How to have a year’s worth of food stored, what to store and why you should do it
Billy and I have dedicated an entire room in our small home to storing food and equipment that is used to grow/process food. We rarely go to the grocery store, and if grocery stores were to become obsolete, we’d do just fine. We grow most of our food, preserve it by dehydrating/canning. This is, of course, time consuming. It is much easier to buy a pound of cheese compared to milking the cow (and of course cleaning up after her), storing the milk and then making cheese. It is also easier to buy a bag of flour compared to preparing soil, tending the plants, harvesting, threshing, winnowing and grinding grains. Given the current world situation, we strongly urge people that we care about to have at least a year’s supply of grains, beans and oil. Other foods such as salad greens, veggies and fruits can usually be collected or grown, but having a basic supply of carbs, protein and fat makes sense given that our present food delivery system is like a house of cards. All it would take for the food to not be at the grocery stores or restaurants is for there to be a shortage of fuel, economic collapse, electro-magnetic pulse causing wide spread electronic failure, civil unrest or many other possibilities. If you need to be convinced about why it is a good idea to have a substantial storage of food, here is a “Crash Course” that we saw part of the other day that gives a lot of data substantiating the concept that our current system of living might be in its final days or months: http://www.chrismartenson.com/
If you are thinking about having a stock of food, here are some of the questions you might have:
- How much food should I have to have a year’s supply/person?
- What kinds of food should I store?
- How long will various kinds of food keep?
- What should I store my food in?
- How much space will I need?
- How much will it cost?
- Where can I buy food in bulk?
- What can I do to extend the shelf life of my food store
Below are some answers to these questions:
How much food is needed for a year’s supply for a person?
In order to be healthy, a person needs calories (carbs), protein and fat. Fortunately an ideal protein is obtained with a combination of grains and legumes (rice and beans), which are affordable and easy to store. Almost all grains and beans have about 1200-1600 calories/pound, meaning that with the addition of some oil, just a pound of grains or beans is enough food to maintain the weight of a relatively sedentary person. So rounding it off, about 400 lbs of grains/beans and about 3 gallons of oil person could be a good amount of food to have stored.
What kinds of food should I store?
Ideally you should store what you already eat, but if your lifestyle causes you to eat a lot of processed food that might be hard to store, or if you are unable to afford to have a year’s worth of such food, you can get your 400 (dry) lbs. as simply as having six 50lb. bags of flour or rice, two 50lb bags of beans and a three gallon jug of oil. If you regularly cook from scratch, you can easily just buy the staples that you usually eat and rotate them, and replace what you eat regularly. If you are planning on your food store for emergency, then you need to be aware of the various shelf lives of your choices.
How long will various kinds of food keep?
There are so many resources on the internet giving the shelf lives for various foods, but I’ll just give some of my experience of having had a food store for about 5 years.
- Whole wheat flour only stores for about six months
- White flour seems to store almost indefinitely
- White rice stores much longer than brown rice (sorry health nuts)
- Almost all whole grains and beans store for a really long time (years and years) if they are protected from high humidity
- Oil keeps for about a year, although coconut oil has been said to have a very long shelf life
- Honey keeps for ever
- Clarified butter keeps for a really long time
What should I store my food stock in?
If you want to store food for a long time, it needs to be protected from heat, humidity, insects and rodents. This can be achieved by storing it in strong airtight containers. Most bakeries have food grade 5 gallon buckets with strong sealing lids that they will give away or sell for a minimal price. You just have to remember to ask when you are there. A five gallon bucket holds about 40 lbs of dry food, so you need about 10 of these per person. We store much of our food in 30 gallon galvanized garbage cans and have most of the grain/beans sealed inside gallon ziplock bags. A 30 gallon can holds about 240 lbs of dry food, so you only need two per person to get your year’s stock.
How much space will I need?
If you are using 5 gallon buckets, and have 10 per person as well as the jug of oil, you only need about 5 sq. feet/person of floor space–your buckets can be stacked at least 3 high without even using shelving. Of course if you are rotating your stock, you’ll need additional space so that you can easily access the various items that you use, and then, of course shelves are handy.
How much will it cost?
I was in Costco the other day and a 50lb bag of white flour was about $16. A 50lb bag of pinto beans was about $25. So even at today’s prices, you could actually get a basic year’s supply of calories/protein/fat for under $150/person. You could think of it as an insurance policy, one that is quite easy to justify. It only requires the effort to purchase the items and find somewhere to put them.
Where can I buy food in bulk?
Costco has bulk food as do various restaurant supply stores such as Cash and Carry.
What can I do to extend the shelf life of my food store
One easy way to extend the storage of food is to add an oxygen remover (just google them–they are affordable and available from many sources) to a sealed container of food. Here is a video of how one person does this: