Thoughts on being prepared

With all the crazy stuff going on these days, the price of food skyrocketing, and so many people losing their sources of income, all those “crazy preppers” out there are looking pretty vindicated!

There was a time, not all that long ago, when everyone was encouraged to be prepared for emergencies – usually around the time when whichever city we were living in at the time was faced with flooding or wildfires or some other natural disaster. I don’t know when reasonable prudence started being viewed as “crazy prepper” (and no, I’m not talking about the super paranoid doomsday types that have always been around). You know things have really gone bizarre when people on canning groups on Facebook start getting pop ups advising to report people who looked like they are becoming too prepared. !!

Going into our fifth year living here on my childhood farm, a lot of things now being recommended as preparedness was basically how I grew up, and not much different from how we live now. I mean, we’re already doing bulk shopping once or twice a month, with modest local shopping in between, so stocking up for at least a month is our normal. Stocking up for 2 or 3 months over the winter is also a necessary part of living here. We are nowhere near where we want to be, yet, but that’s where all the gardening and other plans are fitting in!

While the needs of living here hasn’t changed much since I was a kid, the resources and technology available sure has! I’m just loving the various groups I’m on for leading me to some excellent sites. Recently, someone shared a link to this Food Storage Calculator. It’s a really awesome tool for figuring out how much shelf stable foods you would need, for various lengths of time. This is for the absolute, minimum essentials recommended. I found this bit at the beginning interesting;

The below calculator is based on estimates from organizations like the CDC and recommendations from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Home Production and Storage manual. 

Years ago, in an early email support group for homeschoolers, the topic of emergency preparedness had come up. One of the members had been a Mormon, and said that they were encouraged to have at least a year’s worth of food stored up. Though she had left the church, that was a habit she kept up. It came in very handy when her husband suddenly lost his job and was unable to find a new one for months. The one thing they did not have to worry about was how to feed themselves and their kids, and she talked about what a boost to morale it was to be able to whip up a pan of brownies, while in the middle of such hard times. Her story really stuck with me. Seeing that the Latter-Day Saints manual was used for this was a huge plus, to me.

In the end, though, it’s still just a guide. Something to use as a starting off point, when planning one’s own supplies. (Also, it’s a fantastic site, and I encourage checking out the many useful and informative posts in there!)

So I figured it would be a good idea to go through the calculator results for ourselves, and talk about how I would modify it to our own particular circumstances and why. Hopefully, this will give you an idea on how you might modify your own results to your own situation.

Let’s start with the demographics. We are a household with 4 adults, and no very young children. I chose 3 months as the time frame, as we could potentially be stuck here for that long, if we had a particularly bad winter. Here is what the calculator came up with, and how I might modify the results.

The first section is for grains: a total of 390 pounds.

For us, 200 pounds of wheat just isn’t going to happen! While it might be worthwhile to have some wheat berries to cook as a cereal, this is an amount intended for grinding into flour. We don’t have a flour mill. We do intend to get one, but for now, it would be a waste for us to have that much wheat. It’s the same with 30 pounds of oats. At the same time, 30 pounds of flour is laughably low, since we do quite a bit of baking. A lot of that wheat weight would get transferred to flour. I might get 15 pounds of rolled oats, then otherwise transfer the weights to rice and pasta. Both of which come in quite a few varieties, so there’s no need to be bored with just white rice and spaghetti. For our uses, I’d probably either stay the same with corn meal, or even reduce it.

That, of course, would change once we do get a mill. As losing power is something that is likely to happen, I would go with a hand crank mill, and since we are working towards growing flour corn, it has to be something strong enough to handle such a hard grain. Also, manual mills would be quieter than electric ones.

The next section is canned or dried meats.

Twenty pounds for three months? That seems so very low! Especially for 4 adults.

As we do have a chest freezer and I’m finding local sources for meat, we’re moving towards buying in bulk until we are able to start raising meat animals ourselves, so this is a flexible area for us. For now, we actually should be buying more canned meats for those “just in case” times, and we do need to take into account that if the electricity goes out for too long, we risk losing whatever is in our freezer. Hence the need for shelf stable supplies. Canning meat ourselves is something we are working towards.

So for our needs, I would increase this amount substantially, but not until we are at a point where we are canning our own meat.

Twenty five pound of fats and oils. Hmmm. Interesting that it lists more fats and oils than canned or dried meats!

