What Should I Do?: The Basics of Resilience (Part 3 – Storing Food)
Note: This article is part of a series on personal preparation to help you answer the question, "What should I do?" Our goal is to provide a safe, rational, relatively comfortable experience for those who are just coming to the realization that it would be prudent to take precautionary steps against an uncertain future. Those who have already taken these basic steps (and more) are invited to help us improve what is offered here by contributing comments, as this content is meant to be dynamic and improve over time.
Everyone should have a minimum of three months' worth of food stored. It's cheap; it's easy; it's a no-brainer.
Three good reasons for storing food are:
- Because it's cheap
- Because it's prudent
- Because your great-grandparents would yell at you for not doing it
Once upon a time, there was a person in every community whose job it was to ensure that sufficient food stocks existed in their town to carry the people through the winter. Their job was to travel to all the farms and granaries, total up all the food, divide by the number of people in town, and assess whether the community would be able to make it through the winter. In fact, it is only very recently that we have lost this function, and today most people think it rather odd to even wonder about food security.
But for all of human history, and even up until about a hundred years ago in the United States, this was not odd at all. In fact, the reverse—going into winter without ensuring a local store of food sufficient to feed the community—would have been considered incomprehensible.
After I examined the "just-in-time" delivery system that keeps us fed in this country, I began to grow concerned. Most communities have, at most, a total of three to five days’ worth of food on hand in their local grocery stores and supermarkets at any given time. In other words, if delivery trucks stopped rolling into town and everyone then went down to the store to buy what they needed, the stores would be stripped bare in no time at all. I've seen this happen several times living down in hurricane country—which were formative experiences I can tell you—but for people who haven't seen this dynamic at play it may sound quite foreign.
The list of things that could disrupt the food-distribution chain is frightfully long. Fuel scarcity, flu epidemics, terrorist events, martial law, and economic breakdown are but a few of them. So our food-distribution system is best described as both highly cost-efficient (with low inventories and rolling stock) and extremely brittle.
Step 1 - The Deep Pantry
Given this knowledge, Becca and I decided that putting some food into storage made sense. The first step that you should take is to simply take a peek at your current pantry and then buy more of whatever is in there. This is called the "deep pantry" strategy, and it is simple and easy.
The first rule of increasing your food security is to buy what you already know you like to eat. Obviously you should consider the storage limits for the foods you would seek to store, as there is no sense in buying three years' worth of something that has a shelf life of 12 months. And this strategy requires some sort of a rotation process, but it need be no more complicated than simply placing newly purchased items at the back of the shelf while pulling forward the items that are already there. As an added bonus, when the price of food is rising, buying food in advance of when you plan to use it is a real money-saver.
But once the deep pantry is stocked up, then what?
Step 2 - Long-Term Storage
Having researched food storage for a while, we discovered that we could store food in a manner that would last for thirty years and would cost us less than $3 per person per day's worth of food. A burst of concerted effort and we would not have to think about food security again for up to 30 years.
So we made that a priority. But instead of sweating it out alone, we held a food-storage packing day with fourteen local families and made a grand old time of it. Many people opt to buy food already prepackaged for long shelf storage; there are many sources providing such products.
Today we have eight months’ worth of food stored for our entire family, plus additional food set aside in case it will be needed by anybody else. It's been a year since our food-packing day, I have not worried about food security or storage since then, and I won't have to think about it for twenty-nine more years. All for $3 per person per day. That is the cheapest peace of mind one can buy.
There are a lot of resources to help you decide what foods to store, how much, and where to get them. Knowledgeable members in our community forums have amassed links to many of the better providers.
And if you’re the ‘set it and forget it’ type who gets peace of mind by purchasing everything in one fell swoop, there are convenient food storage kits available for a variety of time lengths and budgets. We like the packages offered by PrepareDirect and The Ready Store, many of which offer complete daily meals and a 30-year shelf life:
- Individual Items
- 3 to 21 day food supplies
- 1 to 6 month food supplies
- 1 year food supplies
- Gluten free options
Whether you decide to store a little food or a lot, I encourage you to get started right away. If the idea of food insecurity has been gnawing away at the back of your mind, you might be surprised by the amount of relief you feel at having taken the relatively simple and inexpensive steps that I've outlined above. I was.
And make sure you have sufficient resources available for cooking your food if access to conventional power sources becomes unavailable. We’ll have more on cooking/heating/lighting in an upcoming post.
These first steps are only a start toward increasing personal resilience through food security by building a deeper pantry and developing a food storage plan. Much more can be learned about growing, preparing, storing, and cooking food in our community discussion forum.
There is an incredible wealth of guidance amassed there by many PeakProsperity.com members who are passionate and experienced about developing personal and community resilience – and many are happy to help answer questions posted on the forums. So please consider joining the forum discussion if you have questions. And if you’re one of those experienced forum mavens, thank you for all that you’re doing to help new members start on building resiliency into their lives.
If you have not yet seen the other articles in this series on resilience, you can find them here:
Full disclosure: In this and future articles, we will recommend specific products and services that we have found to be especially suitable and relevant. If you click on a link to purchase one of the recommended products or services, PeakProsperity.com may receive a small commission. This will not impact the price you pay for those items -- you can locate and buy these products elsewhere if you wish -- but with the funds we receive as the result of these transactions, we can continue to expand our other community offerings, produce the next wave of videos, and bolster our outreach and educational efforts. You win by saving time and having easy access to our well-researched product recommendations, and we win by receiving your support and encouragement to continue doing what we do.
We’d also love to hear any feedback based on your firsthand experience with the products and vendors that we recommend. Our goal is to ensure that we’re doing our utmost to offer the best guidance for utility, value, and service.
Part of the copy in this series is excerpted (and slightly modified) from a book chapter I wrote for The Post Carbon Reader: Managing the 21st Century’s Sustainability Crises (Richard Heinberg and Daniel Lerch, eds.)
This content is being reproduced here with permission. For other book excerpts, permission to reprint, and purchasing information, please visit http://www.postcarbonreader.com.