There’s a lot of hype in the preparedness world around various meal kit products, budget solutions, pantry layouts, and more. For a newcomer, it’s frustrating and overwhelming. Some end up packing dry rice and lentils in their bug-out bags, some load their pantries up with feed corn in mylar but pass by the canned food and more pricey meal kits. If you find yourself going all-in on one touted method of food storage, then it’s time to simplify things here with some clarity. Here is a simple list of the main options you should take advantage of as the budget allows:
Convenient option: Store-bought canned food is already cooked and ready to go. It’s still safe to eat it with no more preparation than opening the can. Tuna, chicken, beans, chili, you name it—it’s all available in the stores, and it’ll last indefinitely.
There are, unfortunately, two drawbacks to this option. One, it isn’t portable. You shouldn’t be chucking cans of chicken noodle soup in the back of the van when the hurricane is on its way. Two, the cans from the store are a one-and-done situation. They aren’t reusable like the glass jars for home canning.
Sustainable option: While still not portable, home canning is a great solution for extending the canned portion of your pantry on an ongoing basis. It’s much more relevant for those who can obtain large amounts of fresh goods, such as people with gardens or gardener friends.
Tip: The common advice is to toss the lids after one use, but you can reuse the lids if the seal hasn’t been destroyed. After taking off the ring, pry the sealed lid off very gently, working around the whole perimeter of the seal with gentle upward nudges until it pops off, and most of the time this preserves the seal so that it can be reused for the next round of canning.
Most convenient option: Storage-ready meals can be obtained from many companies online. They often sell portable buckets in “3-month supply” or “4-week supply” type arrangements, so it’s easy to choose something that fits your budget. These offer much more variety and flavor than the upcoming “cheapest option.” More than that, many of these kits offer superior convenience, not just in the time saved obtaining and storing the food, but in preparing the food when it’s time to eat. Freeze-dried, meals-ready-to-eat will be much faster and easier to prepare in situations with limited or no utilities.
The downside, of course, is the financial cost. It will be more expensive than feed corn, but if you have the cash to spare, it can be a welcome alternative, especially in those first few hard months.
Cheapest option: Most of us can’t shell out thousands of dollars for all the years of prepared stroganoff and moo goo gai pan we want. Thus, the DIY system of mylar bags and buckets is our next best friend. Dried goods can be packed in mylar with oxygen absorbers in buckets for those on a budget. Feed corn, wheat, rice, beans, oats, and the like can be stored with a very long shelf life with just a bit of elbow grease.
This is great for that supply you think you’ll probably never need. After the three months of tasty meals runs out and there still aren’t jobs, or cash is still worthless, or the authorities haven’t fixed the infrastructure, you have a supply of less tasty, more labor-intensive food. Even in the worst-case scenario, the kids would still have food to eat.
The downside? It’s a lot of work. You must calculate, plan, go to multiple stores for buckets, bags, oxygen absorbers, and the food itself. Then packing it up, while a simple process, does take time and labor.
Most mobile option: Granola and protein bars! They’re too often overlooked because they don’t fit the ultra-survivalist aesthetic. Have these in your go-bags. If an “Act of God” has suddenly unfurled in the skies and is headed for your home, some peanut butter-flavored sustenance in your little survival bag will help you and the kiddos cope with the stress during the potentially long rush to a shelter or hotel. Some plan to throw buckets of dried rice and beans in the back of their car, but depending on the situation, that isn’t always the ideal solution.
A bucket of dried rice and beans will do little good in a hotel room with a microwave and minifridge. Cash and some granola bars and water bottles would be greatly appreciated, though.
For those of you expecting to survive off of whole wheat, corn, and dried beans, think about why you need to invest in some other alternatives. That “free time” you think you’ll have while you’re potentially jobless in SHTF…that’s a fantasy. Surviving and providing for your family in very adverse and stressful situations requires an enormous amount of time and energy. You will likely not have time to grind your own wheat, bake your own bread, and cook your own dried beans every single day while adjusting to a new and stressful scenario.
This is why all-around preparedness and contingencies are so useful. It is vital to have alternative fuel to cook food should the utilities be unavailable and have alternative food types that don’t even need time or labor to prepare. What if people are ill or disabled and manpower is greatly reduced?
Imagine a grid-down scenario in which the propane or charcoal you stored has run out. You won’t necessarily have the manpower to cook dried beans to perfection every day over the campfire outside. It sounds romantic, but it requires a huge amount of labor and dedication, and time. Canned and freeze-dried, quick-to-prep foods are your ally. Convenience cannot be underestimated.
Now, for the budget-conscious among you, this is why a bug-out bag with lentils and rice is not helpful. Who is going to build a fire in the pouring rain to cook beans for several hours before having a hot meal after an exhausting hike? You’ll fall into your tent, exhausted, maybe gnaw on that protein bar to soothe your belly, and then slip into an exhausted sleep.
This is why taking advantage of all the different options for various situations is a smart, secure strategy. Have a supply of canned goods in the pantry. After a job loss or other disaster, nothing much changes around the dinner table. When those pantry shelves get bare, a nice four-week supply of the “fancy pants” meal kits is there to keep the family happy. After that, if things are still that bad, it’s a REAL emergency. Bust out the buckets of dried food. By this time, things would be so dire you would be thankful you had anything to eat.