Several people that I respect have recently suggested that we start stocking up. The economic picture hasn’t brightened noticeably and prices are already beginning to climb. However, when considering this idea, several questions come to mind.
In order to do this properly, there are many things to consider. Your culture, your family’s likes and dislikes and how much space you have are a few of them. Below are some important things to keep in mind if you choose to prepare.
Dry, Freeze or Can? I grew up in a family that spent a good deal of the summer raising food and preparing it for the winter. Some of it we’d freeze but most of it would be canned. Where I live now, doing the canning myself isn’t possible, so I have to buy canned goods.
Which you choose should be based mostly on how to best preserve the food, though space is also a consideration. Dried beans last about a year, but canned beans last longer. Meat and flour can be stored in the freezer if you won’t need it immediately. You can also jerk some meats, either in a dehydrator or using your oven.
Expiration Dates: If you can find the expiration date on a product, that will help you know how long it is safe to keep it. Get a marker and write the purchase date on the can, as well. This will help you know what needs used up first.
Most grocery stores use LIFO, an acronym that stands for “last in, first out.” You should adopt this program as well. Make sure the oldest stuff is easy to get to and near the front of the cabinet. That’ll help make sure everything gets used safely.
Herbs and Spices: Many of the members of your spice rack can be very handy, and I recommend keeping them in large enough quantities. Garlic, cinnamon, cloves, rosemary, parsley, fennel, pepper flakes and mustard are a few.
How to Use: If you don’t know how to bake bread or other things with flour, having it on hand won’t help. The same goes with any other product. Another aspect of this is personal taste. If you don’t like it before a problem arises, you’re going to like it even less afterward. Try to make sure that what you store is something you’ll eat.
Medications: This is very important. Many types of medications can’t be abruptly stopped. Side effects, withdrawal and the possibility of death make stocking up on them of primary importance. On the other hand, like food, medications expire. If you choose to stock up, watch the dates carefully and make sure they don’t go bad on you.
Pets: Taking care of your animal companions won’t change, either. Make sure you have food and other necessities on hand so that they can be cared for appropriately.
Storage: I’m fortunate in that I have a fairly large pantry and a chest freezer. I store my canned and dry goods in the cupboards and meat, etc. in the freezer. Some of my flour and other grains are also stowed in the freezer, in order to prevent bugs from hatching. You may also find that an air tight container will do the same thing.
What to Buy: This could be one sentence or a book, but I’ll try to keep it to a minimum. First, as stated above, don’t buy stuff you won’t eat. If you hate tuna now, that won’t change in the future. Second, look at what you do eat. This will be another good guideline.
We store several different types of animal protein, including chicken, ham hocks, stew bones and so on in the freezer. In the pantry we have canned chicken and sometimes fish.
I keep both dry and canned beans, beef and chicken stock, rice, instant potatoes, dried and evaporated milk, and canned fruits/vegetables. Various pastas, canned soups and tomato sauce are also important denizens of my pantry.
For our cat, I have both wet and dry food, plus litter. The fish have extra food as well, but the algae eater doesn’t really need it.
These tips should help you get started if you choose to take up the challenge. Remember the Boy Scout motto? It’s always wise to “Be Prepared.”