Food and water are two essentials we absolutely cannot live without, we all know that and we labor to assure that we have as much of it as we want. The vast majority of Dubuquers have not suffered any lack of supply for these needs, and of course we hope it will always be that way, but history has proven that it's always good to be prepared.
Some people think they must buy bulk quantities of MRE's (military-styled Meals Ready to Eat), but really such food is high calorie nutrition better suited for very active soldiers in situations where cooking is not practical. It would be unhealthy for the average citizen to live for any extended time on such rations. If you are preparing for brief shortages of food, perhaps as the result of transportation interruptions, then you are better-off simply having an extended supply of the foods you eat everyday. Setting-aside a few extra cans of essentials foods after each visit to the grocery store is a good way to start storing. Drawing from that supply when cooking will assure freshness as you continue to rotate the stock.
If you are planning for the type of critical shortages associated with natural disasters and war, then consider adding to your stored stock with some inexpensive dried foods. For instance, Ramen noodles keep very well (even beyond expiration dates if needed), and can be purchased at Wal-Mart for only $0.15 per pouch. Dried beans and pasta are likewise relatively cheap and they keep well if stored properly. Dehydrated fruits also fit well into such a diet, adding vitamins an otherwise starch-heavy diet. If baking is an option then flour is good to have on hand, but it doesn't keep as well as unground wheat kernals.
The important thing is to get started, and practice drawing on those stores. When this becomes second nature then you'll begin to appreciate those generations before us who habitually kept root cellars well-stocked. read more...
Don't fall-into thinking that the food you have stored is your only hope for survival if the SHTF, learning how to supplement your stores with natural foods from the world around you can help keep your shelves from going bare. There are plants growing literally in your own lawn that can be eaten as salad or soups, including the never popular Dandelion. Take a little hike in the woods and Iowa supplies a wide variety of nuts, mushrooms, and wild plants that can be harvested, but it is important to educate yourself on which of these are safe to eat. For an example, read the document: 19 Edible Plants
Another great thing about living in Iowa is that we have no lack of wildlife. Fish are abundant all year around, and in their appropriate seasons, rabbits, squirrels, pheasants, ducks, and of course turkey & deer can all be harvested to add protein and carbs to your diet. If you're not a hunter or fisherman then maybe you should consider learning how now, the community here at PrepDBQ is a good place to meet those who can show you the ropes, the forums would be a good place to start.
Of course wild game has it's draw-backs too, a whole batch of new recipes is one thing you'll need to build. You also need to have a way to process and store any meat you won't be immediately cooking, so you'll need room in the freezer and some skills for cutting & wrapping meat. You can also can the meat in a pressure cooker, or dry it into jerkey using popular recipes for both. It may seem overwhelming at first, but again, that's where community comes into play, most hunters would welcome a little company when they butcher a deer, and you can learn a lot by watching.
Many of us grew-up in a time when most homes kept some degree of a vegetable garden, but sadly our prosperous time made it less that necessary to appreciate these skills in younger generations. Preparing a garden doesn't need to be difficult though, but don't wait till things look bleak before you put that first seed in the ground to see how things work. My own experience is that what you read and learn from friends is useful, but its best to get your hands dirty, and let yourself experience a few seasons of gardening.
These are just a few of the options available to help keep your table from going empty, and if you practice each of them a bit then they won't seem so out of place when you have to put them to use for some reason or another. Try these things, what you learn even in mistakes will be invaluable, and coupled with your skills at food storage, will become a valuable asset for supplementing your family's healthy diet, regardless if tough times come.