. Whatever system you choose, the principle of First In, First Out is critical. Those of you who have ever been in the food and hospitality industry may know this principle as FIFO.
According to the FIFO guideline, the can of soup you purchased six months ago (First In) should be consumed before the replacement cans of soup you may have purchased yesterday (First Out). The easiest way to do this for your own food storage is to mark each can or box of food with the purchase date. If you store your food on pantry shelves, then it would be logical to put the older cans up front and place your newer cans in the back. This requires rearranging your shelves as often as you purchase new cans to replace the old. You certainly don’t want a LIFO (Last In First Out) system. If you keep placing your new cans in the front of the line and you pull them out to eat (LIFO), you effectively keep the older cans languishing in the back, getting closer to their expiration date. Eventually you’ll have an outdated food supply.
In the past, I stacked 16 oz. cans three cans high. This was efficient if the top can rim mated with the bottom rim. In many cases the rims did not nestle onto one another, making it a delicate balancing act which was not conducive to regular shelf maintenance. Moreover, if one of these stacks collapsed it would bring down three or four adjacent stacks like dominos. After doing that awhile, I got tired of arranging the shelves. I needed a simple solution to this very common problem.
After some research I had reservations about commercial FIFO based food rotation systems like the “Can Tracker”, “Can Organizer”, and “Cansolidator.” First, I did not think that they were the most efficient use of space. And second, the number of cans that they could handle was far less than I needed. But over the course of time, I have concluded that the advantages of incorporating them into my family’s food storage management plan far outweighs the space and quantity disadvantages.
After researching some different models, I settled on the food rotation system called the “Cansolidator Pantry Plus.” I purchased this model from Shelf Reliance. This system makes automatic food rotation a cinch – even a caveman can do it. The Cansolidator system is front loading. You load the cans from the top front track. Once loaded, they roll back and then roll forward onto the bottom track – resulting in the oldest can coming out first. You can stack two of them and can easily adjust the width of the tracks to accommodate the size of the can. This model holds up to 60 cans and stores small and medium cans (from 6 oz. of tomato paste to a medium 30 oz. can). In addition, it is adjustable, expandable, and stackable.
7. Eat What You Store…And Store What You Eat. Our final guideline is simple: Eat what you store and store what you eat. What is the purpose of storing if you never plan to eat it? And if the food is not good enough to eat now, why would you want to eat it later in the case of an emergency? So take your Meal Menu System seriously and begin buying items that you currently eat in bulk. Do not let your stored food just sit there waiting for an emergency to happen – consume it. You want your food to be consumed and replenished with new stock. This will ensure that your food supply remains up-to-date. So remember, your motto should be: “Store what you eat and eat what you store.”
Water for Life: Building Six Months’ Water Supply
Water storage is the most important aspect and yet the simplest. Water has no calories, nutrition, and in most cases, no taste. You just drink it. The human engine requires at least one gallon of potable water per day to sustain life. Abraham Maslow in his Hierarchy of Human Needs puts the need for water only second to air, not food.
During the wedding at Cana, Jesus told the servants to fill the six stone water jugs to the brim. Each water jug held a maximum of 30 gallons for a total of 180 gallons of water for the six jugs combined. Jesus turned 180 gallons of water into wine. Now that’s a lot of premium wine.
First, you should decide whether you would like to store your water in your home or utilize portable “storage”, or a combination of both methods. You will need plenty of room in your home or some outdoor storage space if you decide to go with in-home storage. If you choose the portable method, you will need to have access to a body of water in close proximity. We have chosen to use both methods (always diversify, right?).
OPTION #1: In-Home Water Storage
For in-home storage, your long-term water supply can be stored in three 55 gallon FDA approved food grade water drums. The drums are made of high molecular polyethylene with walls 2.2 mm thick. They are 35” tall and 23” in diameter with two bung holes capped with water tight screw-on covers on the bulkhead – one 2″ fine thread and the other 2″ buttress course thread. A food grade sink faucet can be installed on the bulkhead as well. I have a plastic manual siphon pump that screws into the fine thread bung hole and a sturdy bung wrench. In these three drums I store 165 gallons of municipal tap water with no extra treatment as my plan in place is to rotate the water every year. I have Chlorine Dioxide water treatment called Purogene (1 oz treats 30 gallons) that will extend the storage life to five years, but I would rather rotate the water once a year and not have to add chemical preservatives. New drums also tend to have stronger plastic odors that will diminish with more frequent water rotation. .
My personal water plan is two gallons of water, per person, per day. I store a minimum of 225 gallons which can sustain four people for 28 days. This is a lot of water but not enough for daily showers. In addition I also have in reserve three waterBOBs (waterBOB.com). The WaterBOB is an FDA compliant water bladder that is spread open in a bathtub and can be filled with 100 gallons of drinking water. The bathtub is only used as a solid frame for the plastic water bladder. All the potable water is in the bladder and not the bathtub. It comes with a handy manual pump. I also have in reserve six-gallon plastic water cans–enough to store another 50 gallons of potable water.
In a pinch you can use the water supply in your 45 gallon water heater tank, but remember that the water in this tank is very hot and can burn you. If you turn on the faucet on the heater tank you may be getting a lot of the built up crud from the bottom of the tank. That can be remedied by flushing it out, but consult your plumber before you take this option. You can also take the water from your four-gallon commode reservoir (not the toilet bowl!).
If the quality of the municipal water supply is compromised in any way, adding 6 to 10 drops of unscented bleach (Clorox) per gallon of stored water becomes necessary. Boiling your water for 20 minutes is another option but requires available fuel or electricity to do this. For added safety I have a Katadyn Pocket ceramic water filter that can purify water down to .02 micros which is enough to block out particulates and most bacteria and viruses. I recommend barrels that are closed top, which are non-removable tops with access through two 2” bung holes. I do not recommend storing potable water in used barrels or barrels that have been reconditioned. Open head barrels with removable top covers are not recommended for water even if those barrels are new.
Where to Store Your Water
The best place to store water is out of direct sunlight where the temperature is the most moderate, well away from chemicals, gasoline and garden pesticides. Decide beforehand where your barrels will be placed as each 55 gallon barrel of water weighs 479.25 lbs. and would be cumbersome to move unless they were sitting on a drum dolly. Stored water does not keep for extended periods; therefore you must rotate your stored tap water about every six months to a year. Pour it all out, clean and sanitize the barrels and refill them with fresh water. Hopefully, you will never need to use your water in an emergency, but if you do, it may help save lives. Consider it well worth your time and effort.
OPTION #2: Portable Water Supply
This option is pretty simple. If you have access to the water in a nearby pond, lake, river, or other body of water, you can use this in an emergency situation. All you need is a very good filtration system and some water containers. My favorite all-in-one system is the Katadyn Pocket Water Microfilter. It is a bit pricey, but is priceless when you need it. We have a Katadyn and access to a nearby lake, which is all part of our overall water supply strategy. There are other filtration systems on the market, but I highly recommend the Katadyn from personal experience. It filters all microorganisms larger than 0.2 microns to produce clear, drinkable water. Another trick I utilize is to use a rubber band to attach a coffee filter to the outside of the filter. The coffee filter acts as a first line of defense to filter out larger elements, and it also helps extend the life of the filter by reducing the “junk” that gets into the filter in the first place.
Before proceeding to the next step, be sure that you:
|– Build your 6 month food reserves by stocking up on foods that you already consume that have long shelf lives.||– Decide upon either in-home water storage or a portable water filter.|
When you completed this step, you are now ready to advance to the next step of Level Three which is to Build 6 Months Liquid Savings Reserve.