Storage of food and affiliated supplies could be a real hassle. It could also be expensive. However, if your plan satisfies some basic requirements it will be both serviceable to your family and economical. Possibly it will enhance your daily health…at least if you eat like me.
My requirements for a food storage plan are listed below. The fresh, steaming bread in the picture below was made in a charcoal-heated Dutch oven on my back patio.
Requirement 1: Everything in this menu plan shall be eatable and enjoyable without refrigeration.
Requirement 2: Total cycle time shall be one year or less (that is, many foods should be rotated out every year).
Requirement 3: All of the foods stored shall be eaten before spoiling once cycled from storage.
Desirement 1: Food should be fun to cook, so that using your storage is practiced.
The total cycle time is derived from the nominal shelf life of typical products. Imagine that you want to store one year of flour for emergency use. You assume 3 pounds of flour per day (I’m making up the numbers) and end up with about one thousand pounds of flour in the storage facility. Day to day your family eats about 5 pounds of flour per week, since you are a recreational baker. If you stopped storing, and just started using, it would take you about 4 years to eat it all. Of course, you’d throw out a bunch, since the shelf life is only 1 year…
For these kinds of foods to work there must be a “dilution factor” built into the plan. There are two ways this dilution can be realized: store for a shorter emergency, or store longer-lived products.
My plan, at least at present, is for shorter emergencies. For one thing, I’m almost guaranteed to use what I store, since it is part of daily life and won’t require extremely long storage lives. Secondly, a short emergency is more likely to occur than a long emergency.
There is a hybrid approach too, where you find select items that aren’t part of your regular diet but could be substituted in a pinch, that have long shelf lives, and that are cheap, for example, whole-grain wheat (and a grinder). These foods have a long shelf life, and are fairly inexpensive. If an emergency never materializes you throw most of it away just before the kids come to drag you to the nursing home. If an emergency does occur, you may be willing to break out the grinder and render that stuff into flour to eat.
In fact, I think of stored foods in three tiers:
- Foods you eat every day, where storage just means there is more in the queue. Vegetable oil, flour, salt, and the like.
- Food substitutes for food you eat every day, but which are fairly expensive. Tomato powder to make spaghetti and dried eggs come to mind.
- Food you never eat but that you would in a pinch, such as whole wheat when you normally buy white flour at the store.
During an emergency it is easier to cook a relatively complex and big lunch than it is to cook breakfast and dinner. Midday offers the most light, so solar ovens work best, and you may benefit most from a fire in the morning.
Most leftovers are impractical, because there is no refrigeration. Breads could be leftover, but soups and stews probably could not. Cooking enough bread, for example, to have some left is quite difficult while also meeting caloric needs for a day (as I intend to discuss in a future post). What this means is that every day, multiple times a day, you’re cooking everything from scratch—toil. The only mitigation I can imagine is to eat a huge breakfast and a huge late lunch. Maybe food can be safely left out for a few hours, so that if lunch is big enough it can also be dinner. In which case “boring” has consumed “toil”. Presumably an emergency has enough other excitement anyway.