*For FNGís* starting out, food things*
* Fairly New Guys/Gals
By: serger
6 November 2003

When I got into the survivalism game in the late 1970ís it took a real eye opener to get me started being concerned where my next meal would come from. In the Turkey Thigh Story I got the prod I needed to get with the program. But realistically, what do you need? I base my systems on the onion model. In that model there are layers and they run the timeline from right now to however far into the future you want to go. So with that model you start small and build on your systems until you have them at the level you need for your situation. By that I mean layer one is probably going to be attainable in less than a calendar quarter and will take care of your needs for say a week. The next layer might go to the month point and layer 4 might take you into the next year. You get the picture.

In my case, I was a young enlisted man in the military. The military didnít pay well (Still Doesnít) and every nickel we had was by necessity, budgeted. Because of where my wife Shawnee and I were from we had access to some Reasonably Knowledgeable Individuals (RKIís). The RKIís took pity on me and told me about some very good books that would allow me to pursue our food storage goals. The three books listed below form the basic triumvirate of material I used to make intelligent and informed decisions on My food storage. Although they are a little dated because of new technologies that have been perfected since their initial publishing, you would be hard pressed to find a better core resource in this area than these three.

  1. Project Readiness, Louise E. Nelson. This book is quite comprehensive and has a full blueprint, for the want of a better term, on emergency preparedness including food storage. I recommend it fully. If you have one book on the field this is it.
  2. Putting Food By, Janet C. Greene, Ruth Hertzberg, and Beatrice Vaughan. This is a standard reference work on preparing basic raw foods for long-term storage. It tells how to can, cure, pickle, dry and freeze the stuff you grow or slaughter.
  3. Stocking Up, Carol Hupping. This is the other reference work we initially built our food storage program on. Be advised in the third edition most of the meat preservation techniques have been stripped out. That may or may not be relevant to your situation but it is a fact.

Now as a small template (plan) of what you need to store Iím going to assume you were let into the Rubicon with a pocketknife, a poncho, and a bag of Raman Noodles. In other words the bare minimum of "stuff". So hereís what you need to look at in terms of initially increasing your survivability in this area.

Rule Number 1: Eat what you store and store what you eat.

Rule Number 2: If you have any doubt as to what you should place in your food storage refer to Rule Number 1.

Rule Number 3: Have in sufficient quantity the foods you associate with comfort. This will allow you to transition from your usual diet to one totally from storage without undue stress. This will be very useful when the golden arches arenít there any more.

I canít stress those rules enough. It will do you no good to have 500 kilos of freeze-dried Haggis if you wonít eat it. If however you like boiled sheep stomachs with oatmeal and onion stuffing just like momma made, then maybe the Haggis is what you want. And in that case youíre a better man than I am Gunga Din.

The only practical deviation I can see to the 3 rules is having a food you donít personally like but you keep on hand for barter purposes. You should only do this after you have your food storage program completed. In my food stores I have a case of dark rum. I donít drink any more. I also have several rolls of chewing tobacco and I never dipped. This stuff is to trade with and not for my consumption. These are not actual food items I know, but they usually come out of the food budget. Until you are well along with your preparations in this area you should refrain from this extended capability.

Having said that, you need to sit down and make a 7-day list of all the meals you eat, as you eat them. Include all the goodies you snack on and all the little things like soy sauce, seasoned salt and cayenne pepper you use to flavor those meals with. Then you need to size the foods that make up your meals so you know the quantities of the various foods you need to store. I prefer having most of my foods either canned or dried. I also donít like long preparation times. If you were a chef your list and one I might make would be vastly different. That is why I donít list specific foodstuffs as a rule because they are regional in nature and you might not even know the types of foods I might describe. Freya wrote a very nice article on a 3 day food supply you could have for a 72 hour setup and if you are totally at a loss on what to store this is a very good place to begin. Then all youíll have to worry about is the other 4 days to fill out the week. You ought to also read her article Introduction to Food Storage.

What youíre going to end up with is 21 meals per person that will require a given amount of foods. Some of those meals will lend themselves easily to the food storage application. Some of them will require modification to allow you to be able to store them. Once you have the menu and the list of food quantities you need for a week of eating, start buying the menu. You might take a couple months to get it depending on your situation. But remember you can do it. Like the old man said," To eat an elephant you do it one bite at a time." Donít be discouraged. You can do it. I started out with a turkey thigh! Now I can feed me and mine for at least a year with what we have in the pantry. So even though it may not be feasible for you to do at this time it is possible to do. The picture below shows what even an idiot like myself can do, one bite at a time.

When you get to the weeks storage level then double it and youíll have 2 weeks food on the shelf and ready to be made into meals. When you get to the one month storage point you might want to set up part of the program for foods you can eat if you have to leave your residence and "eat on the run". These foods should of the type they can be eaten with no extra preparation other than maybe heating and adding hot water to them. In my case they are what we usually take hunting. That is because I hunt hard and when I get back to camp I want to sleep and not mess around cooking.

