I was at our local grocery store’s health food section as my teen son was looking for protein powder. We found a large canister of one of the trusted brands at 20% off. With several servings that would last for weeks, I started to think it would not be a bad idea to include meal replacement shakes or protein powder in the food storage shelf.
Why include meal replacement shakes in food storage?
Nutrition – One serving provides protein and vitamins
Servings – One canister can last for weeks
Easy to prepare – when you don’t feel like cooking and need a quick meal, all you need to do is a bit of mixing and you have a nourishing drink
No other ingredients needed – many brands just require some water.
Shelf life – they have at least a couple of years shelf life
Storage – If you want to avoid the large canister, you can repackage them for long term storage in mylar bags
There is just one caveat: you must like the taste. There is no point stocking up on something that tastes vile. Take advantage of in store samples before you buy. Before stocking up, try a small container first.
Ask about the store’s return policy. Some stores, such as Trader Joe’s, have signs posted that they will accept your returns if you try a new product and you don’t like it.
I’m not suggesting you forgo canned foods, bulk food storage and freeze dried selections – because of their convenience and nutritional value, meal replacement shakes would be a good addition to these other foods as part of an overall food storage plan.
Modern Americans probably have more food choices than any other group in the history of the planet Earth. I was told about a Japanese student who went to an American grocery store for cereal. Seeing the selection in the aisle was so overwhelming they went home without it that day.
For people used to such plenty and variety, beans and rice alone is clearly not a long-term menu plan. But keeping that much variety in one home (or even one store!) is not realistic. Worse yet, it can be hard to figure out a way to store some of our “regular” foods for the long-term so we can maintain a semi-normal diet in an emergency.
So, what “unusual” foods should you consider adding to your pantry? The products listed below are all shelf-stable, meaning they do not need to be refrigerated, and are available from companies such as Thrive Life, Augason Farms, and Ready Reserve Foods.
This product is a sure-fire way of having shortening on hand for all your baking without having to worry about it going rancid. It’s a necessity for making pie crusts and biscuits. Even more important, you can sprinkle some in a hot skillet, and when it melts, you can pan fry! What a concept!
Peanut butter has an amazingly long shelf life, even after it’s been opened, but powdered peanut butter is still very useful. Every morning I add a tablespoon or so to my protein drink. It adds all the flavor and nutrition of peanuts without any of the fat found in peanut butter. You can even get it with chocolate already mixed in!
This product won’t give you exactly the same flavor of butter and it doesn’t quite melt, but it’s still a handy addition to your pantry. Once reconstituted and chilled, it hardens and has the same consistency of refrigerated butter.
The first time I read about this product, I said, “Huh??” Now I think it’s indispensable because it’s a cost-effective way of having tomato paste and tomato sauce on demand and save vast amounts of space at the same time, and it’s easy enough to make yourself.
I know Textured Vegetable Protein isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it comes in handy when you want to add a little more protein to a casserole or soup. Just a handful can add the flavor of chicken or taco meat (a little can go a long way), and you can’t beat the price.
Yes, grapes. Canned grapes have never quite caught on (ewwww!), dehydrated grapes are raisins, but FD grapes have the same color, shape, size and flavor as fresh. They’re just crunchy, and they make a great, healthy snack. Once opened, though, they will absorb moisture in the air and go from crunchy to sticky and chewy. You may want to repackage them in canning jars to retain the crunchy texture.
Now, this won’t give you that wonderfully cool dollop you’ve come to expect, but when you make a dish that calls for sour cream, this product does just fine. Add some to mashed potatoes or a creamy casserole, and you’ll never know the difference.
This was one of the first ‘survival’ foods we purchased. Because we had young kids, we wanted to make sure we had plenty of Vitamin D-dense foods. It sounds strange, but it’s actually quite good when it’s reconstituted and chilled. If the grid is down and you want homemade lasagna, that shouldn’t be a problem with this and freeze-dried mozzarella cheese on hand!
These 10 unusual foods will go a long way toward letting your family diet stay closer to normal in a disaster.
Today we are featuring The Organic Canner by Daisy Luther. For anyone who is not familiar with Daisy Luther, she runs The Organic Prepper and her articles are widely publicized in alternative media.
I was excited to read The Organic Canner. Canning is a great skill to learn for self-sufficiency, and it’s a way to add to your food storage supplies at a low cost. Learning how to can has been in my to-do list for some time, but I have not undertaken the challenge due to lack of space and a degree of uncertainty. Let’s face it, a lot of dedicated DIY folks are intimidated by canning. “What if my home canned food turns bad?” is a common objection. Well, The Organic Canner is exactly the type of book for newbies like us.
