Saturday, September 20, 2014

How long could you survive on your stored food?

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?


  1. Slap me because I am still reading. I think as sick as it is it's kind of a schadenfreude thing. Obviously you're a much more evolved being than I!
    What the hell?! I am a hairstylist who lives within ten minutes walking distance to 15 restaurants and five grocery stores and I could easily, easily be stranded for a week and still gain ten pounds. My grocery often does Barilla (yep I still buy it, political controversy and all--I think people are allowed to view their brand however they want) pasta on sale 10 for $10. So I have lots of that. Lots of canned tomatoes. And ten chickens, one turkey, a duck, and assorted beef cuts in my freezer. Not to mention backup backups for my backup spices. Long stores things like potatoes, onions, and apples (went way overboard and bought like 30 pounds the other day). And of course an arsenal of King Arthur Flour. Sure, without my freezer, I would be in trouble. But not in the winter. I just don't understand WHY boast about how well-stocked you are and then run out of flour the next day? And this is someone who teaches on homesteading. Isn't the very core of homesteading to produce and save food?!! It's not noon, but I think I need a glass of wine, of which I have plenty stored away for those awful blizzards.

    1. Oh yes, you cannot underestimate the importance of storing WINE in the event of emergency! Yes we are stocked up on that, too, and it would probably be the first thing we ran out of. OK, so I FINALLY stopped reading "that" blog a few months ago, but do read Meredith's blog as a way to read it vicariously, without the cursing and frustration reading it directly from the idiotic source. It just makes to SO angry and I don't see anything changing. Regarding preparedness, I think people like you, within walking distance of good stores and restaurants have wonderful options and are lucky -- and it also sounds like your personal food storage is fully stocked, so you would survive deliciously! I envy your long storage (potatoes, onions, etc), as we can't have that...much too warm here and no one has basements. Some day I'm going to have Big Ag carve a root cellar into the side of the hill -- a seismically safe root cellar hopefully lol.

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  3. I removed my comment - it wasn't mean or snarky, but rather long-winded. I enjoyed your entry - I've thought a lot about food preparedness too. I have a lot of good intentions and books, but few actions at this point. My husband and I could survive for a few weeks on Kraft macaroni and cheese, canned soup and spaghetti sauce, box mixes, and things like that. I could put together a good pantry, but cooking from it is more problematic. At 56, I've never really learned how to cook very well. My daydream is to have a garden to cook and can out of.