How do you really know how much food you have stored, if you don’t know what meals you’re going to make and how many you can make with what you have?
It’s impossible to know just precisely how many days, weeks, or months of food you have stored in your pantry stockpile if you don’t have any clue what you’re actually going to make for most of your meals. Most beginning preppers continue to buy large bags of beans, rice, and wheat with some vague idea of what they’re going to make some day – but continue using basic grocery store bought ingredients to make their everyday meals.
They forget one of the most basic mantras of prepper food storage.
Store What You Eat, Eat What You Store
Much like buying tons of seeds to prepare a future survival garden and never learning to grow, buying (literal) tons of bulk food and freeze dried cans without knowing how to cook them, or even if your family will eat them, can be a disaster when the time comes.
What good is 250# of lentils and split peas if nobody is going to eat them? I mean sure, I’d love a good split pea and ham soup and could probably eat it 3-4 times a week. The wife and kids…not so much. That would be a giant waste of both money and our valuable storage space. Corn, on the other hand, is pretty much the standard side dish of almost half our meals, and we have about 6 or 7 really good ways of preparing them so it’s not the same old corn on the side of most meals.
The One Month Food Supply
If you don’t already have some idea of what you want to eat during the week, how do you go grocery shopping? Meal planning is good to do NOW, but having a solid list of recipes and a basic idea of how often you would eat them down the road will give you some basic benchmarks on how much of everything to stockpile.
Step 1: Gather your SHTF recipes
If you’re already preparing to have to eat shelf stable foods (supplemented of course with fresh finds), then chances are you already have a selection of decent meals ready to dump into your calendar. If not, now’s the time to look at what you make regularly and figure out what you’d need to stockpile in a shelf stable alternative. As with above – eat what you store. Take the time to at least make a few meals only with stockpile items to make sure you’re able to confidently make the dish when the time comes!
Step 2: Get a calendar
Find a basic weekly/monthly meal planning calendar online, and start writing down a basic meal plan for what a “typical” month might look like eating your SHTF recipes. If you’re like me, you probably vary your eating habits by time of year (winter tends to get more hearty soups and stews, summer is generally fresher and lighter) – so you may want to have a few calendars based on season. And hey – even if you stockpile a bunch of food for winter recipes doesn’t mean you can’t eat them in the summer. It’s better to have some food that isn’t quite perfect for the season to have none at all.
Step 3: Do the math
This is the boring part. Start listing ingredients from all dishes on that calendar and add them all up for a monthly total. It’ll probably look something like this:
- Rice: 4.25#
- Elbow pasta: 3#
- Pasta Sauce: 4 jars
- Canned Chili: 3 cans (18 oz/ea)
- Red Kidney Beans: 2.5#
- Corn: 8 cans (10 oz/ea)
- Peeled Tomato: 3 can (18 oz/ea)
Step 4: The dreaded grocery run
At this point, you know pretty much exactly what you’d need for a REAL full month of meals. Maybe you’ll buy the 25# bag of rice at the warehouse club, which would keep you for 5+ months. That doesn’t mean you really have 5 months of food stored up, only to make rice a few times a month for 5 months.
The problem many people get stuck in, is they see the big bags of staple ingredients (rice, beans, wheat) and think buying a couple bags of each and suddenly they have months of food stored up. Well, I guess technically they do – but basically they have ONLY the ingredients to make beans, rice, and bread every day for months on end.
You don’t have to run out and buy a full month (or 3-6 months) in a single trip. Most of us don’t have the money for it, and buying on credit and paying 18% interest just to store your food just doesn’t make good financial success.
Be Realistic – You don’t have to buy it all today. A little extra each week goes a long way.
Be Sale/Coupon Savvy – Buy more of something when it’s cheap and use coupons to your advantage.
Buy Store Brands – Many foods are made by the same manufacturer, but are sold cheaper under more generic labels.
Don’t Waste – Eat what you store, store what you eat. Throwing away food you don’t eat is money down the toilet.
Don’t Cheapskate – Buy quality even if it costs a little more. That doesn’t mean blindly trust name brands.
Step 5: Rotation
If you’re doing it right and storing what you eat and eating what you store, you should be regularly going through ingredients. Make sure to eat the oldest stored stuff up first, and put any new stuff you buy towards the back. That makes sure you’re not going through only fresh stuff leaving you with the oldest food for when you could REALLY use a good home cooked meal in tough times.
Step 6: Expand
You now know what you need for one month (or a few months if you’re planning separate monthly plans for different weather), the only thing you need to do is slowly add to your list. Your basic ingredient list should be easy to have with you so you can stock up when you find a deal. Continue to buy stuff on your list regularly in addition to your regular consumption to grow your stockpile.
Step 7: Maintenance
This is probably the hardest overall part of building and maintaining your stockpile. However it works best for you, find a way to keep track of exactly what you have on hand (so you know how many of any type of meal you can make), regularly update that number as you use ingredients, and keep your “low inventory” amounts handy so you know when you have to buy more.
Sooner or regular, if you build your SHTF meal plan into your daily routine, you’ll have a pretty standard grocery list as you know what meals you made, what ingredients you used, and how much you need to get back to the supply level you want.
It actually makes grocery shopping easy once you know you’re going to get the same 3 cans of chili, 2 jars of spaghetti sauce every time you have to go to the store.
Let us know how you’re planning your first one month food supply at our Facebook Page!
Latest posts by TheSurvivalDad (see all)
- Get Home Bag Basics - July 2, 2015
- Power Outages – Lessons Learned - June 24, 2015
- Review: Valley Food Storage Irish Pub Cheddar Potato Soup - February 11, 2015