Food security - emergency supplies

Wiki defines food security as: the availability of food and one's access to it. 

Food security is being able to access enough food to feed yourself and your family. The lower your income, the more you're at risk of not being food secure and while you would think the higher one's income is the less likely they'd be threatened, that's not the case. If there was a food emergency, war, national disaster or weather catastrophe, the rich and the poor would suffer. The people who would have the least concern are those who produced their own food or prepared enough food to live through the disaster. No matter what group you fall into, planning for food security is an important task that we should all take seriously, particularly those of us who are homemakers, mothers, fathers or caregivers. If one of your responsibilities is to provide food for yourself and others, you need to think about this.

When thinking about your own personal food security, the first thing you have to know is how many people are you feeding on a regular basis and, if there was a food shortage in the shops for any reason, would that number of people change. None of us know whether we'll be lucky enough to never experience food shortages so you'll have to work on guesstimates and the likelihood of you having to provide for more people.  I look at it this way. We have Kerry, Sunny, Jamie, Jens and Cathy living within a 15 minute drive from us. If something happened to the food chain, I know we'd pool our resources. Don't think about food only. You also have to consider water, for drinking and personal hygiene. We are fortunate to have tanks that hold 15,000 litres of fresh rain water, but a catastrophe could happen at any time and if it happened during a dry season, we wouldn't have very much water in the tanks. So not only should you consider what would happen if disaster strikes and you're fully prepared with ample water and food, you also need to think about what happens if you're not so fully resourced when the disaster happens.

I doubt it's possible to write a guide that would suit the wide variations in lifestyle, climate and ability of the people who read here. All I can do is to write about what we do, it will be similar for many of you, and encourage you to think about your own situation and work out a plan.

We've all seen it. On trips to the supermarket to stock up, more and more food is being imported from foreign countries. When food comes from a place far away I believe there are two main problems. One, you have no idea how that food was grown and even if our laws prohibit certain practises, our laws don't apply in any other country. Two, we have no control over the food until we buy it. The supply of food could stop at any moment and for a variety of reasons such as weather problems - either drought or floods, war,  or political reasons.

Our solution to both those problems is to grow as much fresh food as we can here and get whatever else we need from local markets. Of the products that come from from further away - olive oil, salt, rice, spices etc, we keep backups. It's worthwhile to work out where all your food comes from so you have something to work with when any of your products are in short supply or stop. We can buy local beef, chicken, pork and fish. Our lamb comes from Victoria. If the supply chain was compromised, we'd stop eating lamb.

We get our milk from the local dairy, and from that milk I've taught myself to make cheese. I don't make cheese often because we have many local cheese makers, but I know how to do it if I need to. In an emergency situation, if there was a problem keeping up the supply of milk, or if the power went off and we couldn't store it, I'd make cheese. That's one of the things you need to think about too - what could you live without? We could live without lamb long-term, but not milk, therefore I've made sure that I could make cheese. We also have backups in the cupboard in the form of powdered milk, condensed milk and evaporated milk.

Today I've written about emergency food supplies. I know there are many of you who have huge food stocks in case of an emergency. I would use my stockpile as our emergency food, along with any food we had growing at that time and what was in the freezer. I tend to think of emergency food in terms of the nutrients they contain. So instead of thinking I have 50 jars of beans, I think of the food pyramid instead and make sure I have protein, carbohydrates and fats - the ingredients to make nourishing food. It's not enough to have the ingredients though, you also have to know how to cook it and you'll need somewhere to cook if the gas and electricity are out - so have means to start a fire and cook on it.

Know where you can forage for food too. In most areas there are local foods growing that are there for the picking. Here where I live avocados, macadamias and mangos are often grown in parks or along the street. I know that at certain times of the year, I can go and pick them. I know there are wild apple trees and blackberries growing on the outskirts of Armidale. I live 15 minutes away from the Pacific Ocean. We have fishing lines. These are the things you should think about in your own area - what is available for the taking? If you don't know, ask around. One day, it might save your life.

I hope this has encouraged you to think about your emergency food supplies and if you have none, to start thinking about who you need to feed and how to do it in an emergency. If an emergency doesn't happen, you can keep the food rotating by using it as you would your stockpiled food. Keep adding to it at the back and take it from the front. Later in the week I want to write about day-to-day food, about growing food to eat fresh, and how to store food to eat later.  I'd love to know what you're doing with your emergency food. Do you have any, what is it, where is it and how do you rotate it so it doesn't go off after a few years?

