A Frugal Guide to Freeze Dried Food Storage While freeze dried food storage is a crucial part of your prepping plan it should not cost you everything and you should not go in debt trying to stock your shelves. This is a very important thing to understand about prepping in general. Fight the panic prepping. …
Storing food, say a month or two’s worth, is no longer the habit of a fringe group of Doomers. Everyday moms like me have an extra stash of food set away for those “just in case” events. After working on my own food storage pantry for about 9 years now, I’ve learned a lot and […]
Most food storage products purchased from food storage companies are pretty much the same all across the board. Foods like wheat and freeze-fried fruit are all very similar no matter what brand you choose to buy. Other products, and dairy products in particular, are not that way so much. They vary from company to company, and […]
Today it’s about freeze-dried food in pantry size cans. When I teach classes or I’m asked to speak to large groups, I always bring some #10 cans (7-inches tall and 6-1/4 inches in diameter), but I also bring some smaller pantry size cans. The pantry size cans I have are a bit more expensive per ounce, but in reality, Mark and I don’t need to open a large #10 can for just the two of us. I’m so glad a few readers reminded me to mention the smaller cans. I thought to myself, oh my gosh, I have got to write a post about the smaller pantry size cans. Now, I did write a post a few years ago with pictures of them in my bag of food if we had to leave our home with our 72-hour kits.
It’s so hot where we live, I store my 72-hours kits outside in the garage and the food in a sweater bag. 72-Hour Food Bags. I want to share this picture with the pantry size cans and the pouches I purchased a few years ago. Remember, 95% of them have a shelf life of 20-25 years. I don’t like digging through stuff to rotate, so I used a Sweater Bag to store my grab and go food. They work great. Please remember that we still need to grab water to go with the food. Just giving you the heads-up here. This is the food spread out on a table:
The pantry size cans are 5-1/2 inches tall and 4-inches in diameter. The reason I like them is that they are smaller in size and I don’t feel like I have to open one of my #10 cans when it’s time to plan a meal. I buy a lot of #10 cans, don’t get me wrong, I need to for my long-term storage. But sometimes I need a little cheddar cheese, instant milk, or freeze-dried grapes. Yes, the freeze-dried grapes are awesome in quinoa salads or to eat right out of the can. Yummy!
If you ever buy freeze-dried pineapple it will disappear very fast. It’s my family’s favorite snack. I buy that in #10 cans. I also dehydrate excess pineapple as well. But the commercial products last longer and it saves me money in the long run.
I bought mine from Thrive Life and I highly recommend that company. You can see some pouches above as well, but today I am just talking about the pantry cans.
You may see a can of soup above and some yogurt bites. The shelf-life of those two items is much shorter than the 20-25 years. I feel like I need a soup base where I can just add water and throw in some freeze-dried veggies to make a soup. I thought the yogurt bites would be a nice treat to snack on.
My Favorite Pantry Size Freeze-Dried Food:
I can’t find a soup base on their website. I can see some pouches, but they may have discontinued the cream based soup in pantry size cans.
The website won’t let me grab the pantry links, so here is the Thrive Life Vegetable Link. I have all of these and have tried each and every one of them. Please remember that freeze-dried food is a bit more expensive, but you can eat the food right out of the can. It uses less fuel and lasts 20-25 years (in a cool room). You don’t have to wash the veggies, slice or chop them. You can use these in soups, stews or eat them as a side dish after you hydrate them.
Please keep in mind if you see they do not have the one product you want today, it may be out of stock because it is out of season.
Green Chili Peppers
Zucchini: I noticed it is not available at this time. I did not like the zucchini, too chewy for me.
I have tried all of the fruits I have listed below, except the cranberries. They are all fabulous, no washing, slicing or cutting up anything. Freeze-dried food lasts longer, just check the shelf-like of the kind you decide to buy whether it’s this brand or another company. Thrive Life is the only one I am aware of that sells pantry size cans. Thrive Life Fruits Link
I highly recommend this milk. I don’t drink milk, but I have made this milk for Mark and used it when I make my white bread. Thrive Life Instant Milk Link
Please remember I don’t sell these, but I do recommend them and I have several cases of the ones I have listed. I will never recommend any food I have not tried. When I taught classes in my home before I started my blog, I had my neighbors taste test all of these items. My plan today was to let you know that you can buy pantry size cans of all these items. They are great for one person or a couple. I think even large families may want a pantry size can of say Parmesan cheese because a #10 can might be too much for them to use before it goes bad once opened. Thanks to all of you who read and apply the things we discuss on the blog. You’ll be so glad you implement a food storage plan for your family.
Have you often wondered if you could survive on freeze-dried vegetables? Do you sometimes wonder how do they taste? What do they look like? Here’s the deal, with freeze-dried foods you can literally eat most of the vegetables right out of the can. Be sure and get a good can opener, friendly reminder. Yep, we need to be able to open those #10 cans. I think I have ten can openers stashed throughout my emergency preparedness stockpile. If you can cook from scratch you can cook with any of the freeze-dried vegetables. You don’t need a special food storage cookbook because these vegetables are just vegetables with the water removed. Dehydrated foods must be cooked, but I will talk about them another day. You don’t need a special cookbook for them either.
You can throw the freeze-dried vegetables in any soup base if you have rehydrated them with tepid water, you just drain them and add to your pot of soup. They cook faster than dehydrated vegetables, so therefore, we would use less power or zero power if we ate them directly from the can. If you are using a water-based soup you can just throw the veggies into the soup without having to rehydrate them in water first. If you use a cream-based soup you will want to rehydrate them or the soup may become too thick. Either way, they are easy to use and taste as close to fresh vegetables as you can imagine once we rehydrate them. They taste a lot better than canned vegetables, plus, the variety is endless.
Let’s be honest here, they are not exactly the same as fresh vegetables, but they taste great! Let me give you some ideas on the different ones I have and use regularly. The fabulous part about these is the fact we don’t have to wash the vegetables, cut, chop or slice them! Plus the companies like Augason Farms, Thrive Live and Honeyville freeze-dried vegetables have a shelf life of 20-25 years unopened in optimal storage conditions. Please do not store any food storage in your hot garage. I only store my food storage in my home, and it’s a small home.
