Thursday, March 31, 2011

Food Storage

So last post I promised to share some practical things I have done  to help me feel prepared in these current troubled times.
So, -  lets talk food storage. I struggled for a long time with this idea, because all I could picture was buckets of beans, wheat and dehydrated foods in people’s basements for Y2K. We all know how that turned out. – And while sometimes the news is scary, depressing, or downright upsetting,  when it comes down to it, major food storage seemed like a pretty expensive gamble that the end of the world was near, - something I neither wanted to happen, - or wanted to think much about.
 However, - though I do believe there are many warning signs that we do live in troubled and uncertain times, - and that much more difficult economic times could come soon, - I want to talk about the sheer practicality of basic food storage.
    Never before have people had such easy and cheap access to food as we do in America. And not just the basic food we need to survive, - but every conceivable foreign fruit, vegetable, grain, and manufactured product at any hour 24/7 - 365.  Have you EVER wanted to buy a banana and not been able to? – You and I are living in an age where we could decide at any moment we feel like eating almost any food known to man, - and can walk into our local Wal-Mart at 3am and buy and eat it. As Justice has grown and asked questions (did this come from a tree or the ground?) I am amazed how many of the fresh fruits and veggies we regularly eat I tell him won’t grow in Kansas,  - but only in very hot climates…in other words,- they’ve been imported.
 When we have it soo easy, - it is very easy to forget that it has not always been this way, - and should our system become disrupted (through manmade or natural disaster) things could change in a moment.
 – In world history, - even in our grandparents generation, most people  had gardens, and put up their own food. In WWII, there was a huge push for families to plant ‘victory gardens’  so that rationed ‘store bought products’ where not the only food they depended on to feed their families. For centuries, people have lived off the ebb and flow of the seasons, - enjoying what they can get locally in season, - putting it up, - and then waiting out non-growing seasons with the food they’ve prepared. Gardening, canning, animal husbandry and butchering are skills that they used and many are re-discovering  today.
     So what if you live in town, or just don’t feel like becoming the pioneer woman? What if the thought of gardening makes your skin crawl, - or you don’t have enough room anyway?
  I believe that we all can have a ‘country living’ mindset, - even in an apartment in town. – Food storage is probably very best when it is your own organically home grown tomatoes, made into fresh salsa etc…. but don’t let that stop you from thinking ahead and planning for your family to eat this next year.
There are two ways to look at food storage
– One is, - that you want to have a comfortable supply of the things you normally use, - as a buffer. This is extremely practical, - especially if your income is flexible like ours. My husband loves the idea of our house fully stocked, - which is  kind of an additional ‘insurance’ for us if something were to drastically change with work(construction industry), or his health. – Not only having money in savings, - but a year’s supply of food and basic necessities would be a huge blessing .

– The other food storage view is just to stock up on what ever the cheapest or most basic thing, - so that at least you have it if the end of the world comes. – But this may be things that you don’t like, - won’t eat, or use. (think 100 lb. dried beans?)  And if the end doesn’t come, - you put money into something that is pretty much a waste.(a case of the cheapest brand of shampoo that you hate the smell!)  
   However, many of these cheapest things (dry beans) are perfect for long- term storage, and also can be healthy, - so my goal was to slowly try to learn to use these easy store, healthy items more into our eating, - in ways that we like.
I started with just increasing the basic pantry we had…. Thinking of living off the food I had for about a month. (Minus milk, eggs, and fresh fruits and veggies)  We already buy our meat in bulk once a year, - chickens, and beef, - so this is an area I haven’t had to work on very much.   When I was so overwhelmed at first, - a month was about all I thought I could handle.
– Regular,  canned fruits, veggies, boxed cereals, chips, crackers - baking ingredients, an extra bottle of each condiment. –  I already tried to keep on hand 6 cans of whatever we use most, - and some extras, - so I just needed to bulk it up.
 One of the biggest things I wanted to change was having extra of all the house hold products we use. – I hate running out of shampoo, - toilette paper, etc. – So I also started getting double. – When I needed shampoo, - I’d get two, - one to use, - one for storage. I still bought the brands we like (cheapest on some, name on others) Yes, - it did make my expenses go up. – I cut out spending on some extras, and spent it on toilette paper and Kleenex and cans of corn and peanut butter.
This was a great place for me to start. – As a few months went by, - I was very proud of the way my pantry was filling out. – And realized I had no-where for it to go! – At first, - I just stashed extra boxes of Kleenex, or a bottle of shampoo in a bathroom, - or where ever I could, - but I knew I needed to get organized. –
  At this point, - I wanted to start keeping an inventory, - so I would know what I had.
As I realized I had enough for a month, - I decided to make my goal for a year. – This requires a bit of planning, - and knowing what you really do eat, - as well as rotating items, - so you are sure to use them before the expiration date. – The good thing about stocking as you can, - is that if you buy a jar of peanut butter or two every  few months, - instead of 6 all at once, -obviously -  the newer ones will keep longer.
    My ‘pantry’ really isn’t very big, - since it is basically one cabinet in the laundry room, and a shelf for home canned goods…
The cabinet above the washer has washing related items, and a box of lightbulbs.

