When a summertime monsoon storm is on the way, I quickly track down my kids, bring them indoors, and prepare to hunker down. It’s a mom-instinct. We unplug the computers, make sure all the windows are securely closed and locked, and if my husband isn’t home, I call to make sure he’s okay.
A storm of a different kind is on its way to America and has already been wreaking havoc with family incomes and our sense of security. No one knows what the extent of the damage will ultimately be, but moms everywhere are responding to their maternal instinct to gather everyone together. Since food and meal preparation is part of our responsibility, food storage is a basic, simple step to take in order to keep our families healthy.
Having enough groceries on hand for a period of three months is a good first goal, but if buying enough for three months is too daunting and not in the budget, start with buying enough to have a pantry fully stocked for one month.
If you’ve been losing sleep over the state of our economy or your own personal finances or you’re worried about an Ebola pandemic or just a really bad winter storm, there’s no time to waste. Use coupons and grocery store sales to get the most bang for your buck, examine your budget for anything that can be cut (temporarily) until you’ve reached your food storage goals.
To get you started, here are some of the simplest ways to stock up.
Plan for simple food storage meals
Stock up on ingredients to make 24 batches of soup
That’s two batches of soup per week for three months. If you make a double batch, you’ll have leftovers for the next day. As a first step, buy high-quality bouillon in bulk, such as Ready Reserve Foods beef and chicken stock. I like this brand because you can buy it in larger quantities.
Add to your soup stash:
- 1-2 #10 dehydrated potato dices. This will provide potatoes for both soups and chowders.
- 1 #10 can of each vegetable (dehydrated or freeze-dried) you typically use in soup: onion, celery, carrots, mushrooms, corn (for chowders), mixed vegetables, etc.
- 1 #10 can tomato powder for tomato based soups. You can also use this to make homemade pasta and enchilada sauces.
- 1 #10 can instant milk for chowders
- Rice, beans, and small pasta can be added for extra bulk, calories, and variety.
Do you have to buy these ingredients? They will end up lasting longer and will be more cost effective in the long run, but go for store-bought cans of soup if that’s what it takes to get you going! Use coupons, buy generic brands, and shop store sales, and you’ll end up with a very large stash of canned soup, quick.
Calculate how many cans you’ll need for 24 meals and then set that number of cans as your goal.
Learn how to bake a loaf of homemade bread
If you already know how to do this, stock up on enough ingredients to make a loaf of bread per day if you have more than four people in your family, or a loaf every other day for smaller family units or individuals. Keep the recipe very simple, as your goal is to stock up quickly, using every penny and dollar wisely.
You’ll use bread for sandwiches, toast, garlic bread, French toast, bread crumbs, etc. If you don’t have a grain mill for grinding wheat, buy enough flour for not only bread but other, occasional treats such as cookies. Before storing the flour, place it in a container with a tight lid and freeze it for at least ten days. This will kill off any microscopic insect eggs so there won’t be any nasty surprises when you’re ready to use the flour.
Check out this list of Depression-era meals that show just how versatile bread can be!
Plan at least 15 pasta meals
They are inexpensive and pasta is very versatile. You can buy 15 jars/cans of ready-made pasta sauce or buy enough ingredients to make 15 batches of homemade sauce. Plan on eating a hot vegetable and slices of garlic bread with each meal. This utilizes your homemade bread and hot veggies can either be from your stash of dehydrated/freeze-dried, canned or frozen veggies from the grocery store, or home grown.
Whip up white gravy
A batch of white gravy is easy to whip up with flour, milk, and some form of fat (butter, bacon grease, or oil). Buy a #10 can of sausage crumbles and make your own sausage gravy served over homemade biscuits. If you’re stocked up on ingredients for bread, you’ll only need to add a can of shortening for the biscuits.
Use butter as your fat, add a little garlic, salt, and you’ve got a nice white sauce to pour over pasta or egg noodles. With some cooked vegetables, you have pasta primavera.
Plan on a “white gravy” meal once a week with a couple of biscuits and gravy breakfasts thrown in the mix.
Tuna or chicken casserole
Tuna casserole is a simple budget-friendly dinner. Multiply the ingredients in your recipe times 12 in order to serve it once a week for three months. Keep in mind that the size of tuna cans has been decreasing, much like those containers of ice cream that keep getting smaller and smaller! You might have to buy more cans of tuna in order to have the same amount of actual tuna.
Rice and beans can be your budget’s best friend
The classic meal of beans and rice is versatile and the ingredients can be stored for years.
Keep in mind that repetitive meals can be quite boring, so stock up on a variety of beans, buy multi-bean mixes, and different types of rice. Most importantly, stock up on spices, herbs, and seasonings! Keep them stored in a dark, dry, and cool location for longest possible shelf life.
Just this simple array of ingredients will allow you to make dozens of different dishes. Check out this recipe book for more ideas.
More simple dinner ideas
For more simple dinner ideas, buy 100-day Pantry by Jan Jackson. Choose a recipe, multiply the ingredients by 12, and start shopping!
Your dinner menu will be complete with soup/chowder twice each week, a pasta meal or two each week, tuna or chicken casserole, white sauce with vegetables served over noodles, and two dishes of rice and beans.
Keep the simple theme going with breakfasts
Oatmeal. Oatmeal is simple.
Oatmeal makes a healthy and filling breakfast and has the added advantage of being versatile. It’s also inexpensive. Some stores carry oatmeal in their self-serve bins, along with beans, cornmeal, etc. Three pounds of oatmeal will provide 30 servings. Figure out how much you need to buy in order to have an oatmeal breakfast 3-4 times per week, one serving per person, per day.
For an easy change, make baked oatmeal.
Buy extra if homemade granola, oatmeal cookies, and homemade granola bars sound good to you. In addition, buy 6 pounds of brown sugar and/or 2 quarts of honey, extra cinnamon, raisins, and any other add-ins you and your family enjoy.
A few other breakfast suggestions
Plan on eating pancakes (homemade or using a mix like Bisquick), French toast (from the loaves of bread you’ll be making), homemade muffins, gravy and biscuits, and eggs for the remaining breakfasts. Leftovers are good, too. Keep breakfast quick, easy, and filling.
Cooking three meals from scratch will get old fast. There’s nothing wrong with planning on canned ravioli, chili, tuna sandwiches, canned stew, peanut butter and jelly, and even Kraft Macaroni and Cheese (stock up on instant milk and butter powder).
Freeze-dried cheese is pricey, but it can be used in quesadillas with homemade tortillas, sprinkled over a baked pasta dish, pizza, and so much more. When it’s rehydrated, it melts and tastes just like real cheese. In my opinion, it’s worth splurging on a can or two, and then using it as a luxury ingredient, sparingly. I keep cheese in my freezer, but for long-term storage AND a quick way to reach your food storage goal, freeze-dried is a really good option.
Finally, make sure you have at least one alternative way to cook your food and heat up water. If a Sun Oven is too pricey, many people make their own solar cookers. Many moms on this blog have been using an energy efficient rocket stove, such as EcoZoom, and find them easy to use. Should your power go out or energy rates skyrocket, cooking a few meals off the grid will be smart.
What other easy food storage ideas do you have to share?