My favorite soup bases:
Here again, you can always make it from scratch, but if I have to feed 30 people dinner after a disaster, I want a soup base that tastes good and I just have to add water and heat them through, and then add the veggies. This is one of my favorite soup bases, do I like all the ingredients in them, no, but beggars can’t be choosers after a disaster. One of the reasons I like to buy soup bases even though they have a short shelf life (5-8 years) is the fact I just have to add water and not use my dried butter or instant milk. The freeze-dried vegetables only have the vegetables in the cans, nothing else added in the brands I buy.
I have seen Augason Farms soups online and at Walmart in the food storage sections. All you do is add water and some vegetables and cook the soup.
Freeze-dried vegetables for soup:
The freeze-dried vegetables only have the vegetables in the cans, no other ingredients added in the brands I buy.
Pros to freeze-dried vegetables:
they have a long shelf-life, typically 20-30 years, depending on the temperature of the room where they are stored. You can eat them directly out of the can. They cook up faster than dehydrated veggies. They will use less fuel to cook.
Cons to freeze-dried vegetables:
they cost more than dehydrated ones, some people say are too expensive. I look at it this way, they use less fuel and last longer on my shelves.
My favorite freeze-dried vegetables:
They are great for soups, omelets, and casseroles
Kids love to eat this corn right out of the can, great as a side dish, in a soup, and in stews
They are fabulous in soups, you can make a skinny pizza crust with them, too
I use these almost daily in stir fry dishes, soups, casseroles, and in stews
These taste great right out of the can, in casseroles, soups, as a side dish, great in stir fry dishes
Green bell peppers:
These are great in casseroles, soups, stews or omelets
They taste great right out of the can, great with creamed chip beef on toast or biscuits, great as a side dish
I use these all the time, in my homemade salad dressings and any casserole that calls for green onions
The first thing that comes to my mind is pizza, casseroles, mushroom soup, omelets
I use these every day, in stir fry dishes, soups, casseroles, omelets
These are great fried in butter as a side dish, in soups, casseroles, cheesy potatoes and stews
Red Bell peppers:
These are great in casseroles, soups, stews or omelets
I don’t care for cooked spinach, but I use this in my spinach dip on the back of the Knorr’s Vegetable soup box.
These can be used in any omelet, casserole, soup, stew or salad dressing
I hope this gives you some ideas on how to use freeze-dried vegetables in your kitchen. I don’t use all my freeze-dried vegetables every day, but the ones I use the most are, onions, celery, green onions, green bell peppers, and red bell peppers. When I buy these they last longer than fresh and it keeps me out of the store, which I think saves me money in the long run since I’m not tempted to buy stuff at the store while there.
I’m surprised how much the cost of all food storage continues to escalate, but we don’t want to be dependent on others after a disaster. Please buy one #10 can a month, or more often, as your budget allows. May God bless our country and world at this time. I see some rough times coming and I want all of us to be prepared for the unexpected.
Many of us know how fragile our economy and transportation systems are. One hiccup can leave an area without food deliveries for a while. Then, throw in there all the “other” stuff that comes with a crisis: do you bug in or bug out? Is everyone safe? Are people acting civil or like animals “out there?” Can this crisis get further out of control? What would that look like? There are a bunch of things to consider. That’s why we prep!
In a crisis, food is going to be important! Being able to make quick meals, getting the right amount of calories, having food that you can bug out with if you need to, not having to depend on the government…all these are important things to consider when storing food. That’s why food storage is one of the big topics that comes up in preparedness and survival talk.
Preppers all agree that you should store what you eat and eat what you store. Your food storage should be made up of what you have in your pantry, canned foods and long term food storage, like #10 cans and buckets of food staples you can make on your own with mylar bags, oxygen absorbers, and 5-gallon buckets. But many agree that you should have some freeze-dried food as well.
I was recently sent the Legacy Mega Sample Pack. This food bucket is filled with 183 servings of long term food storage. Legacy foods are different in that they provide 1 1/2 – 2 cups per serving. When you’re hungry, that will make a big difference! Each serving is an average of 227 calories. The total number of calories of the Mega Pack is 41,600. In an average 2,000 calorie day, the bucket will provide one person with 20 days worth of food.
“The 183 Serving MEGA Sample Pack from Legacy Premium includes 4 different breakfasts (16 servings total), 19 different entrees (76 servings total), 6 side dishes (24 servings total), 2 drink mixes (32 servings total), and coffee (35 servings total).” SOURCE
So How Does It Taste?
I chose to cook the Alfredo Pasta for the taste test. I was impressed! I’m not quite sure what I was expecting. Probably something that was edible, but more “survival” food. The food could actually be served for a regular family meal.
It’s important to know that Legacy food doesn’t only taste good, but is gluten free and vegetarian.
The Legacy Mega Sampler Pack has 76 Five Star ratings on the Legacy Page and a total of 4.5 Stars on Amazon. The pack breaks down to $10.95 per pound of food. This food will last 25 years if kept in a controlled environment. If you are looking to add some freeze-dried food to your long term food storage or you want some to be a part of your BOB or 72-hour kit, you should really consider the Legacy Mega Sampler Pack. Get even more info. here!
The internet is full of websites that give information on survival topics, including food storage. There are dozens and dozens of books that will teach you “the right way” to store food and YouTube videos galore. Most contain valid, trustworthy information, but mixed in with that are a number of food storage myths that many people accept without question.
Here are 10 that I take issue with, and I explain why.
By the way, following Myth #10 are 2 short videos that review these myths.
Myth #1: You should stock up on lots of wheat.
When I was researching foods typically eaten during the Great Depression, I noticed that many of them included sandwiches of every variety. So it makes sense to stock up on wheat, which, when ground, becomes flour, the main ingredient to every bread recipe.
There are a couple of problems with the focus on wheat in virtually all food storage plans, however. First, since the time of the Great Depression millions of people now have various health issues when they consume wheat. From causing gluten intolerance to celiac disease our hybridized wheat is a whole ‘nother animal that our great-grandparents never consumed.
