Tuesday, October 17, 2017

How to Plan, Prepare, and Budget for a Plant-Based/Vegan Food Storage #yearsupply



Many years ago we held tight to the counsel of having a year supply of food on hand. This amount of food storage sounds overwhelming, and at first, it is, but there were resources to purchasing food storage options. There were complete year supplies of food that you could purchase, 3-month increments, or individual portions of food. We had a storage room in our home and I would rotate the food each time I added anything new to our year supply of food. It was a project that I enjoyed because I knew in the event of an emergency or loss of job, that we would at least have food.

Fast track 8 years after we left Utah and guess what, I am still and always have held on to the idea of keeping some food storage on hand. I believe in the concept of being prepared, even if that includes, a 3 month supply and not a year supply.

Part of this continuation of our food supply journey is heavily dependent upon the threat of natural disasters. While living back east we went through three hurricanes, an earthquake, a derecho, and unusual snowfall patterns. These natural disasters led to us losing power on multiple occasions, having roads not clear due to snowfall and fallen trees, and sometimes a panic in the area that would leave shelves barren in our grocery stores. Living back in Oregon the threat is the same. We live along the coast. We live on a transform plate. We have the Juan de Fuca along our seas shore. So what does that all mean?  Earthquakes and tsunamis. Simply put, if the right earthquake hits we could be facing some severe disaster in our area. In fact, we don't even know if our house will be safe. We are along the water and if the flooding is severe enough we might have a home full of water. With this threat in mind, most of our food storage is in water safe containers, cans or airtight boxes.

I want to take this time to share with you a few of our ideas and thoughts on how we, as a plant-based family, prepare our food storage. There have been times in the past, due to my food sensitivities, that I have stressed about our food storage. Primarily, the items we had in our food storage were items for extreme disasters, not necessarily food items we would eat on a daily basis. This changed when I realized we were wasting our money on food that I knew my family would not eat, or food that I could not eat and stay healthy. I quickly donated the items we would not use to other families and focused on buying things I knew my kids would eat, not necessarily love, but like enough to suck it up and eat.

Let me first start by giving you some food for thought. Gained from our own experience over the past thirty years. I don't claim to know everything about food storage, but this is what has worked for us with good results. I am always open to suggestions and ideas for what works best for you. Today I am going to focus more on food storage and not emergency preparedness. This will get thrown into the conversation a little bit in this piece, but I want to write a separate piece that talks about how we are prepared for an emergency.

BUY FOODS YOU EAT NOW. Don't waste money on gimmick foods, kits, or sets of foods in the hopes that you may never have to use them. This ensures the food is rotated, stays fresh, and you know how to use the foods you are storing.

USE THE FOOD IN YOUR FOOD STORAGE. Having food sit and sit for years cannot be healthy for anyone. Yes, they will sustain you but remember, that our food is also what keeps us healthy and strong. In the event of a situation you have to use your food storage, you want the best food choices available to you at times. Using the food in your food storage also increases the likelihood that your family will eat the food when the time comes. Trying to introduce new food, especially canned/processed/food storage food to your families during a crisis, kind of sucks. Trust me I know the hard way.

MAKE A LIST OF ITEMS NEEDED. A list will help you stay organized. A list allows you to break up your purchases. A list will help you shop sales. I like to use a list because I am busy and I need reminders of when I need to restock an item that is low. I will provide you below with some of the items on my list. I sometimes will use coupons, shop at discount stores, watch sales, buy in bulk, and use our garden to stock our pantry.

MAKE A MENU USING THE ITEMS IN YOUR STORAGE.  This happened to me. I bought food for our pantry and then realized I was missing key ingredients to make full meals. This was stressful. Now I make menus that are balanced meals using the items in my food pantry or storage.

BUY BASICS Your going to not like me, for this section, because I will never encourage you to fill your pantry with prepared/process food. I just can't.  Some things yes, I get it; but, not all of it. I say this because I have watched friends do this. They buy chips, cookies, meals in boxes, mac and cheese, etc....because its cheap. Cheap does not equate to healthy and sustaining, in my world, these are two important aspects of our lives living a plant-based lifestyle. I buy things that I can blend to make recipes. I buy foods that are usually single items foods like beans, tomatoes, carrots, rice, flour, chocolate chips, etc... These are the foods that I can use in a variety of recipes. With this said, I will buy a few prepared items in the event I don't have the means to cook food for a few days. Like canned vegetarian chili or soups. These can be eaten cold, not preferable, but doable.

DON'T JUST FOCUS ON FOOD Look around your house and decide, in the event of a job loss or natural disaster, what other things besides food could you have on hand for 3 months to a year. I can suggest a few. Toilet paper, personal hygiene, medicines, pet foods, garden seeds, heat source, cooking source, etc... The list is long.  Remember to add these things to your list too.

