Posted by: prepare4 | March 25, 2009

Living on Food Storage — Real Life Experiences

Living on Food Storage — Real Life Experiences
By Carolyn Nicolaysen

Summer is a great time of the year to organize and supplement your family’s food storage. As your ancestors well understood, summer is your best opportunity to take advantage of a bountiful harvest. 

Over the past few months we have discussed what to store, where to store it, and how to safely store foodstuffs. If you have not already read our past articles in Meridian Magazine, take a minute to review the following articles: “A Second Look at Food Storage,” “Water Storage — What if the Tap Goes Dry,” Making Space for Food Storage,” “The Self Reliant Shopper,” and Storing Food Safely.” And of course, get a copy of the new LDS pamphlet Family Home Storage, which advises: 

Build a small supply of food that is part of your normal, daily diet. One way to do this is to purchase a few extra items each week to build a one-week supply of food. Then you can gradually increase your supply until it is sufficient for three months. These items should be rotated regularly to avoid spoilage. For longer-term needs, and where permitted, gradually build a supply of food that will last a long time and that you can use to stay alive, such as wheat, white rice, and beans.”

There are those, our family among them, who have lived on their food storage or experimented with living on their storage, and there is much we can learn from their experiences. Recently a ward in

Southern California challenged their members to live on their food storage for a week. The following are a few things they learned: 

1.       Water

1.       Water

“When we checked our water barrels, one of them had tons of black stuff growing in it.”  Another said: “I discovered that my water supply is doing great, but I was glad I remembered Saturday night to buy a new filter for my water-filtering pitcher. It was a great help to filter out the dead ants. But it tasted fine. My water pump, however, was not so fine — it developed a crack (amazing since it’s never been used). We were able to tape it and use it, but I will now be looking for another one — and a large plastic bag to store it in so the next one isn’t as dirty as this one was.”  

With water storage, there are many possible sources of contamination.  Before “Y2K” many people ran out and purchased water barrels in preparation for the “big event”. The problem was that barrels were in very short supply and thus many used barrels were purchased that were not food grade or properly sterilized. It is very difficult to successfully sterilize a used barrel. Any small particle of sugar from syrup or other residual materials may cause contamination and the growth of mold and bacteria. For tips on cleaning barrels and storing water safely, check out the

Meridian article “Water Storage — What if the Tap Goes Dry.”

Contaminated water can be used to water a garden spot, but then the container should be sterilized properly. After doing so, refill your barrel — making sure to fill it completely.  Remember, a filled barrel weighs hundreds of pounds, so fill them where you want to store them.

Next add a preservative to the water. You can add bleach, but this is such an unscientific practice that a water preservative will be better — and can keep your water safe for five years or more. 

While you are checking your water, also examine your pump to be sure it has not cracked. Although these should last indefinitely, plastic will become brittle if stored in a hot garage or shed. After spending time and energy to ensure a safe water supply, it would be a shame to contaminate your water with a second-best siphon hose. 

2.       “We ran out of cat food.” 

It is important to remember every member of the family when preparing. Use packing tape to seal all the edges of pet food boxes and store foods in their original packages. Sanitation conditions are not always to the same standards in a facility that manufactures pet food. They are more likely to come infested with critters that may hatch after a period of time. If your pet food is sealed and perhaps stored in a larger, airtight container as well, you have better odds of containing an infestation.

As we have discussed before, MRE meals will not become dangerous to consume after their five- year pull date has been reached. They have been tested 20 years after reaching this date and have been safe; however, the taste may become less palatable. Outdated MREs can be put aside to be used as pet food in an emergency. Not ideal for man or beast, but would sustain a dog or cat’s life. 

Remember to also stock up on other supplies your pets may need. Flea medications, prescriptions, kitty litter, grit for the bird and filters for the fish tank — all of these items should be in your home storage rotation program. Also, be sure to calculate the water needs of your pets as you determine what your family should be storing. 

3.   “We discovered we had plenty of chocolate stored, but no fruit.”  

When our daughter began her food storage program, her local grocery store had brownie mixes on sale. She purchased 10 and announced she had the brownies covered. I always have at least 10 brownie mixes in my storage. You can survive any emergency food program if you have brownies!! 

