A very (unintentionally) funny blogger whose name I will not mention apparently caused quite a kerfuffle last week when she stated she was going to spend a week eating from her food storage and larder on a week-long "staycation," and the following day declared herself short on supplies, hit the road and went into town for some good old-fashioned grocery shopping and a store-bought ham sandwich for lunch.
I only heard about this second hand, so I'm not sure how true it is. But I did like the idea of exploring just how prepared we are here at the homestead to live off our stored food as well as what's in our garden in the case of emergency.
Could we do it? Would it be painful? If I'm brutally honest the answer to those questions is 1) yes, and 2) quite possibly.
We absolutely have enough food to last us at least a couple of months, assuming the grid was still up, our freezer was working and our garden had something in it. Without refrigeration, I would guess we'd be OK for a month or six weeks. But it would be painful, mainly for the same reason the aforementioned blogger ended up fleeing her home in search of a professionally made ham sandwich: We "first world" types like things the way we like them, and that's nowhere more apparent than when it comes to the food we consume.
The basics of any long-term non-refrigerated food storage plan should ideally have an abundance of two items which will sit in the back of the pantry almost indefinitely, and feed an army when needed. Those two things are rice and beans (with an emphasis on beans, which in addition to providing necessary carbs, are also high in protein). Some flour couldn't hurt either, but unfortunately flour does not have the same shelf-life as the other two dry goods and turns rancid within a few months unless stored frozen.
Of course, in a normal week we don't eat rice or beans more than once or twice -- at most -- as a side dish, and in some kind of emergency those might be staples, seen on the menu daily (or worse, several times daily).
The drudgery of this might be mitigated slightly based on what else we have put up in our pantry, which at this time of year is quite a lot -- things like tomatoes, canned tuna, preserved pie-fillings, jams, pickles and other goodies could definitely increase the variety in our meals. Spices can also make a huge difference in making a boring menu seem fresh and different, and those can be kept in abundance, year-round.
But there's no question, even with all those other ingredients, it would probably not be all deliciousness and fun after the novelty of the first few days wore off, and the very modern urge to skip into town for some sushi took over -- even if an earthquake had already taken out out most of the town and the sushi place along with it. The heart wants what the heart wants, you know? Beans and rice are no substitute for fresh sashimi and California Roll. We westerners are pretty much accustomed to getting our cravings met, but a natural or un-natural disaster could change all that in the blink of an eye.
One thing I do know is that sometimes, it's a good idea to challenge yourself to make dinner based only on what's available in your pantry -- sometimes for several days in a row. It's not only a way to rotate your stores by eating older food, but it also forces you to try out new recipes and new food combinations.
Since moving to the country, I have done this fairly regularly, since I don't like to make an hour's round-trip drive to the grocery store in search of just one or two missing ingredients for something I am jonesing for. Instead, I make something I'm not craving, and live with it. We should all do that more, if just for the practice of doing it as well as a nod to the realization that much of the world lives like that all the time.
I also like to think it's good preparation for a time, perhaps post-natural disaster, when we'll be on our own for several days to weeks and will have to make do with what we have. Because when that happens, there will be no getting fed up and heading into town in search of someone to make you a sammie or some ahi. It's going to be up to you to provide for yourself, based on what you've put by.
It will be you and your pantry against the fates, and if there's a ham sandwich you've got your heart set on, you'd better already have all the ingredients on hand, including the recently butchered hog.
Because things like your town and your local store may not be available, at least for awhile. How about some canned tomatoes with rice and beans? Anyone? Anyone?