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There's Nothing Alarmist About Storing Food

October 10, 2011 - I began storing processed food last year. Each time I go to one of the various places I buy food, I buy a little extra, and store it in the basement. One big closet downstairs is conveniently located next to the common wall with the garage, and it stays pretty cool. I'm currently not using the top two shelves, since they get warmer than the rest. That means, however, that I have food standing on the floor, which I'm also not crazy about. Pests have not been a problem, so far.

Ideally, I'd like to have about three months of food stored. I suspect I have closer to half that amount right now. I'm thinking I'll purchase some hard red wheat grain this winter, and grind my own flour. (The grain grinder was purchased early this year.) I've been baking a multi-grain bread lately that's absolutely wonderful. I need to post the recipe. Half the flour in the bread is a pastry/cake flour, and I'm wondering if I'll be able to make a flour with that incredible texture on my own. As anyone who has ever baked bread can tell you, there's nothing like homemade.

It's funny, but there's sort of a mental hurdle you have to surmount before storing food. For some reason, it's easy for those of us with calm natures to view it as an overreaction, wasteful, or silly. I try to make sure it's not a waste of money: as food approaches its expiration date (food with the same expiration year all goes on one shelf), I move it to the pantry in the kitchen. Anything that's snuck past that date I donate to a food pantry. I'm continually purchasing small amounts of food; I really don't want our supply to diminish. Right now I need to get more yeast, and more flour.

I've also stored several quarts of tomato sauce that I made from our tomatoes, and four quarts of homemade pickles. My real aspiration was to make and store kimchi, since Sharon Astyk raves about it so much in her book - hmmm, I think it's Independence Days. The thing I don't get is, it has to be stored in a refrigerator. What good is that if the power's down? Plus the ingredients are kind of specialized: Asian fish sauce, and Korean chili paste. I may have to let that one go.

So what exactly do I store? I'm struck all the time by the necessities one really can't do without: matches, can opener, storage containers (I don't know what I'll do with that wheat yet), potable water (yes, I use 2 liter soda bottles), soap ... start thinking about what you would need, if left to your own devices. Batteries could be a biggie. You can't store meat, unless you have back-up power to run a freezer, so that's a major consideration right there. Fruit can be canned, dried, and frozen. Think about growing some of your own. Tomatoes are contained in so many things we like to eat, and are readily available in cans - sliced, diced, you name it. I think they're a really good thing to have on hand. Potatoes are available in a variety of forms; you'll want to store them, too. Storing rice is a good idea, though white rice stores much better than brown. I keep baking soda and vinegar on hand at all times, and use them for everything from cleaning to baking to cooking to killing weeds. The basics - sugar, salt, flour, dried milk, baking powder, eggs and some sort of shortening - all need to be accounted for. You might want to include oats in that list, as well. I don't need to tell you that more and more folks are raising their own chickens. I belong to a CSA, and hope I'll be able to depend on them in hard times.

No better time than the present to get started. Remember to involve your whole family - after all, everybody needs to eat!

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