There are a few basic rules to keep in mind when it comes to food storage. Today we will focus on this one:
1. Store what you actually eat
If you stock foods your family detests, they won't want to eat it, even in an emergency situation. A case of canned creamed spinach might not be the best investment. Try to have variety in your stored foods so you can make complete meals that your family will consider edible.
Meats, such as tuna, shredded beef and pork, chunked chicken, etc. are easy to find. Oh, did you know that you can get Costco's wonderful food, even if you live far from a warehouse? Just search Kirkland Signature at Amazon! I highly recommend their tuna. It tastes SO much better than run-of-the-mill brands. Peanut butter, almond butter and other nuts provide both protein and fats, though the shelf life is variable. Eggs are a wonderful protein, but are tricky to preserve. (Time to get chickens!)
Meals in a can are especially helpful. Think along the lines of beef stews, soups, chili with meat, etc. Nothing is easier than opening a can, warming it and eating. Plan to keep some crackers of various kinds on hand to complement this type of meal. Shelf life varies, but even stale crackers can be welcome when times are hard.
Canned fruit and veggies, and boxed side dishes like rice-a-roni and mac & cheese can round out a meal nutritionally and can bring a familiar and welcome comfort element. Nutritionally they are not the best choice. Homemade side dishes and fresh fruits and veggies are much better, but not always practical. Try to have many options available in both types of storage.
Freeze dried foods have a long shelf life and can also be used to add variety. I have tried Thrive dried fruit and they are tasty indeed. If you are interested in learning more, click here and message the consultant I use. She knows her freeze dried food!
Plan on including lots of shelf stable carbs to your storage. Rice, beans and pasta are great bases for meals, are inexpensive and store well. They are much cheaper than boxed side dishes, which should be used rather sparingly due to cost and less than ideal ingredients. Oatmeal, cream of wheat, and grits make good breakfasts and even treats.
Don't forget about "morale" foods! Being in an emergency situation, long term power outage, or sustained time of unemployment is a hardship. A little bit of morale boosting tucked away on your shelves can do a world of good. After Halloween, Christmas, Easter and other holidays, candy often goes on clearance. That's a great time to stock up on some treats. If you have a Foodsaver or other bag sealing device, put it to use! Chocolate, lollipops, hard candy, even marshmallows can be preserved. Trailmix, nuts, dried fruits and veggies can all be stored with your Foodsaver.
Also, have a supply of salt, pepper, and the spices you often use when cooking. I get my spices from Azure Standard. They are so fresh and fragrant (and inexpensive, too!) Sugar, yeast, flour, oils, ketchup, mustard and other staples also need their place in your pantry.
Of course we've already discussed water storage, but think, too, of storing drink powders. Flavored mixes can also include electrolytes which can be essential. Some folks also store dried milk, but we find it unpalatable. I would do without it, even for long-term storage purposes. Hot cocoa, apple cider and other drink mixes help bring variety in liquid form, too.
Don't forget your garden as a "pantry". Gardening skills will make a very big difference in a bad situation. Also, pair gardening skills with canning skills and equipment and you are golden! You can preserve your harvest and may even have extra to share with others.
Much of my pantry is made up of items I canned myself. We will discuss canning in other posts, but for now, watch garage sales and thrift stores for canning jars. Consider asking for them on Craig's List, Freecycle, local buy and sell pages and in your circle of friends. Lots of folks have them and will never use them. Collect all you can, as a canner's motto is "One can never have too many jars." Watch also for canning pots, lids, tools and even pressure canners. These will be important to adding to your pantry the fruits of the earth. So much food goes to waste in our nation. Be someone who helps prevent that!
Next time, we will discuss ideas for storing your food supply.