A couple things I need to mention before I wander off into oblivion. These things have relevance to me and may have absolutely no application in your situation but I think they are important.

I like to have at least one of my meals a day to have meat in it. If youíre like me and want the majority of your storage to be non refrigerated then to get at the meat you need it canned. You are probably left with potted meats for the most part. I eat pressed ham mostly in this application. They call it luncheon meat. And what I eat is the Wal-mart brand. The biggest problem with this and Spam is the high salt level in the meat. I usually slice the meat into 14 pieces that are about 3/16th of an inch thick (about 6mm). Then I soak the meat in cool water to leach out the salt. I try and do this for 2 soakings. Having the water cool and not hot keeps the fats from liquefying. I have found this to be the best way to prepare this stuff.

The second thing is to have your storage in an area where the temperatures are moderated. For most of the Rubicon it is to keep the foods from sustaining an elevated temperature for long periods of time. In my case it is to prevent freezing. That is why I prefer metal to glass for most choices of the wet pack foods. We havenít had problems with frozen foods in the house yet but we have had them freeze in the camp trailer. I was lucky in that respect because the only thing that failed was a jar of strawberry preserves and the area it messed up was just a small one.

The biggest problem with freezing is failure of the foods container and the subsequent spoilage of the food. The second biggest problem with freezing is the change in texture of the canned materials. As an example we had new potatoes freeze. They became a mealy can of lumpy starchy things. The taste buds said they were potatoes but the texture was unpalatable. Another example was chili con carne. In this case the beans were mushy. You could eat them but it was not pleasant. As a side note, MREís are pretty much the same as far as mushy vegetables go. The only saving grace here is the pouches can freeze and do the swelling thing. There is not the chance of packaging failure as long as they are not subjected to rough mechanical shock while frozen and the icy contents punching a hole in the mylar pouchs.

And then there is the subject of bulged cans. You know as well as I the rules with them. If the can bulges then you pitch it. Right? Well what happens if we have an event in winter and your food storage gets frozen and you canít throw it out because itís all you have and can get to. What are you going to do then? In my case with what froze in my camper I knew the history of the stuff and what had happened to it. I took it on faith that the stuff was not spoiled because the cans were bulged not breached. Was that a wise thing to do? Possibly, possibly not. But had I taken the time to put the camper stuff in the house the food wouldnít have undergone change. I also wouldnít have gotten the learning experience.

Try freezing some of your favorite canned foods and see if they are significantly changed. Do it for 3 cycles and see what you think about it. You might be able to have your stuff frozen and it wonít make a difference to you. In that case good, you have more flexibility than I do. If you find the mealy textured foods are not pleasant itís better to know it now than to find out after you walked home in the blizzard, had to cut your boots off to thaw your toes and all you want was that nice can of Dinty Moore beef stew you cut out of the ice. That by itself might not be bad but if you are living a sheltered life weirdness like that can send you over the edge. The whole idea of having a food storage program is to minimize any problems you might have in a post event situation.

Benefits

One thing you will find if you have a food storage program is your food bills will be less than they are right now. The way Shawnee explained it to me was like this: If you have a stocked pantry then you donít make as many trips to the store as the others for that one "thing". And since you are not making all the little trips you are not buying the spur of the moment items you "want" but you donít "need". Also if your stocks are up you can be picky and buy the foods when they are seasonally the cheapest and or on sale. That way you control the amount and type of spending you do and are not as easy to manipulate as those who buy from meal to meal or week to week.

Another benefit with an operating storage system and plan is you are not as easy to stampede as others. You know what I mean. Every time there is a major storm the media always hypes the empty shelves at the grocery stores and you always see the poor family who got the last gallon of bottled water and dented can of soup. They always have the pathetic comment that they, "donít know what they are going to do when this runs out". Why werenít they there the week prior to the event? Can you imagine them living in Enid Oklahoma and they hear that there has been a nuclear ground burst at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City and while they are piling into the pickup truck they see the flash up north toward Wichita Kansas. Dang it! I hate when that happens. I can hear them now, "well honey, letís go down to Jumbo Foods and see if they got anything left." And you know in the back of your head thatís what will occur.

The last benefit I have is peace of mind. I know for a fact I wonít have to deal with the fear and helplessness I felt those years ago waiting for someone to bail me out. That is the best benefit for me.

One last thing, donít get discouraged. You can do it. Just start at the first layer of the onion and work at it. A month from now youíll say to yourself, "Iím good". A year from now youíll say, "I am a hot runner. I Really am good." You know you are. Otherwise you wouldnít be reading this.

Thanks for the read.
serger



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