My thanks to Lorraine at Cool Knits for telling me about Beautiful Chickens at Samford. I contacted Kate and we'll be going to choose some new chooks tomorrow. It's very exciting. I'll take my camera. : - )


  1. Hi Rhonda,
    I'm yet to start a proper stockpile but it has been on my mind. One thing that occurred to me is that I would also need food and water for my pets - and one of my dogs is a big drinker. We do have a good firewood supply, but that wouldn't be much use in a flood. I'm thinking about getting a little camping gas burner for cooking.

    Although I have a small home and no garage for storage, I do need to think about the real possibility that there could be a need for emergency food/water. I think it's one of those things we all put off thinking about, but as we've seen over the last few years, natural disasters can and do happen.

    Have a great day,


  2. I remember in 1974 we had a house stuffed to the rafters with family as their homes were uninhabitable. Many lessons were learned in that time. I watched my mother sew each girl a "granny" dress out of curtain lining and the braids we had. Even though I was 11 it was my daily task to ensure that we bought milk, bread and flour while we could. But there was enough food on hand that no one went hungry. Some of the meals were interesting but we coped.

    Over the years I have learned that a huge supply of food is something I cannot handle efficiently or prudently. We now have enough for three months or so and even then I struggle to be organised. We would be six if there was a disaster and I think I could cope although our tank only holds 5000 litres. We would have to be tight with water use.

    1. I believe I may have been a recipient of one of those dresses :)

  3. We are well stocked here but our adult children are a concern to me. They live too far away for us to help them and they do not see the need to have food in reserve. I guess I will keep encouraging them to consider it as my hands are tied.

  4. Water and wood for cooking fire is no problem here as we live in the forest by a huge lake. The water is clean enough to drink fresh. There is no danger of floods here or draught. What would be a huge challenge is if petrol wasn't availiable as the shops are miles away. Another (very probable) challenge is getting snowed in for a few days, perhaps without power. That is something we have to consider in the winter and have enough food and dry wood, candles etc. in. I don't have room to store huge amounts of food, but having enough for a couple of weeks is impotant l feel. Keep in a good stock of flower, rice, sugar etc. And l try to keep the car as full of fuel as possible. Pam

  5. How interesting that you actually have some wild fruit and nut trees from which you can pick!

  6. You're welcome Rhonda. :)


  7. This is something I haven't really thought of much. However, my dad and I have quite a big supply of emergency food rations, that also happen to be gluten free, in case there's a big natural disaster, like an earthquake...and it should come in handy, especially if we're cut off from things like food for awhile. I know it's a little off topic, but I thought your blog post was a really good reminder :) Have a great week. Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather ;)

  8. The timing of this post couldn't be better for me Rhonda! This year I've started stockpiling, but only on things I know we use a lot, and without much thought of what meals I could make out of it. I'm now just starting out with menu planning as well, so I'm starting to see the link between keeping a stockpile containing the extra bits and pieces I might need to make full meals, as well as think about how many meals I might be able to make out of the ingredients on hand. It's like you've said many times, once you start, each part of this simple life leads to another part and so on. And with fire season just around the corner, it's definitely time to consider how we'd get by without power/food available/water etc.
    I think the knowledge you share is generations old but got cast aside in this era of having every convenience possible. Thank you for helping us all along this path.

  9. I'm one of those with a huge stockpile :) We grow everything we need here or buy from the farms around us. A lot of crops are annual, so we keep a twelve month supply plus we like another twelve months just in case we have a bad season. We dry, can and freeze (only freeze a little as we are shutting down most of our electric appliances). We do buy a few things but they aren't really needed, just wanted. I also stockpile things like yeast (frozen), cheese cultures (also frozen), bi-carb (20kg bags), lye etc. For us it's also about times when we have very little money. We are both disabled and on a fixed income, it only takes one minor problem and all our savings etc can get swallowed up as well as any incoming dollars. Our stores have saved us so many times and allowed us to rebuild our savings and stay on our feet.

  10. Your blog really made me think, I remember as a small child going to my grandmothers house & was amazed at all the food she had stockpiled. I asked my uncle & aunts about the food & they laughed saying it was because of the depression. I personally think my grandmother was a clever lady, she always had vegetables & fruit growing & would've had enough to see the family through . I've started my stockpile and will continue increase it.
    Love your posts

  11. A great post as usual, Rhonda. I always wonder what would happen if the power was off for an extended period of time. For some reason our suburb loses power for a few hours every so often and always at night and I sit there in the dark and reflect on the fact that I still haven't bought a decent lamp with a rechargeable battery as our last two died. We don't keep a lot of food in the freezer so would have to rely on what we grow and what is in the pantry. In our major rain event recently we lost most of our vegies but would still have plenty of macadamia nuts if that happened again.

