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. 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.
Like some of you, before we had a really solid survival food list, we made purchases of buckets of wheat, soy, 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.
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, Mountain House meals 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 do a lot of canning or freezing.
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 at the local supermarket when they have a crazy sale (and don’t worry too much about those expiration dates).
The first thing we did was purchase on of those 1 year supply of food for one person deals at Sams. Since we have 3 adults to provide for we know that it was just a start and that the 1 year supply was just a base to work with quickly. Since then we have added to that by dehydrating a lot of our garden and placing it in Mylar bags or quart jars with oxygen absorbers. We have also done the same thing you’ve done and that’s purchase can’s of veggies and meats when they are on sale or getting them at the Save-A-Lot. We figure we have enough food stored for 6 months for the 3 of us. We do need to expand our variety bit.
I guess we’re sort of in-between :-) Didn’t plant this year because we want to add more canned goods to our homestead pantry. We eat out of our daily pantry here, and try to add a few cans here and there that will go “to The Roost”. We have some buckets for long term storage etc., and they’ll stay. Figure we’re good for 2 or 3 years; with the 3rd being pretty lean eating. But we have a lot of seeds saved back and as long as we have enough to get us from planting to harvest we could stretch our 2nd and 3rd year menu.
Great article, Randy. No empty nest here, either. I try very hard to use our stores regularly. I found out the hard way that I needed to store in smaller quantities, as it if often just DH and I eating together. Kids are hit or miss, but I can always make extra if need be. I find storing (freezing, vacuum sealing) in 1-2 person portions leaves less waste, and if a kid or two shows up, I can always grab another portion. I also do this keeping in mind that when SHTF, I can judiciously give someone a portion of beans and rice and send them on their way, if need be. Gardening and canning are a new addition for us this year as a way for us to increase our stores as well. Working on getting chickens now that I know they are allowed, but that may not actually happen until next spring (I have to do a lot of research before I make the committment, including talking with some locals about what breeds do best in our climate). Yes, it is an evolving process…
Oh, and about those expiration dates? They don’t bother me too much, but I do periodically ‘wean out’ close to dated items and donate them to the local food pantry. It gives me a better idea of what we are actually eating vs. what we have on hand, so I can adjust our purchases.
That was a great purchase on the chili. Since it has meat in the sauce, I just to let you know if it goes passed two years after the best by date the chili starts to have a funny old meat flavor. I used mine up until the flavor changed. It could have been because we did not have a climate controlled area to keep it stored.
There are only two of us, and the others far away. Yet I still love to shop during case sales, and prepare for them, holidays, back to school.
Just a reminder to those of you who are dealing with the Never-Really-Empty-Nest, remember that teenage/college boys eat a lot! I calculate my son as 2 people, because he and a couple friends can eat 2 weeks’ worth of groceries in less than 24 hours.
@ SingleMom, Yup, they can sure eat; must have empty legs or something.