Written in a conversational tone, Daisy makes you immediately comfortable you picked up the book. She walks you through the most basic steps, in easy to understand directions – you will feel she is right there with you. You can tell she speaks from a wealth of experience, which gives you confidence that she knows what she is talking about.
The recipes are simple with easy to find ingredients. I enjoyed reading The Organic Canner, and contacted Daisy with a few questions of my own.
Here is the interview:
1.Many apartment dwellers feel reluctant to try canning due to the equipment involved and space required. How might a person who lacks space get started?
As much as we’d all love a Better Homes and Gardens kitchen, it’s not necessary for preserving your food. Canning doesn’t take up as much room as you would expect. You need a small amount of counter space – enough for a canner load full of jars, and a stove.
2. The book gives great instructions for water bath canning and pressure canning. If you had to choose between the two, just to get started, what minimum equipment would you recommend?
If you’re just getting started, the easiest way is with water bath canning. The equipment is far less intimidating, and you’ll find that jams, jellies, pickles, and salsa are difficult to mess up.
3. I already own a pressure cooker, how is this different from a pressure canner? Can a pressure cooker do the same thing?
It isn’t advised to pressure can in a pressure cooker. Canners have a valve and gauge, and it’s vital that you be able to accurately monitor the pressure. Underprocessed food can be source of deadly food poisoning.
4. Another issue people worry about are the risks of contamination. There is always some story in the news about people getting sick from home canned food – what are your thoughts about this?
There are definitely risks involved if you don’t do things properly. It’s important to follow the instructions very carefully. If you err, err on the side of adding more time. Your pressure must be held consistently in order to be assured of safety. Botulism is a type of food poisoning that can cause symptoms as extreme as permanent paralysis or death. Now that I’ve sounded really scary, I want to reassure you that if you follow the instructions, your product will be safe and nutritious.
5. What are some tips that you personally use to save money on organics?
I buy a lot of our food from people I know. Many local farmers raise their crops and livestock organically, but they can’t afford to jump through all of the hoops the government requires of them to become “certified organic”. If you can get to know people well enough to learn about their practices, you can save a substantial amount of money over “Whole Foods” prices. You can supplement your groceries with things that can be grown in a small yard, on a balcony, or even in a sunny windowsill. Pick your battles – not everything has to be organic. Every year, the Environmental Working Group comes out with lists of the foods that are most important to buy organic and those which aren’t as bad when purchased conventionally-grown. Finally, shop in-season. Even organic produce is much more reasonable when you buy it at the right time of year.
A big thank you to Daisy Luther for answering our interview questions! If you have an interest in canning, you should read The Organic Canner.
Now for the giveaway:
I am happy to add that Daisy Luther also provided a copy for giveaway. One lucky winner will be chosen via a random drawing. To enter, please answer the following question in the comments:
Have you done any home canning, and what is your biggest challenge in this area?
The winner* will be chosen at a random “Pick a Giveaway Winner” drawing on Saturday, March 7th at 8 pm Central.
*Winners will be notified via email.
*Winner must reply to email notification within 48 hours or another winner will be drawn.
Last week, I went through my pantry, trying to get an idea of how much food storage I have. By the time the organizing session was complete, a dozen or so “expired” items sat on my kitchen counter.
In the past, I didn’t hesitate to throw a can in the trash if it was expired. And according to an article on Urban Survival Site, I’m not the only one tossing the goods. More than 75% (and some studies claim it’s as high as 90%) of us believe that food is unsafe to eat after the expiration date. This time, though, I’ve decided to change my ways and put the expired items back on the shelf.
Because it turns out that none of those dates stamped on canned goods have to do with safety.A recent report by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic claims that expiration dates aren’t regulated like we would believe. There is no standardized system for expiration dates.
The study found manufacturers determine for themselves how to set dates, if they want to put a date on packaging, what kind of date they will use, and what that date means.
So what do those dates mean?
Well, it gets confusing because there are several different types of dates used on packages—like “sell-by”, “best if used by”, “best before”, and “use-by”. Here’s how the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines of each of these dates:
Types of Dates
A “Sell-By” date tells the store how long to display the product for sale. You should buy the product before the date expires.
A “Best if Used By (or Before)” date is recommended for best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.
A “Use-By” date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. The date has been determined by the manufacturer of the product.
“Closed or coded dates” are packing numbers for use by the manufacturer.
