Saturday, February 27, 2010
If You Can't Afford Food Storage
Today I want to talk to that segment of Latter-day Saints who, like me, just never did get around to putting aside that all-important year's supply of food.
The rest of you can just skip all this. This isn't for you. You go ahead back to your perfect Mormon homes and enjoy your perfect family home evening with your perfect little families. Today's column is for my fellow procrastinators. This is for the sluffers.
Now to you, my fellow recreants, I pose a question. What are you going to do now that you can't afford to buy food storage even if you wanted to? What do you think is going to become of you in the near future without that necessary store of extra provisions?
Come closer and I'll tell you.
Get your face right up here next to the monitor.
Come on, closer. I'll whisper it.
Here it is. If you haven't spent at least the last decade laying aside provisions for the hard times to come, and you can't afford to do so now, here's what you need to know:
Welcome To The Club
By all accounts, it's probably already too late for us. There is something we can do, and I'll tell you what that is in a minute. But first, let's look at what's coming.
Set aside for the moment your wildest fears of the probability of floods, earthquakes or other natural disasters coming your way. Might happen, might not.
The real catastrophe you are about to face is much more certain, and it is this: Pretty soon you won't even have enough money for food.
And the reason you won't have enough money is that in the very near future our government is going to print too much of it. Way too much of it. America is headed for an irrevocable period of hyperinflation followed by a major, Major depression.
If you don't understand how having too much money can translate into having too little food, perhaps it's time you got around to taking a crash course on inflation.
Because you are about to have your head handed to you.
None of us can stop it. All we can do is brace for impact. America is about to witness the complete and utter destruction of the dollar.
It will happen. It's already too late to turn it back. The chickens are coming home to roost, the piper must be paid. We have crossed the Rubicon. The jig is up. Curtain down. The end. Fade to black.
There is absolutely no escaping the coming pain. We are in too deep. Even if you have a decent job now, it will hardly matter.
Are you scoffing? Do I sense someone out there shaking his head and derisively laughing up his sleeve?
You want to see something that's not funny? Watch this 30 second video. It'll sober you up real fast.
And that small part of our troubles is just beginning.
Why is our nation heading for financial collapse? Well, for starters, do you remember those hundreds of billions of dollars the government gave as bailouts? It turns out the true cost is closer to twenty-three trillion. I'll repeat that: $23,000,000,000,000.00. Let me put that into perspective. That's more than five times as much as all Americans put together could ever hope to repay in a Gazillion-Jillion years.
And those wars and occupations that some of you have been cheering on as if they were football games? Those happy little diversions have been costing our nation trillions more each and every year since George Bush first crapped on the Constitution.
The payment for all that debt has to come from somewhere. Raise taxes? Too obvious -and too dangerous to the ruling class. In order to “hide” the process, the government will have to grossly inflate the money supply. All that debt you “taxpayers” incurred is already translating into higher prices. Way higher prices on everything you buy.
Most noticeably your food.
I ride a bike for exercise, and I often make the three mile trip to the grocery store where I pick up a few things that I haul home in saddle baskets behind me. It wasn't long ago that I exclaimed to my wife upon arriving home, “Man, I just spent thirty bucks at Safeway and I've brought home hardly anything.”
Lately I've been saying the same thing, except now that figure is closer to sixty bucks.
You think recovery is right around the corner? Dream on, Bucky. Time to wake up. You have been lied to. Recovery is no longer mathematically possible. Things aren't going to get better. Prices aren't going lower. Jobs aren't coming back. We are going to be hurled through an unavoidable spit storm that is going to hurt a lot of people for a long time.
Trend forecasters (the honest ones) predict the economy will suck like an Electrolux for at least a full decade.
So is there any hope at all? Well, experts (again, the honest ones, not the government shills) differ in their estimations. Some say it could all go sour in six months or it might not happen for two more years. Others guess we may have anywhere from five to seven years before everything really goes to hell. So yes, we may have time to do something other than panic.
But the tight money times have already begun, haven't they? It won't be easy even now. If you're anything like me, you don't have anywhere near the thousands of dollars it would take to buy several year's worth of food and toilet paper for every member of your household to weather this thing.
