Homesteading, Organic Gardening, How to Farm, Preparedness, Self-Reliance
The Practical Prepper
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In my last post, we talked about the basics of water preparedness. While you can go without food for much longer than water, you'll pay a price for not having and fairly regular supply of adequate nutrition.
Similar to water preparedness, we've realized that there are three main approaches to handling our food needs; we can store food, collect it from the environment (aka foraging), or grow our own food. Each of these have a place in our preparedness plans, but we're just focusing on the easiest method for this post: food storage. (We'll address the other two approachs in future posts.)
Our approach to food storage was a little different than with our water. That's mainly because we typically kept a couple weeks' worth of food on hand even before consciously trying to "prepare."
Nonetheless, we started our specific food preparedness by putting some canned and dehydrated foods in our Bug-Out Bags (BOBs). Since we may have to carry the BOBs, we've stored a lot of lightweight food products like nuts, dehydrated fruits, crackers, and so on. Even though weight is a concern, we have included a small selection of canned food that we keep in our one rolling BOB backpack.
After our BOB preparedness, we began working increasing our food stores beyond our normal couple weeks' supply.
The easiest way we accomplish this was to simply double up on a few items at a time each time we buy groceries. Of course, this works best with those products that have a reasonably long shelf life like canned or dried goods. Still, we do frequently double up on some perishable foods that can be frozen, like breads or cheese.
In addition, we routinely check our grocery, dollar, and discount stores for sales on the foods we use. When we find a really good deal, we buy a much larger quantity (but still based our space and budget limitations, as well as the stores' supplies).
This basic step of expanding our normal grocery purchases works pretty well to keep between enough food storage for 4 to 6 weeks. However, to move beyond that, and have enough food on hand for months at a time, we've recognized the need to add some kind of foodstuffs that have a much longer shelf life.
After some research and consideration of alternatives, we determined that dried, dehydrated, and/or freeze-dried foods would give us long shelf life, light storage weight, and the ability to store a lot more food in the comparable-sized containers.
Our first move into this area was with dried beans. The shelf life on the average dried beans found in grocery stores is at least parallel to canned beans (but without the higher sodium content of canned beans). We also began storing some powdered milk too.
Further reading indicated that proper preparation, packaging, and sealing of the dehydrated or freeze-dried goods will extend the shelf life to around 8–10 years. Clearly, that is more desirable, since that allows for more food to be stored without as heavy a burden to use it within a much shorter timeframe.
The downside is that freeze-dried food can be pricey. In our looking, we encountered the Thrive line of products, available from Shelf Reliance. Their food is very tasty, and is reasonably priced (especially when purchased in larger containers).
While you can order products directly from Shelf Reliance's website, you can often get better deals through one of their independent consultants. We currently buy from Dawn Mays, a resident ShelfReliance expert here on Farm Dreams. You can also reach Dawn on her website: http://dawnmays.shelfreliance.com/DawnMays. (In case you're wondering, we don't profit by posting this... we just like the Thrive products!)
Another important part of our food supplies is the storage environment. We generally keep our food at room temperature in our pantry and other inside storage locations. This is our best available option, but it is not the best for maximizing the shelf life. Our next home will have a (dry) basement and/or cellar, which will allow us to keep our food storage at a lower temperature of 50–60°F, which will help extend the life of our products.
Finally, we rotate our food supply, just like we do with our water. We use the standard first-in, first-out process of rotation in order to keep our supplies as fresh as possible.
A major part of making our food rotation successful is being sure to only buy things that we already eat, and then using them regularly (just like the old saying: buy what you eat, eat what you buy). This includes our dried, dehydrated, freeze-dried, and canned goods. The last thing we want to do is find out that we don't like something and then realize that we have a case of it as part of our supplies.
So, it's again your turn: how are you doing with your food storage? Any pitfalls, tips, or suggestions you have on successfully storing and using your food preparedness supplies? (Remember, we'll be covering gardening, foraging, etc. in future posts.)
Believing that preparedness and self-reliance are the key to individual freedom, Atticus Freeman is the founder of the Self-Reliant Info blog, in addition to authoring The Practical Prepper weekly blog here on Farm Dreams. Thanks for reading!
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