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Reflecting on nutrition, food storage, and hard economic times

By Robyn Openshaw, MSW | Oct 17, 2008

What a year this has been.   The much-predicted failure of  American investment banking  has come to pass,  our nation’s net worth has plummeted precipitously, and we’ve started into what promises to be a long recession.   I just came across this quote by a wise man named Joseph Smith, from 175 years ago:

“Our nation, which possesses greater resources than any other, is rent, from center to circumference, with party strife, political intrigues, and sectional interest; our counselors are panic stricken, our legislators are astonished, and our senators are confounded, our merchants are paralyzed, our tradesmen are disheartened, our mechanics out of employ, our farmers distressed, and our poor crying for bread, our banks are broken, our credit ruined, and our states overwhelmed in debt, yet we are, and have been in peace.”

So, many other times in even the comparatively short history of the U.S., we have found ourselves in perilous times.   The more things change, the more they stay the same, right?

But we need not fear because we can do simple, inexpensive things to prepare.   People of the dominant religion where I live (Utah) are counselled to store a year’s supply of food.   Yet no matter how long this counsel is given, and how urgently, at any given time, only 15 percent of LDS (Mormon) people actually have a year’s supply.   At the moment, church leaders are pleading with the people to get a three-month supply in place in the immediate future.

This is a smart thing to do for anyone, not just LDS people.   You have observed how sensitive supply and demand is, for food.   (I mentioned in a blog comment recently that I cannot buy canning jars anywhere, because Kerr and Ball cannot keep up with the demand nationally.   You have seen the price of rice increase 250 percent.)   That’s all I’m going to say about that, because I frankly hate scare tactics.   (Love Mike Adams “The Health Ranger,” hate all the fear-mongering in his newsletters.)

Victoria Boutenko says she calculated once that her family of four could live for a year on one 50-lb. bag of wheat, by sprouting it.   I don’t know how that’s possible, unless she is calculating nutrients rather than caloric needs–but anyway, she said that.   The LDS Church has a calculator at, and one person needs 200 lbs. of grain per year.   (Of course,  50 lbs.  of sprouted grain has in some cases as much nutrition, plus lots of live enzymes, that 200 lbs. of dry grain does!)

Thus, my family of six has stored 1,200 lbs. of grain: wheat, quinoa, rye, rolled oats and oat groats, popcorn, Kamut, and spelt.   That may sound like an obscene quantity, but when you add it up, people eat a lot of food!   We also store 400 lbs. of legumes (lentils, split peas, beans) and lots of other items like coconut oil, olive oil, agave, honey, and sea salt.   I do more than that, but if all the rest will be overwhelming to you for now, just start with a three-month supply of those basics.   When you’ve got those inexpensive bases covered, consider storing bottles of VitaMineral Green for your greens; cans of Ultimate Meal for easy, optimal nutrition; nuts and seeds (frozen in Ziplocs where possible); and spices, herbs, and condiments.

The point is, when your food storage is a bunch of white flour, white sugar, canned powdered milk, canned turkey, and macaroni (the staples of most Mormon one-year supplies), you might not end up hungry, but you’re going to end up sick.

Store whole grains, and know how to use them.   What I am teaching you in Step 9 isn’t just for good nutrition–it’s for good emergency preparedness!   When you know how to sprout as I teach in Step 7, you have the invaluable skill to use dry, long-term storage foods (like any grain) and make it live food that will keep your family healthy–not just alive.

My European immigrant ancestors came across the plains from the East Coast to Utah, with handcarts, and some of them were caught in winter storms.   Their nutrition was sometimes reduced, in the winter, to small rations of cornmeal fried in lard, day after day.   Some of them died of starvation, as well as exposure.   Some became ill with typhoid, malaria, scurvy, and smallpox.

We have the ability to spend very little but have the peace of mind to be prepared well, by storing whole foods.   I hope you’re getting a year’s supply of RAW ALMONDS in the current group buy–yet another way to eat well now AND buy very inexpensive insurance against emergencies.   It’s the kind of insurance that doesn’t need the backing of our virtually bankrupt federal government.   It’s the kind of insurance that pays no premiums to a huge company teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, being robbed by its executives.

