Why Every Thinking Person Should Be Storing Food Now

The story of why food is becoming such a critical issue in the world today is a complex one.  But there is nothing complicated about understanding that if food supplies should suddenly become unavailable or very expensive, the typical family would soon find itself in serious distress.

Inflation, global instability, economic or currency collapse, declining availability of petroleum products, climate change and the threat of natural disaster are all contendors for what may cause sudden severe food shortages.  Yet the typical family has no more than a few days food available to them should supplies suddenly become unavailable.

There are many blogs and webistes out there that explain the process of food storage, but few that explain the “whys”.In this blog, various aspects of why food storage has become so critical will be explored.   Food storage is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself from the whirlwind of changes that are swirling in the Zeitgeist even as I type this.  It can seem daunting to know where to begin.  But please do begin, even if is only by buying a couple of extra cans of soup or vegetables when you do your monthly grocery shopping.

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News From Living On Stored Foods

Some real-life obligations have kept me from updating this blog in the past few months. My apologies to subscribers and others who may have wondered where I disappeared to.

Things seem to be getting a bit less frenzied now, and I’ll be picking up the thread of this blog again with a lot more regularity.

One thing those of you who were following the blog a few months ago will notice is that I’ve discontinued the 46-day project. For now, that is. It proved to be just one thing too many to take on at that time, but I do hope to resurrect the project at some time in the future.

For now, the focus of the blog is going to be on the whys and hows of practical food storage along with a liberal dose of the global and national food supply situation news.

Days 4 and 5 of 46

The tragedy that is unfolding in Japan left me too overwhelmed to post my thoughts yesterday.  I wasn’t even sure what my thoughts were, as I watched the situation go from bad to worse.  Adding the threat of nuclear meltdown to already horrendous situation just staggers the imagination.

This morning, reports of the plight of the survivors are straggling in.   Their situation is dire.  Millions of people are without power, food, water, and adequate shelter and without immediate prospect of relief.  Just like all modern societies, Japan depends on the “Just in Time” system, which I have warned against repeatedly in this blog.  All is well when all is well, but in times of crisis the system breaks down, in the case of Japan, catastrophically. 

Here are a few news tweets from BBC this morning:

1447:  He adds: “There is a real threat, particularly amongst the elderly here, many of whom are suffering from hypothermia. They were caught in the tsunami, they were in the water, and it is bitterly cold here at night. It is a very worrying situation. Hopefully it will stabilise in the coming days if the power comes back on and food starts coming into the shops. But people are in a deep state of shock here.”

1444: Mr Fuller says some of the local roads are open, but helicopters are still the main way to get to inaccessible areas: “Five miles down the road from here, a bridge was washed away. There are about 700 people in an evacuation centre on the other side. One of our medical teams had to get over there by helicopter to take them three days’ food and water, and evacuate the seriously injured. It is a desperate situation here. You don’t really get a picture if you are sitting in Tokyo, or even if you are in Sendai. Yes, the power’s off and people are facing difficulties, but compared with here it is nothing.”

1437: Patrick Fuller of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), who is Ishinomaki, one of the worst affected cities, tells the BBC: “I’m at the hospital in Ishinomaki and the situation is dire. This is a town of about 130,000 people. Half the town was engulfed by the tsunami and the scene of devastation is absolute. There are pockets of people who are still stranded. There are others limping into the hospital as I speak. Just five minutes ago I witnessed an elderly lady die before she could get through the doors. The Red Cross is doing an incredible job here. They have had volunteers coming in from all over the country.”

0139: Thousands of people have spent another freezing night huddled over heaters in emergency shelters along the north-eastern coast. Aid has just begun to trickle into many areas. “All we have to eat are biscuits and rice balls,” said Noboru Uehara, 24, a delivery truck driver who was wrapped in a blanket against the cold at a shelter in Iwake. “I’m worried that we will run out of food.”

This is how desperate the situation can quickly get in even a modern, First World country when disaster strikes.  Yet most of us act as though food and other essential supplies will always be available whenever we need them.  How would your family fare if suddenly the power failed for an indefinite period and you had to depend on only what you had on hand for food,water and warmth? 

There are fault areas in the United States that are every bit as dangerous as the one that awoke so disastrously in Japan.  An earthquake along the San Andreas or New Madrid faults would affect millions.  There is virtually nowhere in the United States that is immune to natural disaster.  Are you prepared?  Or will you go on believing it can’t happen to you?

Day 3 of 46

I woke this morning, as did millions of others, to listen in horror to the news from Japan.  An 8.9 magnitude earthquake and tsunami has caused horrible damage, and much of the Pacific Rim remains under tsunami watch. 

This event ought to remind us that disaster can happen in the blink of an eye.  Most of us walk around with a kind of warm-fuzzy confidence that tomorrow will be exactly like today, that nothing bad can happen to us because nothing bad has happened yet.  This form of denial may help us go about our daily business without undue anxiety, but it is still a form of denial.  Disaster can strike, and it can strike with stunning speed.

