FOOD STORAGE: What works for us

By Randy Bock

As a seasoned citizen homesteader, being prepared for tomorrow, next month or next year is a part of my mindset and daily routine. To say that I’ve made some mistakes would be putting it mildly, although we’ve managed to make the best of most of our blunders and have learned from them, to some degree. One never stops learning and that is a good thing, though whether one puts what he’s learned to good use is up to him. I’ve heard it said that a sure sign of craziness is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

I try to not be afraid to admit that I need to try new things or different ways of doing things when a particular tactic is showing less than stellar results. To that end, our food storage has evolved over the years into a loose plan that, hopefully, will meet our needs and the needs of our family and close friends should it be necessary.

In the last years of the last century, Y2K was on everyone’s minds. Half of the people you talked to seemed to think it heralded the end of the modern age and the other half couldn’t care less. It almost seems now that the latter were correct, but having been involved in the computer business at the time, I witnessed a boom in spending on information technology to make the necessary changes to update computer infrastructure. After 2000 rolled around, the business suffered a depression because companies had spent their budgets for several years forward and had nothing left for current spending. But, the problem was solved.

For those with a ‘prepping’ mentality, Y2K gave us an opportunity to get our feet wet in what, for many, became a lifestyle of choice. It served to awaken within me that desire to be as pro-active, as prepared as I could be in every way.

We, like some of you, made purchases of buckets of wheat, soy beans and soy flour, popcorn, rice, beans, you name it. Most of it suited our lifestyle. Some of it didn’t. I’ve mentioned before that soy doesn’t suit my palate, but on a homestead very little goes to waste. Chickens will eat nearly anything. But it’s hard to eat 5 gallons of popcorn because after a few years, it just won’t pop. The wheat we did well with, since we grind our own for bread and wheat lasts almost forever. We finished up the last of the Y2K hard red wheat in 2013 and couldn’t tell that it was the worse for sitting in a five gallon bucket for 14 years without any special treatment. We had originally nitrogen packed it in the buckets ourselves, but once opened, it was exposed to ordinary air.

We had virtually no problems with bugs in wheat, barley or rice and bugs don’t seem to like pinto beans, but they get a bit hard to cook after a while (the beans, not the bugs).

Nowadays, our kids are grown and moved away. Sometimes I think not nearly far enough away, since three of our children, their spouses and eleven grandchildren live within ten miles of us. And the swimming pool in our yard. Empty nest? I’m still waiting to see what that’s all about. Seriously, I know I’m blessed (but being a little deaf helps).

I’m the prepper in the family and feel like I have to be prepared for this family of 19 people, 42 chickens and 3 cocker spaniels.

We actually eat from our preps. Our day to day pantry and prepping pantry are one and the same so we have overcome the issue of having stored food that is cheap and easy to keep, but not on your everyday menu. We have no freeze dried, no MREs or dehydrated strawberries.

We do have several cases of strawberry jam, purchased in 2010 at a very good sale price. I opened another jar this week and it is as good as when I bought it. Last year several local supermarkets had sales of name brand canned vegetables, products that we normally use, at 2 cans for $1.00. Too good to pass up and so we have perhaps 3 dozen cases of corn, green beans, whole and sliced potatoes and carrots. Another time we got Wolf Brand chili without beans for $0.59 and laid in at least a 5 year supply. (My daughter refuses to serve her family from a can or a box with an expired date, but properly canned foods have been found to maintain their nutrition for years longer than we’ve been led to believe, and my personal experience bears that out.)

What we have stopped doing is buying our beans of various kinds, wheat, barley, corn meal, rice and several additional items either in large bags from supermarkets or in 5 gallon pails from the suppliers we all know so well. While those are economical ways to prepare, we have decided that, for the two of us, those are quantities that are likely to deteriorate to some degree before we can use the entire large bag or 5 gallon pail. We still have some beans and wheat in 5 gallon pails, unopened, so they’ll last until we need them, and if a disaster ever happens and we have to feed more than the 2 of us they’ll come in handy.

The major change in our method has been to purchase what is available in #10 cans and we are storing and using from these cans for the above mentioned items, as well as pasta, rolled oats, noodles and granola. I know that the cost to purchase in this size containers is a bit more expensive, especially compared to buying your pinto beans at Walmart, but we take comfort in knowing that the things we need are here and will last indefinitely and that comfort and security is part of what you pay for.

Our diet is supplemented extensively with the regular canned vegetables in our stockpile, as well as canned hams, salmon, chicken, tuna and some other meat products for protein. Again, all a part of our everyday diet. And, all things considered, since I purchase most of our supermarket food ONLY when it is on sale, my overall cost, even when purchasing rice in a #10 can, is lower.

We are on sort of a paleo diet, and we’re not big consumers of wheat, especially, and use almost no processed products, most of which are not packaged for long term storage. Our meals also rely heavily on our garden during our long growing season. We end up eating most of what we grow and share with friends and family so we don’t freeze or can much of it.

So, the rest of the story? Finally, after 30 years of prepping, the last 20 of which have been ‘serious’ prepping, we’ve all but eliminated the waste from our food storage. The advantage I feel we enjoy is switching to #10 cans for the mainstays, and buying in bulk when your local supermarket has a crazy sale (and don’t worry too much about those expiration dates).

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