How to Turn a Christmas Popcorn Tin into a Self-Contained, Grab-‘n-Go Bundle of Life-Sustaining Survival, by P.J. in Oregon

I love popcorn tins! I love all the different ways they come decorated – the wonderful Christmas themes, the various John Deere Tractor motifs, professional sports team logos, stock car racing favorite drivers and their race cars, the endless and delightful cartoon characters – just to name a few. They are like time capsules in that their outside decoration reflect what’s popular in the culture during any given year. When they are displayed on a shelf, looking at them is like going back in time. I can’t get enough of them!

Not only are they decorative, but popcorn tins are versatile. They are the perfect size for storing many prepping items and because they are metal, are especially good for keeping long term food storage safe and secure. Apart from being the ideal size for systematic shelving, they keep out bugs and other vermin. Mice can’t chew through steel.

The lids on these tins are typically very tight, which also make them ideal Faraday cages. Just line the inside with cardboard (including the lid) and put in the electronics you wish to protect from EMP.

I have stored a variety of items in Christmas popcorn tins but none more important than my long term food storage. Each of my tins hold a week’s worth of food for 3 adults, including coffee, tea, spices, serving plates, cups, utensils, and matches. When I get a shiny new popcorn tin, after sharing and enjoying all the delicious popcorn inside, I turn it into a self-contained no-brainer grab-‘n-go little bundle of lovely life-sustaining survival!

There are 3 adults in my immediate household, so I prep for 3. My goal is to pack one week’s worth of nutrition in every tin PLUS all the items necessary to consume the food, conserve water, and make life easier during what will no doubt be stressful times. When my tins are packed and shelved, I can see at a glance how many weeks and months of food I have on hand, and it makes rotating the perishables from each tin very easy.

Of all the foods in a long term food storage plan, no better food items have been found to be the overall best for sustaining life than beans and rice. Cheap to buy and easy to store, when rice and beans are cooked and combined they are the supreme complimentary nutritional food creation which gives a human being a near-daily requirement of usable protein, essential vitamins and minerals. When one adds additional protein, spices, and vegetables – it becomes almost a perfect meal. So the core components of my popcorn tin are 20 pounds of white rice and 10 pounds of beans.

A serving of rice has long been held to be “a handful” or ½ cup. When cooked, white rice will expand to be twice it’s size, so ½ cup of dry rice expands to be one cup of cooked rice. In a 20 pound bag of uncooked rice, there are 20.154 cups or 40.3 ½ cups. If using long grain white rice, there will be about 200 calories in a ½ cup dry/1cup cooked serving. Nutritionally I plan on serving one cup dry/2 cups cooked serving of rice per adult per day, which translates into about 400 calories per day per adult from rice alone. So a 20 pound bag of rice = just under 2 cups of cooked rice per day per adult for one week.

Now lets look at beans. My household ‘s favorite beans with rice are black beans, so I heavily favor black beans. I round out my bean varieties with pintos, great northern and red beans as well. Personally, I think black beans are the easiest to cook, even under primitive conditions. And they take seasonings well, giving you a nice variety of tastes.

Nutritionally speaking, black beans are among the powerhouses of the legume family. So long as you don’t skew the proper ratio of rice to beans and serve too much rice and not enough beans. When beans and rice are combined they form the almost perfect useable protein. Individually, rice and beans are incomplete proteins. Together, they complement each other and create a complete protein. As such, they are a good replacement for meat at some meals. Rice and beans also contain vitamins, minerals and fiber.

What is the perfect ratio of rice and beans? I prefer 2:1 with beans being 2. If I cook 3 cups of rice for one meal for 3 adults, then I prepare 6 cups of beans. That might seem like an awful lot of beans, but keep in mind that if eating beans and rice alone with no meat, then you need more beans to get enough protein. 1 cup of cooked black beans = about 15 grams of protein. One meal of beans using my portion sizes gives each adult 30 grams of protein. (Recommended daily = 46/60 female/male). With the protein from the additional meat, not to mention the protein in our other snacks and milk drinks, we meet and/or exceed daily protein needs. So, o ne pound dry beans = six cups cooked beans, drained. One pound dry beans = two cups dry beans. There’s the 2:1 ratio. By storing a 10-pound bag of beans in the one-week food tin, we would have enough to even feed a guest.

