10 Tips For The Survival Kitchen
Here’s a list of just some of the many tips for the survival kitchen. What is a survival kitchen? Well, it’s a phrase I coined many years ago with reference to prepping and preparedness while encompassing anything and everything to do with a kitchen.
There are a ton of topics that fall under the category of survival kitchen. In fact, I have a menu category of articles dedicated to that topic if you would like to browse..
I’ve written quite a lot about it over the years. Here’s an article that I originally published back in 2016, listing 10 hints for the survival kitchen. Seems like a good time to republish, with a few added updates.
Prepping & Preparedness Tips For The Survival Kitchen
1. Quality Foods
When choosing foods that you won’t be consuming right away, it is important to use high quality foods. This will help assure the best results over the long term. And that will result in a more nutritious and tasty meal later on.
Beware of storing foods which may be nearing their end of shelf life, best by dates, or use by dates. Even though foods typically store much longer, still, the fresher the better.
[ Read: Use-by, Best-by, Sell-by | Food Expiration Dates ]
Sometimes fresh foods are put on sale at the grocery store because they’re seemingly just hours away from ‘going bad’. This might be a good deal to make an upcoming meal, but for food storage – not so good…
Here’s an example, something I’ve mistakenly done several times (I believe I’ve finally learned though..). I’ll see steaks on sale. They look pretty good in the package. Bought several family packs, and put them in the fridge to vacuum seal later. I forget about ‘later’ (or got busy with other things). A few days later I realize I’ve got to get these vacuum sealed! I start the process, open the first family pack of steaks, only to discover the ‘aroma’ of meat that’s not in it’s prime fresh condition anymore. Dang it! You don’t want to store foods that are not high quality..
Use your best judgement. Cheap foods are often cheap for a reason. And that might mean using discretion for what you use for longer term storage in your survival kitchen pantry.
2. Good Variety of Foods
Variety is the spice of life. And that includes the foods you eat. As you fill your deep pantry, be consciously aware to procure a variety of foods. Not only a variety of foods, but also a variety of storage – such as canned, dry goods, freeze-dried, dehydrated, etc..
[ Read: DIY Long Term Food Storage ]
Think about the various categories of foods that you consume throughout a day or week. And then think about the storability of each. Try to store ahead a good variety that will store well over time. There’s the famous phrase, “Store what you eat, and eat what you store”, which is a good guideline to follow.
3. Store Foods in the Coolest Place
Foods will store well for much longer when stored in a “cool, dry, place”. This can sometimes be difficult. That is finding the stereotypical ideal ‘cool and dark’ place to store your foods. You might have already filled your kitchen shelves and cupboards, and maybe even a small kitchen pantry. But what about all the rest?
Some are tempted to store some of their long-term food storage in a shed out in the backyard (for example). The big problem with that is summer heat! Higher temperatures will drastically reduce the food’s shelf life!
For example, I have a 40′ storage container. It sure would be nice to store a bunch of extra food out there. Except man-o-man does it get hot in there during the summer!
[ Read: Temperature Versus Food Storage Shelf Life ]
Others will store food in the basement. This is a good idea (it’s cooler and generally ‘dark’) however be very aware of potential rust problems because many basements are somewhat damp with a higher humidity level! Additionally, this excessive moisture will work its way into many types of packaging and eventually affect the food. Your cans may rust.
4. Rotate Your Foods
Don’t just set it and forget it… A good food rotation plan or method will keep that food in motion. Use the oldest first. While some foods are indeed “set and forget” (e.g. sealed buckets of dry grains), just be conscious of other foods that might not last as long.
[ Read: Food Storage: Date and Rotate ]
My guidelines and what I do in most every case for rotation:
Take From The Right
For example, if one of your shelves holds a variety of canned beans, when you remove a can, take the one all the way over on the right. When you restock, put the new can on the left while sliding the remaining cans to the right. This technique always ensures that the can on the right is the oldest (and the next one to consume).
Take From The Front
When your shelves are deep enough to store multiple rows of food items, place the newest items in the back while moving the older items to the front. This will assure that what you take from the front is the oldest – which should be consumed first.
5. Be Aware of Potential Issues if Storing Lots of Wheat
Most all serious preppers will have a storage of dry goods, likely including a quantity of wheat (wheat berries), sealed in Mylar and 5-gallon buckets.
However be very aware that not everyone can adapt to eating lots of wheat. It may take time for your system to adapt, while others may have issues no matter how long they try… Some people plain old can’t eat it without getting sick. Just be aware of what you choose to store in quantity and be sure you’re ‘system’ is okay with it.
[ Read: Benefits of Milling Your Own Flour From Wheat Berries ]
It’s a good idea to actually process and consume some of that wheat on a regular basis (e.g. make your own bread from scratch!). Boy-o-boy there’s nothing like fresh bread..
