Overview I had been considering options for long term food storage without reaching any conclusions. Then Adam Taggart wrote his article, in the What Should I Do? series, about purchasing food from a canning center operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the Mormons. Adam’s article > http://www.peakprosperity.com/blog/food-storage-dummies/55478 Adam did an excellent presentation of what you need to know. This post will expand on the details and report my personal experience. As Adam said the people were friendly and don’t push their religion. It was a very pleasant experience.
First, you need to understand that what they offer are basic staples. This is food that will sustain you for a long time, as it includes three types of beans for protein, rice, oats, wheat (including flour, spaghetti and macaroni), plus potato. This is augmented with dried milk, carrots, onions and apples. This meets your core nutritional requirements, but would need to be supplemented for long term health. See this link to the order form. It also includes shorter term pouches and mixes. PDF order form > http://providentliving.org/pfw/multimedia/files/pfw/pdf/123115_HSC_OrderForm_US_ENG_28_APR_2011_pdf.pdf Excel order form download > http://providentliving.org/content/display/0,11666,7977-1-4352-1,00.html
This food requires water and cooking. It is not quick or convenient. However most of it lasts for 30 years. It comes in #10 metal cans, which are the size of a large coffee can. Each holds 0.8 gallons so a box of six equals a five gallon bucket, but you only need to open one can at a time and you'll have a plastic lid to reseal it for short term use. The cans are rodent proof which I value highly. A few mice or a couple of rats can contaminate a lot of food before you even discover you have a problem. This is a buy and forget solution for basic food needs.
The cost is incredibly low. There are 13.8 million members of the LDS church world-wide, and they are strongly encouraged to have long-term food stores. They appear to have a long history of operating a commercial quality system to implement this, and have reduced costs to a minimum. Using their calculator, four people for three months need 60 pounds of beans and 300 pounds of grains. You can get all that for about $400 total. That’s only $33 per person per month, just a fraction of the cost of freeze-dried meals, and without all the sugar and additives. Calculator > http://providentliving.org/content/display/0,11666,7498-1-4070-1,00.html
Getting started Start now because this can take a few weeks to complete. Our local cannery is only open for a few hours two afternoons and one evening. I called and said I had been impressed by their web site on Provident Living > http://providentliving.org/channel/0,11677,1706-1,00.html I didn’t mention CM.com. They confirmed that non-members were welcome. They explained that several items were not currently available due to increased demand. I asked if that was coming from non-members and she said yes. I placed a small order from their list of prepackaged items. They have a limit on orders to prevent scammers who resell food. It is very generous. I can get up to 24 cans of each food item. For example, 24 cans of red wheat, plus 24 cans of white wheat, etc. This may vary by location. Be sure you discuss methods of payment and get the name of the person you deal with.
The next week I visited them to pick up my order. The facility was a very modern warehouse with a cannery like the one in Adam’s photos. The people were polite and helpful, though a little reserved. It seemed like they didn’t quite know what to make of the interest from non-members, but they didn’t want to pry. They freely answered my questions, gave me a tour, and invited me to join them for canning. They warned me to calculate the weight of my order as well as volume for transport home. I had previously realized that the prepackaged list was too limited for our needs, even without the shortages, so I reserved a spot for a canning session. These are done on an irregular schedule, and often during the day, so it may be a few weeks before one matches your schedule.
Back home, my prepackaged order looked like something you would buy at a grocery store with colorful labels and heavy cardboard boxes with professional printing. Each can label contained instructions for preparation and a recipe. Each box of six cans included two plastic lids for resealing and a pamphlet with more recipes. I was impressed. I downloaded the Excel order list, which my wife completed. It calculates your total cost as you go. Order your cans in lots of 2, 3, or 6 so your boxes are all filled. I emailed it to the food center one week before our canning date. As I requested, they returned my email with a list of items they were out of so I could make a revision. It appears they get new shipments just once a month so shortages are likely for the later canning dates.
Our canning experience There were two stakes (local groups) with 17 people total. One half didn’t know the other, and only half of the people had ever done this before, so my wife and I were just accepted as part of the crowd. The managers gave everyone instructions. We folded enough boxes for all orders. Each of us reviewed our order list and pulled labels off of rolls for each item we wanted, stuck it to a box and wrote the number of cans and family name. For three items with two cans each, a box would have three labels. This is how inventory is controlled so accuracy is critical. Then we washed and put on hairnets, aprons and gloves. The only religious touch was very comfortable. There was a very brief devotional thought. Ours was that the church taught thrift and preparation, and that part of the problems we are having today are because too many people do not follow that path. I said amen to that. Then we had a very brief generic prayer.
