If you live in an earthquake-prone region, or one that has seen deadly hurricanes, the devastation will happen again. If you live in a floodplain or an area that has seen tornadoes, you can be sure to experience those events every few years. The densely populated east and west coasts can shut down for a week from a serious storm or mudslide. And deep snow will fall in the mountain states that can affect the infrastructure, making it impassable.
Some of these natural events are commonplace each year, some every few decades, and some may only occur every hundred years. What’s surprising is that too many people still don’t prepare for a serious event they know is likely to occur.
THERE ARE ALSO UNKNOWN DANGERS
Millions are in the path of dams that are now at risk for failure, and they may be unaware of the danger because they’ve benefited for decades from flood-control methods. Entire cities have been built in areas that used to flood annually, and now are protected by dams. [Foxnews.com headline on Feb 19, 2017; article by Associated Press: “If Oroville Dam failed, residents likely would not be advised in time”]
Millions are also unaware of the deadly faults and fissures that are destined to become active with epic impact. A perfect example is the New Madrid fault along the Mississippi river in the southeast. [From the USGS.gov website linked above: “Perhaps the greatest danger of all arises from the sense of complacency, or perhaps total ignorance, about the potential threat of a large earthquake.”
While we can not stop any of these natural events, you can absolutely feel confident that your family can handle the emergency when you’re prepared. You need a well stocked food pantry and plenty of water, off-grid cooking equipment and the know-how to use them. Your family is depending on you to help them manage a serious emergency. These events might disrupt your normal lifestyle, but they don’t have to be cause for panic or even uncomfortable living.
Some faith based communities like the Latter Day Saints or Seventh Day Adventists encourage six months to a year of food in storage. This is a part of a smart culture of self sufficiency and commitment to help others in their communities. Of course, it would be terrific to have enough supplies to outlast that kind of catastrophic event, and that’s an admirable goal, but a year’s worth of food may be overwhelming for the average person to imagine.
It’s possible to get started with building a preparedness pantry on a modest and affordable budget. The vast majority of urban disasters can disrupt infrastructure for an average of a few days. Extreme events can knock out services up to a month (i.e. hurricanes, earthquakes, mudslides, tornado). You and your family can manage your off grid home and get through the event by following a few basic and simple steps.
PREPAREDNESS MINDSET | EXPECT A NATURAL EVENT TO SHUT DOWN YOUR UTILITIES
Do you live in a community that is at risk for a tornado, an ice storm, deep snow, hurricane, tropical storm, flood, earthquake, or high winds. I don’t have a statistic, but I would guess that 80% of all people in the U.S. live in an area with at least one risk of a serious natural event. Then why do we still pretend it won’t happen to us?
It’s a good idea to have enough food and water ready to throw in the car and evacuate, if needed. Our friends at Camping Survival have plenty of preparedness supplies for that. Guardian brand makes go-to survival kits already packed and ready to go.
But for the purposes of this article, I’m focusing on your family staying at home and dealing with the loss of power and water, while staying comfortable with enough food for everyone.
FIRST AND FOREMOST | STORE ENOUGH WATER TO LAST A MONTH
Let’s talk about water storage. It takes a gallon of water per person per day, on average, for drinking and sanitation. [https://www.ready.gov/water] However, depending on activity, climate, cooking, washing, the math goes up regarding your need for water.
Now let’s do the math for a family of four. Let’s plan for 2 gallons x 4 people per day, for 8 gallons a day. 8 gallons per day for a month is 240 gallons. You can fill convenient 5-gallon containers for a couple days of water storage. But, to prepare for a month, I prefer the food grade 50 gallon barrels like you find at your local Farm Store or on Amazon. It’s safer to buy water storage containers than to clean out previously used beverage jugs. With any residual milk, tea or sugars, the water will grow bacteria in storage. I keep my smaller containers filled up and stored in closets, or the guest bath shower. I keep our large barrels in the garage. It is recommended that you purify your container first, and then the water, with food-grade bleach, depending on the source of water. Read more about water purification and take this step seriously.
It’s wise to refill the jugs and barrels every few months to keep it fresh. Pour the stored water on the plants or lawn and start all over again. That’s a good activity to engage the kids and help them learn about water storage and their responsibility to help the family. Add that to their weekend chores. They’ll love it.
