We will be smarter this time. Won’t we?
Look at what FEMA has recommended for survival situations in the past. Their stance is you only need to be ready to take care of yourself for three days. That’s their target reaction time. At the end of three days, FEMA supposedly will have assistance in place. There’s only one problem: That model doesn’t work. There were people digging in dumpsters, looking for food, six weeks after both Hurricane Katrina and Sandy. And I have even less faith that it will be safe to resume normal shopping activities any time soon during this pandemic, even if the stores remain well-stocked.
When selecting food for a lock-down situation, there are several things to take into consideration. This isn’t buying your regular week’s groceries multiplied by 10, but rather buying food that you will use instead of your regular groceries. As you are selecting food for your emergency stash, consider the following:
- You can’t depend on having refrigerator and/or freezer space for two or three months’ worth of convenience and junk food.
- Most foods aren’t packaged for long-term storage, with the exception of canned foods.
- You want foods that will give you the maximum nutrition for minimum bulk.
What you really need to store are staple foods. You can make a fairly nutritious diet out of grains, beans and canned goods. Properly packages for storage, these foods will keep for years, and still be as tasty and nutritious when you take them out, as they were when you bought them.
Here is what I consider the most important ones:
- Beans. This is one of the more common survival foods. Not only are beans plentiful and cheap, but they provide a lot of protein—something hard to find without eating meat.
- White rice. The perfect companion to beans, it’s an excellent source of carbohydrates, and it stores well. (Note: don’t store brown rice, which contains oil and will spoil.)
- Canned vegetables and fruit. A good way of adding micro-nutrients to your lock-down diet. Canned goods keep well, long past the expiration date on the label. Don’t throw the packing water away, as it contains vitamins also, and you can use it to make soup stock.
- Soups. The nice thing about having soup on your shelf in a lock-down situation is that you can use it in almost anything. Think beyond chicken noodle and check out others, such as cream of mushroom.
- Canned meats. Of all the ways of preserving meat, canning is the most secure in protecting the meat from decomposition. While it doesn’t typically have as good a flavor as fresh meat, it still provides animal protein at the most reasonable price you’ll find. Consider chicken, tuna, and salmon as well as spam and deviled ham. Meat may be the hardest type of food to find during a crisis, so stock up.
- Powdered milk. While most people don’t particularly like the flavor of powdered milk, when you don’t have access to other milk, it’s wonderful. It’s also necessary for baking and provides needed calcium for proper bone growth.
- Cheese. Another great source of protein. To store cheese, it needs to be triple dipped in wax, making an airtight seal around the cheese. In this form, it can be kept, without refrigeration, for years. Even if the cheese forms mold, it will only be on the surface. Simply cut that part of and the rest of the cheese is still good.
- Sugar. Yes, we try and stay away from eating too much sugar, but it’s an essential ingredient in making jam and for preserving fruit. You will also need it for baking. And sugar will keep pretty much indefinitely if stored properly.
- Molasses. (Note: If you want brown sugar, just combine your molasses and white sugar).
- Honey. Whereas sugar will last indefinitely, honey will really keep forever, as long as you keep the ants out of it. Plus, it is beneficial to help stave off colds and infection.
- Salt. Most means of preserving foods require the use of salt, and our bodies need it for survival.
- Spices. Stock up on the spices your family likes, as well as any you’ll need for cooking and baking.
- Nuts. A good source of both protein and fat, nuts store well.
- Cooking oil and vegetable shortening. Our family doesn’t normally use Crisco, but an unopened metal can of it will last for 5 years! It can also be used to make emergency candles. If you’d prefer a lighter oil for your food, coconut and olive oil both last about 24 months tightly capped in a cool, out of the light location.
- Coffee and tea. Comfort food for adults. Keep your favorites on stock at all times.
- Rolled Oats. You can prepare breakfast cereals and other dishes. Store in dark, airtight container with an oxygen absorber.
- Pasta products. Pasta is a great source of carbohydrates, and it allows a wide variety of eating. Even your kids will eat it.
- Spaghetti sauce. Obviously, you need this to go with the pasta. But it’s also great for hiding the flavor of things your family doesn’t like to eat—whether you’re talking about an unusual vegetable or leftovers you’re re-presenting.
- Jerky. While expensive to buy, jerky is pure meat with only added spices. Its high salt content allows it to store well, making it a great pandemic food. It can be reconstituted by adding it to soups and allowing it to cook.
- Summer sausage. Like many ‘cured meat products’, it’s created to keep for a long time.
- Peanut butter. Another good source of protein and a great comfort food, especially for the kids. Maybe you should stockpile some no-sugar-added jelly with it.
- Wheat flour. For baking, especially baking bread. Flour also allows you to shake up the diet with the occasional batch of cookies or a cake.
- Baking powder & baking soda. Also good for making bread, cookies and cakes.
- Bouillon. This ‘soup starter’ allows you to make broth without having to boil bones on the stove for hours. Soups will probably be an important part of anyone’s diet in a stay-home situation, as it allows you to eat almost anything. Just throw it together in a pot and it’s soup.
- Hard candies. These are useful as a reward for kids and also for quick energy (or emergency sugar if you have a diabetic in your household). The candy will keep for years as long as they are protected from moisture.
- Most essential paper products: Toilet paper and tissues are my “must haves.” You may want to add paper towels if you don’t have a huge supply of cleaning rags like I do.
- Light bulbs. Take an inventory of your home, and have a package of every kind you use in your lights.
- Batteries. Again, inventory your electronics, medical supplies, and so on. Don’t forget your keyboard and mouse, as well as the TV remote!
- Battery charger for your car.
- Hand sanitizer, household wipes, and soap.
- Water. Don’t forget to stockpile a good supply of water. You’ll go through much more than you expect. Experts recommend a minimum of one gallon per person per day, but remember: That’s just for drinking.
Try creating a three-week menu, with the idea of repeating that menu over and over. If you have the supplies you need to cook everything on that menu, you’ll have a fair assortment of food, and enough so your family shouldn’t grow tired of it.
Whatever you do, don’t try to run out and buy a year’s worth of food in one week. Take your time. Start by building a 2-week stockpile; then increase it to a month. Keep your eyes open for sales and other opportunities to save money.