Jobs were not assigned so it was a little chaotic as people just started taking on various tasks, but the experience people guided us and we soon settled into steady production. Adam described this process very well so I won’t repeat it. We wound up shaking the cans, inserting oxygen absorbers, placing the lids on top and passing them to the guy at the sealing machine. The atmosphere was very friendly and people were enjoying themselves. We received some casual questions about which stake we were from and just replied that we were not LDS members but liked the ideas of provident living. This was readily accepted and friendly conversation continued. We had two production lines going so a lot happened quickly. The actual canning was all done in one hour. It took twenty minutes to prepare, and forty for clean up and check out, for a total of two hours. Production was done as a group effort so other people loaded our goods into our boxes based on the labels we applied. Experienced people oversaw the critical tasks. At the finish one person reviewed the loaded carts against the order lists to be sure they were correct. We paid by credit card and I made a reservation to attend another canning session, right after the next shipment, to complete the missing items from our order. They were well organized, equipped, and sanitary. My wife and I had fun doing this.
The nitty gritty Here are the shelves we use. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B000OF4QGU/ref=asc_df_B000OF4QGU1467212?smid=ASNCJTIQVTWYV&tag=dealtmp5133-20&linkCode=asn&creative=395105&creativeASIN=B000OF4QGU I've seen them for as little as $50. They are rated for 150 pounds per shelf and 750 total. That is the minimum you need. They will hold four boxes per shelf, 20 total, with 120 cans. That’s three months food for four people. Every can label displays the weight, and a box with six cans ranges from 6 to 35 pounds, depending on the contents. Some of my shelves still sagged a little, so stronger shelves are better. I stacked the heaviest on the lower shelves, but avoided having all of one item on the bottom in case my basement flooded from a broken pipe. Water would not penetrate the cans anyway. You would just dry them to prevent rust.
The boxes from the prepackaged order were a little too tall to stack one on top of the other on a shelf. To get four on a shelf I had to lay each box on its side. I was concerned about the weight of the top can deforming the one below and breaking the lid seal. I was very happy to learn the canning boxes are thinner and not as tall so they stack with the cans upright, four boxes to a shelf. I will get extra boxes and labels at my next canning session to replace the prepackaged ones. The prepackaged boxes are prominently labeled on all sides so anyone in my basement would see a big store of food. The canning boxes are plain white except for the labels we applied on one end. If you turn that towards the wall they just look like general purpose storage. Another disadvantage with prepackaged orders is that some of my items were already two years old.
Each order of six cans of food includes a box and two plastic lids at no extra charge. In my initial visit I asked about purchasing empty cans and plastic lids for miscellaneous storage. I was told the plastic lids will not fit until a can has been sealed, so we canned six empties and purchased an extra box to hold them. I also purchased additional plastic lids.
When something is important I am a firm believer in Murphy’s Law and Corollary. “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. And at the worst possible time.” I am inspecting each can for a label and a good seal. If we ever need this food I will have complete confidence it is good. That is another thing that appealed to me about the LDS. They have a very simple and time tested system. Fill the can with good food, drop in the oxygen absorber, and seal the lid. You’re good for 30 years. I don’t have to worry about obtaining food that is dry, clean, and insect free. Or the details of correctly filling and sealing Mylar bags and buckets. Those things aren’t that hard to do, but I like the peace of mind of the LDS method.
Conclusion I highly recommend this source for long-term storage food. It is rock solid, simple, easy, and inexpensive. You spend very little time actually doing it. Skip their prepackaged offerings and just set up a canning date. Three months food for four people is a breeze, and you can easily add to that later. MAYBE NOT, SEE ADDENDUM
Approach them in a relaxed and polite manner. Do not be assertive or express urgency. After a little conversation they understood I shared their ideas about provident living and they warmed up and became very helpful. We felt welcome at the canning session.
My thanks to Adam for his fine article. I’d be happy to answer any questions you might have.
As I was writing this Safewrite posted that the LDS have a new policy that food is no longer available to non-members, unless accompanied by a member. Post 72 > http://www.peakprosperity.com/comment/111622#comment-111622 I’m sure she accurately reported what she was told, but I’m not sure that is correct. A Google search shows reports of sporadic closings going back to 1999. However, a quick review indicates these are not nation wide. It seems that local officials may be making these decisions based on the needs or politics of their areas, though they may attribute the decision to higher authorities.
