A squared away pantry is one of the most basic and important preps you can do to ready yourself and your family for an emergency. When roads are blocked by flooding or debris, you may be unable to get to grocery stores to purchase food. Even if you can get yourself to a grocery store, grocery store workers may be unable to get to their stores to open them for business. Individuals who do not have extra stored food at hand may face hunger and a weakened physical state if roads are impassible for even a few days. In a more severe storm or emergency, those who have not stored food could face starvation. A well stocked pantry is an easy prep that can prevent a lot of heartache in an intense emergency situation. Here are some simple ideas on building your emergency food store.
1) Have an End Goal in Mind
Decide ahead of time what your food storage goals are so that you can clearly work towards them. Your efforts and steps will be different if you are building a starter pantry of two weeks of food supply versus creating a two months food supply. Our faithful Mormons friends work to create a two year food supply for their families. The type of pantry you want to create will dictate what items and steps you need to take in order to create it. It would be silly to just start haphazardly buying food only to find down the road that the food stores being purchased were not well aligned with what was really wanted or needed. Therefore, plan ahead and act accordingly.
2) Buy food that will serve your purpose
In an emergency situation, especially one that will require physical labor, you will need healthy carbs, fulfilling proteins, useful fats and oils, and nourishing vitamins and minerals. You will need food that will make you strong and keep you going. Things like rice, beans, canned chicken, soup stock, and green vegetables are just a few examples of food that will serve you well in an emergency situation. You do not needs things like chips, cookies, soda, etc. While junk food is tasty, it tends to sap energy instead of boosting it, and junk food has little to no nutritional value to keep you going. Buy and store food that will get the job done.
3) Skip the cheap stuff
This is down the same vein as storing food that will serve your purpose. As is the case with most things in life, you get what you pay for. Those discount food brands are discount for a reason: they are low quality and less nutritional. Those cheap ramen noodles that everyone loves do little more than fill your stomach; the stuff simply just passes through your body and gets eliminated because there is no nutritional value to it! It's basically an artificial filler! The same is true for most discount and cheap brands - they will be of little use to you in an emergency situation.
Not only is a lot of the cheap food without nutritional value, it also contains ingredients that are bad for you! Many of these cheap brands use harsh chemicals to process the food or to preserve it. Some brands even have trace amounts of heavy metals or other really bad chemicals in them. Imagine eating a bunch of this cheap stuff in an emergency situation: you will get little to no useful nutrition from it, and the cheap food might end up making you really sick and unable contribute to your own survival! Are those few dollars you saved on the price tag worth it?
Now there some quality foods out there than can be acquired for reasonable prices. You just need to educate yourself a little bit and then pay attention to prices and sales. An example of a quality brand with an affordable price is Simple Truth Organic. Simple Truth Organic produces a variety of canned and other storable foods that are made entirely with organic and non-genetically modified ingredients and then sells them for very reasonable prices.
4) Store food you will actually enjoy eating
The key here is that you find food that meets the above criteria that is also enjoyable for you to eat. Be sure that the food serves your purpose (is nourishing) and is not cheap crap (be sure it is quality food). With those in mind, you will be so much happier and better off to find storable food that you enjoy to eat versus only storing food that you can't stand. While it is true that eating any quality food will be at least somewhat appetizing in the face of starvation, it is also true that your morale and sense of well being will be much happier having food that you also enjoy to eat.
For example, I like rice and beans as an easy way to get a complete protein in a meal that is also hearty and filling. In particular, I love baked beans because they taste so good right out of the can. For the myriad of beans I have that do not come already seasoned, I also store sauces and spices so that I can doctor up my rice and beans myself to taste really good. I like rice and beans so much that I even eat it on my days off because it is so easy to make, so nutritious, and so good. It comforts me that should I enter into an emergency or survival situation that is extended by a number of days, I know that I already have food that I like to eat and will take care of me.
5) Practice Preparing What You Store
In theory, it might seem like a good idea to store certain foods. However, you may find that in practice, you either don't like the way those foods taste, or you might find that you need more spices, different ingredients, or more practice. Experimenting with different recipes and foods will show you what you like and what you don't. This will better inform you as to what will be good for you and your family to store and what will not really work for you and your family.
6) Buying in Bulk
One way to cut down on the cost of buying storable foods is to buy in bulk. This could come in the form of purchasing food through a wholesaler like BJ's, Costco, Sam's Club, etc. Other retailers may offer a discount per unit by buying a larger quantity. For example, my local grocer offers a discount per can when one purchase ten cans as opposed to just buying one or two cans. Buying in bulk can also take the form of taking advantage of buy-one-get-one sales. Buying in bulk generally means a larger up front investment, but a cheaper price per each unit purchased.
7) Trickle Method
Sometimes our prepping budget is so tight that even though we could get a cheaper unit price by buying in bulk, we only have enough money to purchase one or two food items at a time. I have been there many times myself. In such times, during a normal weekly grocery shopping run, I would simply buy the one or two extra cans or rice bags that I could afford, and then add them to my emergency storage. This is a slow process, but after many weeks of disciplined application, some decent food stores will eventually accumulate. The process can feel futile and frustrating, but just stick with it. With patience and persistence, a good pantry can be crafted over time using this method.
Any prepping task can seem daunting when you haven't done it before. Don't be discouraged. Start with the baby steps. If you have no food stored at all, start by storing three days worth of extra food. Experiment with preparing meals made by storable food. You may be surprised how really good tasting and nourishing these meals can be. After a little bit of experience, you can then strive for having two weeks worth of food stored, and so on. Plan what you want your pantry to help you with, plan what food you want and need, practice, and make it happen.