If you started storing a year’s supply of the essentials years ago, such as wheat, beans, rice, honey, etc., you’re not alone. Even though we were told to “rotate” our food storage, if you decided it was for the “big emergency,” and just left it sit you’re also not alone. If you’ve ever tried to cook those three or four (or more) year-old beans until soft and found they NEVER got soft, again you’re not alone.
Does that mean you shouldn’t store some long-term food storage? Of course not. Just be sure you start with a meal plan so that you know how much of an item to store based on how often you will use it in the next year or so, depending on the shelf life of the food.
For example when I tried to use 3-year old beans, I found they would not soften. I checked on the Internet and found that beans stored over one year will take longer to cook and soften. However, beans stored for several years may NEVER soften, even if you pressure-cook them.
Even though we use the use-and-replace described in our book “Not Your Mother’s Food Storage, we both incorporate some long term storage, based on our meal plans. For example, staples such as salt is something you could easily store for years. It’s cheap, small, and easy to store. You need it in cooking and the pioneers used it to cure their meat for the winter. Salt has many uses—just check the Internet.
Another example: I buy oatmeal in the 25-lb. bags because I use it all of the time in baking, meatloaf, and for breakfast meals. It stores well for several years so it is cheaper to buy in bulk. I love beans, but I no longer buy them in bulk because we just do not use 10 pounds of a specific type of bean in a years time, let alone three-months. If I pay the bulk price, which certainly looks cheaper, but have to throw half of the bag out because they won’t cook up soft, I’m not saving any money. I’m losing money that I could have spent on another food item.
What about wheat? Store it if you plan to use it, but otherwise it is useless, even though it may last 20 years. Use that money for other items in your meal plan. I store wheat because I make bread every ten days or so. I also use the wheat I grind in other baking, such as cookies. cakes and quick breads. Whole wheat flour makes wonderful gravy and never lumps. It’s a delicious coating for fried chicken and much healthier than white flour. There are many other ways to use wheat other than bread. Again, just check the Internet.
The same principle goes for case-lot sales. Look at your meal plan. If you aren’t going to serve a particular canned food often enough to use it up by the “Best by” date stamped on the can, don’t buy a full case. You still get the case lot price in most stores even if you buy it by the can.
So, the good news is that you don’t have to choose between long-term food storage or a three-month, use-and-replace system. You can do both, IF you first make a meal plan, and then make a shopping list based on the meal plan. Shop from your list. Always take it with you.
Don’t forget to include your family when you’re making your meal plans. Turn it into a fun family home evening and plan the meals your family will want to eat for the next three months. Do this quarterly, because you won’t want to eat all of the same meals year round. It’s kind of fun and such a good feeling to know that you are organized and prepared to feed your family in case of any kind of emergency—even if it’s just running out of money before payday.