When the Steed family sat down to dinner Monday, their meal was a tribute not just to fine cooking and tasty ingredients but also to Cory and Holly Steed’s organizational skills.
Except for the cheese (which was cut from a larger portion that was frozen and thawed) and the milk (which could have been replaced by powdered milk in a pinch), the meal’s ingredients came from the store of provisions the family maintains as part of their emergency planning routine.
The Steeds are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and follow its recommendations to maintain a supply of food, water and other provisions for use in an emergency, an interruption of family income, or even something like a coronavirus outbreak that might keep them quarantined at home.
The church long has encouraged self-reliance among its members, says Steven Scow, a counselor to the president of the church’s Anthem Hills Stake. And while stocking up on food and emergency provisions is the most visible aspect of that, Scow says it also includes such things as pursuing an education, caring for health and keeping finances in good order.
“The more we can become temporally and spiritually self-reliant, the better we are able to take care of our families and others,” Scow says. “Food storage is one aspect of that.”
Charles Clawson, counselor to the president of the Desert Foothills Stake, says church members “are asked to live prudently, live within our means and prepare for unexpected events.”
“The thing that’s most important is, when you’re self-reliant in the middle of a crisis there’s less anxiety and far more ability to successfully navigate through that event physically, emotionally and spiritually, and that when you’re able to provide for yourself, the more naturally you’re able to turn your attention to those in need.”
“We have been counseled for many years to prepare for emergencies,” says Cory Steed, an optometrist. “This is not something brand new. I grew up with it.”
Cory and Holly Steed have been married for almost 19 years and have four children ages 9 to 15. Evidence of their self-reliance can be seen most vividly in a utility room a few steps from the kitchen that holds white food-grade buckets filled with pasta, rice and other staples, as well as jars, boxes and containers filled with food that neatly line shelves.
Holly Steed, a music educator at Somerset Academy’s Sky Pointe campus, explains that the room serves as a sort of main pantry. When something is needed, it goes into the kitchen pantry or is used outright. Bulk goods — beans, pasta, rice, other grains and foods amenable to long storage — are transferred from the large containers they’re stored in to smaller, kitchen pantry-suitable containers as needed.
Noticeable by their absence are freeze-dried meals, meals ready to eat and other foods often advertised for use in emergencies. That, Holly explains, is because the family stores primarily food they buy and use anyway. So, she says, keeping things fresh is just a matter of rotating stock.
“And not just functional (foods),” Cory adds. “We store chocolate brownie mix, just Betty Crocker off the shelf. That has a couple of years shelf life.”
“We store what we use and use what we store,” Holly says. “It’s very logical.”
“We look for case lot sales. You can get really great deals,” Cory says.
By now, keeping their supply up to date isn’t even a habit. “We don’t think about it,” Cory says. “It’s just how we live.”
Alex Isom, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, recalls that he and his wife, Heather, initially worked off of a checklist to create a supply of emergency provisions. The list called for families to “buy these items this week and these items the next week, and if you do this on a monthly basis … you’ll have three months of food storage saved up. So it was pretty simple.”
The process is “pretty unremarkable,” he adds. “It wasn’t a big deal to go to the store and buy a few extra items.
“The important thing is to know where the items are, because things expire and you’ve got to rotate them. So it’s just being cognizant of it.”
The Steeds’ northwest Las Vegas home uses the utility room as a pantry. But Holly has known LDS church members who utilize space under beds and cubbyholes around the home to store their emergency supplies.
Meanwhile, instead of bottled water, the Steeds store water in 15-gallon drums in their garage. “Fifty-gallon barrels are unmanageable,” Cory says. “Also, water (weighs) about nine pounds per gallon. Good luck moving that.”
The water comes from their well and is replaced regularly. They also have a water filter and chemical treatment options available just in case.
“We don’t have a generator yet, but we do have solar,” Cory says. If heating or cooling becomes an issue, “we have a casita out back, so it’s a lot easier to heat and cool that than the home.”
While food and provisions are immediate concerns, the family’s emergency preparedness plans also include maintaining go-bag containing 72 hours’ worth of food, supplies and clothing for each family member and updating the bags twice each year.
Being self-reliant can bring comfort in any sort of crisis, says Stephen Horsley, president of the church’s Desert Foothills Stake. Even if coronavirus were to vanish, “you never really know when the next crisis is coming, whether it’s loss of a job or loss of health insurance or a disaster. Coronavirus is just one thing that could happen in your life that people deal with.”
But, he says, “its easier to sleep at night knowing that you’ve tried to prepare for those.”
For the Steeds, emergency planning is a routine part of life, but they’re hardly obsessed doom-and-gloomers. Just the opposite.
“Being prepared gives you peace of mind,” Cory says.