STOCK AN ABUNDANT AND WELL-PREPARED FOOD STORAGE PANTRY
My wife recently reorganized our pantry to ensure we had plenty of staples for home cooking. She spent considerable time converting boxes and packages of dried foods to large Ball glass jars and clear storage containers. She said she’s more likely to rotate the stock and use the food if she can see what we have.
Get Started – She removed all the dried goods from the pantry, lined everything up on the kitchen counters and took an assessment of what we had. She remarked about the items she had forgotten about (corn flour and a variety of oats, for example). We had duplicates of things we didn’t need and not enough of the items we did need. Some items are organic and some are not. We definitely needed organization.
After discarding expired foods, she poured all the dried goods into the Ball jars. Surprisingly, just by looking at everything we had, it was clear we could easily eat for a week or more without buying a single item – and for a little more money, we could get enough to last a month. So, she made a list of things to buy and was able to fully stock our pantry for about $75.
Here’s a list of typical items we have in our pantry to support us with a month of food. You can start you own list and pick up your items over the next few grocery trips. You probably have much of the list already filled. Devote another $100 per month to your regular grocery purchases and it won’t be long before you’re pretty darn prepared.
BEST ONLINE PLACES TO SHOP FOR BULK STORAGE FOODS:
ORGANIC FLOUR AND CORNMEAL
Organic flours are far superior in nutrition than mass marketed all-purpose flours. You need that nutrition to stay healthy, especially in times of stress. But, there are no preservatives nor chemicals added, so you need to rotate as quickly as possible to keep from spoiling. If you pack organic flour or corn meal in long term storage, be sure to have a clean BPA-free bin, with oxygen absorbers to keep it fresh. And store in a cool place to keep the natural bug eggs from hatching. If they do hatch, just clean them out with a fine sifter, as they don’t hurt anything.
There’s also more nutritional value and lower gluten content in ancient grains. It’s worth learning how to cook with ancient grain flours that pack more nutrients into each bite.
If you’re really serious about long term food storage AND ensuring you have fresh flour, you’ll purchase your own grain, store it in tightly sealed containers and use a hand cranked Grain Mill to mill it into flour as you need it.
COOKING WITH ANCIENT GRAINS by Laura McBride
ORGANIC BROWN RICE
It’s as easy to use brown rice as white rice and it has much more nutritional content. Combine LEGUMES and brown rice for the protein punch you need. You can live on rice and beans for quite some time, although that can get old fast. One of my favorite meals is rice and bean bowls, adding stir fried veggies, and any kind of grass-fed meat. Dehydrated veggies and meats are available for food storage and can be reconstituted with boiling water. Mix it all up and that’s not bad survival food at all.
We keep canned and dried beans on hand. We’ve got black beans, pinto beans, butter beans, Aduki beans, and on and on. Lentils are a favorite for hearty soups and stew. We like the variety to keep our meals from getting repetitive.
I like oatmeal. A lot. My wife likes it less. I know that a nutritious oatmeal, topped with nuts and dried fruit can keep you going most all day. Add dried milk and water, raw honey or brown sugar, and it’s terrific.
PASTA – Wheat, Non-GMO CORN OR QUINOA
Corn and Quinoa pasta is a newer favorite of mine since we stopped packing on the carbs and cut back on wheat pasta. The corn pasta stays firm, tastes great and offers a good base for simple meals. The quinoa pasta is good and better for you. But it’s expensive so we don’t stock as much. A variety of pastas can keep meals from becoming repetitive and it’s good for you.
We keep big jars of nuts on hand – almonds, peanuts, walnuts, cashews. My wife makes crushed peanut butter breakfast cookies packed with all kinds of great items from the pantry. She just pulls out the natural peanut butter, crushes the nuts, adds raw honey, coconut flakes, cocoa powder, mini-chocolate chips, hemp and chia seeds. Mixes well, spoons out a ball, smashes into a small cookies and coats the patty in honey crystals. Buy nuts in bulk for the most affordable way to stock them. Azure Standard has the some of best prices of nuts around.
