Ah, powdered milk. It’s probably the ugly stepchild of the food storage world, the last item people want to put in their food storage because it’s the last thing they want to drink. We’re going to change that. First off, let’s discuss the various needs, the bare bones essentials. Children, up to about age ten or twelve years, and pregnant and nursing women need 75 pounds of powdered milk per year to satisfy the nutritional demands of their growing bodies. Teens and adults can make do with 20 pounds of dry milk per year. This reduced amount is what is used in baking and cooking. There is no allowance for drinking or pouring on cereal. Let’s face it, most of us have had the questionable blessing of drinking powdered milk at some point in our lives. We just don’t want to contemplate going there. We know Jesus performed the miracle of turning water into wine but making powdered milk palatable… well, that may require more faith than we have. (But have faith! Read on.) When you learn how to improve the flavor, you may wish to increase the amounts you store.
Powdered milk must be kept as cool as possible (without freezing) at all times. Even brief exposure to high temperatures will render it unpalatable. In addition, it must be kept completely dark as any light at all will also degrade nutritional value and taste quickly. (So do not store it in plastic buckets as I did when I was starting out. That was an expensive lesson to learn.) However, when it is stored properly, powdered milk has a shelf life of up to twenty years.
Now there are many options in powdered milk storage. All the major long-term storage providers have their own powdered milk lines for sale. When I taught a class on using powdered milk in the food storage plan, the class had the opportunity to taste test samples from several different companies. There was no consensus for first place. The taste testers favored the rather expensive options from either Emergency Essentials or Grandma’s Country Cupboard or Provident Living, but just barely over what was universal consensus for second place. What was the second choice option, which everyone agreed they could happily drink on a long-term basis? Powdered milk from the LDS Home Storage Center.
It is not just powdered milk mixed according to the directions and chilled well. (The chilling is important for all powdered milks.) To one quart of reconstituted milk, add ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract (or some prefer almond extract) and ½ to 1 teaspoon of sugar, and mix very well. Life is good again.
The LDS Home Storage Center has the best prices on powdered milk.
Once you have acquired the minimums for your basic storage of powdered milk, you may want to consider supplementing your supply with additional dry milk or other long-term storage milk products in some of the following ways.
We are milk drinkers in this family, so I have doubled the minimum storage amount suggestions for all the adults—just to cover being able to drink milk with our meals.
Yogurt can easily be made from powdered milk. You do not need any special equipment. A crockpot, thermos, cooler, or oven that can be set at low temperatures will suffice. You do need a starter, whether it is commercially prepared yogurt (with live cultures), homemade yogurt, or a freeze-dried starter. Directions are all over the ‘net; here is one suggestion included with the links at the end of the article. Note that the longer the incubation period, the tarter and the firmer the yogurt.
Milk drinks (powdered milk alternatives) available from some long-term storage companies should be carefully researched before purchase. While everything we have tried has tasted quite good, taste appears to come at the expense of good nutrition. Saturated fats are added and important vitamins are removed. Buyer beware.
Hot Cocoa Mix
One of the best values on the market, in terms of quality and price, is available through the LDS Home Storage Center.
Shelf Stable Milk and Whipping Cream
Shelf stable milk and whipping cream are available from a variety of sources. In my area, I go to Trader Joe’s. These items have a shorter shelf life, usually about six months. Still, it is nice to have whipping cream on hand.
Freeze-dried sour cream does not reconstitute well for using fresh. This product only works well in baking.
Media crema is found in the Mexican food section of the grocery store. It is a sort of whipping cream substitute, though it does not whip up. We’ve used it to make ice cream and other desserts.
Dry Milk With Fats
There are powdered milk options that are nonfat. Nido is a whole milk powder found in the Mexican food section of the grocery store. It has a short shelf life. Milkman contains 1/2% milkfat and is found with the other dry or canned milk options in the grocery store. It also has a short shelf life but not as short as Nido.
