Saturday, June 29, 2019
Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Preparing for a long term emergency, Part I
It has turned hot and humid here and my allergies are winning the battle for how I feel. So I'm breaking up what I want to share about preparing for a long term emergency into more than one Saturday. Honestly, I am actually missing the cold and snow of winter. At least I didn't carry a box of tissues and a bag of Ricola cough drops with me all day.
Let's see... last week I pondered if we should prepare for a national emergency. My answer was... yes and no. The more prepared you are before a crisis, the less likely you will become a victim. I truly believe it is a good idea for everyone to have enough food, water, and essentials on hand that they do not have to leave the house for at least a few weeks. This is more do-able than you might think, especially if the power stays on and there is easy access to water.
However, it is impossible to prepare for an Armageddon event and the more you try to do so, the more likely one is to become frustrated and they lose track of what they have purchased. Individuals do not have enough time, space, or money to do this easily and if that is our goal, then frustration sets in. That leads to giving up altogether. Instead, if we set a smaller goal and adhere to that, then we can deepen the pantry and everything else one more level.
Below I will share how I have learned to stock some items a little at a time and all on a budget. I'm using the example of beans and rice only to make a point of how easy it can be to stock up and they are considered the quintessential long term pantry food.
It does not take a major war... or a huge earthquake... or even anything happening close to us to wish we had been at least a little prepared. It can be a major weather event happening in another part of the country, we have seen it before.
Most of us remember when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast with massive destruction. It would be easy to see why people living in the area would have been better off if they had food and water in their home. Unless their homes were under water and nothing short of having a canoe in the attic could have offered preparation for that kind of flooding.
What I remember most is receiving an email from one of my best friends. She lived in the New Mexican desert, far from Gulf waters and found her grocery store shelves empty of various items for weeks. There was food and essential items available but the trucks were diverted to the Gulf to supply hurricane victims. The semis now passed by the smaller town close to where she lived.
Fortunately, she was prepared with food and basic supplies to get them through until the grocery store shelves were stocked again. Partly because, like me, she had been raised with a pantry mindset. But she also lived in a place where it wasn't easy to make a quick run into town so she made certain they had what they needed in the house.
We used to talk about lessons learned from those who prepared for Y2k as well as what worked for each of us and what... did not. One of the lessons I learned was that I found smaller bags of items more useful than buying them in bulk and storing in buckets. The only bulk items I used a lot were those I already bought in bulk... wheat (for my wheat grinder) and old fashioned oats.
Prior to Y2k, almost all the available literature regarding preparedness recommended going BIG... 25# and 50# bags of whatever, stored in food grade buckets. Except for the wheat and oats, I didn't care for the whole "getting it out of the bucket" thing. It would have been different if we had been used to buying a lot of bulk items.
Instead, what I used up completely were the small bags of things like beans and rice. I found I liked the bags that contained multiple kinds of legumes in one package to use for soup when I didn't even open the buckets of bulk beans. They were given to and enjoyed by people who knew how to cook with them. But I still hate to spend money on things I don't use.
I also now purchase small bags of some beans that I don't use often, like dry black beans and garbanzo beans (chickpeas). I do buy a larger bag of pinto beans and store them in a glass jar, they get used for bean soup in cooler weather and can be prepared for Tex Mex type of recipes if I don't have canned beans on hand.
I do the same thing with rice. These days I buy Uncle Ben's Rice in a medium size bag and store it in a glass jar. The instructions are cut out and taped to the bottom of the jar (I have taped them to the inside of a kitchen cupboard, too).
Converted rice is now believed by many to be the best rice for emergency preps. The process of "converting" it keeps more nutrition available while it has a long shelf life when stored properly.
I have jasmine rice in a glass jar for a couple recipes that call for it specifically. I have learned to purchase brown rice in small bags that are slipped into a larger Ziploc bag and stored in the freezer since they quickly go rancid. I am embarrassed to tell you how many times I have thrown away brown rice because I didn't use all of it before it went rancid.
I keep on hand some other items other than beans and rice. I purchase French lentils from a bulk bin at the health food store and transfer them to glass jars because that is the only way I can purchase them around here. I like French lentils because they are good in soup and salads. Regular brown lentils are purchased in small bags as I don't use them as often. I also purchase split peas in small bags because I don't use them often, only for those rare times I make split pea soup.
Now, here is where purchasing in smaller bags make it easier to deepen your pantry on a budget and a little at a time. When I go to the grocery store, I purchase a couple small bags of various items listed above, date them with a sticker, and just throw them into a medium size Rubbermaid style container on my pantry shelf. That way it is easy to accumulate basic food items with little thought involved.
I bought a small bag of black beans and a small bag of garbanzo beans at the grocery store this week. Together they were less than $3.00. Uncle Ben's rice was only available in a bigger bag but that was around $7.00. By the way, the dry black beans were found in the Mexican section of the store and the dry garbanzo beans were found in the International section. They were not located in with the regular beans but I have learned to check the International aisle.
My friend in New Mexico (who now resides in Heaven), used to buy beans and rice in bulk because she used them all the time. However, she also would transfer some of them to smaller Ziploc bags. She kept these bags to pass on to people she knew were going through a financial crisis. Quite often of their own making but that didn't matter to her, she figured giving some beans and rice woudn't break her budget (which wasn't all that large).
I'm sharing these stories to give you an idea of how one can stock up a deep pantry a little at a time. Although today I'm talking about the "survival pantry" basics of beans and rice, the idea can be used for any other food you want to store.
I learned not to buy in bulk unless I already use a food in bulk. I learned that one may spend a little more money by purchasing basic items like rice and beans in smaller packages but in my home, they were much more likely to actually get on the dinner table.
I should mention that while I learned not to buy in bulk, I also learned that individually wrapped items can result in a lot of trash. In a true emergency, you may not have regular trash pickup. It will be much easier to keep boxes of instant pudding and make it with powdered milk (if necessary) than to open a package of six or eight refrigerated single serving containers of pudding.
By the way, did you know there are items not to ever purchase for long term storage? Unless, of course, they are packaged for a long shelf life. For instance, almost every kind of cracker has a short shelf life. Aseptic packages have a much shorter shelf life than the same food in cans. More on this at a later time but I didn't want to forget to add it today.
There will be exceptions, of course. There always are exceptions. Next week I will continue on the subject of preparing for a national emergency a little at a time. This may be stretched out a few weeks if the Benedryl doesn't kick in. Achooo....