Inspired by science fiction books and a handful of real-world incidents, some hardcore survivalists worry that their portable electronics or vehicles could be disabled by EMP weapons or solar flares. The concern over solar flares is misplaced; the threat of EMP is a tad more valid, but even if EMP warfare came to pass, small electronics and quasi-shielded automotive circuitry would probably not be permanently affected by anything other than a close blast. Power plants and transmission lines are a different story. Heck, in 1989, solar flares knocked out a good chunk of the Canadian power grid. Still, for that, a surge protector works better than tinfoil.
That probably sounds outrageous on a preparedness blog, but there’s a method to my madness. We have to prepare for the things that are the most likely, not the apocalyptic scenarios that may or may not ever occur. I’ve often written that the number one thing we need to prepare for is personal financial hardship. I’ve experienced it myself and used layers 1 and 2 of my food storage extensively. I never even cracked into layer 3 during those difficult times.
This is by no means an exhaustive or comprehensive list of the items available for your long term food storage program. You can tailor your program to your tastes and your budget. Remember the key elements are calories (LOTS), nutritional value (Vitamins and Minerals), storage life, storage space, and flavor. By consulting this list however, you can get a pretty good idea of how to get going on your program.
1. 20 pounds of Rice. As boring as it may sound, rice is one of the backbones of every food storage plan. It is filling, nutritious and with the use of varied seasonings and condiments, highly adaptable in a variety of tasty meals. The choice of white, brown or a combination of the two is up to you. White rice has a longer shelf life but brown rice has more nutritional benefits. In my own household, I like to combine the two along with some Jasmine, Basmati and Calrose sticky rice. NOTE: Be sure to check out recent guide on how to remove arsenic from rice.
Now, when it comes to fitness per se, I firmly believe that there is no need to go overboard; good health is far more important than Rambo skills. While getting buff may be a fun pastime for some young folks, there are very few emergencies that would force you to run 30 miles or climb a 20 foot wall. Being able to walk or bike for several hours is likely good enough to deal with all practical scenarios we talked about thus far.
Ask a hardcore prepper for advice on this matter, and they will probably tell you to start practicing hand-to-hand combat, get a knife, or carry a gun. But in reality, we need a more nuanced and proportional approach to threats, and one that emphasizes avoidance and de-escalation, rather than the ability to resolve each and every conflict with a single well-placed shot. Sure, a self-defense weapon can save your butt in some life-or-death situations, but these are comparatively rare; such a tool won't deter a pickpocketer, won't stop a burglar from ransacking your place while you are at work, and won't prevent a hacker from emptying your bank account while you're busy watching the reruns of Gilmore Girls.
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16. One large jug of Oil. Choose olive oil, coconut oil or some other cooking oil, but definitely get some. Oil is essential for good health, fueling our energy stores and providing support for fat-soluble vitamins and nutrients as they work their way through our system. Not only that, but a bit of fat in your diet adds flavor and makes you feel satisfied when you are done eating.
Peanut oil AND peanuts go rancid fairly quickly. I found out the hard way one year trying to store it in bulk. I had to throw all I stored (in white buckets with oxygen absorbers) out. The only way I found it keeps is if I buy peanut butter in jars – and then the shelf life is still limited. Even among freeze dried companies they recommend using up the PB powder within five years while everything else is rated at 20. If you want an oil with a proven shelf life get either coconut oil or olive oil. All the rest will go bad and ultimately make you sick.
Tupperware: Sealable plastic bins have changed the world. If you are prepping food for your weekly meals, or transporting food to a friend’s house, plastic storage bins can get the job done. They are dirt cheap these days and are very easy to use. While they can leach, stain, and scratch, as long as you use it for short term storage as intended they are nearly unbeatable.
Once you’ve considered what you’re at risk for, we’re going to shelve that information for a bit. The federal government provides some good starting points for considering how to protect yourself (you’ll want to do a lot of research later about how to be safe and survive that scenario). We’re going to move on to a personal assessment of what you currently have.
These are not your typical 5 gallon buckets from the Home Depot. Food grade buckets are made of a different type of plastic to prevent leaching. They cost a little more than your typical buckets, but are worth it for the added safety and flavor of your food. Food storage buckets should be made with high density polyethylene without BPAs, and be manufactured to meet NMFC, FDA, and UFC requirements. A bucket could have the triangle on the bottom with the number two and the HDPE mark, but not be food grade. This could be due to the construction method, not being able to provide a secure seal, made of reused materials, or even reused themselves after chemicals or paint. HDPE buckets are still porous, and can absorb chemicals stored in it. Make sure that you purchase from a reliable source so you don’t get duped. If you do decide to get used buckets, make sure they have only been used to store food and be prepared to clean them thoroughly.
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Is this a complete list of everything you will need to be fully prepared food-wise? Heck no. Are the quantities adequate to feed a family for a month, three months or longer? Perhaps a month but not much longer. Truthfully, for long term storage you need more food and more variety (read about the top survival food brands here) as well as some packaging methods (Mylar bags or buckets plus oxygen absorbers) to insure that your will food stay viable and pest free for years to come.
Forums and Facebook groups are littered with the same fundamental questions asked over and over again, but they often give incomplete, conflicting, or even dangerous answers. Then we’d read a blog where the author did some quick googling and cranked out a post just to get some traffic. Or we’d have to dig through crazy propaganda and extreme political opinions in the hopes of finding good advice. It drove us mad — we just wanted the facts and straightforward answers!
Still, this does not mean that the survivors of a nuclear war would have to choose between starvation and death. Water and food stored in closed containers will not become radioactive - people would just have to be mindful of the dust on top. Crops can be grown after removing several inches of topsoil, and most rivers, streams, and creeks become safe quite rapidly (shallow bodies of standing water are a different animal). In other words, with basic precautions, it's quite possible to thrive in the aftermath of even the worst nuclear war. All it takes is some luck and a bit of knowledge; blast-proof bunkers are not a must.