Emergency Food and Supplies

Emergency food supply

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Reading through the library has landed me in the Food and Drink (641) section.  There are so many interesting food related topics that it’s going to be difficult for me to narrow this section down to just a few posts. Given the recent pandemic due to the COVID 19 virus, I felt this topic was worth revisiting. Dewey Hop previously touched on emergency food in an earlier post called Natural Disasters. It’s not just natural disasters though that present the need for emergency food.

Food and supplies were sometimes difficult to obtain for many people and forced some families to go hungry during the pandemic lockdown. Others had emergency stockpiles and had no food or supply worries whatsoever. Many people fell somewhere in the middle of these extremes. The good news is that it’s never too late to start an emergency stockpile for your family or just yourself if you live alone. If nothing else the pandemic should have highlighted the need to plan ahead. It will be an investment but you don’t have to do it all at once. Start now. Anything is better than nothing.

The first step in establishing an emergency food supply is deciding where you will keep it. While it should be out of the way it should also be easily accessible. Some popular storage areas are basements,

Basement Food Supply

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garages (although consider this carefully if there are extreme climate changes in your area),

Garage food supply

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and spare rooms.

Spare Room Storage

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If you don’t have that kind of space, don’t worry. There are still plenty of things you can do to store your food and supply stash although you may have to spread it out to various locations around your home. Consider using furniture storage pieces. For example, you could use an ottoman or coffee table that has storage space in which food could be easily stored.

coffee table storage

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Hide food and supplies under furniture such as beds, couches, and mattresses. This can be accomplished by using a slider as shown below or even small totes that are easily accessible.

Food under bed

Image Credit: Survivalist Prepper

Under Couch Food Storage

Image Credit: Skilled Survivor

Couch Storage

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Mattress storage

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It is possible to store enough food for one year under a twin bed. Storing food under every bed means having enough food for your entire family for a year.

Look around your home at furniture you already have to see if it can be repurposed for emergency food storage.

Small closets make great storage spaces.

Small Food Prep Closet

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Decorative baskets or containers can be used above kitchen or laundry room cabinets and filled with food and supplies. Find creative ways to store food up to ceiling height. For example some people collect cookie jars. Those jars could be displayed over cabinets –or where ever-but contain items like freeze dried meals, dehydrated flavor packets, spice bottles, and any other nonperishable food items that will fit inside them. This works best for cookie jars that conceal their contents.

Storage above kitchen cabinets

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Some people who have small homes invest in a shed where they can store emergency food supplies (again consider carefully if there are extreme climate changes in your area). Others rent climate controlled storage units to store their emergency food supply. These two methods have both pros and cons to them. Unless you actually have a shed on your property you may have difficulty reaching your food source if you are unable to leave your home. Some survivalists recommend having both a food stash at home and offsite which can double your chances of survival depending on the circumstances. Still another option is to store at least a 72 hour food supply in your vehicle in a small tote. Freeze dried meals lend themselves well to this situation.

Knowing where you will store extra food  and being organized makes it easier to start building your stockpile. It’s important to note that you will need different types of foods for different situations such as sheltering in place (as during the pandemic) or bug out situations which may be caused by natural disasters or some other situation forcing you to leave your home. Bug out situations are covered in depth in the Natural Disasters blog post. For now I will just briefly mention that you need to  have 72 hours worth of food (per family member including pets) for your bug out plan. It is suggested that you use Mylar water bags  and freeze dried meals along with protein survival bars (light weight and easier to carry). An additional benefit of freeze dried meals is that you won’t have to remember to check expiration dates every 6 months since they can last up to 20 years.

For sheltering in place scenarios you will need to have at least a 3 month supply of extra food. Many survivalists recommend having a year’s supply of extra food.

The next step in creating an emergency food stock pile is knowing how you will store it in your designated area or areas. For the larger areas use industrial strength shelving which is bolted in place if at all possible. You don’t want flimsy shelving that may come crashing down after you’ve added a lot of weight. Not only  could you ruin your food but it’s a safety issue. Having heavy cans fall on you or a member of your family could have disastrous consequences.

There are all types of can racks.

Can Rack

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Can Rack 3

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Can bank

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You might try racks like the ones above or some other system. The most important thing is that however you store your food you will want to easily be able to put the freshest food in the back and have food rotate forward if you remove a can.  You could take wire shelving units and hang them at an angle upside down to create the same effect. Be aware of weight limits on this type of system and be sure the shelves are properly reinforced.

