If you're like me, then there is no way in the world that you could do this. It's simply a matter of space. It would be great to live in a big house with tons of extra room just waiting to be filled, but for most of us, it just ain't so. Like water, how much is enough?
One of the first steps to being emergency prepared is to decide how long you need to be able to sustain yourself and your family without outside help. If you are simply trying to ride out a medium sized earthquake or tornado, then two or three days might be enough. On the other hand, if it's a turn-of-the-millennium thing, then three years might not be enough. Who knows?! An earthquake is a localized event that has happened before. We know what to expect. Something like Y2K, or a world war is anybody's guess. The range of opinions is a varied as people you talk to.
I personally have decided to stock (if I can) for three months. That's a lot of food, and luckily, I have a garage that can handle some of it. Why three months? As I see it, if things haven't started to return to civilized by three months, then food is only a side issue. Society will have changed so dramatically, that I need to rethink how I live at a new level. Maybe it's hunting, maybe farming, maybe something else entirely. The point is, if it hasn't gotten better in three months, it might not get better for a very long time. Years maybe.
StockingAssuming that you have decided how long an emergency to prepare for, below are some things that you might want to consider when making your "stash." See the section entitled, "The Checklists" for a more complete and to-the-point listing of goods.
- Stock things that you like. There's no point in putting away fifty pounds of pinto beans, if you can't stomach the things.
- If you store food in it's original packaging, think about what you are going to put it in after you open it. Waste is not acceptable. Have plenty of zip-lock bags handy to keep things airtight. NOTE: Mice and other rodents will eat right though a plastic baggie. Racoons will even eat through Tupperware. If you plan on leaving your food where animals can get at it, then think METAL. A good steel or aluminum box is about all that will keep the beasties out.
- Put foods that attract insects, like sugar, in airtight containers right away. It will not only keep out the bugs, but it will also help to keep it from crystallizing as it attracts water.
- Garlic is a great seasoning, but it has a tendency to come through your skin fairly pungently. Remember that you may not be able to bathe as frequently as before. For the sake of the rest of your family, consider other seasonings. If you simply must have your garlic, then try garlic powder. It stores a lot better than cloves over a long period of time.
- If you know a potential emergency is coming (such as a tornado), freeze water in plastic jugs. It will help fill up some of the empty space in your freezer and keep food cool longer if the power should go out. When they thaw, you can then use the water for drinking, etc...
- It is said that you can get free 2 1/2 gallon food grade plastic buckets from the pastry section of large chain stores (they get icing in the buckets). I have yet to verify this, but considering that I live in the land of a thousand lawers (per square mile), I would think the large chains would be worried some fool would sue them for something.
Personal Update 1/6/99
I went and asked my local chain store bakery about those buckets. They said that they do give them out, but that they were already giving them to someone. "Interesting..." I said, a little miffed. "Yeah," she continued. "Apparently, people use them for food storage or something." I just smiled and gave her my name and number so she could call me when they had some in. I guess if you want these freebee's, then you had better hurry out and get some before the stores get frustrated and start applying [gulp] regulations.
Personal Update 1/11/99
Well, the bakery made good on their promise. I picked up about nine buckets in various sizes today, and spent about two and a half hours cleaning them. All in all, I don't think I ever want anything with frosting on it again. Before I could even get to the actual soap and water stuff, I removed about ten pounds (seriously) of sticky, crusty, colored sugar-paste. I figured that the rest of the job would be a snap... A little hot water and the remaining frosting should melt right off, right? Wrong. This is industrial-strength pastry decadence. It has an oil base. It takes soap, and lots of elbow grease before you have anything close to a clean container. My hands are thrashed from hot water and scrubbing, my back isn't much better, I get sick to my stomach when someone says the word "cake," but I am now the proud owner of nine food storage buckets.
- Consider packing multivitamins if your emergency plan calls for more than a week. A vitamin can help make up for lack of a completely balanced meal.
- Don't forget to include some treats. Hard candies last a long time, and store easily. For that chocolate fix, consider hot cocoa (the just-add-water kind, not the milk). Candy bars can become a sticky mess if they melt. A sweet treat at the end of a hard day can make a big difference in morale.
- It is said that if you freeze things like flour for 24-48 hours, it kills any bugs and eggs that might be living in your stash. It was recommended that you use this proceedure prior to packing away any kind of long-term bulk food. Now, I have no way of knowing if this information is true, but I can't see it hurting something like flour. Straight wheat on the other hand, seems like it might be more suseptable to the cold. I'll let you know how it goes with my flour...
CookingThis is an area that has given me a lot of difficulty. For one, I have absolutely no experience cooking food during an emergency. Who knows the kinds of problems that could occur. Things like:
- What do you do with trash? Should you try to reuse it, maybe as fuel for a fire?
- How can you clean pots and pans with minimal water?
If you have ever been on a backpacking trip, then you know some of the problems involved, but here are a few tips that I've gleaned that might help you out.
- You might want to consider the purchase of a portable propane stove like the ones that you can get for camping. (Most have two burners.) A $4 adapter lets you connect to one of those 5 gallon tanks that you can get at most home improvement stores and fill yourself. (They sell them for gas grills.) The stoves cost around $60, which is steep if you're on a tight budget, but the alternative is camp fires or your charcoal grill. Gas grills work too, but are usually not as efficient as the stoves. The nice thing about propane, as opposed to charcoal or wood, is that it is cheap. It's about $1.50 around where I live.
- If you have clean sand around, it makes a pretty good scouring pad to help you clean up, and usually doesn't require any water. For the squeamish, a quick rinse after (with hot water if you can) washes out the dust.
RecipiesI wasn't sure that I wanted to include this section until I started thinking about longer-term planning and realized that I had no idea what I could make for dinner with only my propane stove and non-perishable goods. I mean, 60 pounds of flour is great, but it's not like I take a scoop of the stuff over my Cheerios in the morning... I use it to bake cookies! Unless I want to sentence myself and my family to eating canned goods for three months ("Refried beans again!!"), I had better come up with some edible solutions. Well, here they are.
After having been sickened by recipies for Bulgur Meatloaf and Wheat Cereal (Yes, you heard that right. That's crushed whole wheat and water, folks. Can you say, "pass the sugar..."), I started looking for more realistic recipies. Things that I might be able to swallow and not say, "Well, it beats starving..."
I'm hesitant to post anything that I haven't actually tried, but there's no way I'm going to be able to get my family to put up with me testing countless "Y2K" dishes while there is "real" food available for the taking. I mean, I'll plop down my latest experiment in "low-heat" cooking and my wife will say, "Bon appetite. I'm going out for Carne Asada..." Below are recipes that I have pulled from various sources, and be warned, probably haven't tried myself yet. One site that I need to mention (because I am probably going to steal half his recipes...) is TrailWalkers Homestorage Recipes. (Note: I'm sorry to say that the URL I had for his site is now defunct. Our loss.) This guy is a trucker. If anybody knows about eating "out", it's him. Most of the recipes have been picked because they work as well camping as they do in the kitchen, which makes them perfect for emergency preparedness. Check out the site, and bring a fork!