This is my 'pantry' shelf... where I keep a short stock of all the canned food items I use regularly or my pasta, brownie mixes, etc.

The cabinet on the left has cleaning supplies, the shelf above has chips, cereal, and some extra baking items, the shelves are for home canned items, - didn't get as much done this year!

So I got creative and turned my front closet (which was being storage for a million things) and made it my ‘store’. -   This worked very very well. – I still kept a few cans of basic things in my old ‘pantry’ for when I need a can of tomato sauce for super, - and when I run out there, - I simply go to my ‘store’ pantry and restock it with 6 cans. – Then I make a note, - and next time I go to the store, - I replace those 6 as if I was simply getting ones I needed for regular use. – This ensures that I don’t ‘live’ off my storage, -  but maintain a surplus. – The six new cans go to the back and bottom of the stack in the ‘store’.
    With a new baby, - I’ve  found it a HUGE help to NEVER run out of anything  (short ONE teaspoon of baking powder for pancakes on Saturday morning!)  since I had my backups in my ‘store’.
I am now deffinately past the 'one month' of storage, but not yet to the 'one year' mark. - Thankfully with some remodeling we are doing, - all these pantry areas are going to be changing in the next few months, - which is good since I am running out of room!
These Storage totes have household supplies in them. They are labled and put in order of what we need to get to most often. I have a tote for:

Kitchen Supplies (Supply of dishsoap, rags, dishwasher soap, sponges, and cleaners)

Medical (Supply of Bandages, Rubbing Alcohol, Bandaids,Espom Salts,AntiBiotic Cream, etc)

Feminine Products (pretty self explanitory!:)

Bath and Body (Supply of Shampoo,CreamRinse, Body Wash, Bar Soap, Toothbrushes, Toothpaste, Deoderant, Razors, Hair Spray and Clips etc.)

In a separate closet I have all my 'paper stuff'. Paper towls, toillette paper, and Kleenex. Also, about thirty bottles of laundry soap Andrew bought when it went on sale at Walgreens for $2.00 a bottle. :)

These are food grade buckets with rubber seal I paid $1.00 a piece for at my local Wal-Mart bakery. They had two sizes, - about 2 gall. and I am guessing about 4 gallon, since they look a little short of 5.
I have been stocking up on beans, (yes, and trying out new recipes so that we learn to like them in more than burritoes!:)  The little buckets are such a fun size! And I love their soft easy handles!

My 4 gallon bucket of beans. - I froze them first for a few days, to kill anything that might be in them. Then I let them sit on the counter to thaw so the moisture would evaporate. Then I dumped them in and put bay leaves on top to discourage any bugs, - but with the tight rubber seal I don't think there is any way they could get in if they wanted! I am thinking these will keep a long long time. :)
      I also plan to use one of these buckets to keep my homade laundry soup in when I get around to making it. - Since Andrew just bought all that soap, - I am not as motivated!! :)

 One final thought about food storage. - It is not hoarding. It is funny to me that I have on one had been purging areas of my home, and getting rid of junk holding me back, - while stocking up on food and household goods.- And yet, - it works together so well! 

   Remember why we are storing food. We are planning. We are preparing. We know in exactly two months, five days, our family will still come up to us at 4;00 and ask, 'What's for super?' We can bank on it. - Food prices may continue to go up. The economy may continue to lag, or worse. - Either way, - the dollar spent on food today, - food that is organized, and ready to serve us may be the best investment we as mom's can make in the future. As I have worked on this for over six months I have found it becomes a mindset. - Thinking ahead, planning, - looking for the deals, and being creative in how I store and use what I have. And the feeling of relief as I meet each goal is rewarding.

     It also may be the very best tool we for reaching others for Christ should there come a crises someday. -   When there is chaos and trouble in the world, people listen to those who have answers, AND have what they need. Will it be the government that offers food at the cost of freedoms? Or will we have prepared ourselves so that we are able to offer help to our neighbors and those around us, with answers of real meaning.

 I could not encourage you strongly enough to start today. Maybe its just a couple of cans of corn. Lets be wise woman who do what we can with what we have to prepare for tomorrow!

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