Food Storage: We Are Ready for the Zombie Apocalypse!

I admit with only a little shame that I am a food hoarder. I have, over the last year, increased my food storage supplies such that if I were to be unable to acquire new foods suddenly and had to live off what I currently own, we would be OK for a while. Fresh foods are currently limited, and we would have to start getting creative rather quickly, but the dry goods would last for weeks.

I'm not ashamed of it because we do actually USE all of the foods I have stored, in a First In/First Out method whenever possible, and with the exception that we have more of it than is reasonably easy to store it's not been an issue. Well OK, I also have stored the very foods I am trying to cut down from our menu plans, which means that the length of time these foods would be getting stored increases. And yet in the grand scheme of things, these are not "bad" foods--brown rice, dried beans, whole grains, and some canned goods that (ignoring the health implications of the cans themselves) are low in sodium and lack any added sugars.

The reason I am ashamed of it is because when we were food-banking regularly, I felt compelled to get more of these items of which we already had plenty. At one point we had over 22 pounds of dried pinto beans, and I would literally shake with the anxiety and effort to leave them behind. I've spent so much of my adult life (and realizing more and more of my childhood as well) being financially insecure, that I have a deeply-seated fear of starvation. I know the tipping point was the night at my one and only "my own apartment" that I ate ramen with spaghetti sauce for the third meal in a row because I was unemployed and had no food stores and no cash. Emergency food distributors in the area required proof of income or lack thereof, required you to be on food stamps, required you to not own a car, or whatever it was that disqualified me despite being broke and unemployed and on the verge of homelessness. I had only been fired after foolishly mismanaging my money, and didn't qualify for help.

And so it is with some understanding yet great pity and trepidation that I look at the food stores of my future in-laws. They have foods that are so processed my brain fails to recognize it as food, and I have a sort of mental hiccup when trying to figure out what to do with it. While I can tell you that I have 18 pounds of pinto beans and 3 pounds of black beans and what is probably the equivalent of 15 pounds of brown rice in a few different varieties, they had no idea that they have over 30 (and possibly over 50) boxes of cereal in their garage, and put cereal on the shopping list. While organizing their pantry, we threw away 9 bottles of BBQ sauce that had been opened, said "refrigerate after opening," and had been labeled with use-by dates of 2010 and earlier. Their obsession with food hoarding and "getting a good deal" does not extend into a mentality that allows the food not to spoil.

It is my and Mister Moon's responsibility to sort through these food stores. I think given the in-laws' penchant for giving to charity, and the obsession with "getting a good deal," it will be easier for them to accept that changing their diet means getting rid of these foods and giving them to the local food bank, than it would to throw away the unopened yet expired food. Even if I KNOW the food bank will throw it away.

The hard part of this is that I would prefer to keep an updated list of the food stores in the house. Every time we finish something, mark it off. Every time we buy something, write it in. For one thing, to replace all this food would be easily $5000--which should be something claimed on the list of assets with the home owner's insurance, the same as a $5000 piece of jewelry would be, and the same as the value of our clothes is. Additionally it would allow us to check the food stores while making a grocery list, without having to wander around the house digging through things to see if we're out of something.

I was going to say this isn't a system I'm even sure I know how to implement, but it occurs to me that I used to have a running inventory system when working as a kitchen manager. I took a full inventory monthly then (and twice weekly of perishable goods), and it wouldn't take much to do it at home and keep a printed copy of the last inventory where we can write notes. Even if we only took a dry-goods inventory every three months, it would be better than nothing. I have plenty of restaurant food inventory guides at my disposal to use.

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So here's a discussion question for you, readers. How much food do you have stored in your house? If the apocalypse happened tomorrow or you had an injury and couldn't acquire more food for a while, how long could you survive, even if you had to get creative with food combinations? Do you have some sort of inventory system to avoid buying duplicates of existing items?

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