Although this may be funny, it is also very serious. Comfort foods such as brownie mix are important. During a time of stress familiar foods will be important. 

We do not want our lack of food storage preparation to make our family sick. A diet of beans and wheat will sustain life but it will also lead to health problems, some serious and some just uncomfortable.  

It is important to store fruits and vegetables. (see “A Second Look at Food Storage”). As you formulate a storage plan, make sure you include all the food groups in large enough quantities to meet all your nutritional needs. Storing vitamins is a great way to make up a small vitamin shortage, but vitamins alone are not a balanced diet. 

Now is the time for those of us in the northern hemisphere to store fruits and veggies. Canning, freezing and drying are inexpensive, and commodities more readily available at this time of the year. If you haven’t planted a garden in the past, make it a family goal to plant one next year and begin your planning and education now so you are prepared. Take your family to work with a family who has an exceptional garden. It will inspire your kids, as well as you. Experimenting with winter crops may also be a possibility, depending on your area’s climate.

4.   “We were very unprepared and I will be buying food immediately.” 

This is a dangerous statement. Once you recognize the areas in which you are unprepared or under-prepared, take a minute to formulate a plan. Remember the counsel of the Church and think, “Store what we eat.”  

Although freeze-dried foods are nutritious and easy to store, you may want to limit the amount you include in storage inventory. They freeze dried fruits and vegetables do not require as much preparation time as dehydrated foods, but they do require water to reconstitute. If you do decide to store fruits and vegetables in this manner, make sure you begin now to include them in your regular menus or your family will not eat them. At best they will do a lot of complaining if the time comes that you need to rely on your storage. 

Beware of food storage scams. At the present time there has been a major lawsuit filed against a large membership store that sold a “Three Month Supply” in a bucket. There are several problems with this and similar products: 

Contaminated water can be used to water a garden spot, but then the container should be sterilized properly. After doing so, refill your barrel — making sure to fill it completely.  Remember, a filled barrel weighs hundreds of pounds, so fill them where you want to store them.

Next add a preservative to the water. You can add bleach, but this is such an unscientific practice that a water preservative will be better — and can keep your water safe for five years or more. 

While you are checking your water, also examine your pump to be sure it has not cracked. Although these should last indefinitely, plastic will become brittle if stored in a hot garage or shed. After spending time and energy to ensure a safe water supply, it would be a shame to contaminate your water with a second-best siphon hose. 

2.       “We ran out of cat food.” 

It is important to remember every member of the family when preparing. Use packing tape to seal all the edges of pet food boxes and store foods in their original packages. Sanitation conditions are not always to the same standards in a facility that manufactures pet food. They are more likely to come infested with critters that may hatch after a period of time. If your pet food is sealed and perhaps stored in a larger, airtight container as well, you have better odds of containing an infestation.

As we have discussed before, MRE meals will not become dangerous to consume after their five- year pull date has been reached. They have been tested 20 years after reaching this date and have been safe; however, the taste may become less palatable. Outdated MREs can be put aside to be used as pet food in an emergency. Not ideal for man or beast, but would sustain a dog or cat’s life. 

Remember to also stock up on other supplies your pets may need. Flea medications, prescriptions, kitty litter, grit for the bird and filters for the fish tank — all of these items should be in your home storage rotation program. Also, be sure to calculate the water needs of your pets as you determine what your family should be storing. 

3.   “We discovered we had plenty of chocolate stored, but no fruit.”  

When our daughter began her food storage program, her local grocery store had brownie mixes on sale. She purchased 10 and announced she had the brownies covered. I always have at least 10 brownie mixes in my storage. You can survive any emergency food program if you have brownies!! 

Although this may be funny, it is also very serious. Comfort foods such as brownie mix are important. During a time of stress familiar foods will be important. 

We do not want our lack of food storage preparation to make our family sick. A diet of beans and wheat will sustain life but it will also lead to health problems, some serious and some just uncomfortable.  

It is important to store fruits and vegetables. (see “A Second Look at Food Storage”). As you formulate a storage plan, make sure you include all the food groups in large enough quantities to meet all your nutritional needs. Storing vitamins is a great way to make up a small vitamin shortage, but vitamins alone are not a balanced diet. 

