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9 Food Storage Lessons Learned from WWI

Store More Than You Expect to Need and Do It Now

You cannot always predict when you will need food storage, so it is best to always be prepared. Even with WWI raging in Europe and ample warnings, many people in the United States were caught without adequate food when scarcity came to the US. Many people did not anticipate the effect that a war elsewhere could have on their local economy. The best time to get prepared is long before you need it, when supplies are available and reasonably priced.

Many things can happen to increase your need for stored food. Shortages can go on longer than planned, foods may be accidentally spoiled, your family may grow, or you may have miscalculated your resources. Don’t be caught short.

Store Plenty of Wheat and Grains

Wheat is an important food supply during wartime. It is easily stored and shippedwithout any special requirements, making it a valuable resource for shipping to areas with food shortages. It’s ability to store long-term without refrigeration allows it to be easily carried as troops and refugees move.  Government publications from the WWI era indicate that wheat was considered as important as bullets to the war effort.

Unfortunately, poor crops and a lack of labor as field workers left for war meant that wheat production was down at a time when it was needed most. Shortages, both at home and abroad, meant doing without or eating alternative grains such as cornmeal, oatmeal, rye, buckwheat, barley and rice, which rose in price accordingly.

Grains are just as important to our food storage now as they were then. Stored wheat and other grains keep extremely well and are the backbone of a wartime diet. Families with stored grains will be much better prepared for rationing, shortages, and other situations that may occur. Don’t forget to store extra, if needed, for use as animal feed.

Meat Shortages Are To Be Expected

Meat shortages increase during wartime, but can also happen in response to grain shortages, drought, disease, transportation problems, monetary problems, and any number of unpredictable situations. Having a storage solution for meat and meat substitutes can make a big difference in your family’s available protein during a shortage.

Having your own livestock is important to maintaining your supply for the long-term. For example, families with a few hens have an almost endless supply of eggs, which supply a valuable portion of the required daily protein.

But, the big lesson from WWI and WWII was that you shouldn’t rely only on livestock for your long-term protein requirements.  Invading armies usually confiscate or destroy livestock and other animals. Home governments ration meat, with even farmers having short supplies. Allies and enemies alike know that meat is important to morale and survival. Having a stored, and well hidden, supply of meat and/or meat substitutes can make a big difference in the health and happiness of your family during wartime.

Store More Fats

World War I taught us the importance of fat in the diet and on the appetite. Shortages were extreme, especially in Europe, and the lack of fat affects almost all recipes in every food category. Fats are an important category for your food storage, and one often overlooked.

Fats add a lot of flavor and energy to your food, but they also serve an important role in cooking. Without fat, our cooking methods for many foods are severely limited. Another reason to store fats is their concentrated energy. While that may mean unwanted pounds in today’s sedentary lifestyle, it can be vitally important when physical labor is required and survival means hard work from dawn to dusk.

The lessons for today are to avoid wasting this precious food, stock as much as you can use before they go rancid, use your supplies and rotate them, and learn to use animal fats. Many preppers are learning to render lard and tallow from saved animal fats, a valuable skill at any time.

Sugar and Salt are Important for Storing Foods of Abundance

It is easier to do without sugar than most other foods, and sugar contributes very little nutrition to the diet. Since many people are actively trying to reduce their sugar and salt today, they may not consider them important food storage items. However, in a scarcity situation, it is important to preserve every bit of food available. Sugar and salt are important ingredients to making jellies, jam, pickles and sauerkraut, and preserving meats and fish. With a stored supply of salt and sugar, foods can be preserved during times of abundance for later use.

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are important nutritionally, but, as a locally grown product, they become even more important when other foods are scarce. During WW1 and WW2, nearly every family had a garden and grew their own vegetables. These foods helped supply nutrition, bulk, and variety to the family diet.

Casual gardeners found that there is a learning curve to growing your own food, and that the best gardeners have years of practice. Gain this skill before you need it, and learn to preserve your produce for year-round use.

The Importance of Storing Seeds

One of the great lessons of WWI for preppers and gardeners is to store plenty of seeds. When fields are bombed, burned or otherwise destroyed by war, seeds become scarce. Having an abundant supply of seeds, especially heritage varieties that will produce seeds for subsequent crops, can be a lifesaver for your family and your community.

Store Potatoes

Potatoes have been blamed for many an extra pound on the body, but the truth is that they are a nutritious food that is easily stored for many years. Fresh, they will keep a family fed over winter when few other crops are available and then yield seed potatoes for the next year’s planting. But their real value during wartime is as a dried, storable product.

The dried weight of a potato is only about 20 percent of its fresh weight, making it lightweight for easy carrying. During WWI, dried potatoes were shipped to the troops and to the starving populations of Europe, making them scarce and expensive at home. Store a plentiful supply of nutritious dried potatoes.

Sauce and Spice Makes Everything Nice

Sauces and Spices are another important category that is often overlooked. While they may not contribute much nutrition on their own, they contribute greatly to the palatability of many foods. Leftovers, unfamiliar foods, and otherwise unappetizing foods can be greatly improved with a few seasonings or a good gravy.

Prevent Food Waste

Preventing food waste begins with careful shopping. Buy food with thought and care, planning ahead how each bite will be eaten, and cook it with care. During WWI, cooks were instructed to cook less for each meal, so that every bite was eaten, and diners were encouraged to eat less. Any leftovers were served again at the next meal until completely consumed. Spoiled food was a terrible waste and considered unpatriotic.

In these times of plenty, we have become wasteful, discarding over one third of the edible food produced. Simply cutting down on food waste would allow us to store more for future use and save money for other needed items.

Your Stored Food is a Vital Asset

Any number of things could happen to drastically reduce or completely cut off your family’s food supply. In a wartime situation, the danger is much greater and hardship is to be expected. If we listen to the lessons of history, we know that being prepared is the best thing you can do to protect your family. The time to stock up is now while supplies are plentiful.

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