Upside Down Wire Shelving

Image Credit: From House to Home

Additionally you will need areas of shelving for all the other types of foods and supplies you will want to store.

Prepper Shelving

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Food Shelving

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If your long term storage will include totes or 5 gallon buckets you can also create reliable shelving by filling buckets and totes of the same size with heavy staples and laying a board over the top of them to create storage. This is a good option if you have no woodworking skills. Items in these buckets would need to have duplicates elsewhere since by piling things on top of them they won’t be immediately accessible.

Some books that I checked out that will help you with your long term food storage planning are:

Store This Not That

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Food Storage for Self Sufficiency and Survival

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The DIY Pantry

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For this post I have drawn heavily on these three books summarizing much of the information they contain, but I highly recommend reading these books in order to prepare for your long term food storage needs. These books go into so much more detail than I can in one post.

Sheltering at home lends itself well to heat and eat meals, canned and prepackaged meals can include things like soup, chili, stew, ravioli, fruits, cup o’ noodles, canned chicken salad, crackers, soup mixes, complete meals in a box or a jar (which you can make yourself and just add liquid ingredients),

Meals in Jars

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oatmeal, cereal, and snacks. For a three month supply you will need 55 gallons of water for each family member including pets.

If you still have running water and electricity you will be able to cook as normal. However if you are unable to cook with your appliances you will need another heat/cooking source. Charcoal grills lend themselves to this task quite nicely. You will need to store charcoal, lighter fluid, lighters, and matches as some of your supplies. Propane gas grills will also work as long as you’ve stored plenty of propane canisters.

For sheltering at home, don’t neglect your freezer as a long term food storage source. This works great as long as there is electricity. It’s a good idea to invest in a generator to protect your frozen investments. Some people keep extra freezers either in their basements or garages to help with the frozen food storage.  Freezers can be bought second hand fairly inexpensively and work great for this sort of preparedness.

The third step in prepping for your emergency food supply is knowing what you actually need. There are commercially prepared emergency food supplies that can be purchased. Some are better than others. Do your research. From what I’ve read many nutritionists recommend against these types of products. Their serving sizes are not always true representatives of how much food you actually need in a meal. Many of them must be combined with other items in order to meet nutritional necessities for you to remain healthy. The need to combine ingredients to get one healthy meal means you cannot rely on their serving size information to plan the number of meals you can create with your supplies. My personal recommendation is for you to use food items as close to the original source as possible. The following are recommendations gleaned from books listed above.

Start with the basics:

Five Gallon Grains

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400 lbs combination of grains:  wheat, rice (of various types), corn, barley,  whole grain pasta (all types), cornmeal, and popcorn. Some recommended amounts follow:

60 lbs of dry beans – any kind but it’s best to have a variety

60 lbs each of sugar and honey

12 lbs non-instant powdered milk and egg powder

23 quarts each of oil, shortening, and peanut butter

5 lbs of salt

1 lb  each of baking powder and baking soda

2 lbs of yeast

Then add 6.5 – 7.5 lbs  of:

Vegetables: potatoes, corn, onions, celery, carrots, tomatoes, any other type you can find

Fruits: any kind

Meats – Freeze dried and canned (pepperoni, ham, chicken, tuna, bacon, diced ham, and sausage)

Dairy: Eggs, Cheese, etc as needed (this assumes you will have electrity) or you can use egg and cheese powders. If you live on a farm you may be able to get your eggs from your chickens.

Baking needs: yeast, sugar and/or molasses, honey, flour, and lots of vanilla

Treat mixes (these can be homemade in a jar or store bought mixes), prepackaged snacks such as chips, cookies, puddings, cakes, etc.

Misc: Sauces (store bought or homemade and properly canned) like spaghetti, alfredo, gravies,  tomato (sauce and paste), broths, etc.

dehydrated mixes for gravy, taco seasoning, meatloaf seasonings, etc.

Spices: A wide variety is good and they should be protected in containers like totes or buckets.

LOTS of water: This can be water straight from your tap as long as you store it in properly sterilized containers. Soda and juice bottles are ok to reuse after proper sterilization (look up on the internet). Milk and juice jugs are not usually recommended as they can develop leaks pretty easily.

More water: Pre-bottled water with added electrolytes will help the body to maintain proper nutrients and help prevent diarrhea. If you like you can store flavored packets for water to help give some taste variety. Gator Aid is also a good bottled beverage to have on hand.

