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I’ve been wandering in the desert of food storage for nigh unto 40 years, but I think I’m finally seeing the land of (dehydrated) milk and honey.
I joined the Church when I was a freshman in college almost 41 years ago, got married the next summer, and headed to BYU—living way below poverty level and with a desire to obey, even if I didn’t quite understand.
Back then, I had plenty of cupboard space and not much food. Canned corn and green beans cost about 16 cents a can, as I remember. So I started storing canned corn and green beans.
I’m sure there was a fair supply when we left BYU a year later, pregnant and jobless, to save up some money and return. (Never happened.)
Fast forward a couple of years and my father nabbed an old paint rack for me, and I started stuffing it with canned goods. The rack lived through several apartments and rented houses and two houses we owned. It is the background of a lot of pictures of kids sitting at our kitchen table.
I tried to rotate foods, but it seemed like every few months, I had to throw out out-dated beets and other weird vegetables I’m sure I’d have trouble eating even if I were starving.
For 10 years, we lived in a house with a storage room and ample storage for bags and buckets of wheat, so I started buying. I used it rarely, but I kept buying.
I even learned to grow it! We had a carpet remnant on the floor of the storage room and after a hard rain that flooded the room one day, we noticed a crop of wheat growing out of the carpet from wheat we had spilled. It was funny, but I wouldn’t recommend it as a viable option for food storage.
Years later I was thrilled to move into a bigger house with a nice basement room that stretched the length of the family room, but is only about three-and-a-half feet wide. A few shelves along the wall, and I was ready to start again with food storage, even if I have to turn sideways and suck my stomach in to get to any of it. And I kept on wandering.
Along the way of this long journey, I have learned some hard lessons about food storage:
- When I filled every empty glass jar with sugar, rice, beans, or noodles, I learned sugar turns hard and rice, beans, and noodles get old if you forget about them. It is impossible to get hardened sugar out of a jar with a neck narrower than the jar itself unless you use a hammer. And I doubt, even during hard times, we will want to eat rock candy with glass shards. Off to the Dumpster.
- Filling empty glass jars with well water, even with the requisite amount of Clorox, grows some really nasty-looking science projects. And then they sit there on the shelves, pretty much ruining your taste for your well water, until you have a grandson old enough you can pay to empty them all.
- When you forget about canned goods, like #10 cans of sweet potatoes, the cans can quietly explode, leak, and become glued like Gorilla Glue to the shelf. The same cans can leak down to the shelves below so the mess just keeps on giving.
Thankfully, however, I have through the years learned what works, so I think I can finally say I have a year’s supply of food.
Try these methods with good success:
- Don’t try to reinvent the process. The Church teaches to store a three-month supply of emergency food, water, and longer-term food storage. LDS.org has a wealth of information on the how and why of practical food storage and emergency preparedness. Follow the plan.
- Buy a little bit every week to quickly increase your three-month supply. Depending on your budget, buy $5 to $20 worth of groceries each week to increase your supply. Most Fridays or Saturdays find me in the grocery store so I buy either 10 cans or boxes of food above and beyond what I need for my weekly menus. On tight budget weeks, I buy mandarin oranges for 49 cents and on payday weeks buy the more expensive tropical fruit. Even if you store only half of them and use the rest, over a year’s time it adds up to 260 cans or boxes a year.
- Commit to spending at least a portion of larger influxes of money, like tax returns or overtime pay, to increase your long-term supply. A starter kit with six #10 cans can be purchased on lds.org for $31 and shipped free within the United States.
- Find space. Even if you live in a small apartment, you can find space for a few extra cans of soup, fruit, and boxes of granola bars. Be creative and choose your priorities when deciding what to stuff under the bed and on top of the fridge.
- One of my daughters uses the under-the-counter space in the children’s bathroom to stack cans of vegetables and fruit. It might not pass the Better Homes and Garden test, but they are prepared. A few years back, they used a work bonus to buy several hundred pounds of wheat, rice, oatmeal, and other long-term food supply. Those boxes are stacked in their bonus room-turned-son’s-bedroom. He has turned it into a whole world on which his Lego battles are played out.
- Ask for food storage for birthdays or Christmas or if you are the gift giver, give it as gifts.
- Believe you can do it and that a way will be opened. Apply 1 Nephi 3:7.
- Ask your ward leaders for classes and meetings that focus on how to increase your food storage. If you are in the position to choose meeting topics, make preparedness a priority.
- Sign up to go to a church cannery if there is one in the area. Even if you can only afford six cans of something, go and can it.
- Involve your children. Have family home evenings about food storage, make meals with your supply, and let them help rotate the food and keep the storage neat.