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Survival guide [2/7]: food stocks - Instructions for use

We lost the ancient reflex of storing food… Our forefathers used the attic space primarily for storage (grain storage that is) and preservation techniques were quite reduced. As time went on, salt was replaced by refrigeration (we are taking a few shortcuts here), and the shelf life of food is now quantified. I mean there is a legal deadline for food storage with the famous Use By and BIUB (Best If Used By) dates.


Why should you store food ?

My grandma used to say, prevention is better than cure. We usually look back on past living with nostalgia. Make no mistake though, life was hard on our grandparents who would manage a pantry without questioning. Whenever they could, they would produce for own consumption, by operating a small vegetable garden or barnyard. Fresh products were far less varied and they would eat food that’s in season.

Today, many people may have just a 3-day supply of food available at home. It is fair to say that food storage is practically non-existent with a last-minute approach to it. This is especially the case for households without children.
Without fearmongering or being an alarmist, there are some (real and sometimes living) situations that should drive us to consider the need to store food for a dozen days or more (1-3 months).

A few reasons why you should store food :

  • Weather : on December 26, 1999, storm Lothar caused 20 billion euros of damage and thousands of homes were without power and water for several days (10 days on the Charente coast). Supermarkets became very difficult to access and it only took a few hours for stocks of staple foodstuffs to run out.
  • Social movement : consider how a refinary strike that lasts a bit would quickly impact the shelves of food stores. Like all of us, supermarkets keep their inventory to a maximum of d+3 supply.
  • Life’s mishaps : all of a sudden, you are experiencing falling incomes or you lose your job ? Your food supply can help you not to go under while waiting to improve your situation.

When should you store food ?

There is not such a thing as the best moment to build a food supply. That’s an activity of every instant for a simple reason : your food must rotate. (Happily) there are solutions that can help you not to worry about Best by dates. Some brands like Fuel Your Preparation offer food tins with a 25-year shelf life ! You bank on simplicity with these food products : no more stock rotation, and it’s easy to prepare with only water to add to rehydrate your food.

If you start your home food storage from scratch, you’ve got 2 solutions :

  • Either you start with a complete food storage for a specified timeframe. In that case, we recommend you test your food products before purchasing a large quantity of them. Then, you can make up your stock according to your taste. You can opt for complete food kits which include various menus, classified according to their shelf life and number of day supply. This is the simplest solution of the two.
  • Or you start small and gradually build your food storage. Sometimes and budget wise, it is not feasible to shop for an extra supply of food all at once. Don’t worry, you can build your food supply by purchasing one or a few extra cans of food every time you shop, while following the emergency plan you have already set up.

At any rate, don’t wait until it’s too late to start building your emergency pantry. It’s that simple, everyone can build at its own pace its own food storage !

What kind of food should you store ?

If you want to start your food pantry based on food that can be stored, with no vegetable garden or barnyard as a food complement, then you should store meat, vegetables and starch food, including dairy products, sugar, condiments, oils and wheat flour (wholemeal and spelt flour).

Picking the right food for you could start with what you like eating, the type of product you prefer (freeze-dried or sterilized food), the number of servings you and your family need, the Kcal intake you want and the products shelf life. You may also consider food packaging. You don’t store cylindrical tin cans and retort pouches the same way.

There is not one great solution for an ideal emergency food supply to share with you, but here are a few hints:

  • diversify your food supply and use various types of food containers. Choose tin cans and freeze-dried pouches for roaming and stock rotation. Freeze-dried and sterilized meals come in a variety of recipes and canned foods are ideal for families and groups (sometimes a single tin can make more than 20 servings).
  • pick starchy food, seeds, pasta, rice. Caution, the shelf life of such food is subject to a stringent storage process. There should be no exposure to oxygen and/or light. Opaque vacuum packaging (Mylar) is highly recommended.
  • compact food rations. They are essential items in a long term food supply. Compact rations like NRG-5 for example have a quality / weight / size / energy intake ratio that is unbeatable. And what’s more, they are pretty good, and are a great alternative to breakfast meals.

The range of food for storage is very broad but remember, you should store what you eat and eat what you store. Special attention should be given to some foods that are storage sensitive like dairy products or flour. Opt for effective solutions like this one here for spelt flour or that one there for butter, cheese, eggs and milk.

Some tips:

  • 100% pure honey lasts forever, it should last indefinitely !
  • some Use-By dates and most of the Best-Before dates only have a legal value and the products can be consumed well beyond the expiry date. If packaging is not damaged, some foods are still safe to consume several months past indicated Best-Before date ; however, they may have lost some of their organoleptic or nutrition qualities : less tasty with less vitamins and with a different consistency…

How to store ?

Once you know what food you should store, you need to think about how to organize the place of storage. It is recommended to store your food supplies in a dry and well ventilated area, away from light and heat. Caution, keep them away from rodents and some other predators (teen-agers). The ideal is to keep them in a room at 20/22°C, and protected from freezing in winter.

To stay on the safe side, food supplies should not be in direct contact with the ground on the floor. Don’t keep damaged food cans or bags, but rather consume them quickly. Check your supplies on a regular basis. Keep an updated checklist of your food supplies with an expiration date for each food item. Have an easy access to your food supply and give priority to the ones with a Best-Before date, consume them first as the date approaches.

To sum up

You can plan in advance and prepare for any potential emergency without being a pessimist or a paranoid. If we look back to our past, we know that our forefathers used to plan ahead for events that could happen. It was just common sense for them. And above all, stock your emergency food supply with the food that you like to eat !

Matthieu Fontaine