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  13. What an great post, I never looked at it from this side. It makes me thinking. I started to clean my pantry right away.
    Thank you

  14. I love reading your blog and I think it's so great that you are helping to enable people to take care of themselves in an emergency.

    I also love the fact that you can go to a local park and pick from the trees. In my part of the country, I don't think there is such a thing. Very interesting.

    Another thing that I keep on hand, besides what you have listed, is a good supply of wood stick matches. When there has been loss of power in the past, that has been one of those things that you couldn't find anywhere because people bought them and hoarded them.

  15. Just stopping in to say Hi!
    In the process of cleaning out my cupboards & checking my stockpile.

    Trinidad & Tobago

  16. great post and one we all need to think about. Darlene

  17. Thankyou Rhonda, for remembering.
    We're not trained to think about food storage. The Food-Industry feeds us;
    we become dependent -like children.
    Sadly they don't want us to be healthy, because the chemical industry also wants to earn money :)
    My mother sometimes tells stories about the war - and the hunger. It was far away for us.

    But in the last years I was fed up and want to be more independent. Now I'm filling the cellar with preserved homegrown vegetables and DH moans, he likes to eat more of this FRESH.
    We also try to buy lokal!
    It's sad, that all the small shops in the small villages close down here.

    If more people realized what happens, things will change. But most of them don't.

  18. Thanks Rhonda for this post. My husband and I just finished taking a stock of what is in our stockpile and what we need to get or produce to get a year's supply. It is nice to know that in an emergency we have food for our family so we don't have to worry about hungry bellies and can take care of our emotional needs. It is so important!

  19. At present we have no garden space, but I retire next year, and then I will re-establish a garden. At present I live by the rule of 6. I keep six cans of peaches, six of pears, six of etc..... If we eat peaches tonight at supper I buy peaches the next time I shop, so there are always six of everything on the shelf. I also keep a stock of flour, oats, dry beans, rice. We have survived a blizzard (two weeks with out power), a tornado, and being unemployed and broke. Even when you are poor, you can stock a bag of rice, and dry beans, and bread flour (stored where they won't get buggy) along with some spices and a bottle of oil will keep you going for a couple of weeks.

    The problem with humans is diversity - we want strawberries in the dead of winter and ice cream on the hottest day of the year, and we'll pay a high price to get it!

  20. Preparing a stockpile requires careful planning and I'm glad you've brought up so many sources available to you. I've noticed a lot of medicinal and herbal weeds growing in my neighborhood. There are citrus and mulberry trees. No those don't produce all year, but what is available naturally around me is becoming part of my knowledge base for self-sufficiency. It's also really important, and you mentioned it once, to know that in real emergencies, usually there are power outages. Depending on a stocked freezer could become a huge disappointment. Depending on stores of packaged white flour products that are neither nutritious nor able to be cooked will be useless. And where will water come from in an emergency? Having a good stock of emergency foods has to be paired with knowledge of how to prepare that food with no corporate power and knowledge of how to provide enough water for cooking, drinking, and bathing during emergencies. In a true emergency, it may also be impossible to remain in your home. Can you take your stores of food with you? I have a small collection of recipes that provide optimum nutrition using dried meats, dry milk, dried fruits, sprouts (greens, grains, and beans), and nuts and seeds which I keep stocked. A wire screen and some jars jar or even some cheesecloth, a knife, and a baby food grinder and these foods and I can feed myself and hubby for quite some time in a true emergency as long as I can source or store some water. (Note: commercially dried beans will probably not sprout. They are dried in such a way as to prevent sprouting. You need organic beans.) Part of my self-sufficiency plan is to be prepared to have to leave my home if necessary and still be able to take care of us.

  21. We have a good food storage approach and I feel safer with it. I'm very surprised by how many people think we're ridiculous for doing this, however. People have laughed in my face as I've shown them our supplies. I hope they never have to find out how dangerous it can be to live unprepared.

  22. Rhonda, you make a great point about water. Our roads get cut before our house floods so we tend to stay in our home during a flood - also because we can save what we can before the water comes in. We move everything upstairs to our second flood. Our power stays on until it reaches our power box and then we cut it off (all our power points are raised to 1.5m). When this happens we are stuck in our house without the ability to pump water. We use buckets filled with floodwater to fill our cisterns and flush our toilets and we have saucepans, bowls etc lined up on the railings to capture the rainwater for drinking. We have also moved our hot water tank and pump upstairs so that we can pump water for the clean up as soon as it is safe to turn the power back on. We try to stock up on bottled water before a flood but you don't always know when you are going to be cut off or for how long. We do have a small tank off a shed that has not flooded before which has a tap (not powered) and we could row to it in our dinghy if we completely ran out. Generally though, when it is flooding there is tons of rainwater :) I really enjoy your posts and am always working on our stockpile. Cheers, Tanya

