Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Feeding Yourself

"There are only nine meals between mankind and anarchy," said  Alfred Henry Lewis in 1906. Food is more important in the popular mind than water, even though we can last far longer with an empty stomach than a dry mouth. If food supplies are disrupted for more than three or so days then governments fear that a panic-stricken populace will start to attack the supermarkets that still have stock, and then riot if they find them empty.

If you talk about prepping to people they will often think about a cellar full of enough canned foods to last a decade. I tend to the view that a thirty-day stockpile is enough for most conceivable emergencies and my cupboard is stocked with that in mind. If you think about it rationally, even in the direst of circumstances, enough food gets through to keep a population from starving, especially in the civilised world, although it has been touch and go at times.

A good example of this would be Berlin in April 1945 as the Soviet artillery began to pound the city prior to the final assault. On the 22 April, the city authorities handed out what they called "advance rations" that were to be consumed during the coming battle when the normal daily ration could not be maintained. The diarist Marta Hiller queued for two hours in the rain to collect "250 grams of course-ground grain, 250 grams of oatmeal, 2 pounds of sugar, 100 grams of coffee substitute and a can of kohlrabi." She noted in the diary that was later published anonymously as A Woman in Berlin that the meat and sausage that should have formed part of that advance ration was not supplied at her distribution point, but it was something.

The Berlin authorities continued to supply the normal rations to the people until each distribution point was overrun by the Soviet troops. The city had fallen by the end of April and by the end of May the Soviet occupiers had begun to distribute their ration cards to the people, and by June the shops were starting to reopen with the authoress noting that even a ladies' hairdresser had established his operation, provided his customers could bring their own hot water for a wash and set.

So, a thirty-day supply of basic foodstuffs strikes me a sensible approach to take for most possible emergencies. I might add that this is a policy that I have followed for many years now, probably since before the whole idea of survivalism or being a prepper was even thought up. It's just the way that people used to behave in the old days and the way that they still do in the more backward parts of the world today.

 As I have said elsewhere, my mother was a proto-prepper with her drawer full of items that might come in handy in an emergency, and my years in Mexico reinforced the cultural values that I inherited from her. It is not that Mexico is really down at the bottom of the international heap, but things don't work as well as they did in the Great Britain that I knew, so supplies did not always get through due to basic national incompetence. The fact that Great Britain now does not work as well as it did, and has adopted some of the traits of national incompetence that were formerly only found in the third world only serves to encourage me to keep a full larder well stocked with non-perishable foodstuffs.

I stocked my emergency pantry by buying an extra can or two of everything that was on my weekly shopping list, anyway. I reasoned that if I don't like eating something on a day to day basis I was hardly going to become a fan because by being forced to eat it if normal supplies became interrupted. So buying things especially for the stockpile makes no sense to me.

The cans of baby potatoes that I keep in storage are the main exception to that rule. Being the good Northerner that I am, no meal is complete without spuds on the plate, but since fresh potatoes cannot be kept long term I did stock up on the canned variety just to keep in. I use mashed potatoes a lot, so packets of instant mash were bought on the same basis as the canned goods when it came to the initial stocking of the emergency 30-day pantry.

Bread is another item that just cannot be stored for long, unless it is kept in a freezer. For a man living alone like me that is less of a problem than it is for a family, since a housewife will obviously need every inch of freezer space available for other things. That being the case a stock of good bread flour and packets of yeast might be kept in the kitchen. Alternatively, ready made mixes can be bought and kept in the emergency pantry.

Many preppers keep powdered milk in their emergency stockpile, but I don't. In fact, there is no milk at all in that pantry because what I use on a day to day basis is UHT milk which comes in a carton that lasts for months without refrigeration. I buy two or even three boxes of the milk and use it as part of my normal life. When I am down to the last box of 12 cartons, I go and buy another one or two boxes. That policy has nothing to do with being prepared for emergencies, and everything to do with being the way I am. I have always liked to have on hand a large stock of the items that I use every day and then I go through them until the stock is reduced by about half and then more is bought. For the life of me, I will never understand the people who only buy a small box of about 40 teabags when giant ones of 360 are available.

You should remember that you will almost certainly have fresh foods in your refrigerator, and probably quite a few cans and fresh vegetables in your normal pantry. Obviously, when word reaches you of the looming crisis you will go to your local supermarket and buy in extra supplies, and if you are reading this piece then you are probably the type of person who keeps an eye on both the news and the weather reports, so you should be able to buy extra supplies before most people wake up to the fact that supplies are about to be disrupted.

Thus, you will actually have far more than a basic thirty-day ration in your house on the day that the storm breaks or the zombies arrive.

So relax and stock up now with sensible amounts of canned foods and you will be fine for most emergencies.

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