This is a guest post by Michele
[This is an entry in our non-fiction writing contest where you could win a number of prizes including an 84 serving storage bucket of Wise Food Storage, 500 rounds of 9mm ammo, a NukAlert a copy of my book The Dirt Cheap Survival Retreat and a copy of my CD It’s The End Of The World As We Know It – And I Feel Fine . For complete rules and list of prizes see this post.]
One Second After by William Forstchen scared the ‘you know what’ out of me. Not that I didn’t have somewhat of the ‘prepper’ gene in me prior, I have always been someone who kept a really full pantry, telling everyone I must have either starved to death or watched my kids starve to death in a past life. I had a good 6 months worth of food and water saved before Y2K, which has long since been eaten, and not replaced until a year or so ago.
Back then, I worried about only my children and myself, now I have grandchildren too, and am also planning for my mom, my brother and his wife, his kids and their spouses as well as cousins and their kids (how do you tell your cousins and their kids to go starve?) and I’d like to get to a point where I could help my neighbors as well. Storing food for 6 people for a few months was a lot easier than for 40 for a year or two – two years just in case TSHTF in the fall and I don’t have a garden in and/or the garden mostly fails one year. I only have my one modest income and a fairly high mortgage, so have to prioritize my money. I am continually trying to find ways to prepare as cheaply and efficiently as possible – considering both my money and storage space. I’ve cut back my living expenses everywhere I can so I can buy food for storage – $20 is 50lbs rice!
When I started, I was so seriously lost about what and how much to store. I got one of those free food storage calculator programs on-line that allow you to figure out how much food storage you would need for ___ amount of people for ___ months (you fill in the details). When I plug-in 40 people (I only figure for adults – kids grow up) for 12 months (my first goal) the amount of food required was quite overwhelming – 6000 lbs wheat, 1000 lbs corn and oats, 2000 lbs rice – you get the idea. So while I use that as a long-term goal, I also broke it down into one month and three months, etc. It is still daunting, but more manageable broken down in smaller amounts of time AND really nice to use as goals for my quiet little celebrations. I was very excited when I could feed my family for 3 months!
Fortunately, you can alter the food storage calculator program adding other foods along with the amounts of those foods that you assume you would need (for example, I use the value of wheat and plug that into rice). So while I do store a lot of wheat, my main storage for filling tummies is white rice and COSTCO carries 25 lb bags for around $9.
The main staple most programs and information on-line seem to use is wheat, which is cheap, versatile and has a VERY LONG storage life. Nice, but I’m allergic to wheat, and I know that many people are either allergic to wheat or gluten intolerant and don’t even know it. Switching to a wheat based diet would KILL many people, and it is not a nice way to die.
Wheat can be sprouted (and I’m not allergic to it after it is sprouted). Home sprouted wheat grass is gluten-free (provided you are careful not to include any part of the seed kernel) makes an excellent mid-winter green, especially good if you have no other and, if dried immediately after sprouting (before it turns green) and ground, it makes malt, both for sweetening and beer making. I bought several cookbooks and How to Live on Wheat by John Hill is probably the best book I’ve read on cooking with home storage wheat.
It is VERY important to make sure your food storage can be used to make fairly familiar foods, I have heard that some children would die rather than continually eat unfamiliar or unpalatable food. Some of my grandchildren are picky eaters, so I now include among my food storage purchases, powered cheese, hot cocoa mix, cocoa powder, Tang – that sort of thing, to make some of the meals sort of what they are used to (taste like junk without being so). Now that I have quite a bit of food to fill tummies, I’m diversifying by adding other types of food and lots of spices in addition to continuing my ‘bulk’ food storage.
I found several websites that help me think of the things I haven’t – this site being my major one (thanks so much M.D.!) along with Food Storage Made Easy’s baby steps. Some of the better reference books in my opinion are Crisis Preparedness by Jack A. Spigarelli (heavy on the how’s and what’s of food storage – and food is important folks) and How to Survive the End of the World as we Know it, by James Wesley Rawles. I know that I am not an expert and may not be able to think of everything, nor have the money for it even if I do, so I’m carefully prioritizing and certainly glad so many resources are available to me – and yes, I print stuff I consider important. I cannot rely on having electricity or a computer in the event of an EMP – either man-made or solar initiated.
The Mormons have a lot of information about food storage, and are more than willing to share with non-Mormons like myself. They have taught me to do dry canning of the bulk foods I purchase at the Bishop’s Warehouse, and they have stuff like Hot Cocoa mix that is INCREDIBLY cheap next to buying it in those little 1 oz packages. I also carry in my purse the order form from the Provident Living site. I use it to compare prices while out shopping and mark them down on that order form.
I frequent the dollar store for first aid supplies and the feed store for bulk amounts of powdered antibiotics and for re-cleaned wheat and corn, which may not be as pretty but is perfectly acceptable for human consumption. The local WINCO’s bulk food department is one of my favorite places for beans, legumes, spices, powdered cheese, mashed potatoes, etc., and they will order any of their bulk food items in the big bags for you, saving you even more – if you have some way to store it (you can buy the mylar bags and oxygen absorbers from the Mormons very cheaply and they seal with an iron). Don’t forget, you need a couple of grain grinders if storing whole grains. I don’t store flours, they go rancid fairly quickly.