COMMIT TO BUYING ITEMS EACH TIME YOU SHOP I give myself a small budget to spend on food storage items each time I go shopping. This allows me to economically build up our supply of emergency items. A trick I use it this. I have a food budget. If something on my list is on sale, I buy a years supply of it. Sounds crazy but it works for me. Another trick I use is if I do buy a few things on sale, this will leave me with a little extra money in my food budget. I will spend this extra money on items for our food/emergency items.

LEARN TO FORAGE AND GROW YOUR OWN FOOD I am including this because there are many people who live in areas that are rich with wild food. There is food available in parks, forested areas, woodlands, around water, even in dry areas like desserts, there can be food found in the form of certain cacti. Not everyone can forage but for those that enjoy the challenge of searching for their food, this is an option to learn now. Not when you need it because of a natural disaster but now, while you have time to collect the resources to study the items in your area. I have mushroom books, wild plants/herbs books, native to my area books, books on how to prepare soups, tinctures, teas, ointments, and salves.  You will be surprised what you might find in your own backyard.

Having a garden is always an option if you have space, time, and means. We put our first garden in this year as a test plot for our families abilities to maintain and use the food from the garden. It has been a joy. We will be expanding our garden next year by four times what is was this past year. We want to be self-sustaining and this is our goal we are working towards as a plant-based family.

The suggestions above work for our family. I have been doing our food stocking this way for a long time. I know there are a few questions that come along with this project and I will try to answer them below. Again, these won't be all the questions. If you think of something else, ask in the comment section and I will do my best to answer each question.

Where do I store all of my food storage? This is a great question and one that we have had to get creative on several occasions. Many friends I know, use the space under their beds. Closets, garages, basements, and pieces of furniture are all places you can store food storage. Keep in mind a few things though: pest, temperature, moisture, accessibility, etc... I will tell you that we keep all of our food inside and upstairs. Oregon is wet and damp. Anything we put outside deteriorates. Upstairs because we hope that if our home is flooded the upstairs will be a safe place for most of our food.

What are shelf life, best by date, and use by dates? These are dates that manufacturers attach to each item they manufacture. These dates are a bit flexible. I say this because, from personal experience, I have used things past their labeled date. I use the "smell it" and "taste it" rule of thumb. If it smells bad then it probably is and if it tastes bad, don't use it. Oils are the tricky one. They have a best by date stamp. Some people say oil does not go bad, but it can. Use your nose and taste buds. Shelf life can also be used to describe how long something is good for once it is cooked. Most cooked foods have a shelf life depending on what they are. For example cooked meat's shelf life is different than say homemade butter or biscuits.

What are the best forms of packaging for food to use: plastic, glass, metal, boxes, etc...? I have my favorites and some of them are practical and some of them are not. I have to be a bit more flexible when it comes to the food items I buy and how they are packaged. As an example, I prefer frozen fruit and vegetables over canned goods. In the event of a natural disaster, I may lose power (this has happened to us before) and we lose food. This is not practical and a waste of money to me. So I compromise and buy fruits and vegetables in can form too. I buy beans that are in cans and beans that are in bags. Again I use them both in our everyday cooking but this allows me the peace of mind and comfort, that if water enters my house, we will have some protein in a can. I like glass. Earthquakes and glass jars don't always mix. I buy some things in glass and some things in plastic. You really need to think outside your comfort zone when it comes to planning for your food storage and a natural disaster is always a possibility. We buy things in paper packaging like crackers, flour, sugar, etc... These items I try to store up high. In the past, I have protected them in plastic tubs.

How much money do I need to get started? This is a question I hear a lot when it comes to food storage and preparing to invest in your preparedness. I can't give you a solid answer because we all have different homes, a different number of people in our homes, different budgets, and different appetites. I can share with you what our family does for budgeting. I budget $50.00 a paycheck for food storage. This is for a family of 6 living at home. I have a son and his girlfriend living an hour away. Our food storage may have to feed them too. We have a large home so I have more space. I use all the space given to me to store food. I also keep in mind, my neighbors and friends. We have taken extra precautions on our property for water. This was expensive but we now have a 1500 gallon water tank for use as drinking water and other necessary water needs. Each year we get bonuses. I always take a little from this extra money and buy things in bulk from Amazon. I buy almost all organic and bulk is the cheapest option I have found. This amount is sometimes $200 or it could be $500.

Money is hard to give specifics because we all have different incomes and needs. I would suggest that you make your list and then divide it. Try to make 12 sections and give yourself 12 months to get your food storage up to par. Unless you are feeling in your gut that this process needs to be a priority, and if that is your feeling---run with it, then taking baby steps as you work toward your goal. This goal may not be 12 months. Maybe you only want 3 months on hand.

