CACHING THE CALO­RIES

Menu-plan­ning for an un­sure fu­ture

American Survival Guide - - CONTENTS - By Jim Cobb

If you had to feed your fam­ily with only what you have in your home right this minute, how long would it take be­fore ev­ery­one is sit­ting down to a din­ner of ketchup pack­ets, pickle slices and one hard-boiled egg to split among ev­ery­one? One of the most ba­sic tenets of pre­pared­ness is food stor­age. You should have enough con­sum­ables on hand to last you and your fam­ily through a cri­sis. Do­ing so re­quires plan­ning and some de­gree of ex­pense. For­tu­nately, there are sev­eral op­tions to con­sider that make this prac­tice more palat­able.

STORE WHAT YOU EAT

The prepper world is filled with clever say­ings. One of them is, “Store what you eat; eat what you store.” The in­ten­tion here is twofold. First, con­cen­trate your food stor­age plan on items you know your fam­ily will eat. It makes no sense to in­vest money and en­ergy stor­ing canned beets if no­body in the house will eat them will­ingly. Yes, if you get hun­gry enough, you’ll eat al­most any­thing. But be­cause you have a free and open choice as to what you want to store, make ev­ery­one’s life eas­ier and se­lect foods that won’t cause up­turned noses. The sec­ond part of this is to en­sure you reg­u­larly ro­tate your sup­plies. Canned goods, as well as other types of long-term stor­age foods, will re­main just fine well past their ex­pi­ra­tion dates (when prop­erly stored). How­ever, when a dis­as­ter hits, you want the food in your home to be as fresh as pos­si­ble. Ro­ta­tion is what makes that pos­si­ble. Use it up and re­place it with a new sup­ply reg­u­larly.

PERISHABLES

This is a cat­e­gory of­ten left out of the food stor­age equa­tion, but it is an im­por­tant con­sid­er­a­tion. If the power is shut off, the av­er­age re­frig­er­a­tor will keep food at a safe tem­per­a­ture for about four hours. Now, that doesn’t mean that ev­ery­thing in the fridge needs to be tossed af­ter 240 min­utes with­out elec­tric­ity, of course. Meats and dairy prod­ucts get funky pretty fast, so those should be pre­pared and con­sumed first. Grill up burg­ers and chicken be­fore they, too, go bad. Fruits and veg­eta­bles will be just fine for a while, de­pend­ing on your lo­ca­tion and the weather. With the freezer, a big fac­tor is how full it is at the time the power goes out. A full freezer will keep the contents frozen far longer than one that is mostly empty. If you find that your freezer is run­ning low on food, con­sider putting some less-than-full plas­tic wa­ter bot­tles in­side. Not only will this help keep the food safe longer dur­ing an ex­tended power out­age, it is also one more way to store wa­ter for emer­gen­cies.

IF YOU HAD TO FEED YOUR FAM­ILY WITH ONLY WHAT YOU HAVE IN YOUR HOME RIGHT THIS MINUTE, HOW LONG WOULD IT TAKE BE­FORE EV­ERY­ONE IS SIT­TING DOWN TO A DIN­NER OF KETCHUP PACK­ETS, PICKLE SLICES AND ONE HARD-BOILED EGG TO SPLIT AMONG EV­ERY­ONE?

If you can man­age to put to­gether two or three meals with the perishables be­fore they go bad, that’s two or three meals that don’t need to come out of your food stores. Plus, fresh fruits and veg­gies are typ­i­cally far health­ier than their pack­aged ver­sions.

GRO­CERY STORE FARE

Con­trary to what you might pre­sume— based on prepper so­cial me­dia and re­lated web­sites—you don’t need to go out and drop sev­eral thou­sand dol­lars on pal­lets of spe­cial sur­vival food. Much of what the av­er­age fam­ily buys at the gro­cery store is just fine for stor­ing for short-term emer­gen­cies. Canned goods such as soup, stew, veg­eta­bles and fruit will stay good well be­yond the ex­pi­ra­tion dates printed on the cans. While fresh food is health­ier and prob­a­bly tastier than its canned coun­ter­parts, peas and such are only go­ing to last a lim­ited time with­out be­ing pre­served in some way. An­other ad­van­tage of canned goods: They are easy to pre­pare. Many of them can be eaten cold, of course, but most have their taste im­proved by heat­ing. In ad­di­tion to canned goods, you can find the prepper sta­ples of beans and rice in abun­dance at the lo­cal gro­cery store. (Many

THE PREPPER WORLD IS FILLED WITH CLEVER SAY­INGS. ONE OF THEM IS, “STORE WHAT YOU EAT; EAT WHAT YOU STORE.”

