“Food. It’s what’s for dinner.” “Home is Where My Food Storage is.” “Hunger is the best sauce.” Yup, it’s time for us to address the Principle of Preparedness that so many think of first and foremost—food. Keep in mind, though that it is indeed the 8th Principle of Preparedness in order of prioritization.
All of the other Principles I’ve addressed leading up to this one will indeed demand positions of greater prominence before you get to this one. As I always say, I strongly doubt that a person who’s just been hit in a car accident makes their first phone call to Dominoes Pizza. Nope. Regardless, it is a critical Principle of Preparedness. So let’s do it right, shall we? The various aspects of this principle are Acquisition, Nutrition, Shelf-life, and Preparation. When it comes to Acquisition there are many who feel that a year’s supply of appropriate food for their family is a financial burden that can’t be carried, when in fact a little old fashioned ingenuity will prove that the exact opposite is true. I don’t purchase large amounts of chicken and pasta when it goes on sale because I’m some kind of a hoarder, I do so to stabilize my food budget because when I take that $1.50 a pound chicken home and can it, when I take it off of my shelf 5 years from now it STILL will have only cost me $1.50 a pound—no matter what happens on Wall Street. I don’t purchase freeze-dried food because of “food storage” I do it because it’s less expensive, more nutrition, less waste, AND lasts longer. Contrary to the gargantuan efforts you see on TLC’s Extreme Couponing, a modest amount of couponing discipline applied each week—only 2 hours—will yield an enormous amount of results for your food pantry for FREE or at least really, really cheap. When the Acquisition of food is thought to be the barrier, I find that it’s not the expense, but the spending habits that are really getting in the way. Instead of going to the store and purchasing what you want each week, try getting ahead of the game for a couple of weeks then allow yourself to only purchase items that benefit your family that are on sale. If you plan your meals based on what you already have, not only will you find money in your budget that you didn’t know you had, but you’ll also handle a real crisis of living solely off of what you’ve got much better mentally. With so many “food storage” advertisers selling stuff that barely passes for flavored cardboard—a sin regularly committed by our own grocery stores as well nowadays, providing appropriate nutrition for your family all year round is a legitimate concern. But don’t worry. There are plenty of solutions. Sprouting, freeze-dried produce, and learning to make a lot of your standard items from scratch will take care of that concern in a jiffy, with even better nutrition than you’ll get with the more traditional foods found in the American Standard Diet (SAD). For example, when I do make bread, I make it from whole wheat and honey along with other standard ingredients—standard, of course being a relative term. But the point is, I am not making it with the need to have it last for nearly a month on the shelves of the store, thus no nasty preservatives or other ingredients. (Believe it or not, quality grain bread is very simple to make. Just check out my “Kick-Butt Bread Recipe. You’ll never fail.) I make it a point to be knowledgeable of the source of each of my ingredients, including the growing conditions and time of harvest. Continuing on, by canning my own meats, butter, and fish, I also can feel confident about nutritional content, and more importantly, I'm comforted in knowing what’s NOT in my food. There’s also a world of opportunities out there to create delicious dishes with less mainstream ingredients and without the standard hormones, anti-biotics, etc. such as making “wheat meat” aka seitan from vital wheat gluten or adding beans to baked goods such as cookies and brownies, or adding sprouts to casseroles and soups. I personally love my pumpkin and black bean soup recipe. By the way, there’s also a great book out called “Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kid Eating Good Food” by Jessica Seinfeld. (I might add that it helps with husbands too.) I’ve found it very helpful in increasing the nutritional value of many dishes. By educating myself on what’s real nutrition (coconut oil, for example) and what’s harmful for my family (canola oil, for example), then I can provide better nutrition for them than they can get in any restaurant all year round. None of these strategies require extensive time in our busy lives. With the development and availability of so many wonderful tools, it hardly takes anymore time to make bread or homemade pizza than it does to go and pick it up. Once again, we come to the conclusion that meeting the demands of the aspect isn’t the problem. Our way of thinking about it and addressing it usually is. Shelf-life can be a bit tricky if you’re accustomed to consuming highly processed foods. Ironically the foods which provide very little nutrition usually end up having a much shorter shelf-life than those we would want