(This is the first part of a three part series.)
Food storage is a very important part of any preparedness, and thoughts on food storage vary widely. Some people store buckets of wheat, corn, beans, and rice. For many people, they would only know what to do with maybe the rice. With the prepper/survivalist fad right now many companies are selling long term storage (LTS) food.
Some of these LTS foods are just as is, so to speak, like beans or wheat. Some are dehydrated, and some are freeze dried. And of course, some is your standard canned goods. Advice commonly given is ‘store what you eat and eat what you store.’ That is very sound advice. What they mean is buy stuff that you normally eat and then always eat the oldest item first, so you rotate through your stored food supply.
The great thing about storing food for survival is that it is easy to start, and not expensive. Cans of vegetables can often be purchased on sale for about fifty cents per can. Most people have an extra buck so they could buy two cans for storage. You don’t have to buy a whole year’s supply all at once. You buy a little extra each week. Like when you are planning on eating spaghetti soon, so you buy a box of the pasta, just buy an extra box. Pasta has a long storage life and it is very reasonable to purchase. Start slow and just buy extra of the regular foods you always buy.
So if you eat canned green beans and you buy twenty cans when it is on sale then store it with the oldest cans to the front, so that is what you use first. And the next time they are on sale again buy more but put the new cans in back behind the older cans. This way you rotate your stock of food. And you are only storing food that you will actually eat.
Many canned foods can often be eaten right out of the can without any further cooking. That is a big plus in an emergency situation. Canned goods often contain liquid that can extend your stored water supply, another bonus. But if you are not going to eat it don’t buy it. So don’t buy canned oysters or something if you would never eat it or if you cannot eat it due to an allergy. Only buy what you will eat. Also, buy an extra non-electric can opener. Although the trend in canned goods has been to gradually change over to pop-top cans, that is not done with larger cans. And the big #10 size can is standard in the LTS food industry. You will need a hand-operated can opener!
Shelf Stable Milk
Many people don’t realize that many items can be stored a long time. Milk can be stored in the cupboard if it is retort-packaged ‘shelf stable milk’ and can be stored for a year or more that way. If nothing else it is handy to have on hand when you run out of your regular fresh milk. This can be mail-ordered and is also found in grocery stores next to evaporated milk and condensed milk. And of course those too are good storage items. It is just regular milk that is ‘super pasteurized’ so most people can not tell the difference from standard milk. (I can’t, and I often use it when I run out of regular milk or when I rotate my stock). This shelf stable milk is usually found in one-quart retort cartons. A quick look at the expiration date will show you that it is made to store up to a year or more and with no refrigeration needed–and likely will store twice that long with no problems.
You can buy eggs dehydrated or freeze-dried and can last a long time. (The latter, about ten years). Dried or canned butter and cheese can also be stored a long time. Even if it is something that lasts only a year that is fine as long as it is something that you normally eat, just consistently rotate your stock as you use it.
Canned goods and most other packaged foods commonly last much, much longer than the marked “Best if used by…” expiration date. Companies are required to put on an expiration date, and then occasionally their product is tested by the FDA to see if it is still good at that point. The company picks the date, and it is to their advantage to shorten the date considerably. Let’s say you tested your product and it commonly lasts three years or more. But just to be on the safe side, you mark it as expires in one year (or even less). People commonly throw out food that is past the expiration date and then just buy more.
Canning your own food makes sense. This can include butter and meat. Many items can be canned at home and last a long time that way. (Think: years). Most pressure cookers come with a canning guide, or a canning book can often be found next to the canning supplies in stores and purchased there. With a pressure canner, jars, and some lids you can store meat without freezing it. That is a big plus if there is no power. Home canned food can easily last for much more than a year. Some, up to ten years–although the nutrutive value declines considerably. Just keep in mind that most lids are a one-time use thing so store a lot of them. They’re inexpensive. And truly re-usable hard plastic canning lids are made by a company called Tattler.
Ramen noodles are a very inexpensive food. Just ask most any poor college student. It doesn’t taste bad, stores pretty well, and it cooks fast and easy. However, it is often high in salt content. I don’t recommend that you plan on living on ramen. But because it is so cheap but it seems logical to include some of it in your preps. If nothing else it can be what you might hand out to beggars that come to your door. If they see all you have is ramen they will know you don’t have much to spare. But if you are starving, some ramen would be like a feast.
