When I first became interested in preparedness, I was overwhelmed by all the steps I needed to take, and it seemed almost impossible to arrive anywhere close to what could be called prepared. I stuck it out, and started piece by piece. Over time I noticed that I had made progress in many areas, but had a block when it came to serious food storage. I realized that I had no real strategy for my food storage program, and because of Kosher restrictions I could not take “the easy way out”, and buy a year’s supply of mountain house meals. I gave the issue of food storage a lot of thought and eventually came up with a four tiered approach.
For me stage one was very easy. I bought a small supply of Kosher MRE’S. I bought only enough MRE’s for all of my family’s 72 hour bags, and I kept some extra meals in my vehicle. Although seemingly inconsequential this step really helped me mentally to get out of my food storage apathy. I now was prepared for short term disasters, and wouldn’t have to think about packing food from the pantry, or finding the right foods in the midst of a chaotic situation.
I then moved onto stage two. All I did was write down everything I bought from the grocery store over a two month period. I made a separate list of all the items that are non-perishable, and began a process called copy canning. Before I started, I organized a pantry space with two large shelving units. Then every time I did a shopping instead of buying one of the item that I needed, I would buy two of that same item. I would place the item on the shelving units with the newest item in the back of the shelf, and would only take the oldest item from the front of the shelf. Every time I used an item from my pantry I would write it on a shopping list posted on the pantry door, and off to the store I went to buy two more of that same item. I was amazed that in a matter of months I had at least three to four months of food put away, and I didn’t feel any significant change in my day to day life. I also really liked the fact that the foods that I acquired the most of, were the foods that my family already eats and likes best. Eventually I got up to about a six month supply of food using the copy canning method. This method has one limitation, which is that many of the foods I was buying only had a shelf life of one year or less. This factor limited me to keeping a six month supply so I could rotate my food without having to follow the expiration dates too closely. This stage was really gratifying, and really made me feel that I could conquer the beast of food storage. Of course this stage does not end completely, I have to always maintain and rotate my supply.
Stage three is significantly more difficult. There are two approaches to this stage and I chose the more difficult but I believe superior approach. The first approach is to buy many sacks of random bulk food staples (wheat, rice, beans, etc.) and throw them in 5 gallon buckets. I started with this method, but after three years I realized that I barely used any of them, and when I tried using some red beans found the taste bitter, which indicates they were deteriorating in nutrition and should be rotated. I had to eventually throw away massive amounts of food because they needed to be rotated. This really upset my Jewish sensibilities, and I vowed to myself never to throw away food again. In fairness to this approach, I did not use mylar bags to store the food. I put the food directly into five gallon buckets with a little diatomaceous earth for pest protection and sealed the buckets. If I would have used mylar bags and oxygen absorbers I would have extended the usability of those supplies to at least 10 years.
Nevertheless I don’t like this approach for two reasons. The first is that I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to use these foods, and have enough trouble getting my kids to eat any food, let alone some boiled gruel. I didn’t see the usefulness in having a year’s supply of food that nobody really wanted to eat.
The second reason is a bit more subtle. In the event of a break down the types of foods that will be most lacking are fruits and vegetables. These foods provide many essential vitamins and minerals that we will need to stay healthy under stress, and perhaps more important is that these foods contain enzymes which are essential to your body breaking down food and absorbing nutrients and to many other essential functions of the body. If we were forced onto a diet of only staple foods with no enzymes or “living food” our health would suffer. Many grains and legumes can easily be sprouted which creates “living food” containing essential enzymes and which could under emergency circumstances take the place of fresh vegetables. Only food that is stored in an oxygen rich environment can be successfully sprouted. This rules out the Mylar bag method of storage, and meant that I had to figure out a way to use my staple food supplies within two to three years.
The second approach to stage three was really hard! It meant that my family and I had to make changes to the way we ate on a day to day basis. The only way to do this is gradually. Luckily I found a series of books by Rita Bingham which broke down step by step how to use all these staple foods in interesting ways that I never would have thought of. We started by making dinner one night a week out of only our food storage items. We experimented with different recipes from Rita’s books, and found which ones we liked best. Eventually we ended up with lots of meals that we actually liked using these staple foods. We eventually did the same thing with breakfast, lunch, treats and drinks until we really felt like we were not suffering at all eating from our food storage. Today the majority of our food is our staple food supply, we use our pantry of copy canned goods to complete the picture. We only have to go to the store once or twice a month. But if there was no store to go to, and we had to rely only on our bulk foods we could do so without much discomfort. I really feel that incorporating these whole foods into your everyday life can potentially be the deciding factor in the success of your food storage program. It is so important because it changes food storage from an action based in fear to an action that helps you and your family even if disaster never comes. You will always be stocked with healthy delicious food for your family for a fraction of the price of regular store bought foods.
Stage four in my food security program is to produce my own food. I know that for many people this seems way more than they can handle. Many put away some seeds in hopes that they can plant them if they need to. Unfortunately, it is not that simple. If you have never gardened before and have not properly prepared the soil where you will plant, you will have very limited success in garden production. It takes two to three years in my experience to build up the knowledge and experience of what will grow in your area, when to plant each type of vegetable, what type of soil each plant likes, how to deter the specific pests for each plant, etc. The idea that one could just throw some seeds down and expect real production is very unrealistic.
I recommend starting really small and keeping it simple. You really do not need a lot of space to have a productive garden. Also by starting small you can build up the needed experience and knowledge without having to invest all your time. So how small a space can you use for a productive garden? The answer is in a method called Square Foot Gardening pioneered by Mel Bartholomew. In his method a box of four feet by four feet can provide one person with one fresh salad everyday all year long.
Before we continue I must warn you that there is a potential Halachic problem with this method. This method spaces the individual plants very close together. This is called “Kilayim” or a forbidden mixture in Halacha. My understanding is that this Halacha does not apply outside of Israel, but it most definitely does apply in Israel. Please consult your Halachic authority.
If you decide that you want to get started in gardening I recommend Mel’s book, “Square Foot Gardening”. It explains all the steps needed to get started. I also recommend keeping a few chickens if your zoning and neighbors allow it. You can keep only hens with no rooster, and there will be very little noise from the chickens. The hens will still produce eggs, they just won’t be fertilized. You should get one egg a day from each hen for most of the year. Just with a square foot garden and some chickens you can really produce significant food for your family. Don’t think that you have to live in the country to do these things. There is a growing “Urban Homesteading” movement. Many people have small gardens, livestock, and poultry in big cities all over the world.
Whatever you decide is the right approach for you and your family the important thing is to break it down into small attainable steps, and to get started!
Some people finding our website may be wondering what is a Prepper and why does it have a religious affiliation? Well the short answer is...A Prepper is the modern day survivalist. It's not (necessarily) a right-wing militiaman preparing for Armageddon in the boondocks of Montana. But better represented by a normal, educated, middle class individual perhaps living in the most urban of cities, preparing themselves physically and mentally for any upcoming disaster, natural or man-made. This could include anything from earthquakes to volcanic eruptions, social unrest to an act of terrorism. Preparations include: food supply, medical supply, weapons supply etc. and the knowledge and skills to use them. Of course, a Jewish Prepper is just a designation for a small niche of the Prepper Community that is of the Jewish Faith. We are non-profit and nonpartisan. Enjoy!
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