At least you can try what I'm doing. A few months ago I decided to start buying some amount of food storage -any amount, no matter how meager. I'll probably not get that two-year's-supply-for-two-people that my wife and I ought to have, but at least we'll have something.
I actually married my wife thirty years ago with an entire year's supply of dehydrated food already in my possession. About nine years into the marriage we hit the skids and had to live for awhile on that food. It wasn't bad, but because I now had a wife and three kids, that year's supply for one only lasted about three months. But I was certainly glad we had it.
Since then I never really felt flush enough to get around to rebuilding my supply.
Apparently I'm not alone. Despite what a lot of people believe about us Mormons, very few Latter-day Saints actually have anything close to a year's supply of food and necessities on hand. And what we really should have is two or three year's worth. In reality there are probably millions of Mormons who are under-prepared.
The interesting news is that many gentiles out there are beginning to wake up to the necessity of storing for the future. There is a movement of Yuppie “Preppers” moving into the mainstream and actually beginning to overtake us at a game that was once ours alone. Surviving the total collapse of society is cool again.
So if you're getting a late start, good. It means at least you've started. And there are many more joining in every day.
I may not manage to accumulate a year's worth myself, but the way I figure it, whatever food I can manage to buy from this point on is going to be much cheaper than it will be even in a few months. And that's reason enough to start buying now.
Where To Begin?
My mother was skilled at canning fruits, vegetables, jellies, and even salmon, but unfortunately none of those skills rubbed off on me. Even if I had a kitchen spacious enough to set up rows of Mason jars, I wouldn't know the first thing about filling them or what magic enabled them to become airtight. And although I've watched videos on YouTube of guys showing how they Nitro-pack their own buckets of beans and rice, that seems like a bigger investment of space and equipment than I'll realistically get around to making. I might just end up procrastinating longer.
What I've decided to do is choose easy and simply start buying dehydrated food from the stored food suppliers, a little each month. So I'll tell you something of what I've been able to get so far, and how I've managed to find the money to do it.
Who's Got The Goods?
There is no end to the number of companies involved in processing storable food, so take your pick. But you want to watch out for one thing. One or two outfits out there have been known to palm off old product that was processed back during the Y2K scare. Those were boom times for the dried food industry, but there was a lot of leftover product.
The problem with buying that product now is that it was processed back in 1999 or before, and since most storable food has a shelf-life of 12-15 years, those cans are already at or near their expiration dates. You don't want to be dependent on food that's already that old.
So you want to make sure in advance that the food you buy will be date stamped on the label, and that the date is very recent. You can't tell merely from the age of the company whether it's a reliable outfit or not. Some companies have been in business many decades and they are very reputable.
On the other hand, I've learned of a guy who bought out ten-year-old inventory from a now-defunct label, and has been selling it to unwary customers. So when you think about buying those No.10 cans of dried food, find out how recently it was packed. Shop around and buy a can here or there, and if they're not date stamped, I wouldn't buy more.
Also, I'd stay away from freeze-dried food. What you want is dehydrated. Freeze dried is a luxury only to be indulged in if you can afford the high prices, and even then only once you have sufficient stores of dehydrated food on hand. Dehydrated food is packed densely and becomes a whole lot heartier once you've added water. Freeze dried food is lighter but it takes up the same amount of space in the can as it would outside the can. I'll give you an example.
I bought a case of large No. 10 cans of freeze dried spaghetti from a famous name because it was on sale for $11.00 off. The label said it contained “about 20” servings.
I guess it depends upon what one's definition of a serving is, because all Connie and I got out of that can was four meals each. I have five more cans of that stuff taking up precious space in my closet, and even on sale they still cost me $22.00 a can. Not worth it.
Here's a way to think about freeze dried. Say you had a can of freeze dried grapes (I really don't believe freeze dried grapes exist, but bear with me for the sake of this illustration). That can of grapes would be very lightweight, but the grapes would take up as much space in the can as they would have before being freeze dried. The freeze drying process wouldn't shrink the grapes, it would just remove the water, leaving the grapes pretty much their original size. You wouldn't be able to fit a whole heck of a lot of grapes in that can.