CANNED GOODS – VEGETABLES AND MEATS
Crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, beans, tuna, salmon, chicken, beef and pork. You name it, and it’s canned. Back on the farm, my family had annual vegetable canning sessions that were epic and fed our big family all winter. Here in Oregon, the mountain altitude makes it more difficult to grow a garden, so we support the local farmer’s markets and we have friends who give us the extra veggies from their prolific gardens.
Out in the west, we have a plethora of organic canned food options and great prices, so we lean in that direction. We also stock up on the boxed nut and grain beverages. What a benefit we now have with non-dairy “nut milks” in long term storage boxes. We use them as a milk alternative in cooking and baking and they work like a dream.
It’s pretty easy these days to stock enough good-tasting canned food to feed your family for a month. You can do the math. Two meals a day for four people is eight meals. 8 meals x 30 days is 240 meals. Mix and match your pasta, quinoa, rice, dehydrated meats and canned foods. Bake some bread. It’s doable.
SPICES AND DEHYDRATED VEGETABLES
Our go-to bulk spice cabinet has gotten healthier over the years with no additives nor MSG. It includes real sea salt, himalayan sea salt crystals, peppercorns, garlic powder and flakes, onion flakes, ground mustard seed, turmeric, chili powder, smoked paprika, cinnamon, nutmeg, celery seed, Italian spice blend, taco seasoning, Cajun spice blend, barbecue marinade blend, powdered organic chicken and beef broth. Dehydrated vegetables include carrots, celery flakes, green pepper, potato flakes, corn, and onions.
CONDIMENTS (no corn syrup or MSG)
Keep enough condiments on hand to ensure the meals are not boring. Balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, hot pepper sauce, jarred relish, jarred pepperoncini, balsamic dressings and marinades, lemon juice. Sauerkraut is a whole topic among health professionals, along with the benefits of fermentation, and it’s a real staple for me. Peanut butter is also a staple and you can grind your own at any grocery store in a large container – super affordable and deliciously healthy. Tart cherry juice can be combined with lemon juice, water and honey for a wonderful and healthy cocktail the whole family can love. Survival food doesn’t have to be boring!
Thrive Market offers some good intro deals on Apple Cider Vinegar
Stock the right ingredients for bread, cakes, muffins, biscuits and pancakes; baking powder, baking soda, yeast, salt, powdered milk. We also have almond flour and multi-grain pancake mix on hand for easy, nutritious meals. There’s nothing wrong with storing the excellent mixes found today that are also nutritious. Use ground flax seed as a substitute for eggs.
Seeds are packed solid with nutrients – it doesn’t take a lot to keep you satiated.
Hemp, chia, and sunflower are just a few. You can add these to any casserole or pasta meal and up the ante on nutrition. Ground flaxseed is good to sprinkle in a stew and it’s a thickener to replace eggs in casseroles or baking.
My favorite is dried cranberries, but there are so many to choose from. Costco has an excellent selection of dried fruits in bulk bags.
You need a lot of oil for browning, baking, sauteing, searing, and pan frying. We buy coconut oil in bulk, and my wife’s newest favorite is extra virgin avocado oil, which is extremely healthy with a high smoke point. While I have some great memories of fried fish dinners and deep fried chicken, we’ve moved away from the vegetable oils that can spike inflammation. Olive oil should only be used for flavoring and not sauteing. It has a low smoke point and can become toxic at high temps.
By far the best sweetener is raw honey. You may need a gallon to last a month. The other is organic brown sugar. A great many natural food lovers enjoy plant based Stevia, but I personally don’t like the taste. However, Stevia is a wonderful natural alternative to a sugar when people are insulin resistant or looking to cut back on the calorie packing sugars.
See how easy it is to imagine a fully prepared pantry? Just get started now and in a few months, you’ll have all that you need.
These foods can mostly be found on Amazon or the other online stores I previously mentioned. Many can be picked up in bulk aisles at the grocery, or whole foods stores and cooperatives. Set a goal for yourself over a 2 or 3 months period and challenge your family to help you stock up for a time you will likely need it.
If you have a smoker, or food dehydrator, and are experienced with dehydrating meat and fish, this would be an excellent time to stock up. You can purchase a vacuum sealer and really add to the quality of your preparedness pantry.
