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How To NOT Starve During a Disaster or Major Emergency

by Victoria Gazeley

Modern Homesteading emergency food preparedness.

How many times have you said this to yourself: “I ‘ve got to get that emergency kit together – but I’ve got time… I’ll do it later“.  NF558VFMMUBR

Truth is, that’s what most of us do, put off building an emergency kit until tomorrow.  Or next year.  Because really, what’s the chance of something big like an earthquake, fire, flood, hurricane or man-made disaster actually happening, anyway?

Honestly?  It’s higher than you think.

With the wild climate shifts, rapidly transforming economy and dangerous geopolitics currently gripping the planet, it’s more likely than ever that you’ll experience an event that could put the safety and health of your family at risk.  In the last 10 years, we’ve been witness to a growing number of massive tragedies: Hurricane Katrina, the Indian Ocean tsunami, the fires in Russia, volcanic eruptions, crop failures due to drought or its opposite, massive labour strikes, terrorist attacks or fear of attacks, flooding and sinkholes and escaped genetically modified organisms, and…  Whew!  It’s amazing we’re all still functioning!

Now, I’m no fear monger. Quite the opposite, actually. I believe that the better prepared we are for any calamity, without dwelling on it or getting all bogged down in fear (which I don’t recommend), the more peacefully we can go about our daily lives. I also believe that humanity is smack in the middle of a staggering breakthrough in ingenuity, understanding, communication and community.  And it’s this latter point that I think will allow us to thrive during any event that might have put us in danger in previous, less ascended times.  Disasters have a way of pulling people together, especially if the people are prepared.

So how do you prepare for something like this without retreating from the world and living in a bunker?


Asking for help.

Rallying your troops and working together.

And having some fun doing it.

“Women Will Come with Food and Take Your Guns”

My rural living mentor Robin Wheeler wrote a fabulous little manual for thriving through big events like those mentioned above, as it relates to staying fed and watered.  Food Security for the Faint of Heart” is a brilliant little book, all of 166 pages plus the index, chock full of step-by-step instructions showing how you can set yourself up to not just survive, but thrive should your food, medical and other services be cut off for any length of time.  And it doesn’t just apply to natural disasters.  In our neck of the woods, a ferry strike could easily send 30,000 people scrambling in a panic.  We’ve apparently got 3 days of food in the stores here, and that’s it.  Three days!

In response to this, Robin wrote:

“Several community members have reminded me that if I put up food for the winter, ‘Men will come with guns and take your food.’  Well! The first time I heard that, you can imagine the huff that caused in me.  Who were these poorly raised sods, that they sit on their bums, watching bad sitcoms no doubt, only to come and loot my last three jars of peach chutney when times get tough?  Who raised these people?  I wanted a word with their mothers and fathers.  And when the fourth person said this to me, right after apple butter time, well, I got into a real snit.  I decided to go find these people lurking away outside of our healthy community, and give them a piece of my mind.

They could be saving their own food, or better yet, helping others save food and taking home some of the spoils.  They could be using their great skills to make their community strong, and be part of it, and then I would have less to worry about.  Instead of being my problem, they could be someone else’s solution.  Yes, on a tiny scale, and even a large one, this could work.  I earmarked a couple of the more likely culprits and planned my next visit.  My clever friend Terry heard my rant and thought me up a slogan for my upcoming campaign.  ‘Women will Come with Food and Take Your Guns‘.  I liked it and I like the planetary shift I felt when I said it.  It sounded like a big job, but I was willing to chip away at it for a few years.  And if anyone would like to help with this project, that would be great.”

I love those paragraphs.  They show that we don’t need to live in fear, that we can be prepared for something ‘bad’ happening and maybe even have fun doing it.

The whole book is full of gems.  Here are just a tiny sampling from the table of contents:

  • The Real Thing – Earthquake!: List of Good Things to Have in an Emergency; Tiny Packets of Big Stuff; Some Like it Cold (and They’d Better, Because That’s How They’re Going to Get It!)Food Security for the Faint of Heart
  • Stockpiling: Men Will Come with Guns and Take Your Food; Stockpiling Tips
  • Storing the Garden Abundance: Simple Storage; Dehydrating; Packing in Sugar; Packing in Salt; Brining; Packing in Oil
  • Please Don’t Eat the Daisies (without a Good Dressing): The Food, it Was Just Hiding There
  • The 18 Minute Medic: Cross-Reference Guide; Resources
  • Water: Water Collection Should be Part of Our Lives; Learn to Clean Your Water; Things to Do
  • I’m Too Busy Watching Survivor to Live Through a Food Crisis: The Ten-Minute Planner
  • Working Cooperatively: Sharing Shapes and Forms; Learning from Sentient Beings
  • Pulling it All Together

It’s a fun read, and incredibly helpful in getting your household set up to thrive through any kind of emergency.  It’s not an exhaustive manual, but let’s be honest – who has the time (or patience) to read one of those anyway?  It focuses on food and water, and a little bit on medical intervention for minor injuries.  It’s not a manual for surviving in the woods or if you have to spend time in an emergency shelter if your house was swept away in a flood.  But it is an easy read – it’s fun, and the suggestions are doable for almost everyone with a bit of storage space, city or country.  My only complaint would be that there are no easy-to-use checklists that would make the information in the book that much more accessible.  But it’s a minor argument.  For everything you’ll learn, it’s worth it’s weight in gold (which is more and more every day!).

A List of Good Things to Have in an Emergency

Here’s an excerpt from a section titled A List of Good Things to Have in an Emergency, to give you an idea of what you’ll learn if you pick up your own copy of “Food Security for the Faint of Heart”.  It’s witty, fun to read, and most of all, it’s knowledge every one of us should have!

