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Tips to start storing food for an emergency

By Valerie Steimle, Contributor | Posted - Jan. 23, 2014 at 7:27 p.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY — Food storage is one of the most important components of emergency preparation. In planning, it's important to know who you are feeding and for how long and where to obtain items to store.

There are several ways to start a food storage program. One starting point is to list meals eaten for two weeks and break down what items are needed. In doing this, you might find your meals are not storage-friendly. A freezer full of chicken nuggets and Tater Tots will not last long, so some changes in regular eating habits might be in order.

A year’s supply is a worthy goal but can be overwhelming. Budget food storage money each week and purchase a little at a time to build up your supply.Store what your family eats. It’s no good storing 500 pounds of pinto beans if your family refuses to eat them.

Many websites, books and other resources share lists of basic items to store as well as the amounts needed for adults and children. The more conventional idea is to buy certain foods in bulk that are standard in preparing meals, like flour and sugar. This method requires monthly menu planning to rotate and use food from storage. Basic amounts are listed in "LDS Preparedness Manual" as follows:

Grains (400 pounds per adult per year): This category includes wheat, white rice, oats, barley, pasta and dried corn for cornmeal. If you're accustomed to eating whole wheat bread, store more wheat. Otherwise store white flour. Since brown rice has too much moisture content to store safely for more than three months without becoming rancid, it's discouraged for food storage.

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Beans and legumes (90 pounds per adult per year): Again, store according to what your family is used to eating. Consider both canned and dried options. Also store the types and quantities of liquids and sauces needed to prepare them. Sugars (60 pounds per adult per year): Honey is a great storage item, but if you are not used to using it, then sugar is the way to go. Brown sugar, molasses, maple syrup and cane syrup are also viable sweeteners.

Milk/dairy products (75 pounds per adult per year): Mostly, this category includes powdered milk, but powdered sour cream, which lasts longer when frozen, is also a possibility, as is canned milk. Eggs can be used after freezing.

Meat and meat substitutes (20 pounds per adult per year): Dehydrated, freeze-dried or canned meats are great options. If your family is used to eating more meat, then plan to store more than 20 pounds per adult.

Fruits and vegetables (90 pounds per adult per year): This category is where storage gets really interesting. Canning fruits and vegetables over a season has been a popular undertaking for many years: A family grows a garden and eats what they are able, shares with neighbors and then cans the rest. This lifestyle is making a comeback in modern society and is a very nutritious way to go. Fresh fruits and vegetables can even be stored in a root cellar, if available. Dehydrated, freeze-dried or canned fruits and vegetables are all great options too.

Fats/oils (20 pounds per adult per year): These vital ingredients usually need to be rotated regularly because they become rancid after six months. All types of oils, butter, margarine, lard or shortening can be stored.

Another important consideration when storing food is using proper containers, such as #10 cans, mylar gallon bags or plastic airtight bags, which can be sealed with heat. All are good packing options, but families should decide what would be best for them. Cans can withstand mice and moisture and sit on a shelf wonderfully, but they do rust after a while out in the elements. Mylar bags and strong plastic bags don’t hold up to mice but can be easily stored anywhere.


Create your own calendar for organizing and purchasing food and other items so it won't overload your budget or time. And don’t forget to include a few “treats” for emotional well-being.

Food can come from a variety of sources and be stored in many ways.

Gardening: Though they require quite a bit of startup time and preparation, gardens can be the most fulfilling way to obtain fresh food. It can then be stored by canning and preserving in the kitchen. Whether it’s a small plot of land in the backyard or a few buckets on the balcony, a home garden is well worth the time. Aquaponics (the system of bringing fresh fish and plants together) is rapidly becoming a popular method for growing food and is worth investigating for those who would like to be more independent.

Grocery store: This source is the most popular way to start food storage. Whether using a warehouse store or a standard grocery, be sure to make a written plan of what is needed. Buying items a little at a time weekly is an easy way to start a successful food storage program.

Food co-ops/farmers markets: This kind of food buying can be very helpful as well. Some food co-ops allow families to trade and purchase in bulk the food they need to store. Often farmers markets have sales on in-season items, since they need to keep their offerings fresh. Search online or ask around for local opportunities.

Companies that sell freeze-dried/dehydrated items: Anyone can order from these online businesses, either online, via phone or regular mail. This can be a helpful way to store for the long term, but let your family taste products before ordering large quantities. Valerie Steimle is the mother of nine children who lives happily on the Gulf Coast of Alabama. She is the author of five books, all about strengthening the family, including "Thoughts from the Heart." Email:

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