Answer by Melanee**
If you’ve spent a lot of time around Mormons, you’ve likely heard them talk about food storage. Maybe you’ve wondered, “Why do Mormons store food?” Is it because we are doomsdayers who believe that the end of the world is right around the corner and we’re all going to have to hunker down in our basements and survive on cans of tuna and Tang?
It’s true, food storage could be used in the event of a major global catastrophe, but that is not the only reason why prophets all through the ages have counseled us in this way. In a General Conference address given in October 2002, President Gordon B. Hinckley said:
I do not predict any impending disaster. I hope that there will not be one. But prudence should govern our lives. Everyone who owns a home recognizes the need for fire insurance. We hope and pray that there will never be a fire. Nevertheless, we pay for insurance to cover such a catastrophe, should it occur. We ought to do the same with reference to family welfare.
Church leaders have always counseled members to become self-sufficient—to be prepared to meet the challenges of life. We’ve been counseled to get out of debt and live within our means, to prepare families and neighborhoods for natural disasters (which really do occur frequently all over the world) and yes, to build a long-term supply of food storage.
Even if you’re not a Mormon, having a long-term supply of food you can eat is a good idea. Though most people haven’t experienced a natural disaster big enough for the movies, there are plenty of situations that occur every day in which food storage would be a huge asset, such as unemployment, injury, or illness. Surely no one needs to be reminded of the thousands of people today who are losing their jobs and their homes in a tumultuous economy. Families facing tough times can have an extra sense of stability and confidence if they are able to keep food on the table without appealing to others for help. President Thomas S. Monson said, “Many more people could ride out the storm-tossed waves in their economic lives if they had their… supply of food… and were debt free. Today we find that many have followed this counsel in reverse: they have at least a year’s supply of debt and are food-free.” (“That Noble Gift — Love at Home,” Church News, May 12, 2001, 7, quoted in “Family Home Storage: A New Message,” Ensign, Mar 2009, 56–60.)
Though this is not a primary motivation for most people to store food, my husband and I like to look at our food storage as something of a financial investment. When food prices are rising rapidly (as they have in recent years) the money we’ve used to buy food storage seems to generate higher returns than money we have in a high-interest savings account.
Perhaps the most important reason for storing food is that doing so will bring a sense of peace to us and our families. Members of the Church can take comfort in the fact that they have followed the counsel of those whom we sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators and that their best efforts will be magnified in times of crisis. And anyone—Mormon or not—can take comfort in knowing that no matter what challenges they face in life, they’ll never have to send their children to bed with empty stomachs.
What exactly does the term “food storage” describe?
In February of 2007, the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released the pamphlet All Is Safely Gathered In: Family Home Storage [available in numerous languages] which outlines a few basic guidelines for building a home storage supply and a financial reserve:
–Three-Month Supply: Build a small supply of foods that your family regularly eats. This food should be rotated often to ensure freshness.
–Drinking Water: Store enough drinking water for your entire family for several days to be used if your water supply should become tainted or disrupted.
–Financial Reserve: Establish a financial reserve by saving a little money each week and gradually increasing it to a reasonable amount.
–Longer-Term Supply: Where permitted by law, gradually build a supply of food with an extended shelf life that could be used to sustain life, such as wheat, white rice, and beans. This food should also be used in your regular cooking.
How do I get started:
Interested in building a home storage supply? Here are some tips for getting the cans rolling:
-Start off by taking an inventory of the food you already have. Don’t count things that you know your family will never eat. In fact, while you’re doing this, you might as well just toss those foods and make more room for your food storage.
-Determine what you would need to add to your supply in order to have enough to meet your family’s needs. Don’t forget non-food items, such as toilet paper, toothpaste, etc.
-Come up with a plan for purchasing what you need. You can budget a little money from every paycheck to be devoted to food storage. When you buy groceries, you can buy one item to be used now and an identical one for storage. When you receive money that is in addition to your regular paycheck (e.g. bonuses, gifts, government stimulus checks) use it to buy food storage. It will be a lot more useful to you in an emergency than a big-screen TV and you can still feel good about stimulating the economy.
-Buy what you’ll eat and eat what you buy. One of the most important parts of storing food is making sure that you use it and replace it often so that you don’t end up with a pantry full of wasted food.
[Editor’s Note: We’ll be sharing more food storage resources tomorrow in our Links We Like article.]
**Please note: The answers in “Ask a Mormon Woman” and (other content on this site) reflect the thoughts and perspectives of the administrators at Mormon Women. Although we strive to have our content consistent with the Church’s doctrine and teachings, we do not speak officially for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. For official information about or from the Church, please visit www.mormon.org or www.lds.org.
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Melanee, what a wonderful answer to a question I have been asked often. This article made me want to go in my pantry to revamp my shelves and fill my water storage tanks with fresh water.
We get asked that question a lot and this is the BEST answer I’ve ever seen. Thanks so much for sharing such a thorough response.
Love your article and linked to it on my blog! Thanks!!
great answer, I’ll have to remember to refer to it when I’m asked that question. And you have motivated me to update/re-evaluate my storage.