Contrast that with a can of raisins. You could pack and compress hundreds more raisins into that same can. And if those raisins were in turn completely dehydrated, they'd be the size of BB's until you re-hydrated them. It would be the difference between dozens, hundreds, and thousands of dried grapes.
You can fit a lot more dehydrated food into the same space you'd need to store your cans of freeze dried food. And freeze dried is very expensive for what little you get. Leave freeze dried to the rich. For now you want to concentrate on getting the most volume for your money.
I flirted with four or five different food storage companies before settling on the one I like best. All three of those below will work with your budget, so you can talk to them on the phone and spend as little as twenty bucks a month if that's all you can spend.
Shelf Reliance is best known for manufacturing shelves for rotating your food storage, but if you're reading this, shelving is not your prime concern right now. They sell a large assortment of both dehydrated and freeze dried food in No 10 cans. They will sell individual Mylar pouches of what they call their Thrive line of foods so you can try their stuff before you buy it in the cans. It ends up costing much more per ounce when you buy it in the pouches, though.
The Ready Project will take automatic payments and send you a square bucket containing an assortment of meals each month for $34.95, and if you commit to a full year, the shipping is free. The contents differ each month, so by the fourth shipment you'll have some of every meal they offer, which includes chocolate milk and hash browns. At the end of a year, you'll have twelve stackable buckets that purportedly contain a year's supply of food for one person.
But be forewarned: as near as I can tell, portion size is counted as one cup per meal, so if you're the kind of guy who can get by on three cups of food a day for a whole year, this is for you. If not, don't fool yourself into believing that this is enough. It won't feed a grown man for an entire year.
Judging by the pictures on The Ready Project website, you might get the impression that it's a sizable bucket coming to you each month. The bucket is actually about the size of a picnic basket. A child's picnic basket. It's not as big as I expected it to be, so it falls into the category of what I would call Better Than Nothing.
But the obsessive-compulsive in me likes the idea of collecting a dozen of those perfectly stackable blocks, so I'm continuing to have them sent to me each month. Besides, it does seem a fair amount of food for the price. This would be a dandy way for a child to watch his own personal food storage collection grow as the buckets arrive month by month, so I think this program would be well suited to involving your kids.
I don't know why I was so late to discover EfoodsDirect,com, because they are shaking out as one of the premier food storage suppliers in the country. Not only are they popular among Mormons, but they appear to be the favorite of a lot of those gentiles in the aforementioned Prepper movement.
The food they offer is not just delicious, it is to die for. This is not your parent's food storage.
I was in a restaurant once eating a bowl of soup prior to ordering my entree. That soup was so incredible that I canceled the entree and just had five more bowls of that soup.
The soups I've tried from EfoodsDirect are like that. Unbelievably good. They bill them as being of health food quality, but I consider them fine dining quality. Their soup is better than anything I can make at home or buy in a store. Or find in most restaurants.
When I heated up my first pouch of their Tortilla Soup, it didn't look like much at first, just a bunch of powder. And as I stirred it into the boiling water, it looked like it was going to be just a runny broth.
Boy, was I wrong. This dehydrated process is magic to me, like the tiny capsule you put in your kid's bathwater that grows into a spongy dinosaur the size of his foot. In no time chunks of vegetables started appearing in the pot, seemingly growing out of nowhere, including slices of carrots as big as quarters. Where did those come from? There had been no hint when I first emptied the pouch into the pot. Fifteen minutes later what had started out as a runny broth had turned into the smoothest, creamiest, thickest soup I had ever tasted.
Almost immediately I sent for an entire case of that soup and when it arrived I took to eating it every day. And why not? Efoods claims on their website that they are able to sell their product 55% cheaper than what food would cost you at the supermarket. I've confirmed this myself. Connie and I eat almost as much of their product as we store, but that's okay because we like this food better than most anything we can get either in a store or in a restaurant.
That's why I don't worry so much about how much of this stuff I can afford. I find myself spending an ever increasing amount of our monthly food budget at EfoodsDirect, knowing we'll always have plenty to eat if we run out of money at the end of the month.
And we want to eat this stuff. Connie has requested that I cook up the Potatoes Au Gratin for her lunch every day, and I'm just as nuts about all of their soups. We can eat this food and store a bunch of it because it's so affordable. If we lived in the Salt Lake area we'd just back the car up to EfoodsDirect headquarters in Midvale once a month and do most of our grocery shopping right there.
