Friday, November 6, 2009

Emergency Food Supply

In an urban crisis situation, you might not be able to obtain food on a daily basis from grocery stores, restaurants, or fast food outlets. All of those places might be closed or the food supply interrupted by a shut down of the transportation system. When that happens, having your own supply of food and other daily-use items (like toilet paper, soap, toothpaste, etc.) stored away at home is the best solution. But what should you store?

There are at least a couple schools of thought regarding home food storage. One option is to buy pre-packed emergency rations that are designed to have a shelf life of 20 years or so. The upside of this strategy is that you don't have to think about it — just buy it and you're done. Put it away and it'll be there when you need it. The downside is that it's expensive and you are spending a substantial amount of money all at once. Another downside is that you really have no idea what's in those canisters unless you open some of them and experiment with the food. What if you discover that nobody in the family will eat that stuff?

Another option is to prepare a place to store additional cans or packages of regular food that you already use on a daily basis. Then you simply buy an extra couple of cans each time you go shopping and, before you know it, your storage shelves are full. The upside is that it costs very little extra every week as you go shopping and you are build your emergency food supply at the same time. Another plus is that you already know you like those food items and you're already familiar with recipes. The downside is that this food doesn't have a 20-year shelf life, so you'll need to use it before it expires. But, the good thing about that is you can simply cycle these storage items into your regular daily diet and nobody will notice that they're eating out of the "emergency food supply." When you go shopping, buy replacements, mark the can or package with the date and put it at the back of the shelf, so you're always using the oldest stuff first. Nothing ever reaches the expiration date, and you build up your food storage system almost invisibly from a financial standpoint.

Yes, this system does require that you take inventory once in a while to see what you're running out of. It is most economical if you buy cases-lots of replacement food, rather than one can at a time. And always buy when the items are on sale. I recommend that you buy normal-sized cans and packages rather than the enormous commercial package sizes that you can find at places like Costco, even though the larger quantities are less expensive. The reason is that once you open one of those huge cans, you're pretty committed to eating more than you might really need, or suffer spoilage and waste. With smaller cans you have the option of using small quantities, and open more cans if you need more of the same ingredient.

Mark the date on every can or package. Rotate. Build your supply until you could survive without going to the store for a month, if necessary.

Don't forget the toiletries and toilet paper.

The final option I want to talk about is a hybrid of the two already mentioned. Load up on regular food, but also have some of the 20-year stuff available, in case the crisis lasts a truly long time. Don't wait until all the regular food has run out before learning to use the long-term storage items. Experiment in advance, so you'll know what you're doing when the time comes.

There is much more to this topic, and we'll discuss it again in the future.

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