“Food. It’s what’s for dinner.” “Home is Where My Food Storage is.” “Hunger is the best sauce.” Yup, it’s time for us to address the Principle of Preparedness that so many think of first and foremost—food. Keep in mind, though that it is indeed the 8th Principle of Preparedness in order of prioritization.
All of the other Principles I’ve addressed leading up to this one will indeed demand positions of greater prominence before you get to this one. As I always say, I strongly doubt that a person who’s just been hit in a car accident makes their first phone call to Dominoes Pizza. Nope. Regardless, it is a critical Principle of Preparedness. So let’s do it right, shall we? The various aspects of this principle are Acquisition, Nutrition, Shelf-life, and Preparation. When it comes to Acquisition there are many who feel that a year’s supply of appropriate food for their family is a financial burden that can’t be carried, when in fact a little old fashioned ingenuity will prove that the exact opposite is true. I don’t purchase large amounts of chicken and pasta when it goes on sale because I’m some kind of a hoarder, I do so to stabilize my food budget because when I take that $1.50 a pound chicken home and can it, when I take it off of my shelf 5 years from now it STILL will have only cost me $1.50 a pound—no matter what happens on Wall Street. I don’t purchase freeze-dried food because of “food storage” I do it because it’s less expensive, more nutrition, less waste, AND lasts longer. Contrary to the gargantuan efforts you see on TLC’s Extreme Couponing, a modest amount of couponing discipline applied each week—only 2 hours—will yield an enormous amount of results for your food pantry for FREE or at least really, really cheap. When the Acquisition of food is thought to be the barrier, I find that it’s not the expense, but the spending habits that are really getting in the way. Instead of going to the store and purchasing what you want each week, try getting ahead of the game for a couple of weeks then allow yourself to only purchase items that benefit your family that are on sale. If you plan your meals based on what you already have, not only will you find money in your budget that you didn’t know you had, but you’ll also handle a real crisis of living solely off of what you’ve got much better mentally. With so many “food storage” advertisers selling stuff that barely passes for flavored cardboard—a sin regularly committed by our own grocery stores as well nowadays, providing appropriate nutrition for your family all year round is a legitimate concern. But don’t worry. There are plenty of solutions. Sprouting, freeze-dried produce, and learning to make a lot of your standard items from scratch will take care of that concern in a jiffy, with even better nutrition than you’ll get with the more traditional foods found in the American Standard Diet (SAD). For example, when I do make bread, I make it from whole wheat and honey along with other standard ingredients—standard, of course being a relative term. But the point is, I am not making it with the need to have it last for nearly a month on the shelves of the store, thus no nasty preservatives or other ingredients. (Believe it or not, quality grain bread is very simple to make. Just check out my “Kick-Butt Bread Recipe. You’ll never fail.) I make it a point to be knowledgeable of the source of each of my ingredients, including the growing conditions and time of harvest. Continuing on, by canning my own meats, butter, and fish, I also can feel confident about nutritional content, and more importantly, I'm comforted in knowing what’s NOT in my food. There’s also a world of opportunities out there to create delicious dishes with less mainstream ingredients and without the standard hormones, anti-biotics, etc. such as making “wheat meat” aka seitan from vital wheat gluten or adding beans to baked goods such as cookies and brownies, or adding sprouts to casseroles and soups. I personally love my pumpkin and black bean soup recipe. By the way, there’s also a great book out called “Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kid Eating Good Food” by Jessica Seinfeld. (I might add that it helps with husbands too.) I’ve found it very helpful in increasing the nutritional value of many dishes. By educating myself on what’s real nutrition (coconut oil, for example) and what’s harmful for my family (canola oil, for example), then I can provide better nutrition for them than they can get in any restaurant all year round. None of these strategies require extensive time in our busy lives. With the development and availability of so many wonderful tools, it hardly takes anymore time to make bread or homemade pizza than it does to go and pick it up. Once again, we come to the conclusion that meeting the demands of the aspect isn’t the problem. Our way of thinking about it and addressing it usually is. Shelf-life can be a bit tricky if you’re accustomed to consuming highly processed foods. Ironically the foods which provide very little nutrition usually end up having a much shorter shelf-life than those we would want long-term—well, except for Twinkies. I understand those babies will last for EVER! Chances are, if you’re stymied by getting a necessary staple food to have a long shelf-life, you’re simply lacking in some easy-peezy tidbits of knowledge that will make extending your shelf-life a snap. Brown rice, nuts, chocolate—you know, those essentials of life—have received an unnecessary bad rap for going bad quickly, when in fact it’s all in how such items are stored. Cool, dry, dark, and void of oxygen is all that’s necessary for keeping such items palatable for nearly a decade. And if you’re only bringing home foods that your family will enjoy, nothing should be sitting around for 10 years anyway. Rotation, rotation, rotation is one of the easiest fixes to shelf-life concerns. Come on. Even the military rotates their MRE’s. If you’ve acquired any of those “30 year foods” that you’ll only eat if you “had to” then in my opinion you’re preparing to be miserable. If you want your shelf-life problems to go away, then I suggest you stop purchasing items you have no desire to consume now. Otherwise, there are several articles on here which address the proper preservation of foods such as the use of the FoodSaver combined with Mason jars, canning, oxygen absorbers, waxing cheese, bottling butter, preserving eggs with mineral oil, etc. which will help you establish a food pantry of real foods for you and your family, not cardboard which is supposed to taste like fettuccine alfredo. Lastly I’m going to address the preparation of our foods. Obviously, most folks are competent with the stove, oven, toaster oven, microwave, etc. but will we still be able to prepare our family’s favorite dishes with no traditional power sources? Dutch ovens, solar ovens, pressure cookers, rocket stoves, small Korean cook stoves with butane, pressure canners—all of these are tools which will make your present way of preparing meals easily replicated in such events. In fact, I dare say that such alternative methods have merit now. For example, I love, love, love my pressure cooker. It’s one of my favorite tools in my house. I can make great beans in minutes, not hours; perfect rice or risotto in under 10 minutes; and even a tender and juicy pot roast from zero to perfect in less than an hour. Solar ovens allow you to cook anything you can cook in your inside oven with the kiss of the sun and without having to pay to cool off the house after you’ve done so. I love the taste of any frozen meat I cook in it without any seasonings! It’s delightful! The great news is you won’t have to envision a life of cooking in an open fire pit while you endure a crisis. I think that’s the last thing anyone needs under such circumstances, don’t you? One last bit of advice I’d like to share as a part of this Principle. We are emotional eaters to some extent or another. Some folks have their breaking point sooner than others, but the fact of the matter is, we have a very emotional relationship with food. It’s emotionally trying to even imagine enduring a shortage of food for ourselves, let alone watching our children suffer for a want of food. Keeping in mind the emotional aspect that we have at present; understand that if you are ever required to endure a more trying time such as a financial collapse, massive power outage, earthquake, etc. you will be even more emotionally in need of the foods which are familiar and comforting to you and your family. As such, it’s imperative that you plan for such dishes. In fact, I believe that everything you plan on feeding your family under such circumstances should already be familiar and acceptable to them. I usually put it this way: Be sure that you have found a way to make your spouse’s and children’s favorite meal that they would want you to make on their birthday. Doing so will put you so much further ahead mentally and emotionally in your efforts to thrive in whatever circumstances get thrown at you. Applying all of these strategies to your Food Preparedness will definitely result in you experiencing the peace in your preparedness efforts which I continually discuss. I assure you, peace is a significantly better way (and a less expensive one) to prepare for whatever may come along than a panicked one.
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