My January Project for 2013 was to store food for my family to survive on for an entire year. A whole year is a lot of food, and I knew this would definitely take some planning and a lot of work to complete. Getting all of the food in just one month was not practical or economical, so I decided to work on getting the supplies throughout the year. In January I made a list of foods that I need, I cleared storage space, and began the stockpile. The rest of the year I worked on growing, buying, preserving, and adding to the stockpile. I also ended up using a lot of the stockpile also.
To begin with I followed the method outlined here: Long Food Storage List to project the amount and type of food I needed to supply my family for a year. My wife and I chose 5 meals for breakfast and lunch, and 10 meals for dinner. These were common meals that we eat. We also added 4 different desserts. In the yearly calculation projection, I assumed that we eat dessert only once a week.
I then went through a tedious process of crunching numbers to convert from teaspoons, tablespoons, and cups to ounces and pounds. The goal was to have a final list that showed how many pounds/ounces we need for each ingredient. It was time consuming to do all the conversions. If you decide to do the same method, I made a list of some of the conversions from volume to weight here: Converting From Food Volumes to Weights.
I found that it was a challenge to convert some things we eat often (like cold cereal) to lbs of staple foods such as wheat. For example I converted slices of bread to loaves of homemade bread, store bought flour tortillas to homemade tortillas, and chicken nuggets to pounds of chicken. I’m still not sure what to do about cold cereal. We eat if often, but it isn’t practical to have in a year supply. It won’t store for long, and I don’t think powdered milk will taste that good with it. I suppose, we will just have to do without some things. I found a quote in the “Essentials of Home Production and Storage” book that says:
Elder Harold B. Lee, in a welfare agricultural meeting on 1 October 1966, said: “We have never laid down an exact formula for what anybody should store. . . . Perhaps if we think not in terms of a year’s supply of what we ordinarily would use, and think more in terms of what it would take to keep us alive in case we didn’t have anything else to eat, that last would be very easy to put in storage for a year. . . . If you think in terms of that kind of annual storage rather than a whole year’s supply of everything that you are accustomed to eat which, in most cases, is utterly impossible for the average family, I think we will come nearer to what President Clark advised us way back in 1937”
It was interesting to compare my calculated needs to the quantity of food recommended by others. Below is a graph comparing my calculated needs (for 2 adults, 3 children) versus what is recommended many places on the internet (About.com, Preparing Your Family, and others).
Not all of the categories are listed, but I did start to notice a trend that I was calculating less than what is being recommended by others. Perhaps this is made up by the difference in the meat and soups categories?
We added some store bought canned corn, peas, and tuna when they were on sale. We also bought bulk bags of quick oats and rice, along with some plastic 5 gallon and 2 gallon buckets with gasketed lids.
I built some rotating shelves for the #10 cans out of scrap wood. You can see pictures of it here. They are good at organizing the cans, decluttering the storage area, and ensuring the old is eaten first. They may need some improvements, however, considering that my brother almost lost a toe when one of the cans rolled right out. Sorry Bro! It malfunctioned while I was trying to show him how cool the shelves were.
We dry packed the quick oats and rice in the buckets for long term storage. I filled them to the top and used some oxygen absorbers to ensure the food would last. Since I didn’t can enough food to use all of the oxygen absorbers I stored the unused ones in a canning jar with rice. Clicking on the image below will show you what I’m talking about.
Some items like dry pack beans should last 20 years. I’m not too concerned about rotating these, because it is able to store for such a long time. Most foods, however, can’t store for that long of time. So, it will be important to keep an inventory of what we have and be continually using and replenishing these items.
Several times throughout the year I bought a few of the items that we needed (dry milk, macaroni, rice, sugar, wheat, oats, etc…). I was able to buy and can (in #10 cans) these myself at the Home Storage Center located a couple of miles from my home. I wrote a short post about Home Storage Centers here. I plan on buying all of our years supply over the course of the year from either the Home Storage Center or the local grocery store.
At the end of January I took an inventory of all of the food that we have collected so far and compared it to what we still need. Below is a graph that shows the percent complete for each food category.
At the end of February, this was the progress that we made:
In August I was sad to hear that self-canning at the Home Storage Centers was coming to a close. Rumors were flying that because of US food and drug regulations, the self-canning was being shut down. Well, I read the official church statement, and it suggests otherwise.
Pre-packaged cans of food will be available, and at the same cost…for now. Apparently it is cheaper to pre-package the food then send it out to the distribution centers for purchase rather than ship food and empty cans and maintain facilities for food production.
If I was starting this again here is what I would do differently:
- Don’t worry about having the common foods your family eats. I like the quote above from Elder Harold B. Lee. Storing foods that can store for long periods of time makes food storage a lot easier in my opinion.
- There is no need to go through the tedious exercise of determining how much your family eats from each category. Others have gone through the exercise and made a list of foods that will sustain life. I found that my calculations were similar to what was recommended by others.
At the end of 2013, my family still doesn’t have a complete year supply of food. We have made considerable progress though! We will continue to store emergency food for our family. Going forward I plan to follow my recommendations above and store the quantity of long term food storage recommended to sustain life. We will also continue to have some perishable items that we commonly eat, but I won’t worry about trying to have a years worth of these types of food.