What is a Food Surplus and Do I Need One?
Over the past year there has been a lot of chatter about having a surplus of Food. I have been answering emails pertaining to the what, why, and how’s of food storage and surplus. Those who have written are mostly balanced in their interest and thoughts on this topic, but some are driven by a more Chicken Little syndrome. The media has done an excellent job of confusing people. Mostly this comes from a high level of fear of our economy crashing and the cost of food going sky high in a short period of time. Have you heard or read any reports about the prices of food reaching exorbitant levels, such as bread going to $23 per loaf? While I find a lot of this to be unnecessary doom and gloom, inflation is here and will likely continue over the next couple of years. Employment and income seem unstable for the majority. In addition, natural disasters appear to be occurring more regularly, causing people to live in severe conditions for extended periods of time. It is never a good thing to allow fear to take over your thoughts and hearts, but being aware of the facts is smart. The fact is that many countries are experiencing inflation. Unemployment is flat lined at a high level and those with employment know that job security is a thing of the past. Food costs have been rising rapidly and will likely continue for at least the next 24 months. So, how can you help your budget and prepare in case of an emergency?
The answer is to create a food surplus in your home that is comprised of what you typically have on hand, eat, and cook. How can you decide what you need? How much food is recommended for your family? What food should you keep on hand? Once you begin to purchase surplus food, where do you store it? You may also be wondering how you can afford to purchase enough food to feed your family within your budget or when an emergency arises. Over the next few weeks, Journey to Simplicity will be posting several articles to help you determine the right course of action for your family. I encourage you to be in prayer about food storage for your family. I will also be praying for you as you create the food surplus that will meet your family’s individual needs.
The first thing to consider is why you need a surplus of food on hand? Do you live in an area that is susceptible to a natural disaster? Are there bouts of unexpected inclement weather that prevent you from getting to the store? Is your household employment income uncertain? Perhaps your household income is based on commission, causing you to have an inconsistent income. Are you living pay check to paycheck? Is today’s rising cost of food causing you a bit of anxiety? If you were suddenly without a vehicle at your disposal for a period of time, do you have a food surplus that will allow you to feed your family through that time? Is there a chance of a sudden change in family income? Could someone come into your home and easily care for your family in the event you are incapacitated in some way for a period of time? What if you suddenly find yourself without any income for a period of time? Would you like today’s cost of food to last a little longer to help combat tomorrow’s rising cost? All of these ideas are good reasons to have a surplus of food on hand. Food Storage is not just for extreme emergencies! Everyone should have some surplus of food stored for those unexpected life occurrences.
The first thing you will want to decide is how much food you want to have on hand. How many people live in your household? How long do you want your food surplus to last in the event of an emergency? (2 weeks, a month, 3 months, 1 year) Both of these questions are easily answered, but once you have your answer, how much food will you need to store to feed your family for your chosen period of time?
Use a food storage calculator to help you determine the needs of your family. Every food calculator I have used is based on the LDS Emergency Food Plan. Remember that these calculators generally are gauging the amounts of food needed per person for an entire year based on their diet. It does not take into account food preferences or cooking style. If you are unlikely to make fresh bread for any reason, then having 400 lbs on hand is going to be a complete waste of your money and space. In the same vein, purchasing and storing 100lbs of dried beans for your bean hating family would not be a wise choice. It would be better to think about items your family actually eats, such as peanut butter. Remember food storage is not about getting food and having it sit on a shelf for years. As your surplus grows, you will be using, and then replacing, the items to assure that you have the freshest food available when an emergency arises. So, make certain you are purchasing food for storage that you use on a regular basis anyway. Making a food storage plan that is customized for your family is of utmost importance.
Note About Food Storage Calculators: When developing a food storage plan using a calculator, look over the entire list of items suggested for storage. Since these calculators generally are based on storing an entire year’s worth of food, adjust the amounts according to your chosen food surplus guideline. For example, I typically keep 2-3 months of food on hand for any emergency. I punch in my numbers on the calculator and divide the amounts by 4. This gives me a more accurate estimate of what my family needs. In addition, I look at each line item and adjust the amount according to the tastes of my family and my preferred cooking style. When making a food surplus goal, do not blindly follow others’ recommendations, or you could find yourself wasting a lot of time and money.