In the April 2011 General Conference we were admonished over and over to become self-reliant. Did you hear it? We were counseled to care for the poor. Is that possible if we are not living a self-reliant lifestyle? Maybe, but probably not. What have you done since the last conference to prepare to care for the poor? When you hear the counsel again will you be able to jump up and say to your family, “We are ready to care for ourselves and to care for the poor”?
Food storage is often characterized by worldly critics as eccentric — just steps away from building a nuclear bomb. Even in our wards often when we are teaching about food storage we cloak the topic with a more exciting name for fear that people will not attend. Today we see TV shows dedicated to those who coupon and store huge quantities of supplies they could never use in a lifetime. Unfortunately, those who are following the counsel of prophets may now be associated with this practice. We are different.
If you have held back from applying your imagination and effort to storing some necessities for a rainy day because you have felt the negative attitudes of those around you, let me ask this. Have you ever saved for your child’s education or mission? Have you ever hurried to buy airline tickets a month in advance of Christmas, because you knew that available seats would disappear if you waited longer? Do you pay for health, disability, auto, or life insurance, even though you are healthy and able, you don’t plan to be in an auto accident, and you are indeed alive and well? Then you are a candidate for food storage and a provident lifestyle.
We have been counseled to store a one-year supply of food, but what does that really mean?
President Ezra Taft Benson — prophet, apostle, and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture in the Eisenhower administration — urged us to be productive and store what we produce: “You do not need to go into debt … to obtain a year’s supply. Plan to build up your food supply just as you would a savings account. Save a little for storage each paycheck. Can or bottle fruit and vegetables from your gardens and orchards. Learn how to preserve food through drying and possibly freezing. Make your storage a part of your budget. Store seeds and have sufficient tools on hand to do the job.” (Ensign Nov. 1980)
“The Church has provided guidelines, resources, and ideas to help us attain this balanced preparation and its resulting peace of mind. Whether you live alone or are part of a family, the challenge is to take the basic guidelines and fill your own needs. If you’ll never use powdered milk, don’t store it! But prayerfully plan and invite the Lord’s guidance so you can live providently and obediently.” (Ensign May 1986: Catching the Vision of Self Reliance)
In other words: Eat what you store and store what you eat. It is really that simple. To better understand this counsel, please consider some practical principles in support of President Benson’s recommendation.
#1 We have been counseled to rotate our storage. In other words: store what we eat and eat what we store.
“Start now to create a plan if you don’t already have one, or update your present plan. Watch for best buys that will fit into your year’s supply. We are not in a situation that requires panic buying, but we do need to be careful in purchasing and rotating the storage that we’re putting away. The instability in the world today makes it imperative that we take heed of the counsel and prepare for the future.” (“If Ye are Prepared Ye Shall not Fear” Elder L. Tom Perry, Ensign Nov. 1995)
Remember to store by food groups. If you do not like wheat or are allergic, do not store wheat. Store oats, rice, barley, quinoa, kamut, whatever grain your family eats. All these grains will store well if stored properly.
#2 We need to be good stewards of our financial resources. Many people ask for a plan that does not rely on the basics of wheat, beans, milk, sugar and honey. Far too many throw away their storage because they do not use it and are tired of it taking up space or having to move it every time they relocate. There are a large number of people who are tired of wasting food they have stored, who want practical alternatives to storing foods they don’t know how to use.
My recommendation, be careful when storing commercially dried foods, simply because dried foods are often thrown away. Commercially dehydrated foods require a great deal of water for reconstitution and are inedible unless they are reconstituted. Many commercially dehydrated foods are high in salt, thus increasing thirst. This food also takes a much greater time to prepare. Many foods need to be soaked first and then cooked before they can be eaten.
Dehydration is a process through which the use of heat removes moisture from foods. This retards the growth of molds, yeast and bacteria. Because heat is used in the process, foods can be burned and the nutritional value and taste destroyed. I recently had the experience of being given several cases of dehydrated foods from a commercial food storage supplier to be used in teaching a class. Upon opening a can, and after 45 minutes of preparation I discovered the food had been burned during processing and tasted awful! I repeated this process with the other meals I had been given and I had to throw away every case. There were several foods and they were all burned. If you decide to add dehydrated food to your storage plan, be wise. Purchase just one can, incorporate it into your normal meal planning, and make sure it is a product you will use.
“Some have said that dehydrated foods will keep indefinitely. That is not true. Dehydrated foods, like all foods, have a limited shelf life. In fact, certain chemical reactions proceed at a much more rapid rate when water is removed from a food substance. Dehydrated foods can become rancid and darker in color. Flavor and, in some cases, nutritional quality are affected when these chemical changes occur. To minimize these changes, dehydrated foods should be packaged in an inert gas atmosphere and sealed in an airtight container. A cool, dry place should be selected to store them. Because of their limited shelf life, dehydrated foods should be rotated. Thus, if they are part of your storage plan they must be consumed as part of the regular diet. Regular consumption of dehydrated foods will also help your family become accustomed to them.” “The Most Frequently Asked Questions about Home Production and Storage,” Ensign, Aug. 1977, 21
#3 Your food storage could make you sick. If you don’t normally cook with wheat and beans and are forced into a position where you have to eat your storage to survive, you and your family will likely become very ill. If your body is not used to processing these foods they may do you more harm than good. I have a wheat grinder and store some wheat but definitely rely more on the other foods I have stored to provide the needed vitamins and calories required to remain healthy during a time of crisis.
