So you’ve decided to store extra food in your home in case of emergency, job loss, economic issues or whatever. You’ve realized that food insurance is just as important as car or health insurance (and will likely be used far more often). The next question is what sort of food should you store? Today, I would like to very strongly advocate that you store the foods that are a part of your normal diet. I know there are a LOT of opinions out there on this topic so I hope you will hear me out and read what I have to add to the conversation.
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A Little Clarification
Please don’t misunderstand me. I believe there is a place for longer term basic food storage items. I just don’t believe that place is at the beginning of a food storage plan. It isn’t for beginners. It shouldn’t take the place of foods you eat regularly. I store, basic items such as flour, sugar, rice, wheat, powdered milk and beans. But I do not believe that is where beginners should start. But I only started storing them after I knew how to use them, not before.
Below are nine reasons I highly advocate food storage programs that focus on what your family eats on a regular basis.
#1. It is easier
Creating a food storage around foods your family already uses is much simpler and easier than trying to learn about bulk food storage items you may have never used before. You don’t have to research how to use them or how much your family might need / eat because you already know! This makes is it possible to get your food storage going right away without delay.
2. It Avoids Waste
One of the saddest things I’ve seen since I’ve starting helping others with their food storage is waste. Good intentioned people have bought hundreds or often even thousands of dollars of food that they don’t regularly eat simply because they wanted to have the security of having extra food on hand and someone told them that wheat (or powdered milk or whatever) was the right thing to buy.
But, eventually that food expired. Years (5-25 years depending on what they bought) after they bought it, they have to toss it. That is a HUGE waste of food. What they paid for was security and peace of mind, not food. And that is worth a lot. But if you can get peace of mind AND useable food, why not do it?
3. It is more likely to benefit you.
Sometimes people think the only reason to have food storage is so that they can use it after a natural disaster, during a long term job loss or because of some other similarly HUGE circumstance. While it would be very beneficial in such circumstances, it is quite possible that you will never face such a circumstance. Like I mentioned in #2 above, I’ve worked with many, many people who bought food storage 20-30 years ago and never “needed” to use it.
Buying foods your family regularly uses allows for it to benefit your life in so many other smaller ways:
What about a week where you are sick or overly busy and just can’t find the time to get to the grocery store? Pull out your food storage and avoid the cost and poor nutrition of fast food!
Or what about a week with a really bad snow storm? The power is still on, and you could drive to go do your grocery shopping, but you’d really rather stay home? Pull out that food storage and keep yourself warm and safe!
Or how about the night where you find out your friend or neighbor just experienced a loss or personal tragedy of some sort, but it is just hours before dinner? Pull out your food storage and whip up a quick meal to show you care.
All in all, having food you regularly use to cook normal family meals stored in your home will decrease the time you spend planning meals, making grocery lists and shopping at the store. That allows for more home-cooked meals around the table as a family. That is something I want!
4. It is less expensive
This goes along with #2, but buying foods you regularly use is less expensive. I know, it may not seem like it when you consider that wheat and beans (per calorie) are pretty cheap! But if you don’t use the food you buy, you waste it. It goes in the trash. The most expensive food you can buy is food you don’t use.
5. It is better for your mental health
If I were to have to use my food storage because of a very large stressor (job loss, natural disaster), I’m sure my anxiety levels would be up. I may be fighting feelings of depression or loneliness. My mental health (and that of my family and children) would not likely be at it’s best.
One of the last things I would want in that situation would be foods I hadn’t eaten before or didn’t like for dinner. I also would not want the added stress of learning how to cook all those new foods.
Comfort food, or the foods we are most familiar with can curb negative emotions and make us feel connected to those we love. While there are scientific studies that “prove” this (here are here are two of many), I know it simply because it is how I feel.
When I eat shepherds pie (which I don’t even LOVE), I feel close to my Mom who used to make it often. This brings a flood of positive thoughts and smiles as I think about her.
I know I will want all the positive thoughts and emotions I can get in a highly stressful time!
6. There is little to no learning curve
If you are storing foods your family is already eating regularly, you don’t have to learn any new skills!
Now let me be clear: I’m all about new skills! I’m all about learning to use more food than we currently know how to use. In fact, I think it is essential from a long term self-reliance viewpoint.
But when starting a food storage program, there are so many reasons to be overwhelmed! Eliminating the need to learn a whole new set of skills (baking homemade bread, grinding wheat, using beans instead of fat, using wheat berries for a meat substitute, sprouting wheat for veggies) is HUGE! It allows you to get started right away. Once you have a small supply of food in your home, that provides some peace of mind and more ability to tackle the task of learning all those new skills.
There is another reason this is important. The honest truth is that many people buy foods they don’t know how to use and then don’t take the time to learn the skills they need to use it. This is fine if they never “have” to use it. But what if you do? That lack of knowledge and skills is going to add an incredible amount of stress to an already stressful situation.
If you’ve just been through a natural disaster and all you have to eat are buckets of wheat, rice, beans and powdered milk that you never learned to use, your stress level will be huge. You likely wont’ have the internet to turn to either!
So, get started by storing foods you use regularly, then take the time to how to use longer term food storage items before you invest in them!
7. Balanced Nutrition
Oftentimes, I find people only focus on calories when storing food. They want to have enough calories to sustain their families. And that is an important goal. But basic food storage calculators that only focus on calories don’t necessarily focus on nutrition. Those basic foods many sustain life, but they don’t contain everything you need to remain healthy. We need vitamins and nutrients in order to maintain bodily functions and overall health.
More than likely, your current diet offers at least a few vitamins and nutrients that basic foods like wheat, rice, beans, oil, sugar and oats might be missing. I’m guessing that you eat fruits and vegetable and maybe meant now an then.
By storing those foods your family regularly uses, you will naturally be storing a broader variety of vitamins and nutrients.
8. You like them!
I’m guessing that most of the members of your family like the foods you eat. Why would you store something you don’t (or potentially don’t) like? Everything you store should be something you have at least tried and know you will eat.
I know many say “I’ll eat anything if I’m hungry enough.” This may be true for adults, but would increase your stress (see #5). In addition, it isn’t always true for children. You can’t force them to eat and even when hungry, children often refuse completely new foods.
9. The LDS Church recommends it
I know not all of you are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and I fully respect that.
I am a member and I believe the counsel we receive from church leaders (prophets and apostles) to be inspired. I know I will be blessed for following that counsel just as Joseph in the bible was blessed for storing grain when the Lord asked him to.
But even if you don’t believe as I do, the LDS church has done an enormous amount of research about food storage and very highly encourages self-reliance and preparedness. They have been doing so for over a hundred years, and they recommend building a three month supply (starting with just one week’s worth) of foods that are part of your everyday diet before working on a longer term supply. There has to be something behind that recommendation!
How to get started:
Over the next few weeks, I will walk you step by step through creating a food storage (large or small) of foods your family eats regularly.
The first step is to create a list of recipes. The reason for this is that if you just randomly store ingredients, even if they are items you use regularly, you may not end up with actual meals.
Be smart. Be organized. Take the time to create a food storage plan that will work for you. I will walk you through it and it won’t take more than a few weeks!
I recommend coming up with 7-10 dinner recipes, 3-4 breakfast recipes and 3-4 lunch recipes. Don’t worry about converting them to shelf stable ingredients yet or creating overall lists of everything you will need. We will work on all that in the coming weeks. For now, just decide which recipes you want as part of your family’s food storage plan.
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