A Food Storage Wimp Ponders the End of the World

It’s good to ponder the end of the world from time to time. Now I’m not really a food storage guy. That has never troubled me much. Until lately. My new approach: Every time North Korea fires a missile, I buy another flat of drinking water and put it in the garage, along with one of those big 2.5 gallon water containers. If the Koreans plunk one in the ocean near Hawaii, I’ll double it. Anyone else feeling a little less secure these days?

Other recent purchases: a couple of good flashlights, batteries for the AM/FM radio (aka boom box) to follow news when the power goes out, and some candles and matches. The power goes out a lot around here in the winter, and I have found that candles are so much handier than flashlights when you go a few hours (or a few days or weeks) without power. With two manual can openers and a pantry full of canned goods, I figure we’re good for a couple of weeks without any special provisions. That’s my time horizon, two weeks. If Armageddon lasts two months, someone else will have to write the story.

Apart from getting the food storage afficionados out there to throw out a suggestion or two in the comments (Swiss Army knife? Aspirin? Firearms?) this exercise will help prepare you for Sunday School Lesson #21 in Gospel Doctrine, “Looking Forth for the Great Day of the Lord to Come.” I happen to be teaching that lesson in a month or so. I’m thinking of writing “The Singularity Is Near” on the board for my attention activity.

Getting a bit more serious, here are the three section headings in the lesson, just to get you thinking.

  1. The Savior will return to the earth in power and great glory. That’s certainly better than coming as a thief in the night. He didn’t come when the Romans wrecked the temple, He didn’t come when they destroyed Jerusalem three generations later, He didn’t come when the Black Plague hit, and He didn’t come when the Holocaust happened. How bad does it have to get? Until recently, I figured it would be at least ten thousand years. I’m scaling that back a bit now.
  2. The Millennium will be a time of joy and peace. Maybe because all the nukes will be used up in the Great Singularity. There will probably be a lot of farming. That will be joyful for some people, I suppose.
  3. We must prepare for the Second Coming. I’m already investing in water and batteries. Predictably, the lesson digs a little deeper. Here’s a quotation from Pres. Hinckley that will make other food storage wimps feel a little better about just taking it one day at a time. It’s a nice positive note to end on:

    How do you prepare for the Second Coming? Well, you just do not worry about it. You just live the kind of life that if the Second Coming were to be tomorrow you would be ready. Nobody knows when it is going to happen. … Our responsibility is to prepare ourselves, to live worthy of the association of the Savior, to deport ourselves in such a way that we would not be embarrassed if He were to come among us. That is a challenge in this day and age.

11 comments for “A Food Storage Wimp Ponders the End of the World

  1. I used to do food storage in a small but earnest way. But I got so sick of my husband criticizing me for not doing it the way his mother does it, that I quit. Now all we have is about 50 gallons of water, and some resentment.

  2. This has been a stressful thing for me. Sometimes I get on a kick to get it all ready, but it’s so hard to know what disaster I’m preparing for and how long it will last (what if my 72 hour kit is needed for 100 hours?!) that I just feel guilty. We have tons of food storage in the basement, now about ten years old, from a preparedness streak back then. But if the big earthquake does really hit Utah, or this current governmental disaster spirals out of control soon, I’d almost rather move on to the other side than live through the survival Zion camp in the mountains/trek to Missouri stage until the Second Coming.

  3. I somewhat disagree and simultaneously agree with the statement “eat what you store and store what you eat…”. A lot of things that people store, rice, cereals, and grains are pretty poor nutritionally… It is harder to work on freezing and dehydrating fruits and vegetables or canning, and while somewhat quaint in our modern society, the best way to ensure the the freshness and lack of chemical contamination is to grow it yourself. IOW, be your stored wheat may keep you alive, but not very healthy. Learn how to grow and preserve your own food now, while we have access to the internet and stores to purchase canning supplies from…

  4. We’re not the best with our food storage although we have some. But I always thought it was more about unemployment or local natural disasters than the apocalypse.

  5. I always think it’s helpful to point out that just after Nephi writes that they packed seeds and provisions and went into the wilderness, game become scarce and his bow breaks any they can’t find food.

    It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be prepared. But the solution to the problem was that they just needed more physical prepping, but spiritual humility and trust in God, backed up with the physical ability to follow through.

    I’m certain we should do more to be prepared. I’m certain we’ll be tested in ways that circumvent our preparation if we’re not spiritually prepared.