Concentrate now on introducing more fiber into your family’s diet so they are more prepared to survive on whole grains and beans, if that is your food storage strategy.
Emerson said, “Most people would rather die than think. In fact, they do.”
#4 Children and the elderly will starve before they will eat foods they do not like.
Numerous studies have been done by government and relief agencies that confirm this. We have all had the experience of being hungry and after several hours that hunger goes away. When a child or elderly person reaches this point they will refuse food, while not understanding they are starving themselves. Why? Because they no longer feel hungry.
When my elderly German grandmother lived with our family she would often refuse dinner, saying she didn’t like what I was serving and wasn’t hungry. This was from a lady who was a great cook and loved to eat when she was younger. When I would serve her a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, which she loved, she would eat. If you are living on your food storage I guarantee you that your family will be undergoing some serious stress. Whether this is due to a national crisis, family crisis, or natural disaster, familiar foods will be a comfort to your family.
#5 If you store food, and live from your supply, you can always eat at last year’s food prices. You never have to purchase food that is not on sale so you are always saving money that can be used to help you prepare in other ways.
#6 We need to live the spirit of the law, not just the letter of the law. We need to be living a provident lifestyle and not just filling the cupboards with food. We also need to be prepared to “feed His sheep” (John 21:15-17).
President Marion G. Romney has said, “There is an interdependence between those who have and those who have not. The process of giving exalts the poor and humbles the rich. In the process, both are sanctified.” (Ensign, Nov. 1982)
Said President Spencer W. Kimball: “As we become more affluent and our bank accounts enlarge, there comes a feeling of security, and we feel sometimes that we do not need the supply that has been suggested by the Brethren. … We must remember that conditions could change and a year’s supply of basic commodities could be very much appreciated by us or others. So we would do well to listen to what we have been told and to follow it explicitly. Preparedness, when properly pursued, is a way of life, not a sudden, spectacular program. We could refer to all the components of personal and family preparedness, not in relation to holocaust or disaster, but in cultivating a life-style that is on a day-to-day basis its own reward.” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, Chapter 11: Provident Living: Applying Principles of Self-Reliance and Preparedness, From the Life of Spencer W. Kimball, 115)
Where to start? Visit www.providentliving.com and use the food calculator to understand how much of the foods listed you will need for a year. If you don’t want much wheat it will calculate other grains to take its place. Since the calculator does not include fruits and vegetables you will need to add those. Plan on one #303 (14-15oz.) can of fruit and one can of vegetables, or its equivalent in frozen, dried foods, or soups, per day, per person (over 3) in the family. No matter what the cans say there are slightly less than two servings in a can, when using the government food pyramid calculations for a serving size. Visit www.MyPyramid.gov
This is a great time to decide which new skills you may need to learn. Do you know how to bake bread or make tortillas? This may be a great time for you and your family to discover some new talents together. I bet you have a friend or family member who would also enjoy learning with you.
Now that you are completely blown away by the number of cans of fruits and vegetables you will need, take a deep breath. We are going to break this down into manageable small tasks. Ask yourself which of these foods you have access to for free or nearly free. Is there a farm where you can glean? Do you or a friend or family member have fruit trees? Are the vegetables and fruits available to you good candidates for preserving, canning, drying? What if you plant a garden and harvest your own foodstuffs? Not much room to plant? Do you have a friend you can share a garden with? Perhaps you will grow the tomatoes and they will plant and harvest the green beans. Now you are learning the skills of provident living. Caring for your own needs while helping others will strengthen both giver and receiver. Now is the perfect time to plant a winter garden or even just to plant some herbs in a pot by your kitchen window. Just begin.
After you have completed this step, what is left? The foods you cannot produce yourself are those you will need to purchase. Take every item on the list, look at what is needed for a year and divide it by 12. You now have a plan. You will begin by getting a one-month supply of everything. Financial resources are limited for all of us, and we cannot just purchase a year’s supply of food. You could purchase a year’s supply of rice and wheat, but there would be no more money to purchase other items to provide a balanced diet to keep your family healthy.
Having a complete one month supply is much more important than having a year’s supply of only a few items. Once you have a one-month supply, you can now purchase the second month, and so on. At this point you will only purchase items as they go on sale since you are already able to care for all your needs for a month.
There is one more little task. Go to your cupboards and pull out the items that are not used up after one use (oil, for example). With a permanent mark draw a line at the level of product remaining in the bottle and write the date on the bottle. When you need to replace those items you will now understand how much you really use. Personally, when I use the charts as a guide I always have too much oil stored for one year.
Measuring your consumption is also a great trick to use for your nonfood items such as shampoo. This is where the game comes in. How often do you really replace that box of tissues or that bar of soap?
For now, concentrate on food. It is time to begin purchasing or otherwise accumulating our one-month supply. Should we go into debt to get started? Our leaders say “no.” It’s time to examine our budget, and see where the money can be found among lesser priorities.
Now is the time to be creative! Discuss as a family the commandment to be self-reliant. Brainstorm with them some ways to save money to purchase food storage.
As President Thomas S. Monson taught in October 2004 General Conference: “We do live in turbulent times. Often the future is unknown; therefore, it behooves us to prepare for uncertainties.”