08:53 – It was 68.1F (20C) when I took Colin out at 0710, overcast and drippy.
For the second time since we’ve lived here, Colin made a break for it. When I walked out the drive to pick up the paper, he headed over to Bonnie’s field to sniff around. As I walked back toward the house, he trotted back over toward me, but instead of coming up toward the front door he went down behind the house. I walked over to the other side of the house, expecting him to come into view down along the fence line. He didn’t. So I walked back over to Bonnie’s side of the house, expecting that he’d turned around and was back in Bonnie’s back field. Nope. So I walked down behind the house, expecting to see him there. Nope. Neither was he in our other neighbor’s yard, 100 yards/meters or so down the road. So I came back to the house and woke Barbara to let her know he was missing. She found him sniffing around a couple hundred yards down the road, near where a skunk had gotten run over the other day. We both chastised him.
Another screed today.
I got email the other day from a woman who was about to pull the trigger on a $6,000 “one-year food supply for four people” from Costco for them and their two teenage kids. She said her husband was on-board with the idea, but asked if I had any thoughts.
Hell, yes, I had some thoughts. I told her she didn’t need to spend anything close to $6,000 on a four person-year LTS food supply, and if she did choose to spend that much she could get a hell of a lot better supply than companies like that sell.
Let’s get the good part out of the way first. This LTS food collection provides 2,000 calories per day for four people for a year, or about 2,920,000 total calories. I think 2,000 calories/day is inadequate. I’d shoot for 3,000 or more calories/day, but at least this package provides more calories than most similar packages. Some of those provide as little as 350 calories/day. Seriously. The only thing that would accomplish is letting you starve to death a bit more slowly.
Now the bad news. A very high price, and no meat. The vast majority of the calories in this package come from grains and other cheap bulk carbohydrate foods. Well, what should be cheap bulk foods. But they’re not priced that way here. At $1,500 per person per year for 730,000 calories, that amounts to about 487 calories per dollar spent, which are pretty expensive calories.
Contrast that to the cost of calories in bulk foods that you repackage yourself. The cheapest of those is flour, at around $25 per 100 pounds at Costco or Sams. That 100 pounds of flour contains about 170,000 calories, give or take, or about 6,800 calories per dollar spent. Rice and sugar cost more per pound, but not THAT much more. If you want bulk LTS food, it is much, much, MUCH cheaper to repackage it yourself from 50-pound bags.
But let’s put things on an oranges-to-oranges basis. Let’s say you want to buy your bulk food already packaged for LTS. Go visit your nearest LDS Home Storage Center. A 4-pound #10 can of flour costs $3 there. That’s three times the price of flour in 50-pound bags, but you don’t have to repackage it yourself. That #10 can contains about 6,800 calories, or about 2,267 calories per dollar spent. LDS HSC prices on other bulk foods like sugar, rice, pasta, oats, dry milk, beans, etc. are similarly low in price, considerably more expensive than repackaging bulk food yourself, but much cheaper than what commerical vendors charge for the same #10 can or foil retort pouch.
So let’s say you choose to buy all of your bulk carbohydrates, beans (protein), dry milk, etc. from the LDS HSC. (You don’t have to be a Mormon to buy there.) The average cost/pound will vary, depending on the mix you choose (wheat berries are cheaper than anything, flour/sugar/oats cost more, as do beans, and dry milk is the most expensive). If you buy one pound/day per person, that’s a total of 1,460 pounds. Let’s say the cost averages $1/pound, which is a reasonable estimate. You’ll end up with roughly 360 cans, 60 cases. And you’ll have more than $4,500 remaining from that $6,000. But we still have more to buy.
First, buy three gallons or 12 liters (call it 25 pounds) of vegetable oil, shortening, and other oils/fats per person-year. Again, your total cost will vary, depending on what exactly you choose. At the low-end (canola oil, Crisco, etc.) your oil/fat supply will be $15 to $30 per person year, or $60 to $120 total. If you instead buy expensive premium oils (think genuine extra-virgin olive oil) it may be five times that much or more. Call it $140 total, which takes our grand total to $1,600 so far.
The next item is table salt. The average American consumes about seven pounds per year, so you’ll need at least 28 pounds for the four of you for a one-year supply. Sam’s sells 4-pound boxes of Morton’s iodized table salt for about $1.50. You’ll need seven or more boxes, so add another $10.
Then start adding bulk herbs and spices. For onion, if you like it, the cheapest source is again the LDS Home Storage Center. A 2.4-pound #10 can of dry onions costs $9.00 at the HSC, noticeably less than what Costco or Sam’s charges for large plastic bottles of it. But you’ll want a bunch of those large plastic bottles as well. Hit Costco or Sam’s and buy a bunch of whatever herbs and spices you like. Plan on spending at least $100 on herbs/spices, and more is better. That’s a tiny fraction of your budget, and goes a long way toward making those boring bulk foods appetizing. It’s far better to have too much than too little.