Use common sense in your food storage: Don’t buy a five-gallon bucket of lima beans if you don’t eat lima beans. Don’t buy a bucket of wheat if you don’t know what to do with it. (Do you have a grain mill?) One common long-term storage food is white rice. Yes, brown rice is maybe better for you but does not store as long. Rice is easy and fast to cook. It can be added to many other things to make a more filling meal. And it is readily available and pretty cheap to buy. Walmart has twenty pounds of rice for about ten bucks. Seal it up good, and it will store for many years (10 to 20 years or even more).
Rice is also something that many of us already commonly eat. The directions for cooking rice is – – combine rice with double the amount of water (example ½ cup rice and 1 cup water), boil for fifteen minutes, let stand without heat for five minutes, then eat. There is a product called Minute rice or Quick rice. This is precooked and then dehydrated rice. Just add an equal amount of boiling water to the rice, let stand for a minute and eat. Quicker and easier but this product does not store as long as regular rice but is still a viable option to keep on hand or in your bug out bag (BOB). Remember that rice can be eaten by itself (as incomplete nutrition) or countless things can be combined with it.
Many people buy ‘oxygen absorber packets’ to put in their sealed LTS food to make it last even longer. Some also include water absorbing desiccant packs. Either or both of these will likely lengthen storage times but whether they are worth the extra money spent on them is everyone’s choice. If you regularly rotate your food stocks, I feel they might not be needed, but then again they are not that expensive.
Don’t have a lot of room to store stuff because you live in a small apartment? Be ingenious and hide it in plain sight. Take the legs off your coffee table and set the table on top of five-gallon buckets full of food or water. Then cover with a tablecloth that hangs low enough to cover everything. Store food under the bed or in the back of your closet. Stored food is a valuable asset that could save your life. Food is relatively cheap so almost anyone can at least store some for emergencies.
Supplementing Your Storage
Don’t plan on ‘living off the land’ but you could plan on supplementing your stored food when possible with whatever fresh food you might be able to gather. Many things are found even in towns and cities. Dandelion greens are good to eat and found almost everywhere. Those pigeons that are in the park are very good eating (cook them and add some rice for a very good meal). Squirrels are found in city parks almost everywhere and are quite tasty.
Snare that stray cat. Skin it before your wife sees what it is and then tell her it is a rabbit. Save the guts out of the dead cat and use that for bait for fishing or bait to trap other animals. If it moves, the chances are that you can eat it and protein is vital for survival. See those Robins in the front yard, use your slingshot that is quiet and nab a couple. Cook them and add some rice for a nice meal! (Note it is not legal to kill songbirds like that Robin. But if it is a survival situation then you do what you must to survive).
Buy a book on edible plants in your area with good pictures. Then buy another one, so you have more pictures and a second opinion. Many wild things are edible, but some are not. Know what you are about to eat before you sink your teeth into it. If you are not sure let your mother-in-law try it first or else just pass it by. Books on foraging, edible plants, and plant identification will store forever and supply an unending source of food for you and your family. The key to finding and eating wild plants is to do so well ahead of the time when your life might depend on those wild foods.
Buy the books now and then practice gathering plants on your walks to try out at home. Be certain of your identification, to avoid toxic plants. And even if you are certain of the plant variety, start slow and only eat small portions at first until you know if your body can tolerate certain plants. Gradually build up your knowledge of edible plants until you know what is not only edible but also tasty. Also, you can learn where to look for certain plants. This knowledge will not happen overnight but will be a gradual process so start now when finding these wild plants is not a matter of life and death. Also, different seasons of the year means totally different plants to look for and often which different parts of the plants to gather. Some plants have to be cooked, and some can be eaten raw. There is much to learn about foraging so start that learning process NOW!
Old vacant properties may have fruit trees or nut trees that you can harvest when in season. Most locations in the United States have some form of oak trees that you can harvest the acorns from in the fall. These can be crushed or ground into a meal and eaten different ways but know that you have to soak them first enough to remove the tannins or they will make you sick.
Soak the acorns in plain water for a couple of hours then change the water and soak again. You might have to change the water two or more times. Before soaking them, taste an acorn and it will be bitter. After soaking taste again and it will have a nice nutty taste or if still bitter just soak again in more fresh water and re-taste. The bitter taste is the excess tannins found in this otherwise tasty nut.
When you shoot that stray dog, be neighborly and share the meat with your neighbor. Besides, it will very likely spoil before you could eat it all anyway. Remember if it flies, walks, or crawls it is likely edible and full of protein.
(To be continued.)