Written by Cin
Everything to process wholesome food and to create a long term storage plan takes more time than running to the store and grabbing a roasted chicken for dinner, or a frozen entrée to pop in the microwave.
There are other ways to build the larder – buying extra goods on grocery runs, and buying from the companies that sell freeze dried meals in a bucket that will feed a person for a month. Both of these ways are not as cost effective as producing your own in the long run, but they do work. But what happens when you don’t have the money to spare for someone else to do the work for you? You need to consider doing it yourself.
Here is our typical day.
We get up at 6:30 this morning. After feeding animals, feeding ourselves, making the bed, and getting dressed for the day, it is time (8:30) to walk the dogs. We walk two miles each morning for exercise.
We return about 9:15 and put the harnesses/paraphernalia away. We carry a modified BOB for walks, because living rural one never knows what will be encountered. Certain things have to be returned to secure locations because of animals and children. By now, its 9:30.
My plan today was to cut up ten pounds of chicken and put together as many freezer meals as I could. In between, I have two loads of laundry to do and some work around the house to be done. Husband has yard work to do (we have 4 acres).
I dived right in and chopped vegetables, concocted sauces and marinades, cut the chicken, and put together the meals. When I was done, I had 6 meals – 2 packages of almond chicken, 2 packages of sweet and sour chicken, and 2 containers filled with fried chicken nuggets. I worked non-stop, and it is now 3:00 p.m.
Husband and I still have to put 50 pounds of flour in buckets/mylar bags, and seal them. Fortunately, Husband has already put the gamma seal rings on the buckets, so we only have to screw the tops on when we’re finished.
Then dinner needs to be made.
The animals are to be fed at 5 p.m.
What’s my point?
Making food from scratch, prepping for future meals, dehydrating and canning takes time. Lots of time.
When dehydrating, I always make sure I have enough food to fill the dehydrator. This means about 2 hours minimum of prep time, to cut up or prepare the food. Once the food is in the dehydrator, one can leave and do other chores. Dehydrating is one of the less time intensive pursuits of making your own food. If you have a meat-slicer this task goes quicker, but I can’t afford that, so I cut food with my trusty kitchen knives (and cleaning the meat slicer may take as long as the prep).
When water bath canning, I generally take about half a day – part to prepare the food, the rest of the time to can. Water bath canning doesn’t usually require more than about 30 minutes, so a total of about 2 ½ to 3 hours should do it as far as time.
Pressure canning takes all day for 12-14 jars of food if you have a smaller canner (I do). The canner has to heat up to the desired temperature, maintain that temperature for 70-90 minutes, and then spend an hour cooling down. At that point, the lid can be removed, and the food is set out to seal. The entire process generally takes 3 hours from start to finish, for a single batch. If you have more than a single batch, that’s where the all day comes in.
When Husband and I do a bulk food store run, it is an all day event, and sometimes bleeds over into the next day. The store is 2 hours away. So figure 4 hours driving time, and maybe an hour in the store. Then we return home and must put the food up – into buckets which must be brought in from the LTS area, sometimes packed with mylar/oxygen absorbers, and then put away. We have multiple buckets of stuff to pack away. Then we generally burn the packaging (OPSEC). This takes well into the evening.
Those are the 3 main ways of prepping/storing food. Although packaging food for smaller portions is a whole other event. And then there is the cooking – whether you cook ahead of time (I do a lot of that), or cook whenever cooking needs to be done, there is prep, and then the actual cooking.
And then there is the gardening. Gardening can suck up hours, maintaining, weeding, watering, harvesting, prepping for storage, etc.
What am I trying to say here?
When some preppers talk about not having spouses on board, perhaps one of the factors is that the spouse has already thought out some of the effort required, and in addition to their already busy lives, cannot fathom where they will get to the time to devote to building up and managing a deep larder.
So, what are the solutions?
I know, it sounds funny to realize you have to “prepare to prepare,” but it’s true.
The first thing you need to determine is how you plan to store the goods, and where. 2-liter bottles? Start drinking your soda. Buckets? How many? Home Depot sells buckets and gamma lids. A 50 pound sack of flour fills 2 buckets. A 50 pound sack of rice fills 2 ½ buckets. If you use 2-liter bottles, 8 ½ cups of rice fit in the bottles. Not sure how many bottles a 50 pound bag fills (that was Husband’s job). Planning to use that flour anytime soon, or is it Long Term Storage to be rotated? If it’s LTS, you should pack it in mylar bags with an oxygen absorber. Do you have either?
Where are you putting your LTS? Can you put it in a closet? Under the beds? In a spare room? The garage? Do you need shelves? Is the area free of pests?
There are lots of lists on the Internet of the food required to feed a family of four. You will also have your own favorites that should be stocked. The primary, number one goal is to START SMALL. You might be able to find 50 buckets for free at some restaurant or doughnut shop, but don’t think you need to fill them all in a week and then you’ll be set. The cost alone would hamper you (unless you happen to have an emergency fund already just for such things – and that’s another plan, another post).
So, here is your agenda for time management in food storage.
- Storage area cleared, cleaned and made pest-free (this includes keeping out dogs, cats and children who might get into things). Shelving units, if necessary. Under-bed plastic boxes, too.
- Storage items on hand (buckets, lids, bottles, canning jars).
- Actual food items – the extra packaged goods you’ve been buying one or two of on every shopping trip will now have a home. You have been buying a little extra each trip, right? These will be dated with a marker, and stored on the shelves, in the buckets, or in the under-bed boxes.
- Determine what kind of bulk food you are going to store. There are food calculators, food lists, and food reviews on American Preppers Network, and even a thread on where to start. Rice and beans are usually the first bulk foods, because they are nutritious for a long amount of time (sprouting beans adds more nutrition) and can be found in bulk easily. However, other bulk foods can include flour, wheat (also can be sprouted), oatmeal, corn, noodles, sugar, baking soda, salt, and so on.
Again, START SMALL. The old saying, “beans, bullets, bandaids” applies here. Build food stores first. Create a list of goals and create an end time for each goal on the list. So, say you found 3 buckets and have three lids on Monday. By Friday, you should have bought a 50 pound bag of rice, and put it in the buckets. Voila! You now have 150 servings of rice (1 cup for one person per day). For a family of 4, that’s 37 days of rice. Now, hopefully, you’ll eat more than rice each day, but at least you have a month supply on hand.
Do the same with each of your food items. If you break the tasks down into a weekly goal, you will have enough food for yourself and your family within months.
By showing a consistent pattern of provision, and by having LTS on hand, those reluctant spouses might see that a) you mean to provide for them and b) you are doing a lot of the work yourself and are willing to work WITH THEM to bring the LTS up to the standard you’ve set.
Just remember, LTS is a FAMILY-oriented goal. Everyone in the family should be doing some sort of prep, and a lot of it requires together-time – you cannot expect a spouse to be on board if you just give him/her a list and say, “Go do this.” You have to be ready to heft 50 pound bags, procure buckets by driving around all day to various places, and divide food out into storage on your own if no one is around to help.
You can also give individuals tasks – such as giving a teenager money and asking them to pick up 4 cans of sale tomatoes since they’re passing right by the store on their way to the movies. Even if they aren’t on board with the prepping itself, they can run errands that are involved in prepping.
In conclusion, create a list, create a time-sensitive goal, and then follow-through. Ask family members to help you in small steps, proceeding to larger tasks as money/time becomes available. You do the work, to show them how committed you are. Don’t be afraid to ask for help as you work, so they can not only see you prepping, but can do some things with you. Even if they never get truly involved, they can still do tasks that progress your goals.
Cin is a long time contributor and member of the American Preppers Network forum