Shelf Sufficient


Now that December 21st has come and gone, and seeing that the world didn’t come to an end, I feel safe buying green bananas again. How comforting to know that all is well in the world! not. Having a mother and grandmother that always had a well-stocked pantry, overhearing my parents’ late night conversations during the 60’s about building a bomb shelter in the backyard, combined with the reality of sitting in long gas lines during the oil embargoes of the early 70’s, listening to Jimmy Carter’s ‘Fireside Chats’ about wearing warm sweaters in the house, and having 4 babies while living on a shoestring budget, all set the tone for what has now become a way of life for me. Even though I’m now only feeding Michael and myself, along with supplementing a daughter that struggles financially, the ever-louder drum beats of Peak Oil, climate change, and economic ‘austerity measures’ making headlines around the world are insistent enough that I continue to ‘stock up’. You know, just in case.

I no longer get newspapers and magazines in hard copy formats, so I have no access to coupons. Very few of the things I buy come from food and drug manufacturers, so that doesn’t matter anyway. The foods I buy tend to come in bulk or bags or cans, rarely boxes. We’re lucky to live in a region that provides us with such a diverse choice of foodstuffs and I’m usually able to find what I want at local natural foods stores, Asian and Mexican markets, as well as bulk food stores and online suppliers. The government recommends keeping enough food for at least 72 hours in your home. I think that’s a reasonable ‘starting point’ but what happens after 72 hours? What if the ‘disaster’ is a job loss, a prolonged power outage, a super storm, or, our latest threat and a HUGE one, a shipper’s strike? (*The lack of media attention about this astounds me, but in a nutshell, here’s the impact: “Any backup of freight and equipment in the affected ports will have a domino effect on domestic transportation systems, resulting in costly delays, supply disruptions and scheduling hardships on customers.”) That’s putting it mildly. But I digress…

My definition of being ‘shelf sufficient’ is more like having three to twelve  months’ worth of human and pet food stored, along with toilet paper, charcoal, kerosene and water. I’ve gotten lax in the last year though. We purposefully ate down a lot of our stores before THE MOVE back in July, since we didn’t want to move any more than we had to. Then, shortly after we moved in, a ‘100 year storm’ dumped 5″ of rain on us in 45 minutes, flooding the root cellar in our 113 year old house. We lost a lot of stored wheat and dried beans in that incident and haven’t fully recovered since. The near certainty of flooding happening again, combined with less storage space in this old house than what we had before, has stymied my efforts to rebuild my larder. But the same certainty that we may be in for hard times ahead, and the peace and satisfaction that having sufficient stores of food allow me, will drive me to rebuild it over the coming year.You know, just in case.

It’s been said you should store what you eat, and eat what you store. In a true disaster, the last thing you’d want to deal with would be having to change your diet or eating foods you wouldn’t want to eat in good times. Because we eat a plant-based diet, our garden serves as the best source of emergency preparedness money can’t buy. Along with what we grow, we always have lots of brown rice and pasta, dried beans and powdered milk, nuts, oats, flour, yeast, salt, canned fruits and jams, juices, teas and honey, veggies, oils, soups, spices and condiments in the pantry. We store the smaller things on steel floor-to-ceiling shelving and bulk items in free-for-the-asking five gallon buckets with sealable lids. The buckets can be stacked three high, and labeling them on their sides makes identifying what’s inside easy.


Adding some convenience foods and snacks will keep everyone well fed and satisfied during a crisis. Using a FIFO (first in, first out) rotation system (date everything!) along with organizing like foods together will help you keep track of what you have and what you may still need. By gradually building up your pantry, at the very best prices you can find, you’ll find that your monthly food bills will eventually decrease, regardless of outside factors that may influence food prices. There will be fewer trips to the store, plenty to serve unexpected company, plenty to share with others in their time of need, and it will greatly simplify things when you ask yourself, “What’s For Supper?” . There are many, many creative ways to store extra food shown on internet websites so I won’t go into that here, since your needs and your home’s space will be so different from mine. Being shelf sufficient is cheaper and more likely to be needed, than any other type of insurance policies you may already have in place. You know, just in case.


3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Semper Peratus ….. Like the USCoast Guard, always ready.

Comment by Mandy

Well Mandy, if I had 2 cases of sausage I’d be ready for anything! haha! Enjoy your score!

Comment by simpleintn

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that I’ve really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I will be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

Comment by Madonna

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