Photographer: Mike Mozart / Flickr / Creative Commons
It’s hard to quantify, but the modern prepping movement has at least, in part, been caused by the government. I am not referencing fear in the government doing something stupid that would force us into survival mode (although that is possible), but instead in promoting the idea of disaster preparedness.
FEMA’s Ready.gov website contains a host of information on how to prepare for a pending disaster, and radio commercials promote the idea, too. While not the best information in the world, it’s a good starting point for the novice prepper.
Of course, many if not most preppers don’t pay much attention to the FEMA website. Part of that could be because few of us trust the government all that much. But a much bigger part is that the government’s idea of prepping really doesn’t go far enough.
Let’s take a look at the list of Suggested Emergency Food Supplies that FEMA has on their website:
- Ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits, vegetables and a can opener
- Protein or fruit bars
- Dry cereal or granola
- Peanut butter
- Dried fruit
- Canned juices
- Non-perishable pasteurized milk
- Food for infants
- Comfort/stress foods
That’s it — a dozen things. While all of those are good choices, there’s no way that I would consider them enough. But then, I take a much different view of survival than what FEMA is promoting.
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FEMA takes the stance that you only need to be ready to take care of yourself for three days. That’s their target reaction time. At the end of the three days, FEMA supposedly will have assistance in place. There’s only one thing … FEMA has a very poor track record of meeting that goal.
So when FEMA talks about stockpiling food, they only talk about stockpiling three days of it. That’s probably where the idea of a bug-out bag only having three days of food originates. Personally, I don’t feel that three days is anywhere near enough, especially since I have no intention of ending up in a FEMA camp, waiting for the government to decide to let me go.
There were people digging in dumpsters, looking for food, six weeks after both Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy (which occurred in Republican and Democratic administrations). That doesn’t give me a whole lot of faith in FEMA’s abilities. But I’m also concerned that whatever FEMA gives out, comes with a price. The price of government meddling in our lives. That’s a much higher price than paying for my own food, to build a descent stockpile.
Let’s go back to that list for a minute. While the foods contained in it are all good choices for a survival situation, there really isn’t enough there to create actual meals, unless you stockpile canned goods that can be put together to make a meal. While that is possible, it’s not anyone’s first choice. Canned foods do provide nutrition, but they are severely lacking in flavor.
If all you’re talking about is surviving three days, that’s not really an issue. You can live on peanut butter crackers and dried fruit for three days. For that matter, you can live without it for three days, just about as well. But you can’t simply buy more of the foods mentioned on this list and expect to have a three- or six-month stockpile. You’ll have to add other foods to it. I’m not going to talk about what other foods you should stockpile, as I’ve written other articles about it. Try this article or this one for more information.
Another problem with the list is that not all of these foods will store for a prolonged period of time, without rotating your stock. While some, like canned goods will last a long time, there are other things, like breakfast cereal and crackers, which will quickly become stale and unpalatable.
FEMA also suggests that you “choose foods your family will eat.” While that may seem to make sense, most of our families aren’t going to go for a healthy diet of survival food; they’re going to want something tasty. In other words, they’re going to want the same sorts of junk food that they’re used to eating. That doesn’t work, and it’s actually totally contradictory to the list of foods they’ve put together.
I prefer to say, “Figure out how to make the foods you are going to have to stockpile for survival palatable for your family.” This requires figuring out how to take the foods that you stockpile and adapting their flavor to meet your family’s tastes. While not easy, this is actually possible. All you need is a stock of the right spices, plenty of salt and maybe a few sauces, like spaghetti sauce.
You’ll have to do some experimenting to find ways of preparing the survival foods you’re going to stockpile in ways that will be palatable to your family. Take the time to make up some recipes, and make a small batch and test it on your family. If it doesn’t work, try modifying. That usually means adding more spices to give it more flavor.
I stockpile plenty of spaghetti sauce and cream of mushroom soup, as well as the spices used in making my own spaghetti sauce, so that I can restock from tomatoes I grow in my garden.
So, yes, the FEMA list contains a few items that should be in any stockpile. Just don’t stop there.
What do you think of FEMA’s tips and list? Share your thoughts in the section below:
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