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Better Than Money in the Bank

"If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world."

--J.R.R. Tolkien

My illustrious blogpal Deb recently quoted an excellent article by Heather Havrilevsky on salon.com:

Lately I've been buying beans. Not canned beans, mind you: Dry beans. Bags of dry beans that only cost 65 cents, beans that have to be soaked overnight, beans that you have to sort very carefully to make sure there aren't any chunks of gravel in there.

This is my response to an impending recession, my move to scale back and batten down the hatches for the coming economic storm.

Heather, I'm totally with you, babe. In fact, I may have a bit of an edge in the dried bean department. Let me 'splain.

For decades, leaders of my Church have been asking members to set aside food, water, and money to be used in times of emergency. When we lived in a 900-square-foot apartment in Manhattan, we stored what little we could, but when we moved to a house with a basement, we knew it was time to start following the counsel we'd been hearing for years. We took the 'building up' phase slowly, but now we're in the happy situation of being able to rotate and maintain a year's supply of food for our family. (Have I mentioned recently that there will soon be eight of us? Yeah. That's a lot of food.)

It's quite a comfort knowing that we could feed our family if disaster struck. It wouldn't have to be an earthquake; I've known families who ate well using their food storage for months on end when jobs were lost or providers were disabled. I know other families who 'practice' living on their food storage alone for a few weeks at a time, just to make sure they can do so comfortably. (This is a good way to find 'holes' in your storage that can be filled later.) They then bank the cash they would have used for groceries during that time, which adds to their emergency savings.

I've heard of some bunker-mentality folks who buy guns so that they can "protect what's [theirs]." This attitude is anathema to me. Theodore M. Burton said,

Some members of the Church have said to me, “Why should we keep a store of food on hand? If a real emergency came in this lawless world, a neighbor would simply come with his gun and take it from us. What would you do if a person came and demanded your food?” I replied that I would share whatever I had with him, and he wouldn’t have to use a gun to obtain that assistance either.

My dear friend C had quite a bit of fun poked at her by movers when she and her family relocated to Puerto Rico and took their massively bulky food storage with them. But when a hurricane laid waste to their side of the island months later, they fed their entire neighborhood for the two weeks it took for power and transportation to be restored.

If something similarly devastating happened here, I'd immediately let our neighbors know they were welcome at our table. (Just another reason for you to buy the house that's for sale next door, people.)

My food storage isn't perfect; we need more honey, for example. But here's what we've got.


Yep, we actually eat it. I have a wheat grinder and a bread machine, both of which get regular use. I also have an awesome Wheat Berry Salad recipe that I make a lot in the summer. We've also had sweetened cooked wheat berries for breakfast in times past. It's rib-stickin.'

Other Bulk Items: Above are buckets with sealed mylar bags inside for super long storage: oats, other grains, beans, etc. That stack is three buckets deep.

Here are the 'open' buckets, with these awesome 'Gamma Seal' lids on them.

I have a few freeze-dried things in #10 cans, but not a ton, because we don't really like the stuff. Tip: don't store what you won't eat.

Deep Freezer:

We generally buy our grass-fed meat and pastured poultry in bulk: a few chickens, a side of beef, a whole hog or lamb, etc., at a time. We need to find a new supplier this year. In years past, I have also blanched and frozen excess garden or CSA greens and squash for winter use. This year, I hope to expand to putting up frozen fruit.

Garden: I've got a post in the works about this year's garden; but for now, here are our seedlings. I started the tomatoes and herbs a few weeks ago. The cucurbits, planted last week, are just starting to sprout. I'm trying to rig up my light above them, because it's supposed to be cloudy all week.

In addition to the electric wheat grinder, I have a food dehydrator, a hand grain grinder, a sprouting kit, and a large thermos (passive heat for grain cooking and yogurt making). I didn't photograph them, but we also have two 55-gallon drums filled with water and a siphon to go with them. I also love that we have a creek running behind the house; I have a lot of water purification tablets, if need be.

Books: Could I write a post like this without mentioning the books I own on the subject? Doubtful. All these are incredibly useful; they are, clockwise from upper left: Keeping Food Fresh, Eating Off the Grid, Nourishing Traditions, Cooking with the Sun, The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book (buy it used; it's the best whole grain bread book ever, but it's now out of print), and (the book with the best title of all time) Apocalypse Chow. If we lost power for days or simply couldn't pay the propane and electric bill, I'd still have a plethora of options for food preparation.

While we're on the topic of books about food, let me put in a plug for Michael Pollan's latest book, In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto. It will certainly make my Top Ten Books Read list this year. It is a clear-eyed look at modern America's unhealthy relationship with "edible food-like substances," and proposes simple solutions not only to what Pollan terms "orthorexia" (an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating), but also to our rapidly expanding waistlines, our continent-wide health crisis, and global environmental issues. LDS readers: this book dovetails beautifully with a certain Section 89 (except for a couple of paragraphs on red wine).

We have ample food here at the Perkins Homestead, and plenty of cheer and song to go with it. Stop by any time!

Reader Comments (22)

GREAT post! I am so envious! My year's supply has dwindled to almost nothing and I am feeling the pressure of an impending quake. We'll get back there somehow. I love this topic, though. I also love the Tolkien quote you began with. My mom uses that as part of her email signature.

April 29, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJenna Consolo

Ah, but you have used it an a financially tricky time, my love. You are a poster child for the success of the food storage program! You'll get back there.

April 29, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLuisa Perkins

Very very cool. I like the idea of being able to eat in times of trouble/financial hard times.


