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Food Storage Tips: Getting started with food storage

Getting started with food storage is an overwhelming project for the beginner. I learned these skills gradually, over a period of years. Now, because of the insecurity of the economy, many people are eager to put in a supply of food right now! Buying three months to a year’s supply of nutritious, long-lasting food is an overwhelming project. Thinking of cooking with it is even more overwhelming. Where should you begin?

Well, if you’re Mormon, you’d want to start out by looking at the counsel of the Church. The current recommendation is to build up a three-month supply of the foods you already use, a supply of drinking water, a financial reserve, and a supply of foods that will last a long time.

Note what is not stated. A 72-hour evacuation kit is a good idea, but it is not part of official church counsel. “Store what you eat, and eat what you store” is also not stated anywhere. This is good advice for the three-month supply, and our family does try to follow it for our year’s supply, but don’t let that advice dissuade you from buying wheat that you don’t know how to use yet.

Three-month supply. The gals at Food Storage Made Easy have made a great tutorial video and spreadsheet to walk you step-by-step through making a plan for three month’s worth of normal food. The basic idea is to come up with meal ideas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner that can be made out of storable foods. Figure out how many of which kinds of meals you would eat per week or month, and then do the math so it works out to three month’s worth. Her spreadsheet helps you input the ingredients of those meals and turn them into a shopping list.

Drinking water. Perhaps the simplest method is to make friends with someone with a soda drinking habit. Collect two-liter bottles, rinse them, and fill them with chlorinated water. We had a post about water storage last month with details about other options.

Financial reserve. The details of where to put your money is outside of the scope of this blog, but safety is what you are looking for here. Frugal living will leave you with a little reserve to save, we hope.

Longer-term supply. For the most basic version of a longer-term supply, look at the Food Storage Calculator on the Church’s Provident Living website. Simply Living Smart has a more detailed Food Storage Calculator on their site. (I don’t recommend blindly using their Beginner’s Shopping List though; it lists a lot of expensive products that you might not want to use, such as powdered sour cream.) Store these in a way that will protect the food from spoilage, insects, and other pests. #10 cans are terrific for items that you don’t plan to use right away. We use 5 gallon buckets with gamma seal lids for items that we rotate.

Next steps. Congratulations on getting this far! What needs to be done next?

Organize. Where will you store the food? Do you need shelves, or do you need to use more creative options? Label everything, and keep a record of where everything is if it is not obvious. If you can’t find it when you need it, it’s as though you don’t have it.

Figure out how to use it. Start to collect recipes that use food storage ingredients. Try them out. Learn new skills, such as how to make bread. This is the fun part, in my opinion.

Start to budget for tools to help you use your food storage better, such as a wheat grinder, canner, dehydrator, or a bread maker. Wheat grinders are not often found on the used market, but put out the word to any older Mormon women you may know, in case they have one they are no longer using. Consider cooperating with neighbors.
Think about how your storage can better meet your family’s needs. Make lists of the little things that you use that may not be on the lists above, such as spices and baking items. Consider family needs, especially if you care for babies or the elderly or others with special health needs. If your budget allows it, consider storing treats or expensive special storage products, such as freeze-dried vegetables or powdered sour cream.

Start to learn home production skills. Start a garden. (Now is the time to prepare soil so you will be ready to start next spring.) Learn to preserve food.
Keep track of inventory, and restock as needed.
There’s an crisis and I don’t have time to think this through. I just need to go shopping now. If that’s the case, here are a couple of posts that discuss getting a basic frugal food supply from regular stores, that spell out exactly what kinds of things to get. Here is the ANYWAY, very cheap system of food storage for emergencies and/or inflation, written by someone who wants to remain anonymous. She advises buying oats, canned beans, canned tomatoes, and canned applesauce as the basis of an emergency food supply because they are cheap, nutritious, available at grocery stores, and they will be used anyway. And here is Sharon Astyk’s post Crisis shopping: Food storage when you haven’t been storing food. She suggests what kind of stores to shop at and what kinds of things to buy if there is a crisis that you are unprepared for. Of course it’s best to be prepared and avoid this kind of situation in the first place.

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LDS Emergency Resources

Into All the World

Some of the best resources in the world are available right here online. There are thousands of exceptional LDS & Family books, guides and other useful materials that help grow closer to that grow closer with your family and help you get prepared at the same time.

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The Step-by-Step Guide to Genealogy

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