Unless your home is completely fireproof, will never flood, and you can be assured that the economy will be perfectly able to support you every day for the rest of your life, you might want to be ready for something weird to happen. It’s a surprise when it does – that’s why it’s called an emergency.
Those of us who know how to make things from scratch, buy in bulk to save money, and have the ability to preserve the harvest might not be thinking of emergency preparedness, but we’re leaps and bounds ahead of the average American already.
That average American only has 3 days or less worth of food on hand at any given time.
It would be a cinch for me not to visit a grocery store for even a few weeks without starving, although we might miss our homemade yogurt terribly after a couple days.
This month’s Eat Well, Spend Less series is focusing on preparedness. How will you, as someone who wants to save money and still eat real food, fare in an emergency, whether natural disaster, personal injury, or loss of income?
Many disaster preparedness resources rely heavily on highly processed, not-so-healthy foods that are closer to the space program than something you’d regularly see on your table. Since one key to actually being ready when the time comes is “store what you eat, eat what you store,” those packaged dinners won’t be a good option as rotating them to keep the food freshest is neither desirable nor frugal.
If you want to get a start on basic readiness, here are the top 5 Eat Well, Spend Less steps:
1. Store Some Water
Always store empty canning jars filled with water instead of empty. You can boil it for doing dishes and washing people if you have it available. Of course, this time of year, your canning jars are probably full of good food to eat, but then you are ready for some of the other steps at least! photo source
In order to make the water potable (safe to drink), since bacteria can always thrive in moist locations, you’ll need some additional help. See How to Store Water Without Chemicals for more detailed information. If you don’t want to learn how to do all that, just buy a few jugs of water and make a note to yourself in the calendar to swap them with new ones every six months.
You’ll want to start with the purest water possible when you store your own, and you can test the quality of your water and find the filter that’s right for you at Radiant Life. They also have some nifty single person filters that work without electricity.
2. Have Easy to Eat Foods Around
A stocked pantry is a great thing, but if you have no way to cook your dry beans and rice, you’re still hungry. Think of a list of foods from multiple food groups that can be eaten without cooking, whether needed for an evacuation plan or if you have an electric stove that could easily be out of commission simply when the power goes out. For example:
- dried fruits
- nuts and nut butters
- canned tuna or salmon
- canned soup or meat (home-canned preferable to avoid MSGs and other preservatives)
- canned or frozen legumes (beans)
- frozen peas
3. Stock up on Grains, Legumes, and Dry Goods
Black Bean Soup from The Everything Beans Book; great with dry beans and dehydrated red peppers and often on hand in my freezer for easy leftovers.
Part of knowing how to Eat Well & Spend Less is certainly using real ingredients and buying in bulk, so likely you can check this item off your list quickly.
Compared to folks who just buy bread, buying (or grinding) flour means that your food storage will last longer than average Joe American. One of our September sponsors, Honeyville Grain, sells bulk baking supplies.
Shopping the stock up sales probably means that you have plenty of just about everything on hand, from pasta to dry beans, salt to vinegar and oil.
Learn to use dry beans and incorporate them into your menus once a week, so that you can “store what you use, and USE what you store.” It’s important that your family is used to beans if you suddenly need them often. Check out The Everything Beans Book for 30 recipes to keep your palates happy. If you’re curious, it’s recommended that each person have about 5 pounds of beans per month for emergency storage, and about the same for rice.
Pat yourself on the back if your pantry or basement food storage has plenty to get your family through a few days (or more) of being disconnected from the grocery store. You’re probably well prepared for a financial emergency like layoff or injury.
Now for some new recipes to make sure you know how to use all those dry goods regularly:
- 5 Ways to Use Lentils from Simple Bites
- 5 Ways to Use Beans from Good Life Eats
- 5 Ways to Use Pasta from Life Your Way
- The Beauty of Whole Grains (with recipes) from Food for My Family
Don’t forget that to make these recipes you’ll need both water and a power source. How to Keep Cooking in an Emergency shares some possibilities.
4. Have some Meat, Fruits and Veggies on Hand
Another September sponsor, LPC Survival, sells freeze-dried meat, fruits and veggies for disaster preparedness. They’re about as “real food” as you an get without doing it yourself.
Decide to stock enough vegetables for a few days: dehydrated, freeze-dried, canned. Add some dried fruit to the mix. (There are pros and cons to each method of preserving; choose the one that you’d eat anyway so you can keep your stock fresh.) You can certainly can your own fruits and vegetables, rely on dried fruit, and even dehydrate your own fruit for storage. Read Real Food Stockpile: Fruits and Vegetables for more.
Watch sales at the store for canned tuna and salmon. Grab a few (or more) cans when it’s a good price. If you just won’t do cans (I don’t think BPA is a problem unless the cans are lined with white, which fish usually isn’t), buy or make some dehydrated meat to keep on hand. See Real Food Stockpile: Meats, Proteins & Fats for more info.
The trick here? Don’t store too much or it might go bad on you before you need it. Head over to read Tammy’s tips on how she and her family create and use long-term food storage. (coming soon) Jessica is also sharing her wisdom on how to eat from the pantry/freezer/garden, handy for practicing your culinary creativity without a run to the store, and Alyssa explains her philosophy of her pantry as an emergency fund.
5. Gather Important Documents
This step has nothing to do with eating or spending, but much to do with sanity and commerce survival.
It’s advisable as part of emergency preparedness to make copies of the most important documents you have: birth records, marriage license, house title, insurance and credit card information, etc. Put everything together in a folder that’s easy to grab, and perhaps even include a CD of favorite family pictures if your computers aren’t backed up offsite.
Are You Doing it Already?
My hope is that a frugal, real food crowd already has food storage and knows how to use it. If you take nothing from this post, please accept encouragement that you are prepared for many emergencies simply by the way you shop and live.
There may be times when you don’t get to stay with your pantry in your home, but you have to Get Out of Dodge quickly, as the preparedness crowd terms evacuation.
We’re just over halfway through our 20 weeks to creating a 72-hour survival kit (or “Bug Out Bag”), posted one step at a time each Monday morning on Facebook. If you’d like to see the full list, here’s the Bug Out Bag checklist from yesterday.
More Real Food Tips
If you’re not sure how fresh, local foods, “real food” can ever be part of a “bug out bag” for long-term storage, I explored the issue back in May. You might read the whole preparedness series which is wrapped up in the Real Food Preparedness Resource Extravaganza. Highlights include:
What’s your “prepare or not prepare” philosophy? Does the real food life make it any easier?
Disclosure: Honeyville, LPC, and Radiant Life are all receiving a complimentary mention as sponsors of KS. They are all companies I respect with quality products that I’m happy to connect my readers with.