This is a bit off of my normal topic... but I've felt for a long time I should open up about some experiences that have impacted my life and was recently invited to share. First, nothing is more important to me than my faith and my family. Nothing. A close second to those things is my business - this blog and the printables you buy from my shop support my family. Through a series of unfortunate events (that I'll touch on below), I became the primary bread winner for our family - thus the reason my business (and all of you) are such an important part of my life! The very next thing on my list of importance... is self-reliance and food storage. Becoming the provider for my family + having been through some pretty tough stuff that rocked my world, has driven me to become as self reliant as possible. I hope as I share some of the things I learned (and figured out along the way) it will inspire you as well!!
First... as many of you know, my hubby has been a trooper the last several years. He's fought cancer twice and after trying every treatment available plus a stem cell transplant - the residual damage left him unable to return to work. This is one (of many) hospital stays, a 5-day chemo run to be exact, where he was actually up for a quick skype with the kids. It was a time period that brought me to my knees in a way I'd never been before. I fought feelings of desperation, sadness, sorrow, worry, fear, anxiety - yet wrapped with gratitude - for years. Today he's cancer free and spends most of his time taking care of his health, spending time with the kids and being careful not to over do it.
As if battling cancer wasn't enough... living on the East Coast added unique weather experiences to an already chaotic life. Whether it was a blizzard or Nor'Easter knocking out power - or a hurricane, it was a painful experience to add no water, no heat and no power to chemo days. Hurricane Sandy hit us particularly hard. We lost power and water for 2 weeks and it WAS A LEARNING EXPERIENCE!! Not only were my two main access roads inaccessible, every power poll for miles was snapped in half! For two weeks, no stores or restaurants were open, very few gas stations were functional - and the ones that were had lines for a mile, only took cash - and hungry, cold people making dumb decisions with guns lead to gas rations and the calling out of the National Guard to restore order. For real. It was terrifying.
Once we learned the power companies had RUN OUT of replacement polls and transformers and were waiting for shipments to come in from California, I knew we were in trouble. At the time my food storage was pretty limited, we'd moved 5 times in 10 years and it didn't seem practical to carry around tons of food. It just wasn't a huge priority. I did have a well stocked pantry with some boxes of extra stuff in the basement - which held us over and we did better than most. Not having to go out and be in dangerous lines for gas or water was a real blessing.
On Day 14, a crew from Chattanooga TN arrived, our power was restored and the neighborhood cheered. The biggest lesson, however, occurred AFTER the power came back on. By then, my pantry looked scary and I was anxious to restock - I found that it wasn't actually that easy. It took nearly 8 weeks for the grocery stores in my area to be fully stocked. As small weekly shipments started arriving... if you weren't THERE, you didn't get the good stuff. You didn't get milk. You didn't get eggs. I couldn't get cheese or yogurt for weeks! Batteries took months to restock and when I couldn't find candles for months - I began to realize how vulnerable our supply chain and infrastructure are. So vulnerable! As a transitioning bread winner - a newfound responsibility took hold that I needed to figure out a practical approach to food storage and just get it done. It was my responsibility to feed my family - good weather or bad. It's been a near 5 year quest since and is something I'm incredibly passionate about.
This past week, I went to Logan, Utah where a Home Storage Center is located. It's basically a food warehouse run by the LDS Church, it's open to the public and is there for us to purchase basic bulk food items that have been canned and preserved for long term storage. There are DARLING couple missionaries that run them (this is Brother and Sister Hansen) and when you come in - they'll answer your questions, help you with your order, show you samples and even help you load your car!
There are 101 locations just like this all over the country... click here to see if there is one near you. Or, if one isn't nearby, you can order food online for a flat rate delivery fee of $3 - seriously - you can buy a whole pallet worth and delivery is $3. When we lived in New Jersey, I used this option often as I built my storage - now that we are back in the West, I can drop into the Logan Location anytime to pick up what I need. What I can't stress enough, is you DO NOT need to be a member of our church to make a purchase at a Home Storage Center or online... it's open to the public!
But what should you get, how do you start, how much do you need? I was SO OVERWHELMED when I first decided to tackle this head on... and after weeks of study and prayer, this is the chart my mind saw and it has become an essential guide for me as I've tackled this project. Take a look first... then I'll explain it below.
NOTE: Prior to jumping into this chart, I would advise making sure your pantry is well stocked with the foods your family regularly eats first. This is the food you use and cook with most often and is what your family is MOST accustomed to. I typically refer to this as my "Pantry Storage" - it's easy and naturally rotated as you cook and do regular grocery shopping each week. If you couldn't replenish it... you would want your "Pantry Storage" to last for several weeks at least. In an emergency, you would consume this food first while you began the transition to your actual "Food Storage" as I describe below.
WHAT IS THE "FOOD STORAGE BY LAYERS" CHART?