  6. The big thing is always to rotate food storage. It does you no good if you bought it in 1986 and the disaster happens in 2030. You’ve got to rotate it so you know how to cook it, how it tastes, and how filling it is, as well as to preserve its freshness. I’m with asdf asdf as far as learning the skills now goes. Take advantage of Youtube and canning stores for as long as possible, and all will go well.

  7. Food storage used to be about growing and preserving your food, not just buying it. And that makes much more sense when you have seasonally limited food selection. The challenge today is rotating through stored food in the face of an abundance of fresh foods (especially produce) shipped in from all over the world. Those global supply chains make us much more interconnected and less independent. It gives us incentives to work together and to have stable economies. But that is at odds with our self-sufficiency and isolationist tendencies that often accompany millennialist expectations.

    As for my family, we ate down our food storage before we moved to Europe. We try to just keep things that we use regularly, so my food storage is like having a extra pantry rather than a doomsday prepper set up. Wheat and yeast, dried beans, pasta, canned chilis, oil, vinegar, bleach, leaveners and spices, along with water and fuel for camping stoves. We’d be fine for a few months, and we don’t have a lot of 30 year old #10 cans rusting in our basement. We’ll build up the same kind of supplies when we move back to the States.

    In an acute disaster, being calm and resourceful, and having a good social network with your neighbors is probably your best bet. That’s the kind of preparation that takes years and experience to develop, but if you establish your value to others and follow through on that with competence and hard work, your survival odds go up.

    I have several neighbors in Provo who include guns and ammunition in with their emergency storage. It’s a logical step, but not one that I’m willing to take. I’d rather find a way to work with others or get killed off in the first wave of the zombie apocalypse than shoot my neighbor over freeze dried strawberries.

  8. Food storage doesn’t have to be complex and stressful, and it doesn’t have to be expensive. I’m cheap, and lazy, but I have enough to keep my family alive for a year, because it’s my job to take care of my family and I would rather spend a couple of hundred dollars on food then watch my kids starve. How much is that worth to you?

    Plant fruit trees. Start with cheap, long term food you don’t need to rotate for half a lifetime. 50 lbs of white rice as Sams Club is $16, a 45lb bucket of hard wheat at Costco is $17. You can live on beans and rice, buy a few hundred lbs each and you have a great starting point that can keep you alive. The harsh reality is if you don’t have food you and your family starve, no matter how good your friendships are with neighbors.

    Prophecy is history in reverse, we know there will be, and are famines and “tribulation”. I love the quote on preparation, “do not worry about it”, if you are doing what’s right you don’t need to worry about it. I don’t worry about the Second Coming, I look forward to it. If you follow the guidance from prophets you don’t need to worry. Just be very aware that part of that guidance is to have food storage.

    President Benson said “The revelation to produce and store food may be as essential to our temporal welfare today as boarding the ark was to the people in the days of Noah.”

  9. I probably agree with you more that it seems, Rob. When I say “We’d be fine for a few months,” I mean eating almost normally with a balanced, varied diet. I do keep a couple of buckets of hard wheat (with both electric and hand crank grain mills), rice, dried beans, and oil on hand that would last for a much longer (and less pleasant) time. And you’re right: I don’t worry about it. (Even though I have a fatalistic streak that warns me that my emergency supplies could be easily compromised by flood or fire, but I guess that’s why we have 72-hr kits, right?)

  10. A perspective from the other side of disaster.

    We were about average on food storage before Y2K. Even though we didn’t think anything would happen at that time we decided to spend about $2K on food storage and be much better prepared.

    We live in a hot climate in an old house that is not exactly air tight. Soon the rats infested our house and multiplied, well, like rats. My wife is extremely allergic to cats. Poisons resulted in dead, stinking rats in the walls. No trap or bait combination worked twice. They would chew through anything plastic even up to half an inch thick, and aluminum cans. They rolled glass bottles off shelves to break on the floor. They chewed through a 2 inch board to get out of a wall in my son’s bedroom to raid his Halloween candy stash.They squeezed under doors with only 1/2 inch clearance. They couldn’t chew into steel cans or get into the freezer, but everything else was open season. We hired professionals and they couldn’t control the rats any better. They advised us to get rid of the food attracting the d***d rats.

