Five Letters Re: Food Storage Extremes - Avoiding the Expensive Pitfalls

Monday, Mar 7, 2011

Dear Mr. Rawles:
First, thank you for the service and information you provide - it is invaluable.

Secondly, I'd like to respond to John L.'s letter regarding prepping in an urban/suburban location. Despite his condescending tone that immediately set my teeth on edge, I read the piece hoping to learn from it. Sadly, I only learned that John L.'s ideas of preparation do not coincide with mine. At first glance, I'm quite sure that John L would look at me and my situation and right me off as clueless and deluded.

I recently lost everything I owned - my house, my car, and my business. The blessing of this is that through it all, we never went hungry. We continued to go to church, tithe, and donate to the food bank as regularly as before. We learned so many valuable lessons throughout this - mostly that things are not important - people and knowledge are important. While I'd love to have relocated to some rural retreat in the boonies, that is just not in the cards right now. I'm a single mom. I have to work to regain some financial stability and the best place for me to earn a living right now is in a moderate sized city.

Lest John L. find me clueless or deluded, it is important to understand that many of us must make the best possible living decisions with the options that are available to us - these things are limited by jobs, affordability, family and so many other variables it wouldn't be possible to list them all here. When I knew we were going to lose our home, I didn't waste time on tears. I prayed for answers and I received them. I searched carefully for an apartment that we could afford that would meet as many of our prepping needs as possible. I chose an easily defendable upper apartment with only one entrance on the main floor. I stocked each end of the apartment with an emergency ladder so we could escape through windows if necessary. The apartment has a full attic for storage of preps. We have an enclosed backyard where we are allowed to garden. I don't pay for heat, only electricity, so we are using electricity as sparingly as possible and learning other ways to do things that don't require power. We didn't wait to be escorted out by the police - for crying out loud - they give you the date they intend to evict you. Why would anyone want that drama and humiliation?

I purchase items when they are on sale, combined with coupons. I dehydrate fruits and vegetables when I find them on the clearance rack at the grocery store (last-day-of-sale markdowns). I have enough food at this time for about two months. I've learned to cook dried beans, bake bread and cook over a charcoal fire. I'm registered for shooting lessons at a local gun club and plan to purchase weapons once I take the required course to do so (I'm in Canada.) My daughters will accompany me to the shooting range, as well. I became a vegetarian for the sake of thrift and food that I could produce more easily. Better to make the change now than during a time of crisis.

The main change for me has been my attitude. Prepping has empowered me to learn everything I can. When I shop now, I go to thrift stores and yard sales and look for old, non-electric things like knife sharpeners, whisks, and grinders. I look for old how-to books, especially from the Depression Era. I have learned to do so many things for myself that I never thought about before. I have jump-started a car, repaired wiring on a lamp, baked bread from scratch, and picked a lock. It no longer crosses my mind that I might not be able to do something - I instantly look at a problem and figure out how to solve it. No, my situation is not ideal. When the SHTF, no situation will be. What I am gaining by figuring out how to evolve despite my challenges is something no one can take away. - Daisy

I agree with the other writers who responded to encourage storing of grain. As you've said, wheat berries can be soaked and chewed. Another option is to make chapatis using coarse or fine ground flower (depending on the circumstances) and to invest in a fuel efficient steel wok to cook them.

Chapatis are a traditional Asian/Indian flat bread made with wheat flour, but can be made with any flour with little time or fuel. Here's a recipe, and don't forget the traditional long-term storage oil of India, called ghee. Here is a ghee recipe.

A wok is ideal because it is lightweight and therefore takes little fuel to heat up. It can fry, boil, steam, and even "bake" chapatis. Get an old fashioned one from Pier 1 or World Market that is durable and works over gas, charcoal, wood, and electric heat sources. The best kind is one that will rust but also absorb oils. - DL in Colorado.

Dear Readers:
I was in tears of laughter after reading this article. JWR and the other letters addressed my concerns fairly well, and I'm not surprised at the quick responses. How can he disparage wheat because it takes an oven to bake bread? Just where does he plan on cooking all of his brownie or cake mixes? And how is he planning on making pie crust for his pie filling? Also, I would hope that even the Deluded Urban Survivalist has a manual wheat grinder!

I just had to add a third archetype: The Doomed Packaged Prepper. He's spent so much money on little packages of prepared foods that he'll be out on the lawn being evicted with the other two, if he doesn't suffocate from the mountains of packages he'll somehow have to find room for in his house. If he avoids that pitfall and plans on hunkering down, we won't have to worry about his long-term survival. He'll be dead within the year due to malnutrition from his mostly-oil peanut butter (and mostly-oil packaged goods) with nary a veggie in sight. At least he'll provide some additional ammo to kill off the golden horde that breaks into his larder - they won't survive long on his food, either. - Pyrrh


Dear Mr Rawles,

Regarding “Food Storage Extremes” by John L: Rarely am I so incensed by any posting anywhere that I am moved to respond. I am far too busy, but the aforementioned article dated March 4th was more than I could bear.

