Tuesday, April 24, 2012

How I started my food storage: Part I--Grains

A few weeks ago when I started this second round of the Self Reliance Experiment my sister wanted to know what I had on hand.  Her inquiry resulted in the post about my pantry.  But her real reason for asking was that she wanted to know what I had at the beginning so that she could compare that to what I had in the end and therefrom derive how much to store.

I elected not to indulge her for a few reasons.  First, accurate inventories are time consuming.  You saw that I would have to do this for my garage, my laundry room and my pantry.  Yikes!  Sorry, Sis.  The second reason that that such an inventory would only really help me.  It wouldn't do her much good at all.  I know for a fact that her family and my family eat different things.  But, I do love my sister and I have been trying to figure out what might help her and anyone else trying to get more food storage.

I thought about doing an instructional post to the effect of "Here are the easy steps you can follow to get your food storage."  But the truth is I am no expert and there are a gazillion sites that attempt to help people in that exact manner.  So, here is what I will do.  I will tell you about my food storage journey.  You can pull from it anything you find helpful.  And if you have specific questions, I will answer them as best I can.

I married my sweetheart in January 2007.  Five months after we were married we set a goal to have one year's worth of food storage purchased within a year.  Ambitious, I know.  But without children around to complicate things, it seemed doable.

The first thing I did was use this food storage calculator to figure out what we would need.  Now, there are plenty of things on the calculator that I have never bothered to store.  Mayo, for example.  We just don't use that much.  Or soy beans for that matter.  Who uses those?  So lesson number one: only store what you will actually eat.  But the calculator is a good guideline.  Especially the totals for the grain, legumes and milk.  And that is where I started.

For this post I will focus on GRAINS.

Wheat is obviously the biggest beast--300 pounds for 2 people!  I purchased several large buckets of hard white wheat from Costco.  But soon realized that these would not be the best for long term storage (i.e. 20 years) because they aren't packed in sealed bags with oxygen absorbers.

Second lesson: the price of food storage depends on how you purchase it.  Bulk food is the cheapest but is not properly packaged for long term storage.  You can purchase large superpails that are properly sealed, but they are more expensive.  Or you can package it your self at the LDS cannery.  It's a choice.  And it's a choice that has a lot to do with how long you are going to wait to use it up.

In order to have some wheat for the long haul, I also bought some hard red wheat in #10 cans from the LDS Church cannery.  I don't remember if I had 300 pounds of wheat within a year, but it was close.

Then I learned to make bread.  A necessary step to making your food storage useful.  So lesson three: learn to use what you store.

Flour is not something I was concerned about storing long term because I use it so often.  But 50 pounds is too much for one 6 gallon bucket, so I got two.  On one of the buckets I put a gamma lid.  My plan was to use everything in the one with the gamma lid, then to empty the second bucket into the first and refill the second.

Today, I only use the gamma lid bucket (no back up) because I go through white flour less often.  I try to use more whole wheat.

The food storage calculator calls to store 25 pounds of corn meal per person per year.  I never could figure this one out.  First of all who eats that much corn bread?  Second of all corn meal doesn't store long term.  So I opted to store popcorn.  Popcorn can be processed into cornmeal.  Heck, I've even done it.  Plus you have the added benefit of a snack anytime you want.

I also learned that popcorn is better for you than the commercial cornmeal because it is higher in protein and lower in starch than the corn used to make the store stuff.  As a result your corn bread should be less crumbly.  Just sayin'.

Oats is one of the places I splurged and purchased a large superpail of old fashioned rolled oats.  I don't remember why.  It was probably because I didn't think we would use that much oatmeal.  But then I learned to make granola.  Today I have a 6 gallon bucket with rolled oats and a gamma lid.  I think I bought 25 pounds 2 years ago which fit in two 6 gallon buckets.  I just barely opened the back up a few weeks ago.  I haven't yet busted open the superpail.  I figure since it will last longer it can sit in my garage.

I also have a case of quick oats in #10 cans.  And I have learned a recipe withe these for chewy granola bars and mini chocolate chips that are similar to the Quaker granola bars.  The kids love them.  I'll have to post it soon.

I don't think I have ever had the recommended amount of rice on hand.  100 pounds is a lot.  I do have a 6 gallon bucket with gamma lid.  I am sure I was planning on having a back up bucket or two but never got there.

Last grain is pasta.  Not really a grain, I know.  I do remember stocking up on pasta in that first year.  I don't know that I ever got to 50 pounds.  I didn't bother to package it for long term storage (like #10 cans) because I knew it would get eaten and I would rather rotate it.  In fact, none of what I stored is around today.  Now that I think about it I think there are a couple of cans of pasta in the garage . . . maybe that inventory is a good idea.  In any event, it's a handy thing to have pasta around, but it is also something you can make from scratch.  I've been meaning to try it with powdered eggs.  And when I do, you will of course, read about it here.

Maybe you and your family prefer grains other than those on the calculator.  Well, keep in mind the idea is to store 300 pounds per person for a year's worth.  That means if you eat lots of quinoa and not a ton of rice.  Swap them out.  There is no need to store things you don't eat.  Someday, I hope to add other grains to my food storage, like quinoa, teff, rye, oat grouts, buskwheat . . .

What grains do you like to have on hand?


  1. this is exactly what i wanted! you're awesome!

  2. I'm so glad! I really wanted to be helpful but I didn't want to count cans, bottles or anything else.

  3. This is fun and AWESOME! For us, we rarely use oats, though I should check out your granola recipe. My boys love granola bars, but I've never found a recipe that provides a bar that they like. Instead, we go through LOTS and LOTS and TONS of rice. I am hoping to learn this week to use cracked wheat to stretch ground beef. You can use it instead of ground beef, but until we're used to that, I'm just going to do half cracked wheat with half ground beef. I have the big Costco pail of wheat, also. I'm going to start trying to ONLY make our own bread instead of buying loaves from the store and using the wheat for special occasion bread. I need to start making our own every week. Pasta, I agree... we rotate it out because it's used frequently. However, as we continue to try to rely less and less on processed foods, we are eating less and less pasta. If you start making your own, let us know!!

    All this, and I know we don't have a year's supply of anything.

  4. Ginger, I want to use wheat to stretch meat too! I just haven't done it yet. Let me know how it goes. I will try and post the chewy granola bar recipe soon since my kids love it. Hubby does too! And stay tuned for the pasta. I'll get to in eventually.



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