    We went on Christmas vacation for 3 weeks. When we returned to our house, it was probably 120 F and filled with steam like a sauna with all kinds of mold growing everywhere and all of the walls warping. Water about an inch deep on the first floor and a couple feet of warm water in the basement. Dead rats floating in it. The hot water heater was still working (overtime) and the attic furnace. The rest of the electricity was off. What happened was a rat chewed through a plastic cover in the dishwasher near the filter to get at a little food there and also chewed through the flexible hot water hose to get a little something with which to wash it down. So hot water was pumped onto the kitchen floor full-blast for 3 straight weeks. The humidity messed the thermostat up keeping the furnace running at maximum. We had a couple of places where small electrical fires had started and spontaneously went out, probably because of the humidity.

    We decided to stay in the house, less disruption for kids in school and better supervision of the repair. It took 4 months to get rid of the toxic mold in the basement. We lived the rest of the winter without central heat, and 9 months without a kitchen. The insurance contractors were so crappy I ended up doing more than half the work myself and it was 2 years working probably 30-40 hours a week (mostly on weekends, yes I violated the sabbath) before we finished fixing the mess.

    They would not pay for new kitchen cabinets and a few other items so we ate about $10K. The insurance company paid out $190K for which we are grateful. But that was not the end. We were stuck in the middle of two separate lawsuits which were not resolved for about 5 years, both without judgments against us but still at the cost of thousands of dollars to attorneys and many more hours.

    The irony; All the stored food was in the basement in or near stagnant water with dead rats and the highest concentration of toxic mold. We were advised not to eat any of it, not to even go down there until it was cleaned months later. Food storage didn’t do us one bit of good. A complete waste of time and money.

    Needless to say I lost my testimony of food storage. If you store food do it in ways that do not cause further problems that you never anticipated.


    Other thoughts:

    Why do we eat the way we do? Answer-Time. We are busy people. Stored food may be more healthy and less expensive but it is far more costly in time to prepare it. Even if you find food that stores for say 7 years, that means you must eat 3 meals of it a week to keep it rotated. Who has that many extra hours every week to prepare affordable food that stores for 7 years? (This is why our ancestors stopped eating that way.) In our experience preparing food that will store for years consumes more time than home teaching and cleaning the church and missionary splits all together.

    As for growing fruit trees and gardening, again consider the time and the cost. And some disasters such as tornadoes and floods (not common in Utah from which percolates the food storage culture) will invariably destroy food production capacity.

    Should you store guns and ammunition to protect your food? Many people do. At the time of the house flood, my children attended a grade school with over 900 students. They were the only Mormon children. I knew many of their friends and their families. I could not turn away a single one of them if they were hungry. A year’s worth of food storage would last that school about 1 or 2 meals. I think the scriptures have a word or two to say about feeding the hungry.

    We had an ice storm which left the neighborhood without electricity for over a week. About 10 months previously, the beetles killed 12 of my pines which each stood over 100 ft tall. I paid a guy $1200 to cut them all down and then he wanted even more to haul the wood away. I told him, adios amigo. I got a chain saw and built all these massive walls and forts in the back yard out of the logs. During the week without electricity I gave away many truck loads of wood. While not able to get to work, I split/chopped wood for probably 12 hours a day. Pine is not ideal for firewood but it keeps the house warm in a pinch. All of that wood has rotted now into top soil. Lesson: Specialize and barter. I heard that in Southern Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina diapers and batteries were worth more than their weight in gold.

    The fundamental fallacy of LDS thinking about food storage is the my-family-against-the-world assumption. The opposite is what actually happens when disaster strikes. People become more helpful and sharing. What is needed is flexibility and strong networks of friends and neighbors. The local street party, helping with yard work, visiting and finding nice things to do for each other. At church the linger longer, the annual ward camping trip, robust activities for youth and adult are the best preparation for disaster. The last thing we needed during the house flood was a casserole that we had no way of heating up (except a fire in the back yard) and washing the container out in the bath tub.The insurance paid for 50% of one meal eating out each day and a modest grocery allowance. What we needed was for people to invite us over for a normal home-cooked dinner on Sunday so we didn’t need to go to a restaurant or eat snacks. We offered to pay for all the food. I am grateful for the two times this happened in 9 months.

  11. Wow, Mike. That sounds like a nightmare. It is the most ironic food storage disaster story I’ve ever heard. As for bartering, I’d imagine that whiskey would be pretty good (besides being super useful for antiseptic, anesthetic, and temporary oblivion). Having basic tools (shovels, chainsaws, etc) and knowing how to use them seems like a standard way to prepare as well.

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