The second issue is that wheat isn’t the simplest food to prepare, unless you simply cook the wheat berries in water and eat them as a hot cereal or add them to other dishes. In order to make a loaf of bread, you have to grind the wheat, which requires the purchase of at least one grain mill. Electric mills are much easier to use and, within just seconds, you have freshly ground flour. However, you’ll probably want to add a hand-crank mill to have on hand for power outages. All together, 2 mills will end up costing a pretty penny, depending on the brands you purchase.
Then there’s the process of making the bread itself, which is time consuming.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t store wheat, and, in fact, I have several hundred pounds of it myself. The emphasis on wheat as a major component in food storage is what I have a problem with. In retrospect, I wish I had purchased far more rice and less wheat. Rice is incredibly simple to prepare and is very versatile. It, too, has a very long shelf life.
Myth #2: Beans last forever.
While it’s true that beans have a long shelf life, they have been known to become virtually inedible over time. Old-timers have reported using every cooking method imaginable in order to soften the beans. A pressure cooker is one option but, again, some have told me that doesn’t even work!
Another option is to grind the beans and add the powdered beans to various recipes. They will still contain some nutrients and fiber.
Over the years, I’ve stocked up on cans of beans — beans of all kinds. They retain their nutrients in the canning process and are already cooked, so there’s no need to soak, boil, pressure cook, etc. You can always home can dried beans, and if you have beans that have been around for more than 10 years or so, canning them is a super simple process and insures they won’t become inedible.
Myth #3: If they’re hungry enough, they’ll eat it!
Have you ever fallen in love with a recipe that was easy to make, inexpensive, and your family loved it? You probably thought you’d finally found The Dream Recipe. And then you made it a second time, then a third, then a fourth. About the 8th or 9th time, however, you may have discovered that you had developed a mild form of food fatigue. Suddenly, it didn’t taste all that great and your family wasn’t giving it rave reviews anymore.
When it comes to food storage, don’t assume that someone will eat a certain item they currently hate, just because they’re hungry. If you stock up on dozens of #10 cans of Turkey Tetrazzini, sooner or later the family will revolt, no matter how hungry they are.
Myth #4. All I need is lots and lots of canned food.
There’s nothing wrong with canned food. In fact, that’s how I got started with food storage. However, canned food has its limitations. A can of ravioli is a can of ravioli. You can’t exactly transform it into a completely different dish. As well, canned food may have additives that you don’t care to eat and, in the case of my own kids, tastes change over time. I had to eventually give away the last few cans of ravioli and Spaghetti-O’s because my kids suddenly didn’t like them anymore.
Be sure to rotate whatever canned food you have, since age takes a toll on all foods, but, as I’ve discovered, on certain canned items in particular. My experience with old canned tuna hasn’t been all that positive, and certain high-acid foods, such as canned tomato products, are known to have issues with can corrosion. Double check the seams of canned food and look for any sign of bulging, leaks, or rust.
Lightly rusted cans, meaning you can rub the rust off with a cloth or your fingertip, are safe to continue storing. However, when a can is badly rusted, there’s a very good chance that the rust has corroded the can, allowing bacteria to enter. Those cans should be thrown away.
Worried about the “expiration” date on canned food? Well, those dates are set by the food production company and don’t have any bearing on how the food will taste, its nutrients, or safety after that date. If the food was canned correctly and you’ve been storing it in a dry and cool location, theoretically, the food will be safe to consume for years after that stamped date.
Myth #5: I can store my food anywhere that I have extra space.
Yikes! Not if you want to extend its shelf life beyond just a few months! Know the enemies of food storage and do your best to store food in the best conditions possible.
TIP: Learn more about the enemies of food storage: heat, humidity, light, oxygen, pests, and time.
I emphasize home organization and decluttering on this blog, mainly because it frees up space that is currently occupied by things you don’t need or use. Start decluttering and then storing your food in places that are cool, dark, and dry.
Myth #6: My food will last X-number of years because that’s what the food storage company said.
I have purchased a lot of food from very reputable companies over the years: Augason Farms, Thrive Life, Honeyville, and Emergency Essentials. They all do a great job of processing food for storage and then packaging it in containers that will help prolong its shelf life.
However, once the food gets to your house, only you are in control of how that food is stored. Yes, under proper conditions, food can easily have a shelf life of 20 years or more, but when it’s stored in heat, fluctuating temperatures, and isn’t protected from light, oxygen, and pests, and never rotated, it will deteriorate quickly.
NOTE: When food is old, it doesn’t become poisonous or evaporate in its container. Rather, it loses nutrients, flavor, texture, and color. In a word, it becomes unappetizing.
Myth #7: Just-add-hot-water meals are all I need.
There are many companies who make and sell only add-hot-water meals. In general, I’m not a big fan of these. They contain numerous additives that I don’t care for, in some cases the flavors and textures and truly awful, but the main reason why I don’t personally store a lot of these meals is because they get boring.
Try eating pre-made chicken teriyaki every day for 2 weeks, and you’ll see what I mean. Some people don’t require a lot of variety in their food, but most of us tire quickly when we eat the same things over and over.
These meals have a couple of advantages, though. They are lightweight and come in handy during evacuation time and power outages. If you can boil a couple of cups of water over a rocket stove, propane grill, or some other cooking device, then you’ll have a meal in a few minutes.
TIP: Store a few days worth of just-add-water meals with your emergency kits and be ready to grab them for a quick emergency evacuation. Be sure to also pack a spoon or fork for each person and a metal pot for meals that require cooking over a heat source.
However, for a well-balanced food storage pantry, stock up on individual ingredients and fewer just-add-hot-water meals.
Myth #8: I can stock up on a year’s worth and won’t need to worry about food anymore.
That is probably the fantasy of many a prepper. Buy the food, stash it away, and don’t give it a thought until the S hits the fan. There’s a big problem with that plan, however. When everything does hit the fan and it’s just you and all that food:
- Will you know how to prepare it?
- Will you have the proper supplies and tools to prepare the food?
- Did you store enough extra water to rehydrate all those cans of freeze-dried and dehydrated foods?
- Do you have recipes you’re familiar with, that your family enjoys, and that use whatever you’ve purchased?