  • A cooler, in case it is winter and you can store fridge items outside.
  • Matches or a lighter, to be kept dry.
  • Lots of cooking oil.  Rotate it with your normal supply.
  • Salt and other condiments such as sesame oil, tahini, hot sauce, black bean sauce, etc.  Emergency food can be boring and you need a good appetite to locate that lost dog.
  • Heavy duty tinfoil, to accelerate stove cooking and facilitate woodstove cooking.
  • Powdered or canned milk, which will seem yucky but you may be damn glad you have it someday.
  • Lots of different kinds of dried noodles and pasta.  They cook quickly and can be augmented with a large variety of different foods.
  • Canned soups, meats and fish.
  • Peanut butter and honey, untouched.  if you need them because you ran out in the  kitchen, put them right back on your next shoping list.
  • Dried beans of any kind.  Must be pre-soaked for a half a day and rinsed.  This will save hours of cooking time, though they still take hours.  This is best for woodstoves where they can simmer in a pan while you are heating the house.  Also, best with beg jar of tomato sauce.
  • Canned nuts.  Dried nuts if rotated.
  • Dried sunflower or pumpkin seed (need dating and refreshing in your emergency kit).
  • Five minute oats and other fast hot cereals.
  • The only reason in the world to buy five-minute rice.
  • Canned tomatoes [Note from Modern Homesteading: get the BPA free variety by Eden Organic Foods]
  • If you are used to having caffeine in your body, pack some ground coffee or tea bags, or hot chocolate.
  • Bulgur wheat.  It cooks fast and you can make tabouleh-type meals.
  • Dried falafel powder.
  • Sprout seeds

This is just a tiny sample of the gems in this book.  To get access to all of it, you can pick it up at Amazon.

I can’t recommend it highly enough as a sort of ‘emergency preparedness 101‘ as it applies to the essentials required for thriving during a disaster.  If you’re looking for information on back-up power systems and that sort of thing, you’ll have to look elsewhere, but for food and water requirements, I wouldn’t be without it.  Robin knew her stuff… we miss her a lot.

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Revised on November 14, 2012

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan McKenzie November 12, 2010 at 4:04 am

Victoria, these are great tips to survive through emergencies… not all that long ago our forefathers believed in always maintaining a 6-month stash of food and cash … I found a great place to buy gourmet, healthy food for 91 cents a serving and it has a shelf-life of 15 years… a real space saver, too… I’m going to take advantage of your other tips, as well! Thanks for a great article!


Victoria Gazeley November 12, 2010 at 6:44 pm

Do tell about the gourmet 15 year life food! It would be a good idea to have some of that on hand as well, methinks… :o)


Anonymous November 12, 2010 at 2:38 pm

Victoria, thanks for the info. I remember when I lived in Washington, D.C. after 9/11 and everyone was stocking up their homes with emergency provisions, just in case….More realistically, my 80+ year old parents regularly have days-long power outages at their home every winter, which is worrying, since I live several states away. Just one question- how do you work with dried bulgur wheat, falafel powder and sprout seeds? Thanks,Lily


Victoria Gazeley November 12, 2010 at 6:43 pm

Yes, it can definitely get a bit crazy if we wait until ‘after the fact’. We had an incident in Vancouver 3 or 4 years ago where they had to issue a boiled water advisory for the entire region because of sediment in the water. And you’d think the world was coming to an end, with literal blocks-long line-ups to buy bottled water, fist fights breaking out when someone took the last case from the supermarket shelves, and more goofiness. It was so crazy, and it wasn’t even an emergency – not in the least. Boiling the water, or filtering it in a good filter, would have done the same thing (we just ran it through out filter – of course we went through a lot of filters!). Of course, being prepared is always the best option. As for the bulgur wheat and falafel powder, she throws those in because they don’t need much cooking, can be fixed up with just water, and can add a bit of variety to emergency rations, if that’s what you’re stuck eating. As for the sprout seeds, they’re for making greens when you don’t have any! Pretty ingenious, actually. We’re pretty lucky here that we can grow chard and kale, etc. throughout the year, but if you don’t have that option, or just don’t have a garden, the sprout seeds are a super idea for the emergency stash. I’ll be writing an article on sprouting in the next few weeks – fabulous way to get nutrition without a garden (or in an emergency!).


Anonymous November 12, 2010 at 10:24 pm

This is so important for people to be aware of…June through November is hurricane season here in Florida and for the most part people living inland would have a few jugs of water and maybe some batteries…until 2004 when we were hit with 3 hurricanes within a 2 month period!! Living through emergency circumstances without being prepared is NOT something we will ever do again. Take being prepared seriously. Thanks for sharing this info.
Blessings~denny hagel


Victoria Gazeley November 12, 2010 at 11:12 pm

I can imagine living somewhere with ‘regular’ extreme weather or other events would make one that much more sensitive to these things. Here we live in a massive earthquake zone that they say could let go with a 9.0 quake at any time, but most people are not even prepared a little bit, let alone well. Myself included! Which is why I wrote the article – all things I know but again, put off. I actually volunteered for years for our provincial emergency program, and at that time had water and spare clothes set aside. But living in the bush brings a whole different level of issues – some easier, some substantially more difficult. I’m off to start putting together some of the emergency kit items that we’re still missing…


Laura Bergstrome November 13, 2010 at 12:16 am

Dare I admit, this book sits in peace with my gardening/growing/food related books and I have yet to crack the spine? tsk!
I look forward to the read and preparing, one baby-step at a time.


Victoria Gazeley November 13, 2010 at 5:15 am

Hi there, Laura! It’s actually a really fun read, and practical – even if you don’t live in the country. Lots of really great information. The only thing missing is checklists, but you can find those fairly easily online. I’ve got this on the agenda for next week. Thanks for stopping by!


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