DIY: Building Your Own Emergency Food Supply | Backes Landscaping
DIY: Building Your Own Emergency Food Supply
As a Fort Collins or Colorado Resident you might be concerned about saving some money. Whether it’s because of a seemingly never-ending pandemic, gas prices & availability, predictions for overly-active hurricane seasons, supply chain problems that leave store shelves empty, or other potential disruptions to normal life, many people are thinking more these days about preparing for survival during lean times. Emergency food supply kits are selling like freeze-dried hotcakes and can cost hundreds, even thousands of dollars depending on how prepared you want to be.
What if you could build your own emergency food supply kit for a lot less money? Depending on how far you want to go with it, you can get started for only a few dollars or you could set yourself up for the long term by acquiring a vacuum sealer, a dehydrator, and some canning supplies. And, if you get your family involved, you can have some fun and pass along some life lessons to your kids in the process.
Getting started with food some basics
With the possible exception of the food, you may already have almost everything you need to get started building your emergency food supply. Dried beans, peas, and enriched white rice are a great start. Brown rice is more naturally nutritious than white, but it can spoil relatively quickly. That’s why enriched white rice is a better choice. Beneficial nutrients have been added back in and the shelf life is measured in years when properly stored. Beans and peas are low in fat and higher in protein than cereal grains and can be easily preserved for the long term.
You could start gathering your food supply by acquiring enough dried beans, peas, and enriched white rice to last your family at least two to three weeks. Bear in mind that disastrous events like hurricanes and other severe weather, earthquakes, supply chain disruptions, and wildfires can leave areas without power and/or stores unable to meet the needs of communities for extended periods of time, so stock up.
Did your mom ever tell you to wash your dried beans before cooking them? There was a good reason. There can be tiny eggs and even bugs in them. The easiest way to deal with this before you pack your dried food supplies away is to put them in the freezer overnight. Doing so will kill off any undesirable organisms and their eggs.
For all dried staples, the enemies are oxygen, light, heat, and moisture. You’ll need to eliminate as much of those as possible to increase shelf life. One of the easiest and most effective ways of doing this is by using air-tight containers. You may already have these on hand. Once you’ve frozen and thawed your dried supplies, remove them from their plastic bags and place them in air-tight containers. Put the filled containers in a cool, dark location for storage.
Consider adding desiccant packets to your containers to absorb any moisture. You can order 50-packs of desiccant for around $11 online. Be sure to label your containers and include a date.
This storage method should give you five-plus years of shelf life for your beans and peas and preserve white rice for about four years. If you observe any discoloration or mold or if your food gives off a rancid odor when opened, discard it. If you do it right, and especially if you include a desiccant, you shouldn’t have these problems.
Water bath canning and pickling
Do you have a pot deep enough to submerge half-pint, pint, or maybe quart-sized canning jars in water? If you do, you’re well on your way to being able to can and pickle your own veggies and fruits. Water bath canning doesn’t require a pressure cooker, but you need to make sure you’re canning the right foods and that you have a sufficient level of acidity to ensure that what you can is properly preserved. Home-canned and pickled foods have shelf lives of two to three years.
If you already have a deep pot, you’ll need something like a grill to place in the bottom to prevent your canning jars from making direct contact with the pot’s surface, otherwise the direct transference of heat can cause the jars to break. You’ll also need to make sure you use jars and lids made specifically for home canning. You can buy a pot made for water bath canning for around $50. Depending on the size, the jars and lids range in price from about $8 to $15 a dozen.
Complete canning tool kits including must-have safety items like jar lifters to remove hot containers from the boiling water can be purchase for around $25 and are available online.
Providers of canning supplies like Ball and Kerr have excellent websites that will give you all the information you need to get started, including which foods can be safely preserved using the water bath method and which cannot. Other sites can tell you what you need to know about how long your canned goods will last. Very little research is required and canning is easy using the water bath method.
Basically, you can get everything you need to start canning from scratch for under $90, including the pot. That’s considerably less than most of the smaller prepackaged emergency food kits available online and you can reuse your canning materials again and again.
Dehydrators and vacuum sealers
Food dehydrators start at around $80. These are not freeze-driers, which are much faster and more effective but can cost thousands of dollars. With food dehydrators, you’ll need to be patient. It can take all day to dehydrate some foods, but it’s worth it. Dehydrators are great for everything from making homemade jerky to drying your favorite fruits and vegetables. The dehydration method concentrates the flavor of foods. Give it a try with orange and lemon slices, bananas, and apples. You can even make your own spices by dehydrating and chopping things like garlic and peppers.
A great companion to a dehydrator is a vacuum sealer. You can get a base model for as little as $35. Once you’ve dehydrated your jerky, fruits, and vegetables, drop them into a vacuum bag and seal them up for long-term storage. You can get more shelf life if you drop in a desiccant packet, too. You’ll also be able to use your vacuum sealer to store your beans, peas, and rice as an alternative to air-tight containers.
There are many guides available online that provide information about how long different foods can be stored using dehydration and vacuum sealing methods.
As long as you’re going to be canning and dehydrating, why not grow your own vegetables and fruits? You’ll get exercise, enjoy some sunshine, and you don’t need a lot of room or experience. Even if you live in an apartment, there are quite a few things you can grow in containers on your patio.
There is plenty of help available to get you started. Contact your county’s extension office for gardening guides, classes, soil testing, advice, and more. You may also want to sign up for the Old Farmer’s Almanac’s free daily newsletter at almanac.com/newsletters/archive for helpful articles and some entertaining and nostalgic reading. Local garden centers are often staffed by knowledgeable, helpful individuals who are happy to offer advice.
Why not just buy cans?
If you’ve ever eaten fresh black-eyed peas, either flash-frozen or from the garden, then eaten some from a store-bought can, you probably know the answer to this question. Food in metallic cans often begins tasting a bit like the can after a while. Also, a lot of salt is used to help preserve the canned foods you buy and you can usually taste it. There are often other preservatives included as well.
Summing things up…
These are but a few suggestions as to how you can create your own emergency food supply. These will get you started, but you can certainly expand from there. You may also want to think about an emergency water supply. You can create a basic rainwater catchment system for around $100 if you know what to look for.
Perhaps one of the best things about developing a more self-sufficient lifestyle is that you’ll be using some of the same methods your ancestors did, albeit with more modern equipment. If you have children, involving them will pass along some history and life lessons they can use later and you’ll likely have some fun doing it. And, all the while, you’ll be making preparations to ensure that you and your family are ready should a major disruptive event occur.
Backes Landscaping is a full-service landscaper in Fort Collins offering landscape design services. Please give us a call for your landscaping needs at (970) 222-1730. Our professional landscapers install water features, retaining walls, xeriscaping, hardscaping, firepits, sprinklers, and offer Commercial Landscaping Services.