When the electricity goes out, you won’t have your favorite recipe and cooking apps for reference. Invest in a few traditional cookbooks that will ensure your family can truly enjoy the food you’ve worked hard to store.
LEARN HOW TO COOK OFF-GRID FOR THE ELECTRIC AND GAS OUTAGE
What does off-grid cooking mean? Well, it’s sort of like having a backyard barbecue going all the time. Or expanding that tailgate party to include your whole family and possibly your neighbors every day. You need equipment, fuel, a low maintenance setup, and guaranteed performance. You need to think about location and wind protection. My own foolproof, off-grid cooking setup is in my backyard all the time and ready to go.
THE STOVE AND OVEN FOR OFF GRID COOKING
I like the Camp Chef dual-burner propane gas cooker for guaranteed performance cooking outdoors, and I’ve gone through several over the last 30 years. You can’t beat the simple construction for any size pan or pot. This cooker is sturdy enough for an extra large, tall pot of stew for a community gathering, or a smaller braised beef roast for the family in a heavy pot. You can also lay a cast iron griddle on top of the two burners and fry pancakes or make corn cakes.
My mother-in-law frequently takes to the outdoor Camp Chef to fry chicken or fish, or to cook a pot of something that takes hours and she doesn’t want to heat up the kitchen. My wife prefers to cook bone broth outdoors for the same reason. It’s not that extreme to imagine cooking outdoors for a long period after a disaster.
Camp Chef makes an efficient set up with an extra barbeque box attachment that turns the two burners into a barbecue for grilling. That might be a bit of work, but worth it to have multiple uses with a single base. Especially if your barbecue is older and non-efficient, or destroyed in the windstorm.
Newer on the market is a Camp Chef Camping Outdoor Oven that my wife has had her eye on for years. We’ve not purchased it yet, but it’s on my list.
When the electricity fails and the meat thaws out in the freezer, you can cook it all on your outdoor Coleman burner and grill. If you’re lucky and the refrigerator comes back on within a couple days, at least you’ve got plenty of meat already prepared and ready to chill. In the winter, you can likely convert your back porch into a temporary fridge. If not, invite the neighbors over and eat it up before it goes bad. Or do one of my favorite things, cook for a whole street party with everyone contributing.
Some time ago, I invested in a large 100 lb propane tank that I fill up annually. I have two smaller tanks filled for backup. This should be plenty to get through a month of backyard cooking.
DUTCH OVEN COOKING
I use cast iron a great deal when cooking outdoors. It holds heat against the wind, cooks at an even temperature, and has a heavy bottom for a variety of methods from searing and sauteing, to simmering and even baking. If you only have one off-grid, survival cooking pot on hand, make sure it’s a 12-inch Dutch oven. I also like a 5 gallon stainless steel stock pot for making bone broth and cooking large meals for a community.
I’ve written many comprehensive articles about using cast iron Dutch ovens and fool proof recipes. Dutch ovens have been used for hundreds of years by camp cooks around the world because of the cast iron’s dependability, durability and variety of cook situations that may be required. You can use the Dutch oven directly over a pit fire, on the propane burner, or with hot coals on top and
bottom for baking and an even distribution of heat. A good Dutch oven is an indispensable piece of survival gear. And they come in a wide range of sizes. I have a sturdy Dutch oven table in my off-grid cooking setup, which I can use for hot coals and stacking the ovens.
Read more about cooking with dutch ovens and the right types to buy.
THE COOKING IMPLEMENTS
Make sure to have plenty of stainless steel spatulas, stirring and slotted spoons, tongs, long spearing forks, excellent cooking knives and a ladle. Silicone gloves and heat protection pads are best because they get less dirty outdoors and won’t scorch.
SURVIVAL COOKING IN A DISASTER SITUATION
I recently wrote a popular article and published a video about the Rocket Stove cooking method. It’s a way to use refuse from the disaster zone to build a stove, and fuel that’s locally found to start cooking immediately after a catastrophic event. That’s a good solution for a homestead or community that has been completely devastated, like the Gulf Coast region after Hurricane Katrina or Loma Prieta Earthquake in California, and the recent Moore Tornado in Oklahoma.
Assuming your house and pantry are somewhat intact and you have safe access to your belongings, you can use this method to cook for your family and the community for a long time while rebuilding takes place.