Pet Food: Cats need approximately 3 gallons of water per week  and stocked food. Small dogs will need 6 gallons of water per week and stocked food. Large dogs can use up to 18 gallons of water per week and stocked food.

Be sure to also stock supplies like paper and disposable products of all kinds including paper plates and napkins, plastic silverware, feminine supplies, medicines – prescription and over the counter, vitamins, personal hygiene products, hair products, soaps, laundry supplies, flea and tick medications, flea sprays, dog and cat shampoos, trash bags, baggies, etc. Just think about the products you and your family use on a regular basis and stock as many as you can.

Lastly, you will need to know about proper storage placement. Rule number one is get it up off the floor. Start with a pallet to begin building your bottom layer. Alternately shelving with “legs” that raises the bottom shelf will help you keep your food off the floor. If you absolutely must start at floor level, use waterproof containers such as 5 gallon buckets and totes. You don’t want to risk water damage either from flooding or something like a water heater leaking. Notice in stores how they keep food up off of the floor and copy those methods if possible. An added benefit to putting things in watertight containers is that it will keep insects and rodents out of your food. After determining the arrangement of your bottom layer you will be able to build up.

Dry pet food should be stored in  original bags inside totes or buckets with lids as well as anything else that is bagged. Buckets and totes can also be stacked up safely but try to stack by type of food item so that you have access to what you want and be sure to label everything. You can put multiple items in one container. For instance, you could put all the ingredients together in a tote for a particular meal. Write the contents on the inside of the lid to make sure you have everything you need and label the meal on the outside of the container (example: spaghetti meal). Some preppers like to put meal ingredients like this together so they can tell exactly how many meals they have. Another example is to put all sorts of spice bottles/containers together in a bucket.  Be imaginative and do what will work best for your cooking style.

Once you are ready to start building your stockpile, have fun! Accomplish your goals slowly and steadily with a lot of thoughtfulness. Try building a food supply for 30 days, then increase it to 3 months etc. until you reach up to at least a year’s supply. Take advantage of store sales, coupons, buy one get one deals, etc. and your supply will begin to grow. Buy items in bulk and store the extra things you don’t need right away. If you don’t live on a farm or can’t garden where you live, buy fresh fruits and veggies from your local produce store and learn to can them. You can reuse glass jars from pickles, relish, and other items to store smaller servings of grains, beans, legumes, prepared meals, etc. Just be sure that before reuse the jars are properly cleaned and completely dry before they are repurposed.

Do you need to start an emergency food supply or have you already started one? Do you have other ideas of how to accomplish the goal of long term food storage?

Five and Dimes

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As the read through the library continues, I have reached a section that has many topics that I just love. It is so hard to only choose a few books to share. The Family and Home Management section has many books which deal with actual family management such as schedules, getting everyone fed, finding the balance between home life and work life, cleaning,  having a well organized home, saving money on family budgets, and so much more.  These are the books I’ve checked out this time:

While I won’t have the time or space to explore all of these books in depth, I will discuss a few of my favorites from this grouping. My favorite book from this grouping is 99c Solutions, a Reader’s Digest book. This book can be read in several ways. It can be used as a reference book to find solutions (by using products for other than their intended use to solve problems),  it can be read by reading particular components of each chapter and learning history or trivia. It can also be used to research things like the origins of products,  producers,  and in some cases people.

Inside Woolworth's

Creatively modeled on store aisles, the chapters in 99c Solutions are called Aisles 1-8. Each aisle contains the groupings of groceries, health and beauty, gardening and outdoors, cleaning and home supplies, housewares, notions, school and party supplies, and tools. The “store” model for this book is based on the old five and dime stores such as Woolworth’s, McCrory’s, and Ben Franklin. Published in 2010 I thought 99c Solutions might be a bit dated and the solutions more expensive. Happily I was wrong. With the advent of dollar stores, this book is still quite relevant (ok so it might be a penny more expensive). This book can save the reader time, money, and work.

I love everything about 99c Solutions from the solutions to the format.  Each aisle is laid out in a particular order to make items easy to find. Using Aisle 2, Health and Beauty, as an example each aisle introduces the types of name brand products you can find at dollar stores and hints at other uses those products might serve; a cotton ball can be used to start campfires or toothpaste can be used to fight pimples.

Bubble Bath

 Solutions are always listed alphabetically. Several solutions are given per aisle and most items have more than one solution. Bubble bath can be used to wash and shine your vehicle, to replace hand soap, or to wash the leaves of your houseplants and give them a healthy shine. Calamine lotion can be used to soothe heat rash, hives, and blisters as well used for Halloween make up. In Aisle 2 there are 38 products listed with multiple uses per product.

