I am often asked by people new to preparedness, “Where do I start?” And the answer is, “It depends”. I know you’re excited to hear that one. But where to start varies depending on your situation and what you think you are preparing for. Usually though, it is wise to start preparing for a short term emergency by getting some extra food, water, and other supplies in your home.
Don’t jump into buying buckets of wheat if you have no extra canned/frozen/dehydrated foods that your family will readily eat. I know it sounds crazy, but buckets of wheat, as fantastic and versatile as they are, probably aren’t going to be used in the short term emergency except maybe as a stool or step ladder. You’re going to want foods that your family is familiar with and that are easy and quick for you to fix up for them. Foods that are nutritious and filling without requiring a lot of “fixing” time.
There are a couple of ways to go about the short term food storage plan. One is to pick up extra cans or boxes of whatever you normally eat while you’re shopping and put them in the storage room. Don’t just eat them giving yourself longer in between shopping trips! The idea is to build up foods in your storage. You can pick up shelf stable foods when are on sale if you know you’ll use them.
A slightly more organized way to go about this short term food storage plan is to make a meal plan for a week or two and then figure out how much of each ingredient you need to purchase to be able to make those meals for a month or two or three or however long you want to be able to store food for. You can do the Dinner in the Bag method once you’ve purchased your foods or just keep your shelf stable foods on the shelf and have recipes handy. Make sure to throw in some super easy fix meals like canned chili and soups because there just may be a day that for some reason you are very limited on cooking time or fuel and won’t want to put a full meal together even if you normally cook from scratch. (These are also good for those short notice camping trips, etc.)
I made a list of all the regular meals I thought I could make with my food storage and found that by adding a few “specialty” food storage items like sour cream powder I greatly expanded my meal options.
In your short term storage, you’ll also want to remember things like cleaning supplies, toiletries, and medications. It doesn’t take much to have an extra month of deodorant or contact solution on hand and it can make all the difference if you hit a month that is tight financially or there actually is some kind of disaster and you need some tampons/toothpaste/dishsoap/toilet paper/etc. and the store is empty or closed.
Most of the items in your short term storage will probably not be designed to store for 25 years or more like long term storage items, so it is also important to rotate them into your regular life. Use the things that will not keep long, like boxes of macaroni and cheese that tend to get “buggy” if they’re stored too long just on the shelf.
Canned goods actually tend to store quite well, however, watch the expiration dates a little closer on foods that are high in acid like tomato products and citrus fruits (pineapple in particular) as well as canned milk products. If a can is bulging or seeping goo, it’s safe to say that it’s not good to eat any more. If you open it and it looks or smells funny, toss it (or send it to the chickens or compost pile). It’s not worth getting you or your family sick.
Foods with oil in them like peanut butter will also need to be rotated more frequently. That oil does go rancid after a while and the foods will taste bad and/or cause illness. You can give rancid peanut butter to your dog, though, and she’d be perfectly happy to eat it up.
Start with a week’s worth of extras, then build from there. Try to get your short term supply built up to about 3 months’ worth. That much will actually provide for your family through most types of disasters.
There’s a start, we’ll discuss water in another post. :)