- What if there’s an ingredient a family member is allergic to?
- Does everyone even like what you’ve purchased?
- Have any of the containers been damaged? How do you know if you haven’t inspected them and checked them occasionally for bulges and/or pest damage?
If you’ve purchased a pre-packaged food storage supply, the contents of that package were determined by just a small handful of people who do not know your family, your health issues, or other pertinent details. These packages aren’t a bad thing to have on hand. Just don’t be lulled into a false sense of security.
Myth #9: Freeze dried foods are too expensive.
Yes, there is a bit of sticker shock initially when you begin to shop online at sites like Thrive Life, Augason Farms, and Emergency Essentials. If you’ve been used to paying a few dollars for a block of cheddar cheese and then see a price of $35 for a can of freeze-dried cheddar, it can be alarming.
However, take a look at how many servings are in each container and consider how much it would cost to either grow or purchase that same food item and preserve it in one way or another, on your own.
The 3 companies I mentioned all have monthly specials on their food and other survival supplies — that’s how I ended up with 2 cases of granola from Emergency Essentials!
Myth #10: This expert’s food storage plan will fit my family.
The very best food storage plan is the one that you have customized yourself. By all means, use advice given by a number of experts. Take a look at online food calculators, but when it’s time to make purchases, buy what suits your family best. What one person thinks is ideal for food storage may leave your kids retching.
Lots of resources to help you with your food storage pantry
- “A Round-Up of Food Storage Resources“
- Food Saver — vacuum system for storing food long-term
- Food Saver Mason jar sealer
- Food Storage for Self-Sufficiency and Survival by Angela Paskett
- Oxygen absorbers, 100 cc
- Prepper’s Guide to Food Storage by Gaye Levy
- The Preparedness Planner (Print this out and prepare a customized planner!)
- The Prepper’s Cookbook by Tess Pennington
- Survival Mom: How to Prepare Your Family for Everyday Emergencies and Worst Case Scenarios by Lisa Bedford
Want this info on video? Here you go!
Food Storage Myths, Part 1: Myths 1-5
Food Storage Myths, Part 2: Myths 6-10
Never miss another Survival Mom article or video!
I recently got a few samples of Backpacker’s Pantry freeze-dried meals to review, and I was very excited to try them out, because Backpacker’s Pantry is one of the few large-scale freeze-dried meal producers to not just feature, but promote and develop a large variety of gluten-free and/or organic ingredient options. Backpacker’s Pantry, based out of Boulder, Colorado, offers a huge selection of meals – breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, snacks. Vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, no nuts, no soy, low sodium – it’s all there. A huge selection of different meals is available for people or families with dietary restrictions, or selective diet through personal choice. I was particularly excited to try these out, because my wife is viciously gluten-intolerant. This makes life tough not only for her concerning her daily diet, but also for the guy who gets to try to stockpile and save long-term food supplies.
Trying to find a variety of foods that can keep over the long haul is definitely a challenge, and I’ll take all the help I can get; so color me tickled pink to see some decent gluten-free options available.
When rooting around in the box of sample meals, the first Backpacker’s Pantry meal I came upon that was gluten-free was the Persian Peach Stew With Chicken. The combination of flavors sounded interesting – definitely different – so I pulled it out of the box and read the package. The ingredient list was straightforward, with no 26-letter-long names of made-up ingredients I couldn’t pronounce, no preservatives, no “other natural flavors”. There are two servings per package, each 290 calories, with 9 grams of sugar, 12 grams of protein, 47 grams of carbohydrates, and – the Achilles heel of freeze dried food – a heavy dose of sodium at 660mg. Everything looked on the level and up to snuff, so I decided to take the meal for a test drive.
Related: The Survival Food Pyramid
Upon opening the package, you’ll find the standard-issue oxygen/moisture absorbing package, as well as a small package of organic extra virgin olive oil (a new one to me), and the dried contents of the meal. When you’re ready to whip up the meal, be sure to pull out the oxygen absorbing package out of the meal before installing the olive oil and 2 cups of boiling hot water, right in the packaging the meal comes in. Reseal the package and set aside for 13 minutes.
There is a note on the package that states “rehydration time doubles every 5,000 feet of elevation gain. Our directions are set for 5,000 feet.” Since my homestead elevation is about 400 feet above sea level, I went with the standard 13 minute cook time. If you live/bug out at above 5,000 feet elevation, you’ll want to adjust the cook time accordingly, lest you have crunchy rice.
Once the timer went off, I opened the package to find that the long grain white rice actually looked like rice, and all the rest of the food had nicely reconstituted from nondescript-looking chopped matter into a delectable-appearing meal. The aroma was promising as I dumped some of the contents into a bowl for its taste-bud audition.
And you know what? Backpacker’s Pantry Persian Peach Stew With Chicken was surprisingly good! The peach flavor hits quickly, along with a hint of cumin. But the flavor medley plays nice with the rice and chicken, and the meal is really not bad considering 13 minutes ago it had been completely dried out and sealed in a package meant for long-term storage. Granted, it’s not homecooked, but it’s every bit as good as any off-the-shelf seasoned rice meals you can pick off the shelves at your local grocery store. The rice was a bit mushy and the small cubes of chicken were rather devoid of taste – to be expected, but all things considered, I was pleasantly impressed, especially compared to other freeze-dried meal packets I’ve tried.
Perhaps the greatest compliment that I can give to the Persian Peach Stew With Chicken is that my uber-picky 16-year-old son tried the meal and approved. Normally you couldn’t get him to eat rice if his life depended on it, but he actually said that he would eat this anytime as a side dish to a main meal. He was surprised when I told him it could be considered to be survival food, and said we should keep some on hand for camping chow. My wife wasn’t available for the sampling, but I’ll make sure she tries the next gluten-free sample from Backpacker’s Pantry.
Further Reading: Mountain House Freeze Dried Food Review
Overnight gastrointestinal implications were nil – while everyone has different gastrointestinal reactions to freeze-dried foods, I did not suffer any “morning-after” races to the toilet like some preservative-sodden offerings do to me. The high sodium levels (probably combined with the tasty Narragansett Lager I had with the meal) made me a little parched the next morning, but otherwise there were no personal ugly side effects. Always a bonus, especially when toilets are a long ways from camp or the tree stand.
