Sunday, April 5, 2009

Urban Survival

I was reading parts of a book lately, McNab, Chris. Living Off the Land. Guilford, Conn: Lyons Press, 2002. Not that I plan on doing that anytime soon, but one of the chapters caught my eye; Urban Survival. One of the things the author advocated was an "emergency food stockpile." His suggestions include (see pages 179-180):
  • One or two large sacks of rice.
  • Several bags of pasta.
  • Copious amounts of canned meat, fruit and vegetables.
  • Cartons of long-life milk.
  • At least 2 litres of bottled water per person per day for a minimum of seven days.
  • A good selection of durable energy foods, such as chocolate and nuts.
  • Plenty of pack of dehydrated survival food, as used by campers.
Now, the idea has merit but the methodology is all wrong. Food storage is for an emergency, but acquiring the food is not an emergency and should be done in a systematic way, using both short-term storage items, which should be used and thereby rotated on a regular basis and long term storage items, which should also be used but kept in sufficient quantities to act as a long term maintenance food supply.

For example, white rice, if kept cool and dry, has a shelf life of over thirty years, as does macaroni or spaghetti, but the so-called long-life milk has a shelf life of only six months without refrigeration. Likewise the shelf life of chocolate is generally a year. Ingredients such as nuts will shorten the shelf life. Chocolate kept beyond 1 year may suffer flavor loss or texture changes. On the other hand, non-fat dry milk has a shelf life of 20 years.

One other major concern is the number and age of people dependent on the food storage. The suggested list has no quantities suggested other than "plenty" and "copious." Neither of these suggested amounts have any relationship to reality or to what the family or individual may actually use. For example, we have "energy bars" which I just checked have expired dates. I found some salsa in the pantry with expired dates more than three or fours years old. If you aren't going to use it, don't count on the food being good past its self-life date.

The last item on the list, dehydrated food, is fine, but you also need to be aware that without water it isn't much good. If you are going to depend on dehydrated food in a storage system, make sure you take into account the water needed to process the food.

Food storage is an attitude and a way of life, although it is good to have food stored for an emergency, it is better to have food stored all the time in a systematic and usable way.

1 comment:

Delirious said...

This may not seem like a staple to some, but I've been thinking lately that I need to buy more toilet paper for storage. I don't want to be caught short in an emergency! :)