Practical Food Storage
Guest post: by ‘TripodXL’
One of the things that I notice that comes up is the cost associated with survival and in particular, food storage. I have been at it for 13 years or more and some would say that I’m a bit neurotic about it. So what? I grew up poor and while never malnourished, I have experienced childhood hunger. Now don’t wring your hands or feel sorry for me, it was a character building force for me. Also having been stuck on a “Dinner” flight (yes, they used to feed you on domestic airline flights) on a tarmac for six hours, after missing lunch, I have vowed to never experience that again. When I fly I take food, lots of food and maybe that’s an over reaction, but I won’t be hungry again in that situation. My BOB also has food and water in it and goes with me everywhere I go. Now, think about a situation where you aren’t just missing food for a few hours, but days and even weeks, what would you give then, to not be hungry? Now, some folks have high-end food storage with the best freeze-dried foods, dehydrated foods etc. all stored in cases of number 10 cans. I also have some that, that I’ve bought slowly, over the years. I have never spent $3000.00, in one fell swoop, on food storage and I think this is where the average “wannabe” prepper has the biggest part of their heartburn, and, if you think about it, what person/family has $3K per person to spend? I don’t. I have a two years supply of food available for four people (even though we are only two) and have no problems maintaining it, but it took years to get there.
The secret to getting into quality food storage for your family, and doing so as inexpensively as possible, is to used a mix of inexpensive canned goods and dry goods instead of the more expensive packages that you see online. Quite frankly the packages, while they are a deal compared to the individual prices, don’t always have what you would want and due to the costs associated with replacing them, people will not rotate them through their normal diets. Other “experts” say that you shouldn’t buy things that you don’t eat regularly. I agree with that in principle but I don’t eat canned tuna (whatever meat) or spaghetti and sauce etc. everyday or even every week. So you will have to buy things that you don’t eat truly often, yet they store well for hard times. That’s just the way it is. If someone says only store what you eat and you have a very restricted diet they are just blowing smoke up your dress. Also I think that people don’t get started on food storage because it seems so overwhelming, too much like rocket science for the planning and rotation. I think, the simpler you make things, the more people will embrace it and use it. Now, there is a caveat to this. If you think that you are going to eat three, big, well cooked, “just what you want” meals a day, you will be disappointed. Also I never understood “picky eaters”. If I didn’t want what mama had fixed, I didn’t have to eat it, but there wasn’t anything else to eat. There weren’t too many picky eaters from the depression era that my mother came from. So let’s see what you have to do for this “magic” inexpensive food storage?
If your expenses are really tight, you will have to be very disciplined in building your food storage and while not easy it will be achievable. The first thing you need to know is that this will require some space and you have to be willing to “make it work” in that respect. Second, you need some knowledge about the food itself and how it stores. Some things to consider are that fatty and sugary foods don’t last as long as other foods. Most canneries put “use by” dates on things that are VERY conservative due to potential liability from spoiled food and I’ll have more on that in bit. Dry foods will typically store for very long periods of time, if stored correctly, although there are some that won’t and you don’t want to be surprised and hungry by making the wrong choice. So, let’s try to make this just a “cookbook” for food storage.
First what are the different kinds of foods? An adult male will need a minimum of 2200 calories a day, more actually, in an austere and work centric environment. Foods are divided into fats, carbohydrates and protein. Fat has 9 calories per gram and protein and carbs have 4cals/gm. Protein is typically meat and fish but can be eggs, beans, corn, tofu and some other vegetable based proteins (Google “complete protein” for more explanation). Fats are pretty self-explanatory in that we have animal fats from dairy, meats (lard), cold-water fish, game animals, and other living sources. There are also vegetable fats in corn oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil, palm oil, avocadoes, olive oil and many other plant based sources. The most misunderstood is probably carbohydrates as green vegetables typically don’t have a lot but a few do and most highly processed foods have too many processed carbs and that is why we are so fat. Basically carbs are sugar and white, as in flour, rice, potatoes, wheat (most any grain), milk, beans, peas, carrots and most root vegetables, limas etc. All three types of food are needed for good health in a balanced diet. However carbs and fats are typically cheaper than animal based proteins, so you have to make some choices with your diet when making your food storage plan.
