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PREPPING: Food & Water Storage: Avoiding common pitfalls

June 19, 2015


Food & Water Storage
Avoiding common pitfalls

by John Boch
Emergencies never happen at convenient times.  Be it a tornado, power outage, winter storm or a health emergency, they seldom happen with meaningful advanced warning.

It’s up to you to be ready for life’s emergencies well before they happen, lest you have to depend on people from the government for assistance.

Yes, there’s one thing you never want to hear:  “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

Emergency planning comes in at least two stages.  Short-term emergencies might last a few days, such as a winter storm.  Longer-term emergencies might last weeks, such as an infectious disease quarantine.

Priority Number One:  Water.
Of course, water storage should be at the top of your list.  Whether you have plans to store water, or to filter water, you’ll need at least a gallon per day per person in your household and any visitors you might have.

A quick and easy solution for short-term emergencies is to stock a couple cases of bottled water for each person.  It’s relatively inexpensive, and will store for several years.  Keep a few bottles in your car as well, in case of emergencies on the road.

Storing tap water in large quantities requires dedication to rotating your stock, care in handling plastic barrels, and treating it to keep nasties from gaining a foothold.  In other words, it’s a pain in the butt, but necessary if filtration isn’t a good option for you.

If there is surface water readily available within walking distance, you might consider water filtration capacity instead of tap water storage.  You can purchase hiking-style water filters (good for the trunk in your car) or larger “Big Berkey” passive-filtration units.  You can even make your own, home-made “Big Berkey” using five gallon buckets and filter cartridges.  Passive filters use gravity instead of pumping by hand to provide clean, potable water.  Work smarter, not harder.

There are also newer options, including the “Steri-pens” (good), Sawyer Water Bottle filters and other filtering “straws” (good for drinking, but for other uses such as cooking, not so much) and iodine tablets (yummy.   NOT!).

In any event, it’s prudent to keep bottled or tap water on hand for short-term emergencies and have additional water options available for at least two week at the bare minimum.  Dehydration is a particularly ugly way to die.

If food were only as easy as water.It’s doubly challenging if you’ve got dietary considerations.

For short-term emergencies, stock some easy-to-prepare, shelf-stable foods (no refrigeration needed) that require only heating, or can be eaten cold in a worst-case scenario.  Stock low-salt crackers, whole grain cereals and canned foods with high liquid content.

It will be stressful enough in an emergency.  It won’t be a good time to offer up an entirely alien menu to your family.

Canned soups and stews make good choices, along with peanut butter, jelly and crackers, shelf-stable canned meats and pre-cooked bacon, powdered milk, cereal (hot and cold) are some quick and easy options for meal preparation when there is no electricity / refrigeration available.  Buy yourself a camping stove if you don’t like to eat your soups and stews cold.

Military “MREs” or Meals Ready to Eat (or Meals Rejected by Everyone) aren’t bad to eat for most of us (for a few days) and are fairly well-balanced nutritionally.   There are other similar foods available at camping supply stores as well, but make sure you’re stocking sufficient calories.

Store your emergency foods in a cool, dark place.  Avoid the attic, or a place in the basement that might be flooded if the sump pump fails.

A couple of considerations for food storage, especially longer-term plans…

Calories:  Most folks need a minimum of 2,000 calories per day, and as much as double that if they are working hard.

Watch those calorie counts!  At German concentration camps during World War II, internees were fed about 1500 calories per day.   In a matter of a few short weeks they were emaciated, and in three months, some had already succumbed to starvation.  Don’t make that your food storage plan.

TVP-Beef-by-Harveston-Farms__50772.1405410487.1280.1280Quality:  Your body needs carbohydrates, proteins and fats, along with vitamins.  If you have dietary restrictions, such as diabetic issues, you can’t rely on a carbohydrate-heavy food storage plan.

Nitrogen-packed foods and dehydrated foods are often short on calories, so be careful.

Textured vegetable protein foods, such as imitation beef, etc., are made with soybeans, and soy is rich in phytoestrogens.  Consumption of these foods and their estrogen-like components in significant quantity by pregnant women or not-so-pregnant men can have unwanted side effects, such as miscarriage, trashing sperm counts, erectile dysfunction and breast development in men.

While sperm counts and erections might not be high on your list of worries in an emergency, I guarantee a miscarriage would be psychologically devastating, and developing breasts in men is painful to say nothing of the cosmetic issues.

Tip:  Bite the bullet and stock some canned meats.  MREDepot.com is a good source.  These products will store for up to 25 years, easily.  Buy once, cry once and you’ll be good for a decade or more.

Variety:  Stock a variety of foods.  Stock spices and seasonings, including salt.  They are a critical component to adding some variety and zest to your meals.  Spices also don’t last forever.  Watch those expiration dates for maximum freshness.



Other questions…

How much food and water do you need to store?  That’s the million dollar question only you can answer.  Ready.gov suggests three days of non-perishable foods.  We recommend a bare minimum of seven days for most folks.  Sure, some will say that’s not enough – and it’s not for a really bad event.  However, seven days’ of food and water will get you through 99.9% of what life will throw at you without you spending a king’s ransom.

Here are some considerations to enter into the your decision-making:

Money.  How much can you spend?  Think of your food and water storage as an insurance plan to provide for your family.  At the same time, if you don’t have a few months’ of expenses in cash at home, you might be wise to be slow and prudent in accumulating food while you add to your cash rainy day fund.

Location.  How long will it be viable to stay in your home following a longer-term emergency?  If your neighbors are starving after two weeks and their kids are begging for food, how are they going to react to the smell of bacon and eggs from your place?  Desperate people do irrational, desperate things far worse than dirty looks.

Space.  Do you have limited space to devote to stored food?  You probably won’t want to devote the space to a year’s supply of food for your family.  Making a coffee table out of a piece of plywood atop cardboard boxes of long-term storage foods screams W.T., not fashion.

Number of people.  Will your mother-in-law or other family members be joining you and if so, for how long?  She’s going to need to eat and drink.  As much as you might like to feed her your expired foods and funky water from three years ago, that wouldn’t be polite or proper.

One Response to PREPPING: Food & Water Storage: Avoiding common pitfalls

  1. Indirect Action on June 20, 2015 at 5:39 am

    A friend of mine was telling me about how her son drank so much soy milk as an early adolescent that he started developing breasts. It took a while for the doc to figure it out. Then, after keeping a diary of what he ate and drank, a specialist pointed it out right away.

    Americans get up in arms about BPA, but seem to accept soy just fine. Strange.

    Don’t consume a lot of soy!