Are Canned Foods Necessary for Emergencies? Food Banks?

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Meredith at Like Merchant Ships raises a great question at this post: “I worry about disaster supplies. I need to find a way to balance food storage and health. I’m all for fresh, but what if I had to go a week (months?) without a trip to the grocery? What if we lost power for a week or two?”

I’ve stumbled across Internet sites, even blogs, devoted entirely to creating an emergency food supply. They’re a bit over the top for me – I never was one to go buy a generator to prepare for Y2K – but they’re interesting anyway.  I am definitely thinking about food supply this week in the midst of this swine flu thing. I don’t want to buy produce from Mexico right now. I wonder what I would do if a confirmed case was found in my city. I don’t think I’d go to library storytime, and I might not even want to go grocery shopping for a few weeks. Could my household survive? Is this a temptation to buy canned and processed food?

The question is similar when donating food to the needy – most places only accept “non-perishables”, which often translates into canned goods. I hate the idea of giving someone who needs nutrition something that is not nutritious! However, you can find non-perishables that are plenty nutritious. Read on…

If I had to go a few weeks without shopping or without power, here are the items my house would supply:

  • Dry beans
  • Rice, barley
  • Oatmeal
  • Flour/yeast
  • Butter
  • Coconut and olive oils
  • Pasta
  • Canned tomatoes and sauces
  • Pumpkin
  • Dried fruit (raisins, etc.)
  • Tuna
  • Some crackers and canned fruit
  • More?

We’d be low on animal protein, to be sure, just a few cans of tuna, and vegetables would be certainly low – beans and tomatoes. But we could survive on rice and beans with tomato sauce and tuna sandwiches! Spaghetti with pinto beans, anyone?

If I only had to skip the shopping, my trusty freezer would feed us no problem, probably for at least a month! How about you? Is your house ready for a mini-emergency?

This post is part of Fight Back Fridays, dedicated to going against the flow of cultural food and big industry, and Finer Things Fridays, honoring faith, simplicity, motherhood, small towns and good ol’ homemade cooking.

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25 Bites of Conversation So Far

  1. says

    I’m with Amy. If I had electricity to run my freezer, we’d be good for a year! (I just bought all our beef, chicken, and pork for the year, as well as our bulk grains.)

    That said, we’d run out of fresh fruits & veggies fairly fast. And if the electricity were to cut out thanks to some natural disaster or supply problem, then we’d be in for it. I’d like to think that won’t happen!

    Thanks for sharing this in today’s Fight Back Fridays carnival.

    (AKA FoodRenegade)

  2. says

    I was having this same conversation w/my dh this morning. If the power stays on, then we’re ok for a month to two months. If there’s no power OR if the water supply is compromised, then we’re in trouble.

    I had begun to stock my pantry w/healthy foods a few weeks ago, so I’ll continue with it. This was just a wake up call for me.

  3. says

    Great ideas! I am about to start compiling my family’s first hurricane survival kit, and this list will be very useful in prioritizing what to buy. Unfortunately, the advice we have gotten is to buy with no electricity in mind, since that is usually the case in Miami with hurricanes – no electricity for a month! Thanks for getting me started, friend.

  4. says

    If you’re going to store so much in the freezer, veggies and meat. I’d highly suggest owning a pressure CANNER, jars, lids and rings and learn how to can the meat and veggies.

    I have a bunch in my freezer but also have shelf stable hamburger and chicken that I’ve canned in pint jars using a pressure CANNER (not cooker).

    You can check out my blog on how to do that.

    There are a bunch of separate posts on the step-by-step process of canning chicken. Ground beef is done the same way.

    Along with the canner and jars, you’ll need to have a way to process the meat and veggies. I own an outdoor camp stove, Camp Chef. It’s not necessarily recommended to can on, but in an emergency….that’s where I’m headed with my meats and veggies so I don’t lose them. Plus, you’d be able to share with the neighborhood is necessary. Oh, and don’t forget the propane. :)

  5. says

    My friends and I have been having this discussion lately… we are experimenting with dehydrating food (even bone broth with success). I would much prefer home dried food to canned food anyday.

      • says

        sorry for the delay… I’ve had company and then went out of town for a bit.

        My friend and I eat the WAPF way and most recipes for food storage include commercial bouillon which is loaded with fillers and chemicals. So we started with the premise of pocket soup (which is what was done years ago where the broth was boiled down and cooled to gelatin and then wrapped and put in a pocket so when they were traveling and got to their destination they could have instant soup by adding hot water.)

        So basically we boiled the bone broth down to a smaller amount and then spread on parchment paper and put in the dehydrator. Then dry until crisp.

        As best we can figure we have to defat the broth before dehydrating for long term storage so that the fat doesn’t turn rancid.

        Hope that helps.

        • Katie says

          Thank you so much! That sounds excellent – I’m guessing they get so small that you could store in the freezer for added security, too. :) Katie

          • says

            A large pot of broth was condensed enough to fit in the smallest canning jar (is that a 1/2 pint?). I’ve got it stored in the fridge for that extra security. Super convenient.

            Next up… beef broth. I’ve got it made, just need to defat it, condense it and then dehydrate it.

  6. Laurie Plath says

    I’ve been thinking about this same thing alot lately. I plan on canning more from my garden this year, instead of freezing. That’s just because, what if there is no electricity to run the freezer also? I also want to dry some food in my dehydrator and store in jars.

