Why Everyone Should Have a Stock of Food
We live in complex and perilous times. Whether it is a natural disaster, a national disaster, or a neighborhood disaster, our food supply could be disrupted. In any scenario, it is up to us to take care of our needs and those of our families–we should not count on the government. We buy insurance for our home, our car, and our lives but something as essential as food–we often leave overlooked.
There are other crises as well–personal crises. The loss of a job, a loved one, or one’s health might strain personal finances and make a supply of food look very attractive. Whether it is a personal crisis or a community one, we should be able to feed our family and feed them with food that is healthy and that they enjoy eating. In a crisis, our food supply should be a point of comfort and refuge.
There’s a certain confidence that goes along with being self-reliant, with preparedness. If we know we have provided for our family–if we know they are safe–we perform better. We’re happier and they’re happier. We’re better parents, citizens, and neighbors and we perform better outside the home.
The Importance of Packaging
Heat, light, and oxygen destroy nutrition. Learn how packaging helps.
Will I Really Have to Use My food Storage?
We hope that you are never faced with a emergency but food storage is not new and it seems that most people who have had long-term food storage have utilized it at least once in the past. Usually, it wasn’t because of a public emergency but a personal difficulty of some kind–an economic setback brought about by illness, the loss of a job, or an accident. But times have changed. We expect that community crises–from terrorists to computer failures–will make food storage an even more important issue in the future.
A Lesson from the DC Sniper Incident
In the Washington DC area during the 2002 sniper shootings, people were running and dodging, taking evasive action between their car and the grocery store. Authorities advised people to make themselves difficult targets. Why would anyone go to the grocery store if they believed they might be shot? People had no choice; they had no food. If people had just a few weeks supply of food on hand, they could have stayed safely at home.
How to Save Money and Build a Personal Food Storage Program that Works
Food storage programs that work are built around one simple principle: Store what you eat and eat what you store. Store what you like, what you know how to fix, and what your bodies are accustomed to. When an emergency comes, we will want to disrupt our eating patterns as little as possible. Most of what we eat today, from main dishes, to breads, to desserts, can be accommodated with storage items. Store them.
Eat what you store. All foods deteriorate over time. They become less palatable and the vitamin content decreases. If you don’t use your food, you will throw it out. Surveys have shown that people regularly overestimate how long food lasts. Governmental and university experts publish shelf lives much shorter than what some manufacturers and individuals suggest. The best way to assure that you will have a good supply of food in an emergency is to regularly eat what you store, using it before it becomes marginal, and replace it. Eating what you store is not a challenge if you store what you like to eat.
Five Easy Steps to a Food Storage Program that Works
1. Determine what you like to eat. Make a list of what you are eating now. Start with your grocery list or grocery receipts. Look in your pantry. These foods are what you want to store. Storing foods that your family likes to eat–not trying to persuade your family to like what you store–is the key to practical food storage. Fundamentally changing what your family likes to eat is not a realistic expectation. While it may be true that “if our kids get hungry enough, they’ll eat anything,” who wants to put their children through that kind of misery? In a hardship, we want to maintain our routines and habits as much as possible and not stress family members with foods that they do not like or that their bodies are unaccustomed to. 2. Determine how much of what you like to eat is storable. Build your storage program around these items. For those items that are not storable, look for ready substitutes that your family will enjoy. Fresh fruits and vegetables can be complemented with frozen and canned produce. Meats can be purchased on sale or in bulk and frozen. Mixes will readily substitute for the breads, desserts, and snacks you currently buy.3. Purchase storable foods regularly. Keep your plan simple and affordable but buy storable foods regularly. Every week, every pay period, or every month buy something that you can store. You will be surprised how fast your stocks build. Buy items on sale and buy in quantity so that you save money. Think in terms of stocking up, not storing. Replace what you use. 4. Eat what you store. As a general rule, even storable foods need to be used within two years. The FDA suggests that canned goods be consumed within two years. Using your stocks regularly will keep your food fresher, tastier, and more nutritious.5. Take inventory. From time to time, take inventory. You will be reminded of what you have and surprised at what you don’t have. You can then purchase those items you need and use older items while they are still sound.
How Does a Food Storage Program Save Me Money?
A personal food storage program saves money in three ways:
1. Stocking up leads to buying in quantity or on sale–often with substantial savings. If we store what we eat and use those foods regularly, we save on everyday food. 2. Foods suitable for storage tend to be less expensive than prepared foods. As we gradually rely more and more on our stocks, we use less prepared food and the average cost of our meals is reduced.3. Habits and attitudes change with a food storage program. Those that have a personal food storage program tend to be more careful with their food purchases and better utilize the foods they purchase.