Posted in: 12 Steps To Whole Food, Food Industry, Nutrition, Robyn Recommends

17 thoughts on “Reflecting on nutrition, food storage, and hard economic times”

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Robyn, thanks for all your insight and help to encourage us to store foods that will nourish our families in times of emergency and famine. Your example is a tall order for us just starting a new way of eating. But as I look at my cupboards and the recipes I am using, I find that I have most everything now that is required. I started by buying a few things at a time. Now I am trying to stock up on the staples such as the almonds. In your blog you mentioned Ultimate Meal. What is that and where can I get it? Right now, due to my husbands compromised health I add a protein powder that is given to elderly people to his hot cereal. But I am looking for something that would be better than what I am using. Please let me know. Thanks.

  2. Great post! I hadn’t started cooking with beans until we started putting a food supply together. Now I am using beans at least once a week, and we are trying to do it more often. I’m anxious to plow through my 20 pound buckets of black beans and kidney beans so I can rotate and buy more.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I found it interesting to see what Victoria Boutenko (a raw foodist) is stocking up on for the winter. This is from her October Newsletter.

    What I Stocked Up on Today

    “Victoria, do you stock any food for your family for the upcoming winter?” — question from our reader

    Victoria: I am fortunate to live in Ashland, Oregon, where we have the Ashland Co-op. Many people consider this store to be one of the best in the United States, and maybe the whole world. The fact that we the people own this store, choose the products and vote for policies makes our Co-op’s fresh produce comparable to a Farmer’s Market year-round. We the customers appoint management that we trust to purchase from environmentally responsible companies.

    Last week my family created a list of groceries for this winter, considering possible economic challenges. I intend to continue to buy fresh produce. Our main criterion was, on as little money as possible, to make sure that during the next several months we would have plenty of greens on hand at any time, as well as nutrient-dense, protein- and essential fatty acid- rich seeds, along with mineral-rich seaweed. If prices happen to go up, our full pantry will enable us to purchase less during the winter.

    Here is our list:

    Chia Seeds – 3 lbs

    Broccoli Sprouting Seeds – 1 lb

    Radish Sprouting Seeds – 2 lbs

    Alfalfa Sprouting Seeds – 2 lbs

    Fenugreek Sprouting Seeds – 2 lbs

    Lentils – 5 lbs (although not labeled for sprouting, we sprout them)

    Unhulled Sesame Seeds – 3 lbs

    Hemp Seed – 3 lbs

    Sunflower Seeds – 10 lbs

    Flax Seed – 10 lbs

    Almonds – raw, directly from the farmers – 10 lbs

    Dulse (Seaweed Flakes) – 5 lbs (I shared this order with another family, as it comes in 10 lb bags.)

    Dates – 3 cases. My friend, a Tibetan Monk, told me that monks can live for many days on six dates per person per day when they meditate all day long. When they hike all day, then they live on 5 dates per day! You figure out on your own how many dates your family needs.

    I brought my list to my Co-op and asked for their top wholesale distributors. The food buyers at the Co-op graciously shared their wholesale distributors’ contact information with me. Here they are:

    Frontier Natural Foods. 1-800-669-3275. They have just about everything available and are located in the Midwest.

    Star West. 1-800-800-4372.

    UNFI – United Natural Foods, Inc. 1-800-679-6733. Their outlets are located all across the continental U.S. and Hawaii.

    Maine Sea Coast. 1-207-565-2907. You may order any variety of seaweed from them. They are located on the East Coast.

    I always buy dates from the Date People, who live in California. You may contact them at 760-359-3211.

    You may call any of these distributors to order the best quality foods at wholesale prices.

    Based on our hiking experience, I calculated that my family of four could live on this food alone for several months, and have plenty of greens due to daily sprouting.

    I invite you to use my grocery list as an idea for your family. Keep in mind that if you combine your order with other families, it will bring the cost down even further.

    For simple sprouting instructions please see my June newsletter.

  4. Robyn,

    Thank you for sharing all that you share!