I bought an entire case of Tropical Fruit Mix and had to finally hide it from myself because I was in danger of eating it all gone.
The president of EfoodsDirect, Steve Shenk, has posted dozens of videos and podcasts on his website. Shenk reminds me somewhat of Gerry Spence, and when he talks he conveys an easygoing air of wisdom and common sense. This guy knows what he's talking about.
I trust Shenk. Although he carries freeze dried food, he warns you not to buy it unless you've got all your basics first and then some. He does offer a preselected full year's supply, but he doesn't pad the set with fillers like flour, wheat, salt, and sugar, which you can get on your own and just tend to add unnecessary and expensive weight to the collection. He warns that refined flour has a short shelf life, so it doesn't pay to include several cans of that in the mix that you might put in the basement with the rest and forget about.
Best of all, Shenk knows how much a person needs to eat to stay alive. He knows that under times of great stress (such as those you'll most likely be under when you're depending on that food), your body requires sufficient calories. That's why all meals consist of two cups or more. He doesn't play games with your future well-being.
Another thing I like about ordering from EfoodsDirect is that I have to wait up to three weeks for delivery.
Why is that a good thing? Because they don't have that stuff just sitting around in a warehouse waiting for someone to buy it. They don't even process the food until you order it. On October 31st I ordered a case of miscellaneous cans (Potatoes, carrots, bananas, and cheese), and when I got them the dates stamped on them were November 2nd, November 5th and November 11th. Now that's fresh.
Alright. I told you I was going to tell you how you can afford this stuff.
I'm going to assume that, like me, you're just plodding along doing the best you can and wondering how in the heck you can pull any more money out of a hat. For purposes of illustration I'm going to focus on Efoods because that's who I buy from now almost exclusively. They're not paying me to plug their products (I wish!), so you go ahead and buy from whoever you want. I'm just telling you what I do.
At first I figured we could spare about a hundred dollars a month to spend on food storage. Some of you may not think that's very much; others may feel that's even more than you can afford, but I'll show you how to adapt.
My first purchase from Efoods was their 7 Day Responder package. You get a week's worth of food and snacks for $69.95. I think I paid a few dollars less for it back in October, so you see how quickly price inflation sets in. Nobody's immune. All the more reason to start buying now before their costs rise again.
The 7 Day Responder contains some of everything they carry in their Nutriversal line (that's the line of restaurant quality meals I've been raving about). If you want to try them all, you can order week A and week B and have two weeks of the best of everything for $129.95.
You can buy a set of meals for less than $30.00 if that's all you've got, but it gets cheaper the more volume you buy.
Here's what I'm doing now. The folks at EfoodsDirect will put anything they sell on layaway for you, so I decided recently to go ahead and go for the big one, the full one year supply.
Here's how it works. For $141.00 a month deducted from my checking account, they've processed and set aside for me their full year package, which is now sitting in a section of their warehouse with my name on it. After twelve payments, it's mine. The price won't go up because their costs won't go up. They paid their costs for the raw food back when I first placed my order.
If I should get jittery and suddenly want my food early, we can settle up over the phone and they'll send me that portion that I've paid for.
That hundred and forty-one dollars is a pretty good stretch for us. We'd be hard-pressed to squeeze out much more. But that leaves most of our food storage collecting in a warehouse in Utah, and we would feel better if we knew we had a little more on hand. So, realizing that we can actually buy more of the stuff we like cheaper from Efoods than we can get it at the store, we're allowing ourselves to spend another hundred dollars or so every month for a case of this or that, agreeing that we can allow ourselves to eat some and put some of it away. So that's an extra hundred dollars out of our food budget that so far hasn't hurt because we were going to spend it on food anyway.
Something else I hope to do in the near future is put their Two Month Grab n' Go package on layaway and pay for it over four months. It goes for $389.00, and includes all the favorites. Once it ships we'll have a two month supply of food in our possession.
At first glance, $389.00 looked to me like a hopelessly unaffordable chunk of cash, but look what it buys. Two full months of an actual, realistic supply of very good food for only $195.00 a month. I'm not eating that cheaply now.
