Cat Food Anyone?  A 3-Month Food Supply Story

Vicki had a way of describing her experiences that reduced everyone within earshot to hysterics.

Vicki's story speaks to the necessity of having a well stocked 3-month food supply. 

Vicki's Story

Vicki was a serious no non-sense lady. She had a way of describing her experiences that reduced everyone within earshot to hysterics. She didn't intend to be funny and never understood why she was considered quite a comedian.

On August 11, 1965, a routine traffic stop in South Central Los Angeles resulted in a riot that lasted for six days, leaving thirty-four dead, over a thousand injured, nearly 4,000 arrested and hundreds of buildings destroyed… the infamous Watts Riot.

Vicki lived fifty miles from Watts. When she learned of the disturbance, she made a dash to the grocery store to stock up on necessities ‘just in case’. Now, Vicki really liked tuna, but not just any tuna. She would only eat the expensive stuff: white, chunk, albacore. Later that day she called me in tears. 

She had arrived at the store only thirty minutes after the riot had begun and found the store shelves nearly empty. People were literally fighting over what little remained. “There wasn’t any of my tuna,” she whined. ‘There wasn’t any tuna at all. All I could find with tuna in it was cat food!” At the time, her story struck me as hilarious. After all, it wasn’t a life-or-death situation.  It was just tuna. However, now that I’m older and, hopefully, wiser, the tale is no longer so funny.

Why a 3-Month Food Supply?

What with the COVID-19 virus of 2020 and subsequent empty shelves, we find ourselves in the same situation as Vicki. Many of us have rushed to the grocery store for desperately needed supplies only to find the shelves virtually empty. Most of us have families to feed, children who needed regular nourishment and maybe even pets. Don’t even get me started on toilet paper!

Whether the Watts Rios of 1965 or the COVID-19 of 2020, these incidents prove the need of an uninterrupted flow of supplies for ourselves and family. Natural disasters could be at fault. Flooding, volcanic eruption, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes or ice storms could stop all traffic on the Interstates. Terrorist attacks, infrastructure collapse or labor strikes could also stop the distribution of goods.

Years ago, grocery stores maintained warehouses from which they stocked their shelves. Then came the ‘Just in Time’ inventory system. Now trucks pull up nightly behind the stores to replenish the stocks. There is virtually no on-site storage, no inventory safety net! What happens if trucks can’t make their scheduled runs for whatever reason? Bottom line...empty shelves.

Empty shelves equal panicked shoppers and chaos. What is a prudent person to do to insure food in the pantry for the next go around?  Plan…purchase…prepare! Store at least three weeks to three months ‘normal’ food so that in an emergency, you are not forced to rush out to grab whatever you can find.  Plan meals and then fill your freezer and pantry.  If finances are tight, at least buy one or two extra cans every time you shop; they will add up over time.

With a little planning and perseverance, you can have a safety net of supplies set aside. It’s a great feeling to know you have emergency food on hand...especially if it includes several cans of tuna and rolls of toilet paper!

It's About Meals Your Family Will Actually Eat

The 3-month food supply for each family will be different.  This amount of food is intended to be common foods that your family is used to eating. Easily recognizable to your tribe.  If you have a pantry in your kitchen, this may very well be the perfect place to have 3 months of groceries on hand. 

Once you have this 3-month food supply, you can begin working on what I like to call "long-term food storage." Long term is where you store basic necessities. This means food that will sustain life over the long haul, say maybe a year.  You would store rice, beans, grains, wheat, flour, powdered milk, fats, etc.

Granted, you can also find those things in your 3 month food supply, but in smaller quantities.  They are used as the basis for making your other ingredients turn into complete meals. Sure, you could eat just rice for dinner, but it would much better if you had same cans of soup and chicken chunks to make it into a casserole. 

And remember, always think about what foods you actually like (be mindful of avoiding food waste). Your 3-month food supply should always revolve around meals that your family will eat and enjoy! If macaroni and cheese is a comfort food in your house, stock up on several boxes.

3-Month Food Supply Checklist

Now comes the fun part, actually doing a quick inventory of what you already have in your pantry and food cupboards. Take a peek into your freezer as well.  Then think about the meals you typically plan in a week. Do you do taco Tuesday?  Is it common to eat pasta once our twice a week?  Use what you have in the pantry now and your most common meal list and transfer the items on to a spreadsheet. I have made a very handy spreadsheet for myself. Use mine as a jump-start to your own.

