The COVID-19 pandemic is a unique emergency. Grocery stores are still open, but we’ve been cautioned to limit our visits. And sometimes, due to panic-buying or supply-chain bottlenecks, stores are out of the supplies we need.
Our prophets have always counseled us to practice principles of self-reliance, which includes having a food storage. In 2007, the First Presidency published an official pamphlet that read: “We encourage Church members worldwide to prepare for adversity in life by having a basic supply of food and water and some money in savings” (All Is Safely Gathered In: Family Home Storage). Yet it can be hard to build up food storage as a young adult. You might move a lot (especially if you’re in school), you might not have a lot of extra storage space, and money is likely tight. The last thing you want to spend money on is food you will throw away in two years when you realize it has gone bad.
I understand. For the first seven years of living on my own as a young adult, my food storage consisted of a few cans of chili and a few bags of dried pasta. Then in January of 2019, I moved to a new state with my husband and baby just a few weeks before a blizzard and dangerously low temperatures kept everyone in our town housebound.
I was still working to get our pantry and fridge restocked after the move, and we had no food storage to fall back on. Luckily, the crisis only lasted a few days and we had enough food to get through it, but the experience scared me. I resolved to finally take prophetic counsel on food storage to heart, and I spent the next year slowly building up a small supply.
Since then, food storage has blessed my family in both small emergencies (like a delayed Saturday-night flight that left no time to shop before Sunday) and now a big emergency (the COVID-19 pandemic). We never know what other emergencies might come up, but now is a great time to start taking your emergency preparations seriously. (And if we gather our supplies gradually, there will be enough for everyone.) If you are ready to start building your food storage, here are a few simple tips to get started:
Start by writing down your ten most-common dinner meals, three lunches, and three breakfasts. Put the shelf-stable ingredients of those meals in a single list. Then choose one item from the list to buy when you do your weekly grocery shopping. If it’s an expensive grocery week, buy just one of that item. If you have room in your budget, buy a few. Buying things you know you’ll eat feels a lot better than buying something you see in your parents’ food storage but have no idea how to actually use in a recipe (looking at you, dried lentils!).
Add a few non-food items to your list—things like medication, vitamins, toiletries, batteries, etc. When you are just starting out, it can feel overwhelming to think of everything you could possibly need in a disaster. So just a pick a few things to start with, and add more items as you go.
Keep your food storage separate from the rest of your pantry items so you don’t get them mixed up. Before you put an item in food storage, write down its expiration date on a list tacked inside your storage cupboard or closet (or under your dorm-room bed). Then you can keep track of what you have and easily check what needs to be used up.
When you do use something from your food storage, replace it the next time you shop (and don’t count the replacement as your food storage item for the week). This way, your storage continues to build.
Take it with you. As young adults, we tend to move frequently, and hauling perishable food seems like a waste of precious moving-truck space. But remember that you’ve spent valuable time and money building your food storage. So check your expiration list, eat or give away the things that are expiring soon (and make a note to replace them when you reach your destination), and pack the rest to take with you.
In Doctrine and Covenants 38:30, the Lord says, “If ye are prepared ye shall not fear.” I’ve seen that blessing in my life over this past year. Having food storage—even a small amount—has helped me face challenges with a lot less fear and a lot more peace and security. I believe that God wants us to prepare temporally and spiritually for the trials in our lives so that we’ll be able to move forward in faith. So start preparing today.