Thursday, 9 March 2017

09:14 – It was 39F (4C) when when I took Colin out around 0700 this morning, but it’s now warmed up to 57F (14C). Barbara and I are working all day at home on science kit stuff today.

When Lori delivered the mail and picked up a shipment yesterday morning, I asked her what she thought about the new TrumpCare proposal, which basically amounts to “if you like your ObamaCare you can keep your ObamaCare.” She thought I was kidding. When she realized Trump really didn’t intend to get rid of ObamaCare, she said that was the last straw and things were likely to get very bad very quickly. I agreed with her, of course, and asked how she was doing on prepping in general and food storage in particular.

She said she’d repackaged pasta, rice, etc. in Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers, but that she had nowhere near enough stored. Of course, as she said, she also has many tons of beef on the hoof, “if I can hold onto it”. We talked in some detail about what she should do next, and I later sent her the following email to reiterate and expand upon some of what we talked about.

Hi, Lori

I know I ran a lot by you this morning, so I figured I’d summarize it in writing. Here’s what I’d recommend you buy, assuming you intend to feed two adults. This doesn’t include anything for your dogs. I store the same stuff for Colin as for us, figuring him at 70 pounds to be half an adult.

I don’t know what your long-term food storage totals are currently, but if you’re starting without much I’d suggest you target a one-month supply to start. Expand that to three months’ worth, then six, and eventually 12 or more.

Water – At least one gallon per person/day (shoot for 3 gallons/person/day)

You have a well, which is great as long as you have power, and a year-round spring, which is excellent. Still, water is critical, so it makes sense to store at least some water to give you a buffer. I’d recommend you start by storing enough bottled water to keep yourself, Casey, and your dogs for at least one week, at 3 gallons per day. That totals 42 gallons for you and Casey, plus whatever you need for the dogs. We buy Costco bottle water in gallons at $3.60/six-pack, so enough for you and Casey for week would cost about $25. And in a real emergency, you could stretch that to maybe two or three weeks.

Assuming your spring water is not contaminated by agricultural chemicals, you can count that as your second backup supply (assuming you can’t pump well water). Unless you’re completely sure that the spring water is not biologically-contaminated, you’ll need the means to micro-filter it (as with that Sawyer mini filter you have) or chemically treat it. Many sources recommend using unscented chlorine bleach to disinfect your drinking water, and it’s a good idea to keep an unopened gallon on hand for that. However, the problem with liquid chlorine bleach is that it’s inherently unstable. It breaks down even in a new, sealed bottle. After a year it’s noticeably weaker, and before you know it the concentration is down to nothing. A better alternative is to keep a bottle of dry calcium hypochlorite (pool shock or similar) on hand. If you keep it sealed and dry, it lasts indefinitely.

Carbohydrates – 30 pounds/person/month (360 pounds/person/year)

You can mix this up however you like, but I’d recommend the following per person-month as a starting point. Adjust as you see fit, as long as the total is about 30 pounds/person/month. All of these foods provide about 1,700 calories/pound.

10 pounds of pasta (macaroni, spaghetti, egg noodles, etc.)
8 pounds of white flour (for bread, biscuits, pancakes, etc.)
5 pounds of rice (white rice stores better, but brown rice is good for five years or more)
5 pounds of white sugar (or honey, pancake syrup, etc.)
1 pound of oats
1 pound of corn meal

Protein supplement – at least 5 pounds/person/month (60 pounds/person/year)

Although all of the carbohydrates listed except sugar contain significant amounts of protein, it’s not complete protein because it lacks essential amino acids. You can get these missing amino acids by adding beans, legumes, eggs, meats, etc. to your storage. Beans are the cheapest way to do this, but most people prefer meat, eggs, etc. Note that canned wet beans should be counted as one fifth their weight in dry beans, so while 5 pounds of dry beans suffices for a month, if you’re buying, say, Bush’s Best Baked beans, you’d need 25 one-pound cans of them to equal the five pounds of dry beans.

We keep about 100 pounds of dry beans and lentils in stock for the 4.5 of us, but most of our supplementary protein is in the form of canned meats. Cans of chicken from Costco or Sam’s, Keystone Meats canned ground beef, beef chunks, pork, chicken, turkey, etc. You can order Keystone canned meats from Walmart on-line. A 28-ounce can of most of them costs just over $6. We order them in cases of 12 at a time. They also have 14.5-ounce cans, although they cost more per ounce. They might be better for you if you’re planning to feed only the two of you. The actual shelf life of canned meats, like other canned foods, is indefinite assuming the can is undamaged. Keystone, for example, rates their canned meats at a 5-year shelf life, but in fact they will remain safe and nutritious for much, much longer.

Oils and Fats – at least 1 quart/liter or 2 pounds/person/month (12 quarts/liters/person/year)

Oils and fats do gradually become rancid, but stored in their original bottles and kept in a cool, dark place they last for years without noticeably rancidity. Saturated fats (lard, shortening, etc.) store better than than unsaturated fats. Poly-unsaturated fats have the shortest shelf life.