My chart basically outlines a priority system - knowing what to get first is important, knowing what to save for last is equally important. Each Layer that you add, the more recipes you can make! Layer 1 includes the things I determined where the most important. They were life sustaining, easy to prepare (only adding water) and if I never made it to another layer, we could live on it. Boring and bland as it may be, it would keep us alive, (chances are I'd still have some items in my regular "Pantry Storage" to add to make this layer more nutritious and filling). Many food storage plans are built around wheat - that didn't make sense to me... with wheat, you have to have several other ingredients and a mill to use it. Bread making is an art - and if you don't do it regularly... during a stressful time (like an earthquake, illness or job loss) you AREN'T going to want to add a bread making learning curve to the situation. Trust me on that one.
Layer 2 isn't much, but it compliments Layer 1 by adding protein and calories; a reasonable second step that made sense to me. Layer 3 is my wheat layer - and by the time you get there, you'll have collected all the ingredients you need to make bread. Adding a roll or toast to Layers 1 and 2 will be a treat! As you look at the chart - look how each layer compliments the layer before. As you build your storage layer by layer, you are adding both calories and variety as you go. This chart gives you a basic road map of what to buy and tells you what types of food and meals you'll be able to prepare as you increase the variety of your individual items. Cool, huh!! You can get a lot of what's in Layers 1-4 at the Home Storage Center - remember, this is run by a church and is not for profit... you are basically buying this food at cost + the cost to can/preserve it. No other food storage company, unless they are running a HUGE sale with lost leaders, can come close to this pricing. So, start there.
Here's the individual part... do you want to start with a year supply of Layer 1 or a 3 month supply of Layers 1-3? You can plug your budget into it as well... if you have $100 a month to spend, work on Layer 1 until it's done, then move on to Layer 2. Then, if life happens, and you've got Layer 1 done - at least you have SOMETHING to eat. You can swap out items as needed for allergies and the palette at your house - the key thing is to know where to start and how each layer impacts the layers before it. Don't buy expensive cheese before you buy beans, don't buy a bunch of wheat if you aren't going to have salt, oil, yeast and and baking powder too. This helps keep things in order - and if you notice... each Layer only has 5 items (plus water). FIVE. Tackling 5 items at a time is so doable!! I love how this chart dials it down, simplifies it and lets you see what you can do with what you have!
When you are ready to branch out from what the Home Storage Center has... explore brands like Augason Farms, Emergency Essentials, Mountain House, Thrive, etc. I love Augason Farms, I feel like it's the next best thing to the church's offering and is comparable in quality (just don't buy it direct, it's much cheaper on Walmart.com or at Sam's Club). Other brands to check out include Wise, Thrive, Emergency Essentials - their variety and some of their mixes and pre-made meal options will astound you. I didn't go too deep on these, but did get some... after 2 weeks of spaghetti and rice, adding in a pre-made meal is a nice break and a real mood lifter for your palette. Trust me. I know.
Another free printable you need to download is the "All is Safely Gathered In" Pamphlet. It explains a basic approach to becoming self reliant. I love the advice to build and rotate a 3 month supply of foods your family eats most - I refer to this as my pantry foods. Then, as time and money allow, they recommend building a simpler, long term storage that doesn't require stressful, regular rotation. This is what you would tap into once your 3 month pantry items were gone and the need was there to use this food to serve basic needs. There are several free resources and articles here.
Now.. I want you to get excited about this... so it's time for a giveaway!!
To help with quantity calculations, recipes and organization tips - you can link over to my friend Julie at Food Storage Made Easy and Misty from Simple Family Preparedness (two of my most favorite food storage and preparedness blogs)!! I've met both of them in person and they are AWESOME!! They both have articles, printables (some free, some for purchase) to help you as you move forward with food storage. I reached out to both of them and they graciously agreed to do a giveaway on this post with some of their best products!
5/1 UPDATE: Congrats to my winners!! Cherise Carillo wins Julie's Food Storage Made Easy Book, Korine Miller wins the Shelf Stable Pantry Book, and Stacey Tew & Stephanie Norton both won Misty's Shelf Stable Pantry Ebook!
Good luck in your food storage endeavors - I hope and pray this post has reached and inspired you! Please feel free to share this post and my chart with friends and family!
My bottom line... the main reasons I decided to do this post:
1. Natural disasters really DO happen.
2. Personal disasters happen too. To anyone, even me and you!
3. The LDS Church has made it inexpensive and easy to get started.
4. My chart can help give you a framework and easy guide to tackle it.
5. Take it a layer at a time... line upon line, right?
6. There are bloggers and resources out there to help you every step of the way!
My final tip... get talking and do it with a friend!! You'll motivate each other, swap recipes, ideas and keep each other on track. Plus, it makes for a fun lunch date when you go together!