I use different beans, (principally pinto, great northern, and red beans) for each tin to keep some variety and to avoid ‘food fatigue.’ But it’s the addition of different kinds of vegetables and seasonings that truly help to combat food boredom and increase nutrition. But I don’t stop there.

At the bottom of my tin, I place 6-7 cans of vegetables that my household personally enjoy with rice and beans, which complement the meal and enhance the flavor. Canned goods such as stewed or diced tomatoes, mixed vegetables, and even whole kernel corn. For additional flavoring I pack salt, pepper, packets of bean and rice flavorings, dry soup mixes, bullion cubes, as well as straight spices individually stored. To save space or add more food, you can store cans of tomato paste.

On top of those canned vegetables I put in a small canned ham, 2-3 cans of white meat chicken and a can of vegan cutlets. Next I pack enough paper plates and plastic utensils for a weeks worth of meals. Having these will save water from having to be used to clean too many dishes. On top of that I pack 10 pounds of beans, and 20 pounds of rice, each in their own mylar bag with oxygen absorbers and sealed. Tucked down in the crevices are my seasonings, spices, breakfast bars, snack jerky, peanuts, trail mix, dried fruit/fruit leathers, tea bags, individual coffee packets, dry coffee creamer, packet sugar, powdered milk, hard candy and daily vitamins, all also sealed in mylar and labeled.

Before closing the lid, I place a few large Ziploc bags on top and tape a bundle of waterproof matches to the underside of the lid. A week’s worth of breakfast, lunch snacks and one main meal for each day. Calories per day vary between 1800 – 2200 for each adult. Daily minimum protein requirements covered and/or exceeded. I mark the date packed on the bottom of the tin and under the lid because I don’t want to mar the lovely decoration on the outside. Tins are stored on a shelf and rotated through by date. When we empty one tin, I know it’s time to put together another one.

In a separate food grade bucket I have my cooking tools: small portable propane stove with fuel canisters, a volcano stove (for boiling water), Esbit stove, fuel cubes, a thermos bottle, a collapsible water carryall, water purification tablets, large spoons, wooden spatulas, cook pot, small skillet, fire starter, dish cloths, ditty bag for cleaning kitchen prep tools Girl Scout-style, plus additional snacks and spices. The various means to boil water and cook the rice and beans also include over an open fire, hence the fire starters, and waterproof matches.

The thermos bottle is for more individual cooking of the rice and beans and for storing food to stay warm. One never knows what circumstances you’ll encounter in a bug out situation and separation may happen or be prudently required, hence the various means to accomplish the same task.

My other non-food preps are generally stored in large cargo container-type boxes, but my bug out grab-‘n-go items are in #5 food grade buckets with labels detailing what’s inside. We have fit everything we need to bug out with in six buckets and will grab-‘n-go with as many of my survival food packed popcorn tins that we can fit in the bug out vehicle. Each one of the popcorn tins represents a week’s worth of food for three adults. We will know exactly how much food we have and how long it will last.

If rice and beans are not your favorite foods, then consider packing a popcorn tin with foods that will meet or exceed all nutritional needs, combat food boredom, provide for caffeine intake, snacks, and spices. The challenge is to fit enough food in the tin that will meet all nutritional needs 2-4 people. Can you do it?

Unless and until we may need to grab-‘n-go with our popcorn tins filled with our survival food, it’s comforting to see them all lined up on the shelf. They represent our will to survive and thrive, and they look pretty, too!

JWR Adds: In addition to their usefulness for food storage, steel popcorn tins also make great Faraday Cage containers to protect small electronics from the effects of solar flares and electromagnetic pulse (EMP.) No modification of a tin is required, and grounding a Faraday container is actually counterproductive. Just wrap your electronics in plastic bags, place them in a steel popcorn container and push the steel lid down firmly. If you live in a humid climate, be sure to toss in a bag of silica gel desiccant, for good measure.

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