Getting Started—the Letter C

Getting Started with Henry Clay

I am learning how to prepare in 26 bite sized lessons—one for each letter of the alphabet. I’ve covered A, and Q, so on to the letter C.

C is for “case lot sale” (it could also be for Costco). Today I’m talking about storing the kind of food my family already eats. In my opinion, the food you buy in the grocery store is probably more valuable than food that you can store forever but that isn’t part of your diet. (Don’t get me wrong, there is an important place for deep storage, and I plan to address that when I get to the letter V.)

I was about eight when the food storage bug rolled through Mormon Utah. But the thing I remember most about it (other than the crawl space packed with of two-liter pop bottles that my mom had filled with water) was the TV commercials for prepared food storage that included freeze-dried ice cream. I pestered my parents every chance I could for “astronaut” ice cream and finally got some on our big trip to the Air and Space Museum.

It was my first disappointment with food storage (but not my last—I’m thinking of you powdered milk).

Powdered milk and freeze dried ice cream are just two of my reasons for focusing this week on the wisdom of building my food storage on a foundation of regular old grocery store food. I have three more.

1. Grocery Store Food Offers a Quick Win

If you’re like me, the term food storage also conjures visions of grandma’s fruit room, complete with the musty smell of raw concrete and slightly damp 2×4 shelving. Grandma spent weeks every autumn up to her elbows in apricot goop in a kitchen made sweltering by the water constantly boiling on the stove.

Or perhaps “food storage” brings memories of buckets of wheat and shelf upon shelf of canned banana chips.

Cases of grocery store foodEither way, the idea of food storage is big and intimidating. And for those of us who are LDS, there is the voice of Brother Brigham constantly whispering, “year’s supply.” It’s just a huge amount of work.

And so I’ve never started, because what’s the point?

But if you don’t start, you don’t progress. And if you don’t progress you don’t get any wins. And if you don’t get any wins, you rapidly run out of energy and call yourself a loser and feel guilty.

But get a case of chili, and a box of mac and cheese and you’ve got yourself a visible, tangible win. And it’s not even a made up win; you really can feed your family for days with a case of chili and some mac and cheese (but they won’t like it).

2. Grocery Food can be Processed by Your Body (and Your kids)

If you have 500 pounds of hard red wheat but your body is not accustomed to eating whole grains, you might find that those calories are uncomfortable and not very useful. (It’s even worse if you are counting on beans to get you through a crisis but you don’t regularly eat beans.)

And don’t think that you can give your kids unfamiliar foods and, “they’ll eat them if they are hungry enough.” I had a missionary companion who refused to eat rice on our tropical island. Did he go hungry? Yup. Did he lose weight? You better believe it.  Was he eventually transferred? Of course. Did he ever eat rice? No.

Kids can be surprisingly stubborn no matter how hungry they get. So having a good supply of grocery store foods is important for their health and your sanity.

3. Grocery Store Food is not Weird

The emergency you are most likely to face is probably around a loss of income, not a natural disaster or the end of the world. In other words, life will continue as normal except for your financial or health difficulties.

If you are already struggling with a loss of confidence and trying to maintain an atmosphere of normality and optimism, you really don’t want to be mixing up a batch of powdered milk for the kid’s cereal each morning (especially if you’re used to drinking whole or 2%). Freeze dried peanut butter may, in fact, be delicious, but nothing says, “times are desperate” like reconstituting peanut butter so you can put it on a 10-year old saltine cracker. Even a good old blue box of mac and cheese can signal to yourself and your family that things really aren’t hopeless. Life is not weird, and things will get back to normal if you are eating normal food.

Because grocery store food is not weird, you can use it every week, ensuring that your food storage is regularly rotated. I’ll talk more about that when we get to the letter S and storage.

Freezer Food

I written mostly here about canned and boxed food from the grocery store shelves, but let’s not forget about the freezer.

Yes, the freezer is not going to work if there is an extended power outage, but that isn’t my biggest worry (in my 25 years in Salt Lake, I’ve never experienced an outage longer than a couple of hours; YMMV).

Freezers are very good a storing the “luxury” items that help reassure us that what is happening is not all that bad. If I loose my job in April, it can be huge to be able to grill some burger patties on Memorial Day, or maybe cook up a frozen pizza at the end of a hard day.

How to Take Action on “C”


The letter C is all about getting a quick win by starting to stock up on regular grocery store food. This is generally cost effective during case lot sales or with your Costco or Sam’s Club card. You probably have a local couponing site (google “coupon” or “case lot” and your city) that will let you know when sales are happening. (And you can visit my sponsor if you would rather just pay somebody to get your supplies set up for you.)

My action for the letter C is to sit down with my family and have everyone choose one Costco food that we could buy a case of and to “start” our food storage. This was painless and inexpensive.

Quick Question for You: What grocery store food could you happily build your food storage on? (Mine is Spam!) Leave your response in the comments below.

Resources for this article: Quick shout out to Melissa Knorris and Kayla Raddigan who have put out some excellent posts on food storage.

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