For instance, you discovered you prepare a pound of pasta once a week on the average. For a 3-month food supply (12 weeks) you will need 12 pounds of pasta in your pantry.  Also, 12 jars of your favorite pasta sauce, 12 pounds of hamburger chubs in the freezer, and maybe a jar of minced garlic in the refrigerator. 

Keep in mind, that storing dairy products that long is not always possible. Frozen butter is a good idea and having powdered milk on hand is also wise.  But what about eggs?  Did you know you can make your own dehydrated eggs? Yep!

Common pantry items spreadsheet

Foundational Process

  1. Keep a list of the meals your family will eat for the next 10 days.  Try and include the snack foods eaten between meals.
  2. Break the meal list down into an ingredient list with respective quantities. For example, how many eggs did you need for the breakfast omelettes and how many did you use in the cookie recipe?
  3. Note which foods are perishable; eggs and milk for example. Consider looking into purchasing shelf-stable alternatives.  I have used the Augason Farms brand and have found them to be my favorite based on taste and quality.
  4. Take your new ingredient list and multiply the quantities by 3.  This gives you an approximate 3-month food supply.
  5. Budget a portion of money each month for expanding your prepared pantry.
  6. Begin making your purchases, a few more items every month than you regularly would until you have reached your 3-month goal.
  7. To avoid waste, rotate your supply as you go.  Use the oldest ingredients on a First-in..First-Out basis.

Fresh is Best

Remember, when trying to eat healthy, follow the rule "fresh is best." As we know, fruits, vegetables and meat and do not last very long.  This makes it important to base some of your new 3-month food supply on ingredients other than fresh. For fruits, vegetables and meats, your next best option is frozen. Then canned and dehydrated.

The following is what Preparedness Mama says about the subject:

"Why are frozen meat and produce healthier than canned goods? The nutrients and vitamins inside them are maintained at the moment of freezing. When you thaw these items out for cooking or immediate consumption, it largely retains its fresh contents. This is less so the case for canned goods. These are usually filled with additional substances such as salt, brine, or syrups that may not be as healthy. So, when you do plan out your 3 month food supply, make note of how long your fresh fruits, veggies, meat, and produce items will last. A good way of maintaining a longer supply is to purchase that same amount of items but as frozen equivalents and store those in your freezer. For those of you who have a large freezer, doubling that number would also round out your full 3-month food supply."

Not Much More Room in Your Freezer?

What if you only have a standard sized refrigerator/freezer combo?  Not much more room inside these to store an extra 3-months worth of food. Okay, so having a "plan of cans" is the next best thing and knowing which canned goods to choose is helpful.

NBC News has an article entitled Canned Foods Nutritionists Swear By . The complete article is worth reading in its entirety. A section of the article makes these points:

  • Choose lower sugar and lower sodium versions. Ideally, you’re looking for foods with no added sugar or salt, but it’s okay if canned soup has a little of each.
  • Look for BPA-free can linings. Though cans are made with steel, their linings are often made with a substance that contains BPA, an industrial chemical that’s thought to be an obesogenic (yep, what it sounds like). Though the FDA deems this substance safe for now, other health groups raise red flags. Even private label brands offer BPA-free can linings so it won’t be hard to avoid this potentially harmful substance.
  • Steer clear of canned foods with artificial preservatives and ingredients. This isn’t hard to do, since canning is a food preservation technique.

Best of the Best Canned Foods

The rest of the article points out 6 items that they consider the best canned goods. They give the reasons why each is on the list. I have listed the six foods for you:

  1. Canned Pumpkin
  2. Beans
  3. Coconut Milk
  4. Canned Fish
  5. Black Olives
  6. Canned Tomato

If these items are not already familiar in your household, try some of these recipes over the next few weeks.  You may find you will want to have the ingredients on hand in your 3-month food supply.

Tuna is the most economical, but sometimes contains mercury. I much prefer wild caught canned salmon. I make a Salmon Burger that is pretty dang tasty. I also have one of the most simple chili recipes on the planet.  I call it Can Can Chili because I use a can of this and a can of that. Using the pumpkin and coconut milk together in an Impossible Pumpkin Pie is another great way to use the ingredients above.

Contributed by Lauren Taylor - MAY 2020