Now is the time for those of us in the northern hemisphere to store fruits and veggies. Canning, freezing and drying are inexpensive, and commodities more readily available at this time of the year. If you haven’t planted a garden in the past, make it a family goal to plant one next year and begin your planning and education now so you are prepared. Take your family to work with a family who has an exceptional garden. It will inspire your kids, as well as you. Experimenting with winter crops may also be a possibility, depending on your area’s climate.

4.   “We were very unprepared and I will be buying food immediately.” 

This is a dangerous statement. Once you recognize the areas in which you are unprepared or under-prepared, take a minute to formulate a plan. Remember the counsel of the Church and think, “Store what we eat.”  

Although freeze-dried foods are nutritious and easy to store, you may want to limit the amount you include in storage inventory. They freeze dried fruits and vegetables do not require as much preparation time as dehydrated foods, but they do require water to reconstitute. If you do decide to store fruits and vegetables in this manner, make sure you begin now to include them in your regular menus or your family will not eat them. At best they will do a lot of complaining if the time comes that you need to rely on your storage. 

Beware of food storage scams. At the present time there has been a major lawsuit filed against a large membership store that sold a “Three Month Supply” in a bucket. There are several problems with this and similar products: 

a.  This food is dehydrated and requires a long cooking time for most of the meals.

b. The meals are not portion-controlled. If your family is like mine and the meal is designed for six people but only four are eating it, will be impossible to tell everyone they have to stop eating so the remaining food can be saved for another meal. 

c.  Food preparation requires a great deal of water.
d.   When the portion size is followed, the calorie intake for the day is between just 400 and 600 calories — far short of the calories required to sustain lives. I could not believe this when I first read the lawsuit, so I recalculated this myself and sure enough! I also checked out some other products on the internet and the results were similar. 

If you should decide to purchase dehydrated or freeze dried products, please buy a small amount and try them first. If you have already purchased a large quantity, open one of each item and test them. Return them if they do not measure up. I have mentioned before the family who purchased dehydrated food in preparation for Y2K. Last year when it was opened, the food all tasted burned. It all needed to be thrown away as too much time had passed to return the items. 

5.       Think about growing babies and children.

“Our good friends were kind enough to lend us some diapers. We looked at our big stack of diapers in the garage and thought we were stocked, but we were only stocked with size 3 — no size 1. So, we learned to keep some sort of inventory of what you have and be specific. Worst case scenario would have been we put bigger diapers on the baby, which would be no big deal.” 

Keep an inventory!! These don’t need to be complicated or even 100% accurate but you should have an inventory of what you use so all your efforts are not wasted when you lack one or two items to care for family needs. 

Always store diapers in sizes that are too big for your babies now. You can always make diapers work that are too large, but if they are too small you are sunk. When storing diapers that are too large at the moment you know your money will not be wasted as your child will grow into them and you can use them at that time and then store an even larger size.  

Be sure your diapers and clothing in your 72-hour kits are also larger than your child is wearing now. If your child is approaching potty training, also include underwear in his kit.  

I remember the days of cloth diapers. Oh, they were awful!  However, I would also include them in a well thought out storage plan and in 72-hour kits. It is very difficult to store enough diapers for an extended period of time and while the thought of washing diapers may be awful it is so much better than running out of disposables and having no backup plan if the stores are not stocked or the bank account is empty. Cloth diapers may also be utilized in so many other ways. They make great compresses for wounds, great towels, bibs, substitutes for feminine hygiene products, and much more. 

6.      Minor ingredients are a major issue.

“We purchased extra eggs before the week of observance so we were fine, but any longer than that and we would’ve been hurting. I am now going to buy powdered eggs online as well as powdered milk. Our family fared pretty well overall, thanks to our friends.” 

There are two really important tips in this observation. First, consider your menus and store all the ingredients to make those dishes. Eggs, butter, spices, vinegar and oils are all important components in a well thought out plan.  