What should I store? This is also based on your family and their food choices, dietary restrictions, income level, and storage availability. I will try to tell you what I store for our family who eats a plant-based diet. This list is not complete because this is my own families preferences. You will have to decide your families list based on where you live, your culture (foods do vary), your budget, and your cooking options.  I have access to a fireplace, a fire pit outside, stored wood, propane gas grills, charcoal BBQ, and a variety of electrical appliances. I have lots of options, which others may not. This is important in storing food. If you can't cook it or make anything with it, then it won't work for your family.

Listed below are a few sites I found that also talk about storing foods in your pantry along with some menu and recipe suggestions.

Discovering the Words of Wisdom
Whole Food Menus-Top 10 list
Veg Kitchen- How to Create a Plant-Based Pantry
4 Ways to Preserve Fruits and Vegetables--talks about salting
Home Preserving Bible--this does include options for meat too
Better Homes and Garden--list of shelf lives and how to store items
Vegan Society- 20 uses for Aquafaba
Real Simple-How to store oil, vinegar, and condiments
One Green Plant-Plant Protein Sources

My list is as follows:

Dry Goods- any food item that does not need to be frozen or refrigerated to be stored. Most of these items, once they are open, do not need to be refrigerated.

Keep in mind shelf life and dates. Somethings don't last a full year. This is why a rotation system works best. This is a list of items we keep on hand in bulk as part of our food storage needs.

-flours
-cornmeal
-sugars
-baking soda
-baking powder
-dry spices
-salt (salt can be used to preserve too, keep this in mind for quantity)
-beans (canned or dry)
-rice
-rolled oats and like cereal grains
-chocolate powder
-cacao nibs
-coffee
-tea
-corn tortillas (soft and crispy and tostada)
-flat rice disk used to make spring rolls
-nori sheets for sushi
-pasta
-crackers (Ritz, gluten-free sesame seeds, nutcrackers)
-cookies
-chips
-nuts, seeds, peanuts (we don't have any nut allergies)
-coconut flakes
-dehydrated fruit (watch closely because they can go bad)
-TVP (if you do soy)
-nutritional yeast

Canned/Liquid Goods--Anything in a can/bottle/box that can be stored at room temperature before it is open. This list is not complete but what we have stored in our food storage. I try to buy all my canned goods organic.

- tomatoes
- tomato paste
- tomato sauce
-mushrooms
-coconut milk (full fat)
-jackfruit (in water, not sweet)
-beans (lots of beans for aquafaba uses-this replaces eggs in most recipes)
-fruit
-artichoke hearts and bottoms
-olives
-ketchup
-mustard
-maple syrup
-coconut oil, refined by the gallon
-olive oil in dark containers
-vinegar (apple cider and white)
-sesame oil
-rice milk (organic and in a box)
-vegetable stock in boxes
-concentrated vegetable paste
-peanut butter
-jam
-soy sauce (if you do soy)
-Braggs Amino Acid (alternative to soy)
-pickles
-salsa

Frozen Food

We have two freezers that are packed with food. We use these a lot. I know that in the event of power loss we could lose the food but most of what is in there are items we have foraged or gotten at great prices. Not that that should matter, but when we have lost a freezer full of food in the past, you tell yourself things to make it feel better. I hope we don't lose power ever again.

-frozen fruit (all kinds)
-frozen vegetable stock (homemade)
-frozen skins and wrappers (gyoza'z/ puff pastry)
-all opened nuts (20#'s of raw cashews)
-shredded squash for muffins, stews, and soups

Other items

-toilet paper
-pet food
-personal hygiene products
-first aid items
-propane tanks
-firewood
-matches/lighter
-candles
-batteries
-paper towels/napkins
-laundry detergent
-dish soap
-paper plates and paper products (in the event we lose electricity)
-diapers/pullups/Depends
-water
-generator
-essential oils (for cooking, healing, soothing, etc...)

I know this was a lot to read. It was a lot to write.  I still have more to add but this is a basic/general understanding of food storage, foods to store, and how to get started. I will revisit periodically and update this page. Please ask me any questions in the comment section below. I would love to hear what other plant-based or vegan families are storing or using.

I wrote this piece to simply inform people that you don't need animal products in your food storage to make delicious food or to sustain your family in the event of a natural disaster or other crisis. You don't need eggs because you have aquafaba. You don't need dairy milk because you can use coconut milk or rice milk, just to name a few options. You don't need dehydrated sour cream (GAG) because you can make cashew cream (if you have electricity or a generator). You don't need canned meat for protein (see link above).

I am trying to be smart about where I live and the possibility of a disaster looming at my front door. I want to feel as prepared and safe as possible. This starts with little actions and baby steps. I hope this is helpful for you to begin thinking about how to store plant-based foods in your food storage.







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