Do you remember the story about the ants and the grasshopper? You know, the one where the ants spent the entire year prepping for winter and the grasshopper made fun of them and played instead. Then winter hit and the grasshopper died and the ants were sipping their hot cocoa and laughing around a warm fire with full bellies and excess of everything?
Well…I feel like I’ve been a grasshopper for far too long now and I need to ramp up my ant game. Covid hit and then an earthquake happened in Utah, and my anxiety level peaked. It was super apparent that our family were legitimately grasshoppers. We were not prepared for a worst-case scenario situation. I felt an urgency to make food storage and preparedness a bigger priority not only to temper my anxious nerves, but to feel a little more secure if and when we ever find ourselves facing a disaster or unexpected event.
So in normal Abi fashion, I decided to do a little experiment to see how long we could go without buying food by using the food storage we currently had. I knew we had food storage, but I hadn’t looked at it in who knew how long. Plus, we stored it in our garage throughout the years and I recently learned that most of it needs to be stored in cold storage to ensure the food last longer.
I felt like this experiment would force us to do a few things:
Sort our storage and get an inventory of what we had.
Figure out what food we were lacking and fill in where we needed.
Don’t waste any food we currently had by consuming it before it was rotten.
Make a big life change and start a routine of using and rotating our food storage.
I’m going to dive into what we found out over the month. Long story short, it wasn’t pretty, I don’t have all the answers, and I still have five huge cans of refried beans that will literally be the last thing we scoop directly out of the can with our spoons when we are desolate and living in the apocalypse.
1. Sort our storage and get an inventory of what we had.
This was literally disgusting, eye-opening and pathetic. It’s like weighing yourself in on day 0 of the diet. It kind of shows you where you are now as compared to the grand plans you have. Knowing what you actually have is step one in any circumstance.
We had so many random things. Every time I went to the store I’d grab a can of this and a carton of that. Some candy, some sauces, some herbs. We laid out all of our stuff and I think it could be a pretty cool game to try and concoct something out of thyme, canned peaches, pasta sauce, artichoke hearts and Tang. I’m telling you, we had no flour, no rice, zero oil or fat…and those are just a few of the things you should have on hand. And we definitely didn’t.
2. Figure out what food we were lacking and fill in where we needed.
Obviously, we had a lot lacking. I knew if push came to shove we could live off Tang for at least two days, right? In all seriousness, I was totally overwhelmed and the more people I talked with, the more opinions I got. “Water first”, “Fire first”, “Cooking supplies!”, “Oil will be like gold!” We kind of dove deep into the food prepper life and I’m contemplating writing a course on it, but for gangsters like us.
The bottom line, you need water, carbs, fat/oil, protein and a way to cook it or prepare it. PICK FOOD YOU LIKE TO EAT! I am never eating those refried beans. Sorry. I can and probably will write a whole course on what you pick, why,where you find the best deals, and how to store it all. But that will be for a different time.
The best strategy we have heard in picking meals and figuring out how much to buy is based on a simple equation:
Step One: How many people are you feeding? (Then add one more person, just to be safe. You never know.)
Step Two: Pick between 3 and 10 dishes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you want to eat like the ants with their hot cocoa, pick more. The less intricate, the less variety you’ll store. No judgement, you do you. Also, try not to pick things that require a lot of fresh stuff since it may not be available depending on the circumstances.
Step Three: Write out all of the recipes and how much you will need for a single meal to feed the amount of people you have to feed. For example, if one of my breakfasts is oatmeal for my family, I will need:
2 cups of oatmeal
½ cup of sugar
1 scoop powdered milk
1 T cinnamon (8 grams)
4 cups water
Step Four: Now that I know how much it is going to take to feed my family and we will have this meal once per week for a year I need to multiply those ingredients by 52.
2 x 52 = 104 cups oatmeal (One canister of oatmeal has 15 cups so 104/15 = 7 oat canisters)
½ x 52 = 26 cups of sugar (One 10 lb. bag of sugar has 22.5 cups so you need 1-2 10lbs bag)
1 x 52 = 52 scoops of dry milk (1 gallon canister)
1 T x 52 = is about 1 lb of cinnamon
4 x 52 = 208 cups of water (13 gallons of water)
Okay, wow. We can do math! Now, do that for all the recipes you’ve written down and you’ve got it in the bag!
3. Don’t waste any food we currently had by consuming it before it was rotten.
I was hell-bent on trying to consume anything on the verge of going bad as we went through our storage. Again, it was kind of tricky because I had to buy a lot of things to fill in the holes. There was no way I could just eat it and wing it for a whole month. Ammon and I went to a Costco and a few case lot sales, and stocked up with things we knew we needed plus extra to get our journey off to a good start.
I do not recommend doing this experiment in August when literally all the fresh, delicious fruit and vegetables are in peak season. It was painful! For the first two weeks, we used all our fresh stuff first and after that, we had to improvise. We didn’t eat out and we had to be creative.
4. Make a big life change, and start a routine of using and rotating our food storage.
I randomly got an email from one of you fine people (Read: Amber at Thrive Life). This was during week three of our eating from home-only experiment. She invited me to come and check out Thrive Life and see what it was all about. I had never heard of this company and I never knew how crazy you can get when freeze drying stuff. There is a laboratory where the food scientists experiment on freeze drying everything (I want this job!).
I was blown away. It is all clean food, picked at the peak of ripeness and frozen within HOURS of being picked from the tree. Then it is shipped frozen directly to Thrive Life where it goes directly from the freezer to the freeze dryer. It was magical. When I tasted the grapes, I knew my life had changed. They freeze dry EVERYTHING! Even meat! This may sound like a huge plug, and it really is because Thrive Life is a way of life.
We needed a real system where we would shop from our in-home stock, then buy food on sale or in bulk to replace our in-home stock. I know, it seems excessive and weird, but honestly there isn’t a better way to do it. TRUST ME! If we can prepare good food for bad times now, why not! Food storage doesn’t have to be five gallon buckets of refried beans and tuna fish. Thrive Life has a system already set up where you spend $50 per month or more and it forces you to build up stock. Then you can eat it and replace it, or just store it knowing that you’ll be like the ants when disaster hits.
All in all, I think Thrive Life saved me on this part of the process. I think shopping sales, case lots, and bulk is smart. Organizing it all on paper first will save you thousands of dollars, tons of time, and give you peace of mind. You will know exactly what you need to do and how much you have to last, as long as you have prepped.
So, here is the bottom line. Do you have to prepare for a year? No way! Prep for a month or a week! Whatever you can! But trust me, getting a little extra food, putting away the $5 chips and buying the $5 bag of rice or refried beans (jk, don’t get those if you don’t like them) and budgeting for a little stockpile will pay off. I promise.
I’m hoping to get a course put together soon with my in-depth details on all of this. But also, this isn’t meant to scare you! Don’t be scared, be prepared. It can be intimidating and frustrating especially when it feels like our budgets can’t fit anything else in. I promise you though, if you’re thoughtful and move a few things around to compensate, it will work out. You will find the extra cash to do this. I know we did when we were first starting out too. Maybe get creative and ask a rich relative if you can plan their whole storage and they can pay for yours. I don’t know, but get creative and it will work out.
Love you so much and can’t wait to hear your stories! Tell me some of your favorite meals you have prepared for or what advice you can give to us if you’re a pro already!