Basic Survival Recipes

Over the last week or so Thoreau has put up several articles relating to survival food storage and I’ve seen plenty of comments from our readers asking about specific survival food recipes.  I’d like to weigh in here.

Now I’m someone who has always done a lot of his own cooking and often times had to deal with very limited supplies/ingredients to prepare a meal.  For me it was back in my struggling college days when the cupboards were bare and I had a bare bones food budget that makes Thoreau’s $20 for 20 days of food look generous that I really learned how to make the most of very little.

What I’d like to talk about here has less to do with specific “Post SHTF Recipes” and more to do with the gut feel and instincts that good cooks tend to possess.  First of all, you need to forget about exactly what ingredients are needed for any one recipe, as it is very likely that in a survival situation not all of them will be available, and more about what kinds of foods tend to generally go well together.

I like to start with a good carbohydrate base such as pasta or rice and then think about what I’m going to mix it with.  Let’s take a basic pasta that stores well such as Orzo (I like orzo because it has all the benefits of other shapes of pasta but takes up less space because it’s so compact).  If you can boil up some orzo then you’ve got the beginnings of a hearty meal, now the trick is to make it tasty (or at least palatable).  Start with things that have been used for hundreds of years, like salt and pepper.  Just adding a bit of salt and pepper to a basic meal like this changes everything and makes it much much better with very little effort.  If you have some other spices that you enjoy laying around like red pepper flake, basil, garlic, or what have you then you’re in even better shape.  Pour a bit of nice olive oil on top and you’re looking good already.  The same would apply for a base of rice, lentils, or beans.

Now if you really want to serve a nice meal you need to add a little protein.  In my experience I could add just about any type of meat to a base like this and come out with a decent meal.  From canned chicken, tuna, or even spam I could add a bit of meat and end up with a crowd pleasing meal.  The trick is to experiment on your own, use only small amounts while you’re experimenting so the whole meal isn’t ruined by a  little mistake, and see what works.  I think you’ll surprise yourself if you put your mind to it and try different combinations of foods and spices.

One thing’s for sure, in a pinch it’s very unlikely that you’ll have the luxury of having all of the ingredients for any specific recipe reliably on hand so you’re going to have to get creative.  I’ve done it many times (think orzo, garbanzo beans, and canned tuna with a little olive oil and spices).  It’s actually delicious, nutritious, and cheap…

So, remember, it’s not all about specific recipes but more about using your head to consider which of the ingredients you have on hand might combine well.  Next you experiment with small amounts, and soon you’ll be putting out some crowd pleasing meals to raise spirits during tough times.


3 Responses to Basic Survival Recipes

  1. You might be interested in many resources for basic recipes here as well as a unique Excel-based food storage recipe database that combines many hundreds of recipes… and it’s all free!

  2. Don’t forget bouillon! A chicken, beef, ham, or vegetable cube added to rice or pasta changes the taste and makes a great meal. I also add ham bouillon to canned beans; makes them taste more Southern. I often make what Mediaeval folks called “pottage”. This means taking the vegetables available and cooking them together with spices, beef, chicken, or vegetable stock. It’s a great way to use those few bits of broccoli, cauliflower, etc. that you have left over. For a real change in taste, add a bit of peppercorn (crack and smash it first with a mortar and pestal or small hammer). Don’t add too much until you understand how hot it will get. Another favorite of mine is cooking pasta, potatoes, and onions in water with tomato juice . My Depression mom taught me this one, and I’ve always loved it.

  3. Someone has come up with a simple 10,000 recipe formula. You have 4 components: 1 a starch like rice or pasta, 2 a meat like chicken or tuna etc. 3 a vegetable like beans or carrots, etc. and last 4 a sauce like chicken broth, gravy, etc. Make a list of 10 of each and choose any one from each list = 10,000 different combinations.