When it comes to disaster readiness, one of the chief concerns is how you’ll keep your family fed during the crisis. I’d estimate that food and water storage is the number one concern among most of those who are new to prepping. Assembling a decent food pantry isn’t difficult, but it does take time and expense to do it properly. But what is the proper way to stockpile food and water?
When You Stockpile Food and Water, Water Comes First
Nobody has ever come out the other side of a disaster complaining that they’d had access to too much clean water. Hydration is critical to survival. Because a water supply is so important, I recommend a multi-pronged approach.
Various and sundry experts suggest planning on one gallon of water per person per day of the anticipated crisis. Bottled water is easy to find and relatively inexpensive. Currently, I can find a case of 24 half-liter bottles locally for about three dollars.
To make the math easy, 12 liters of water comes to a bit more than three gallons. Storebought bottled water will store just fine for upwards of two years if it is kept cool and away from sunlight.
Another storage approach is to clean and refill soda and juice bottles. Add a few drops of unscented chlorine bleach to the bottle before closing it up. Again, store it in a cool, dark place, and it should be fine for several months or more.
In addition to storing water, it is important to have the means to filter or purify water sourced from outside the home, such as rainwater or water from local rivers or ponds. There are numerous ways to go about this, from purchasing a filtration system such as a Sawyer Mini to boiling or using unscented bleach to kill any microorganisms that could cause trouble.
For those who are going to go with the latter approach, note that a bottle of unscented chlorine bleach only remains viable for about six months on the shelf before it begins to degrade.
Store What You Eat
The first rule of food storage is to store what you eat. There’s little need to go out and buy special “survival food” that’s marketed to preppers. Instead, concentrate on stocking up on food items you and your family already eat but that also happens to have a long shelf life.
New foods can sometimes cause digestive issues. A crisis is stressful enough, don’t add stomach upset to the mix. Some examples of shelf-stable foods your family might already eat regularly include:
- Canned goods (soups, stews, vegetables, fruits)
- Pouched meats (chicken, beef)
- Dry pasta and jars of sauce
- Split peas
- Peanut butter
- Cereal bars
Add just a few extras to your cart with each trip to the grocery store. Take advantage of sale prices as well as coupons when they make sense, and you’ll be able to stockpile food over time without it impacting your wallet too much.
Eat What You Store
The other half of the food storage equation is to rotate through your supplies regularly. This ensures you’ll always have the freshest foods available. One thing to understand, though, is that expiration dates are largely meaningless. The date printed on the package is just the last date that the manufacturer will guarantee optimum taste, texture, and nutrition. It isn’t like the day after that date the food is suddenly inedible.
It is a good idea to eat from your food supplies on a regular basis and replace what you eat as you go along. The end result is that if a natural disaster or some other crisis hits, the food you have available hasn’t just been sitting around for years at that point. Plus, the more often you access your stored food, the quicker you are likely to notice any problems, such as rodents.
Most families have at least some amount of food in the freezer and refrigerator on a regular basis, right? If a disaster occurs, don’t let that food go to waste if you can avoid it. Do what you can to use them up before they go bad.
Under normal conditions, the food in your freezer should remain viable for at least 24 hours without power. That is, as long as you’re not opening the door every ten minutes to gawk at the contents. A mostly empty freezer will warm up quicker than a full one.
If you find that you have a lot of space in the freezer, consider filling some clean 2L soda bottles with water and freezing them. Make sure to leave a couple of inches of head space, so they don’t burst.
Not only will this help your freezer run more efficiently, but it’ll also keep food frozen longer in a power outage. Plus, you’ll have that much more clean water to drink, should the need arise. You could also cover the freezer with a blanket or two to help insulate it during a power outage.
As for the food in the refrigerator, things go downhill a bit quicker. You have about four hours without power before some items will start to turn. The United States Department of Agriculture recommends that any meat, milk, eggs, and cooked pasta be tossed after two hours above 40F.
What all of this means is that in the event of a crisis, consume what you can of your perishable items before you start digging into your emergency food. This will help extend the time that your emergency supply will last your family.
How Much is Too Much?
When it comes to putting together an emergency supply of food and water, the big question is, how many days’ worth should you have on hand? The answer is going to differ from person to person. It boils down to comfort level as well as available storage space.
While it would be great to have enough food supplies available to feed your family for multiple years, the reality is that most people don’t have the luxury of that kind of storage or budget. It can also be overwhelming to think about trying to get that much food in a short period of time.
A good approach is to set simpler goals. Start with getting together enough food that will last your family for two full weeks. When you reach that point, the next goal could be one month, then two months, and so on. Keep going until you reach a point to where you’re comfortable with the amount of emergency food you have stored.
By following these guidelines, you’ll be able to stockpile food and water for survival emergencies without too much trouble.
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