So now that we have covered the food storage basics for one year, how much food is this really? In my classes, I measured each item into bowls and placed them in the front of the class. I can’t do that here, so I will try to create a visual for you. Doing the math (and allowing for a year to be 360 days instead of 365 for ease in calculation), we have 13.3 ounces of grain for List A (17.7 ounces for List B), 2.6 ounces of beans, 2.6 ounces of sugar, 0.8 ounces of oil, 0.4 ounces of salt, and 3.3 ounces of dry milk for List A (0.8 ounces for List B). Having the ounces isn’t as illustrative, so let’s convert everything to standard U.S. baking and cooking measurements. That will be 1¾ cups of wheat for List A (2¼ cups for List B), 1/3 cup of dry beans, 3½ tablespoons of sugar, 1¼ teaspoons of salt, 2 tablespoons of oil, and 2/3 cup of powdered milk for List A (3 tablespoons for List B).
Of course, the grains and beans will expand with cooking. However, you are still dividing this into three meals. In addition, consider how much variety this provides to your diet. What can you really do with these basics? Do you really want to be eating just these few basics every single day? If you still think these minimums will work for you and your family, I highly encourage you to measure out these amounts and eat only this for a day or two. I guarantee you will re-think your position. It’s far better to do this re-thinking now rather than when TEOTWAWKI hits.
Moreover, remember that these amounts provide 2,000 calories per day. Men, pregnant and nursing women, and teens need more. Other adult women and young children need less. How happy are your working men and teen sons going to be on 2,000 calories per day? How healthy will babies be if their mothers don’t have quite enough food?
Furthermore, flavor fatigue will happen with this minimum. Many individuals think people will eat if they are hungry, but that is just not the case for some groups, especially young children and the elderly. That’s a historical fact. And it will only add to stress, both mental and real physical stress, in an already very stressful time, not only for those who are refusing to eat but also for those of us on whom they depend for support.
Finally, don’t deceive yourself into thinking you need to lose weight. While that may be true, weight loss is going to happen anyway when TEOTWAWKI hits. We don’t need to stress the body out more.
Now that you have hopefully been convinced of the need to expand your family’s variety of storage, let’s begin with the understanding that the items listed below do NOT replace any of the basics listed above. The fruits, vegetables, meats, baking essentials, and other items will add some calories, nutrients, and variety to the diet, all of which will be very much needed when we are stressed and working and exercising a whole lot more.
Instant active dry yeast is recommended at 1 pound per person per year. Yeast is needed to make yeast breads (as opposed to quick breads). Bread is the staff of life. It’s great for sandwiches and very nice to have with soups and stews, and it will also keep for about a week without refrigeration. Yeast has a two to three year shelf life, as long as it is kept cool and dry. Store it in your refrigerator or freezer, if possible.
Vital wheat gluten flour added to bread dough helps the dough rise better and have a lighter texture after baking. Now that I have been baking bread for several years and I have finally reached a point where I have consistently great results, I probably won’t purchase any more gluten flour. But as a beginner bread maker, I found gluten to be a tremendous help. Substitute one tablespoon of wheat gluten flour per cup of wheat flour.
Dough conditioner is used in addition to wheat gluten flour to improve the texture of whole wheat bread. You can purchase it in stores or online, or you can make your own. The individual ingredients all serve a particular function in improving the texture of your bread. Don’t worry if you don’t have one or two of the ingredients. Dough conditioner is like money—some is good, more is better.
A batch of dough conditioner can be made with the following ingredients and instructions:
- 1 cup lecithin,
- 1 cup whey powder,
- 1 tablespoon diastatic malt powder [I can never find this, so I don’t include it],
- 1 tablespoon citric acid,
- 1 tablespoon pectin,
- 1 tablespoon ginger.
Mix well and store in an airtight container. Add 1 tablespoon of dough conditioner per loaf of bread. Again, this is an aid for beginning bread bakers. Once you gain experience with how to make a perfect loaf of bread, you won’t need the conditioner.