And here’s what the USDA has to say about expiration date safety:
Safety After Date Expires: Except for “use-by” dates, product dates don’t always pertain to home storage and use after purchase. “Use-by” dates usually refer to best quality and are not safety dates. Even if the date expires during home storage, a product should be safe, wholesome and of good quality if handled properly.
The only exception to this is the “use-by” date on infant formula, which is mandated by the Food and Drug Administration.
The bottom line is after the expiration date, the food may not be as fresh and it may have lost some of it’s nutritional value, but generally, it is safe to eat.
Yes, I know what you’re thinking—if you can’t rely on the date, how do you know when the food is unsafe to eat?
The simple answer is open it and inspect it. If it smells bad, looks off-color or has a funny taste, get rid of it. And don’t eat the food from rusty, bulging, dented or otherwise damaged cans.
Hi! I’m Julie, a suburban mom during the week and mountain mama on the weekend blogging about my transition from country club to country living and from fast food to food storage. Follow along as I learn how to garden, cook-from-scratch, build a pantry, master back-to-basics skills and more.
I’ve been seeing news articles about the food shortages happening in Venezuela: people standing in line for hours just to get their basic necessities, their National Guard closely watching shoppers to prevent fights from breaking out, and rows of empty shelves inside the stores.
This got me thinking, what would happen if there were food shortages here? Can you imagine having to get in line just to enter the grocery store? Or worse, you get in line at dawn and by the time your turn comes, there is nothing left on the shelves. What if you were not able to find your basic food items at the grocery store?
Actually I did have one experience of having to wait in line for an hour just to enter the supermarket. And when I did manage to get in, the shelves were bare and most of the items were completely gone. This was back in 2008 right after Hurricane Ike swept across Houston. The streets were flooded and truck deliveries were not coming. That was when I learned about “just in time” inventory – grocery stores keep just enough stock until the next truck delivery. I ever asked a store clerk if they had any food “back in the store room” and was told “stores don’t do that anymore.” Luckily, the problem I experienced was short term, and stores started getting deliveries as soon as flood waters receded.
But this experience showed me that our system is vulnerable. If the trucks stop coming, supplies aren’t delivered. All it takes would be an interruption in that supply chain.
Back in World War II the US had widespread shortages of essential items and many things we take for granted today were rationed: butter, meat, cheese, sugar, canned fruit and vegetables, oils, even coffee. Shoppers could only purchase certain items on certain days. It was then that people put up “Victory Gardens” to supplement their food and learned to conserve food and plan their meals.
If there were a food shortage today, I think people would be a lot angrier and more demanding and food riots would result. I haven’t forgotten this experience: Up Close Reminder to Continue Prepping from a year ago. And this was just for roast chicken running out!
What can you do?
Build your food storage pantry. While things are available, and nothing is interrupting the supply chain, now is the time to add to your food storage. Build up a few weeks worth of your most used foods: rice, sugar, salt, coffee, olive oil, peanut butter, oatmeal, cereal etc. While you’re at it, stock up on toilet paper, toothpaste, soap and other personal care items.
Avoid wasting food. Learn a few skills to avoid wasting food. I tell my kids, “Don’t waste food, because one day, you may miss a meal for whatever reason – getting picked up late, forgetting your lunch, and you will think about the food you threw away.” This actually works because they do remember.
Back to the original question: Can food shortages happen here? Some may say, no way, that only happens in countries like Venezuela. But the true answer is, Sure they could, and they have happened before. We hope it never happens but just like insurance, it’s better to have it, and not need it, than need it and not have it.
I was contacted by Valley Food Storage regarding trying out one of their entrees. I am always looking for long term storage foods that are tasty. As you know, long term storage foods can be a hit or miss, but I am always willing to try new ones and offer an balanced review. (Note we do not have any connection with Valley Food Storage and are not compensated for doing reviews.)
When I received the packet for testing, I saw it was called “Mango Habanero Chili.” To be honest, I was quite sure what to expect. I am a big fan of chili, but I was not sure if mango really belongs in chili. But I figured I would give it a try.
The instructions are simple: Bring to a boil five cups of water, then add the chili mix. Simmer for 15-20 minutes or until beans are tender. Let cool for about five to seven minutes before serving.
I actually let it simmer for 25 minutes. The mixture seemed a bit watery at first, but it thickened slightly as it cooled.
Now comes the taste test. I took a spoonful and another one just to make sure. In spite of my uncertainty, the Mango Habanero Chili was actually pretty tasty. The chili is vegetarian – there is no meat listed in the ingredients at all. I admit I like having meat in chili, and the instructions did say you can add meat if you like. The dish is fine on its own, I actually ate a bowl (as pictured above) for lunch.