The two gallons of vegetable oil would, for us, become a gallon of vegetable oil, another of olive oil, and probably a mix of other oils in smaller quantities. For a 3 month period, I would probably add in another gallon of vegetable oil. We don’t buy salad dressing. It’s an easy thing to make an oil and vinegar dressing. We do buy mayonnaise, but it is also easy to make, and can be a base for dressings, too. That’s where the “extra” oil would be used. Oil and fat can also be used for emergency fuel and lighting, so more would never go to waste.

We don’t buy shortening. Or margarine, for that matter. Just butter. We buy 8-10 pounds of butter for 1 month. More if we plan to do a lot of extra baking, like before certain holidays. For our usage, a 3 month supply would mean 24-30 pounds of butter. Not realistic! Butter is not shelf stable, so it would probably be a good idea to have a few pounds of shortening. If we were unable to get out, we could probably get away with using oil in place of where we might normally use butter, so we could play with the quantities and ratios a bit. The quantity of peanut butter could stay the same.

Beans and legumes: 70 pounds total.

That’s probably more than we would need, for how much we eat them. Soy beans and lima beans would be dropped completely. We don’t eat them. Also, I’d probably make my own dried soup mixes. It’s something I’ve done before, in quart jars, including things like dehydrated vegetables, mushrooms and bouillon cubes. They worked our very well, though I would do them in smaller jars in the future. Also, no black beans. They turn the end result a very unappetizing grey! 😀

One of the things I have been picking up at Costco is cases of baked beans. The prices of those has pretty much doubled recently. It would be cheaper to buy dry beans and cook them ourselves. Among our gardening plans is to grow beans for drying as well as fresh eating. Along with just keeping dry beans, I hope to can plain beans, as well as making baked beans for canning, too. I would add chickpeas to this list, canned or dried. There are chickpea varieties that grow in our zone, so that’s something else we could someday, potentially, supply ourselves.

Milk and Dairy: 87 pounds

Shelf stable dairy products are a huge gap in our pantry. We should at least have some powdered milk. I don’t even know what to do with evaporated milk. And what does “other dairy” mean, in the context of shelf stable products? We don’t drink a lot of milk; it’s mostly used in cooking. What we do use a lot of is dairy products, such as cheese, sour cream, yogurt, more cheese, whipping cream… and more cheese. None of which is shelf stable. Well. I guess the cheese is, if stored properly. And we do love our cheese!

Sugars: 60 pounds.

I did not expect to see jams, powdered juice mixes or Jello in the sugars list.

White sugar and brown sugar are things we use quite a lot, since we do so much of our own baking. For honey, the 1kg (2.2 pounds) container we last bought from my bee-keeping cousin disappeared fast, so if we were to stock up on honey, we’d be getting more than what’s listed. Probably a 5kg (11 pounds) bucket, which is the largest my cousin sells. We’d probably get more molasses, too, though we don’t really use it all that much. Corn syrup would be off the list. We don’t use it. That amount of jam is probably more than we would need. I don’t know that we would include the Jello at all.

I wouldn’t not have thought of powdered juice mixes. Now that I think about it, though, it would be a good idea to have a supply of drink mixes, as their own category; juices, iced tea, lemonade, hot chocolate, coffee and tea would all be good things to have in the pantry. Plain water gets tiresome, fast!

Cooking essentials! Gotta have these.

For the amount of baking we already do, I’d probably increase all of these. The vinegar would be used along with the fats and oils for those salad dressings we would be making ourselves. For salt, I’d want to have a variety, but if I had to choose just one type of salt, it would be course salt. We have salt grinders for seasoning meals, but I like to use course salt for a lot of things. If space allowed, I’d include a variety of vinegars, too. Salt, vinegar and baking soda can all double as cleaners, too, so extra of those would never go wrong.

Canned fruits and vegetables: 320 quarts, plus 90 pounds of dried.

This is another area where we tend to be too dependent on our freezer, and why we want to move towards canning our produce. We do have a root cellar, so that helps. Almost all the fruits and vegetables we eat are fresh, with a small amount of frozen. We pretty much never buy canned, but once we’re growing enough to make it worthwhile to can them ourselves, it would make a big difference in the winter months. Before we moved out here, I had a dehydrator and used it to dehydrate purchased frozen vegetables. It works really well; the vegetables are already blanched and most are cut to size, so they can be laid out on the trays while still frozen, with no extra work needed. They were great in our jar meals.

