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Food Storage Basics

Here’s where we get down to what I call the nuts-n-bolts of creating a food storage plan. This is the method that I used to determine what foods I needed to store in my pantry. You may use my ideas as a starting point… but most likely you will need to edit the food choices to meet your personal needs.

For starters:

On a sheet of paper, list your family’s favorite foods. Think about breakfast, lunch and dinner. Try to put down as many meals that the entire family likes as a collective, and then branch out to meals that maybe most members like (taking into consideration that you may have a “fussy eater” in the household). Leave a little space between each item and list at least 2 or 3 breakfast meals, 4-5 lunch meals and 4-5 dinner meals. Using the space you have left between the listings, write down all of the ingredients needed to prepare that meal.

You will discover that most of the meals that you make contain a mixture of fresh, pre-packaged foods, refrigerated/frozen food and canned food. The goal is to strike a new balance so that you have enough items that are non-perishable and requiring no refrigeration to reduce your dependence on those types of food.

Notice that I didn’t say that you need to stop using fresh, refrigerated and frozen foods. The goal is to create an EMERGENCY food pantry that coincidentally contains foods that you currently eat so that you can rotate as much of the food as possible for maximum freshness.

I do not feel that it is necessary to give up all of the luxuries of our current lives while they are readily available and affordable. My goal is to have the peace of mind that comes with knowing that I will be able to feed my family if some type of disaster strikes.

So, with that said, take a look at your food list and the ingredients it takes to produce those meals. Are there any meals on your list that you can easily store all of the ingredients for without having fresh fruit or produce, refrigerated or frozen items, fresh meat, etc? If so, these are great items to start with as you prepare your food storage plan. Add them to your list of foods that you’ll be buying.

If you found that most of the ingredients are storable, but some aren’t, try to think of substitute ingredients that can be stored that might work well in a pinch. For example, if your family really loves chicken salad with celery, sliced tomatoes on a bed of salad greens—maybe you can substitute canned chicken (or the chicken in a pouch) for fresh chicken, celery seed or celery salt to add the flavor of celery, canned tomatoes or a nice bowl of tomato soup, and whole wheat crackers. In the spring and early summer, you’ll still have that bed of lettuce if you grow a garden, not to mention a nice beefsteak tomato sliced up on the side.

Your family likes spaghetti with meat sauce? Spaghetti stores very well and there are a variety of sauces in a jar or can that taste pretty good. Try some chicken spaghetti, using canned chicken.

Breakfast foods like pancake mixes are easier than ever to store. Opt for the mixes which only require water. They may cost more than the other mixes, but eggs and milk may not be available if there is no power to keep them cool (although powdered milk is an option as long as it is consumed on the day it is mixed, otherwise it will need refrigeration).

Even powdered eggs are available for purchase, but this is one of those items that most likely you will not find in your neighborhood grocery store. In most cases you will need to order them from a specialty store.

Once you are able to get this basic plan on paper, you can easily begin to add these food items to your food storage pantry. Don’t worry that you don’t have enough variety at this point. Most people eat the same handful of menu items over and over again in their regular life, so why would you suddenly decide to change your cooking habits in the event of a disaster? Sticking to foods that you (and your family) are accustomed to eating will not only make your life easier, but it will also retain a sense of normalcy that your family may desperately need.

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