My grandparents had a well back then but they also kept cisterns with water (they had cattle to water, what if the well went dry?) and had irrigation water separate from their household supply. Triple redundancy was a good thing. Ditto for food reserves (back then your typical farm family did everything from growing their own vegetables to smoking and curing meat to making jam and preserves with the regularity of the seasons. These days many people can hardly feed themselves for a week with what they keep in their pantry.
If you are thinking "well that was back then, there is food on every corner these days" consider that boil water orders are issued quite frequently, massive winter storms can strand you at home for days on end, and something like Super Storm Sandy can wipe out every food supply source for miles around.
So now that we are clear that a disaster can happen and you may be responsible for keeping yourself fed and watered for a week or longer, the idea, when beginning to stockpile food and water, is to start small. Do you have enough extra water on hand to keep you and your family hydrated, clean, and fed for a week? A month? Six months? Do you have enough enough food (meaning ALL the food you would need so you wouldn't need to go to ANY store) on hand to feed yourself and your family for a week? A month? Six months?
If you have enough food and water on hand for an entire week, you will be miles ahead of the general population. If you have enough food and water on hand for a month you will be in very rare company. Here are some things to consider when starting your stockpile:
- Consider storage space (in the basement, in the attic, under beds, in the pantry, in the garage, etc).
- Consider storage location (extreme heat/cold, dampness, light, etc. can deteriorate your stores very quickly so locating your stockpile in a cool, dry, dark place is optimal).
- Consider how you will rotate your food (we used to try to rotate our stored food with our regular food but it was a big hassle so every four months we would use up a quarter of our stores by having a party or donating the oldest quarter of our food then restocking).
- Consider your needs (when we had a house full of kids and worked with various community service agencies that could always use donations we stocked A LOT of food. Now that there is just the two of us--and we eat out quite a bit--we store considerably less food so it won't go to waste or spoil). We still have enough to hold us over for a months-long quarantine if necessary but it won't be nearly as lavish as it used to be (think rice and beans, canned meat and peanut butter...boring but calorie dense).
- Consider your finances (you don't want to deprive yourself now just to have a garage full of food. What you want to do is pick up a hand full of extra loss leaders or a case of corn/etc when it is on a good sale and slowly add to your stores).
- Consider your specific situation (we live in a desert which means storing lots of extra water, it also means we can grow everything from sprouts to a good supply of vegetables nearly year round).
- Consider what would happen if you really were stranded at home for a month with no food or water available (in a disaster you may not have enough water or fuel to boil dried beans so canned beans may be a better option; during times when everyone in the house gets the flu at once canned soup is a lifesaver).
- Consider what you eat when you go backpacking (these are foods that are small to store, easy to carry, don't need to be refrigerated, and have a long shelf life). On the other hand, pop tarts and Twinkies fit this description but you also want to retain some semblance of health so better food choices should be made.
- Consider that the more fresh food you can get into your diet the better (preserved foods are usually loaded with salt and chemicals; eating cattails and dandelion greens should be considered)
- Don't forget comfort foods and treats. I learned this many years ago from a very tough old woman who was running a large-scale community disaster drill like her life depended on it. When she handed me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich I idly commented that she had the resources to have the event catered by the best restaurants in the city and she stated that during a disaster people don't want Chateaubriand they want comfort food, like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I ate the sandwich. Then she gave me cookies and told me people also like treats when a disaster strikes. I believed her.
Here's some ideas to get you started:
- Cases of bottled water
- A big tub of old fashioned oats
- A box of powdered milk
- A can of coffee
- Instant hot chocolate
- Granola bars
- Big jar of peanut butter
- Dried fruit (raisins, apricots, cranberries, etc)
- Cans of soup
- Cans of spaghetti sauce
- Dried pasta
- Canned meat (tuna, chicken, sardines, Spam, etc)
- Smoked/cured meat (salami, smoked salmon, etc)
- Spices (salt, pepper, garlic powder, curry, etc)
- Baking supplies (flour, sugar, salt, oil, leavener, vanilla, etc)
- Parmesan cheese
- Packaged mixes (mac and cheese, gravy mix, noodle side dishes, etc)
- Canned nuts
- Instant drink mix powders
- Beef jerky
- Candy bars
- Canned cheese
- Canned beans
- Canned tomatoes
- Canned/dried vegetables