I’ve been asked whether it is rational to store food when a situation where your family might have to depend on it seems to be so unlikely.  I have to answer that it is not likely your house is going to burn down tomorrow, but would you cancel your home insurance based on that?  Of course you wouldn’t.  For the very good reason that while the chance of your home burning down may be relatively small, the consequences of it occurring are so great that it is prudent to ensure against that very small possibility.

So it is with food storage.  It may be true that the odds of having to depend on a long-term food storage for more than a few days at a time seems remote.  But the consequences of not having that food to depend on are potentially so serious that it seems prudent to “insure” against that possibility.  We think nothing of paying hundreds of dollars a year to insure our homes, our cars, our boats and other toys.  Yet most balk at the idea of spending a like amount to ensure their food security. 

Frankly, I am puzzled by the notion that it is prudent to insure our belongings but somehow a bit kooky to ensure a food supply for our families in case of disaster, whether financial, political or natural.  Even more puzzling to me is that people are willing to write large checks to their insurance companies in exchange for nothing else but a promise that they will be covered in event of emergency.  That’s really not a very good bargain compared to acquiring food security, because when you invest in food, that money isn’t “gone” if nothing bad happens the way it is with insurance.  It isn’t just money down the drain because in good times and bad, we still all have to eat.  So the money you invest to put yourself a little “ahead” in food storage has more in common with money in a savings account than an insurance premium.  The worst that will happen if you store food is that you end up eating it.  Seems like a no-lose proposition to me.

Day 2 – Menu and Recipes

Today turned out to be insanely busy for me and I had to quite literally put food on the “back burner”  I had hoped to include several made-from-scratch food storage meals in today’s menu, but time constraints forced me to change my plans.

As it turned out, breakfast ended up being leftover cornbread from yesterday, lunch was a can of soup, and dinner consisted of leftover red beans and rice from yesterday! Not exactly a good day for demonstrating principles of food storage meals, but a learning experience nonetheless.

So what did I learn from this day of rushed meals eaten right out of the pan?  That eating from one’s food storage can mean some pretty sketchy meals if and unless you have the time and energy to prepare proper meals.   Without the ability to toss a salad out of a supermarket bag, throw some pre-grilled chicken from the deli on top and call it good, eating on the run can be a big problem. 

I did get enough to eat to keep me from feeling out-and-out hungry, but I’d hardly call today’s meals in any way balanced or satisfying.  And I still think I may not be eating enough calories to keep up my energy.  I need to give some thought to the problem of how to eat decently on very busy days.  I do have some expensive freeze-dried meals available, but I had thought of those as mostly an emergency-only type supply.  I’m not crazy about the taste or nutritional values of these meals (they are full of chemicals and taste it!) but on the other hand, when the cupboard of “allowed” foods is as bare as it was today, it can be a problem. 

Tomorrow I’m going to get up extra-early in the morning to be sure I can bake some bread before the day gets too crazy.  That way, come what may I at least will have a handy source of the “staff of life” available to me.

Why Economic Security Does Not Equal Food Security

Except for people who are homeless or on government assistance, few families in America at the current time are actually in danger of going hungry.  Middle-class families typically spend 10% or less of their gross income on food items so even fairly large price increases are affordable, even if annoying. The upper-middle and upper classes typically give no thought at all to the possibility of not being able to buy all the food they need.  But there’s an old saying, perhaps dating back to the First World War, that says “Food will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no food.”  This may be becoming more true by the day.

Let’s talk for a minute about the idea of economic security, and how it is changing before our very eyes.  Until very recently, for example, jobs in the public sector were seen as very secure.  Not prone to the waves of lay-offs seen in private industry as a by-blow of mergers and acquisitions, such jobs provided relatively stable employment opportunity for many middle-class citizens.  Typically paying somewhat lower than private sector jobs, and usually with less chance for advancement, they made up for that by offering the aforementioned security as well as relatively good retirement and health benefits.  That was yesterday.  This is today:

It’s pretty clear that a concerted effort to strip employees of their collective bargaining power is underway – and it appears to be succeeding.  Can anyone doubt that if public unions are under attack today, it will be private sector unions tomorrow? 

What’s not so obvious, perhaps, is that it is unlikely that the assault on workers is going to end by simply crushing the unions.  Many professional and managerial class employees may not see the connection between an attack on public workers’ rights and any threat to their own job security.  But just as data entry jobs and customer service jobs were outsourced first, followed by IT and even management positions, the pattern of attack on workers rights and expectations to such benefits as job security and decent benefits is likely to follow a similar pattern.

It’s easy to imagine, from a position of middle-class comfort, that the comfort and security will go on forever.  But there are ominous signs that the future is going to look very different for all American workers, not just the unionized ones.  The combined pressures of resource scarcity, globalization, and economic stagnation are going to be pushing more and more classes of American workers nearer to a position of food insecurity.  Many middle class Americans have already taken huge hits to their mutual funds and retirement accounts.  Home equity wealth has been severely impacted, wiped out in some cases.  The wealth that took decades to accumulate has been shredded for many families, at the same time that average family debt has risen.  More and more families are living paycheck to paycheck, and even those with more of a cushion are seeing the margins growing slimmer.  Only the top 1% of households are still seeing increases in wealth.  That leaves 99% of us to wonder what will happen next.