long-term—well, except for Twinkies. I understand those babies will last for EVER! Chances are, if you’re stymied by getting a necessary staple food to have a long shelf-life, you’re simply lacking in some easy-peezy tidbits of knowledge that will make extending your shelf-life a snap. Brown rice, nuts, chocolate—you know, those essentials of life—have received an unnecessary bad rap for going bad quickly, when in fact it’s all in how such items are stored. Cool, dry, dark, and void of oxygen is all that’s necessary for keeping such items palatable for nearly a decade. And if you’re only bringing home foods that your family will enjoy, nothing should be sitting around for 10 years anyway. Rotation, rotation, rotation is one of the easiest fixes to shelf-life concerns. Come on. Even the military rotates their MRE’s. If you’ve acquired any of those “30 year foods” that you’ll only eat if you “had to” then in my opinion you’re preparing to be miserable. If you want your shelf-life problems to go away, then I suggest you stop purchasing items you have no desire to consume now. Otherwise, there are several articles on here which address the proper preservation of foods such as the use of the FoodSaver combined with Mason jars, canning, oxygen absorbers, waxing cheese, bottling butter, preserving eggs with mineral oil, etc. which will help you establish a food pantry of real foods for you and your family, not cardboard which is supposed to taste like fettuccine alfredo. Lastly I’m going to address the preparation of our foods. Obviously, most folks are competent with the stove, oven, toaster oven, microwave, etc. but will we still be able to prepare our family’s favorite dishes with no traditional power sources? Dutch ovens, solar ovens, pressure cookers, rocket stoves, small Korean cook stoves with butane, pressure canners—all of these are tools which will make your present way of preparing meals easily replicated in such events. In fact, I dare say that such alternative methods have merit now. For example, I love, love, love my pressure cooker. It’s one of my favorite tools in my house. I can make great beans in minutes, not hours; perfect rice or risotto in under 10 minutes; and even a tender and juicy pot roast from zero to perfect in less than an hour. Solar ovens allow you to cook anything you can cook in your inside oven with the kiss of the sun and without having to pay to cool off the house after you’ve done so. I love the taste of any frozen meat I cook in it without any seasonings! It’s delightful! The great news is you won’t have to envision a life of cooking in an open fire pit while you endure a crisis. I think that’s the last thing anyone needs under such circumstances, don’t you? One last bit of advice I’d like to share as a part of this Principle. We are emotional eaters to some extent or another. Some folks have their breaking point sooner than others, but the fact of the matter is, we have a very emotional relationship with food. It’s emotionally trying to even imagine enduring a shortage of food for ourselves, let alone watching our children suffer for a want of food. Keeping in mind the emotional aspect that we have at present; understand that if you are ever required to endure a more trying time such as a financial collapse, massive power outage, earthquake, etc. you will be even more emotionally in need of the foods which are familiar and comforting to you and your family. As such, it’s imperative that you plan for such dishes. In fact, I believe that everything you plan on feeding your family under such circumstances should already be familiar and acceptable to them. I usually put it this way: Be sure that you have found a way to make your spouse’s and children’s favorite meal that they would want you to make on their birthday. Doing so will put you so much further ahead mentally and emotionally in your efforts to thrive in whatever circumstances get thrown at you. Applying all of these strategies to your Food Preparedness will definitely result in you experiencing the peace in your preparedness efforts which I continually discuss. I assure you, peace is a significantly better way (and a less expensive one) to prepare for whatever may come along than a panicked one.
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My problem in this area? Storing chocolate. I just can't seem to do it. Somehow, it evaporates into thin air! :-/
I feel your pain! :-)
The only good way to store chocolate is cocoa powder.
You mentioned picking your family members favorite meals and trying to make those with what you have stored and with an alternative cooking method and for a couple of weeks now I've been thinking about how I could store pizza toppings like pepperoni and salami because we've already got our waxed cheese (or homemade mozzarella) but we've got to have pepperoni and salami for our pizza. Talk about the ultimate comfort food. I know that salami isn't refrigerated in the stores so I'm guessing it would have a pretty long shelf life if I vacuum sealed it in a mason jar. My mom had that same exact thought too so we'll be having a tasty experiment together!