Google search about closure to non members http://www.google.com/#hl=en&sugexp=ldymls&xhr=t&q=mormon+cannery+closed+to+non+members&cp=36&pf=p&sclient=psy&source=hp&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&oq=mormon+cannery+closed+to+non+members&pbx=1&fp=22b523e58d03e469&biw=1024&bih=611
Closed to non-members in North Carolina in March 2011 http://www.survivalistboards.com/showthread.php?t=159617
Good advice. “When visiting, clean up, dress very conservatively and be excessively polite and patient. Leave the T-shirt with nasty sayings at home. Leave politics and any militant attitude at the front door. I lived near Mormons for 20 years and they seem to be offended by pushy, loud people.” http://www.goldismoney2.com/showthread.php?14606-Buying-Survival-Food-from-a-Mormon-Cannery
Call your local cannery about availability, but don’t delay if you want to pursue this.
Here are corrected links
Adam's article > http://www.peakprosperity.com/blog/food-storage-dummies/55478
Safewrite's post 72 > http://www.peakprosperity.com/comment/111651#comment-111651
Great article Travlin, and your personal information + the links will be very helpful to people. Many years ago, some Mormon friends got us started on long-term food and water storage. They explained their helpfulness as being a way to ensure that as many people as possible would be able to take care of themselves in an emergency; the more people who can be self-reliant, the better it is for everyone. So true.
We have those shelving units you linked to. We bought them a few years ago at a big box home improvement store. We too saw that the shelves tended to sag with heavier boxes; hubby cut some 1/2" plywood shelf liners that run the full width of the shelves and that solved the problem on those bottom shelves where we stored heavier things.
With the recent spate of natural disasters occurring first in Japan and then in the American midwest, perhaps more people are starting to think about being better prepared. Our nephew in California called and said that he was finally putting together a disaster stash of food, water and supplies as part of earthquake preparedness. Finally. That's a good thing. He actually asked for some advice because he remembered that in years past we've told him that he needed to have at least 3 months worth of food and some water on hand at all times (there wasn't any point in trying to get him to consider a longer timeframe). And all the hype about 12/21/12 seems to have caught some people's attention. There's a growing, generalized unease about the state of the world and how dependent we are on systems and supply lines that aren't truly dependable. The Mormons may be finding that increasing numbers of non-members are once again turning to them for foods and information. They might have to ration out their supplies in some instances.
I thought I'd add a few wrinkles that I found out when I went to the cannery in our area (by that I mean 2.5 hr drive away). This was two weekends ago. This cannery has open hours each Saturday. The cannery part starts around noon. They encourage people to show up in the morning to help with "Bishop's Storehouse" work. They have an extensive program of what we call food pantries. Each Saturday they load up a truck and it is delivered to various churches around western NY. This is separate from the canning operation. They deliver food that looks more like you see in normal grocery stores, but with different labels. including frozen food and fresh produce. Most of it is produced by members of the church.
They also offer $1,000 worth of food per year to any food pantry that applies.
I went with an LDS family that is part of our prep group, but I'm pretty sure anyone can do it. We called a week early to make sure they would have what we wanted, but they only wanted early calls to reserve spots. They seemed to have plenty of food on hand. There were six of us and, with the ready assistance from the staff (all volunteers or on a mission), the canning operation went smoothly. We paid in cash with no problem. There were no religious observances.
LDS members can also borrow portable canners to use at home for a week at a time.
Because I have a damp basement, I was concerned about longevity of the cans as well as the boxes. Friends have cans in their damp basement that have been there close to 25 years and, although rusty on the outside, the inside was fine. The boxes are another matter. I discovered that 13 gal. kitchen trash bags fit perfectly over one of the boxes and the labels can be read through the plastic. I don't know how well that will work, but we'll see. If anyone has other ideas about this, I'd appreciate hearing them.
I got a call last week from the father of the family we went with. He invited me to a meeting in Buffalo that was called on a somewhat urgent basis. He wasn't sure if it was instigated by the local bishop or by the church, but they are pushing members (and one assumes others as well) to hasten preparations. I haven't heard a follow up (I couldn't go to the meeting) so I don't know what prompted the urgency. I'll be sure to post if something interesting comes up.
There's a lot I like about the social structure of the LDS church, but I'm not the religious sort so that whole thing puts me off. I think we can all learn from the way they cooperate and encourage family and community cohesiveness.
Great article Travlin. Thanks for the info. I've always been impressed by the Mormons. I may not agree with their theology but the LDS members I know are good people who not only talk-the-talk but also walk-the-walk.
Thanks everyone for your remarks. I hope I made it clear that Adam did the hard part. I just followed his advice. I also used his links in my post.
Doug – On my first visit to pick up my prepackaged food I saw several members in an area that looked like a food pantry. It had coolers and shelves of goods. People were shopping for everyday grocery items. I went in there first and was directed to the cannery section. There was also a warehouse with the bulk items used for canning. The building was very new and attractive with a meeting room, office and restrooms. It was an impressive set up.