Day 2 of 46

I awoke this morning to the news of the protests going on in Wisconsin and the continuing actions of the Governor and was reminded once again how even people with “secure” jobs like teachers can easily find themselves in a situation where they may not be able to feed their families.  Food insecurity can affect anyone, not just the homeless or those dependent on government assistance.

Yesterday went better than I’d hoped.  I didn’t find myself obsessing over fresh foods or tempted to “cheat”.  The meals I made were tasty and satisfying.  In fact, much to my surprise, a little too satisfying.  After baking biscuits for breakfast, I let the rest of the family eat them and instead ate a handful of sunflower seeds and some dried prunes.  When lunchtime rolled around, I was pretty hungry for the Salmon, Corn & Barley chowder, but found it very filling and was satisfied with a fairly small portion.  I didn’t even feel very hungry again at dinnertime, but I did manage to eat a serving of Red Beans and Rice with Cornbread.  The snacks I had planned to ward off hunger went uneaten.

As near as I can tell, I ate barely 1400 calories yesterday.  Whether this was just a fluke and my normally robust appetite will kick back in soon, I am not certain.  It certainly wasn’t because I didn’t like the food, it was very good.  But maybe I didn’t realize how filling foods like seeds, barley, beans and grains really are when they aren’t just a “side dish”, but the main attraction.  This could be good news, in the sense that maybe I don’t need to store as many food calories as I thought to be satisfied, but it may be bad news in that it might be actually difficult to eat enough calories in the long term to maintain normal weight. 

I’m a 5-7″, 55 year-old woman whose caloric needs compared to an active male are quite small.  But I am wondering just how hard it would be for a man doing hard physical labor to eat enough grains and legumes to meet his needs.  The caloric burn of a large man doing fairly hard work could approach or exceed 3500 calories a day.   That is a lot of beans and rice!  I’m beginning to see why homesteaders of a 100 years ago always made sure to raise animals for meat, eggs and milk.  Those foods are relatively caloricly dense as well as supplying plenty of the protein and fat necessary to health 

It remains to be seen if I continue to have difficulty meeting my target of 1800-2000 calories a day.  Since I wasn’t tracking calories before I began this experiment, it is entirely possible that is way more than I would normally eat.  But just thinking about what a normal day’s eating looked like before beginning this experiment, I think not.  I think certainly I was averaging at least 1800 calories a day.  This is a very important lesson to be learned, because in planning a long-term food storage it is important to know how many calories you need daily to maintain a normal weight.  Even 200-250 calories below your body’s “set point”, and you could lose as much as 2-3 pounds a month.  At the moment,  I have a little extra “fluff” around the waistline so that wouldn’t upset me, but in a situation where my family was trying to survive off stored foods, it could be dangerous.

Day 1 – Menu and Recipes

Here’s my proposed menu for Day 1:

Breakfast:

  • Coffee
  • Biscuits and Jam

Lunch:

  • Salmon, Corn & Barley Chowder
  • Cornbread

Dinner:

  • Red Beans and Rice With TVP Ham
  • Cornbread
  • Apple Crisp

Snacks:

  • Nuts
  • Raisins

Recipes:

Salmon, Corn & Barley Chowder

  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1/8 cup chopped dried onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3 cups water
  • 3 teaspoons chicken broth granules
  • 1/3 cup barley
  • 1 tablespoon flour & 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 can salmon, drained (4-6 ounces)
  • 1 small can sweet corn or 1/2 large can
  • 3 tablespoons powdered dried milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon dried minced cilantro
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  1. Heat oil, onion, garlic, water and chicken broth granules until boiling.  Add barley.  Cover, reduce heat and simmer on low 20-30 minutes or until barley is tender.
  2. Mix flour and 1 tablespoon water into a paste.  Remove and discard any bones or skin from salmon and flake into bite sized pieces.
  3. Add corn, salmon and powdered milk to saucepan, stirring to blend.  Stir in flour misture, then all seasonings.  Simmer gently 2 or 3 minutes or until somewhat thickened.  Makes 2 or 3 servings. 

Red Beans and Rice With TVP

  • 1 cup dried red, kidney or pinto beans
  • 1/2 cup dried chopped onion
  • 3 teaspoons garlic powder 
  • 1 quart boiling water
  • 1/cup rice
  • 1/2  cup textured vegetable protein, TVP (I use ham flavored) 
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cunin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • cayenne pepper to taste
  1. Soak beans overnight or bring to boil in plenty of water, boil two minutes and let sit for two or three hours.
  2. Boil the beans with soaking liquid until tender or cook in a pressure cooker following recommended manufactors recommendations.
  3. Place beans and TVP and seasonings into a crock pot or slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours. (This recipe can also be prepared on a stove top on very low heat or in an oven at low heat, 325 degrees for 30-45 minutes).
  4. Cook rice separately and serve by mashing the bean mixture slightly then layering over the rice.  Add cayenne to taste. Makes 2-3 good sized servings, can double or triple if more servings are needed.