6. Beware of Appetite Fatigue
This ties in with having a wide variety of food storage. Can you imagine eating just rice and beans over and over and over again? While it is quite easy to quickly acquire a large quantity of dry goods such as rice and beans (for example), don’t just stop there…
[ Read: Appetite Fatigue From Inadequate Survival Food Storage ]
If the SHTF, and you and your household are now eating from your long-term food storage, it won’t take long for appetite fatigue to set in. This is a serious thing, so don’t ignore it… Be creative and really expand your pantry for variety.
7. Store What You Eat and Eat What You Store
I dare say that many or most preppers simply build up a big food storage, and then mostly ‘sit on it’. I suspect that too many people do not actually proactively consume (rotate) from their deep pantry stores.
The obvious problem with this is shelf life. While some of your storage may have a decade or longer shelf life, other foods may not. Additionally, why risk having ‘bad’ food if and when the time comes to use it?
[ Read: Food That Lasts Forever – Indefinite Shelf Life ]
I realize that food storage is an ‘insurance policy’, but the beauty is that unlike a typical insurance policy, you can actually use (consume) what you put into it.
A serious goal should be to really begin to eat as much as you can from the foods that you store. This will enable excellent food rotation and minimal waste. Plus, if you aren’t eating it, that might mean you’re acquiring some of the wrong foods…
8. The Importance of Oils – Cooking Oil
My primary survival kitchen oils are Avocado oil, Extra Virgin Olive oil, and Coconut oil. I find Avocado oil great for cooking due to it’s higher temperature smoke point.
Cooking oil is a very important item to have in your storage. It is hard to cook without, and it adds calories and flavor to your meals.
Be cautious of how your store cooking oil. Without proper storage, it may begin to go rancid in a year or two. So definitely keep in a cool and dark (dark is important) place (maybe in a box, sitting on the cool basement floor).
Tip: I store extra kitchen oils in a chest freezer.
[ Read: Some Cooking Essentials for the Survival Kitchen ]
9. Spice It Up
I cannot overemphasize how happy you will be if you’ve stored ahead lots of herbs and spices. Try eating rice and beans with no spice (for example). With a big variety of spices, you can tremendously expand you’re menu!
[ Read: Favorite Spices – Long Term Storage ‘Must Have’ Spices ]
10. Rice and Beans
The combination of ‘rice and beans’ makes a ‘complete protein’. It’s no wonder that this is a staple dish across the planet.
Rice is rich in starch, and an excellent source of energy. Beans are rich in protein, and contain other minerals. The consumption of the two together provides all the essential amino acids and it is no wonder that this combination is a staple of many diets throughout the world.
Rice and Beans with chicken or pork?
[ Read: Rice and Beans – A Survival Combination ]
Oh my goodness I could write a book on this subject alone. I did not intend for the aforementioned survival kitchen tips to be the most important (though some are pretty important). It was just a brainstorm at the time.. I could list hundreds! Anyway, feel free to add your comments below on the topic..
The Encyclopedia of Country Living – 50th Edition
(by Carla Emery on amzn)
Where I live, in the past 4 years we’ve had a high temp of almost 108 and a low of -12. And that’s with the usual hot humid summers. I haven’t figured out low tech cool storage. Blasting out a root cellar is a dream/goal.
@Lake Oz, It definitely can be a problem (heat). When I first started storing extra ‘long-term’ foods, and during a time when I lived in Calif., I first kept them in my outdoor shed. We were in a fairly small house and it had no basement. During the summer I discovered that the temp inside that shed could get up into the low 100’s! Not good. After that, I did manage to become more creative with how and where I stored some of the extra food inside the house. You’d be surprised at all the nooks and crannies that can be put to work;)
We buy cooking spray, it is easy to rotate and lasts a long time it keeps it self in a cool dark space.
Definitely a good thing to have as well virgin olive oil.
1) A multi fueled (wood and oil/gas) stove/oven, and/or backup smaller Colman type Propane or White Gas stoves. A wood/charcoal BBQ and/or a fire pit. All the food in the world will do NO good if you can’t cook it.
2) Sink/counter and a way to get clean water for washing dishes/cooking utensils. Unless ya want the Dog to lick-clean everything?
3) A table & chair/s of sorts, sitting on the floor or a log outside all the time will be very depressing after time.
4) Someway to store fresh foods like Vegetables and Fruit you may gather, keeping insects and rodents out of your food will be a MUST!
5) Some cooking utensils, even if only a knife, spoon, and a fork. A couple of bowls a frying pan and an oven baking pan.
6) Some way to keep foods cool or cold, dig a deep pit outside or a root-cellar.
7) A way to preserve foods, Pressure cooker, canning equipment, Salt, dehydrator, sun dryer, etc. Don’t forget the Jars and lids. AND the knowledge on how to use them.
