Now that you have an emergency food stock, you need to maintain it. Emergency food supply management is simple, and it returns enormous dividends. There are three essential steps to follow in maintaining an emergency or survival food supply: testing, inspection, and rotation.
Food Stock Testing
This is not about testing to make sure the food hasn’t spoiled — it’s about making sure you have the right food stock for emergencies. Part of any survival plan is the run-through. In the case of an emergency food stock, you’ll check your plan by actually eating a week’s supply of it to make sure it suits your needs. For the purposes of this illustration we’ll assume you have a month’s supply.
First, “take stock” with a pad and paper and noting what you have. Then prepare a week of recipes for your family. Cook, and enjoy. At the end of the week, make sure you have three more weeks worth of food — if not, add more.
And it’s not just about quantity, but also nutritional value. Did you have a variety of meals? Can you make adjustments based on taste preferences? If you’re planning for a year-long stock, do you need to adjust your budget?
Food Stock Inspection
Your goods should be stored in a cool, dry, dark place safe from pests. If you bought grains in bags they should be frozen for a few weeks to kill pests, then stored in airtight containers like food grade plastic buckets.
- Hang a fly and moth strip.
- Every couple of weeks or at least once a month, check your canned goods for rust, indicating high humidity or a water leak.
- Swollen canned goods indicate botulism, which is deadly.
- Check bagged goods for holes where mice might have eaten through.
- Check shelves for mouse or rat droppings. Set traps if necessary, but don’t use poison — it’s a bad idea to store food and poison in the same place. Duh.
Food Stock Rotation
Properly stored canned goods will keep for years, and dry goods for decades. Nonetheless, because storage conditions are seldom ideal, it’s a good idea to rotate your stock. You don’t have to be terribly disciplined about it — just make sure your stock doesn’t go to waste, and more to the point, that it’s in good enough shape to last through an emergency once you’re not able to rotate it!
Most of my canned goods are on a one-year rotation. Most of my dry goods are on a two or three-year rotation, although while rummaging around in preparation for this article I found some brown beans from 1999 — and they’re still perfectly good.