Poverty Prepping: Food Storage for Vandwellers
Today we are going to start looking at food storage. Unfortunately I can’t really give you very specific advice because all of our situations are so different. I know some of you are on very tight budgets with a tiny income and very little extra room, while a fair number of readers have a fairly large monthly income and good-sized RVs. Beyond that many of us have dietary restrictions that must be worked around. So the advice I give to one person will be very different from the advice I give to someone else. To get around that, first I’ll give general advice and then in the next post I’ll tell you exactly what I’m doing.
1) Put the first 10% of every paycheck into an emergency fund. Every one of us should be in the habit of paying ourselves first out of every paycheck!! An emergency fund should be your highest priority! It should come before your bills, debts needs or wants. Why? The fact that we are totally dependent on our vehicles as both our transportation and our home makes it imperative we have an emergency fund to pay for maintenance and repairs of our vans or RVs. I recommend we all have $2000 dollars ($3000 is better) saved to fix or replace our vans in a break-down. If you don’t have that already you should be putting the first 10% of every paycheck into building it up. Ten percent may sound like a lot but if you’re making $600 a month 10% is only $60. If your income allows it or you are frugal, put more than 10% into it but never put less.
2) Inflation proof your emergency fund. Inflation is constantly eating away at the value of our money so you will have to slowly increase your emergency fund to keep up with it. I recommend you stay somewhat aware of the price of a cheap replacement van or the cost of rebuilding your transmission. As of today you can buy a decent van or rebuild your transmission or your engine for $3000. So your goal should be to have that in your emergency fund. But in 2-3 years that may not be enough so be aware of costs and always have that much on hand. If a transmission rebuild goes up to $4000, then keep that much in your emergency fund.
3) Then, shift the first 10% of each check to buying emergency essentials. Once you’re comfortable with your emergency fund start putting the first 10% of every check into other emergency preparations and buy some of the things we’ve talked about based on the Rule of Threes. So start with cold weather gear, water filters and water jugs. After you’re sure you can survive heat or cold and can either carry or filter 14 days’ worth of water then you can start building up an emergency pantry. At the end of the survival series I’ll give you a detailed list of the things I think we should all have on hand.
4) Start building your survival pantry with canned and dried goods that are your everyday meals. Whatever you are eating now is what you should be stocking up on as long as you can store it for one or two years. The average American diet makes it easy to build up an emergency pantry because it is predominantly canned, packaged or prepared so it stores well. If you are eating mainly fresh foods that is an admirable thing but you’re going to need to find substitutes for a survival pantry. If you have the time, money and space you can learn to can or dehydrate the fresh foods you eat otherwise you’ll need to find canned or dried foods you can live with in an emergency.
5) Shop ads and warehouse stores for the lowest prices. Grocery store ads (Kroeger, Safeway, Winn-Dixie, Food King) almost always come out on Wednesday while department store ads (Walmart or Target) come out on Sunday, so buy the Wednesday and Sunday papers and carefully go through all the grocery ads with a Magic Marker and circle all the items you want to stock-up on. You’re going to need to learn the prices of the things you are stocking up on so that you know if it’s a real savings or just hype. Over a period of time you’ll learn them but to start out you may want to write it all down. Once you’ve studied the ads you can take the newspapers to Walmart and buy them all in one spot because Walmart honors their competitors advertised prices as long as you bring in the ads and show it at checkout. Another reason to do this is that Walmart often beats other stores ad prices or their Great Value brand is cheaper than the national brands sale price.
6) Use coupons. Shopping ads will give you your most savings but often you can combine ads with a coupons and get really big savings! So buy the Sunday paper and clip any coupons that are on items you are storing. But don’t go out and pay full price for them, wait for them to go on sale then combine it with the coupon. You can also get many coupons on-line so do a Google search on “coupons.” You may be thinking that all this looking at ads and cutting coupons is a lot of work and you’re right, it is. But the money you’ll save and confidence a full pantry gives you make it more than worth it so buckle down and git-r-done!
7) Count calories so you’ll know when you’ve met your pantry goals. We’ll each have to decide what our goal is for an emergency pantry based on our budget and available room; but make it for as long as you can. Most of us should easily be able to have a month’s supply of food on hand and it is fairly easy to have 3-6 months supply. The way you’ll know is by counting the calories in your pantry. We talked about this in the last post.
8) Buy barter items and gold and silver. If you’ve saved an emergency fund and bought all the emergency essentials you need or have room for, buy gold, silver and barter items (matches, batteries, flashlights, etc.). Even in an extended emergency you may be able to buy some food from others but the chances are good that money will be worthless—the only things that will have value are items that either keep you alive or have historic value like gold and silver. So you should have things with intrinsic value on hand to buy, trade or barter for food. We’ll cover this in future posts.
9) Buy self-defense tools and get self-defense training. If you have food and the people around you don’t, they may want to take it from you by force. Each of us has to decide for ourselves how we’ll handle that situation, I’ve decided that morally I can’t send anyone away empty-handed (so I plan to be remote so few people will be asking) but if they try to take it by force I will defend myself. I’ve stored guns and ammo for that reason (they will also have high barter value).
10) Even city vandwellers should stock up on food. You may be thinking that because you live in a city you don’t have to stock up on food, but I promise you that isn’t true. I’ve worked in grocery stores all my life and many people don’t understand just how fragile the food supply chain is. The grocery business has a very low profit margin so big companies need to be as efficient as possible to try to make a profit. One key element is to have the minimum amount of inventory on hand as possible without losing sales because inventory costs you money: 1) they pay taxes on inventory 2) freight in your backroom takes space to warehouse that has to be lighted, heated and cooled 3) they have to pay interest on the money that is just sitting there. For those reasons all of today’s businesses operate on the Just in Time (JIT) principle. The item they’re selling (or using to manufacture something) arrives just before its needed and not a second before.
In the grocery stores I worked at we ordered 3 times a week and sent the order in the morning and it arrived that night when we stockers put it on the shelf. Only a very few ad items were ever kept in the backroom—which were very small. Everything else went straight from the truck to the shelf. So if there is ever any disruption in the supply line, the shelves will run empty in just a day or two. In fact every Monday we ran a double stocking crew because the shelves had run down to almost empty over the weekend and so Mondays order was huge. The first weekend of the month was the worst because many people only get paid once a month around the first so they do the bulk of their shopping then. I’ve gone into work on the first Sunday night of the month and thought “Wow, we must be going out of business!” because the shelves were so low.
That’s why anytime there is a weather emergency or a power failure the grocery store shelves are empty after the first day because of panic buying. Even worse, because there is nothing in the backroom there won’t be any more food until the next order gets there and if the weather or power failure prevent the trucks from running, there won’t be any more food until it clear, period!! So don’t think just because you live in the city the food will always be there. In fact, city vandwellers need to carry MORE food! Country people are more self-reliant so they won’t run down to the store in a panic at the first sign of an emergency. That means the shelves on their stores won’t run out as fast as the shelves in the city.
11) Because of Just in Time ordering we’re terribly susceptible to bad weather. There are no warehouses somewhere filled with wheat, rice or peaches from two years ago; storing it is just too expensive. There is some give and take in the system but if there is widespread drought, flooding or early freeze two years in a row the price of food will skyrocket or simply won’t be available at any price. It’s totally your responsibility to have enough food on hand to get you through an emergency or be able to pay for skyrocketing food prices–NO ONE WILL DO IT FOR YOU!!
12) Rotate your food pantry for freshness, even your canned goods! I’ll cover this in more detail in my next post.
In my next post we’ll look at my emergency food pantry to see what I’m doing.