Pepperoni and salami are easily shelf-stable. In fact, there are some fun videos on YouTube. You'll have pizza, no problem!
Good post. Having what you really want to eat is even more important when the emergency is something like loss of a job or sudden illness, when it is just us going through it, and not everyone around us. We have experienced both in the last year and a half, and it really makes a difference to be able to go downstairs and bring up a dinner that everyone enjoys. For example, this week-end 2 of my kids have birthdays. They requested Navajo tacos for dinner, a totally food storage meal, and one of the few things that ALL of my kids like. I anticipate other kinds of emergencies would be easier to deal with if you are enjoying "normal" meals, too.
I am making a big dent in my equipment, now I need to put it into practice. I've been reading all of the methods and recipes so NOW I need to get to work. Waxing cheese is my first project. Wish me luck!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I feel really confident in this area thanks mostly to you! Learned how to wax cheese, been canning meats, have my solar oven( though I need to use it!) I just need to get a food saver and vacuum seal all that other stuff I have down in the cellar. (cool, dry place to store) Excellent article...Thanks again!
You know, I've been deepening my pantry for a little over a year now, and one of the things a find when I try to share my reasons for this-people think it's ok for me, but not doable for them. In my community (it may be different in yours) cooking is throwing frozen chicken nuggets and frozen french fries in the oven. Mix in take-out pizza day, McDonald's day, oh and let's not forget hot dag day! People don't cook-they're too busy, mom's work full time, ect. It's really hard to overcome this.
Freeze dried has come a long ways the last year or so. I have found freeze dried cheese (real cheese that you just hydrate and can put on pizza etc.), freeze dried meats, veggies, fruits and I have even found freeze dried ice cream sandwiches and yes! They are very, very good. Thanks Kellene for you wonderful articles. I have learned so much and have shared alot of your advice with family and friends.
I agree with Tina. Freeze dried everything is a great way to go with food storage. There are so many meats, cheese, vegetable, and fruit that can be dehydrated for a quick snack or meal.
I make some great pizza using ONLY food storage items and it was very well received.
Spaghetti, lasagna, and chili are also great food storage dishes!
hmmmm-here's my 2 cents Mary and Tina- have a good supply of freeze dried fruits and veggies, but I would never put all my food storage in one basket. If all my food stores were freeze dried, that would use up a lot of my stored water.
All of my storage is not freeze dried. I have a lot of other stuff but I do have a lot of freeze dried and a lot of it we eat without water. For example apple, banana, strawberries, and yogurt bites my kids eat for snacks. I throw a lot of the freeze dried meats and veggies in casseroles and soups and you do not have to reconstitute them before cooking them so actually there is very little that I have to actually reconstitute. I do agree with you that you shouldn't put all your eggs in one basket and that wasn't what I was trying to say. I just think that adding freeze dried to your storage is a great idea because it adds lots of variety.
Tina, anyone who's read this blog for a while knows I'm a big fan of freeze-dried. However, even if you do not need to reconstitute it to consume, be sure to drink plenty of water. It's simple physics. If we don't give it water, it will get it from somewhere else and we need to make sure we stay hydrated.
Thanks for this great post! I am trying so hard to be self-reliant and love the resources on your site.
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Can you store maple syrup long term? It seems to me it is basically a sugar item. We are a pancake family and I can't image making pancakes without putting on the syrup! I looked up some recipes but they didn't say how long the syrup would last. Great article as usual! Thanks!
Maple syrup, brown sugar, white sugar, and honey all have an indefinite shelf-life.
Gosh all of the stuff I've learned from Kellene is mind boggling for me. Preserving eggs via mineral oil. Tried it and got 6 months out of store bought eggs without flipping. (Which is kinda important) Most folks still don't believe me on the storage time. I think I may get 12 months with real eggs, flipping daily. If I just don't eat real eggs.
Bottled butter, canning bacon, sprouting. I've started a new thing, a garden/salad bucket, and some takes on fruit drying from the the wagoneers from 1859 in a great book, it had Ghee and bottled butter covered.
