Sunday, April 20, 2008

Food Shortages--What Should You Do?

If you've watched the national/international news over the last few months, you will note that the food crisis continues to worsen around the world. You may have noticed a jump in food prices at your local grocery store but the full impact of continually escalating food prices has probably not impacted you to any great degree yet. Of course those who can least afford extreme jumps in prices such as those in third world countries will feel the impact first; often with tragic results. Unfortunately, most Americans don't pay much attention to global problems until the problem lands on their door step. By then, in the event of severe food shortages, that may be too late. What can and what should you do now to prepare yourself and your family for the possibility of food shortages in the US?

  • The Mormon tenent of having a year's worth of food stored in your home is a good idea. The most important part of this, however, is to make sure the stored food in continually rotated into your normal meals so that you don't end up with a lot of expensive but expired/old/barely palatable food that ends up being thrown out. Properly stored grains and canned goods are a good place to start building up your food supply. Buying extra food to store during your regular shopping trips, especially loss leaders, is the best way to begin this process.
  • Learn how to gather and forage for wild foods in your area. Most likely you won't be the only person in these places, however the majority of people will walk right by wild edibles without any idea that they can be added to your family meals.
  • Think about, then think again about, buying a five year supply of MREs for the entire family. There are some good reasons to buy MREs: long storage life, easily portable (compared to canned goods, for example), wide range of meal options, better than nothing if you run out of regular food. Some reasons people often don't buy MREs: expensive, not very easy to rotate into your regular meals, according to the kids they are "yukky" after the initial thrill wears off (in about a day and a half), and what do you do with them after they expire? Consider having some MREs on hand but not making them the core of your food storage plan.
  • Grow a garden if you are so inclined. Gardening, and the necessary preservation process to keep your family in food over the entire growing season and the rest of the year, are a lost art for a number of reasons--lack of land, lack of enough people per family to do the required work, lack of knowledge both about gardening and food preservation practices, length of time between planting and harvesting--all are reasons that depending on a small garden for survival is unrealistic, however knowing how to grow even a little of your own food in an important skill to learn.
  • Know that most grocery stores only have a two to three day stock of food on hand at any one time and most rely on "just in time" delivery of their food stocks. When something disrupts this delivery (a natural disaster, closed roads, truck driver's strike, or worse, armed robbery of the food being transported in trucks as is happening in some areas of the world), stores start to look bare, the populace starts to panic, and the situation can deteriorate rapidly. In other words, don't count on grocery stores to keep you supplied with food during any type of crisis.
  • If you play the market (and the operative word here is "play" because it is more gamble than science), you may want to invest in commodities. You will, of course, need to know what you are doing as the commodities markets are some of the most volatile in all of investing.
  • Keep your food storage practices on the down low. Best not to advertise how well prepared you are food-wise unless you a) want to have all of your neighbors and friends begging food from you should things really turn bad, b) want to have to use deadly force to protect your stores/home/family from people who heard through the grapevine how well stocked your home is, again if things really turn bad, and/or c) want to make your home a target for burglary and theft since anyone who is prepared enough to have so much food on hand probably has lots of cash on hand too.

The bottom line? Only you can determine how important and/or probable storing food for a possible disaster is. In my case, I would rather err on the side of being too prepared than not being prepared enough. Besides, food is something that won't go to waste (such as the batteries you put in flashlights that rarely get used); food is something you need everyday anyway so why not have more than enough on hand? Should you not need it for a dire food shortage emergency, you can always use stored food to see you through lay-offs, injuries, or other times when you can't get to the store or can't afford the store, as well as for potlucks, huge holiday meals, and donating to the needy and food banks.

Here's an excellent food storage resource:

1 comment:

  1. My kids like MREs. I don't know about eating them every single day for 5 straight years, but they should be part of every food storage pantry.

    There are also kits you can buy out there where you can have seeds for a garden sealed in a #10 can that you only open if disaster strikes.