April 29, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterstrugglingwriter

I would love the wheat berry salad recipe if that's not inconvenient (my email is greggdigressions@gmail.com). My husband and I are converts. We are obediently storing, but, aside from grinding the wheat for flour; we aren't sure how else to use it. Our parents are no help and think we are nuts for being LDS in the first place. Needless to say, there are no time-honored food storage recipies to hand down in our families.

April 29, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMelessa

I'm super amazed by this. It makes total sense though (8! Wow). I actually am secretly in love with the idea of stockpiling food. Something about unopened cans, barrels and tubs all lined up neatly in a row. Also, as a hungry-all-the-time college student, having one of these (the university edition) would be the awesomest!

April 29, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSyar

Oh yeah, sista! I love the way you think--and action! I, myself, am working my way through Dave's 41 year old wheat--still works quite well, via wheat grinder and wheat berry chili! yay for rows of buckets and jars!

April 29, 2008 | Unregistered Commenteranjmae

Wow! You're walkin' the walk, Luisa. Very impressive.

April 29, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSydneyMin

Holy wow. Here I was all proud of my 4 month storage. And I need to get me a wheat grinder.

April 30, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnnette Lyon

Wow, Louisa! You are a true inspiration to me. Yeah, I need to get the food storage going, but sharing with your neighbors? How sad that I never even considered it before.

April 30, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCrystal Liechty

This post is awesome filled with awesomeness with an awesomeberry coulis.

I am very envious, and would love to be as prepared as you. WOW

April 30, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterThalia's Child

Go to www.waltonfeed.com for reviews on wheat grinders.

That's also where we got most of our buckets of long-term storage stuff. They have a huge inventory, including a lot of organic options, and they are a great company in all ways.

April 30, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLuisa Perkins

wow....I had never heard of such a habit. We have 2 freezers and one rack of cans and other dried food. I mainly want to have a supply of basic ingredients at all time so I can make eg tomatosauce whenever I feel like it...or I don't have a problem if I don't make it to the store every 2-3 days.

But stacking up in case of disaster? Never thought of it. I honestly find it a bit weird and feardriven...and yet brilliant too.

hmm it leaves me thinking.

April 30, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterGoofball

Goofball, it's amazing how being prepared actually removes fear and stress from life.

Think of it as having the equivalent of several thousands of dollars in a savings account that is specifically set aside for emergencies. Or knowing that you have a well-stocked first aid kit in case someone gets hurt.

I'm used to being weird, though. :D

April 30, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLuisa Perkins

Impressive! And just when I was feeling so good about restocking our pantry shelves.

Not only are you a master writer/blogger, but a master stockpiler as well. And probably a master chef. :)

I had another friend from New York recommend In Defense of Food. Said it was Life-changing.

April 30, 2008 | Unregistered Commentercharrette

I wanted you to know how inspiring I found today's post. Neil and I have always had some form of food storage on the go, but we ate through most of it his last year of grad school and haven't properly replenished it. Thanks for the much needed extra kick of inspiration!

April 30, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKimberly

Fascinating post, Luisa! This is the kind of thing I keep thinking about in terms of just simple eating in general.

April 30, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJen of A2eatwrite


That's amazing. We are still working on our food storage, but falling behind. You are an inspiration!

I have Pollan's latest book....but, am finishing his other one first. Love what he says, though.

May 1, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterkaren

i dread to think about what i would have to eat in a time of emergency. such a random collection of stuff holds court in my tiny pantry. maybe squid ink pasta and lime-flavored pickles? albacore tuna on stollen? well, whatever i'd eat would be well seasoned because i also have seven POUNDS of grey sea salt. great post, luisa. i know the bitegeistians were probably fascinated by this.

May 2, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterdeb

Hi-dilly-ho, neighboreeno. Get out the Crayolas and color me tickled pink! I had no idea you were stockpiling in that cellar of yours. The kids and I would be de-diddley-ited to drop by for a fatted calf barbeque. (Golly, that wheat berry goodness sounds just de-diddley-ish, but no thank you I'll pass on that one okily-dokily.)

One thing's for sure: I'll see YOU in Praiseland.

May 7, 2008 | Unregistered Commenternedward flanders

We have been food hoarders over generations in our family and have means to take care if needed. Our well is a bored well 5 feet in diameter and only 25 feet deep so we could put a bucket down and are considering putting an hand pump on it. We heat with wood in our wood cook stove so would be fine no matter the season and we have 2 freezers full of our own (family) farm raised beef, chicken, turkey and lamb as well as vegetables and fruit. I also have the cold room full of canned items. The only thing we need to buck up on is the grain items. I will now start working on that due to this fine reminder of a post. We are not LDS but our son's friend who is a girl is and they live similar to us.

May 10, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterdawn

Luisa, you inspire me. My last royalty check was divied up so it could go towards better food storage. I ought to get a wheat grinder. Thanks for the website to check those out. I'd like the recipe to the wheatberry thing too. :) When my husband and I were two weeks from bankruptcy due to business troubles, our food storage saved our bacon (not literally since we didn't have bacon in our food storage, but you know what I mean)

June 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJulie Wright

You've got some great storage happening at your place -- good for you for getting prepared. I'm also a big fan of using the sun via a solar oven to do the cooking. Especially during the summer, it's a heaven send to use instead of heating up the kitchen to make dinner.

While this is my personal opinion, I feel that an essential part of emergency preparedness is having the means to defend it if necessary. I am all for sharing what we have stored with our friends and neighbors, but in an emergency scenario, they probably won't be the only ones coming knocking. Where I live in Utah, there is a large state prison not too far away. Preparedness includes having the means to protect my family if necessary. But that's just my two cents. http://tinyurl.com/d5ovu2

July 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPreparedness Pro

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