  7. says

    This is something to be considering to be sure. In light of the events in Japan and with the cost of food rising exponentially (Trump said that due to inflation a loaf of bread could cost $25 soon – maybe just in gas to get it to you). Also crops are failing the world over, we do need to be wise stewards of our land, with what we’ve been given and be open to what may be coming.
    Not to mention, well, I guess that’s mentioning, the Genically Modified and non-organic stuff that’s passed off as food with respected labels such as Kraft, Uncle Ben’s, Campbells, etc.
    Hope for the best, but consider preparing for the worst, God forbid.
    I agree, a lot of those storage sites are over the top and many use scare tactics to get you to buy their stuff, but there is, I believe a thread of truth to it and we need to be discerning in it.
    Also, canned food is no good for you with all those preservatives and God knows what in it, not to mention the BPA lined cans, which most of them are.
    We bought a deep freeze, are growing our own food for the first time ever and are planning to buy a pressure canner, have a water bath, and stock pot, some canning supplies, still building it, and plan to buy a dehydrator.
    We are stocking up on grains, legumes, oils, etc. Our goal is three month rotational storage, then 6 months, then a year.
    Think of Joseph…
    Well,I’m off my soapbox, but curious Katie, have you thought more about this at all?

    Thanks! Katie

    • Katie says

      I’m actually doing a 2-week series on preparedness (mostly what I want to learn and do, since I am totally a rookie!) the last 2 weeks of May. I’m getting a lot to think about! 😉 Katie

  8. says

    Not to give into fear tho, remember, the Proverbs 31 woman was a wise steward and she could laugh at the future, because she was prepared.
    This makes sense for us because my DH is often out of work in January and February and then we don’t have to worry about having money for food if we can live off of “almost fresh” home canned produce and “almost fresh” frozen produce. We’re switching to mostly a vegetarian diet, so cheaper to eat this way… okay, sorry for taking up so much space! :)

  9. says

    This is a wonderful post on an issue that deserves much more attention! I don’t think store-bought canned foods are necessary at all. You have a great list of better options. Canning can our own foods instead of buying nutrient-free, BPA- contaminated cans is obviously a better choice. Dehydrating is good, too. A better option for preparedness would be to invest in a solar generator for a freezer. No, I don’t have one, but if you’re going to put money into building a storehouse of food, why not make it healthier?
    I’ve always thought it would be wiser and more loving to provide food banks with real food. My local newspaper featured a local food bank that does this! I don’t think it’s that common, though. It was a “new idea” that some college students started. My thoughts on giving food to the needy is that we should give them the best and not leftovers…the can that’s about to expire or that box of processed stuff no one ate. (My mom did this.) Not only should we have this heart attitude, but providing them with real food=less health problems that will save taxpayers money. :)

    • Katie says

      Courtney – thank you! Attention to the idea is coming in the next 2 weeks at KS. I just bought some brown rice and a bunch of cans of beans for a food drive this Saturday. Canned with BPA, yes, but I know that too many people don’t know how to cook dried beans, so I feared they’d go to waste.
      Thanks! :) Katie

      • says

        Katie, that’s the big dilemma. I also worry about real food going to waste because many people might not know how to prepare it! We live in a culture that relies on 10 minute meals wrapped up in pretty little boxes with step-by-step directions so simple a 5 year old could follow. :) It takes more work to make foods from scratch and you have to know how to prepare them. How to remedy this? Probably more emphasis on what real nutrition is…but that won’t happen until the mainstream nutrition gurus get it right. And it must start with moms training little ones who grow up to make wise food choices. This generation is lost. Just keep doing what you’re doing… :) It’s making a difference.

        • says

          We are hoping to teach people the basic skills lost in the generation. Teach them how to cook from scratch and make their own soaps, (without lye), shampoos, deodorants, laundry detergents. With safe ingredients most people already have in their home. It takes a little discipline and diligence, but if people take an interest in those poverty stricken, they might listen. Having had to rely on food banks in the past, we both gained over 100 lbs combined in a few short months by eating that stuff. It’s not doing them any favour. Huge dilemma to be sure, but I’m encouraged that I’m not the only one thinking this way!!! Believing God will make a way! :)

  10. says

    Well, it’s nearly June and we live in Florida, so the number of canned goods in the house is definitely on the rise! I’ve been making a point to stock up on some items over the last few weeks when I see sales on those things, because otherwise we rarely if ever buy them. This is also the time of year I keep my eyes open for deals on big jugs of bottled water that can take up space in my garage for the next 6 months (the alternative being that we have to use them because of a disaster, presumably a hurricane) so I’d have to say that at the moment we’re heading into our most “well stocked” time of the year.

    When hurricane season passes and we have all this stuff still lying around I try to work through the canned items as best as we can throughout the fall and whatever’s not used (usually a lot. I just don’t care for canned vegetables.) goes to a holiday food drive. And in that context, I don’t feel that’s being stingy, as the stuff is less than a year old, it’s not like it’s been sitting in the back of a closet for years.

    Being that when we’re talking disaster preparedness we’re preparing for a very specific type of disaster, there are other things on our list as well, like plywood and gasoline, cash and battery operated fans… and propane for the gas grill. Definitely. Also toilet paper. Obviously.

    We don’t have a generator but my Father In Law has one and we’ve strongly considered it. In ’04 parts of the area lost power for TWO WEEKS. IN JULY. IN FLORIDA.

    Honestly if that happens I’m not going to care what I’m eating by day 3, I’ll be so hot and cranky.

    I’m hoping to take some baby steps into canning this fall, but for now the green beans we don’t get to eat fresh that the garden is yielding are going straight into the freezer, and freezer stuff would obviously be used first in an emergency.

  11. Mona S Casselman says

    Power outages and other complications are a fact of life in my world so a well-stocked pantry is only sensible. My husband and I also run the food pantry from our church and do our best to stock the healthiest food possible on our budget.
    Being prepared as wisdom contrasted with preparedness because of fear…Choose wisdom!!

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