Having a back stock of emergency food is a great idea, but not many are able to set aside as much food as they would like to have. It’s expensive, consumes a good amount of personal storage space, and rotating stock can become difficult to manage over time. However, those who don’t have large budgets, big closets, or the time needed for food rotation schedules can still build an emergency food supply which meets their needs. But, first, we need to have the right mindset when it comes to the idea of building an emergency supply of food.
During a time of emergency some will tap into their reserve food supply as if it were the only source of food left in the world. They will not visit the grocery store any longer and they will not be hunters or gatherers. Regardless of how much food a person can put back for emergency use, what happens when it runs out? For some that day will arrive after only one week while a rare few will have put back enough food to postpone that day for six months or even a year. Regardless, that day will come for all and then the scrounging will begin. Scrounging for food could include hunting wild game, fishing, picking wild berries, or growing your own vegetables. It could mean waiting in line for hours to acquire a small quantity of food when it becomes available at a distribution center or grocery store. It could be any manner of things necessary to acquire food. If this is going to be the reality for everyone anyway, why have a back stock of food on hand at all?
Keep in mind scrounging efforts are not always successful, even today when we are not under pressure to acquire food of our own two hands to survive. A hunter or fisherman sometimes returns empty-handed, but that doesn’t mean there will be no dinner for him that night. He simply pulls out the steaks from the freezer and fires up the grill. The key point of having an emergency food supply is not to avoid having to acquire food entirely, but to help us survive when our efforts to obtain that food on a daily basis are unsuccessful. Even during times of crisis our efforts to acquire food should be ongoing so we can avoid tapping into our emergency food supply.
So, if we have a full year of food stored away, that means we can tap into that supply for 365 days of our life. That does not mean we should tap into it every day for 365 consecutive days before we start scrounging for food. What it does mean is that we have a source of food which can sustain us on the 365 days that our scrounging efforts are unsuccessful. If, for example, during an emergency situation a person scrounges for food every day by fishing and fails to bring food home 3 days per week, then he can tap into that emergency food supply three times per week. At that pace the one-year supply of emergency food will actually last 121 weeks (2.3 years).
Unfortunately, most of the food people choose to stock such as canned goods has an expiration date of less than two years. Wouldn’t it be great to have an emergency food supply that could last for several years rather than days, weeks, or months?
Think about white rice for a moment. Asian people have survived for centuries on little more than white rice combined with a few vegetables and perhaps a little meat or fish. When the additional ingredients were not available they could still consume their plain rice. Although a bit lacking in flavor, rice was the staple food in Asia for thousands of years and two-thirds of the world today is still dependent upon it as a primary food which is often part of every meal. If it works for them it can also work for us.
Enriched white rice (not the instant kind) is inexpensive, compact (triples in volume when cooked), weighs little, requires no refrigeration, cooks easily, contains useful nutrients, is very portable, and satisfies hunger. It is also free of fat, cholesterol, and sodium; and is even one of the world’s few non-allergic foods. Rice is quite versatile as well since it can also be prepared in a variety of ways as a main entrée or side dish for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It is perhaps the perfect long-term storage food.
During these days of plenty when grocery store shelves are full make a habit of purchasing two-pound bags of enriched white rice. In fact, buy four bags for $1.50 each. If the additional cost must offset then put a case of soda back on the shelf, use coupons, or switch from premium brands to generic items. If the grocery store is visited once each week then a years’ supply of food will be acquired after 37 weeks and without spending any extra cash to do it. In total it will cost $219 for an emergency food supply for one person (Note: Daily ration is two cups of rice per day, regardless if two or three meals are prepared each day). A family of four could make this supply of food last three full months. If a full year supply of rice is desired for each family member then continue buying enriched white rice as described herein until the goal is reached.
After arriving home from the grocery store, place four bags of enriched white rice in the freezer to kill off any stray bugs which might have found their way into the package. Every time four new bags are placed into the freezer remove the four frozen packages and allow them to thaw in a dry place. Prick a small hole in the plastic packaging of the rice so air can escape and then seal the rice in a food grade bag using a vacuum sealer (available in stores for as little as $25). It is important to remove as much air as possible before placing them into long-term storage. An oxygen absorbing packet can be included just before sealing if desired, but this is optional [if the rice is frozen before packaging]. In this air-tight packaging the rice should have a shelf life of ten years to thirty years depending on storage temperature (should be less than 70 degrees F). Store them in plastic tubs with lids, such as 24 packages of rice in each of 6 tubs (each tub will weigh 48 pounds), and place them in a cool and dry place such as a basement corner or in the back of a closet. Because the packages are air-tight the tubs need not be sealed with tape or silicone, although they can be for added protection.
Having a one-year supply of rice on hand for a future time of emergency is great piece of mind, but not having to rotate it for a decade or more is even better. Because the shelf life is so great one could easily put back enough rice to last for several additional years.
Of course, additional items can be included in your emergency food supply above and beyond the supply of rice; such as spices, canned goods, and Meals-Ready-to-Eat (MREs). However, these items will need to be rotated to maintain freshness. The rice will still be available for use long after these items are consumed.
When the time comes to use that emergency food supply don’t wait until it is exhausted to begin scrounging for food on a daily basis. If scrounging efforts fail then plain white rice can be prepared for dinner, but adding more food to a plate of plain rice will make for a healthier, better tasting meal. Also, if the neighbors notice one person on the block isn’t scrounging for food they will naturally assume that person has access to personal food supplies. They will then attempt to beg, steal, or borrow to acquire that food.
Because the rice is stored in two-pound packages they can make for good barter items. If medicine is needed, for example, it might be good to trade one package of rice for a small bottle of Aspirin. If a family member has fresh meat it might be a good idea to negotiate a trade of one food item for another. However, take care to protect the food supply from everyone, including distant family members and neighbors. Maintaining it as a well-kept secret is the best way to do that.
After ten to twenty years it would be wonderful to still have that entire supply of rice on hand. Chances are it will still be edible too, although probably due to be replaced by that time. If that be the case, rest assured that $219 bought you a lot of peace of mind for all those years. If the food supply is needed during an emergency then it will be the best $219 that you will have ever invested.
JWR Adds: It is of crucial importance to store an assortment of foods that when eaten combinations provide a complete protein. Meat is a complete protein, but rice by itself is an incomplete protein. Eating rice and beans together provides a complete protein. An exclusively rice diet will quickly lead to serious health consequences. The classic core food storage mix is wheat, rice, beans and honey, for good reason. That combination provides both complete proteins and other important nutrients. But even with those, something important is missing: essential fats and oils. See the SurvivalBlog archives for details on fats and oils.
In summary a very inexpensive food program can be assembled with wheat, rice, beans and honey, and either frozen olive oil (plastic bottles freeze well) , or perhaps some canned butter, or canned clarified butter (ghee). BTW, I don't recommend storing Crisco, because it is an unhealthy fat, and is prone to rapid rancidity. To round out this program, also store a good quality daily multivitamin and mineral supplement and some sprouting seeds. (For sprout salads.)
Also note that by buying rice in 50 pounds sacks and re-packaging it yourself (instead of buying two pound bags), you'll end up with about twice as much rice for your money.