Its just an opinion, but I think the sign that you’ve ‘matured’, as far as preparedness goes, is when you stop with the guns, ammo and camo and start focusing just as intently on food.
After action reports from various disasters show that, by a rather large margin, far more food is consumed than ammo. Oh, sure…theres parts of the world where it may be the opposite, but I’d say that most disasters in the US will require far less ammo than they will food. Ammo and guns are an absolute necessity, no two ways about it, but I use food every day…guns, not so much.
It seems like when you mention ‘food storage’ most people have the idea of either sacks of grain piled to the rafters, or images of people huddled around a tiny fire eating cold Spaghetti-O’s out of a can while casting furtive glances into the gloom. As is usually the case, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
I’ve mentioned this before but I’ll mention it again – for us, food goes into one of three categories: long, mid, short/immediate – term. Long term foods are things like dry pack foods from the Mormon cannery, freeze drieds, bulk wheat/rice/corn, and MREs…things that will last at least ten years. (The MRE’s are kind of on the cusp of that. I know you’ve eaten sixty year old MRE’s with no problem, but I figure after about ten years its time to trade em off for fresh ones.) These are foods that are packaged in #10 cans, heavy foil with oxygen removed, etc.
Mid-term foods are things that’ll keep for at least a couple years like most wet canned goods, pouch foods, soup/cake/stew/sauce/drink mixes, jarred food and home canned food. These things, stored in the classic ‘cool, dry place’ (read: dry basement) will last at least a few years. If you hunt around on the interweb you can find studies of hundred-year-old canned food that was analyzed and found to be edible, although the nutritional value had degraded considerably. The folks at the universities in Utah have quite the food storage studies department and they have some fascinating research into the topic.
Short term foods are things that might last more than a year but you probably want to use them before then. These would be things packaged in boxes, cellophane, or things that have fairly short shelf lives. Good examples would be pasta, crackers, ramen (yes, it can go bad), things that go stale or rancid without an airtight package.
Now, if you think about that you’ll notice that basically everything will last at least a year. Some will last for 30+ years, some will last ten years, some will last three years, but none of it will become garbage in less than a year. Why is this important? Its important because it means that you can have the oft-touted ‘years supply of food’ without too much effort or concern about waste. Short of fresh veggies, fruits, dairy and meat, everything you throw into your shopping cart at the supermarket will last at least one year. This means that there really is no reason to put off stocking up on food if you’ve ever thought that it would be a good idea but you didn’t relish the thought of eating ‘survival food’. (Techincally, all food is survival food because if you don’t eat, you don’t survive.)
Theres very little out there that you cant have in a form that will last at least a year. Almost all vegetables and fruits are available either dried, freezedried or canned (although, strangely, the only canned onions I can find are little pearl onions. Go figure. And none of my canning books talk much about canning yellow onions. Guess I just have to dry them.). Many meats are available canned and if theres one you particularly like that isn’t, you can always can it yourself. About the only difficult one is cheese and other dairy products. Dehydrated eggs work just fine and Ive had no bad experiences with them. Dried whole milk is available, as is low fat, but the Parmalat UHT milk has a shelf life that comes close to one year. (Its actually dated less than a year, but that’s a suggestion more than a hard-n-fast rule.) Canned cheddar/white cheeses are available from specialty outlets but I have not found much in the way of other cheeses. (There is a place that’s selling freeze dried mozzarella and Im very curious to try that out.)
Theres really very, very little you would have to ‘give up’ in terms of foods that you would be unable to store. All of our food storage is based on foods that can be stored without refrigeration. Sure, we have a freezer full of meat and other goodies but we’re quite aware of the transitory nature of power to keep a freezer going. Even with a generator youre not really going to find it practical to keep a freezer going for a year. For a short term power outage we’d be fine but long term….not so much. Hence the copious amount of canning jars and lids that we keep around…worst case scenario all that meat gets canned for later consumption. However, if your idea of a crisis is one that doesn’t necessarily involve a prolonged power outage, stocking up the freezer makes a great deal of sense. (What sort of crisis doesn’t have a power outage? A bout of unemployment or underemployment springs to mind. But wont they turn off the power when you cant pay the bill? Sure…but, you can pay the bill because youre not buying nearly the amount of expensive groceries you used to – theyre already on hand socked away in the freezer.)
Even if you don’t believe that someday your local supermarket is going to be stripped to the shelves and food will be unavailable, theres still plenty of reasons to at least have a few weeks of food on hand. None of us would disagree that right now the economy is looking pretty sorry, right? Even if your job is secure theres still a chance that while you wont lose your job you could wind up having hours cut back…or benefits reduced…and that difference in income has to be made up somewhere. Not having to worry about where the next meal is coming from can be quite a luxury and one less thing to burden to deal with when your financial back is against the wall.
One other thing that is really, really going to make your life easier in terms of food storage is the one that probably strikes fear into the hearts of many – learn to cook. You don’t have to learn to cook everything, just learn to cook the stuff you like. Experiment a little in the kitchen…see what you can make that you like and what recipes can be modified to fit your projected supplies of stored food. There are plenty of food storage cookbooks out there and some excellent websites. My absolute favorite has been Safely Gathered In but there are more and more out there waiting to be discovered.
So the point of this post? That theres really no excuse for not stocking up. There’s two ways to do it….the way I do it is I simply figure out what I need, go out, and get a couple cases of it…canned tomatoes this week, soup the next, rice after that, etc, etc.. But the other, more gradual, method is simply buy more of what you usually buy….four cans of fruit cocktail rather than two, two jugs of cooking oil rather than one, six cans of vegetables rather than three, etc, etc. That’s probably the least expensive and least ‘extreme’ way of doing things. The great thing about it is that you already know that what youre buying is something you’ll eat because you were going to buy some anyway. If you manage to stick with it and go about it in a somewhat organized fashion you’ll have a reassuringly large amount of food in no time and even if the world doesn’t end you’ve probably saved yourself time and money anyway by having bought it when it was cheaper. In terms of making your dollar go further, it really does pay to shop around and clip coupons. I have yet to find a supermarket that doesn’t have a little sales flyer at the door telling you whats on special that week. Read those things carefully. Don’t be tempted to buy something you don’t need simply because its on sale – that’s a rookie mistake. Often a supermarket will have some sort of ridiculous promotion on some items to ‘celebrate’ a holiday, season, sporting event, new store opening, etc, and if you look around you can often find one of your target items are extremely good prices. When that happens, go long.
In the years I’ve been interested in preparedness nothing has given me more satisfaction than knowing that I had enough food on hand to get through just about any crisis. Yeah, its nice to look upon the guns and ammo and feel the glow of ‘beating them to the punch’ before they pass more absurd laws but the food never fails to give me an even warmer and more secure feeling. I highly recommend it, especially nowadays.