Jennifer had already taken the necessary precautions the night Hurricane Maria came barreling through the Caribbean. The 46-year-old stay-at-home mom, who lives on two acres of land with her husband and four children atop a mountain in Manati, Puerto Rico, was ready to make use of the filter she’d purchased for sterilizing rainwater in case the taps ran dry. And she didn’t have to worry about food, because her pantry was already stocked with two-and-a-half years’ worth: giant buckets of lentils, flour, and rice; shelves lined with mason jars of fruits and vegetables she had grown and canned herself.

Actually, the intent of the article was to help readers put together a starter cupboard of food storage items. I wanted things to be simple and uncomplicated without regard to how many mouths these items will feed for “XX” amount of time. So many online food storage calculators are way too overwhelming to deal with. Most of my readers need and want a starting point or simply a list they can go through to check against their existing food storage inventory so that they can fill in the gaps.


When speaking to preppers like Jennifer, Luther, and Nygaard, it can be hard to separate the more practical aspects of the lifestyle from the enjoyment that comes from doing things yourself instead of paying someone to do them. When I point out that running a small-scale farm and caring for two kids seems like an awful lot of work to do on top of a full-time job, Nygaard demures. “Yeah, it is. But I choose it. I choose to spend it like this because there are things that give me pleasure. I enjoy canning. I love seeing my work on the shelf. You grew that, and you canned it, and you get a source of pride from that.”
Still, as I sat at my desk one afternoon, eyeing the colorful salads my coworkers were having for lunch, I realized the absurdity of my experiment: I live in a city with 24/7 access to fresh food and work a job that affords me the privilege of eating healthfully most of the time. Even quibbling over the nutritional content of these freeze-dried meals was something of a luxury, because I wasn’t in a position where I actually needed to eat them. Then again, you never know what’s going to happen.

Freeze-dried food is nothing new. As early as the 13th century, the ancient Quechua and Aymara people of Bolivia and Peru pioneered a form of the process by exposing potatoes to the freezing temperatures of the Andes overnight, then drying them in the sun. In 1937, Nestlé used industrial technology to create the world’s first freeze-dried coffee, and in the 60s and 70s, the US military shipped freeze-dried food rations to the troops in Vietnam.
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