We raise our own chickens here, but powdered eggs will always have a place in our pantry for a few reasons. Egg production decreases or stops completely when the hens go into a molt or in the middle of winter, so it’s good to have powdered eggs for a replacement. Powdered eggs are also handy for making your own mixes of convenience foods. Bear in mind that powdered eggs do not come from free range chickens. They are a very pale yellow and have an almost grayish cast to them. Scrambled eggs made from powdered eggs really are not visually appealing. We use about one #10 can per year as a supplement to our hens. If I didn’t have chickens, I would plan on six cans per year for my family of seven. Powdered eggs need to be stored in a very cool, dry place. An unopened can has a shelf life of three years. Each #10 can from Honeyville Grain contain about 156 eggs (13 dozen).
Baking soda is essential in helping doughs and batters rise for a wide variety of baked goods, including cookies, cakes, quick breads, muffins, pancakes, et cetera. If properly stored in an airtight container, baking soda can have an indefinite shelf life. The key here is properly. Baking soda absorbs odors and moisture, and it does so very readily through the cardboard packaging it comes in. Baking soda that is currently being used should be kept in an airtight container in the pantry. Baking soda that is being stored and rotated should be in an airtight bucket. To test whether your baking soda will still do its job of raising doughs and batters, add ¼ teaspoon of baking soda to a tablespoon or so of vinegar in a bowl. If the mixture bubbles vigorously, the baking soda is still good. Baking soda also has numerous applications in both personal care and household cleaning, and we actually store more baking soda for cleaning than for baking, about three pounds total per person per year.
Baking powder is another essential ingredient for helping doughs and batters rise, especially for cakes, quick breads, and muffins. Baking powder increases the volume and lightens the texture. Even when properly stored, baking powder has a maximum shelf life of 12 to 18 months. However, you can make your own very easily. The individual ingredients of baking powder have a much longer shelf life separately than they do when they are mixed. To make your DIY baking powder, mix ¼ teaspoon baking soda with ½ teaspoon cream of tartar. The resulting ¾ teaspoon will substitute for 1 teaspoon of baking powder. If you are not using this mixture immediately in your recipe, also mix in ¼ teaspoon of cornstarch. The cornstarch will absorb moisture in the air and prevent the baking soda and cream of tartar from reacting too quickly. Because baking powder has a short shelf life, I only keep a few cans on hand.
Cream of Tartar
The only thing I use cream of tartar for is making my own baking powder. I store one pound for my family of seven per year.
Some of the vanilla extract (pure vanilla extract, not imitation) we store is for baking treats, but most of it is for improving the taste of powdered milk. A 16-ounce bottle contains 192 ½ teaspoons (½ teaspoon is the amount added per quart to improve the taste of powdered milk), so that converts to 48 gallons of milk. In my observation, the amounts of milk consumed vary widely, so you’ll need to perform your own calculations for your family. Also, remember that pure vanilla is high in alcohol. You may need to keep it safely locked away.
So how often do you want to have hot cocoa, or chocolate cake, or brownies? Baking cocoa has an indefinite shelf life, just as long as you keep it cool and dry.
Are you going to be making any jam with wild berries or with fruit you have growing on your property? If so, store one box of pectin per batch of jam you plan to make. If not, one or two boxes will be sufficient for making your own dough conditioner. Pomona pectin (available in some grocery stores and on Amazon) allows you to make no sugar, low sugar, and full sugar jams and jellies without having to purchase different kinds of pectin. Each package comes with full instructions.
Citric acid is used in some canning to increase acidity and in cheese-making. It’s also used in making your own dough conditioner. One pound should be plenty for your family.
When TEOTWAWKI happens, it will probably be when I don’t have any fresh, plain yogurt on hand for making my own yogurt. And even if I did have it on hand, eventually accidents will happen and a batch may become contaminated or something goes wrong. So it is a good idea to have some freeze-dried yogurt starter in your pantry. You can find them in your local health food store or on Amazon. And in case you are wondering, yogurt made from powdered milk has no trace of the off taste of powdered milk in it.