Food Storage Master Plan (whee!)

Yesterday started the first day of Sharon’s sustainable food storage class. Her suggested goal, which seems both highly useful and doable, is three month’s worth of stored food. Using the handy Mormon food storage calculator, two people for three months need:

150 pounds of grains: done! We actually might have a bit more than that, especially since I’d like to add a big bag of jasmine rice and some quick-cooking pasta.

30 pounds of beans (and TVP, etc): We’re at least halfway there; I need to weigh some of the containers and find out how much is in them. I should add a bit more than that since I’m not going to add the dried milk the calculator wants. Maybe throw in some of those local kippers and/or peanut butter to join the baked beans as quick protein-rich food.

15 pounds of oils: We have almost no stored fat except coconut milk. I’ll pick up a couple of those big things of oil…this isn’t so much of a priority, since neither of us really need quite that much concentrated calories, but so long as we’re not storing absurd amounts, we will actually go through it before it goes bad.

30 pounds of sweeteners: Evidently, Mormons like cookies. But we do actually have that much stored sweetener, assuming we’re ok with most of it being jam. And looking at the way we cook, using strawberry jam for most of the things we use sugar for would actually work pretty well, even for savory things. In curries and things it would just give a nice fruity overtone like mango.

28 gallons of water: Actually, this is just two week’s worth, but if we’re without water for three months, something is badly enough wrong that we probably should have evacuated before then. The stored water in the fridge is probably no longer good; it’s just being used as thermal mass to help keeps things cold. I’m going to get some good sturdy containers — apparently milk bottles tend to break eventually, which sounds messy, as well as dangerous if you’re actually depending on them for water.

We’re good for salt, and should pick up a big thing of baking soda, some vinegar, and maybe another tin of baking powder.

This doesn’t include vegetables and fruit (other than jam) or vitamins. A couple of big bottles of multivitamins will be an excellent idea. I have some canned collards which can be added to stews and casseroles and such for green vegetablyness and calcium, but I might want to pick up some calcium supplements as well. Most vegetables and fruit will come from the CSA, but I also have a couple cans of pumpkin, some yams, and some tomatoes. We have a box of raisins and some home-canned fruit left over from last year (note to self: you enjoy applesauce but do not actually eat it on any kind of regular basis).

Equipment: A solar oven and one of those little indoor-use sterno stoves will be an excellent plan. The solar oven will be generally useful in the summer so that we don’t have to turn on the stove when it’s broiling out, but will be less useful in the even of, say, an ice storm. A Very Good water filter is also on the shopping list, because then stored water becomes less of a critical issue.

Why are we doing this?

Well, first off, because Sharon said so. ;-) But seriously, there are several not-too-unlikely situations where having stored food will be very, very useful:

1. This household consists entirely of absentminded graduate students. Stored food = fewer last-minute grocery expeditions.

2. New England is not an especially disaster-prone area, but there have been ice storms that cut off power and make travel dangerous for up to two or three weeks. There is also a non-trivial likelihood of some sort of flu or other pandemic, which could cause quarantines of a month or more.

3. The economy is nose-diving and food prices are rising. If we can afford to stock up on high-quality organic grain, that will benefit the local food economy while ensuring that we buy stuff now, rather than later when it costs twice as much. Relatedly, while we’re both fairly well-off for grad students, and have savings and parents and such, this is a hedge against unexpected bills and price jumps so that there doesn’t come a month where we have to chose between going to the grocery store and refilling the oil tank or paying the rent.

4. In any of these emergency situations, there will probably be other people in the same boat. If we are more prepared than is perhaps strictly necessary, we will be able to help other people. If the canned goods are approaching their sell-by date and we haven’t eaten them, we can donate them to a food bank.


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