peo­ple toss bags of rice and other grains in the freezer for a week or so to kill off any in­sect eggs that might have found their way into the bags.) Dry pasta is an­other item to con­sider. It is fill­ing and re­quires noth­ing more than boil­ing wa­ter to pre­pare. And cans or jars of sauce will be ap­pre­ci­ated by the fam­ily too. Don't over­look dry soup mixes. Shore Lunch is one such dry soup brand; one pouch makes enough soup for a fam­ily of four. That's a pretty de­cent value, be­cause these sell for just a few bucks. But make sure to read the prepa­ra­tion in­struc­tions—some of the va­ri­eties re­quire more than just wa­ter to pre­pare. Other gro­cery store items to con­sider are any of the "just-add-wa­ter" types of bak­ing mixes, pouches of tuna or chicken, and in­stant pota­toes. Re­ally, once you start walk­ing up and down the store aisles, much of what you see is per­fectly fine for stor­ing for emer­gen­cies. One big ad­van­tage of in­clud­ing gro­cery store foods in your stor­age in­ven­tory is that your fam­ily is very fa­mil­iar with them. Pro­vided you buy the things you know they like to eat, there won't be many up­turned noses at an im­promptu candlelight din­ner.

HOME-CANNED FOOD

This is the best of both worlds. Can­ning your own fresh food al­lows you to con­trol ex­actly

what goes into the jar—from the amount of sodium to the amount of sugar. You can ex­per­i­ment with your own recipes and cre­ate truly stel­lar meals. Plus, food canned at home is of­ten health­ier than canned food you’d find in a store—if only be­cause it lacks the preser­va­tives and other chemicals found in a lot of store-bought foods. How­ever, can­ning food, es­pe­cially pres­sure can­ning, re­quires an in­vest­ment in time to learn the skills and do the work, as well as in equip­ment, be­cause you’ll need to pur­chase the can­ner, jars, lids, rings and other sup­plies. Start small to get some ex­pe­ri­ence be­fore at­tempt­ing large lots. Keep in mind that if you mess up the process, you could be look­ing at clean­ing up a mess, whether from a botched seal or from fam­ily mem­bers get­ting sick. Jars of canned food look great in the pantry. How­ever, they aren’t travel friendly, be­cause they are both heavy and frag­ile. Even so, if you have a good-sized gar­den or have ac­cess to great deals on pro­duce, learn­ing to can some of the bounty at home might prove worth­while.

MEALS, READY TO EAT (MRES)

While it is pos­si­ble to pur­chase gen­uine mil­i­tary-is­sue MRES, the prac­tice is frowned upon by the pow­ers that be. A bet­ter choice is to buy the civil­ian ver­sions.

CAN­NING YOUR OWN FRESH FOOD AL­LOWS YOU TO CON­TROL EX­ACTLY WHAT GOES INTO THE JAR, FROM THE AMOUNT OF SODIUM TO THE AMOUNT OF SUGAR.

RE­ALLY, ONCE YOU START WALK­ING UP AND DOWN THE STORE AISLES, MUCH OF WHAT YOU SEE IS PER­FECTLY FINE FOR STOR­ING FOR EMER­GEN­CIES.

MRES are great in that they pro­vide a lot of calo­ries, have quite a bit of food in one pack­age, and the food is com­pletely cooked and ready to eat. You might want to heat up the en­trees and such, but that's en­tirely op­tional. The down­side is that MRES are pretty ex­pen­sive—run­ning around $12 each, de­pend­ing on the source (al­though they are usu­ally sold in cases of 12). In ad­di­tion, they are pretty heavy, bulky and take up quite a bit of shelf space as com­pared to other food items. A diet con­cen­trated on MRES also has a ten­dency to wreak havoc on the di­ges­tive sys­tem. The ac­tual makeup of an MRE de­pends upon the source, but each one gen­er­ally has sev­eral com­po­nents: • En­tree (such as chili with beans, el­bow mac­a­roni with sauce, or chicken with noo­dles) • Side dish • Bread or cracker • Jelly or cheese spread • Pow­dered drink mix • Dessert A full MRE will also usu­ally have an ac­ces­sory pack that in­cludes salt and pep­per, uten­sil,

nap­kin and in­stant cof­fee. A flame­less heater might be in­cluded as well. The heater is ac­ti­vated with wa­ter, al­low­ing you to heat your meal when con­di­tions are poor for a fire.