  23. We always have reserve here because of the unreliable payments for our work [we are subbies] we receive. As soon as finances are good I shop and shop as big as is reasonable. My mum used to do the same. I also baked when needed. As we are only two now its getting less and less. This is the first year of our larger veggie garden and we have learnt so much already. What works and what doesn't. As we are spoilt for supermarkets in this area [3 within a 3km area and only 2.5km from my home] I made it my mission not to go anymore than weekly. I only buy extras of stuff that wont spoil long term. and I noticed some readers talked about dog food supplies. Always have extra of rice and pasta for them too. Tinned veggies and fruit which is perfectly good for them. Our two dogs thrive on these if times are tight. I am aiming for a little generator soon [maybe two] as our water is comes from a pump situation [ no power no toilets or shower] and an extra tank or two as well.v We are lucky that our house has plenty of storage and we are on gas for cooking. But the little camp stoves that one reader spoke about are great and cheap too. Love your work Rhonda.

  24. I just learned how to bake no-knead bread in my cast iron Dutch oven .. that I set inside my wood heat stove. I'll use this skill in an emergency when we are without electric power.

  25. A very timely reminder Rhonda - we recently had floods and power cuts here in Tassie and it made me very aware after a dreadful summer of bushfires and a winter of gales that we need to be prepared for anything at any time. I couldn't help smiling though when I thought back to the last time I had a decent stockpile - it was leading up to NYE 1999 and I had bits stashed everywhere in case all the Y2K predictions came true. I kept finding bags of rice and tins of tuna at the back of every cupboard I opened for months.

  26. Crikey, what do you lot know about the future that the rest of the world doesn't know?? You've got me spooked with all this talk about emergency stockpiles of food. As Allison pointed out in a comment above, it would be no use having a freezer full of food if your power supply goes. I haven't got the room to store huge amounts of food and only keep enough for the coming week. Of course I've got staples in the pantry but I only keep one packet of flour, sugar, pasta, rice etc. and a dozen tins of different vegetables (mostly legumes). Unlike many of you though, there are only us two seniors - no children. Our biggest worry in the case of fire or flood would be our birds. We would have to let them go to take their chances, as we couldn't possible catch up a hundred birds and put them in containers in a hurry. Not a pleasant thought..

  27. Rhonda, thank you,you have discussed here what has been very much on my mind this past week. With the US crisis, the threat of a petrol crisis due to trucks off the road here, I have been thinking long and hard about this too. Could we survive in a crisis situation?
    Must learn to make cheese like you do - goodness knows with out cow we should have enough milk (I just need to stop the kids from drinking so much of it!). Though we have a pretty full pantry I would like to see a few more bulk bags added just in case. Our water tanks are often dry in summer too, so that is a big concern. We can't really fish here (unless we ate carp) but there are plenty of rabbits.
    Thank you for posting about this Rhonda.

  28. Hi Ronda, now that the government is back open in the US, I hope some of us took it as a lesson learned that anything (even silly politicians) could disrupt systems you were counting on. We used to have a stockpile of food and staples when the kids were living with us, now that we are retired and in a smaller rented place we have slacked off on stockpiling. Time to get back on the wagon again! A good place to start is to plan meals around your lifestyle. We like soups and casseroles so I make them and set aside some in the freezer for later meals. I will start to stockpile staples plus canned versions of the veggies and meats and beans we usually use, then if the power goes out we can eat what's in the freezer and make more from the stockpile. I agree that water is the biggest issue. We only have a small amount about 200 gallons, of rain water in rain barrels so I will try to save up some for drinking flushing and washing. Wow lots to think about!

  29. Here in the U.S. of A, we rely too much on fast food, or pre-packaged foods. We rely heavily on stocked refrigerators and freezers and in the event of a catastrophe, people rush out and get eggs, bread, and milk as if that is the only staples to get them through a certain time frame generally of about one week to two weeks. I sit back and kind of laugh to myself, because now I'm in the same category but I don't rust out to get eggs, milk, and bread. I get things like peanut butter, tuna, and canned goods. But then I think of the things I could do if only I had a garden, some canning equipment, a dairy or root cellar or even a cool dry basement. I could stock a lot more items and if the electric went out there is no way that I could eat all of that food in our freezer, not even the five of us could in two to three days. So a lot would go to waste. So now I keep thinking of how I miss all of those things I used to have and my parents and grandparents always made sure we had three meals a day and even snacks and we always had enough to last through the whole winter into the next harvest time. It's a frightening thing to know you don't have food or water to survive.


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