Next up is meat. If you’re like most Americans, you average about 200 pounds of meat per year, almost 9 ounces per day. That doesn’t mean you’ll need 800 pounds of meat for your deep pantry. In normal times, meat is often a major component of a meal, but you can instead plan to use meats in the same way you use herbs and spices–as flavoring rather than bulk. (We keep enough canned meat on hand to provide about eight ounces per person per day, but even a quarter of that amount goes a long way toward making appetizing meals possible.) For the last couple of years, we’ve been buying almost exclusively Keystone Meats canned meats in 28-ounce cans. They offer beef chunks, ground beef, pork, chicken, and turkey. All cost $6.28/can at Walmart, except the beef chunks, at $7.74. All of them are pure meat, with no water added, so you get the weight of meat you’re paying for. We still buy fresh/frozen meats, but probably 33% to 50% of our meat consumption is from Keystone cans.
So, if you want to provide 7 ounces of meat per day per person, you’d need 365 cans for a one-year supply. That would cost you about $2,300, assuming you didn’t buy many cans of beef chunks. Obviously, before you order 365 cans of Keystone Meats, you should buy a couple test cans of each type and try using them to cook meals. Assuming you’re happy with them, that would add $2,300 to your one-year deep pantry bill, for a total of about $4,100.
Next up is #10 cans of stuff that LDS doesn’t offer at the Home Storage Center, but are important for making palatable meals. For that, we recommend Augason Farms products purchased from Walmart. The Big Four are powdered eggs, powdered butter, powdered cheese, and bouillon, which they offer in several flavors as a meat substitute. For four people for a year, I’d recommend at least eight cans of powdered whole eggs, which is equivalent to about 48 dozen whole eggs. You won’t be using these for omelets, but rather in baked goods that call for eggs. Eight cans give you roughly a dozen eggs per week for baking, making pancakes, and so on. The powdered butter is primarily for flavoring. Incidentally, it’s much better to mix it with vegetable oil than water. (You can substitute for this in whole or in part with Crisco butter-flavor shortening, which is fine for baking but sucks as a butter replacement for use as a spread.) Depending on how much butter you normally use, you’ll probably want three to eight cans of powdered butter on the shelf. The cheese powder is for making up sauces or just flavoring skillet meals. The mixing instructions for it specify way too little water. For most purposes, you can get by using 1.5 to 3 times the recommended amount of water. We keep about eight cans of cheese powder on hand for four people for a year, but YMMV. The bouillon granules are for making up soups, adding meat flavor to meatless meals, and so on. We keep a can or two of each flavor. We’d stock more if we didn’t stock as much canned meat as we do. Again, different people will want widely differing amounts of all four of these products depending on their cooking habits, but plan to spend $400 and up on these items. That takes us to $4,500 or more total.
Next up is cooking/baking essentials. If you’re baking bread and other baked goods, you’ll want lots of baking soda (one or more large bags), baking powder (at least four 10-ounce cans), three or four pounds of instant dry yeast, a couple large bottles of vanilla extract, a couple gallons of vinegar, and so on. Find recipes you like, note the ingredients they call for, and multiply them out. Even if you buy very large quantities of all of these, the total bill should come to $100 or less. Call it $4,600 total.
Next up is soups/sauces/condiments/syrups, which you can use to turn simple bulk-based meals into something appetizing. Think soups/sauces to use in making casseroles or skillet meals with pasta or rice, pancake syrup to use with pancakes, waffles or oatmeal, and so on. You’ll want 365 or more containers of these items, which can range from one-gallon jugs of pancake syrup down to jars of pasta sauce to small cans of tomato paste and various soups. For a one-year supply for four people, plan to spend at least $400 on these items, although you can easily spend three or four times that much depending on your own preferences. Call it $400 or more, for a total of $5,000 or more.
Finally, you might want to stock up on canned and/or dried fruits and vegetables. These aren’t essential for good nutrition, but many people will want them on hand for flavor. Buy canned versions rather than dehydrated, let alone freeze-dried. A #10 can of corn or peas or green beans or fruit at Sam’s costs anything from $3.50 to maybe twice that, and provides a lot of veggies for the money. If you like vegetables and/or fruit, plan on spending maybe $500 or $600 on these items, which takes you up to maybe $5,600. Oh, and don’t forget to buy several Costco-size bottles of multivitamins.
All told, you’ll spend a bit less than your $6,000 budget, and you’ll be eating immensely better than you would be with that four person-year kit. You’ll have many more calories stored, and you’ll have enough meat to make those meals worth eating.
But what about that 25-year shelf life? It doesn’t matter. Nearly all of the dry stuff in #10 cans and retort bags has best-by dates 10 years or more out, and most of it is 20 or 30 years. And even that is pessimistic, as I know from personal testing of very old LTS food.
The canned meats and other wet foods have realistic use-by dates five years or more out, and nearly all of them will remain nutritious and tasty for much, much longer. And anyway, you should be using canned meats and other wet foods routinely in your everyday cooking, so nothing is going to go bad.