Though its light weight and long shelf life are ideal for navigating harsh conditions, freeze-dried food is probably most famous as a cultural curiosity: Like many Americans, I discovered it in a museum gift shop, gawking at the styrofoam-like ice cream that astronauts used to have for dessert. More recently, I encountered it at a disaster preparedness convention in Raleigh, North Carolina, where smiling, gray-haired preppers manned tables piled with plastic bags full of vegetables, meats, and stews.
Last spring, as the Presidential campaign exposed increasingly toxic divisions in America, Antonio García Martínez, a forty-year-old former Facebook product manager living in San Francisco, bought five wooded acres on an island in the Pacific Northwest and brought in generators, solar panels, and thousands of rounds of ammunition. “When society loses a healthy founding myth, it descends into chaos,” he told me. The author of “Chaos Monkeys,” an acerbic Silicon Valley memoir, García Martínez wanted a refuge that would be far from cities but not entirely isolated. “All these dudes think that one guy alone could somehow withstand the roving mob,” he said. “No, you’re going to need to form a local militia. You just need so many things to actually ride out the apocalypse.” Once he started telling peers in the Bay Area about his “little island project,” they came “out of the woodwork” to describe their own preparations, he said. “I think people who are particularly attuned to the levers by which society actually works understand that we are skating on really thin cultural ice right now.”
Buy dry goods in bulk whereever is cheapest. Transfer into 1 gallon Mylar bags with 1 oxygen absorber per bag. Weight, date and label each bag. Store bags in 2 1/2 gallon food grade frosting buckets available free at any bakery. Each bucket will hold 3 gallon mylar bags. Label each bucket with contents and date. By using these buckets you keep the weight to a manageable level for easy moving. It’s also food grade and water proof. Rotate stock as used. Use the food stoage calculator to figure out what you need and use an excel spreadsheet to keep track of your inventory. Lots of work but you will save thousands in inflation costs and be prepared for almost anything.
Call ahead to the meat dept.of your store and ask them if they can hold suet or fat for you, what days they ate most likely to have it in inventory, and whether or not it has to be special ordered in the quantity you need. You can also ask for meat trimmings as that is the extra fat that gets cut off the cuts being packaged for the sales floor. There’s often a lot of meat attached to these, and you can get them cheap.
I would like to add something, not necessarily to the list, but more like “food for thought” ideas that could very well save you and your family’s life. Living in the South, you “will almost” grow up around some natural disasters, whether it be a hurricane or tornado, most of us here take “prepping” very serious..and we learn a lot from those disasters also (I.e. Hurricane Katrina). I grew up around great-grandparents, grandparents, parents, other relatives and friends, who have a garden, almost for the entire year. Learning to can and freeze food was as natural as brushing your teeth! During the summer, when school is out, we shelled peas, shuck corn(yeah say that fast!), canned beans and tomatoes, picked berries, smashed berries, and, on occasion, churned butter! I wish I had a dollar for every pea I shelled! I be richer than Midas! Knowing these “techniques” can make a huge difference in feeding your family for several months without electricity. There have been lots of times when we would get lunch or diner straight out of the garden, washed and prepped, cooked, and on the plate in a couple of hours. No storage. No refrigeration! Scraps of food went into the garden or compost. And you can cook this stuff straight over an open fire. Two words…”cast iron”…it is a very good investment…it is great to use anywhere…open fire or stove! You don’t have to wash cast iron(I know it does sound gross, but believe it or not, that is the “beauty” of cast iron)..you wipe it out and keep it seasoned. You can cook anything in cast iron, from biscuits…to a cake! People with cast iron can cook almost forever! I would view it as essential. Enough about the garden.
