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Poverty Prepping for Vandwellers: Introduction to Food Storage
- 3 hours without shelter (from the sun, heat, cold, precipitation or wind)
- 3 days without water
- 3 weeks without food
We’ve already looked at being prepared with shelter and water so today is an introduction to building up a supply of food. I believe we should each build up as large a supply of stored food as we have money and room. You’re first thought might, be, “That’s crazy, why should I have a bunch of extra food on hand? There’s plenty of food and if I want some I’ll just run down to the store and get some.” I believe that kind of thinking is very short-sighted and misses the obvious danger that is very real today.
1) Common sense dictates that emergency preparation is wise. Even in the best of times you should have two weeks supply on hand. Take just a moment to think back to the last 5 years and all the horrendous weather events we’ve seen. In their wake they left power outages with people shivering in the dark for weeks. It’s not just possible, it’s likely we will have many more of those in the future. Shouldn’t you have a few extra emergency essentials on hand to get through them? Every time these things happen and they show TV scenes of people lining up to get food and water handed-out to them I think to myself, “How can those people live without even enough extra on hand to last two weeks?”
2) Worse times ahead seem very likely. Even if I’ve exaggerated the issues I’ve talked about (Peak Oil, Global Warming or Peak Debt) when taken together there are very likely to be some rough times ahead. So being extra prepared seems very reasonable.
3) It will save you money. If you will take some time now to watch sales at grocery stores and buy an extra one or two of each item when it is on sale you’ll not only build up a survival supply you will be paying less on your food budget and saving money. That’s especially true if you find Buy One Get One Free sales. Stocking up will literally cut your cost of eating those items in half.
Buying extra food on sale will save you a lot of money and make you safer, but not if you let it go bad and throw it away. It’s critical that anytime you buy more food than you will eat right away that you have a rotation system based on FIFO (First in First Out) so that your survival stash doesn’t go bad. We’ll look closer at that in my next post about my specific storage system
4) You’ll beat inflation. Whether hyper-inflation comes or not, there is a constant, steady inflation on all consumer goods but especially on food. So buying extra today for tomorrow will save you money. If you’re on a fixed income, inflation slowly chews away at your quality of life and stocking up will improve it. The more you stock up, the less inflation will hurt you. Here is the forecast from the Department of Agriculture on food inflation for 2014:
“Looking ahead to 2014, The food, food-at-home, and food-away-from-home CPIs (Consumer Price Index) are expected to increase 2.5 to 3.5 percent over 2013 levels. This forecast is based on an assumption of normal weather conditions; however, severe weather events could potentially drive up food prices beyond the current forecasts. In particular, the ongoing drought in California could potentially have large and lasting effects on fruit, vegetable, dairy, and egg prices.” http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-price-outlook/summary-findings.aspx#.UyIDZPldWMM5) It should give you confidence. Knowing that you are as ready as you can reasonably be for rough times should give you more confidence and peace. Once you’ve built up your emergency supply you should sleep better knowing you’re ready for life’s ups and downs and hard times.
But isn’t there a danger that we will become obsessed with prepping and go over the deep end into compulsive and fearful hoarding? It’s always a risk but if we are careful and self-aware enough to watch for signs of that then we should be able to find a balance between prudence and compulsion. Here is the barometer I use: preparing for an emergency should bring me more peace and comfort, if it is making me more afraid and anxious instead, I’ve missed the mark and need to stop and get my heart and mind right. Luckily, RVers and vandwellers have built-in limitation that only allow us to do a limited amount no matter how much we want to store up. Those limitations are:
- 1) A very small space. Because we live in vans and RVs we’re limited by the tiny size of our homes. (We’ll talk about storing on your own land or on Public Land in a future post).
- 2) No extra money to spend on the future. I know some of you are living on just enough money to survive month-to-month. There’s no way you can build up for a long period of time, but all of us should be able to build up a week or two supply.
I recommend you prepare all you can, then never think about it again except to sleep better knowing you are prepared.
How will you know what constitutes a two week supply?
I think the easiest way is to break it down by calories. An average, active adult needs about 2000 calories a day, but that number will vary a lot from person to person depending on your s, size, activity level, age, and individual metabolism. For our purposes we’ll just stick with 2000 as an average. However, I’m assuming that in an emergency I can reduce that amount as a form of rationing, so I am preparing for 1000 calories a day. If I want to have a two weeks supply of food then I need to have 14,000 above my normal pantry. Remember, that in an emergency I’m not that concerned with taste, meal planning or eating my healthiest, I’m just after enough calories to get by until things get back to normal.
- Calculate the number of calories in each can or package. For example a can of chili may have 310 calories per serving and has two servings per can, so it has 620 calories per can.
- Use a Magic Marker and write the calories on top of the product.
- Add up the total calories. If I have 10 cans of chili in my pantry, then that’s 6200 calories or 6 days supply of food.
- Finally, add all the items in your pantry. I write out a list of all the different things I have in my pantry and add them up and then I know how many days supply of food I have.
Which type of food should you stock-up on?
When planning an Emergency Food Storage pantry there are several factors that come into play:
- Cost: You have to be able to afford it.
- Shelf Life: How long will it last before it goes bad?
- Taste: Generally if you get hungry enough you will eat any familiar food even if it isn’t as good as you like. But the better it tastes the more likely you are to eat it. And some things are so unfamiliar and awful tasting you might starve to death before you eat them.
- Amount of fuel required to prepare it: Beans and rice are a good example of a near perfect survival food, but they require lots of fuel. If you can’t cook them, you can’t eat them.
There are four types of Emergency Food Storage:
1) Fresh, perishable foods. Of course these are the healthiest and what we should all be eating the most of but because they have such a short shelf life they aren’t practical for Emergency Food Storage.
2) Your normal everyday foods. Especially canned fruits, vegetables, soup, and meats or dried foods or box mixes like pasta, rice, oatmeal or Hamburger Helper. These should be your first line of defense against emergencies because they are cheap and have a fairly long shelf life. You probably already are eating some of them now so they will be familiar and comfortable during emergencies. Many can be eaten cold with no cooking and many of the others cook quickly.
3) Dried foods that require cooking like beans, rice and grains. These are just about the perfect vandweller or survival food except they require a lot of cooking which means you need a lot of fuel.
4) Freeze dried or dehydrated foods. These are specially packaged to last for decades and not just months or years. Some well-known examples are Mountain House, Provident Pantry and Wise.
Let’s look at one specific example to demonstrate all these factors. A 25 pound bag of rice from Sam’s Club will probably cost you less than a single #10 can of Mountain House Freeze Dried beef stew and have a lot more calories. But the Mountain House is packaged to last 25 years and all you have to do to prepare it is add boiling water. The rice will last as long but you are going to have to buy 5 gallon buckets, mylar sacks, desiccants (oxygen absorbents) and deciduous earth (bug killers) and repackage it to get it to last that long (and hope you didn’t do anything wrong!). Then when you prepare it will require a lot of fuel for cooking and not taste anywhere near as good as the Mountain House pork chops.
So that is an introduction to food storage, in my next post I’ll give you specific examples of what I’m doing that you may want to consider as well.