As one advances through the aisle there are items creatively on display with photographs or illustrations. In Aisle 2 we find displays of antacid, Johnson’s Baby Powder, bath oil, cotton swabs, emery boards, conditioner with lanolin, and hydrogen peroxide. Each display item touts a use distinct from it’s original purpose. For example the bath oil display says it can be used to keep patent leather shoes looking sharp. Just moisten a clean soft cloth with a few drops of the oil and gently rub a little onto your patent leather shoes. The illustrations throughout the aisles remind the shopper how much money can be saved by buying cheap multiple use products.

Johnson's Baby Pure Cornstarch Powder

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Throughout the aisle are informational blocks  called “Who Knew?” which seem remarkably up to date. The informational blocks give some interesting trivia and history about various products which may or may not be on display nearby.  For example Johnson’s Baby Power was originally invented to coat self adhesive bandages, prevent skin irritations, and keep covered skin comfortable. Later there was curiosity about whether talc could be used for other purposes. In 1893 Johnson’s Baby Powder, which was made with talc, was marketed in metal tins. After the invention of plastic bottles Johnson’s Baby Powder has been in a plastic bottle as we know it today. The informational block goes on to say that many pediatricians recommend against the use of talc now. Johnson’s now makes a cornstarch based formula.

Additionally in every aisle there are histories of particular brand names. Each history is two pages long and both pages are visible at once. In Aisle 2 the histories of Bayer Aspirin, hydrogen peroxide, and mouthwash are given. The histories all contain the product in an original form, people using the product, or early ads for a product.

Pond's Cold Cream

Aisle 2 also contains two sections called “The Story Behind…” and gives a brief story behind a particular product and includes an early ad along with a photo of the original product. In the case of Pond’s Cold Cream a pharmacist from Utica, New York observed Native Americans treating small cuts and various ailments with witch hazel tea. The pharmacist, Theron T. Pond, founded the T. T. Pond Company and extracted witch hazel from a plant to produce a healing cream called Golden Treasure which was later renamed Pond’s Extract. This was the first commercial use of witch hazel. Pond’s Cold Cream, specifically made for the face with witch hazel was introduced in 1905. Although cold cream has been around since ancient times, Pond’s marketing soon made his cold cream the brand to have.

Every aisle also has two brief sections called “Way Back When…” In Aisle 2 these sections are titled “The Ballpoint Pen Inspired Ban Roll On” and “Lipstick.” These sections are one paragraph long and very interesting. There are also two two page sections called “A Different Solution” which lists multiple other uses for select products. In Aisle 2 there are 10 more uses for hair spray and 7 more uses for toothpaste.

Woolworth's Lunch Counter

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With 99c Solutions being modeled on the five and dime stores of yesteryear, it would not be complete without mentioning the lunch counters found in stores such as Woolworth’s. After Aisle 8 there is a  “Daily Special” section called “Lunch Counter Legends” complete with several pages of recipes for the types of food and treats served at the lunch counter. The recipes include soups, “blue plate specials,” sandwiches, sides, and of course desserts which include pies, pudding, cake, and cookies. To rinse down all of these delicious foods the customer could order coffee, milkshakes, and soda fountain drinks which included such concoctions as chocolate egg cream, lime rickey, and root beer and other types of  floats.  A section called “The Float Family” gives basic recipes for Root Beer Floats, Brown Cow, Coke Floats, Purple Cow, and Sherbet Floats.

As in the Aisles there are “The Story Behind…” sections. At the lunch counter there are stories behind Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup, Chocolate Egg Cream, and Jell-O Pudding Mixes. There are “Who Knew?” blocks that discuss Gorton’s Fish Cakes and applesauce. Also included is a “Way Back When..” section that gives a brief history about Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs. 

Frank Winfield Woolworth

Frank Winfield Woolworth

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A larger two page section called “A Snapshot in Time…” gives historical facts about the famous Woolworth’s lunch counters. At one time America’s shopping districts were often dominated by one large general store which oftentimes was a Woolworth’s. When a dry goods worker named Frank Winfield Woolworth opened shop in Utica, New York in 1870, the Woolworth’s store was born. The first Woolworth’s to open struggled but that didn’t stop Frank from opening a second Woolworth’s in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. This second store thrived.

