R. Ann Parris on Food Storage Strategies


Food Storage Strategies by R. Ann Parris

The early days of building a food supply are pretty easy. We can go for survival basics, buying bulk rice and beans or accruing them slowly. We can plunk down a chunk of change for a combo kit somebody already assembled in one of many forms. Or, we increase our supermarket shopping, bulking up our everyday pantry so it covers more time.

Once we have that initial stockpile, we expand.

Regularly, we’ll abandon having balanced, consumable proportions in some areas, and stockpile some things a little or a lot deeper. What we choose to beef up bears some scrutiny to be sure we’re making the best choices — and the best choices specifically for us.

We might choose to bulk up the basics.

Staple grains/carbs (to include pasta and potatoes) are incredibly calorie dense, and inexpensive to buy but somewhat challenging to produce in large quantity. Dry or canned, legumes are the same.

They’re great when we move into sustainability, but unless we have space and time/abilities and truly little or no disposable income, we’ll never produce them for what we can buy them at markets.

Comparatively, we can produce and forage vegetables and even fruits nearly anywhere, copiously, under supermarket costs, and we can produce them in small, broken-up lots, plots, and pots.

We might choose to over-balance other groups we can’t produce.

That includes things like cooking oils, fats, salts, alcohol/vinegar, and sugars.

Most of those are like grains and legumes: It’s challenging to beat Big Ag’s prices (at least, right now) versus our time and labor.

They also share the facets of being compact in their finished form, versus bulky in “raw” states, and they mostly also require a fair amount of space to produce enough to have significant impacts on our diets. Like grains, there’s usually post-harvest processing labors.

There’s also sometimes specialized equipment to get the best and most reliable results, or we’d have to be in the right location to produce them.

It’s easier and more of a sure bet for many to stockpile enough to sustain them for a longer duration than their balanced food storage covers, especially the ones necessary for food preservation.

Animal-based proteins are actually more feasible for many to produce or procure in-situ … but it’s not a sure thing.

Like grains, legumes, and oils, it’s tough to compete with commercial meat, fish and egg production on the cost-price and labor-time balances. There are also qualifications and anytime we’re dealing with living things it’s far from a sure bet.

Even so, as with veggies, we have more opportunities to reasonably source animal proteins than staple grains and legumes. (Mostly because some of them can subsist solely off those compact grains without undue waste processing.)

That can bump meats lower in priority for some preppers, especially preppers who already have a stockpile of fats and proteins and are planning for meat, eggs, and fish to be more of the “luxury” they were in past history.

Dairy is the same.

By location, space available, time, and willingness/desire, it’s more than possible to economically raise any of the many dairy species.

On the other hand, many dairy products, too, are relatively inexpensive. We may have to substitute some, it may not be the same, but it’s very possible to source in compact, relatively inexpensive, shelf-stable formats.

“Exotic” foods may also be stocked deeper than the rest.

They, too, are things we can’t produce. For many, it’s a specific climate or location. For others, it’s due to the input of time or resources production requires, or a skill that’s lacking and low priority to acquire.

They can be absolutely anything at all. Brassicas and other plants that require a two-year cycle to collect seed for replanting apply, as do foods we’re too hot or too cold to produce or have the wrong soil types for, everything from good ol’ tomatoes and Irish potatoes to carrots and lingonberry. Tropical produce such as bananas, coffee, citrus, non-local nuts, chocolate, and tea are particularly applicable for many.

Some choose to not overbalance any food areas.

Maintaining storage at ideal consumption ratios has particular merit for preppers who…
– are extremely limited in space and time;
– have few production capabilities due to climate/weather restrictions (desert or cold, many dark months and unreliable sustainable power, expectation of volcano or asteroid or nuclear disasters);
– live in densely populated areas; or
– have limited water availability or a high chance of water contamination

Still others choose to cover minimums, then go back and improve nutrition, quality, and satisfaction aspects of their storage.

Whether they started with bare-bones rice and beans and vegetable oil, MREs, just-add-water entrees, or “normal” pantry foods — store bought or home produced — they cover a timeframe that makes them happy with minimal levels, then they come back and plump servings or quality, add a bit more “normal” to ease the transition in a disaster, add some indulgences, etc.

They expand maintaining that new level or repeat the initial steps of basics and improvements for each duration goal as they reach their milestones.

There’s no one right answer — and routinely, the “right now” answer changes.

Our experiences, expectations, and capabilities evolve as we go. Therefore, what fits us best will be different from other preppers, and what fits us best today may not still be a best-fit in a year, five years, or a few decades.

Being aware of varying schools of thought helps us pick areas to research and find solutions that give us those best fits at each stage. The strategies involved in food storage are no different.