The following is a re-post of content from a while back from my personal blog, responding to a friends comments as he was first getting interested in food storage.
This message is actually some commentary to reply to a recent posting by a “Hoser That’s Not My Brother“. Since he decided to take his food-snobbery into an area that I care more than a little about, I thought I’d give a few opinions. Please go read his bit first, and then come back here and this will make a lot more sense. Actually, from other discussions, much of what I have to say is in agreement with the hoser, but I do hope to clarify some points, and give my opinion on others.
Starting off, there is much confusion in the food storage world, and he’s right, what to store must come from you. “Store what you eat, and eat what you store,” is an oft-repeated mantra that is very correct. Just blindly following some list will get you in big trouble if you ever need that food. You probably won’t know how to use it, and it will likely give you serious problems shortly after eating. The provident living website is a great resource for very basic elements of storage, but it is just a starting point. Along with that, it’s a good starting point for the information you need in actually using your storage in an efficient manner.
For me, I think one of the most important things to start out with though is by asking yourself the question, “Why food storage?”. I too have gone through some inter-job difficulties before where the bit of storage we had was a lifesaver for us, but there could be more. Maybe you want to be ready for WTSHTF aka TEOTWAWKI, maybe you just know that food bought now (well, better last fall) was a great way to beat inflation, and the stock market (often by double digit percentages). Whatever the case, how much, and what you need to store will change with that definition. Me, I figure if I’m prepared for the absolute worst case that I don’t think will ever happen, then I’ll feel pretty good if I just get laid off without job prospects again. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.
Now, to review by category:
Yes, it is a lot of wheat to keep around, but then again, they don’t call it the staff of life for nothing. Try going without bread for a week or so, and see how you feel. Sure you can say you did the atkins things before, but let’s also look at some other factors. First, given a situation where you really *need* to use your storage. There is a good chance that your physical activity level is going to be changing a bit. Be it heavy stress, to just plain walking a lot more, your body will be needing those carbs quick. Also the fiber content will be very helpful in combating bad side effects of your stress levels, and other dietary changes. One word of caution though, do ease into using real whole-wheat (even from store-bought whole wheat flour), or you will have some serious issues to contend with. Wheat itself can also be used to cultivate simple meat-substitutes (hey, if you’re really starving), and as stated, its protein content is necessary for making breads from other cereals. Besides all of the above stated, your grains are some of your absolute *cheapest* ways to augment just how much food you have stored, heck even at today’s way inflated prices you can get sealed buckets of hard wheat for $23 or so for 45#. Add to that the fact that stored properly it has the longest stable shelf life of any food storage item, you should make sure you have a good amount of wheat and cereals in stock.
But it is smart to mix up your cereals some. Get a couple of types of rice, maybe some softer wheat (cake flour, etc), Rye, Corn, Oats, and others. you’ll always want some variety in your diet, and hey, you can always just experiment with new breads too.
Oh, and do get a mill/wheat grinder. Get a powered one first, and a hand mill second. It’s amazing how much better bread is with fresh flour. With a powered one you’re more likely to use your wheat right now, saving yourself money, getting much better breads, and just getting healthier. Added bonus, your house smells much nicer.
Fats and Oils
Yes embrace the necessity of Fats. Well, I know I’ve never needed to tell a chef that, but I’ll just back you up on that one. For basic storage of oils, I can answer one good reason for shortening over standard vegetable oil. Shelf life. Based on it’s nature, it tends to have a longer time before it goes rancid. You have to be careful about how long you keep your oil around, which is one reason it doesn’t tell you to keep too much. Most people would buy some Costco sized mega-container, and it would all spoil before it was even opened, much less the problems it would have if opened. I’ll agree on the PB too, it’s something we can’t have enough of, and have no trouble rotating through (in fact tend to over do that :) )
Dry beans are important for food storage, because as any Brasilian (and really any Latin American) will tell you, it’s food. It’s cheap food, and combined, beans and rice bring out some wonder-twin powers in each other. They combine to form more complete proteins which most of us will be lacking in a crappy situation because we won’t have nearly the amount of meat we’re used to. With he dry beans, yes, choose most any you like, and get some variety (and learn how to use them). Get the other dry or canned, as you would use them, but variety is good. Dried soup mix can be the basic soups you see, largely for spices, but more often refers to a Soup Base, that the canneries used to have. Was a simple soup/stock that was designed for mixing things in. Stock has great nutrition, even dried, and makes it much easier to use so much of this dried food.
Actually, I wouldn’t lower it at all. Now part of why this seems so high is based on the targeted usages for your food storage. It’s expected that if you’re smart enough to be storing food, you’ll probably have a garden too. You’ll see that sugar disappear the first time you make jam. Don’t forget your body will likely be craving some things that can sooth a sweet tooth while you change diets, and adding to that, most people can really do with the stress relief of their favorite desert.
As for the kool-aid, if you’ve read this far I’d think you’re drinking some :) . Actually one of the biggest reasons for the powdered drink mix is for water storage. Depending on how much, and how you’ve stored it, or what your filtration method and storage is, you can wind up with some funky flavors. It may be clean, but might taste quite off, and a little flavor will help you keep hydrated, which is pretty key in this area. Same thing camping, that mountain stream water aint always that refreshingly crisp :)
I actually think I’d want more of the honey and molasses though. We have a lot of good recipes using them.
How could you even question “other”. As a chef this should be seen as too little, without even trying. Sweetened condensed milk is a good one, along with evaporated milk. But let’s be even more obvious:
- Cheese – Serious comfort food, excellent enzyms and good storage. Freeze dried, Canned “queso”, or *real* canned cheese (that stuff is quite good, and amazing storage). Or if you have “wine cellar” type qualities, keep some cheese wheels around, they’ll just get better tasting, and you know you’ll rotate through them.
- Yogurt – Important dairy, will work wonders for your digestion, especially if not feeling well. But how do you store it? Well, you can get cultures that will store well, and learn to make your own!
- Soy Milk – yeah, it’s worthwhile to have :)
- UHT milk – Boxed milk, stores for a year or so. Parmalat is famous for this.
As for powdered milk, I have a strong aversion to it from having to drink it too often when we lived overseas. The texture is too different for my main staple food :) However, the morning-moos variety is better than others, and I have recently found Nido which is dried whole milk! yes, that helps the texture a ton. You can find it in small cans in the latin foods section of Wally World to try it out, just don’t buy the Nido Kinder (compare ingredients between the two to get a good idea).
There are some good ideas on how you can use powdered milk too, for making things like cheese/yogurt and more. Those could help you out.
Seasonings Seasonings Seasonings! You’ve got a lot of ‘basic foods’, you’ll want to spice them up. Dried, whole, etc, and get your herb garden running.
Oh, and as for the salt, as mentioned with the sugars, just think of having to do some pickling. Oh, and tanning, since I’m sure *everybody* will be running out trying to do some of that :)
This is of course something that we can’t be without, but always think is the last thing that we will not have. Possibly, but I’d rather be prepared. I go with the 2gal per person, since I think if I ever really need it, it’ll be in the summer here, and I know I’ll need more. Plus I like to be clean, meaning more than the minimum.
As for bleach, it loses its real potency starting after about 6 months, so check as to how much you store. You can get good dried chlorine too, good to keep around, and lasts longer.
There are great books that can help with this subject, and plenty of crappy ones too. I can suggest a few, and love to help friend get ready for the best or worst of times.