Second, remember your friends and family. During a time of crisis you should be looking to them for help as they are looking to you. If you are the apartment dweller you may agree to store all the spices, mixes and condiments such as mayonnaise and catsup while your friends or family who live in homes nearby store the wheat, rice and canned foods. Do not let a small home deter you from becoming prepared. “Making Space for Food Storage.” 

7.   Check your expiration dates.

“We were pretty lucky with having enough in our fridge and freezer for the week, even though I had forgotten to go to the store beforehand and stock up. What I didn’t prepare for, was the fact that I invited the missionaries for dinner on Saturday night. I thought I would break out the food storage and make soup. The can I opened was vegetable soup, and it expired a couple years ago. I thought, what the heck.  Well thankfully, I tried making some the night before, because that stuff was so bad, I couldn’t serve it.” 

A great reminder to check expiration dates. If your food is getting close to expiration, use it now and replace it. To be sure I am always using the oldest food in the cupboard, I mark all my packages on the top, with the month and year as I purchase them. 

Remember, many times foods go on sale when they are approaching their expiration date so always check dates before you buy. Most canned and boxed foods will be safe after the pull date but if the food has changed color or smells unusual — throw it out! 

8.      Think about how you’ll prepare your meals.

“I decided to look for a power generator since I think it would be really a good addition to my supplies. This made me stop and think of what else I needed.” 

Not only is it important to consider what you will prepare for meals but also how you will prepare them. Do you have pots and other items you could use on a barbeque or fire pit? What about water? You will need some for food preparation and much more if you have freeze-dried and dehydrated foods stored. 

9.       Learn now how to cook with stored food.

“I was grateful to finally be forced to open those cans that have been decorating my garage for so long. We know we can deal with the potato pearls and rice, but I had very little idea what to do with the beans and soup mix. Thanks to online recipes and friends, I actually made a few good dinners using beans and soup. But more importantly, I conquered my fear of cooking with raw beans. I also decided that Bean-O needs to be part of food storage. And, I decided to buy a food storage cookbook and keep it with my food storage. Besides having a dog, a cat and a rabbit, we may have to adopt a cow, because I rediscovered that I hate powdered milk (although the Church’s powdered chocolate milk wasn’t bad). And that we need to store much more of the school essentials — we ran out of chips, cookies and pop tarts! All in all, it was an eye opening- and not too bad experience.” 

Wow! Now is the time to conquer your fear of cooking with stored food. The food from the church canneries is great food. The problem is to know what to do with it and developing recipes you and your family enjoy. What a great enrichment activity this would be, to gather a group of women together to create meals using stored foods.

The more you learn to use the staples, such as beans, rice and powered milk, the less impact an emergency will have upon your family.  

As far as Bean-O is concerned, that problem will diminish or go away as your body becomes used to processing a diet higher in whole grains and beans. 

Collecting recipes for cooking with staples and getting a specialty cookbook are great ideas. Ask your family and friends and commit to trying one new recipe a week. Before long you will discover some new family favorites. Again, the best advice on this subject is to store a variety of spices and herbs to season your meals. It will make all the difference!   

I have never liked powered milk, but I have learned to use it in recipes. I substitute powdered milk in many recipes and with the other ingredients no one ever notices. I also keep plenty of chocolate syrup on hand for masking the taste. Another great trick is to add a little vanilla and fruit and blend it up for a yummy smoothie. This is also a great way to get a picky eater to eat fruit. To make your smoothie thicker, freeze your fruit before using.   

Don’t discard the syrup your fruit is canned in. Save it, combine it with powered milk, and use it on your oatmeal instead of sugar. The syrup will sweeten the oatmeal, and save your valuable water supply.  It can also be used to mask the taste of powered milk when mixed together. Remember, there is nothing worse than warm powered milk. Always keep it ice cold. 

As for school snacks and desserts there are many great recipes to collect. There are so many treats you can make with just a few basics on hand. 

From your own experiences, you too, may have tips to share. I would love to hear some of the emergencies you have faced and what you learned. Do you belong to a group who are working together to prepare? Tell us about it. Have you developed some great recipes? Have you helped your school or community to prepare? Please share your stories and insights. Write me at: carolyn@TotallyReady.com. I look forward to learning from you.

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