FREEZE-DRIED FOODS

Yet one more op­tion in the food stor­age tool­box is the freeze-dried food pop­u­lar with campers and hik­ers. Wise and Moun­tain House are two pop­u­lar brands, al­though there are oth­ers too. The pouches are in­di­vid­ual meals for one or two peo­ple. These foods are light and easy to store for very long pe­ri­ods of time ... if you keep them cool and dry. They can be pricey, but the pouches are slightly cheaper than MRES, run­ning around $10 or $11 each. How­ever, this is an apples-and-or­anges com­par­i­son, be­cause an MRE has sev­eral com­po­nents, whereas the freeze-dried food pouch has just one food in­side. As with many canned foods, these pouch meals tend to be high in sodium, which could be an is­sue for some folks. One in­struc­tor I know has com­mented that af­ter largely sub­sist­ing on these meals for a few days, he can feel the ef­fects of that sodium in his sys­tem. How­ever, freeze-dried foods are quick and easy, re­quir­ing just some hot wa­ter. You can even eat the food right in the pouch. Plus, the food looks, smells and tastes like real food, which could be im­por­tant if you have picky eaters in the fam­ily. An­other op­tion is to buy freeze-dried food in #10 cans. These can run any­where from $20 to $50, with meat items be­ing at the higher end of the spec­trum. You can get in­di­vid­ual foods, such as ground beef or green beans, or you can get mixes, such as beef stew or rice and chicken. The serv­ings per can vary wildly—any­where from 10 to more than 20, de­pend­ing on the food. Of course, you can mix as much as you want when mak­ing a meal, so keep that in mind when plan­ning how much food to ac­quire. These cans might be the way to go if you have a large fam­ily. Mix and match the dif­fer­ent foods to pro­vide a well-bal­anced meal for ev­ery­one. Sealed cans should last up­ward of 25 years or more. But, once the can is opened, the food should be used up within sev­eral months to a year un­der ideal stor­age con­di­tions.

WA­TER RE­QUIRE­MENTS

An im­por­tant con­sid­er­a­tion as you plan your food stor­age pro­gram is how much wa­ter is needed to pre­pare the food. Many long-term foods—the freeze-dried se­lec­tions, for ex­am­ple, as well as items such as dry soup mixes—re­quire wa­ter to pre­pare. In fact, one pouch of dry soup mix might take up to eight cups of wa­ter. That's half a gal­lon right there for one meal. Even just a cup or two at each meal adds up over the course of the day or week. And if you don't have a re­li­able source for clean wa­ter, any foods you have stored that re­quire it will be largely worth­less to you. (Freeze-dried scram­bled eggs are mighty crunchy with­out wa­ter.) Rather than putting all your eggs in one bas­ket, as it were, use a com­bined ap­proach. A lit­tle from this cat­e­gory, a lit­tle from that sec­tion, and you’ll soon find you’ve amassed a high-qual­ity food stor­age sys­tem that will keep bel­lies full through any cri­sis to come.

A LIT­TLE FROM THIS CAT­E­GORY, A LIT­TLE FROM THAT SEC­TION, AND YOU’LL SOON FIND YOU’VE AMASSED A HIGH-QUAL­ITY FOOD STOR­AGE SYS­TEM THAT WILL KEEP BEL­LIES FULL THROUGH ANY CRI­SIS TO COME.

Right: Fresh pro­duce won’t go bad im­me­di­ately af­ter the power goes out ... but it won’t last for­ever.

As long as you and your fam­ily can find what’s needed, or­ga­ni­za­tion is in the eye of the beholder.

Fresh pro­duce isn’t al­ways thought of as part of a food stor­age pro­gram, but ev­ery meal you can make with it is one less that needs to come from your emer­gency stash.

Gro­cery stores are great sources for long-term stor­age foods that won’t break the bud­get.

Canned foods are of­ten in­fe­rior to fresh, but they’re bet­ter than let­ting your spine and belly but­ton grow closer to­gether.

Home canned foods are a great op­tion, pro­vided you take the time to do it prop­erly. The salmon in this jar will be just fine for sev­eral months.

Left: Safety pre­cau­tions are a must when can­ning food at home. Mis­takes could cause se­ri­ous ill­nesses.

Be­low, right: SPAM might be a stereo­type for sur­vival­ist food be­cause it is not only long last­ing, it is also tasty. With 15 fla­vors to choose from; and, along with other canned meats, SPAM can pro­vide needed pro­tein when wild sources are un­avail­able. (Photo: Jim Cobb)

Bot­tom, right: There is ab­so­lutely noth­ing wrong with in­clud­ing some com­fort foods in your food stor­age plan. (Photo: Jim Cobb)

Bot­tom, left: A #10 can of freeze-dried diced chicken can pro­vide the ba­sis for sev­eral meals. (Photo: Jim Cobb)

Be­low, left: MRES are bulky and heavy but are calo­rie-dense and fill­ing. (Photo: Jim Cobb)

Look for foods that don’t re­quire much in the way of prepa­ra­tion, other than maybe heat­ing or adding wa­ter.

Go through your lo­cal gro­cery store and make note of all the foods your fam­ily likes that will store for a long time with lit­tle or no ex­tra mea­sures needed.

There might be a lot of carbs in some of the foods com­monly found in long-term stor­age plans, but an emer­gency isn’t the time to worry about stick­ing to a diet.

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