I examined the chili pieces and you actually find diced mango (pictured above) in the chili. I can tell you I actually did not mind having mango pieces, it added an interesting twist. The chili had the right amount of spiciness, and had enough flavor and not overly salty like other long term food storage entrees.
According to their website, Valley Food Storage uses natural food ingredients and a nitrogen flushing process will ensure the food’s shelf life up to 25 years without any added preservatives, MSG, or GMO.
Quality ingredients and a long shelf life are definite advantages for a food storage entree. Mango Habanero Chili also has a good flavor, which makes it a viable choice to add to your food pantry.
Whenever there is a power outage, we always avoid opening the refrigerator and especially the freezer to avoid letting the cold out. A big worry is that freezer items will thaw out and go bad. Some food items are salvageable, but some are not so clear-cut.
This also happens in everyday life: you take out steaks or chicken and leave them in the refrigerator overnight to thaw, only to run out of time and get takeout after staying late at work. Does it have to go to waste?
Is it Safe to Refreeze Thawed Meat?
An informal poll of cooks in our family yielded various results: my husband’s aunt said, “Sure you can refreeze meat that has thawed, but it will be dry when you do cook it.” My Mom says she would never refreeze food, just cook it and eat it the next day. Other friends say you can refreeze if it was in the fridge but not if it was taken out on the counter.
I did a bit more research and tested it for myself. Here is what I found out:
If the meat still has ice crystals in it, and the temperature never went over 40 degrees Fahrenheit, then it is safe to refreeze.
If the food was thawed in the refrigerator, it is likely to be safe to refreeze if you refreeze it the same day. However, if it has been there more than two days, it is not a good idea. I have checked on thawed meat after two days, and it is already does not smell fresh.
The meat will dry out a bit if it has been refrozen. I have tried this and found it to be true: the meat does appear drier than it would have been originally.
Do not use the meat if it smells “off.”
Do not thaw meat by leaving it out on the counter. The best way to thaw meat is in the refrigerator.
Again, if you have any doubts at all, just toss it. Don’t risk eating spoiled meat-you can get really sick. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
When I went grocery shopping today I noticed a lot of sales for items that can be used for food storage. I always encourage anyone starting their food storage plan to set aside a small amount, say $5.00 and pick up a few things every week. You can easily supplement your emergency food supplies by picking up a few extra cans or boxes.
Make sure you check expiration dates before you buy. Don’t pick the items from the front; those usually have the shortest expiration dates. Reach way back in the shelf. I realize some store clerks don’t like this, one pointed out there is no difference in reaching way back. The stores usually keep the earlier expiration dates in front, so I reached to the back of the shelf anyway.
You can also pick up everyday staples or sale items and freeze them for use later, such as:
Yams and potatoes are also going at good prices and these last for a couple of months in a shelf. Even if you just use these foods for everyday meals the savings are well worth it.
These deals won’t last. Last year I waited until after Thanksgiving, thinking the low prices would continue. But I found out that inventory gets really low after Thanksgiving, and prices go back to normal levels. This time, I am not waiting around. If I had more space, I’d have picked up more.
Photo provided by reader “S,” used with permission
This post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com
I get a lot of emails on Apartment Prepper, and I always respond to readers’ questions. Here is an excerpt from a recent email from reader “S.” (I have removed any personal references.) “S” provided actual photos.
Emergency bag, eaten through by mice. Photo provided by reader “S,” used with permission
I had some bad luck recently. My car broke down coming home from work. As a result I had to leave the car at a mechanic for a week to fix a now bigger problem & figured it was wise to move my earthquake emergency bags from my trunk to my living room floor while the car was being fixed so that no one would be tempted to “borrow” from my supplies while fixing the car.
While that was happening, a restaurant next door started to be remodeled & I had to go out of town with a relative for several days. Since that relative had their own earthquake bags in their trunk I left mine at home over the trip so we’d have room for the suitcases.
I came home to my apartment & discovered something had eaten through the bags to get at the trail mix inside & had even ripped open a bag of store self tuna but decided it didn’t like it so the house smelt of rotten fish!! I had never had anything other than ants, spiders & crickets in the apartment before for years so this was a completely new experience for me!
So my question is, how do you keep your supplies safe from pests?
Reader “S” described a common problem among apartment dwellers.
She mentioned there was some remodeling going on next door. Pests do travel from one unit to another. I have noticed whenever someone moves out nearby and the unit is fumigated, there is an uptick in pests trying to come into our area. That’s because the pests are driven out of one unit and they try to invade nearby units if you let them.
