That is a great question! Here's my answer to Ben, starting with a little background:
I grew up being taught to be self-reliant. “Self-reliance involves several facets of a balanced life, including (1) education, (2) health, (3) employment, (4) family home production and storage, (5) family finances, and (6) spiritual strength (said HERE)” Simple self-reliance guides found HERE.
When you can fully take care of YOURSELF first, it gives you the ability to then HELP OTHERS.
Check out the cereal and juice in THIS shopping trip, for example:
Aside from general pantry items (short-term food storage), you should stock up on long-term food storage. These are items that are vacuum sealed and will last you for years. The old-school way of doing this was to can things yourself. My mom, for example, has something like 1,500lbs of wheat canned in her garage, complete with her own wheat grinder.
If a tornado hits, what are you going to do with 1,500 lbs of wheat?!
(I'm sure that much wheat is useful somehow…)
BUT…since I'm answering this question on what WE decided to do, I'll tell you! (and it sure doesn't involve 1,500 lbs of wheat…)
However, I will say that LDS Canneries are AMAZING for canning long-term storage. You can can your own food at their facilities for super cheap, and they last for years (decades, even). We spent a few hours at a cannery and brought home boxes full of cans of slices apples, dried milk, oatmeal, juice drink mix, potato flakes, etc. Find LDS Cannery locations HERE, or order online HERE
In addition to canning some of our own things, we opted for simple, space-saving, convenient, and pretty affordable “done for you” buckets. When we bought then we were living our tiny 2-bedroom townhouse and didn't have much space for long-term food storage (and didn't have the time or patience to gather all of the items individually on our own), so they were perfect.
We bought a few 3-month supply buckets from Costco. The food is freeze-dried, so you just add water. I guess they don't taste half-bad either (not that I've tried them personally).
We also bought some 72-hr kit buckets from Costco, also on sale right now HERE.
I love these buckets also because they are water-proof, which is key for a flood situation.
There are TONS of food storage companies that are selling “gourmet food storage”. You pay an astronomical amount for better tasting food storage.
Here's our take on that… It's food storage! We're talking BARE BONES SURVIVAL, people! Why would I pay 2, 3 or 4x as much for a product to taste better, when my plan is to use it only when we are in the most dire of circumstances? I would rather have 2, 3, or 4x as much, than pay more for fancier product. And let's be honest, none of it can taste THAT phenomenal. It's all dried!
One thing about long-term food storage is water. You need a TON of water, especially with all the freeze-dried food. We have two 50-gallon water heaters in my house, so we consider that to be water storage. But we are also planning to get some big 55-gallon drums (like the one below), once we find the space.
Working it in the budget
Stocking up on the short-term storage is pretty easy; I buy extra of what's on sale and keep it in my pantry. I just make sure it fits within my budget for the week. In terms of buying bulk at Costco, see how I work that into my budget HERE.
For the buckets and bigger items, we had to plan ahead a bit. We scouted out the Costco buckets and decided that's what we wanted to do for long-term storage. When they went on sale, we decided we could spare $200 one month (coming from our Family Regular Savings), and bought whatever we could for $200. We had to wait a few more months to replenish the money into our savings, then took a little more out and bought more food storage. We didn't run out and do it all at once, we had to space it out a bit…BUT…we made it a priority and made sure we weren't spending that money on other things. We wanted a new kitchen table but decided to stock up on food storage FIRST, then we'd work on saving up for a table. You just have to set your priorities, then figure out how to make it work in your budget.
Now that we have a comfortable supply, we just keep our eyes peeled at yard sales and in the classifieds for generators, water barrels, and other tools that we might need in case of an emergency; also taking the money out of our savings to pay for it, then replenishing the money before buying more things.
So there you go!
We are no pros, and certainly don't have the supply that is ideal. BUT…we have enough food to support my family during tough times, which gives us peace of mind. I hope this gives you a few ideas on how you can start a simple stock-pile in your own home. There are TONS of food storage resources out there, so I recommend reading on to become fully educated so you can protect your family!
Thanks for asking, Ben, and happy storing!