Wouldn’t it be great to find a complete list of what to store already made and ready to use? The problem, however, is that someone else’s list may plan for items and quantities that you would not use.

There are, however, a few standard basic foods that do apply to everyone when storing food. They are the basis of a healthy diet and provide a simple place to start planning. From there, you can create a menu that is tailored to your tastes and preferences using these basics. (For some ideas about menu planning, see past article "Four simple steps to planning food storage.")

For many years, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been counseled to store a year’s supply of food. Many people are beginning to see the value of being that well prepared, given the concerns of our day. You can choose how much you want to store.

What are the basic foods and suggested amounts?

The LDS Church gives the following recommendations:

Store grains: 25 pounds/person/month. Grains include oatmeal, long-grain rice, pasta, cornmeal, barley and white flour. White flour has a shorter shelf life. Many people choose to store wheat, which stores a very long time. With a grinder, you can take your time to use your stored wheat when you feel like it.

Store beans: 5 pounds/person/month. This can include other legumes like lentils and split peas.

Four big reasons for storing these basic foods

1. They are the least expensive foods to store. The cost of storing up to a year’s supply of food can add up significantly. These foods save a great deal of money when planning long-term food storage.

2. They are the most space efficient foods to store. If you are concerned about where you would put a supply of food to last a long time, these foods will take the least amount of space. Think of all the space taken up in packaging of the usual foods we eat.

3. They have a significantly longer shelf life than the usual foods we eat. Dry beans and most grains will store 30 years when packaged for long-term storage and stored in a cool, dark place. This gives you the peace of mind of knowing you have plenty of time to store and use them. (Some people choose to store some canned beans and meats. These save time and fuel, and store for around five years in a cool, dark place. See past articles "More on fast cooking dry beans" and "Consider storing canned meats.")

4. They are the most nutritious foods we can store. In fact, these are the very foods experts are pleading with us to eat today. That’s an argument for finding fast and delicious recipes to be eating what you store. It can actually be a matter of life and death. Here’s what experts are saying:

"Why care about whole grains? Because they have more fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals than refined grains. Studies have linked them to a reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, some cancers and obesity. The [current] government Dietary Guidelines recommend that at least half the grains we eat should be whole grain — at least three servings a day for most people" (Wellness News Letter, University of California Berkeley, October 2006).

The risk of many significant life-threatening health issues is reduced by simply eating whole grains!

Here’s another health concern that we don’t often hear much about. "Diverticulosis is … the formation of … small pouches in the intestinal walls … ('caused, at least in part, by a low fiber intake'). About half the population of the industrialized world develops diverticulosis after age 60. ... About 10 to 25 percent go on to develop diverticulitis, a severe disorder in which the pouches become inflamed or infected" (Wellness Newsletter, University of CA Berkeley, February 2007). We reduce the risk of this problem by eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

Additionally, the American Heart Association says, "Unrefined whole-grain foods contain fiber that can help … you feel full, which may help you manage your weight."

Concerning beans, according to a recent report issued by nutrition experts at Michigan State University, "Eating just four cups of cooked dry beans every week can help most people reduce their risk of developing heart disease. …

"The review, which examined more than 25 years of research involving dry beans and various health issues, found that beans are a powerful food to improve overall health and specifically to prevent heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States. ...

"MSU researchers also found that eating dry beans (including canned beans) can help reduce the risk and severity of other deadly health problems including obesity, diabetes and certain types of cancer" (click here to see the American Bean Board's report).

"Here’s another good reason for eating beans. Many of the pigments that make fruits and vegetables colorful are known to be powerful antioxidants that may help protect against chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer. Now food scientists have found similar healthful pigmented compounds (called flavonoids) in the coating of beans" (Wellness Newsletter, University of California Berkeley, February 2001).

So the risk of today’s serious health concerns is also reduced by eating beans.

Planning your food storage around a foundation of the basics has significant advantages when you’re storing food. Given the incredible nutrition of these foods, it hardly makes sense to store them without using them.