I’m continuing my journey to consider some of the pantry basics (beyond meat, eggs, dairy, grains, fruits, and vegetables) that I will want to have available in the event of TEOTWAWKI. We’ve covered other pantry essentials, including baking soda, yeast, vinegar, salt and pepper (and other spices and herbs), coffee, and sugar/sweeteners to determine how we will provide them for our families in a TEOTWAWKI scenario. Some of these we will have to have stock piled, barter for, or find alternatives for, until they are manufactured again. Yet, other items are those we can make or produce for ourselves. This week’s basic item and possibly the final item on my list is oil, and it is a two-part article.
We use various types of oil for so many things on our homestead. In the kitchen, we use various types of oil for baking breads and treats, sauteing vegetables and meats, frying meats and vegetables, browning foods, making salad dressings and dips, and infusing herbs. For health and hygiene, we use oil for skin care, hair care, teeth, eye lashes, nails, digestion, to get rid of lice, for earache pain, soap making, deodorant, and more. In the home, oil can be burned for light and heat and is used for polishing metals and nourishing woods and well as for lubricating machines and hinges.
Foreign and Domestic Manufactured Oils
Just as with sugar in a TEOTWAWKI scenario, when the electric grid goes down, fuel is not available for mass transportation, and ships are only sailing rather than running by engine, we will not be the beneficiaries of the massive quantities and varieties of oils that are brought to us in North America from around the world.
Corn and Canola (Rapeseed) Oils/GMO Oils. While the U.S. has long been a major producer of corn, much of that corn production has been reallocated for non-food purposes, such as fuel, and what corn is grown is predominantly a genetically modified organism (GMO) variety as well. Rapeseed, used to make canola oil, is also generally a GMO also. Now, I don’t want to delve into the GMO debate in this article, but I know that I am not comfortable with the fact that scientists are cross breeding insects and plants to increase production and build plant strains that are not harmed by sprays used to kill weeds in the fields. In TEOTWAWKI, we won’t have our healthcare system available to us, and our bodies will be under much more stress than they currently are. In that time, we will need to feed ourselves and our families with the absolute healthiest, most whole, and pure subsistence we can make available. I avoid, or certainly limit, GMOs in our household currently, so I will not be storing or seeking GMO oils in a TEOTWAWKI situation, if there are any other options available.
Other than corn and canola (rapeseed) oil, which are predominantly GMO, what oils might still be produced in the United States or in our various regions? The U.S. produces a good quantity of peanuts. Peanuts are grown in the southeast, south, and all the way west to New Mexico. In fact, they are grown in 13 states– Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia. According to the National Peanut Board, there were roughly 7,000 peanut farmers in 2010 and the United States produced between 200,000 and 250,000 metric tons of peanuts in 2010. The great news is that the U.S. exported more peanuts that the nation imported, so it sounds like our nation produces enough peanuts for our demand. However, not all of this peanut use is related to peanut oil, and when other imported oils are unavailable, we may find ourselves with an oil shortage. In addition to their use in making peanut oil, peanuts are used for peanut butter and making peanut brittle, and just roasted to eat alone as well as many, many other purposes. Just read about George Washington Carver for some of the hundreds of uses he discovered for the peanut. He was quite the survivor, student, clever scientist, teacher, and an inspiration to many of us who have read about him!
In a nut shell, I don’t believe that peanut oil will be able to solve my oil supply dilemma. I won’t be able to grow peanuts, and I don’t expect that peanut oil will be distributed to me or at least not to all of us in adequate supply when there is no grid to power the massive hydraulic presses and no fossil fuel-supported transportation system to distribute the oil and supplies. Even though I have no interest in corn or canola oil, these mass produced oils will have the same production and distribution issues as those I described for peanut oil– no power for the factories and no fuel for trucks.
I am a particularly big fan of coconut oil and olive oil for their taste, multi-purpose use in the kitchen and home, as well as their health benefits. They moisturize and nourish the skin, so spilled oil gets wiped up and rubbed on dry legs, elbows, and knees. I use these in cooking as well as in homemade healthcare/hygiene, infusing herbs in oil, and for home care purposes too. Coconut oil is imported, but it stores fairly well. I rotate multiple 5-gallon buckets of coconut oil in my garage/cellar, stored for two years without a problem. My absolute favorite coconut oil is Tropical Tradition’s gold label. I watch for their sales and/or free shipping and then buy it during the cooler months to ensure safety of the product during shipping. Tropical Traditions has wonderful service, and I feel great supporting their business and small, family farm producers!
I also like quality olive oil. Like coconut oil, it is imported, or at least a majority of it is imported in the U.S. Some olive oil is produced in California, Arizona, Texas, and Georgia, but this domestic production meets only a tiny fraction of the demand– 6 metric tons produced of the 335 MT consumed in the United States, according to the USDA query search on olive oil production as compared to consumption in the U.S. for the year 2016. That means these four states only produced 1.8 percent of the olive oil consumed in the United States last year and tells us that even if the current producers of olive oil were able to continue producing it after TEOTWAWKI (and many will not), we’d still have an enormous shortage plus access/distribution issues on top of that. I can’t grow olive trees where I live, so stocking up on and freezing olive oil into TEOTWAWKI is my best option for having it available for as long as possible.
Stocking up on coconut and olive oils may get me through the first two, three, or even four years of conservative use in TEOTWAWKI, but then what do we do? I’ve been looking at other oils that I can produce myself as well as oil alternatives, too.
For baking, I recognize that there are many recipes, such as for cakes, where apple sauce will substitute for vegetable oil quite nicely. I already use it in some recipes with pleasant results. This will work to reduce my demand for oil, but I will still need oil for other purposes, such as to saute vegetables and pan fry corn muffins and pancakes as well as for home use, healthcare and hygiene products, and so forth. I need to be self-sufficient in producing some kind of oil for this. Additionally, a healthier, unsaturated oil is preferred over one that is a saturated fat. I’ve been doing research into this for awhile. It has been an issue that has come up before in our household, but I really put my “problem solving cap on” to address this and am working toward this with great optimism. I think we are close, and I’ll gladly report when we have completed our full process of oil self sufficiency, though it will be a very small scale operation.
We own a Piteba cold-press oil expeller . According to the Piteba website, there are many seeds, beans, and nuts (some of which I am unfamiliar) that can be used to produce consumable oil. The website’s list includes: argane, almond, barbassu-kernel, beechnut, chia seed, cocoa beans, coprah (coconut), groundnut (peanut), hazelnut, hempseed, jatropha, linseed/flaxseed, moringa, niger seed, oil palm kernel, perilla seed, pistachio nuts, pumpkin seed, rapeseed (canola), safflower, sesame seed, soya bean, sunflower, tea tree, and walnut. We have several from this list that we can grow and use to produce oil, but like everything it is important to evaluate and test the process before depending upon it in a serious situation. Next week, we’ll continue looking at the solution for producing our own oils in TEOTWAWKI, and I’ll share my experiences in doing so and plans for continued oil self sufficiency.
I wish you well, until we meet again next week on SurvivalBlog!