The traditional practice of groups such as the Mormons, who practice
food storage as a religious and cultural discipline, is to store basic
foods such as whole grains, beans, and dried milk. Such food products
are widely available, and can be easily stored for long periods of time.
For most people, however, storing these products will require dietary
changes. They will need to increase the amount of grains, beans, and
vegetables in their diets, and decrease the amounts of meat. If you
decide to change your diet, start introducing whole foods cooking
gradually to allow your family time to learn to enjoy the new foods.
Cooking from whole foods is what your grandmother used to do, and who
can forget the tremendous holiday meals at Grandma's? With practice,
whole foods cooking can be as convenient as anything frozen in a
cardboard box, especially since you don't have to make a special trip to
the store to get it.
If the store isn't busy, for me to get in my car, go to the store, make
my selection, stand in line, buy the frozen dinner, go back home --
figure that time at your hourly wage, and see how expensive that frozen
dinner really is. If you've stocked your pantry properly, you can get by
with as few as two trips to the store each month, and how much time
would that save you, remembering how often these days that "time is
money"? Not to mention, that time in the store is not quality time
you're spending with your family. Maybe you are the one American family
without a time crunch, and if so, congratulations, but the rest of us
could use some extra hours every month, and stocking your pantry with a
couple of months of basic food supplies is one way to do that.
As an added bonus, you save money. When something is on sale, you can
buy a lot of it without busting your grocery budget. Going to the
grocery store is often like roulette, meat may be cheap, but canned
goods have gone sky high. There's a sale on sugar, but look at the price
of milk. You don't have to be hostage to the pricing strategy of your
local grocer. Even if you are poor, you can insulate yourself from the
vagaries of that marketplace by always being in a position to serve
dinner, even if you don't go to the store for a couple of weeks.
If canned goods are high and meat is low, you can buy meat, and get your
canned goods next week when they have gone down in price but meat has
gone up. You already have the meat, so you don't have to buy it when it
is expensive. Effectively, this is a decision to keep some of your
family's savings in the form of durable goods -- which is to say,
groceries in the cupboard -- and this investment actually earns you
interest and dividends in the form of better deals on the groceries you
buy. You are going to spend money anyway, might as well get maximum
value for your money -- in terms of saving you time and money. For most
people, spending less money on groceries and having more time with their
families would add up to "a better quality of life, and more family se
So you can see why the corporate grocery industry has a vested interest
in discouraging this practical and frugal household management practice.
Irrespective of Y2k, it is a good idea for the consumer, but grocers
don't like it because they're making money with their volatile price
swings and high profits.
The basic whole foods diet is detailed in the USDA Food Pyramid chart,
which shows the number of recommended daily servings of each of the
major food groups. Switching to a whole foods diet certainly doesn't
mean giving up your appreciation of fine foods. Including these items in
your diet has very real and health and quality of life benefits. So even
if hard times come, you can enjoy arroz con pollo, pizza, chocolate
cake, polenta, red beans and rice, fresh tortillas and homemade salsa,
or any of the thousands of other tasty and nutritious meals that can be
made from stored grains, beans, and vegetables. If there are no hard
times, you can still enjoy the good nutritious food, and save time.
The advice often mentioned by the United States government is 2 or 3
days worth of food, but this recommendation is an unwise holdover from
contingency plans for localized disasters, and also a reflection on how
far we have departed from traditional frugality. Generally, the Red
Cross and FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) figure that in most
disasters, within 3 days they will be set up throughout the affected
area, ready, willing, and able to distribute food or other supplies as
needed. Thus, their concept is something to tide you over until the
However, Y2K is not a normal emergency. It happens everywhere at once --
but the Red Cross and FEMA can't be "everywhere at once". Neither can
In the context of disaster preparations -- and perhaps as a start to a
better and more frugal household management practice -- buy more food
than you think you will need, and for a longer period than two weeks.
Food is a consumable item, everything you buy is something that you can
eat in good times or bad times. If Y2K turns out to be a false alarm
rather than a crisis, you've saved yourself time and money in the year
2000, because you have already bought most of the groceries you'll need
for the first few months of the year. You can use that time and money
for something else, like taking the family on a vacation. Alternatively,
you can donate the excess groceries to a food pantry that helps the
poor, and write it off as a tax deduction. Any way you look at it, money
that you spend on food now is money in the bank.
Start with your local sources. This may include various grocery stores,
large discount/membership stores, farmers markets, feed stores, there
are many possible options.
An excellent idea is to develop a direct buying relationship with one or
more farmers. This will be especially useful if you preserve some of
your food yourself (drying, smoking, or canning), or if the farmer or
cooperative does some processing. These skills help you ensure a high
quality product. Make such contacts at farmers markets, or through your
county extension agent or food circle. If international and national
food distribution systems break down, having a relationship with a
farmer in your area could be very important. Small farmers and
cooperatives are good sources for items such as salt cured country hams
that keep without refrigeration.
Support the opening of a "community canning kitchen" in your area, by a
cooperative of producers, or by a non-profit group such as a church or
civic club. This would provide opportunities both to help families
preserve their own produce, and also to give small market gardeners or
microenterprises opportunities to process foods in a health department
Since cooking and eating is crucial to your survival, don't be dependent
upon only one form of energy, such as gas or electricity, for food
preparation. Have one or more of these alternatives on hand for
emergencies, or use some of them (as appropriate) for saving money on
energy costs right now.