This is the second of our four-part series on emergency preparedness. As mentioned in the last article, the body can go only three days without water and approximately three weeks without food. However, in an emergency situation, where energy reserves are critical for survival, you will need a solid plan in place for getting nutrients into your body.
Also, in our last article, when discussing the priority of the critical needs, water and food come before shelter unless exposure will compromise your safety. The cold polar vortex that paralyzed Texas last February resulted in nearly 150 deaths, so in these situations, shelter takes precedence.
To review, the four critical basic needs are:
Food preparedness has long been preached as a key in self-reliance. However, there are some strategies that may feel like you’re prepared when you really aren’t. The idea that you’re prepared with 5-gallon buckets of wheat, flour, and sugar worked well in the homesteading era, but in today’s world, unless you have learned those skills, that type of food storage takes up space, adds very little value, and will probably be inedible when you finally need it.
The following two strategies for food storage will get you on track with a system that actually works.
The best way to begin working on your food supply is to designate a specific amount of your grocery budget to purchase additional items that you already use. We’re talking about shelf-stable foods like tuna fish, rice, canola oil, wheat crackers, cans of vegetables, spaghetti, and spaghetti sauce, pancake mix, honey, oats, etc.
Choose one or two items each time you go grocery shopping and purchase extra in these items. Put the new items in the back of the storage and use the oldest items in your daily meals. Use and replace with more is the mantra until you get a solid system going. There are multiple sites online that can help you compile a full list. You may even want to create or search online for a spreadsheet that can help you manage this.
This option is perfect when you can grow your supply over time, and you want to build out beyond a 10-day emergency. This is helpful even in non-emergency, but still difficult times, such as a loss of income.
If you don’t have a 10-day supply of food and want to get something in place immediately, freeze-dried or dehydrated foods are your easiest option and have a long shelf-life.
Freeze-dried meals are more expensive but also retain a very high level of taste and nutrition. There are also amazing freeze-dryers available that can freeze dry entire meals. These units are expensive upfront but save about two-thirds the cost of purchasing freeze-dried meals. The days of your mom drying apricots and banana chips are over if you go this route.
Dehydrated meals are less expensive, but you may want to try several brands to see which options are the most palatable for you and your family. Food storage is useless if you won’t eat it until absolutely necessary so experiment with different brands and different meals to find your favorites. Dehydrator units are available and much less expensive if you do miss mom’s banana chips and dried apricots (in all seriousness, jerky is a great source of protein and makes the perfect snack).
While these options do have extended shelf lives you should still rotate these into your normal meal routines. Most say they are good for 25 years but if it’s going into my body, in maybe one of the most stressful times we might face, it makes sense to keep it fresh.