Regarding your damp basement. If a dehumidifier doesn’t keep it dry, you could wipe the cans with a rag soaked with Breakfree CLP or Eezox.. Here is a report on a test. http://www.thegunzone.com/rust.html They are available online and in many gun shops. For the boxes, I like your garbage bag idea. You might get better results with clear plastic wrap, like Saran wrap, since it would seal better. I’m sure you could find a lower cost version of this.
Similar but probably smaller set up here. Although, direct consumers cannot "shop" at this facility. They have plans for a new facility,but with the recent economic downturn those plans are on indefinite hold. May suggest a level of awareness not generally held.
Thanks for the tips, I'll look into them.
I am not a member of the LDS Church, but live 2 miles from the Michigan Cannery. It was too good not to try. I called around April 15th and got an appointment for May 18th. The Michigan Cannery (Farmington Hills) is open on Wednesday and Saturday mornings and Wednesday and Thursday evenings.
Their appointment number is 248-536-1128. You will probably have to leave a message and wait for a call back. Remember these are church services provided by volunteers.
They reported being extremely busy since opening to non-members a few months ago. It was a very friendly experience and about half of the people that morning were not LDS members.
I did a pretty small order. They appreciated that as they have had a number of folks going crazy and they would prefer smaller orders so they do not run out of anything in between their shipments.
1. Call early, it will take a while to get an appointment.
2. Do a smallish order, at least at first. Mine was 6 cans dehydrated onions, 12 cans of rice, 12 cans of oats, 6 cans of sugar and 6 cans of dry milk. Total cost $207.
3. Don't worry if you know nothing about the process. These people have been there, done that and have the T-shirt. They will look at your list and help you with what order to do things. Dry Milk will be last because it makes a real mess. Sugar doesn't get Oxygen Absorber because it will end up as one hard lump...
4. Think about the items that will supplement what you are already doing the most. I have a dehydrator, but doing pounds of onions was not on my list of things to do. I also noticed that I could do rice and pasta for nearly the same cost, but in mylar by purchasing at Gordon's Food Services. My plan also included at least some #10 cans in case I have any problems with any mylar and 5 gallon bucket stored items.
5. We were not able to make appointments for the next visit at the end of this one. We had to call and leave a message and get in the que again. So, work that into your plan. I will return for more onions and dry milk (my wife appreciates not doing those at home).
I went to my second canning session last week to get the items that were not available previously, and added some more while I was at it. This time we had just five adults and three kids. They figure seven people is the minimum for efficient operation. Everyone was experienced so it was a lot more relaxed. The managers remembered me and assigned me to the canning machine that seals the lids; an easy job.
The question was raised in my post above about a new prohibition on non-members unless accompanied by a member. At check-out I said we were set for now, but asked if we would be welcome if we wanted to add to our supply later. The answer was, “Absolutely!” It is possible they said this because I have already participated in canning with them, but my feeling was my local cannery is still open to non-members. I didn’t press the issue. You’ll just have to call your local cannery about availability. If there was doubt I would offer to take the session that was farthest from a delivery date to avoid causing shortages to members. It is only fair that the needs of members are met first, and I think they would appreciate the gesture.
Hey gang --
I and four other people (organized by CM.com member Catherder) met up at the LDS cannery in Worcester, MA this past Saturday. With all the very thorough previous posts (Adam, Travlin, et al.) I don't have much new to add.
Obviously, the cannery in Worcester is still open to non-LDS folks. I was on the outing to just have a look-see and to add things to our food storage that we don't currently have. So I was more about Red Wheat, dried milk, carrots, onions and cocoa than I was about rice & beans.
The prices are pretty dang fine. I came away with 2 cases of red wheat, 2 cases of potato flakes, 1 case of carrots, 1 case of onions, 1 case of coca, and 1 case of dried milk for $283 and change. And that includes 2 cases of the more expensive items (milk & cocoa -- about 2.5x the price of wheat, beans, rice, etc.). I calculated my average cost per pound and it came out to under $2. Not bad for bulk dried food...
The LDS folks (hi Jeff!) are friendly and helpful. The canning process is a little chaotic for first-timers, but after a while you get in a groove. They distribute about $1.5 million in food per year to LDS folks in hard times in New England. Not bad for a little warehouse on a back street in Worcester.
The plan is to go back for another round in February -- the 11th if I'm not mistaken. It was fun to meet CM.com folks, get flour on our clothes, and measure out hundred of pounds of dried diced carrots together.
Viva -- Sager
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