All things considered…
The Backpacker’s Pantry Persian Peach Stew With Chicken definitely would be a great addition to a bug-out bag, or your long-term storage plans. It isn’t available in #10 cans (yet), just 5.1 ounce freeze-dried vacuum-sealed foil packages. The food quality was very good (say 4 out of 5 stars compared to other freeze-dried foods), uniquely tasty with its peach flavor, and has good amounts of protein to help keep you moving when you’re on the trail. The one-half package serving size was acceptable, but if you’re on the move or expecting lots of sustained movement for the day, you might want to chow down on the whole package. The price tag per pouch is a touch higher than other freeze-dried offerings, but I’d rather pay a couple more bucks and know that I’m not getting lambasted with preservatives and unpronounceable ingredients.
I’m looking forward to trying a couple of the other packages in the sample box; maybe the Multigrain Buttermilk Hotcakes for breakfast? Keep an eye out for further reviews of Backpacker’s Pantry products by the SHTFBlog/Survival Cache crew.
When I first began setting up my family’s food storage pantry, I was in a bit of a panic. It was late 2008, the economy was beginning to wave red warning flags, and all I wanted was to keep my family safe and surviving. I never stopped to figure out how much food to store.
So, into the shopping cart went multiple cans of ravioli, boxes of granola bars, juice boxes, and Honey Nut Cheerios. I had no idea of how much we needed to have, nor which foods were best. I just figured that food would keep us alive, and that was what was most important.
Well, that’s not a bad starting point, but over time, my knowledge of food storage increased and the contents of my pantry improved, and I owe it all to spaghetti sauce.
The spaghetti sauce eye-opener
One day, after I’d been storing food for several months, I was looking over my over-stuffed pantry shelves and counted the jars of spaghetti sauce I had on hand. 53. Fifty-three jars of Prego, Ragu, Paul Newman’s — pretty much any brand for which I had found a coupon.
Then I counted the amount of spaghetti I had: 13 packages. How did I plan on making spaghetti as a meal without much actual spaghetti? That’s when I realized the importance of aligning what was in my pantry with specific meals planned and knowing how much of each ingredient to purchase and store.
As a mom, I do my regular grocery shopping around a menu. I make a list of what I want to cook for dinners, what we’ll eat for breakfasts and lunches, and then create a shopping list. I think in terms of recipes, not so much in terms of ounces or pounds of specific ingredients.
Over time, this is pretty much how I’ve managed my entire food storage. It’s centered around what we actually like to eat and meals that are easy to prepare if we were without power and I had to use a solar oven, like this one. Even in the best of times, cooking is not my favorite past time, so why complicate the process when planning for the worst of times with overly fussy recipes that are time consuming.
When all hell is breaking loose, who cares if they’re eating chili mac or boeuf bourguignon?
It’s important to have a solid idea of how much food your family consumes now as well as how much it will consume following a major disaster of some type. That way, you’ll know your own family’s needs are covered, will have an idea of how much you can spare (or not) in helping others, and will also let you know when you’ve reached your food storage goal.
Get started with the recipes
One of the best ways to make sure you are storing what you eat, is by doing doing just that – STORE WHAT YOU EAT! Find your family’s favorite recipes and then figure out how much food you’ll need to be able to make those meals for 3 months, 6 months, or however long you want to hide out in your home away from zombies.
You might have to make some minor adjustments to your recipes – like having canned chicken on hand, or buying some freeze-dried fruits and veggies, but if you plan ahead you will have everything you need in case Ebola strikes your town and you need to hide out for awhile.
Some of the recipes that I have in my food storage planner are Macho Mexican Rice (been making this for years, you can tweak it in dozens of different ways), No-Recipe Soups, and various types of skillet casseroles.
In the case of soups and casseroles, their cooking pots or pans become both a mixing bowl, the cooking/baking vessel, and then the serving dish, all in one. Again, think “hard times, no power, must…keep…up…my…strength”. Anything that makes the whole cooking/eating/cleaning cycle easy is the route to take.
As well, look for recipes that are shelf stable and do not require refrigeration. In prepper circles, this is why dehydrated and freeze-dried foods are so popular. Stock up on cans of freeze-dried ground beef, store in on a shelf in a cool location, and you’ll be able to make hamburger pie, chili, or tacos in a matter of 5 minutes. The brand of freeze-dried food that I use most often is Thrive Life, but there are many different brands on the market.
For recipes requiring fresh produce, consider buying freeze-dried and/or dehydrated. Dittos if they call for meat and dairy products. Freeze-dried cheese is surprisingly good, although expensive.
The breakfasts and lunches at my house rarely require an actual recipe. For breakfast, I personally favor oatmeal and homemade pancakes. If I make 3-4 loaves of bread per week for my family of 4, I can serve up sandwiches at lunch. Leftovers are another popular lunch item as well as quick meals of pasta and homemade marinara sauce. Even though these meals are quick and casual, I will still have to account for them in my planning.
How to calculate how much food to store
Now that you have your meals planned, it’s time to calculate how much food you’ll need. A goal of 3 months is a reasonable one for more people and all too many crises, such as Superstorm Sandy, have proven that life doesn’t always return to normal as quickly as we might expect.
Also, in the days and weeks following a major disaster and the grocery stores have re-opened, do you really want to have grocery shopping on your To Do list? That stash of food, cleaning supplies, toiletries, etc. will be a godsend in more ways than one.
So, on to our calculations.
For each recipe, decide how many times you want to make it in a given month. A meal of pasta and marinara would be fine with my own family if I served it once a week. Dittos for the Macho Mexican Rice and chicken salad using freeze dried chicken. I’ll plan on making each of these meals once a week, or 12 times for my 3-month plan.
For your planning purposes, it will be simpler to assume each main meal/recipe will be made once a week. Therefore, when it comes time to begin shopping for ingredients, you’ll take each recipe, multiply each ingredient times 12, and that’s how much of each ingredient you’ll need to stock up on.