Before the opening of Woolworth’s when Americans shopped at a general store they had to go to a store clerk and ask for what they wanted since all goods were kept behind a counter. Frank revolutionized the American shopping experience by allowing his customers to handle the merchandise and allowing them to collect the things they wanted to buy. Woolworth’s became the first store ever to allow this type of shopping. Customers loved the idea as evidenced by the way the store was thriving.

Woolworth's Ad. QNS

About this time Frank had another idea. He believed everything in his stores should be affordable. Everything at Woolworth’s was originally priced at 5 or 10 cents. Because of these two major changes made by Woolworth’s the stores became known as “five-and-dime stores.”  (Later prices rose with inflation but  still remained affordable to the average person. However the terms “five and dime” or “dime store” were still used to describe any store similar to Woolworth’s.) Revolutionary new ways of doing business made Woolworth’s stores destination shopping places. Customers could spend large blocks of time browsing in the stores. Woolworth’s stores spread across the country.

Woolworth's Menu

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The longer customers stayed in the stores the more likely they were to get hungry. Woolworth’s began opening lunch counters during a time when most people still ate at home. Shopping with children became easier since they loved going to the pet department and then having lunch at the counter. This is when Americans began to “eat on the go.” Almost everything on the lunch counter menu was less than 50 cents which made the lunches affordable. A customer could order a sandwich, a milkshake, and a piece of pie for around 85 cents. Working people soon realized that they too could eat lunch at Woolworth’s without breaking their budget. Teenagers began taking dates to Woolworth’s where they usually shared fries and  and Cokes made with syrup and seltzer. Grandparents could afford to take their grandchildren to Woolworth’s for treats. Sundaes and Banana Splits were served with traditional balloons. Some balloons were called “Lucky Balloons.”  To discover if their balloon was lucky, children popped the balloons. Lucky balloons had pieces of paper in them that discounted menu items to 1 cent. In effect they were fun coupons. People loved going to Woolworth’s just for the lunch counter. The lunch counters were so popular that some of them were quite large. A lunch counter in Los Angeles was 100 yards long and boasted of being “the longest lunch counter in the world” in 1937.

Employees of lunch counters and diners began to develop their own language. For example if you went to a lunch counter and told the waitress you wanted to order beef stew and crackers she would call back to the cook that she needed “Bossy in a bowl with dog biscuits.” There is a fun page included entitled “Lunch Counter Lingo” along with the “translations.” This is an interesting piece of Americana, indeed.

Since this post has gotten rather lengthy, I will  just briefly mention my 2nd and third picks from this grouping of books. My second pick is Simple Home Solutions (with Martha Stewart). I absolutely love adult picture books that show how to organize just about anything. This is the type of book that you can just “read the pictures” if you wanted to. Usually I “read pictures” with this type of book and then read the words describing anything that really gets my attention. I am living in an old fixer upper house while also renovating it so I am constantly having to juggle things around and find new and unique ways to organize things. Books like these can also serve as an inspiration for new ideas or helping to adapt concepts in practical ways to suit personal needs for storage and organization.

My third pick is Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half with America’s Cheapest Family by Steve and Annette Economides. Also published in 2010 this book is still applicable to today’s shopping. I always joke that I’m really good at “free and cheap.” This book just confirmed that for me! There are great strategies in this book to help anyone save money when grocery and supply shopping. There are several books of this type in existence but what I really liked about this book is that you can take a short quiz to determine your level of ability to shop cheaply. Once you determine your score from the quiz you can find out if you have everything to learn or if you fall into one of three categories: Timid Mouse, Wise Owl, or an Amazing Ant. In my opinion the beginners and Timid Mouse people should read every word of this book. It really will help you save money! Wise Owls and Amazing Ants can probably skim read the book pausing to read carefully any section they feel may help them. At the end of every chapter there are tips for any category to learn from and everyone should read the tips designated for their skill level. Everyone can learn something.

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Post Script: A Word of Explanation:

Unfortunately I was going through a time of personal turmoil with multiple deaths in my family and then got locked out of my WordPress account until very recently.  Then the Pandemic hit and things were just weird for awhile with everyone being off work. However the read through the library was still happening. When I first became locked out of the account Dewey Hop was exploring the 390’s, Customs, Etiquette, & Folklore with the last post being  Death Customs. Currently the read through has reached the 640’s. Home and Family Management. For the 250 Numbers in between I will be trying to “fill them in” with shorter posts just to give Dewey Hop readers a taste of what they missed. Be sure to scroll through the old posts occasionally to see if you can discover something you missed or something I’ve slipped in!