“Bread deals with living things, with giving life, with growth, with the seed, the grain that nurtures.  It is not coincidence that we say bread is the staff of life.” – Lionel Poilane

In last week’s column, I mentioned that my wife and I were setting up an emergency food supply.  As part of our plan, we purchased a number of 5-gallon, food-safe buckets, and a special shelf designed to hold canned food.  Now, we are in the process of stocking up the larder.

Since we are stocking up not only to prepare for natural disasters, but for financial ones as well, we are only buying products we know we’ll eat.  If we won’t or don’t eat it as part of our regular menu, we aren’t going to buy it “just in case.”

So far, our food storage includes the following:

  • Flour, including bread flour, unbleached all-purpose flour and a small amount of whole wheat and cake flour.
  • Dry beans.
  • White rice.
  • Cornmeal.
  • Dry pasta.
  • A small assortment of canned food, including tuna, vegetables (mostly tomato products) and fruit.
  • Baking supplies such as sugar, salt, baking soda, baking powder and yeast.

As time goes on, we’ll be adding more to our store, not only in terms of quantity, but in terms of the variety of items.  Much of the dry goods such as bulk flour, beans and cornmeal were very inexpensive, and were purchased in one trip.  Other items, especially the more costly canned foods, will be purchased by the case (as our local store gives case discounts) as we can afford to do so.

Here are some suggestions for building your own food larder:

1.    Don’t stock foods you won’t eat.  Buying a 50-lb pail of flour, only to have it spoil, doesn’t save you any money.  A recent statistic suggests that Americans waste as much as 25% of the groceries they purchase.  You aren’t saving any money that way, and if you don’t rotate your stock, it will be spoiled by the time you need it.

2.    Don’t stock large quantities of highly perishable foods.  We opted to stock white rice instead of brown, because it has a considerably longer shelf life.  White rice, stored properly, can be kept for years, where the healthier brown rice will only keep for roughly six months.

3.    Keep track of purchase and expiration dates, so you can plan to rotate your stock before it spoils or becomes less tasty.

4.    Learn how to cook.  Not only is it cheaper and healthier, it will also help you make use of your stored food.

5.    Stock a variety of foods.  Although rice and beans are certainly cheap, they become boring after a period of time.  Make sure that you have a variety of both dry and canned products.

6.    Store your food in an accessible location.  Make sure that even if the power goes out or there’s structural damage to your home that you’ll be able to get to your supplies.

7.    Make sure you have a way to prepare your emergency stash if disaster strikes.  Your high-end electric stove won’t do you any good if the power goes out.  Make sure you have a manual can opener and a camp stove or other portable way to cook.  Our RV doubles as an emergency kitchen, giving us propane-powered refrigeration and cooking facilities.  We also have a gas-powered BBQ grill that can serve as backup as well.

8.    Make sure you store some extra water along with your food.  Although our food store is largely intended as a hedge against financial woe, we also recognize that a natural disaster could come our way.  Our RV stores 40 gallons of fresh water, and we routinely keep several 5-gallon bottles of drinking water for our dispenser and a couple of cases of bottled water as well.  If your water is shut off for a few days, you’ll be glad you have it.

Americans talk a lot about disaster preparedness, but few actually do it.  Being prepared for emergencies isn’t just a wise precaution.  It’s a financially sound plan as well.

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