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Prepper Basics Part 2 – Step by Step Guide to Building and Maintaining a 6 Month Food Supply

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Today we are going to continue with our prepper basics series and discuss food storage for beginners. Specifically, we’re going to go over a step-by-step plan that can help you build and responsibly maintain a 6 month stockpile of food.

Step 1 – Planning

 

As we discussed in yesterday’s article, planning is the key to all areas of preparedness. I mean, planning is kind of the definition to preparedness to begin with right? So first and foremost, we need to make a definitive plan on how we are going to get to our 6 month goal of stored foods.

What I’m about to ask you to do over the next 30 days may seem silly and unproductive at first, but it’s actually the best way for you to lay a solid ground work and foundation for your food storage plan. You’ll see why as we get farther into this.

First off, if you don’t already have one you can use, go out and purchase a cheap spiral notebook, you’re going to need it.

Over the next 30 days I want you to write down every single thing that you eat when you’re at home. This doesn’t include restaurants, fast food etc… just what you’re eating at home. Simply write out every ingredient to every meal that you make in your notebook. By the end of the 30 day period you should have quite a large collection of meals and the ingredients to make those meals.

Now, put a checkmark next to every non-perishable ingredient in your notebook. A non-perishable ingredient would be anything that is shelf-stable for at least a year. Canned vegetables, pastas, packaged or boxed meals are all good examples.

After doing this, everything that’s left on your list should be perishable food items. These are usually things like meats, dairy items and fresh produce. What we want to do now is determine if there is a way to either make these ingredients shelf stable or if we need to find a substitute for that ingredient.

There’s an easy trick to do this. Simply go to Google and type in “How to store [ingredient] long term” and if there’s not an affordable or easy way to do so, do another search and type in “[ingredient] substitutions”.

My suggestion starting out would be to focus more on substitutions. Although you could very easily at this point start looking into things like canning long term foods at home, freeze-dried ingredients and other alternatives to extend the shelf life of some of your ingredients, it’s much easier to look for substitutions like canned vegetables, powdered dairy products, meat substitutions or even canned or dehydrated meats when you’re first starting out. Once you have your 6 months of food stored up, getting into canning and other alternative ways of storage is definitely something I would suggest.

Another thing you should be doing during this phase is experimenting with the changes you made to these recipes with the various substitution ingredients you’re going to store. The last thing you want is to end up buying a lot of these substituted ingredients just to find out that they don’t work for the meal you’re trying to make.

If you have to substitute something, go out and buy the substituted ingredients and try making it for supper one night. You’ll quickly determine what works and what doesn’t. If it doesn’t work, either try another ingredient or come with a new recipe that follows our shelf-stable guidelines to replace the one that didn’t work.

After this is all done, you should have a notebook that has around 30 days of meals and ingredients that should store for at least a year if not significantly longer. These meals are going to make up at least half of your 6 month food storage supply.

Congrats! The hard part is pretty much over.

Now I’d like to tell you why we did this. I’m not sure who originally coined the phrase but there’s a phrase that’s fairly popular in the preparedness community called “Eat what you store and store what you eat.” This means that your food storage plan should be mainly comprised of foods that you’re already eating every day.

Yes, you could technically go out and buy a pallet of MREs or Mountain house meals and yeah they’d probably get you through 6 months in a serious disaster. However, a big chunk of your stored food isn’t just going to be put away for SHTF disasters, you’re going to be using and revolving this food out regularly so that it doesn’t just sit around for a year until you have to get rid of all of it when it goes bad. It will become a very integral part of your day to day lives and diets.

Step 2 – So now we bust out the credit cards and buy a bunch of food right?

 

ARGH! NO!

Honestly, this part is up to you. Personally, I despise credit cards. (We’ll get into why in a future prepper basics post about preparedness and how it relates to debt and finances) I would advocate that you build this stockpile as you can afford it. If you can afford to go out and buy several hundreds of dollars of these ingredients, then that’s great, you’re ahead of the game.

The easiest way I’ve found to do this is to go back to your notebook, take all of your ingredients and multiply them by 3. This should give you around 3 months’ worth of ingredients to make these meals. It probably won’t be cheap when you add it all up. The easiest way to build this up is to simply set a budget for yourself that can be added on to your existing grocery bill.

An extra $20 even can go a long way when you’re buying things like canned veggies, jars of sauce and pasta and other shelf-stable foods. Even after a month, you’re going to see a real difference in the size of your pantry. Before long, you’ll have those 3 months or so of supplies ready to go.

