Monday, August 23, 2010

Green and Frugal: Creating an Emergency Food Pantry

Another great post from our friends at The Greenest Dollar...

Do you have an emergency pantry?

Most people have one on some level or another. But I think the large majority of people, including myself, don’t give their emergency pantry much thought or planning.

I’m definitely not the type to be all “doom and gloom”, or give in to irrational fears that the economy is going to implode suddenly or that we’ll be under imminent attack from alien robots from outer space.


The rational side of me does admit that these situations, among others like an epidemic or natural disaster, are a real possibility. Having an organized, planned emergency pantry is only smart.

But how can we create one without going overboard and wasting food and money? What do we need to think about? What will we actually need?

These are questions that have been on my own mind lately, as I’ve begun to realize that I need to put some serious thought and organizational planning into my own emergency pantry.

Let’s dive in to planning this thing. Today’s post will cover the basics of how long to plan for, shelving to consider, and water. Tomorrow I’ll be covering food, and rotation, so we’re not wasting money.

Consideration #1: Timelines

First you need to ask yourself how long you want to be able to survive on your own. advises people that they need food and water to cover 72 hours (3 days). Most natural disasters like blizzards, ice storms, severe storms and hurricanes are short lived, which means we can usually count on assistance after that time frame is up.

Notice I said: usually.

We all remember Katrina. And we’ve all heard the news stories of towns, especially last year in the Northeast, that went weeks without power during the dead of winter.

How much time you want to be stocked up for is entirely up to you. Some people are fine with a 72-hour stock. Others, like hard-core survivalists, have enough food and supplies put up to last for a year or more on their own.

It all depends on where you live, and what level of emergency you want to be prepared for.

Consideration #2: Shelving

All your water, food and supplies will have to go somewhere. Ideally this will be in a cool, dark place that will minimize spoilage, like a basement.

You need to have some kind of shelving unit that will keep all these supplies organized.

On the right, as you can probably tell, is my own ill-organized, un-planned emergency pantry. Yes, I know it’s sad, which is in part why I’m writing this post! I mean, just look: my dogs have a bigger stash of food than I do; they’ve got Milkbones, wet food, and there’s actually 2, 50 lb. bags of food (you can’t see the other one).

So yeah, I’ve got some learning to do which is why I’m investigating this!

But take a look at the shelves my stuff is sitting on. These shelves are actually pretty awesome because you can change their height based on what you’re storing. And because they’re steel, they’ll hold around 350 lbs. per shelf.

Of course, any shelving is going to work. But it needs to be large enough for the food you’re storing, and in a place that’s easily accessible. You need to be able to reach your food so you can rotate it over time (using old food and replacing it with new so it doesn’t go to waste).

Consideration #3: Water

You need, on average, one gallon of water per person, per day. And don’t forget your pets!

You’re also going to need water for flushing toilets and cooking.

This can add up to a lot of water sitting in plastic jugs in your basement. And plastic eventually starts to erode, so it’s important you’re rotating your water every few months.

Personally, I don’t have any jugs of water in my basement because I’m relying on other methods.

For instance, I’ve invested in a Nutriteam Countertop Water Distiller . We use this thing every single day to steam distill our own water (you can see my review of this steam distiller here). It rocks, big time.

No matter how dirty the water is (even if you’re using water out of your rain barrel), a steam distiller will give you perfectly pure water in a matter of hours.

The downside, of course, is that it’s dependent on electricity to run. As a backup, I have water purification tablets, and a small portable stove and dozens of cans of fuel I can use to boil water.

So what happens if your water is cut off?

Well, it’s important to know where your closest natural water source is at. Is there a lake or stream nearby you could take water from? Any empty pools?

Spend time now figuring out how you’ll get water in an emergency if your public water supply is cut off. And don’t forget about rain barrels; in a pinch, these can be great sources of water. I have two barrels hooked up to my house, and they’re both full. Yes, I use them for watering my plants, but in an emergency I’m going to count on that water as well.

It’s also important to look for sources of water within your home. Your hot water heater, for instance, is a water source in an emergency.

Your bathtub is another source. Keep in mind that open water (like in a bathtub) can quickly harbor bacteria, especially if it’s not cleaned out beforehand (which can be hard to do if, like most emergencies, things happen suddenly).

Products like the WaterBob, which fits in your bathtub and is made of food-grade plastic, are popular because they help keep that contamination to a minimum. You don’t have to worry about cleaning out the tub at all. This plastic bladder fits in any sized tub and will hold 100 gallons of water.

And thanks to the spigot on the top, it’s really easy to get water out of the bladder. Because the water is 100% encased in food-grade plastic, you don’t have to worry about bacterial contamination from the tub or air. All you need to watch is light; the more light that hits the water, the likelier it is to harbor bacteria.

Do you have an emergency pantry? How have you gone about prepping it? How long are you stocked up for?

Bookmark and Share

No comments:

Post a Comment