I’ve been an advocate of food storage for years. Early in our marriage, my husband and I began setting aside a certain amount of money each month to build a supply of food. We kept a year’s supply of staple items—wheat, flour, sugar, beans, oil, and the like—and a three month’s supply of canned goods and more perishable items.
But when my husband’s company went belly-up three years ago, we got real-life experience in relying on food storage. We fed our family of six from our food storage for more than eight months and tried to go to the grocery store only for milk, eggs, and produce. This was a huge blessing. We saved at least $500 per month, which allowed us to use our meager resources for other things.
On the other hand, we discovered lots of holes in our food storage, and since then, we’ve become even more zealous about setting food by. Read on to gain from our experience and bolster your own food storage.
More, More, More
If you’ve ever looked at recommended amounts for food storage, the numbers seem very large—300 pounds of grain, 60 pounds of dried beans, 60 pounds of sugar—and that’s per person! But when you actually start relying solely on your food storage to feed your family, those numbers begin to seem quite small. In particular, we wished we had stored more canned fruits and vegetables and canned and frozen meats. We’re slowly building our food storage to include more of these items, and we have plans to double the size of our current food storage pantry. Just know that you’re going to need more than you think and plan accordingly. Be sure to make adjustments in the quantities you store as your children get older. One of our challenges was that our son hit the teenage years right in the middle of our period of unemployment. We hadn’t taken his booming appetite into account in our planning.
Eat What You Store, Store What You Eat
Periods of economic crisis or financial disaster are already stressful enough. This is not the time to pull out the wheat grinder for the first time or introduce your kids to powdered milk. I’d never really used the powdered eggs I had purchased until my husband lost his job. It was only then that I got a crash course in tweaking recipes to accommodate them. Since then, I’ve learned to regularly use everything in my food storage so I know how to prepare it and so my family is accustomed to its taste.
Store Fun Foods
Kids, especially, find comfort in familiar, favorite foods. I was glad that I had a large supply of chocolate chips so I could still make cookies during this time. We also had plenty of popcorn and hot cocoa mix. On the other hand, I now store more cold cereals, crackers and juice because I know that these are the things my kids craved when food was scarce.
Have A Plan
So you’ve got boxes of pasta, canned soup by the caseload, and rows and rows of canned green beans. Now what? When you’re dealing with a crisis, thinking about how to use your food storage is the last thing on your mind. I’ve found it very helpful to make a list of all the meals I can make with my food storage and keep it posted in the kitchen. Canned beef, beans, and corn become chili or tamale pie. Canned chicken, canned soup, and rice become a savory casserole.
Make a list of favorite meals so when you’re under pressure, you can easily put a warm, comforting meal on the table without a lot of thought. One of my friends actually organizes the ingredients for meals into boxes and puts the recipe on the top of the box. She’s come up with seven different food storage meals like chicken and rice, spaghetti and meat sauce, and shepherd’s pie, which all rely solely on canned items from her food storage. She’s gathered enough of each ingredient to make each meal twelve times. This gives her a three-month supply of easy-to-make dinners in addition to long-term storage items.
Add A Little Zip
Food storage diets can get pretty bland. I remember my five-year-old complaining one night, “This food all tastes the same.” Don’t forget sauces and condiments in your food storage. Store ketchup, salsa, barbecue sauce, honey, curry sauce and anything else your family loves. It’s also a good idea to store herbs, spices, and dried onion. How about canned green chiles, tomatillos, and tomatoes so you can make some savory sauces?
Don’t Forget About Nutrition
Basic food storage items like wheat and beans supply the nutrients we need to sustain life, but they don’t contain everything your body needs to remain healthy. Make sure you store a wide variety of food items, including canned and frozen vegetables. We also keep a supply of vitamins, herbs, and basic medicines. LDS Food Storage Centers  offer a powdered orange drink that I buy in twenty-five-pound bags. This stuff is a great source of vitamin C and replaces fruit juice in a pinch. The centers also sell powdered hot cocoa mix in bulk—a treat sure to make kids happy.
Seeds of Success
We’ve always grown a vegetable garden, but we’ve become much more serious about growing our own food since our period of unemployment. We keep a large stash of seeds and store them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. We’ve also expanded our garden to include more berry plants, grape vines, and apple trees, since fruit was the thing we missed the very most. I’ve also invested in floating row covers and hoop tunnels so I can raise salad greens almost year-round.
Think about what you can do to increase your self-sufficiency. Start a garden if you don’t have one now and expand your present garden. Look for sources of wild edibles as well. Every fall, I harvest wild grapes and chokecherries for making juice and syrup. If you’ve got the space, get a few chickens, invest in a beehive, or raise goats or calves.