It's challenge to try stuff out, but a lot of us have done it and we ain't dead yet. As someone with an immuno-disease I work very hard not to make myself sick. Trust me having your immune system attack your nerves is very unpleasnt. That was done with the basic American diet. I got real-fooods after that 3 months in ECU.
YEA!! On maple syrup having an indefinite shelf life!! I can go without a lot of things but I am not sure pancakes are one of them. Add to it canned bacon and bottled butter and you have a meal fit for a King! Is the maple syrup like the honey in that it will crystallize and will need to be heated, etc.? Thanks.
I'm sure that maple syrup has the potential to crystallize, but frankly, I've not ever experienced it yet. But yes, to remedy that all you'd need to do is set it out in the sun or solar oven or just heat the container in boiling water on the stove.
I can never keep maple syrup long enough to see if does crystallize!! tee hee But good information to know. Thank you again! I am definitely having a happy moment! :)
Someone told me today they will put oxygen absorbers in with food they have already sealed with a foodsaver. They said the foodsaver only takes out the air and not all the oxygen. I personally don't agree with them and think it is overkill and a waste of time and money. Am I wrong? Thanks.
Oh Fiddle-lee-dee! What a bunch of hooey.
Kellene, I've got a question about dried corn. I've read that it can be stored indefinately too. However, the only bulk dried corn I have found is popcorn. Can popcorn be ground and used like regular dried corn?
Yes, in my opinion based on experienced, popping corn stores the easiest and the longest. You can then grind it and you'll then have cornmeal. Easy, peezy.
Can store bought pancake syrup be canned?
yes, though if it's not real maple syrup, I wouldn't bother as it will stay good for a long, long time.
Thanks Kellene. I'm assuming then that I can only successfully can homemade syrup? I've found simple recipes that involve using artificial maple flavoring. Any suggestions?
Also, I noticed at my local grocer, they now sell honey from a local bee farm. The only label on the bottles says the name and address of the local farm. Would this be ok to can since it's the real deal?
Sorry, Kellene, I forgot to also ask you about the foodsaver. I have one, and intend on buying the attachments for canning. I'm curious if the foodsaver bags are just as good as foodsaver canning. I use the vacuum seal bags for my freezer meats, but could I also use them for dry goods, like cereal? I Thank you!
You CAN can syrup, I just don't know that you NEED to can anything other than the real stuff.
Local honey is the best for your immune system and allergies. If it were me, I'd be calling the honey farmer directly and see what kind of $$ I could save on a bulk purchase and if it was too big to me, get some friends involved.
Plastic is not oxygen proof, thus the Foodsaver bags will allow oxygen through ultimately. That's why putting them in the jars is best because glass does not allow oxygen through.
Thank you for all your info.
Thank you for all your info. just finished watching your video on #10 cans. my question is, since there is a shelf life once they are opened, what is the best method to store the remainder of the can. the few preps I have done, I have portioned stuff out into workable amounts so the whole content is not opened except for packing. I use a foodsaver. your thoughts and thank you for your time
You should have 18 months of
You should have 18 months of shelf-life after opening the can so long as you continue to store in cool, dry, dark conditions. Remember, plastic STILL allows for oxygen to get through, so foodsaver plastic is not the "be all and end all" that some folks think it is. Just be watchful is all.
Hi. Can you suggest a good
Hi. Can you suggest a good long-term food company that is good quality food? I am looking for a good quality GMO-FREE freeze dried food company to order from. I've heard some pretty bad stories from people regarding companies that are less than honest or supply a poor quality food.
Is Patriot Supply a good company? I am looking to order for the first time and get my food preps started.
Hi Liz, I personally buy a
Kellene, I seen your youtube
Kellene, I seen your youtube video on Zaycon and I found one in my area. Your right It is the best thing since new shoes. I tell everyone I see about it. Thanks for sharing that info.
I may be mistaken, but I
I may be mistaken, but I could swear that in the episode of Doomsday Preppers you prepared a casserole (or something like it) and stored it. I cannot find an entire episode or an entire clip of your part in the episode. I have since then, looked and looked for a way to make a lasagna (or something like it) then to somehow preserve it for storage. Its been quite a while since I saw the episode...am I mistaken or did you really do something like that?????
I don't can entrees or soups.