    I’m designing (on the fly, as it’s being built) my long-term food storage room. It’s just for one person, but I can’t help but wonder if I’m forgetting something vital. So far, my needs seem this simple…


    Food Dehydrator

    Freezer (to store raw vegan bulk food)

    Shelving (to store more of the same, in canning jars)

    If anyone else wants to chime in and share what their ideal food storage room would contain, please feel free to…



  5. Anonymous says:

    My ideal food storage room would also include a dry pack canner, a table to attatch it to, and a computer to help keep track of inventory (on the spot). But then I am doing what I can for a family of 13. 🙂

  6. Anonymous says:

    someone told me that i should avoid alfalfa sprouts—do you know why?

  7. http:// says:

    Karen, I’m not ignoring your question (I am saving it for a dedicated blog entry on protein powders–but since I haven’t gotten to it yet, fermented brown rice or hemp protein powders are good, whereas whey and soy are not). You can get Ultimate Meal on Amazon.

    Lala, yes, I know why you were told to avoid alfalfa sprouts. For a while, people into nutrition got themselves worked up over the miniscule amount of a “natural toxin” called canavanine, reputed to cause cancer. Some big name was saying this–I think Andrew Weil. When I dug to the bottom of this because I give my kids alfalfa sprouts every day, I learned that not only is canavanine NOT carcinogenic, you’d have to eat platefuls every day for it to have any POTENTIAL of doing any damage. It’s a good food, and I’ve fed it to my kids every day of their lives, almost, for about 14 years.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I have a question regarding the raw almonds, how much and how to store. For a family of three, how many pounds of almonds would you use per month (for use and food storage)? My second question is how is the best and better way to store them? I do not have a deep freeze, which I am guessing is the ideal way to store. What are the other options for storing? My last question (right now) is how long do almonds last? Thanks for sharing your knowledge.


  9. Anonymous says:

    Hi Robyn!

    Can you tell me when you may be doing this particular group buy again?

  10. http:// says:

    Jennifer, your almonds, being very fresh just out of the trees, should last at LEAST a year in the pantry. (Yes, put as many in the freezer as you can–they’ll last years there.) It’s hard to say how much any family would use, because it depends on how much you eat them, of course. We eat a lot of them as snacks and also in dessert recipes (coming out in Ch. 11 of 12 Steps to Whole Foods next week).

    Janelle, the group buy on almonds is open until Thursday of this week! After that, I have no idea when I’ll do it again. (Hopefully the almond growers will win their lawsuit against the FDA, but if not, I’ll try to do it at some point again in the future, maybe in one year.)


  11. Anonymous says:

    Hi Robyn!

    I think your figure of 15% is way high. I’ve read that it’s actually closer to 5%. And if you count people who are storing real food and not food-like substances, then of course, it’s much, much lower.


  12. Anonymous says:

    Just wanted to add that my husband was out of work for 7 weeks. We received no unemployment, etc and if it wasn’t for our food storage – real food storage – we would have had a very, very difficult time. I have been so grateful for oatmeal, brown rice, beans, and legumes. Locally we’ve been able to get fresh apples and walnuts as well. And a good friend gave us four huge pumpkins. We also got raw honey for a very good price.

    Food storage doesn’t have to cost a lot if you store real food and grow a garden (though my fall garden bit the dust because of very weird weather.)


  13. Anonymous says:

    anxiously awaiting the blog about protein powders—will you adress the issue of hemp seed (morally? this may be a stupid question but would it be considered against the WOfW?)

  14. http:// says:

    Ah, thank you, I will do it soon. (They’re written, just not posted yet.)

    It’s smoking hemp weed that is the problem. The seed is entirely different and eating that has NO mind-altering qualities.

  15. Great information. Not many people know about the calculator at You don’t even have to be LDS (Mormon) to use the resources on, it’s for the benefit of the whole world. Thanks for mentioning it so more people can become aware of it.

  16. Anonymous says:

    So what are your thoughts on canning fruits and veggies for storage? I mean, is there any nutritional value left in the food? I know freezing is better, but the power could go out in a natural disaster and it would all go bad.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Robyn and everyone else who has contributed to this post…Thank you! My husband has been having “dreams” about our food storage. I call them “nightmares”…anyway we have both lost a considerable amount of weight. Him 120 lbs and me 70 lbs and we are determined to raise our 3 kids differently so they do NOT have the struggles we have had with our weight. A huge problem we have had is trying to figure out how to get food storage we can actually use and rotate. This is great!

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