Do you ever watch those programs on television about extreme couponers? I am not much of a TV-watcher, but I’ve seen a couple of these. It is astonishing to watch people load up a heaping grocery cart, then give the cashier a thick wad of coupons and walk out of the store paying $3.11 for everything.
I imagine you could build an enormous stockpile of goods this way, but is it really the best way to build a preparedness supply?
Bargain Stockpiling vs. Emergency Food Storage
I get the greatest ideas from my readers. I am very grateful never to be short of subjects to write about because of your wonderful questions and suggestions. A while back, I received this in my inbox from Karen:
Stockpiling is based on the principle that if you buy large quantities at
rock bottom prices you will build a stockpile and essentially “shop at home”
to avoid ever paying full price due to running out of something.
The downside is that people stockpile a lot of non-food items that aren’t
really useful in a disaster. And shelf-stable items that are only stable for
about a year. And also items that require perishable food to make, such as
You are the expert on food storage for emergency. It needs to be mostly
food, and be stable for 5-30 years, roughly.
My concern is the proliferation of these eye-catching stockpiles on the
Internet and Pinterest in particular. Could you imagine a new person confusing
a stockpile with emergency food storage?
Karen is absolutely right in her assessment.
While couponing, price matching, and comparison shopping are valuable tools that can help you acquire needed items inexpensively, don’t be fooled. There is a huge difference between bargain stockpiling and emergency food storage.
So What is the Difference?
The major difference between a bargain stockpile and an emergency food supply is the purpose. Let us take a closer look at each type of supply.
A Bargain Stockpile
A bargain stockpile is a collection of items purchased at the lowest possible price, often pennies on the dollar. While these items can be very useful and a boon to your budget, they can also sit there unused because they are simply not foods you would want to eat, or, as a standalone item, need additional ingredients to make a complete meal.
Have you ever gone into the kitchen to make dinner and found that although there is plenty to eat, you don’t have the right ingredients to make anything you normally prepare? Maybe you don’t have the meat that you’d prefer to cook with the vegetables you have on hand. Maybe you are missing a vital ingredient for your famous beef stroganoff. Perhaps you are thinking of cooking up a big pot of chili, but you used the last of the seasoning with the last batch.
Often a bargain stockpile is exactly like that. You have only part of what you need to create a meal. This necessitates a trip to the store, which is not going to happen in the event of an emergency.
Another concern with the bargain stockpile is that it often consists of unhealthy, highly processed foods. You don’t get coupons for healthy unadulterated items too often. You get coupons for Pop-Tarts, macaroni and cheese in cardboard boxes, just-add-meat meals that are loaded with MSG, or boxes of sugar-laden cereal. These are hardly the foods you want to fuel you through an emergency.
And finally, these foods, although they are considered shelf stable, don’t have a long shelf life, at least not by prepper standards. Particularly if they are left in their original packaging, you cannot expect to get more than a year out of most items. Many deeply discounted items are already precariously close to their “Best By” dates.
That is not to say the “best buy” dates are equivalent to “time to throw out dates”, but many packaged and processed foods are not impervious to moisture and humidity and will suffer degradation over a short period of time. (You can read more about food expiration dates in What You Need to Know About Eating Expired Food.)
Even though you can probably still consume stockpiled packaged foods past the date, you won’t be able to stash these items away for years. Although I am just guessing, I imagine that there could be a fair bit of waste from expired food from some of those bargain stockpiles that look like Wal-Mart is using a corner of the basement for overflow storage.
On the bright side, a bargain stockpile can come in very handy for items that don’t expire. Things like band-aids, lotion, soap, laundry supplies, cleaning supplies, toilet paper, and toothpaste, for example, can be stacked to the rafters and used for years to come.
Emergency Food Supply
An emergency food supply is made up of items that have been specifically chosen for qualities like longevity, nutrition, and ease of cooking without a power supply.
More attention is paid to nutrition in an emergency food supply. Preppers are careful to ensure that they have an adequate balance of bioavailable nutrients, such a protein sources, fruits and vegetables, and carbohydrates. This helps meet the needs of a hard-working family during an emergency.
An emergency food supply can stand on its own, without the need to add fresh foods to make the meal tasty and balanced. In an emergency, you won’t be able to pick up a pound of ground beef to go into your Hamburger Helper, nor will you have the makings of a salad in the crisper drawer.
Finally, an emergency food supply takes into consideration the limitations of an emergency. You may not have power, so many of the foods in an emergency supply only require the addition of boiling water. While things like beans and rice are stocked, it’s understood that these foods may not be usable in every situation because of their lengthy cooking times.
Items you might find in an emergency food supply are canned goods, freeze-dried meals, whole grains, and dehydrated fruits and vegetables.
You Need a Plan to Build an Emergency Food Supply
Clearly, if your intention is to get prepared, you need to be focusing on an emergency food supply. Every situation is different. Before you begin building your supply, consider the following questions:
How will you cook in an emergency?Do you have a good back-up water supply for an emergency?How much space can you dedicate to your supply?Do you have any special climate concerns for food storage? (For example, is your climate damp? Extremely hot or extremely cold? All of these affect what type of storage will work best for you.)How many people are you preparing for?Do any family members have special dietary restrictions?
Once you have determined the answers to these questions, you are ready to start building your supply. Focus on these qualities when building your emergency food supply.
Quality of nutrients – get the very best quality of food you can afford, instead of the GMO, sugar-and-chemical laden, cheapo offeringsEase of cookingLongevity on the shelf – I really like number 10 cans and Mylar packed in bucketsCompact food – freeze dried food takes up far less space than canned goods, and is light and easily portableAmount of water you will have available – freeze dried food uses tons of water, whereas canned food often contains extra water to help keep you hydratedDietary restrictions – you may need to avoid things like gluten, lactose, peanuts, or other allergens. An emergency is no time to risk a bad reaction to foodStorage requirements – take the time to pack your food away carefully, defending against the enemies of food storage.
Of course, this is just brushing the surface. There is a lot more to building a food supply, so if you would like more detailed information about building an emergency food supply, you can find it HERE.
The Final Word
While both bargain stockpiling and emergency food supplies have their places in preparedness, don’t rely on only bargain stockpiling to prep for an emergency. Nearly everyone has a limit to how much they can store. Do not waste your precious space on things that will be useless in the face of disaster.
With careful planning, you can work bargains into your well-thought out supply, but don’t buy things you don’t need, just because they are cheap.