Mormon food storage: My experience
Today I realized that I have been storing food for about ten years now, but haven’t shared much of my experience. In sharing my views and thoughts and stories, small as they are, I hope to pass along some useful information for those just getting started, or interested in getting started, in storing food. This is not a complete article on food storage, but we learn in little bits, so enjoy!
Why store food?
People often ask, “why do Mormons store food?” As a church, we’ve been told by our leaders to store food for our families, so that we can take care of our own needs in times of emergency. If we are well prepared, we can also help take care of those around us. An “emergency” is not always a disaster; food storage can come in handy in case of job loss, economic hard times, or in many other circumstances. Mormon’s are told to store food, but no matter who you are, there is no doubt that it is a good idea.
How our family got started in food storage
When we were first married, my wife and I started out by purchasing a few extra cans of food on every shopping trip. We didn’t have a lot of money, but we definitely had enough to buy a little extra. We stored them in the cabinets when there was room, then under the bed or in the closet (if memory serves me!)
Right away we noticed something: it became easier to budget. Now, don’t get me wrong- we’re STILL not great with our budget. However, when you start to store food, you realize that when you need something, you don’t necessarily have to run down to the store to get it. First, you check your own “store house” of supplies. We began to see the time, energy and money savings that come from storing food.
After doing the small-purchase of canned goods for a while, we decided to take a chance and “go bulk.” We had about two hundred dollars from somewhere, and decided to spend it all on grains, beans and dried milk. We got a simple, manual wheat grinder as a present, and made the leap.
Now, buying the supplies was relatively easy. In fact, anyone can buy bulk supplies at a Mormon Cannery. The hard part was storing them. We ended up buying large plastic tubs, and keeping the grains and other items in an unfinished, full-size attic. They took a lot of space, and looking back, they weren’t well protected in those tubs. But it worked; we lost only one bag of grain from storage problems.
Once we went bulk, we could never go back. It took a long time to learn how to use the bulk goods, but it was a great feeling of security to have them there. Over the years we’ve expanded our bulk purchases to include all of our sugar, brown sugar, rice, and other items. When the jar in the kitchen is empty, we don’t have to go spend a few bucks at the store to fill it. Instead, we walk into the pantry and refill from the food storage, which costs pennies on the dollar in comparison. Bulk gave us even more of that feeling of not needing to run to the store for every little thing.
Using what you store
The biggest benefits come when you not only store food, but use the food you store. This is the secret, and it’s where the real budget savings, and real security come in. Instead of stored food being some obscure thing, hidden and reserved for some potential but unlikely future event, food storage becomes a part of your daily life. You’re healthier from the fresh whole grains, and you’re saving more because you’re eating less prepared foods, and making more yourself.
At least, you get to that point eventually, if you just take the leap and start using your food. We quickly found out our manual grinder was too slow and ineffective, so we bought a Retsel Grain Mill (though today, we do most of our bulk wheat grinding with a WonderMill micronizer). We bought a good mixer, and my wife learned after MUCH experimenting, how to make the perfect loaf of whole wheat bread (a lost art almost). We now make it a point to use EVERYTHING we store, so that we are familiar with it, and understand how to make good things with it. Now, if there is a need for using our food storage exclusively, we won’t have to tackle that steep learning curve, and we’ll have the right supplies for the job.
Learn by doing
When it comes to food storage, remember, we’re not talking about hazardous chemicals and delicate science- this is food! It might be a stretch for you to make something from scratch, but don’t be afraid to dig in and try it out. Pick up some wheat berries and pop them in your mouth (did you know you can eat them like that, as long as you have the teeth for it!) Grind them up, see how they work. Make pancakes (a great starting item), biscuits, tortillas (this is a great one to learn- they cost a fortune at the store), bread, and your own pasta!
Learn to prepare stored beans and other items as well; whatever you buy, open up some of it and figure out how it works. This will do two things for you. First, if you ever need to use your storage items, you’ll know how, relieving stress in what might already be difficult times. Second, you’ll most likely love living this way, so you’ll rotate through your storage more, save more money and time, and general live a better life!
A word on storage
Storing your food properly can make all the difference when it comes to shelf life. We buy in bulk, leave it in the package in most cases, and place items in rubber-seal 5gal food-grade buckets. These are usually made from polyethylene, so they’re not technically air tight, but the grains store for 30+ years in the bags alone, so we consider the buckets as a protection against bugs, etc. You can also can your food into #10 cans, which gives them a great deal of protection against air and moisture, but this becomes expensive. Still, if it’s in the budget, it is very nice to have.
Once your food is in a container, the goal is to keep it indoors, and at a constant temperature. We have a large pantry (part of the reason we chose our house!) but pretty much any moderate area will do. Foods stored in too hot of an area simply don’t last as long, so make sure to keep that in mind when you’re choosing how much to store.
Always keep learning
I think when it comes to food storage, you’ve never really “arrived.” It is a constant learning process, which is best done over time. The benefits are real, and measurable. Store food, jump in, learn as you go, and you’ll be better prepared to meet whatever challenges life might have in store for you.
If you have any questions about food storage, I’ll be more than happy to help however I can with the knowledge that I have! Just click the link at the top of this page that says “ask a question.” Your question will come right to my email, and won’t get posted on the website. Thanks for reading!