March 9, 2009

Should You Be Stockpiling Food? How do you stockpile food anyway?

Last year, there was already talk of stockpiling food. As in, the federal government was stockpiling - buying up storable food in enormous volume from such places as Best Prices Storable Foods. Last month, there were news stories of China stockpiling food, too, because of the big drought it's been facing.

And, sure there's a need for a government to have food in ready demand when something like Katrina hits.

But what about our economy? Should we stockpile food in preparation for transportation halts, bank closures, or food shortages? And if so, how do you do that, anyway?

Over at FrugalFamilies, Mary Ann Romans gives 5 good reasons that simplifiers and frugal folk should stockpile food. They include:

1. To be prepared for times when money is scarce; and
2. To maximize your food budget over the year.

Stockpiling Doesn't Sound So Serious When You Consider the Coupon Mom

Coupon cutters look for bargains. And, that bargain might well involve buying more than you need right now if you're getting a great price for it. When you buy up three months' worth of toilet paper because you're getting a fantastic price for it today, that's great shopping. That's also stockpiling T.P. if you want to look at it from a different perspective.

Fighting Rising Prices By Buying in Bulk Isn't Such A Scary Concept Either

When you consider how rapidly food prices are rising (they're going up in conjunction with oil, consider the transportation costs, etc. and the nationwide drought isn't helping) then planning to buy things today that might cost 200% more in a few months seems pretty savvy.

USA Today reported that food prices rose more in 2008 than any year since 1990. And that's before the dire predictions of inflation that we keep hearing about in 2009.

So, if you can buy food items much cheaper now than they will be six months from now, and you have the money to do it, why wouldn't you? Makes good fiscal sense for your annual budget, right?

But, what if the Scary Scenario is True? How do you Stockpile for a Crisis?

Well, first of all, you could ask a Mormon. As part of their religious beliefs, Mormons routinely keep one year's worth of necessities with them at all times. They are the masters of stockpiling.

Absent that, you can decide upon a time frame. What time period are you preparing to cover? One week? One month? Three months? A year?

Grocery stores assume that you only buy enough food to cover a three-day period, and that you eat out several times a week. They market for this. So, you need to look beyond the aisles of the market and look to your family and what you need to have onhand.

1. Any medicines (including vet meds) that are needed should be considered as well as vitamins. Get prescriptions in advance if you can. Most advise one month's needs in advance.

2. Consider what your family eats every week. You don't want to stockpile stuff that no one likes just because it's easy to store. Don't forget that this applies to your pets, too. Just because dried kibble is easy to store, doesn't mean it is worth your time and trouble if Fifi won't eat it.

3. Consider the nutritional value of what you'll be storing. Velvetta may keep well, but what is the quality of processed cheese as a food source?

4. Remember food preparation. You'll want to stockpile food that needs little if any prep time. Canned soups, peanut butter, canned tuna and sardines, boxed cereal, along with canned fruits and veggies are good things to stock. Soy milk can be bought off the shelf, along with almond milk and rice milk. Great for stockpiling.

5. As for heating food, and doing some cooking, remember to stockpile bottled water along with cooking oil. Store 1 gallon/day for each human, half that for the pets, and more for your cooking and cleaning needs. If you think that you might be facing a power outage, then consider a solar oven which you can buy or you can make(see my previous post on those nifty gadgets).

6. Store your stockpiled goods according to expiration date. Replenish as the items get close to their expiration date, the easiest way to do this is to store the items with the oldest items in the front of the shelf, box, etc.

7. Pretend you'll be camping. Maybe you won't have ice or a fridge. You won't be able to store leftovers, so remember that you're going to be making little meals, not big ones.

8. Seeds, nuts, and beans are good to stockpile. Make sure they are in airtight containers, and remember -- nuts have oil in them, they'll go rancid faster than seeds will. Maybe keep them in the freezer for now. Don't forget energy bars and trail mix here, too. Good to eat, easy to store for a long time period.

9. You can buy dry milk and dried eggs. Doesn't sound very yummy, does it? But you'll be glad you have them if the Unknown Crisis arrives.

10. Remember to have lots of cloth towels on hand (unless you want to stockpile lots of paper towels along with the T.P.) as well as anti-bacterial hand cleaner, and sponges, along with natural cleaning materials - like vinegar and baking soda. If you digest a little vinegar, it's not a problem, and you may not have the water sources available to freely clean up with your regular dishwashing soap.

Michigan State University has a great brochure that's a printable, online PDF file with lots of great information - more than what I've listed here. To print out your own copy, check out their site.

Over at the LDS section of About.Com, the Mormon Guide (Rachel Woods) recommends five different books on food storage. (In fact, everything that Rachel Woods has written about food storage for About.Com is pretty darn good and definitely worth your time, if you're serious about stockpiling food.)

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