While I’ve bought dehydrated vegetable mixes once in a while (they always include peppers in them, which is irritating for me), we’ve never really bought dried fruit. Sometimes I’d get dates, with their pits still in them, for snacking, but they’re quite expensive. We hardly even bought fruit leathers for the girls when they were little. We don’t buy raisins. Dried fruit in particular is something I would forget about when it comes to emergency supplies, but they would be good to have on hand. Ninety pounds, however, would be way more than our family would use.

Water storage. This is our weak spot! We are already buying drinking water, so at least we do have the big water jugs. Storing 183 gallons, just for drinking, simply is not an option. This is a big part of why we want to get that old well repaired, so that we have access to water even if the power goes out. The bleach is something we don’t buy. We found a half empty bottle of bleach among the laundry supplies while cleaning up the old basement, and for the amount we use bleach, we’re still using that bottle we found! Still, it would be good to have bleach on hand. It’s something I would have forgotten about, so I appreciate it’s in the calculator.

That 183 gallons is the minimum water required for drinking. Much more would be needed for everything else. A safe supply of water is, typically, the biggest and most common hurdle in emergency situations for most people, I’m sure. At least for us, we have the possibility of getting the original well working again. Even here in the boonies, most people have wells that rely entirely on an electric pump.

Of course, in our situation, we would also have to add in wet and dry cat food. Since switching to the wood pellets for litter, we’ve been going through that a lot more slowly – and it’s a product that is actually a fuel, so it can do double duty. A single 40 pound bag goes a long way.

This calculator makes for a very interesting tool. I like that it’s just the shelf-stable essentials. There are so many lists out there that include everything but the kitchen sink – and then tell you what to use for a kitchen sink. Even just this list, for a 3 month period, can look overwhelming. However, it’s a place to start, to modify for our own circumstances, and the sort of thing that can be achieved, little by little, without taxing the budget too much.

It’s good to be prepared.

Even if Facebook thinks your a scary extremist for putting up a bit of extra food!

The Re-Farmer

4 thoughts on “Thoughts on being prepared

  1. I think the distinction between being prepared and being a “crazy prepper” is the “why.” As in, why are you stockpiling food? If you answer to be ready for tornados, blizzards, or pandemics, then you are just prepared and don’t feel like running to the store and engaging in hand-to-hand combat for toilet paper when the time comes. But if you honestly are preparing for the zombie apocalypse or the biblical end of days….. you are crazy.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. For your audience (since I’m pretty sure you already know this): The wheat vs flour thing is based on having the grinder. Wheat (and some other whole grains) keep longer intact than they do ground. Flour and sugar I think have a 4 to 6 month shelf life before quality goes down hill. Proper storage helps in both cases though.

    Meat… Personal taste, I’d agree that’s a low total. However, if you look at it from the long term storage aspect AND meat being the most expensive food staple, depending upon legumes, rice and such for the majority of your protein is a more practical way to go.

    The one problem I’ve always had with long term prep like this is you’re either replacing it twice a year, OR you’re living off what would be considered emergency rations and not something you’d eat as much (ie the 10 tons of beans).

    Liked by 1 person

    • With their calculator being based on the absolute minimum, essential requirements, yeah, it does make sense. That’s where being in a position to grow or raise your own food can make a big difference. We are blessed to be in a position that this is an achievable goal, even if it might take a few more years.

      As for the sugar… I remember when we first moved here and were cleaning out the kitchen. We found a bag of sugar that was hard as concrete! I don’t think it had even been opened. No idea how long it sat in that cupboard!

      One of the things I hear from “preppers” about the food that’s being stored is, you have to eat it. When getting new supplies, they get tucked behind, so that the older ones are in front and get eaten first.

      Which is where I appreciate the preppers that say, right from the start, if you don’t already eat it now, don’t store it! Those pre-made emergency packs you can get, that are supposed to last a year or more? They actually recommend, don’t get them. These packs tend to have meals that suck, and the other items tend to be very low quality. If you’re going to get things like freeze dried meal packs, better to pay extra and get the ones you actually like, from a company that doesn’t cut corners.

      That goes along with the first thing I think about when deciding what to grow in the garden. Is there anyone in the household that will eat it? No point in spending all the money, time and effort for something that we know nobody likes!

      Liked by 1 person

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