When the Schumer actually does hit the fan, pseudo food storage expert John L. will likely suffer from a multitude of heath & dental problems due to his devalued junk food diet comprised of starchy Ramen noodles, Kraft macaroni & cheese, sugary cake mix and hydrogenated fat filled Skippy peanut butter, etc.

His disdain for tried and true, time tested, nutrition-rich foods stored and prepared in traditional ways pegs him as a newbie of the most reckless sort. His spoiled palate will be his ruination.=

His article is filled with snide comments denigrating some prepared individuals as well as his cardboard cut-out characterization of the “Clueless Yuppie”. Why even mention the “Clueless Yuppie” – why does he care what kind of car “Clueless Yuppie” drives or what condiments are in his fridge? His speculation is completely irrelevant to the article. “Clueless Yuppies” don’t even read SurvivalBlog!

He slanders the LDS Church (Mormon) basic one year storage plan which is easily multiplied to seven and has as its backbone hard red winter wheat, nitrogen packed in sealed five gallon buckets. Perhaps he is unfamiliar with grain mills. For the last thirty years, we have regularly used a Retsel electric stone mill. It has a hand crank that can be used during power outages. Before that, we used a small hand crank burr mill, with the whole family taking turns to produce fresh wheat flour, corn meal and rice grits. Perhaps John L. has never tasted whole grain bread straight from the oven. Perhaps he doesn’t realize that flat bread requires no yeast or that sourdough bread can be made from a little bit of saved starter. Maybe he doesn’t even know that bread can be baked in a Dutch oven on campfire coals.

He warns us not to buy "5 gallon pails of ANYTHING!" This is really amazing. If he can’t use it up before it spoils then he should consider dividing it into half gallon canning jars with a couple of oxygen absorbers in each. Ping! I can hear those lids snapping tight for a perfect seal that will keep a long, long time. Number 10 cans? It depends on what’s in them. If it’s freeze dried, divide it into quart jars or even pints. That will keep it from taking on moisture. By the way, those canning jars are 25 & 50 cents each at the Goodwill Store depending on size. Sometimes, we buy restaurant pack food at Sam’s Club in # 10 cans or gallon jars. It’s amazing how well black olives, relish & mayonnaise keep in the fridge.

No canned soups, vegetables or bottled juices? What? When hurricanes Ivan and Francis came tearing up from the Gulf several years ago and hit Western North Carolina so badly that houses came sliding off mountainsides, part of Interstate 40 was washed into the river, and places that hadn’t been flooded in fifty years were flooded five feet deep twice in one month, power was knocked out in our area for over a week. That canned food came in mighty handy since water was in short supply because the well pump requires electricity. Oh, and those 2 liter bottles refilled with water worked out just fine for hand washing, etc. Toilets were flushed with pond water. Fortunately, we’ve since obtained a 3,000 gallon holding tank for back up.

Apparently there’s a problem with MREs too. Wrong! That’s what you pack in your vehicle. That’s what you keep for back-up, camping and barter (small space, full meal, sufficient nutrition -- no empty calories, keeps 7 years)

He then parrots the adage found in nearly every book ever written on emergency food storage to “Store what you eat and eat what you store.” Attempting to live on the instant / convenience food diet this man has recommended for another twenty years will likely produce Diabetes, Atherosclerosis, and dental caries at the very least. The real clinker is his suggestion that we should include a few select vitamins once each week. A quick look at the back of those vitamin bottles should give him a clue. They are, for the most part, compounded to meet minimum daily requirements. That’s why you take them daily!

Of course there are multitudes of unprepared people and there always will be. Equally certain is that there are over-confident, arrogant, and hasty people who are bound to be smacked in the face with the harsh reality that they really didn’t know quite so much as they thought they did.

Sadly, John L may find himself begging to his “Deluded Urban Survivalist“ neighbors when his paltry 3 to 6 month reserve of stale, boxed, over processed, artificially flavored, artificially preserved starch runs out. I certainly hope not.

I would suggest to John L. that he settle down and read a few good books like Back to Basics , Stalking the Wild Asparagus , How to Grow More Food than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine, Ten Acres and Independence and then begin to explore a few things he hadn’t previously considered like grinding wheat and making bread, like foraging for wild Hickory nuts (couldn’t resist that one) and planting a garden.

Becoming as self sufficient as possible is a lifelong pursuit. Passing the skills and independent spirit on to our children is one of the greatest gifts we can give them. Living in fear of multiple calamities and imagining freak-out cut & run scenarios just isn’t productive; learning skills, gaining knowledge and systematically moving toward the goal is. Surviving isn’t enough, we should be thriving.

And if you should think that I know not of what I speak, think again. It’s been nearly two years since, due to the crash of the housing market, we had to close a very successful custom cabinet and millwork shop which supported our family and 12 others for over 23 years. With no public assistance or unemployment insurance, we have managed to keep our home and pay our bills. We should have stored more toilet paper and laundry detergent; it’s starting to get low. But because many years ago the Lord whispered in my ear that I should be like Joseph, we can easily go another five years and be just fine. Best Wishes, - N.L.B. in Western North Carolina

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