We store a combination of liquid vegetable and olive oils, lard, shortening, etc. We also keep anything up to 40 pounds of butter in our large freezer. In a long term power outage, we’d clarify that by heating it and separating the butter solids from the clear butter, and then can the clear butter to preserve it.

Dairy – at least 1.5 pounds/person/month (18 pounds/person/year) of dry milk or equivalent

This amount is all for cooking/baking. If you want to drink milk, have it on cereal, etc. you’ll need more. You can buy non-fat dry milk already in #10 cans, or buy it in cardboard boxes from Walmart and repack it yourself. (There’s also a full-fat dry milk called Nestle Nido that’s sold in #10 cans and has a real-world shelf-life of at least a couple of years and probably much longer.) Another alternative is evaporated milk or sweetened condensed milk. For drinking or use on cereal, consider a milk substitute like Augason Farms Morning Moos (dumb name, but by all reports it’s the closest thing to real fresh milk). It comes in #10 cans and has a very long shelf life. It’s mostly non-fat dry milk, but with sugar and other ingredients that make the reconstituted stuff taste close to real milk.

Salt – at least 12 ounces/person/month (9 pounds/person/year)

Buy iodized salt. Sam’s sells 4-pound boxes of Morton’s iodized table salt for about a buck each, so a one-person-year supply is about $2 worth. The shelf life is infinite, so buy a lot. Repackage it in 1- or 2-liter soft drink bottles, canning jars, Mylar bags, or other moisture-proof containers. (You don’t need an oxygen absorber.) After extended storage, the salt may take on a very pale yellow cast. That’s normal. It’s caused by the potassium iodide used to iodize the salt oxidizing to elemental iodine. That’s harmless, does not affect the taste, and still provides the daily requirement of iodine (which the soil around here is very poor in).

Meal Extenders/Cooking Essentials (varies according to your situation)

You can survive on just beans, rice, oil, and salt, but the meals you can make with just those foods will get old after about one day. You should also store items that add flavor and variety to your stored bulk foods. (I consider meat a seasoning, but that’s just me…)

Herbs and spices – buy large Costco/Sam’s jars of the half-dozen or dozen herbs/spices (sperbs?) you like best. In sealed glass/plastic jars they maintain full flavor for many years. Your preferences probably differ from ours, but at a minimum I’d suggest: onion and garlic flakes/powder, cinnamon, thyme, parsley, dill, mustard, rosemary, pepper, cumin, etc.

Sauces and condiments – store your favorite sauces/condiments (or the ingredients to make them). We store spaghetti sauce, alfredo sauce, canned soups, ketchup, mustard, pancake syrup, etc. in quantity. Rather than storing barbecue sauce, we store bulk amounts of the ingredients to make it up on the fly. (See

Which brings up another issue. You need to plan your meals and figure out how much of what you’ll need to make them. For example, we intend to have a dinner based on that barbecue sauce once every three weeks, or 17 times a year. The recipe makes up a quart or so of sauce, which with a 28-ounce can of Keystone beef chunks or pork or chicken is enough to feed the 4.5 of us. (The buns are just part of our flour storage.) To know how much we’ll need to store to do that for a year in the absence of outside resupply, we just multiply everything by 17.

17 – 28-ounce cans of Keystone canned beef, pork, or chicken
25.5 cups (11+ pounds) of white sugar
25.5 Tbsp (12.75 fluid ounces) of molasses
25.5 cups (204 fluid ounces) of ketchup
8.5 cups (68 fluid ounces) of prepared mustard
8.5 cups (68 fluid ounces) of vinegar
8.5 cups (68 fluid ounces) of water
17 Tbsp (8.5 fluid ounces) of Worcestershire sauce
17 Tbsp (8.5 fluid ounces) of liquid smoke hickory sauce
34 tsp (77 grams or 2.7 ounces) of paprika
34 tsp (194 grams or 6.8 ounces) of salt
25.5 tsp (59 grams or 2.1 ounces) of black pepper

Cooking/Baking Essentials – varies according to your preferences

You’ll almost certainly want to bake bread, biscuits, etc., so keep at least a couple pounds of instant yeast (we use SAF). On the shelf, it’s good for at least a year. In the freezer, indefinitely. You’ll also want baking soda, baking powder, unsweetened cocoa powder, vinegar, lemon juice, vanilla extract—all of which keep indefinitely in their original sealed containers—and possibly things like chocolate chips, raisins and other dried fruits, jams and jellies, etc.

Multi-vitamin tablets/capsules – one per person/day

Contrary to popular opinion, fruits and vegetables aren’t necessary for a nutritious, balanced diet. Still, most people will want to keep a good supply of them. As usual for canned goods, canned fruits and vegetables last a long, long time. We buy cases of a dozen cans each at Costco or Sam’s of corn, green beans, peas, tomatoes, mixed fruit, pineapples, oranges, etc. (Note that pop-top aluminum cans are problematic. Where a traditional steel can will keep foods good indefinitely, the pop-top cans don’t seem to do as good a job. I recommend you stick to traditional cans, and of course that you have at least two manual can openers.)

Give me a call if you need to talk about any of this.


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