Food storage…we all know we should do it. No matter what kind of crisis, big or small, we will need food and potentially lots of it. However, it is one of the easiest things to skip in your preparedness planning. I mean, solar panels, hydro power, bow hunting—cool! Grocery shopping? It’s boring, mundane and can seem totally depressing—especially when you are on a limited budget trying to squeeze out even more food dollars. But the first step in food storage on a shoestring is to not waste the food you already have.
1) Don’t make too much. Cooking for 10 when you are serving 5 is a good way to end up throwing some away. Having more in the pot can psychologically signal your family to put more on their plate, only realizing too late their eyes were bigger than their stomachs.
2) Use leftovers in creative ways. If you do make more than your family manages to eat up make sure you use the leftovers! I once read a statistic that people in the U.S. throw away enough food each year to feed the entire developing world. Think how much food you could store if you never threw away another scrap of food again! You might have to be creative though to use the little bits and make it appetizing for your family. For example, my trick for leftover veggies is a veggie casserole at the end of the week. Chop any leftover cooked veggies (and fresh ones that are about to go bad), and mix well with a can of cream of mushroom condensed soup and half a cup of milk. Top with dry bread crumbs (to use up that bread that would have been thrown away) or a little grated cheese. Bake in a 9” x 13” dish at 350 for 45 minutes. It is a little different every time, but always yummy as a side dish or even a main dish.
3) Stock your freezer last. While we are all working at self-sufficiency, many of us do not have a generator or our own power source yet. If this is the case, then the freezer is the last priority for stocking food. Even a temporary power outage from a seasonal storm can ruin hundreds of dollars of food if you don’t have a backup. Start with the dry goods that will last through a power outage or the mysteriously unplugged freezer (kids and pets are famous for that).
4) Store bulk items properly. Buying food in bulk can be one of the great money savers that allows you to store large quantities of food. However, all that food does no good if it goes bad. While all the steps to separating and preserving food is outside the scope of this article, take the time to learn them. When you buy bulk food, store it correctly immediately before any damage has time to be done.
5) Rotate your stock. Even properly preserved food will go bad eventually. If you are always eating what you just bought, your long term stores will lose all their value over time and having cans of rotten food will only be slightly better than nothing in an emergency. Develop a system that works for you and stick with it. Make sure you are following a first-in first-out protocol, and keep an eye on dates so that you can use things in time.
6) Preserve fresh foods. Besides bulk foods, having a garden can be a great way to save money and store food. All the work you have put into planting, tilling, and harvesting will be for nothing if your produce then simply goes bad in your refrigerator. Learn how to can, dry, or (as a last step) freeze the food you produce so that you have it. Make sure to always label with the date so that you can also rotate this food.
7) Give it away before letting it go bad. My cardinal rule of food storage is to never waste food if there is any way that I can help it. Sometimes this means giving it away before I have to throw it away. If your garden vegetables produced more than you have room to store, you miscalculated on your need for dry goods and they are close to expiring, or for some other reason you have extra food—share! One of the most critical parts of self-sufficiency is building a community, and as Proverbs 18:16 says, the gift makes way for the giver.
Even the Son of God after His miracle with the loaves and fishes told His disciples to pick up the leftovers. Even so, we should be just as diligent about making sure to use those stores or bless others with the bounty that we have.