Going back to my Mexican rice recipe, let’s use that as an example:
- 2 cups white rice
- 3 T. olive oil
- 3 cups water or chicken broth
- 2 T. tomato paste
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 t. salt
- 1 t. each: cumin, chili powder
- 1 can chopped green chilies
- 1/2 c. corn (frozen, freeze-dried, or canned)
- 1/2 c. salsa
My plan is to make this once a week and, since all the ingredients are very food-storage friendly (have long shelf lives and can be stored at room temperature), I’m ready to move on to my calculations by multiplying each ingredient amount by 12.
- 24 cups white rice
- 36 T. olive oil
- 36 cups water or chicken broth
- 24 T. tomato paste
- 24 cloves garlic
- 6 t. salt
- 12 t. each: cumin, chili powder
- 12 cans chopped green chilies
- 6 c. corn
- 6 c. salsa
Looking over this list, a few things come to mind that will make storing this food easier. First, rice is inexpensive and maybe another rice-centered meal would be a good idea. I can buy a 50 pound bag of rice at Costco and be ready to make many dozens of these recipes. That would cover 2 days per week with 2 rice meals.
Storing oil can be tricky, and I detail the problem and solutions in this article, but in this case, olive oil stores for quite a long while on its own and can also be refrigerated or even frozen to extend its shelf life.
Next, if I prefer chicken broth over water, I can buy a large can of chicken bouillon and be good for at least a year. The bouillon from the grocery store is very expensive in comparison. Buy tomato paste in the largest size can OR make my own with tomato powder and a little bit of water.
Most of my recipes require garlic and I have a good supply of garlic powder on hand already. For this recipe and during a time of duress, I’d go ahead and use that garlic powder in lieu of fresh garlic. If you also use a lot of garlic in your cooking, plant many cloves of it and begin harvesting your own.
The remaining ingredients are all nicely shelf stable and will last for years by storing them in a dark, cool location — away from the enemies of food storage. I buy many spices in bulk already and canned goods and the salsa can be purchased inexpensively with coupons.
Once I know how much of each ingredient I need for this recipe, I need to make the same calculations for every other recipe in my plan. Honestly, this is the hardest part of the whole planning process.
You’ll end up with quite a long list of ingredients, but you’ll find a lot of recipes will call for the same ingredient. Between coupons, grocery store sales, and buying food in bulk when it costs less per unit, this really doesn’t have to be expensive.
By the way, if these large amounts cause you to freak out, just step your goal down a notch from 3 months to 1 month or from 1 month to 2 weeks. The main goal is to have extra food on hand that your family will eat and that can be prepared for a time of emergency. Once you get those 2 weeks or that 1 month under your belt, just repeat the process, except this time around, you’ll be a pro!
The recipe secret
If you think about a time when you’ll have to rely on stored food to see you and your family through a very tough time, the last thing you’ll want to do is make complicated recipes. The Mexican rice recipe borders on being almost too fussy for a survival recipe, but I’ve made it many times and know that I can make it as simple as possible by using only the first 6 or 7 ingredients AND I can turn it into a very satisfying meal by adding just about any kind of meat, including homemade hamburger rocks or freeze-dried beef.
The secret to making the planning, shopping, and storing of your food easy is by selecting very simple recipes that call for basic ingredients that will also be used in other dishes. If your kids can also make the recipes, that’s a huge bonus. This article provides even more details for the planning process.
Depending on your own style and skills, all this information can be kept in a spreadsheet or on sheets of plain old notebook paper. You’ll definitely want to have a system for tracking what you have and what you still need to buy.
Casseroles. Love them or hate them, they are definitely a comfort food to many and a super-convenient main dish to others. I grew up on casseroles, from the classic Tuna Noodle Casserole to my Nana’s Shlumgum, so I’m a fan.
The casserole can become the best friend to any busy mom or dad, and if you’ve been working on building a food storage pantry, you’ll fall in love with the idea of a No-Recipe Casserole. This is more of a concept than a recipe with specific measurements or even ingredients, and for that reason, it’s the perfect food storage companion.
The building blocks of any casserole
Just about any casserole recipe you find is made up of 5-7 of these building blocks:
- A base
- Additional liquid
- A topping of some sort
Once you get these 7 components in your head, along with a few more bits of information, you’re equipped to rummage through your freezer, fridge, and pantry shelves to produce a casserole totally unique in the world! And that’s not necessarily a bad thing!
Let’s take a closer look at these 7 building blocks and the individual ingredients for each:
The base of a casserole acts as a binding agent to hold all the other ingredients together. The base of your casserole could be as simple as a can of “Cream of…” soup. Cream of mushroom soup is a classic casserole ingredient, but if you don’t want to use a processed food product, try making your own “Cream of…”soup mix and use that. Another option is leftover gravy or a couple of gravy packets. For added creaminess, add 2-3 tablespoons of cream cheese or 1/2 of sour cream.
A source of protein
There are many wonderful meat-free casseroles recipes, but if your casserole is going to be a hearty main dish, you should add a protein, even if it’s just a can of rinsed beans. Any meat or poultry will do, and, in fact, try combining different types of meat, especially if you have leftovers. The secret to my amazing chili is that I combine ground beef, cooked bacon, chopped kielbasa — almost any meat I have, and the results are delicious. You can do the same with this No-Recipe Casserole. Chopped/shredded chicken or turkey, ground beef, tuna, venison — it’s all good. Be sure the meat is cooked and drained before adding it to your base, and figure on 12-16 ounces or so.
I’ve found that freeze-dried meats work wonderfully in casseroles. They are already cooked and diced and only need to be rehydrated. I use freeze-dried diced chicken in my family’s very favorite Sonoran Enchilada Casserole, and you would never know that chicken wasn’t freshly cooked. Home-canned chicken or beef is another option for quickly adding a source of protein.
The beauty of adding a carbohydrate to your casserole is that it will increase the amount of calories and the amount of food at the same time. Extra calories are an important consideration in times of emergency, since these typically require more physical activity from us, and just by adding a handful of rice or macaroni, a recipe that would have normally served 6 people, can suddenly serve 8 or 10.