This requires a great deal of research, but it can pay, big time. Let’s take our example from before. A $1.00 coupon on a purchase of $5.00 means you have to spend $4.00 under normal circumstances. Let’s say, however, that one week, your store is having a sale on that item. Instead of it being $5.00, it is on sale for $3.50. Then, you use your $1.00 coupon on this sale price, bringing your overall purchase price down to $2.50. That’s 50% off, something we normally would consider a great deal! Now, let’s say that it is also double coupon week. This would mean that the purchase price would be $1.50. Triple coupon week? You get the picture.
You can store all sorts of foods in a food grade bucket. Buckets also double as great survival kit items for random uses. Be aware if you use you food grade bucket to hold chemical or anything that could hurt the integrity of the bucket, that you shouldn’t reuse it for food again. While you can probably find good options locally for cheaper, food grade buckets are available online:
20. Mini LED Flashlight and Extra Batteries. Okay, this is a cheater item. It is not food but it is all important and so it will not hurt to stash a miniature flashlight or two along with the edibles in your food storage pantry. My top pick of the moment is the Blocklite. This thing just goes and goes and goes plus, it does not take up any storage space.
At seventy-seven, living on a tugboat in Sausalito, Brand is less impressed by signs of fragility than by examples of resilience. In the past decade, the world survived, without violence, the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression; Ebola, without cataclysm; and, in Japan, a tsunami and nuclear meltdown, after which the country has persevered. He sees risks in escapism. As Americans withdraw into smaller circles of experience, we jeopardize the “larger circle of empathy,” he said, the search for solutions to shared problems. “The easy question is, How do I protect me and mine? The more interesting question is, What if civilization actually manages continuity as well as it has managed it for the past few centuries? What do we do if it just keeps on chugging?”
Try to identify the aspects of your plan that are most likely to go wrong, and come up with viable alternatives. Take a hard look at any new problems you are creating, too: for example, if you want to store gas in your garage, it will probably help in an evacuation, but will also increase the odds of accidentally starting a serious fire. Or, consider a far more prosaic case: if you are planning to stockpile batteries or bottles of insect repellent, you should make sure they can't leak and spoil other, more vital supplies nearby.
Of course, it goes both ways: you will almost certainly find it harder to get help if your neighbors still resent you for puking on their doormat and constantly partying at night; so once again, not being a jerk to other people is not just good manners, but a very legitimate survival skill. Even if it's not really your nature, say "hi", engage in small talk, and offer to help with minor hurdles every now and then. Bring your neighbors a pie or some donuts, add them on Facebook, and try to find common interests. Socialize with coworkers who live nearby, too. Even if the zombie apocalypse never comes, it still won't be a waste of your time.
Before fire season, move combustibles away from your house. Fences and dry vegetation give fires a place to grow, says Jonathan Cox at Cal Fire, California’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Hosing down your house won’t help much, either, he says: “The way a lot of these homes burn is through something called ember cast, when embers from the fire fly over and drop little fires everywhere. With a huge ember cast, hosing down your house doesn’t do much.”
The same goes with flour. To make flour usable, you also need yeast and baking powder plus the skill and know-how to bake. Not only that, you most likely will need an outdoor oven of sorts – especially if the grid is down post disaster. That, and more, will come later, but for now, while covering the basics, it is much simpler and far more practical to stick with easy to cook foods that can be combined into interesting meals without the need for much experience other than opening a can or a package.
Astronauts are provided with survival kits due to the difficulty of predicting where a spacecraft will land on its return to earth, especially in the case of an equipment failure. In early US space flights, the kit was optimised for survival at sea; the one provided for John Glenn on the first American space flight in Friendship 7 contained "a life raft, pocket knife, signaling mirror, shark repellent, seawater desalting tablets, sunscreen, soap, first aid kit, and other items". A survival kit was provided for the Apollo program which was "...designed to provide a 48-hour postlanding (water or land) survival capability for three crewmen between 40 degrees North and South latitudes". It contained "a survival radio, a survival light assembly, desalter kits, a machete, sunglasses, water cans, sun lotion, a blanket, a pocket knife, netting and foam pads".