Fats were a concern. As much as we think we need to be a fat-free society, fats are necessary to survival. There are many vitamins that require fats for assimilation, not to mention to flavor food and for energy. Most fats do not store for long periods of time without going rancid. Butter flavored Crisco is one potential and I have stored some, but I do not care for hydrogenated fats. I recently found Ghee – which is clarified butter and has a very long storage life and Amazon.com has a subscription program, so they auto ship my 56 oz jar of Ghee every month for just over $20, and it makes one small part of my storage prep easy. I also store Skippy peanut butter and hope that with the hydrogenated fats mixed into it, it will keep longer than the ‘best by’ date on the jar.
I bought a house that was bank owned and a former rental. I am replacing the yard full of stickers and weeds with medicinal herbs, bushes and flowers instead of useless and high maintenance grass (my front yard looks a bit like a cottage garden). I’m making medicinal tinctures, and salves – all so much easier than I ever imagined they could be. I’m now using my apple peels to make vinegar, also very easy and a new tool in my survival toolbox.
I live in the country, and everyone around me has several acres as well, so I’m scouting out places to hide some of my stores. A fire or raiding party could be disastrous to the survival of my family without places to ‘squirrel away food’.
I found instructions and patterns for homemade reusable/washable feminine sanitary pads. While I am long past the need for them myself, my children, nieces and grandchildren are not. It seemed a much easier solution than trying to stock up on year’s worth of these products and they are fairly easy to make. If I could only find an easy replacement for toilet paper…!
I keep an old microwave oven with the cord cut off in the basement for use as a Faraday cage. I store my ham radios there – walkie talkies would be good too – maybe soon. Faraday cages can be made of cardboard boxes and aluminum foil as well I understand, but you can usually find broken microwaves for free and for me the accessibility of being able to just open the door to the microwave to get my radio is attractive.
I’ve joined a gym and began to slowly work out. I found I was almost always short of breath when doing simple chores around the house. My workouts are not very long, but that’s OK, I’ll get to where I want to be eventually. I took a one day ‘Wilderness Survival 101’ from Sierra Survival – www.sierrasurvival.com. We built shelters to withstand high winds out of plastic with no grommets, learned several different ways to procure safe water, learned to identify numerous plants for making tea-soap-cordage-food-medicine, learn to navigate using five primitive methods, traps and snares, weapons, making fire, knots and rope systems, rescue signals, and tracking. We learned an incredible system on how to keep toasty hot and dry, even if it’s sub-zero, by utilizing the items in my survival kit and small twigs. It was well worth every penny I spent on it.
I bought a 12-gauge shotgun, and I regularly purchase shells (Thank you Wal-Mart for having such cheap ammo). I knew it might eventually be a necessity, but got a slap in the face when the man I was carpooling with (I’ll call him “Mark”) informed me in a smug tone of voice that he didn’t need to store food for himself or his family, bullets were cheap and had an unlimited shelf life. My son’s and I discussed it, and decided to standardize on guns, so we could buy only three types of ammo, 12 gauge shells, .45 and .22. This is the part of ‘prepping’ I like the least but since “Mark’s’ comment, I’ve gotten a little hardened. “Mark’s” comment also helped my choice to purchase a pump shotgun, because I now figure that if the “CLICK CLICK” of my 12 gauge shotgun doesn’t make someone immediately stop in their tracks or turn and run for the hills, they are intent on doing me and mine harm, and yes, I could certainly pull the trigger without a second thought.
Maybe this might not be an issue for you, but another thought I’ve had to deal with is new babies. While I’m long past this possibility myself (thank God), some of the family I am prepping for is still fertile and in a really big SHTF situation, birth control might be a little hard to come by. Sex is fun, and certainly a comfort in stressful times – and as we all know, sex often leads to babies. I still have most of my baby equipment (grandkids) but no one still has any of the small size baby clothing or infant items. Thrift stores and craigslist have been great for procuring inexpensive or free baby items. My concern is not cute or in perfect, stain free condition, just serviceable items. I’ve also been asking family members to pass on the clothing the grandkids have outgrown and I store it.
Big people clothing is important too – not everyone may come with a bunch – or come with the wrong season’s items, so I’m trying to store some larger sized winter clothing – better warm for all than fashionable for smaller people. I’m not quite as concerned with summer; they can all walk around naked in the summer for all I care. Good serviceable shoes are more important to me and I have not come up with a way to deal with all the different sizes without choosing to buy shoes over food. Maybe I should just buy a bunch of leather hides and a punch tool to make moccasins – I’ll take suggestions…
I bought a bunch of those 5 gal Homer buckets from Home Depot – useful for almost everything, and a rub board for washing clothes. There are also websites with ‘recipes’ for homemade CHEAP washing powders, and I’ve printed those and bought the necessary ingredients.
That’s about everything I’ve thought I wanted to pass on. I know I haven’t thought of everything, so I would love to read your posts with suggestions for things I’ve missed. I hope my musings may help one or two of you with things you hadn’t thought of either.