“Where permitted by law…”
Apparently some places may not allow large amounts of storage, by law. Anyone know of an example of this?
I believe that in some Asian countries and maybe some European countries, it isn’t legal to store food. I could be wrong though!
Does the LDS church have guidelines for storing non food items, i.e. soaps, paper goods, etc. like they provide for basic food storage items?
There is nothing in the official material on providentliving.org or on lds.org (at least not that I could find) about storing non-food items. That said, many LDS people do apply the principle of being prepared into keeping non-food items on hand.
I’m one of those people, so I will share my personal approach and perspective on this. I find a great deal of practical value and personal peace in adding non food items to my storage. I try to apply the same principles of building up a food supply (aiming for at least a three-month supply on most things, and trying to store what we use and might need if we didn’t have access to a store or money to purchase items). I include first aid supplies, including over-the-counter medicines for various illnesses, for example. (That comes in handy for the inevitable illness of a child in the middle of the night!)
I have gotten to the point where I know what we use and need, and I keep my eye out for sales and coupons. I think overall, I save money because I go to the store less, buy on sale, and save time and energy by not having as many of those urgent, “Oh, no! I’m out of _________” shopping trips.
You can build gradually. Maybe start by keeping track for a week or two of how much of these things you use (soap, shampoo, toilet paper, etc.) As you do this with different items, you can start to get a feel for how much of each item you need. And along the way, you can watch for sales. Or build your supply one item at a time, or budget a little each month to add a few extras of these things — the same types of approaches that can be used for gradually building up a food supply can be used for nonfood items. Find what works for you, your needs, your budget, and your personality.
I also like to store things like paper plates and plastic utensils…thinking about times when water access might be limited or cut off. It’s also nice to have for times when I’m sick or life is crazy or we have company over and want to do something quick and easy without lots of dishes.
So, the short answer to your question is no, the Church doesn’t have any guidelines for nonfood items. The focus is on food, water, and emergency funds for the sustaining of life. But I personally think the principles of preparedness can be applied to also including nonfood items if that is something you feel you want to do.
I hope this helps. Feel free to follow up with another question if it doesn’t! 🙂
Above where it says, long term supply, Where permitted by law, can the person who wrote the artical or someone who has proper information on this, please let me know in what situation or where is it illegal to have a long term supply of food stored, and why?
Sorry about the second message, does anyone know a good book on keeping a food store?, I could not find any on Amazon, also I am looking for a book on vacuum packing food, I would like a book like this to know shelf life’s, info on types of packers, foods to vacuum pack etc.. This book I could also not find on Amazon.
I think it’s best to ask your local government agencies about any legal limitations to storing food.
As to resources about vacuum packing…. If you are close to an LDS cannery, sometimes they provide access to vacuum sealers (using mylar bags and/or #10 cans, depending on location). See, for example, this site that talks about that. You can also purchase such sealers (for the mylar bags) and other supplies at the LDS Distribution site.
There is plenty of information about vacuum sealing online. I’d suggest doing a search on that topic. I did a quick search, for example, and found some information here and here. (BTW, we at MW have no affiliation with either of those two sites…they were just examples of what showed up when I searched. You could probably find some that are better, but rest assured that you will find something. 🙂 )
For info on storage life of long-term storage, see this article, which states that many dry foods (wheat, rice, etc.), when packaged and stored correctly, can last up to 30 years. You can also look for other shelf life information by searching on the internet, too.
One thing that is important to note is that you shouldn’t store anything long-term that has a moisture content of more than 10%…be sure you study up on the food safety issues like that.
(Please bear in mind that you are getting just the thoughts of one person, so take it for what it’s worth. There are other LDS sites out there that specialize in food storage — I’d recommend looking for some of those.)
In some localities it’s illegal to keep more than a few hours of food. This is for your own safety of course. You should call the government and report how much you have stored so they are aware of it. I think they want you to wait for them to bring water and food vs your using the Stored food yourself. In the event of a natural disaster I will probably throw all my food out and wait for the government to arrive.
You are right that there may be local government restrictions. This is something the Church recognizes, and so it’s definitely something people should consider and know about.
Because I’m where it isn’t illegal, I would choose differently than you. I don’t want to have to be reliant on the government if I don’t have to be. But we all do what we can do and what makes sense in our particular circumstances.
Utah laws encourage long term food supply
Just how one store a year’s worth of food in an low fixed income housing unit that is only 600 square feet?
lroy, Thanks for your question. Leaders over the years have talked about doing what we can, based on where we live, our circumstances, etc.
If you have limited budget and space, try building at least 3 days’ supply, and build up to a week supply, a little at a time, with an extra can of food here or a box of food there. You can also get creative about creating more storage space, such as putting a bed on risers or cinder blocks.
Just do what you can and prayerfully ask God for guidance about what makes sense in your situation. There are a lot of resources online for doing food storage on a budget and with limited space. We encourage you to do some research and see what ideas might resonate. God can help you take a baby step at a time. Even asking a question is a good baby step, so thanks again for your question.