Preventive measure: If you see movers, spray insecticide along entrances as well as corners of shared walls. This should help prevent them from trying to come to you. However this works on insects, but not mice. We have discussed insects in a previous post, but today we are looking at rodents.
How do you protect your emergency supplies from pests such as mice?
To protect your emergency food, store them in food grade 5-gallon food buckets. Mice or rats cannot chew through the plastic of the 5 gallon bucket. Reader “S” has ready to eat items such as trail mix, granola bars and packaged tuna – these could all go in the 5-gallon bucket. Place the sealed bucket in your closet. Make sure the lid is super secure. Hang your bug out bag (with non food items) in your closet. In the event of an emergency and you had to leave, take the food from the bucket and transfer them to your bug out bag – this should only take 5 minutes before you run out the door.
Thoroughly clean and sweep your areas, and remove any food. Cover all trash cans so they don’t try to go in. If you are already using 5 gallon buckets for your emergency food, make sure you are protecting your every day food as well – do not leave anything edible on counters.
There are commercial repellants available such as Rodent Defense Spray in the areas frequented by rodents to keep them away.
Other natural repellants I have heard about but have not tried:
Peppermint Oil: Saturate cotton balls with peppermint oil and leave them around the areas you where have found droppings. This is said to repel mice, sending them elsewhere.
Apple Cider Vinegar: Clean floors, the insides of cabinets and countertops with 50% apple cider vinegar (does not have to be organic) and 50% water. Mice will avoid the area and leave.
In the movie Zombieland, one of the goals of Woody Harrelson’s character had was to find a store that had Twinkies. He was obsessed with getting a hold of a Twinkie stash he wouldn’t let anything, including a bunch of zombies get in his way. It might have been just some product placement but they still had a valid point – a disaster does not make you stop craving for treats.
At the worst of Hurricane Ike, which sent me on my path to preparedness, I really wanted cheese and crackers. When the stores finally opened, there was no dairy to be found, including any kind of cheese whatsoever, even Cheez Weez was gone. After that, I made sure I have cheese on hand, including cheese spread – I know it’s fake, but it’ll do. I admit I happen to like artificial cheese flavor – Doritos and Cheetos Cheese Puffs.
Adding snacks and treats to your food storage
What Snacks and Treats should you Include?
The answer really depends on you – the items you really crave, as well the amount of space you have. Some ideas:
Chocolate A lot of people crave chocolate; I do enjoy a good bar of plain Hershey’s on occasion, as well as my all time favorite, Heath Bars. You can even rationalize that it is good for you, especially dark chocolate. You do need to make sure you buy it well ahead of expiration dates, and the packaging must not be broken. When I first started working, I had the misfortune of opening up a bar of Rocky Road Marshmallow Chocolate (these used to be my favorite) and it was full of maggots *shudder* I bought it from a convenience store in my office building at the time and it must not have been stored properly.
Crackers and cookies Cookies and crackers can be satisfying treats, and not just for the kids. Again, pay attention to the packaging and dates. You already know what you and your family like, just pick up a couple of boxes and save them.
Nuts and seeds Nuts and seeds are both satisfying and healthy – pick up a few cans or jars of peanuts, cashews, macadamia, almonds etc.
Dried fruit Again, they are both tasty and good for you. Pick up raisins, dehydrated strawberries, blueberries etc. Or better yet, pick up a food dehydrator and dry them yourself. (one of my “to-do’s”)
Chips Okay, these are not so healthy but I like them. Between salty and sweet, I am partial to salty snacks. Go on, pick your favorites and have a few bags on hand, just in case.
Bacon The only person I know who hates bacon is a vegetarian, everyone else loves it. Bacon comes in a can, so you have options.
Soda I am not a soda drinker, but I do like carbonated water. Some people swear by 7-Up to relieve stomach aches so who am I to judge. Keep a liter or two in your pantry, you can always use the plastic bottle for water storage. Or, learn to make your own soda at home.
Make sure the items you keep are shelf stable, that is, no refrigeration needed.
Buy items that have long expiration dates.
Pick up items while on sale and stock up. Halloween is coming up in a few weeks – now is a good time to stock up on chocolate and candy. You can even freeze them for later use and use them for making other desserts.
As an added benefit, your non-prepping teen or spouse will feel a little more receptive to preparing if you include their wish list to your storage. In an emergency, having favorite snacks would boost family morale. And, if nothing happens, then you still have your favorite treats on hand for cravings.