Friday, February 26, 2010

The Emergency Pantry

Stocking Up for Emergencies

My mom used to have an emergency pantry. It was full of stuff like dried beans, peanut butter, stuff she'd canned from the garden and a variety of non-perishables. Being what would in today's economy be called a “low-income” family, we often had emergencies that calle for us to dip into the emergency cupboard. My grandparents also had an emergency pantry in case another Great Depression broke out. My my grandpa kept about 20 giant jars of real roast peanut butter, bags of flour, beans and rice in there. They planted a garden every year until the year he died, canned vegetables and always had last season's potatos covered with lime under the house to keep cool for the winter. We were expected to come over and shell peas and snap beans. It was something you just did.

Since the dawn of time families have kept emergency food supplies. Now, for the first time in history, most of us no longer do. Most of us don't have food sufficient to get ourselves through the week, much less a long term emergency. That's why every time it looks like snow here in Texas, everybody runs to the grocery store. We aren're read shouls the vast complex of interlocking technologies, power, transportation and communications links that sustains us be disrupted by weather, war, economic collapse or natural disaster. If disaster were to happen today, without warning, most of us would be without food, water and basic essentials in a matter of days.

So what can we do about it?

First you'll need a storage place, preferably someplace cool in case the power goes out. If you're lucky enough to have abasement or cellar, you can probably fix up something there. The earth outside the walls of your basement stay a reliable 65 degrees most of the time, even in the summer, so your stuff will last longer. A storm cellar can also be a good food storage spot. It's not only underground, but it is also the place you'll likely find yourself stuck in most weather emergencies. With good ventilation your food should stay dry and cool and increase the shelf life of things stored there. If you don't have such a place, consider building an underground pantry. At the very least build your pantry on the north side of the house away from outside walls exposed to direct sunlight. Insulate and ventilate the pantry so that dry air circulates through it. If you can bring ventilation from a cool place it would be even better. Hot and muggy is the enemy of long term storage. Don't even thinkj about storing food in the attic!

How much food should you store?

Most emergencies are only going to last for a few days, but if you set up your storage system properly, you can keep months worth of food by rotating your stock so that nothing gets more than a few months old. If you are worrying about the “Big One”, experts suggest storing up to six months worth of food. This gives you time to set up greenhouses and gardens and start producing your own food. Don't just store food either. Include bottled water, medical supplies, toilet paper, soap and other essentials as well.

Stocking the Pantry

Stocking six months worth of food is going to be expensive if you try to do it all at once. Instead build your supplies a little at a time by adding extra things to the shopping cart every time you shop. That way you absorb the cost a little at a time and you can take advantage of those 10 for $10 specials on canned goods and peanut butter. You'll be surprised at what you are able to accumulate simply by keeping an eye out for good deals. Be careful that the things you buy are not close to their expiration dates or you won't be able to store them long. If you do find those kinds of deals, simply put the to the front of your shelves and use them ahead of the same things that you already have that have a longer shelp life.

Try to stock a nice variety. Food is a wonderful thing for relieving depression or cabin fever. You don’t want to have to live on hominy and lima beans for 3 months no matter how good a deal you got on them. And don't forget the sweets. They're not essential, but hard candies and cake mixes store well and really hit the spot sometimes.. Make yourself a comprehensive “survival pantry” list. You can find all sorts of suggestions on the Internet on survivalist sites. Tape your list to inside of the pantry door and tick off things as you buy them and add them to your stock.

What to Stock

The best guide to stocking your emergency supply is to pay attention to what your family is already buying. If you have a meal you particularly like, buy double of everything and substitute a non-perishable item where you have a perishable one. Substitute canned potato salad for the fresh stuff. Sub canned carrots for fresh ones (although carrots actually last quite a while when properly stored. Buy canned fish when you eat frozen. Buy jars of pasta sauce if you make fresh. Better yet, if you make favorite homemade sauces or special dishes, try canning or freezing it for your emergency supply. You can always use the stuff for a quick tasty meal some night when you are in a hurry. When you buy bread, pick up flour, oil, yeast and powdered eggs so you can make bread if you need to in an emergency. If you've got a barbecue, you can actually bake bread in it. Look up how to do that and practice in case you ever have to do it for real.

Grow your emergency supplies over time duplicating your family's food purchases and your emergency supply will pretty well reflect your normal eating patterns. Once you are fully stocked, continue to shop as you normally would, but add your recent purchases to the back of your pantry shelf and using the older stuff from the front for your regular meals. Always pull out the older stock as much as possible to keep things fresh. Use a black marker to write the expiration dates on top of all the cans so they are easy to see.

Don’t forget to stock cooking fuels like canned heat and camp stove fuel. Put a big basic first aid box in your pantry and double buy commonly used medical supplies and medicines like aspirin, cold and flu medications. Anything you buy regularly at the grocery store, you'll probably need in the event of an isolating disaster or emergency.


Take some thought as to how you are going to store all the different types of things. Read up in books and on the Internet about how to store flour, pasta, canned goods, and dried beans – things with a long shelf life. As you buy stuff at the grocery store, also begin buying the right kinds of containers to protect your food from bugs, mildew mold and rot. Set up the pantry so it naturally ventilates, but if you can run a powered vent through there, do so. It will mean your food will last longer if the power does go out.


Learn how to can food and grow things in your own garden. Get a book on gardening that tells how to harvest seeds for next year's garden. Even if you never need it, the information will be there just in case. Make up a notebook you can use to collect information about outdoor cooking, how to use tools and how to make things. Learn all you can about how to preserve, store and cook foods by alternate means. Have an organized place where you keep knives, axes, blankets, generators, and other survival gear.

Keep things you will need in case of sudden disaster. Everything needs to be within easy reach and everyone should know where it is. In an emergency you don't want to be fumbling for a flashlight or length of rope if you need it in a hurry. If you know where your gear is and have a good supply of food staples and supplies, you can hold out on your own for weeks – months if need be - till the phone and lights come back up again.

Which brings up another thing – power!

Power comes in a variety of forms. Think about what you will need. You'll have to have a way to cook, heat, cool and get supplies. A generator with a supply of fuel comes in really handy when the ice storm knocks out the power for a few days. If you have an effective fireplace or wood stove, you can hold out against the cold. If you have windows that open and some power to run the fridge and the fans, you can make it during the summer. For more long term disasters, you should have an axe and/or chain saw handy for breaking up wood for fuel. You should have a camp stove or cooking gear in case you have to cook over an open fire.


The Well-Stocked Pantry

Survival Food Facts

Stocking an Emergency Food 'Survival Pantry'

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