Many families find that when they adopt a program of purchasing and using storable foods, their food bill drops substantially–as much as 25%.
Rotate, Rotate, Rotate
We believe that most foods–including the products that we provide–should be used within two years for both palatability and nutritional reasons. Foods stored longer than that, though they may be safe to eat, are less appealing and less nutritious. The only way to build a food storage program that ensures that you will have safe, palatable, nutritious food on hand in an emergency is to continuously rotate stocks.
Fats: Storing Butter, Oil and Other Products
Our bodies need fat–good fat–and yet most fats are fragile and don’t store well. Oil oxidizes and becomes rancid as it ages-a process that is accelerated by heat, light, and oxygen. So store your oil in a cool, dark location and rotate it often. (For more information about storing fats, see “Family Preparedness Bulletin #1: Storing Oils and Fats” available on this site.)
In order to maximize the storage life of our products, we do not add oil, shortening, or butter. We believe that the freshest oil or butter possible should be added when mixed.
Why Good Food Goes Bad
Assuming that you have stored your valuable food where bugs and water can’t reach it, can it still go bad? Well, that depends on your definition of “bad”. As stated elsewhere, properly canned or dried foods (if fat free or nearly so) usually do not become unsafe when stored longer than recommended, but palatability and nutrient value are diminished. So while it probably won’t go “bad” as in unsafe, it will become less nutritious or less appealing.
All, or nearly all foods, deteriorate over time. Living organisms are designed with self-preservation mechanisms but when they die or are harvested, naturally occurring enzymes cause discoloration, loss of nutrients, textural changes, or flavor changes. We can slow these changes; we can’t stop them.
The three enemies of stored foods are light, heat, and oxygen. Most foods deteriorate in the presence of light, heat, and oxygen. UV rays damage foods. Fats oxidize just as metals oxidize (rust) in the presence of oxygen. Heat accelerates these processes. To counteract these destructive forces, store food at cool temperatures, in opaque packages, and in airtight, oxygen depleted containers. (Plastic bags are not effective long term oxygen barriers. Nearly all plastic sheeting lets oxygen seep through. In the trade, it is known as the “oxygen transfer rate”.)
Our products are sold in metalized packages. The oxygen transfer rate is very low in metal based containers, less that 1/400th of the best plastic bags.
Shelf Life: How Long Does Food Really Last
As you might expect, there is a wide range of published shelf lives. Because foods deteriorate over time, rather than becoming unsafe, they lose quality and nutritional value. But since it is a gradual process, what is acceptable to your neighbor may not be acceptable to you. Since shelf life is partly a matter of judgment and preference, even scientists differ in their evaluations. When in doubt, rely on governmental sources.
We encourage our customers to rotate products by using them before they get old. In so doing, the best in quality and nutrition is captured. We suggest that all dried products and most canned products be stored in a cool environment and used in two years or less. We recommend that products containing nuts and whole wheat be used in one year and all other products be used in two years. Those products with nuts and whole wheat are so noted on both the product packages and our literature. We package nuts separately so that you can check them for staleness before using. Products can be used beyond the recommended periods but performance and nutrition may be reduced.
Bread: The Staff of Life
Americans (and many other cultures) serve bread with nearly every meal. Meals don’t seem complete without some form of bread. No wonder it’s called the “staff of life”. We believe that bread is a key consideration in any food storage program.
How do you store bread? Some rely on wheat as their source of bread in the event of an emergency. If you are into grinding wheat and baking bread regularly–bravo! The rest of us need a better answer. We don’t have time to grind wheat and bake bread, or we haven’t acquired those skills, or our families don’t like the heavy, dense bread that usually comes from ground wheat. We need a better answer.
If the bread that we eat is going to be a key component of our food storage program, then making bread should be quick and convenient. Mixes help. Not only do they save time when time may be a premium, but all the ingredinets are available and assembled.
Stored foods often are boring or dry. Boring foods don’t work well in a food storage program because they don’t get used and eventually become stale. Our mission is to provide food that you will use and enjoy. In an emergency, we want to lift your spirits. Instead of meals from food storage being a burden, we want them to be enjoyable and comforting. That’s why we provide products that are exciting and different, that will add interest and variety to your meals, everyday—not just in an emergency.
Why Grocery Store Foods Don’t Store Well
Most grocery foods are not packaged for long-term storage. Instead, they are packaged inexpensively, suitable for consumption within a few weeks. Plastic and paper containers do not provide adequate oxygen barriers. Unless you are willing to repackage the food you buy at the grocery store, using metal containers or bags, do not consider grocery store products suitable for long-term storage and family preparedness