For decades, we have been counseled to be prepared by having food storage for our families. But even with so many resources available to us, there are still a few pitfalls we might be falling into. Here are some common food storage mistakes to look out for and tips to avoid them.
Mistake #1: Not Knowing Where to Start
This is perhaps one of the largest obstacles we face when it comes to building up our food storage. Sometimes we get so overwhelmed at the task of getting started that we don’t start at all. But don’t fret! There are lots of small and simple things you can do to get started.
Usually, experts recommend starting with a 72-hour kit. Whether this is in the form of a food bucket or a bag in your closet that is packed up and ready to go, the main idea is to provide food and basic survival necessities you would need in a grab and go emergency. Without requiring too much space, money, time, or effort, 72-hour kits make it easy to be prepared for a short-term emergency.
After that, the advice is simple: just start somewhere! Whether you have money to spend or are on a tight budget, the important thing is to do something. This could mean that you set a goal to start building up three months’ worth of food. It could also mean that when canned vegetables are on sale, you pick up an extra case when you are at the grocery store. You could even try using a food counter or calculator online to keep track of how much you have and what you still need.
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Mistake #2: Buying in Bulk before Doing the Research
One common misconception we have is that we need to buy all of our food storage all at once. Doing the “one and done” and buying a year’s supply of food isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it may not be the best option for your family.
While buying a year’s supply of food can bring a lot of security, it’s definitely important to do your research first. Before purchasing large amounts of food in bulk, it is important to take some things into consideration. What is the shelf life of the food you are buying? Will this food be easily converted into meals your family will eat? Would it be better to get a variety of different foods?
Katie Stewart from Emergency Essentials says, “Before anybody purchases any food from any company, just do your research. Find out exactly what you’re getting, how many calories you’re getting—especially if you’re buying in bulk.” While it may be tempting to just go with what’s easiest, taking the time to research first will save you much more in the end.
Mistake #3: Buying Food That You Can’t Make Into a Meal
Often when it comes to food storage, we see people buying copious amounts of wheat, rice, and beans. But when it comes down to it, what are you going to make out of that food?
Food storage expert Becky Dial of Harvest Right says that while stocking up on those basics is good, many people miss the next step of what they would need to do in an emergency situation. “I think a lot of people are uncomfortable thinking about having to take that food off of their shelves and actually make it into a meal,” she says.
Dial recommends having recipes ready so that when the time comes, you know what to make. She also suggests using your long-term food storage from time to time in your everyday life. Being familiar with your food storage will give you peace of mind in knowing that you could actually feed your family if an emergency were to happen.
It may also be helpful to honestly evaluate what kind of cook you are. If making food from scratch is your thing, great! If you would prefer the convenience of just adding water, there are options for that too. You might even look into freeze drying some of the meals you are already making on a regular basis. Regardless of what you choose, just be sure you are prepared to make real meals out of the food you have.
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Mistake #4: Counting Servings or Empty Calories
We know that when it comes to food storage planning, calories are important to count. But there are a few traps to look out for as you do this.
Experts say that each person needs about 2,000 per day with about 15 grams of protein. Keep in mind, however, that this estimation is calculated for individuals with a sedentary lifestyle who are not likely in an emergency circumstance. “Lots of people forget (and me too!) that when you’re in a high-stress situation, you’re actually going to start burning more calories,” Stewart says. Because of this, rounding up to 2,600 calories is usually a good idea.
Watch out for empty calories though! If you are only looking at calorie count, you might find yourself trapped in accumulating foods that are low in fiber, protein, and vitamins. A candy bar has more calories than an apple, but one obviously has more nutritional value than the other. As you build up your food storage, make sure you have a sufficient amount of complex carbohydrates and proteins. Count calories per day per person, but make sure they are the calories that count.
DJ Sprague from Blue Chip Group points out another pitfall that comes with ordering prepackaged food. “Servings don’t mean anything,” he warns. “A serving could be a cup of food; a serving could be cheese sauce or spices or flavorings.” When it comes to taking inventory of how much food you have, be sure to analyze beyond the serving count on the label. Focus on the calorie count and nutritional value.
Mistake #5: Forgetting Water
Sometimes we get so caught up in food and calories that we forget one of the most essential aspects of emergency preparedness: water. Since the average human can only survive between two and five days without it, water is definitely something you won’t want to overlook.
“Typically you need two gallons of water per person per day,” Sprague recommends. “And that’s for drinking, food preparation (especially if you’re using freeze-dried or dehydrated food), and light personal hygiene.”
There are lots of solutions for storing water, but again, the important thing is to do something. Maybe you start by storing a case of bottled water in your pantry. When you are more serious about building up a water supply to last your family a few weeks, you can fill empty jugs with water from the tap and store them in a cool, dark place. Just remember that non-chlorinated water should be treated with chlorine bleach.
In a true emergency situation, you will also need some sort of non-electric water filtration system. Be sure to include a water filter of some kind in your 72-hour kit.
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Mistake #6: Buying Food That Your Family Won’t Enjoy Eating
We often hear people say things like, “In an emergency, it won’t matter if it tastes good. I’ll just be happy to have food.” This is, of course, a true statement, but only to an extent. Especially when it comes to long-term food storage, having food that your family will feel comfortable eating is more important than you might initially think.
“If you are in a stressful situation, food is like a comfort; it’s a stress reliever,” Stewart says. “So it’s also good to add some good tasty things to your food storage, even if it’s like ice cream sandwiches or yogurt or something that can just help relieve your stress too.”
For families with young children especially, it’s important to plan emergency meals that are similar to what your family already likes to eat. You may also find that having a variety of foods will help prevent you from getting sick of eating the same thing every day. While nutritional needs take top priority, keep taste in mind and always sample food before you buy it in bulk.
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Resources to Learn More
Mother-daughter team Kathy Bray and Jan Barker have developed a fun, easy, and practical food storage program that makes it simple to develop and maintain a three-month supply of food items that can be used to make the meals your family already enjoys.
By building a system based on the food your family already eats and the grocery shopping you already do, your personalized food-storage program can eliminate waste and unnecessary expense, requires no additional storage space, and guarantees that everyone in the family will be happy with the results. Available at Deseret Book stores and deseretbook.com.