8) A coffee pot (not electrical), I know people that will KILL for a cup of coffee.
9) A rug for the dog to lie on, ever see a Norman Rockwell painting of a kitchen without a dog lying on a rug?
The hardware list is actually very short if you’re setting up a “survival” kitchen. But the most important thing for this list OR Kens list……
Also, look at all your kitchen appliances that you use and see if you have non-electric alternatives.
I’ve had olive oil stored for 5 years and did not go rancid, thankfully. I started out with about 20 gallons and I’m now confident in storing it.
It certainly doesn’t hurt to try out some of the different food storage powdered items. I now can’t go without tomato powder. It’s utilized in many of my sauces and recipes. Incredible stuff.
Get to know your food storage !
East Texas mom
is that tomato powder purchased freeze dried in big can? seen those around the net, and they look good.
once I had a case of tomatoes purchased cheap, and dehydrated them with Excalibur and put them through the blender… Tasted great powdered . added to everything, made “cup of soup”, etc..
@ East Texas mom
I agree 1000% on the tomato powder. Augason Farms is GREAT!!!!! stuff
Hey, when you make tomato sauce and blanch the tomatoes, save the skins and dehydrate them. Then put them in a new coffee grinder and make powder. If you add equal parts of water & tomato powder it makes tomato paste. Pizza!!!
Thank you for the information on the tomato skins, great idea.
Just dry your own and grind it to a powder. You need to dry till crispy, then grind. I have dried different varieties too. Fabulous!
Three things… Learn to grow your own vegetables. Learn to can your foods and experiment with the many different ways one item can be prepared either by itself or mixed with other things.
Take corn for example, using yellow or white field corn and/or fresh sweet corn. Ground corn (two grades fine and coarse). Make hot cereal with the coarse. Make corn bread with the fine. Add a little fresh ground wheat flour to the coarse and make fried journey cakes (Johnny Cakes).
Canned sweet corn is a great side dish and it can also be added to corn bread. Corn chowder from a quart of canned corn; either chop the canned corn by hand with a knife (time consuming) or puree it with a stick, or regular blender. Can regular sweet corn or make creamed corn and can it. Make hominy from dry corn and then either can it or make hominy grits from the slaked (nixtamalized) corn instead of cooking the hominy to eat (corn grits are time consuming to make but well worth it).
Make corn tortillas from the wet ground hominy grits or simply dry them and put it up later for regular grits or dry the slaked corn to cook down later as posole or even grind it for grits. I know this sounds confusing but ground field corn and ground slaked field corn are not the same. The simple explanation is that the niacin in regular field corn is bound and not usable but becomes available after the corn has been nixtamalized but, making nixtamalized corn is way outside the scope of this post.
Make some Succotash with the canned corn and some of the other “canned” vegetables (or fresh if you have them) like butter beans, carrots, tomatoes and snap beans and throw in a little fresh ground corn meal as a thickener and flavor enhancer. Also, save and dry the corn shucks to make tamales later. Also, also… save and dry the cobs from field corn to make a corn cob pipe or use the cobs in the privy (my grandfather told me two reds and one white were best.) LOL.
Chop up the corn cobs and put them in the compost. Feed the fresh sweet corn (cooked or raw) to your chickens, they love it and will lay lots of eggs in return. And, our dog can clean off an ear of sweet corn faster than I can. If you have too much dry corn simply crack some of it and feed that to your chickens too. I’m sure there are many more ways to prepare and use corn but these are just the things I’ve done with dried field corn and sweet corn from the garden to date.
Wheat, oats, barley, rye, corn, brown rice, white rice, buck wheat and any other dry grain, can be cooked and eaten either whole or ground to various grades and mixed together or with any number of fresh or canned vegetables to make great meals.
When we get tired of eating just plain wheat bread we mix it with other things and make different types of bread or noodles. Regular bread, French bread, sourdough bread, pita bread, corn bread, rye bread, rolls… the list is almost endless. Bake it in the oven or bake it in a big cast iron pot on an open fire. And… you don’t need a fancy noodle machine to make noodles. Just mix up a simple dough and cut them by hand. Man… I’m getting hungry writing this. Anyway these are just a few of the many things we have done to enhance our survival kitchen capability.
On the Corn, believe you forgot only two, Grill it in the shucks still on and strip it down and just boil it… HAHAHAHA
Good thing you mentioned the cobs though, cause you know dang well I would have LOL.
Corn-Cob-TP for when you know times are rough. :-) :-) :-)
On the corn, if you have too much cracked corn……. it also ferments rather well, for making …. well you know ;-)
I remember my grandmother making a corn cob syrup when I was a kid. I don’t know how she made it, or if it was from dry field corn cobs or sweetcorn cobs. I just remember it being very good.
