Our friend Mark Smith, a Preparedness Consultant, teaches that in order to have a well-rounded emergency preparedness plan, you should always be storing food. If you are working on your first aid kit, buy bandages and some food. Pick up some bottled water and food. Order a camping stove and some food. This is why we focus primarily on food storage.
Eat what you store and store what you eat!
If you did a quick search for "how much food storage do I need" you will find many websites that have a food storage calculator or a list of foods that you need to store. This list will usually include several pounds of lard, pearled barley, gelatin and molasses. When you are in the middle of an ice storm heating water over a candle, do you know what to do with barley, gelatin and lard?
You need to be familiar with your food storage. If you choose to store food that you don't normally eat, make sure you slowly incorporate these foods into your diet now. If your body does not have the enzymes to digest the new foods, there is a high possibility you will get either an upset stomach or other numerous digestive problems. An emergency situation is not the time to introduce new foods to your diet.
Make a list of your favorite simple meals and begin storing the ingredients. All of the ingredients need to be shelf-stable. For example, my family loves Terriyaki Chicken Bowls, so I store rice, freeze-dried chicken, freeze-dried broccoli and bottled terriyaki sauce. If there is a power outage, the chicken in the freezer won't last long, so the freeze-dried chicken is ideal.
I found it easier to plan my food storage by planning an entire month of meals. Then I figured out what ingredients I would need to make each meal. The longer the shelf life, the better. If you like spaghetti, but the shelf life of the sauce is only a year, either plan to rotate the sauces so you eat them within the year, or store the ingredients with a higher shelf life. (Shelf Reliance) Thrive Life has a great tomato powder with a shelf life of 8 years. With the powder, you can quickly throw together an amazing spaghetti dinner right from your food storage.
The 3 Enemies of Food Storage:
Store your food in a cool, dry place. If you are storing shelf-stable food such as cans or buckets of legumes and grains, inside your home works just fine. If the temperature is above 80, it may shorten the shelf life a bit. The cooler, the better. This is why our Grandparents had cool, dark root cellars. If you use glass mason jars, storing the jars on the counter is not recommended because the light will compromise the food. As for moisture, this pertains to your freeze-dried, dehydrated, grains and legumes. With cans, there is always the possibility of rust due to water or moisture. Make sure your dried food is not exposed to any moisture. You can take extra precautions by adding oxygen absorbers and storing in mylar bags. If the mylar bags are sealed, they keep out light and moisture. You can pick up food-grade buckets with lids at any hardware store, or try asking for used buckets at restaurants and bakeries. A good rinsing and you have free storage. I usually purchase my mylar bags from Amazon online for the best price.
It is better to have and not need, than need and not have. We recommend starting with a 2 week supply, then save 3 months, 6 months and so on. If you decide you want a year supply of food and you start by storing rice, then have a situation such as a job loss, you will be eating rice for every meal. I recently learned of the term,appetite fatigue. This means you simply cannot stand to eat that food any longer. and you will take less and less and end up in metabolic decline. You could literally starve to death sitting next to a bag of food. So start by buying ingredients for a few full meals each time. By starting small, you will build a well-rounded food storage. Don't forget to store condiments and seasonings as well. Chicken is chicken. It's the sauces and seasonings that make it a wonderful meal.
Freeze-Dried vs. Dehydrated
Freeze-dried flash freezes food at the peak of ripeness, then uses a vacuum to pull only the moisture out, leaving the nutrition and enzymes. The dehydrating process uses heat to cook out all of the moisture. Dehydration has a shorter shelf life and sometimes requires adding preservatives. Due to shelf life, nutrition and taste, I prefer freeze-dried, but there are some foods such as carrots that are better dehydrated. Freeze-drying a carrot turns it completely white.
I use my food storage for everyday meals, so preparation is no different than any other food, except it is usually quicker because i don't have to slice and dice. I do have to heat and eat though. Since this is food for a possible emergency, you need to think about what tools you will need to have on hand to prepare and cook your meals. If the power is out, you aren't using the stove, blender or microwave. You will need to invest in a few tools that do not require electricity. Also, if you plan to rehydrate anything, you will need to plan for a water source if the water is not available. .
My Personal Recommendation:
After months of comparing food storage companies and different methods, I personally chose THRIVE food from (Shelf Reliance) Thrive Life. Thrive is by far the best tasting food and usually the best price out of all of the brands I have tried. They offer mainly ingredients rather than pre-packaged meals, so I can use my own personal recipes. Most of the product line is freeze-dried with an average shelf life of about 25 years. The cans are coated inside as well as outside to prevent rust. Being on a budget, I LOVE the Q FoodPlanner. I quickly filled up an online shopping cart of everything I wanted and set a monthly budget by reallocating my grocery budget. I have found this actually saves me money because I am not making as many trips to the grocery store and not wasting any food. THRIVE food is by far the best brand I have tasted. I had to laugh when my neighbor's daughter was surprised when she tried it and said, "mom, this tastes like real food."
What Is Fresh?
I think we can all agree that Fresh food is best. My question is, what is fresh really? Fresh produce is picked straight from the vine when ripe. When picked too early and allowed to ripen on a truck, that produce delivers almost no nutrition by the time you bring it home. The fruits and vegetables that are too ripe to make the trip to the store are sent to be frozen. This is why frozen food generally has more nutrition than "fresh" from the shelves. Even better than frozen is the freeze-dried method. This is when food is flash frozen at 60 below zero, then put in a vacuum where all the moisture is turned to vapor and removed completely. This method instantly preserves the shape, color, texture and flavor and has more nutrition than any other method of preservation.
I love that (Shelf Reliance) Thrive Life flash-freezes their produce within 48 hours of harvesting to ensure the most nutritious and best-tasting food on the market. By using the freeze-drying method, then sealing it in a double-coated can, protected from light, moisture and air, the food has no way to decompose, giving it a shelf life of 25 years or more.
I can get the best vegetables straight from my garden in the summer, but what about during the winter? Here in Oklahoma there is absolutely no way I can acquire a fresh pineapple or mango because it has to be imported. With Thrive food I can open a can of pineapple in the winter 15 years from now I am confident I am getting the best nutrition.
Is THRIVE the only food on my shelves? No, I buy all of my wheat locally because it is cheaper. I still get bulk items such as beans and rice at local stores (the rice at the Asian food store is fantastic!) I still jump on sales at the grocery store and visit the local LDS cannery. I have food stored that I have personally canned in the past, but don't have the time or space this year to have a garden, so I store food the best way for me.
Whether you choose to grow your own garden and can and dehydrate your food, use coupons to stock up on canned goods, or purchase freeze-dried, I urge you to insure your family's most basic needs. Emergencies happen at the most inopportune times, make sure you are always ready!