Carbs that work successfully in a casserole are white and brown rice, macaroni and rotini pasta, wheat berries, quinoa, and beans. These should all be cooked first to an al dente finish (they’ll continue cooking just a bit once added to the casserole and heated), although uncooked rice can be added as long as extra water or broth is also added to the casserole.
It’s with veggies that your unique casserole really begins to take shape. The veggies you add can be frozen, canned (rinse first), dehydrated, or freeze-dried. Add whatever veggies your family likes, although it’s definitely permissable to sneak a little something in for extra nutrition, such as this dehydrated spinach. If anyone asks, tell them the green stuff is just “herbs”.
I typically add chopped onion, celery, and bell peppers to many of my dishes. If you’re adding these to a casserole, which only needs to bake for 20-30 minutes, these veggies will need to be sauteed in a bit of butter or a healthy oil before being added to the casserole dish. This is true of most other fresh veggies.
Diced potatoes can act as a meal stretcher, a veggie, and a carbohydrate. Keep a can of dehydrated potato dices handy just for this purpose. They are wonderfully affordable.
At this point, you will need to add more liquid. Assess the amount of protein, carbohydrates, and veggies and then add extra liquid. This can be water, beef or chicken broth, a vegetable broth, or milk. Salsa is another nice addition if you want your casserole to have a Southwest flavor.
If you’re adding uncooked rice, you’ll need to add even more liquid. Typically, the ratio for uncooked rice and liquid is about 1 cup of rice to 1 1/2 cups liquid.
The classic casserole will be seasoned with salt, pepper, and a few dashes of garlic powder. Additional herbs, such as basil and parsley add some flavor, as will a teaspoon or two of dehydrated minced onion, if your newly invented recipe doesn’t contain onion otherwise.
A teaspoon of basil and oregano will give your casserole a bit of an Italian flavor, and a Southwest flair comes easy with a teaspoon of chili powder, a dash of cayenne, and 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of cumin.
When I was a kid, it was the casserole topping that was always my favorite. Come to think of it, it still is! The toppings on your No-Recipe Casseroles can be crushed potato chips, Fritos, Doritos, or crackers of any kind. It could be 1/4 to 1/2 cup of bread crumbs mixed with a 1/2 teaspoon of garlic salt, and sauteed in a frying pan with 2 Tablespoons of butter. Grated cheese is another excellent topping and if your casserole screams “Italian!”, by all means, add a grating of Parmesan cheese as a topping, on its own or mixed with the buttery breadcrumb mixture.
Learning to cook without a recipe is an excellent preparedness skill. It challenges you to use whatever you happen to have on hand, without relying on that quick trip to the grocery store, which inevitably turns into a far more expensive outing. It’s also a great way to incorporate new “food storage” foods into your family’s diet, without them ever knowing, and a casserole is the ideal dish to cook in a solar oven.
As you begin creating your own No-Recipe Casseroles, you’ll want to do one final thing: jot down the ingredients of any casserole that is truly outstanding. If your family cleans their plates and then asks for seconds, you have a winner, and if you’re like me and your memory is a little iffy, you’ll be glad to have a written record of that new family favorite.
Try this no-recipe method with soup, too! Here’s my tutorial.
Camping Basics Part 2
This week James continues our camping basics series. The main topics covered are
Food, water and energy.
I talk about the different kinds of food to bring with you on a camping trip. How I will always bring fresh food for the first day. I usually bring steak or hamburgers frozen for the first day. After that I switch to either freeze dried meals or diy dehydrated ones.
Often I will bring salami and summer sausages. I like to get smaller ones that can be eaten in a single sitting. I not too worried about them going bad in a day or two but they taste best fresh.
I cover a few ways to purify water when camping. I talk about what works and what I don’t like. Boiling is my prefered method to make water safe to drink. Followed by tincture of iodine 2%. To be the filters are too expensive and have higher chances of breaking. Same thing goes for the steripen. Too many parts to get broken.
On energy I like to bring backup batteries with me. They make many decent rechargeable phone energy packs. I also covered the Solio solar charger and the power pot. Both work to keep your cell phone up and running to take pictures.
If I left out anything leave a comment down below. I’m excited to get outside and get camping soon!
- Fresh food
- Dehydrated meals
- Diy options
- Wild edibles
- Bring it in
- Boil it
- Water purification chemically
- Battery backups
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Looking for a ways to put together a solid food storage plan? Try these ideas. I find it’s best to constantly evaluate my food storage plan. I evaluate it for overall cost, making sure I get the best deal on my purchases. I am also open to new preservation techniques (I’m trying my hand at […]
Many of us have never cooked with freeze dried or dehydrated foods and unless you have been practicing, you will become frustrated the first few times you use it. Many think that they can just read the directions and everything will be fine, but remember you don’t know how long the emergency will last, so you have to stretch your storage to last as long as possible. Here are a few suggestions that might help you to organize your storage and plan your menus.
Remember that you only have so many spices and herbs for seasoning your food with. Even if you think, you have stored enough. Seasonings lose their value after 6 months. You will be using more to cook with, so plan on growing fresh herbs in your garden and store seeds accordingly.
First of all cooking with freeze dried and dehydrated foods, there are many brands out there and all of them are different. Some need a lot of help when adding them to you recipes. Others not so much, but most still need some seasonings.
You can stretch a #10 can of freeze dried meats (since they are the most expensive) by using less, use the meat more like a seasoning. Dried or dehydrated fruit is another expensive item. We had 20-year-old apple slices that have been packed in Mylar bags, that when opened had lost some of their flavor and texture. But I added sugar and cinnamon, plus a few other seasonings once I rehydrated them. I mixed in a few berries added whip cream on top and it was a great cobbler. A lot of older foods can still be used by adding seasoning or other flavorings.
To rehydrate the fruit I measured out how much I would need by putting the apple slices in the pan I was going to use and then taking out 1/4 of them. Once you add warm water they will swell up and fill in that extra room. If your berries or other fruit used is dehydrated also measure with the apple slices so that it all fits in pan. If they are fresh use less dehydrated apples slices and stir in berries after apples are ready and just before cooking.
