In case you didn't hear already, California has had two significant earthquakes in the past few days. Once again, we are reminded that it is a good thing to be prepared. I will share a link to a good article by Survival Mom below since I have never done a lot of research on earthquakes specifically.
Although as Sallie mentioned in Comments recently, the Midwest has to be prepared for earthquakes, too. The largest earthquake east of the Rockies was on the New Madrid fault. Which is why we have earthquake insurance on our brick home. (Very inexpensive in our area.)
I've decided that writing about long term preparedness a week at a time is the way to go. It helps to write about one or two specific areas of preparedness at a time.
Last week I talked about how I learned to purchase smaller bags (boxes, etc.) and storing those in Rubbermaid style containers has helped me not only stock up on inexpensive items but to actually use them. That principal works in a lot of my own preparedness, especially with just two of us at home.
Of course, people with large families will use up food purchased in bulk and there are still some foods I would purchase in bulk if I still belonged to a food co-op. Old fashioned oatmeal is used a lot here for both hot cereal and making granola. It also stores very well for at least a year. So I would not think twice about buying it in bulk.
This week I want to talk about the pros and cons of having canned goods in our long term storage plans. There was a lot of discussion about this during Y2k. Mostly between those who thought they are too heavy and take up too much space for long term storage and those who thought they had other benefits making the space worthwhile.
The more I read about it, the more I agreed with those who thought canned goods could be important for long term storage. There were two benefits most often mentioned, 1) most people already used canned fruits and veggies so they were used to them already, and 2) most canned foods contain water or juice which could be limited in an emergency situation.
The most important thing to do is to mark the Use By date on each can. If you cannot find a date, then write the month and year you purchased the can. I don't purchase by the case these days but when I did, I sometimes marked the date on the box. The only problem with that is when you rotate the cans to use the oldest, then they tend to come out of the box and get put in with your other canned goods without a date marked on them.
Time goes by very fast and I cannot tell you how many times I cleaned out my kitchen cabinet only to find a Use By date a few years old. Now, most veggies are probably still good at this point although not at their best. I check the can to see if it is bulging and if it isn't, I open it up carefully. If it looks okay, I give it a sniff to see if it smells fine. I do not do a taste test first and I never taste anything that is in anyway suspicious.
The other thing about dates that I learned over the years is to check the Use By date when making a purchase at the grocery store. Especially for items you plan to rotate and may have on the shelf for awhile. I have found past due Use By dates being sold at very reputable stores! I especially do this now for items that have a short shelf life.
Some foods store very well for long periods of times in a can. For instance, green beans, corn, peas, etc. store well. High acid foods such as some fruit, tomatoes, and even pickled food need to be stored a couple years at the most. This is why rotating the cans is so important.
One of the lessons that came out of Y2k is that at the time people thought it a good idea to store a lot of canned tuna for an inexpensive protein, it actually does not have as long shelf life as they thought. Neither does any canned fish like salmon. I have read they should be used within a year after their Use By date although some recommended three years. As with anything, do the carefully open and sniff test.
Pop top cans have become popular since then and I know I like them. However, you need to be careful when storing them because they have been known to pop open in extreme heat or cold and you have to be careful about stacking other cans on top of them. As long as they are handled carefully, they should be as good as regular cans.
Which reminds me, if you do store a lot of cans, then make sure you have a good can opener now and an extra brand new can opener set aside "just in case". You do not want to be in the middle of an emergency with a dull can opener. If you only have an electric can opener, buy the best manual can opener you can find and put in a drawer where it will be easily found. Put it on your grocery list while you are thinking about it.
Whenever we purchased canned food for long term storage, after writing the Use By date on each can, it goes to the back of the row of similar items or if you are keeping them in a box, that box goes to the bottom of the other boxes. When you transfer cans to your kitchen cabinets, you are always using up the oldest cans by doing this kind of rotation.
It does take time to set everything up but once you get used to it, it goes very quickly. I always keep a permanent magic marker to use on each can and box. It is also handy to have white address labels or even masking tape to write Use By dates if needed.
I no longer have a really deep pantry and on a limited income, I need to make sure to purchase priority items first. I go through my recipes that I use the most and make those canned goods (if there are any) a priority purchase.
My grocery shopping list also provides the best clue for priorities. I use the same long magnetic grocery list pad each week and they go into a marked envelope when I arrive home from the grocery store.
I also make a priority of those canned items both my husband and I like. Although each of us have a few items we buy that do not overlap. He does not like Indian sauces so I do not stock them a lot. He likes Amy's soups and I only like a couple of them (their tomato soup is amazing).
There is one item that I like and my husband does not that I buy once in awhile. That is... SPAM. I grew up on SPAM and like it thin cut and fried crisp on each side. Especially the "Hickory smoked" variety. My son liked it when he lived at home, too. My husband never acquired a taste. ;)
In a long term emergency, protein becomes very important. While beans and rice provide a good vegetarian option, canned meat is a great storage food as long as you date them and rotate, rotate, rotate. Some of the brands are very good.
We found in Y2k that we didn't care for some often stored items when we were eating out of the pantry. Items like canned beef stew, chicken stew, etc. were a surprise that we didn't like them. Once again, it was probably because they were not a part of our regular diet.
Another thing I learned from Y2k websites and forums was to think out of the box for ways to make stored food taste even better. For instance, a friend suggested storing cans of gravy (beef, chicken, mushroom, etc.) because they can add a lot of flavor to otherwise simple foods. She stored both canned gravy and packets. Even after Y2k when they were eating from the pantry, they enjoyed canned gravy with potatoes, rice, etc.
Below is a list of my most often purchased canned items. I do not always have every item on my shelf but they are all items we will eat on a regular basis so they will work for long term preparedness. In season, we usually eat fresh rather than canned veggies and fruits but they are an important preparedness food.
- Whole tomatoes
- Stewed tomatoes
- Tomato paste (usually in a tube)
- Salsa (in jars)
- Marina sauce
- Chicken broth
- Vegetable broth
- Various canned beans
- Baked beans
- Pork and beans
- Refried beans
- Green beans
- Sweet potatoes
- Apple sauce
- Various kinds of soup
I know I am missing items that are probably obvious and some will be talked about later with the baking items. A friend of mine stores some kinds of soup that can be warmed up and poured over cooked rice for a quick meal. I'm hoping for helpful comments to provide even more advice to readers.
More next week!
Note: This was written while I have had a mild tummy virus and the thought of food is not appealing. So if I'm missing anything important... ;)
Mentioned in this Blog Post
The Survival Mom's post about preparing for an earthquake... here.