So, What About That Cheese?
In my previous post I drew metaphorically on the example of a case of canned cheddar cheese I was expecting delivery on. I've since heard from several readers who have inquired about how that turned out. Also, some readers asked me to tell them where they can order that canned cheese from.
As to where to buy the stuff, geez Louise, don't any of you people click on my links? I referenced not only to two separate sources, but also linked to a pretty accurate review by some food writer. That was in addition to the thorough descriptions from the sellers.
Anyway, here's how it went for me. The cheese came 36 cans to the case. I opened one can and put the rest away for the future. The can was about the size of a can of tuna, only about 25% taller. The way to get the cheese out in one piece is to open both ends of the can and push it out onto a plate.
I don't know whether it's more accurate to call this cheese semi-soft or semi-hard. I liked the taste of it, while Connie didn't care for it at all. That doesn't mean much, though; my wife is notoriously finicky. She did find the cheese somewhat tolerable once it had been refrigerated for a while.
This taste reminded me of something I've had in the past from from Swiss Colony, but I couldn't tell you the exact name of what that cheese was. They call this cheddar. Could be the same.
Also it's worth noting that the can reads “Processed Cheese” but I'm told that designation is apparently required by law on all cheese that comes from a foreign source other than Wisconsin. It's real cheese all right, it's not anything like Velveeta.
My judgment: suitable, but not practical due to the cost. I only bought it because there are times I like to bite into a brick of cheese like George Costanza, so I'm glad I'll always have some on hand. But for now the Creamy Havarti I buy at the Armenian deli a block from my home is my long time favorite, and cheaper by the pound.
I've learned there are a couple of reasons why storable canned cheese has not caught on in America. First, there's that high cost. Four dollars for less than eight ounces is a lot to pay for a cheese that is less than exotic. And since a case of this stuff is heavy and can be expensive to ship, the cost per can is not exactly a bargain. Secondly, as an import from Australia, our government requires that this cheese be irradiated to prevent the growth of listeria. That fact alone tends to turn a lot of people off. Third, the target consumers of this cheese live in third world nations where refrigeration is not that common. Americans simply don't have a need for canned cheese.
Frankly, other than wanting to store a cheese I can bite into occasionally, I'm much better off just using the powdered cheese blend I got from Efoods. For the melted cheese I like on my burritos, there's nothing better.
Would I recommend buying canned cheese for your food storage? Not unless, like me, you can't help yourself. If you're struggling to put a decent amount of food aside, you really can't afford it right now. And it's not that great. I won't exactly say I'm sorry I bought it, but it was money spent that could have been put to better use on, say, 96 servings of chicken and dumplings.
Still, the same place I got the cheese from, MREDepot.com, also sells canned storable butter which I find intriguing, so I may buy some of that some day.
The biggest stumbling block most of us have to preparing for the unknown is the same thing that paralyzes us at the thought of what may be coming. We dread the coming darkness, but we also fear that at this late date there's nothing we can do about it. So we freeze up and do nothing.
It is absolutely magical how so much of my fear of what is to come began dissipating since I bucked up and started preparing to face it. Though so far Connie and I have only a fraction of what we'll need to weather the coming storm, my confidence in our ability to survive it is now more optimistic. We know we're headed in the right direction, and having even just a couple of months of food on hand is now enough to banish much of our trepidation.
If you're in the same boat, you deserve to have more peace of mind. But you must get cracking. Buy up all the food you can as rapidly as you can. We're already in perilous times. Think of collecting storable food as your new hobby. Don't waste a dime on anything else. Right now a good way to be thinking is “if I can't eat it, I don't need it”.
In Section 38 of the Doctrine and Covenants, The Lord comforts us with these words,
"If ye are prepared ye shall not fear.”
But I would add a corollary caution for those who refuse to get prepared:
Be afraid. Be very afraid.
UPDATE: Some time after I wrote the above entry, the folks at EfoodsDirect.com got wind of it and asked me to contribute to their onsite blog. I now post twice monthly essays on such topics as Water Storage, Toilet Paper rankings, The ins and outs of buying gold and silver, or whatever strikes my fancy. You can find a collection of my pieces by clicking here.