Step 3 – Don’t let your food preps sit around collecting dust

Once you start to build your stockpile the smart thing to do is to eat from it regularly and continue to replenish what you eat on top of expanding your stockpile. Not only that, but I’d suggest at least once or twice a month actually preparing some of these meals without using grid power. Grills, gas powered hotplates or even a campfire are all great alternative heating sources for cooking. There are dozens of disasters ranging from the mundane couple hour power outage to the end of the world as we know it that could cause grid power to go down, it’s a very smart idea to be prepared and have experience cooking safely in situations like this.

It should go without saying, but when you do start making meals from your food preps, use a system called FIFO. That stands for First in, First out. This is something that is a standard within the food service industry. It simply means that the first items that go into your pantry are the first items that get used. This way you are always maximizing the shelf life of what’s in your pantry.

What about the other 3 months?

 

You might be thinking “Hey this is only 3 months, you said 6!”

The reason why I only advocate about 3 months’ worth of pre-made shelf-stable grocery-type foods is because I personally try to eat fresh foods for the majority of my diet. I don’t like having any commercially canned foods in my pantry longer than a year, and I really can’t eat more than 3 months’ worth of canned food in a year. I also don’t think it’s very healthy. Obviously it’s your diet so this is completely up to you if you want to add more of these types of foods.

So… where does that leave us if we want to get up to 6 months of food stored?

What we need to do next is look into foods that aren’t just shelf stable for a year, but foods that are shelf stables for many, many years. These foods are unlikely to be used except in an emergency situation.

The first thing you should do is take the money you budgeted for your first 3 months of food and allocate it to buying some bulk items like:

  • Rice

  • Beans

  • Pasta

  • Sugar

  • Flour

  • Salt

  • Lard

  • Peanut butter

  • Corn meal

All of these foods store extremely well, however they still have a definite shelf-life if they’re just kept in a bag in your pantry. They’re susceptible to light, temperature changes, moisture, insects and rodents and various other factors that can drastically reduce their shelf life.

What we need to do is store them in a way that will guarantee that you could use them 1, 5 or even 10 years down the road. The best way to do this is by storing them in sealed Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers and inside of a hard plastic 5 gallon bucket with a sealable lid. Below is the first of a series of great videos by Jack Spirko of the Survival Podcast where he explains step by step how to set these buckets up properly.

Obviously the idea of eating rice and beans for a few months isn’t very appetizing, but in a pinch they’ll keep your belly full and they’re so ridiculously cheap to make that it only makes sense to make them a part of your stockpile. If we ever do find ourselves in a true extended grid-down scenario these buckets could also make very good barter items or could be given to unprepared friends and neighbors without significantly hurting your stockpile.

When first starting out I would suggest making 2 or 3 of these buckets, sealing them up and putting them in a temperature stable area in your home. At that point you can basically ignore them until you need them. However, I would advise once every year or two opening them up resealing everything with new Mylar bags and O2 absorbers. This probably isn’t necessary but better safe than sorry I always say.

Step 4 – You’re almost there!

 

Even though I highly suggest you not make freeze-dried meals the main part of your food storage stockpile, I do think having some Mountain House, Wise or Thrive meals is important. One of the reasons that I don’t advocate using only these foods as your food storage is simply because of the price. They’re quite pricey. However, they’re incredibly simple to make (just add hot water) and they do add a bit of variety to your food preps. They’re also incredibly handy to put inside bugout bags or to take with you if you’re ever outdoors overnight.

 

After your initial 3 month stockpile and your buckets, 1 bucket of these meals is probably more than enough to round out your 6 months’ supply of food. Just be sure before investing in a large bucket that you buy a few individual meals so you can test them out because I can tell you from experience that taste-wise some of them are MUCH better than others.

 

 

I’d like to point out before wrapping up today that this is just one way of building your food storage stockpile. There’s obviously other ways, however this method is what has always worked for me and it has allowed me to manage such a big amount of “stuff” in my pantry quite easily. It should also be pointed out here that building up your existing food storage is just the tip of the iceberg. In future prepper basics posts we’re going to be discussing harvesting your own foods from hunting, fishing, foraging and gardening. These are the type of skills that can take you from being self-sufficient for food to becoming self-reliant for food.

 

Tune in next week as we continue our prepper basics series and be sure to enter the November giveaway before it’s too late!!

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