Animal protein is difficult to store, if not on the hoof. While some of these choices may not be to your liking you are doing this for survival in hard times and need to keep an open mind. There are canned chicken (poultry), Spam, ham, tuna, sardines, salmon, dried beef and others. I mention canned meats as this is for ease of purchase as well as storage. If you have freezer capacity then SOME of your protein could be stored that way, remembering of course that if power is an issue for hard times then you could loose it. I bought 20 canned hams in 1998 and I still have a few. I have opened one every year for the past three years (2009-2011) and have yet to have a bad one, even though they have a use by date in 2001 (Google “oldest tinned cans” for more). If the food does not smell bad and does not have a strong metallic taste (both meats and veggies) out of the can it is probably good. It should be heated thoroughly for 10 minutes before eating. You need at least three to four, 4oz. servings per week to maintain reasonable health. Again, you are surviving and this is not for optimal health. If you are working very hard every day and/or it is very cold you are burning up to 3500 calories per day. You will lose three and a half pounds a week if this lasts for any length of time. If you perceive that this is the case then you need more calories per day to prevent starvation over an extended time frame. Vegetable protein is much easier to store. Dried beans are the easiest and there is a great variety. “They’re just beans” you say. Yes but if all you have is 200 pounds of pintos, they will cause “food fatigue” in even the hardiest, non-complainers among us. Navy beans, black beans, pintos, 15/16 bean soup mix, limas, black-eyed peas, split peas etc., store as many varieties as you can. These store easily, are cheap and last for years but they require water and the ability to cook them. Canned corn with beans makes a complete protein, which is a very important dietary concern.
Fats are easier to grasp as they are easy to identify but they don’t store well in most forms. Liquid fats (Wesson, Canola, corn, olive, nut oils) are convenient and they will store for two to three years if stored in a dark cool place. They can last longer if frozen (Google “which cooking oils can be frozen”) but remember the caveat. There is an alternative but in today’s world people will gasp at the suggestion. Crisco. Yep, Crisco. It stores well in a cool dark place for a long while. I opened my last can from 1999 this past February (2011, almost 12 years) and it was fresh and clean smelling and tasting. In a hard time situation fat is a necessity. It is how you get all the calories that you need and is how the fat-soluble vitamins that you need for good health are transported into the body. A heaping tablespoon of Crisco cooked into boiled rice will add 200 plus calories to 2.5 cups of cooked rice (40 plus more per ½ cup serving) and allow you to absorb fat-soluble vitamins. The only caveat to the Crisco is that now they use aluminized fiber “cans” instead of metal cans and you must make sure you don’t get “dinked” cans as the shortening will “bleed” through the “can” and spoil.
Now, let’s talk about the carbohydrates. Beans have already been mentioned as protein but they are high in carbohydrates as well and have all the same advantages and disadvantages mentioned above. Pasta, instant potatoes and rice, store well and are cheap but still require cooking and water, so it would be considered a staple with the beans. Sugar, while not a food group is a staple and will store well and add calories to your diet. Canned root vegetables, carrots, turnips, beets and others are all high in carbs and will last a long time, require no cooking. Other vegetables should be stored as well for variety in eating.
Now having said all this, there are some people that will starve to death rather than eat something that they don’t want. So be it, adapt or die. Of course I would rather have fresh meat and vegetables with fresh baked bread and luscious deserts. This is for disaster preparedness such as what you are comfortable with in dealing with it at an intellectual level. Take one step at a time. Now let me give you some ideas on how to eat cheap in survival. This assumes that you will be stationary (bugged in) and that even with the power off you will have the ability to do some cooking and have water. You need to make preparations to deal with these conditions if they are an issue. I am not a gourmet chef but all you need to do is be creative. If you can cook rice you can make a variety of meals. A can of chicken gravy (or cream of mush., cream or celery, cream of asparagus etc.) with a can of chicken chunks and a can of mushrooms will make rice with chicken and mushrooms. Not that creative, then use a can of soup (how many different kinds are there) over the rice or potatoes. One of my favorite quickie meals is a can of NE clam chowder with a can of clams in it over rice or potatoes, how easy is that? Of course beans over rice and yes rice is pivotal in food storage. If you want to use “minute” type rice it will not store as well as plain rice and brown rice does not store well at all, due to the oil still present in it.
Yeah, everyone says to store what you eat. Well, if you don’t/can’t eat what the rest of the world eats or what stores well, then you are going to die. In a SHTF situation, there are no choices. The fact of the matter is, that beans, rice, pasta and wheat store better than anything else, that’s the facts. There are no ifs and or buts to that. If you cannot or will not eat that, then you will die. The plus to these foods is that you can order them and pack them yourself in Mylar bags and food grade buckets with O2 absorbers and they can be good for 15-20 years. Add a selection of canned goods and you are good to go for many years.
As always, evaluate your own needs and adjust accordingly. Observe prudent storage methods and as always cook stored foods for at least 10 minutes before eating to assure safety. Survive well and enjoy.