Taking Winter by Storm - Part II (food)

Last week I talked about why I'm such a fantatic about being prepared for terrible weather.  Snow, hurricanes, ice, and flooding are one thing, but something we didn't address?  Zombies.  Zombies are a real threat people.  BELIEVE.

If the roads are impassable due to ice, fallen tree limbs, or fallen limbs because of the zombie
apolypse, you don't want to have to venture out to a grocery store.  That is why food preservation and preparation are so important going in to the winter months.

The number one thing you can do to make sure your food source is safe is to grow a garden.  It's trickier during the winter months, but it is still possible.  However, since I'd like to survive on more than just small carrots, a few peas, the world's tiniest brussel sprouts, lettuce, and weeds, I keep our house stocked and ready for anything.

After years of not having space to store a lot of excess food, I've gone a wee bit nutty now that we have a garage.  Those of you who follow my blog via Facebook might remember the 300 lbs of wheat berries and 75 pounds of juicing oranges I currently have in my garage...

When we moved in, it was understood that the garage was Troy's territory, excluding my food shelves.  I quickly threw stuff up there and got busy putting the rest of the house together.  Troy's pile remains.  Five months later.  Ahem.

The downside to just throwing stuff on the shelf without much thought is a) poor organization leaving little room for more stuff later and b) being a moron and putting all the glass stuff at the TOP of the unsecured shelves.  In earthquake country. 
I spent a recent happenin' Friday night (cause I'm cool like that) reorganizing the shelves to make it safer in case the "big" one hit.  Ahhh, much better.  Well not much better.  Troy's crap still remains.  Le sigh.
On thing you'll notice under the paper towels (I hate buying them, but Troy uses them to blow his nose.  Yeah, I'm serious) is gallons of water.  I usually buy 1 gallon every few weeks when grocery shopping.  It spreads the cost out and ensures that we always have a rotating supply of fresh drinking water in case our water supply is cut off.   I have three gallons of water per person which if we're smart will last three days.

If the power is out for an extended amount of time, keeping the fridge and freezer closed allows for your food to stay cold (deep thoughts courtesy of Sarah).  After the second 24 hour period though, I would start eating things from the fridge to make sure you're not wasting food that is going to be spoiled very soon.  As extra precaution, we have a freezer alarm to let us know when temperatures are reaching a dangerous range in our deep freeze.

Do you have an extra freezer in your basement or garage?  It's more expensive to keep a partially-full freezer at the proper temp, so fill old clean milk jugs with water and stick them in there to prevent the freezer from having to work overtime.  If the power goes out, the jugs will help keep your stash colder.  If things start to melt before power is restored, you also have an additional source of drinking water.  

Thanks to my love/hate relationship with canning, we have plenty of fruit, tomato products, and chicken broth to eat (see bottom 2 shelves above.  The jars are 5 deep) if we lose electricity and can't use the oven.  Cold chicken broth doesn't sound like the best thing ever, but I know it's full of protein if we're in a pinch.  We can also prepare foods on our BBQ, but who knows how long the propane tank will last if our power is down for a very extended amount of time.   ALWAYS keep your BBQ outside when preparing food.  Ever time there is an extended power outage, people in Washington state die from trying to heat their homes with their BBQ.

If you have a wood stove (color me jealous if you do), you can also use the top of that for cooking your meals.  It will be a slow process, but hey, pretend you're Ma and Laura Ingalls for the afternoon.  Don't invite that snooty Nelly Olson over though.  Townspeople will just have to fend for themselves.

I order bulk foods from Azure Standard (will do a separate post on them at some point), and most dried goods come in 25 to 50 pound bags.  To prevent any water or insect damage, I store the food (wheat, oatmeal, beans, rice, etc.) in 5 gallon buckets and use gamma lids to turn the buckets in to air-tight storage containers.  Gamma lids are a pain to get on the first time, but once you do it, you're guaranteed a fresh seal.

When Troy found me putting gamma lids on buckets last week, he asked why I was going to so much trouble to store the food.  My reply was that I was spending money on this stuff and didn't want it to go to waste.  He then said "but if zombies attack, and we don't have electricity, how are you going to grind all this wheat in to flour".  I explained that we would use zombies to pedal an exercise bike that generated electricity to run the flour mill.  When he ask what would I feed the zombies, I think we were both surprised and disturbed how quickly I said "neighbors".  What followed was a 5 minute conversation that quickly grew uncomfortable as we discussed which neighbors would be the first to go.  But I digress...the point is - store your food properly and protect your investment and family's food supply in case the shit hits the fan.

Our food storage didn't happen overnight.  I purchased items very slowly to make it economical and not stress my monthly food budget.  If there is something that keeps well and is on deep discount, why not pick up a few bottles/cans/packages the next time you're at the store?  Processed food is not something we eat, but there is no denying that it keeps for a long period of time and is a low-cost "insurance" policy against going hungry during bad weather.

I was blessed with a garden that produced enough tomatoes to keep us in tomato products in an emergency.  But I also worked my ASS off preserving them, so I'm not going to discount that time I spent on that.

If you read my meal plan and grocery bill from yesterday, you'll notice I spent $10 on paper plates (I got a $4 rebate though bringing to total to $6).  That is because if the power is out and we can't heat water, washing dishes will be challenging.  I keep paper plates and bowls and some plastic utensils on hand for such an occasion.  I splurge and get the ones made from sugarcane because they're a) a renewable resource and can be composted or b) used as tinder to start fires to keep us warm after we've eaten off of them!

I'll leave you with three pieces of wisdom:
1) start slowly so that it's not overwhelming.  But not too slowly...it's already freaking November already people!
2) water is the most important thing to have on hand.  You can go without food for weeks - it won't be a happy few weeks - but only a few days without water.
3) if the shit hits the fan, make your way to my house.  I have loads of flour, fruit, meat, and butter to share.  But be prepared to be put to work juicing oranges and grinding wheat.  Don't complain about it though...it's better than being zombie bait.

I've shared this over at Monday Mania, Frugal Tip Tuesday, Fat Tuesday,Traditional Tuesdays,Real Food Wednesdays, Pennywise Platter Thursday, and Simple Lives Thursdays.