If you’re using freeze dried meat for cooking, measure out 1 cup of meat to 11/2 cups of warm water to rehydrate the meat and add to your recipe. I never use a lot of meat in my recipes since the flavor is enhanced by the other vegetables and seasonings. Shepherd Pie is really good made this way.
Hopefully you will use some of your freeze dried or dehydrated storage to practice cooking before you need too. As with any new recipe you need to make it once and then adjust the recipe and seasonings to your taste. It’s very rare that I don’t adjust a recipe.
So hopefully you will try what you have and have fun while doing it. Have an emergency meal once a month and enjoy!
The post Freeze-Dried and Dehydrated Foods, Tips on Using Them appeared first on Preparedness Advice Blog.
Storing food, say a month or two’s worth, is no longer the habit of a fringe group of Doomers. Everyday moms like me have an extra stash of food set away for those “just in case” events.
1. Don’t let “perfect” get in the way of “it’s good enough.” You don’t need freeze-dried food to have a decent food storage pantry. Cans of food, lots of cans!, will do just fine. Stay focused on stocking up on shelf-stable food your family will eat and stay within your budget.
VIDEO: “Don’t let the ‘perfect’ become the enemy of the ‘good’.
2. Do your best to protect stored food from the enemies of food storage. All of these will cause your food to deteriorate more quickly: heat, humidity, pests, oxygen, light and time. Heat is the worst enemy of all, so do everything you can to store the bulk of your food in the coolest part of the house.
READ THIS to learn more about the enemies of stored food. By the way, these enemies affect food in emergency kits, too.
3. Try a few new varieties of food from companies like Emergency Essentials, but first, buy the smallest containers possible for a taste test. With each purchase, check for flavor, fresh-looking color, and then use that food in multiple ways to see if it’s a good fit for you. My family loves freeze-dried corn and I buy it, knowing that we can use it in chowders, stew, my Mexican rice recipe, and a whole lot more. The more versatile a food is, the more value it has.
NEW TO FOOD STORAGE? Read my tips for placing your first order with a food storage company here.
4. Don’t stock up on foods that will disappear once the kids find them! At first, I stocked up on things like juice boxes and granola bars, only to find that they had mysteriously disappeared, leaving only the wrappers behind! My kids saw them and figured, “Hey, Mom’s finally buying the good stuff and hiding it from us!”
5. Buy what you actually like and will use and resist the temptation to stock up on something just because it’s super cheap on double coupon day! At one point I had about 15 bottles of salad dressing that we never used and 2 years later, they were all such a disgusting looking color that I threw them out.
6. Do keep your food storage area(s) free from pests. Diatomaceous earth, sprinkled around the floorboards of your pantry area is a good, non-toxic method for controlling pests. I also set out small containers of cornmeal mixed with borax as a safe way to kill off bugs. Given enough time, a really determined rodent can chew through the plastic of a 5-gallon bucket, so keep an eye out for rodent droppings.
7. Stay focused on buying food that can be used in multiple recipes rather than just-add-hot-water meals. Those quick meals are fine for short term emergencies, but you want a pantry that will contain healthy ingredients for delicious meals — more of a long-term solution.
8. Set a goal of collecting 12 new recipes that you and your family love that require only shelf-stable ingredients. If you already have a good start on a balanced food storage pantry, you’ll find that you already have many of the required ingredients stored. With fresh, new recipes, you’ll spare your family of food fatigue if you are ever completely reliant on that stored food.
READ MORE: My book, Survival Mom: How to Prepare Your Family for Everyday Disasters and Worst Case Scenarios, has 2 full chapters that will help you decide which recipes are best for food storage purposes and how to calculate how much of each ingredient you’ll need.
9. Start rotating that stored food, if you haven’t done this already. This is simply the process of using the oldest food on the shelf and replacing it with new food. If you’re conscientious about food storage conditions, heat, especially, your food will stay fresher longer, but if you have food that is more than 5 years old, begin using and replacing it.
10. Stock up on comfort foods. If your kids love macaroni and cheese, buy macaroni in bulk and repackage it for longer shelf life or buy it from a food storage company that has already removed the oxygen and sealed it in a can. Buy cheese, butter, and milk powders, and you’ll be able to make that mac-n-cheese years from now without having to buy any fresh ingredients! Chocolate chips, jelly beans, and other candies are other comfort foods to consider.
LEARN MORE: Use a vacuum sealer, like a Food Saver, to repackage foods like nuts, chocolate, and more. Here are my video instructions:
11. Don’t get lazy when it comes to repackaging food! Rule of thumb: if a food comes in a cardboard or flimsy plastic bag, it must be repackaged. I have full details in this article.
12. Add a little something to your food storage every time you go to the store, even if it’s just a single can of store brand soup. It really does add up over time.
13. There’s more to life than food, so also include cleaning supplies (I buy a lot of white vinegar, baking soda, and bleach) and toiletry items. These categories lend themselves very well to coupon shopping.
When you stock up on food, you are buying it at today’s prices and planning ahead for a time when those prices will increase. Food price inflation is tricky because it isn’t always about the number on the price tag, but the size of the package and the number of ounces the package contains. When I compare cans of tuna for sale now with cans of tuna that I’ve had in my pantry for a few years, the older cans are noticeably larger — but the price is the same! Food price inflation is happening but most people aren’t aware of it.
More resources for you
- “A Round-Up of Food Storage Resources“
- Food Saver — vacuum system for storing food long-term
- Food Saver Mason jar sealer
- Food Storage for Self-Sufficiency and Survival by Angela Paskett
- Oxygen absorbers, 100 cc
- Prepper’s Guide to Food Storage by Gaye Levy
- The Preparedness Planner (Print this out and prepare a customized planner!)
- The Prepper’s Cookbook by Tess Pennington
- Survival Mom: How to Prepare Your Family for Everyday Emergencies and Worst Case Scenarios by Lisa Bedford
Survival Food Ordering Made Easy
If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t have ordered wheat germade at all and would have ordered far more #2.5 cans of cocoa! Yes, we prefer brownies to hot cereal!
From years of experience, I pass on to you a few simple ways to determine what to order from survival food companies, such as Augason Farms, Thrive Life, and Emergency Essentials.
My 8 Tips For Placing Your First Survival Food Order