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How Much Is Enough?
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If You Want to Store Food and Other Necessities for Those Unforseen Emergencies, Then How Much Should You Store?

That is a question that is often asked when it comes to emergency food storage, but, to be honest, there are no pat answers.

Some people envision food storage as being a basement store room packed wall to wall and ceiling to ceiling with boxes, jars, tubs and barrels of foods of various types. For some families, that is exactly the case.  For others, that is far from their reality of food storage.

Government and industry experts recommend having at least a 72 hour supply of food and water on hand in order to cope with some sudden emergency.  A three week supply might be better. A year's supply could be worth considering.  Whatever you decide to do, base your efforts on your own wants, needs and capabilities.

Calculating Quantities
When it comes to supplies of food, there is plenty of advice to be had either online or in various publications.  The LDS Food Storage Calculator is an online tool allowing users to plug in family size and composition in order to generate a "shopping list" of various food staples that could make up a basic year's supply.  If you do not want to follow this exactly, you will at least have a guide to use as you attempt to meet your family's needs.

These guides, of course, can vary significantly in composition.  The chart to the left is, for example, an even more basic list of items, yet it is still entitled a "One Year Supply for One Adult". Also taken from an LDS publication, as can be seen, this particular chart is very, very basic indeed.

Mind you, it is likely intended as a start, with the expectation being that you would be adding to your food storage with various other necessities.  You may, for instance, want to include an assortment of spices, pastas, and other goodies.  If you do your own home canning there is another source of suitable foods for long term food storage. Canned goods from the store might also be considered.  Dry pack canning would be a way of extending the shelf life of many dry foods.

Should you prefer to avoid the do-it-yourself route to long term food storage there are certainly other options.  Commercially prepared dehydrated and freeze dried foods, for instance, are a wonderful source of already prepared meals that can either be consumed whenever you might wish a quickly prepared, hot and delicious meal; or left on the shelf for future use.  Shelf lives of freeze dried foods can be anywhere from 25 to 30 years, and to make life easier for you, most of these companies will provide you with exact details of how many servings are included in each of their buckets sold.  Using this information it is easy to calculate for how many and for how long each food bucket can be expected to last.

Customizing - Meeting Your Needs, Not Those of Someone Else
It is crucial to remember that you are establishing a home and food storage program that is designed to meet the needs of your family and not someone else's.  If, for instance, someone in the family is allergic to gluten, or if you don't plan on keeping some sort of wheat grinder at home, then the recommended 200 pounds, 400 pounds, or 600 pounds of wheat (depending upon which list you are using) that you plan on putting into storage will not be of much use to you.

Other considerations:

  • Is the thought of establishing a year's supply too overwhelming to you? Or is it simply too costly to do all at once?  Then work in increments.  Start with a week's supply or a month's supply.  You can enlarge on that later IF you feel there is a need to do so.
  • Don't store food you won't eat.  Even if you aren't allergic to it, if you and others in your family absolutely hate pinto beans, then why buy them? Find some sort of suitable substitute.
  • Do you absolutely love fresh fruits and vegetables, and aren't enthralled with the idea of depending solely upon canned goods? Then consider splurging a bit on freeze dried fruits and vegetables.  In the absence of fresh produce you'll find freeze dried to be the closest you can get in taste and texture.  They may cost a little more than the canned equivalent, but, in the long term, would the added nutritional levels along with the "treat value" be worth the added investment?
  • When it comes to food storage, don't depend too much on your freezer.  Frozen food can be wonderful, but if you find yourself without power for even a few days, what is going to happen to all of that frozen food?
  • Learn to use your storage foods.  If you have the wheat grinder and the wheat and plan on using that to bake bread, wouldn't it be wiser to know how to bake that bread before you had to depend on doing that baking?  Similarily, there are many recipes that are aimed specifically at the use of foods that typically appear in food storage programs.  Maybe you'll love some of them.  You'll never know unless you try a few (or even several).
  • Don't forget the herbs and spices, or the toilet paper, or the facial tissues, or flashlights and batteries, or medications, or bandages, or treats for the kids, or treats for yourself.  Popcorn stores well, but will plain popcorn do the job for you?  What seasonings might you need?  In other words, there are a great many things that could properly be included in your home and food storage.  Some might be considered necessities.  Some might be luxuries even when it comes to food.  Yet, some luxuries sometimes become necessities if you want to combat bland diets that keep you alive but don't give you much pleasure.  In addition, no matter how much you might like a particular food, the same old thing day after day can become more than monotonous.
  • Take the time for a week or two to analyze exactly what you and your family are using.  Create your own list.  Create your own set of guidelines for what would constitute an adequate year's supply for you and your family.
Finally, it is worth noting that you should be using your food storage.  Replace as needed, but just because something has a shelf life of 30 years does not mean that it has to sit there for 30 years.  Besides, a lot of these foods are darn good, and worth using on a regular basis.

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