Now… that’s one I’ve never heard of. :) I will give it a try this spring when the corn comes in. Thanks.. :)
Corn cobs can also be used to smoke foods. Soaked with kerosene they make excellent fire starters (that’s a household hint from the 1917 edition of the Home Comfort Cook Book – H-C was a line of wood cook stoves). And for the folks who’ll kill for a cup of coffee keep your eyes open for an old fashioned coffee grinder. Mine’s an Arcade Mfg. model, about 100 years old, and it still grinds the coffee for my morning pot every day.
Hey y’all dont forget about the corn cob jelly. My SIL came up with a recipe a couple of years ago. Talk about good stuff! Just too bad that we dont seem to eat much of the jams and jellies around this household, but it was really good.
On keeping things cool, for those of you with a crawl space under your house I’ve found this to stay very moderate even when it’s 100 degrees out. You can build a box under your house in a convenient location with a trap door and you have a root cellar of sorts.
What we have for baking is two cast iron Dutch ovens, one is a 10 inch the other is 16 inchs with grates for the bottom, we use the smaller one to bake potatoes on our propane kitchen range as it uses a lot less propane than heating the entire oven, the larger one can be used on a propane burner or over a open fire, we wouldn’t get rid of them ever.
Thanks for mentioning your cast iron dutch ovens. I have used mine for oven roasting, and on the stove-top, but had not thought about it as a true small oven for baking over an open flame when a “real” oven is not available (visual of me smacking my forehead with the heel of my hand – duh!). Guess I need a refresher on my dutch oven – time to revisit the cookbook. : )
something I have always wondered about…
you have two, one quite a bit smaller…
— I am thinking they will hold the heat very well
—-have always wondered if you could put a small one inside a big one,
(on top of some live coals/briquettes under it),
put both lids on, (with big lid left off a bit for air to feed coals)
and would this make a cooking oven of sorts?
The main thing I learned yrs ago is that what ever is being baked has to set up on a grate and not contact the cast iron.
thanks, good to know. I don’t have these cast iron ovens, but have always thought they would be a good product.
I’m glad someone mentioned cast iron. Multi-purpose item, can be used on electric, gas or even over wood fires. When taken care of, are a GENERATIONAL item, handed down to your descendants. I still cook meals on my Grandmothers Wagner deep skillet that she cooked over wood fires during the Great Depression with zero problems.
This is the reason I grow peppers, onions, garlic as well as parsley, cilantro, basil, thyme and oregano. I can’t imaging life without pepper, garlic or tomatoes.
A survival kitchen would need multiple ways to start a cooking fire
(if one is looking for something other than solar powered electricity)
for an outdoor rocket stove or campfire
flint magnesium strikers
As I was getting ready this morning….
I kept thinking how much more labor would be involved just to do the basics.
We would have to haul water from our spring a few acres away on our property.
That in itself would be a supreme luxury in many countries…
I think it is important, not in a negative way, but a thoughtful way to mentally think how would I go through said part of my daily routine if we were off grid- a cyber down grid versus EMP has implications.
Think clearly, think strategically, keep learning
Good Shepherd bless you all~
Hence the “practice” Off-Grid weekends and a week during the “vacation” from work. I know it’s not totally like what may happen, but it will give one an idea where to put prepping efforts.
Hauling water for instance, without using piped water, and having to haul it ¼ mile uphill; Water is heavy (VERY heavy), carrying 5 gallons at a time…. well one learns to build a cart very quickly… HAHAHA
NRP, good for you that you have practiced!
Your steps ahead of many…
We too would have to haul water uphill…
Fair weather is one thing, but imagine winters…
that’s a whole ‘nother thing….
Keeping warm and trying to cook and clean…
Be blessed in your preps this week everyone~
Hauling water up hill?
Ram pump :-) As long as its flowing water of course.
Many vids on cinder block rocket stoves on Youtube. Not the most portable, but useful. Dave Canterbury shows using a single chimney block for a stove. The type with concave underside to allow for air flow. Not sure, but perhaps chimney block would withstand heat a little better.
Want a rocket stove you can run inside to het your home? Check our Wiseway Pellet stoves. They Rock(et). Wood heating pellets are byproducts from sawmills and you cam mill your own pellets out of any plant based material. I’ve been wanting to try wood chips. Not sure if they would have problems feeding reliably. When asked, the company says they are not EPA approved for wood chips, but they won’t say if they would work. I bet they wood (sp).
Keep an ABC fire extinguisher handy in case of cooking fires. Large Carl
Its not as easy as it sounds is it,
Kinda a learning experience, try to keep a pretty basic but varied stash, it has come in handy often, during covid we didnt go anywhere for about 3 months there, was actually kinda nice.
I honestly will be cool with everything collapsing all at once. Life changes, thats the only thing you can count on in this thing we are doing.