If you are new to prepping and food storage then you may already be overwhelmed by the choices of what to buy and what to store. You may be single, a couple, maybe a single parent or only have one child. But for that very reason it is all the more important for you to have a supply of food on hand to get you through difficult times. You may not have a support system that can help you out during times of crisis. Your sole income could mean going hungry if you lose your job. Inflation can eat away at your paycheck faster than that of a dual income. You may be more vulnerable to a sudden interruption of your daily life. You may already be living paycheck to paycheck and are unsure if you will have money for groceries if your car breaks down let alone how you would survive a major crisis. While there is a wealth of food storage information online, most is geared to families who are stocking up to feed a family of 4 or more. While your needs are different from a family of 6 they are just as important and real as any large family.
So where do you start? You can certainly look over the many lists available online to get ideas on the type of things to stock up on. But as a single person or couple you probably don’t need 300lbs of grains. Sure a 50lb bag of rice is cheap at the big box stores but how long is it going to take you to eat it? Buying a years supply of long-term food is cheaper to buy for one person vs a family of 4 but do you have a place to store it? Chances are you may be living in an apartment, condo or shared housing. You may not have the same storage space as a family in a 4-bedroom house. But you might be surprised to learn how much food you can store in a small space.
The first thing you need to do is analyze your own needs. How much food do you go through a week? Do you eat out 4 nights a week? What do you have on hand right now? How long would it last? How much storage space do you have? Can you reorganize your space to make room for additional preps? All preppers have the same issue of how much to buy. It is all too easy to go to Walmart or Costco and just start buying in bulk and buying the biggest packages you can find. This approach can quickly overwhelm you and before you know it you have more food than you can possibly use. If you or your family doesn’t like green beans why would you buy a case of them?
Start by breaking it down by meals vs buying in bulk. Think if you were home for one week what would you eat each day for breakfast, lunch and dinner? What would that look like if you were to buy enough for each of those meals? If you have hamburger helper one night do you or your family finish it off in one meal or are there leftovers? For a single or couple there are many meals you can make that will feed you for a few days, soups and stews in particular. Make a menu for each day. Once you figure out how much you need for a week then it is pretty easy to move on to enough food for two weeks and then a month. By taking this approach you won’t end up with food you will never eat or don’t know what to do with.
When I see pictures of preppers who have hundreds of can goods on their shelves I have to wonder are they really able to go though that much before they expire and what kind of rotation plan do they really have? I have issues with can goods. When it comes to canned vegetables I am not crazy about the taste, they are bulky and take up room. But canned goods are basic to every preppers food storage plan. Buy what you like, and what you will use. Canned soups, meats and pastas are all great to have on hand. Also include ingredients to cook other meals such as chili or stew. A note about expiration dates. Once you place a canned good on your shelf the countdown begins. They are not a put it on the shelf and forget about it product. Recently I found a couple of can goods in the back of my pantry that were two and three years past the expiration printed on the can. Turned out they were still fine and no ill effects were had. Goes to show you how even the best rotation plans can go a muck. But most can goods can still be consumed a year or two past the expiration date.
Buy in smaller quantities. Since your needs are different from a family of 6 you can get by with buying fewer items and in smaller packages. Often smaller sizes are more expensive than the larger size but by having 3 smaller jars of peanut butter rather than one large one you eliminate the risk of spoilage when you have to open a larger package and can’t consume it all in a given amount of time. You may never get though a #10 can of food before you get sick of eating it. Buy a variety of products from several different manufactures. Don’t just buy 6 jars of the same brand of peanut butter. Buy 6 different brands. By doing this you help protect your food storage by spreading the risk. If one jar goes bad or is recalled you still have 5 good jars. Do this for all the products you buy.
Buy a variety of food. Sure beans and rice are cheap and store well but do you want them every day for a month? Food fatigue will set in quickly if you are eating the same things over and over. Plan for a special meal once a week. Fix comfort foods and don’t forget desert! Most important make sure the food you store is the food you and your family like. If your teenager won’t touch a tuna casserole what makes you think they will eat it when there is a crisis? If you don’t like tuna why stock up on it? What happens when you run out of their favorite breakfast cereal and won’t eat all the oatmeal you stocked up on? Stock up on the one thing you can’t live without. Include meals that are complete in the box and other items that don’t take a lot of time to prepare. Learn to cook from scratch and how to extend and stretch meals with what you have available.
If money is tight and you think you can’t afford to stock up on food think again. Even if you can only afford $10 a week you can buy a few extra cans, an extra box of pasta, a smaller package of rice or another jar of peanut butter. Over time these small purchases will add up to a nice quantity of food preps.
If you want to stock up on food with a much longer shelf life then you should consider adding long-term food storage. The first that comes to mind are MRE’s, meals ready to eat. These are a staple of many survivalists and preppers. The issue tends to be they are expensive and bulky to store and they feed only one person one meal at a time. If you like the taste and are ok with them they can certainly supplement your other food storage. Another option is dehydrated or freeze-dried food. They usually have a 20-25 year shelf life, are easy to store and can be a buy and forget it till you need it product. They are sold by a variety of manufactures and are available with a variety of different types of foods. Not inexpensive but the convenience and shelf life make them a good investment. Recently Costco had a sale on a 638 serving entrée combo pack. For a single person this breaks down to about a months worth of food or a two-week supply for a couple. Products like this are a great way to supplement your regular groceries and food preps. They will add variety and stretch your other food supplies. Many manufactures sell a two-week or one month supply. They cost usually isn’t that great, usually around $100. If you buy a months supply from several different manufacturers you add a variety of food to your food storage and before you know it you will have several months food storage on hand. They are also easy to store and when you are short on storage space they will allow you to have a lot of food in a compact space. One note about serving sizes, if you look at the label on any food product they will always list the suggested serving size. They are usually are a bit misleading. A can of soup may be two servings. Hamburger helper is 4 servings but may only be enough for two people. A storage bucket containing 638 servings may sound like a lot but when broken down per meal it may not be as much as you think. So always double-check the serving size. In a crisis when you have to stretch your food storage for as long as possible suggested serving sizes may be a good guideline to making your food last.
The same ideas for food preps can be applied to stocking up on other products as well. How long does it take you to go through a tube a tooth past? Once you know that it is pretty easy to stock up on a 6-month supply. By buying products you use on a regular basis when they are on sale or when you have a coupon for them allows you to build your supply to have enough on hand for 6 months or more. By doing this you will save money on the front end, you will save money by not having to make a special trip to the store when you run out and you will save money as those items get more expensive in an inflationary period.
No matter what your family size it is vitally important to be prepared for the unexpected. Life as you know it can change in a blink of the eye. They good news is it is actually almost easier to stock up and prepare when your family is smaller. By being prepared you won’t have to depend on anyone else for your needs during a crisis and knowing that will help you sleep better.