Storing food and water is one of the most important aspects of emergency preparedness. We offer a number of articles on this topic here at Prep-Blog. But this prepping and survival post is about how to use stored food most effectively.
If the power goes out, you will want to use up any food that might go bad. When a hurricane is threatening to knock out power here in Florida, I take a couple of gallon plastic containers of water, open them and pour out a few ounces, then throw them in the freezer. The water expands when frozen, so if you don’t pour out a few ounces, the container will burst. If the power goes out, I place the frozen gallons in the refrigerator, and only open the door briefly when necessary. I also have a refrigerator thermometer to monitor the temperature. In this way, I can keep food fresh for at least a couple of days after the power is out. With more frozen gallons, the frig will stay cool even longer.
Small containers of mayo are useful to keep in storage. Mayo goes bad quickly without refrigeration. But the smallest containers of mayo can be opened and used in one meal, so refrigeration is not a problem. Use cans or foil packets of tuna with a small container of mayo to make tuna salad. If you are out of bread, crackers work nearly as well. If you are out of mayo, try substituting vegetable oil and sugar, with some spices.
Without power, you might not be able to cook. Some stored foods can be prepared without cooking. Couscous is the only pasta that can be prepared without cooking. Add the requisite amount of water, and wait 15 minutes. You will need to use clean safe bottled water, and make sure that the couscous has been kept cool, dry, and well-sealed. After 15 minutes, add vegetable oil, granulated sugar, and spices. Another option is to raid one of those boxed mac-and-cheese dinners for the dry cheese packet, add the cheese powder and a little extra water to the couscous.
Instant mashed potatoes also prepare well without cooking. Just add clean safe bottled water, stir, and wait about 5 minutes. Add vegetable oil, sugar, and spices instead of milk and butter. If you have a small unopened jar of mayo, you can add it for a kind of instant mashed-potato-salad.
Having a small garden makes cooking without power much more nutritious and better tasting. You can take some veggies from your garden, chop them up, and add them to the couscous or the mashed potatoes. Garden fresh peas or beans are better tasting than canned or frozen ones. Hot peppers and/or a few different types of herbs and fresh spices make a meal from stored food better tasting.
If you have a small inexpensive alcohol stove with your stored food, you will have a much wider range of options for preparing food. You can boil water with this type of stove, but boiling is the most time-and-fuel intensive type of cooking. It is quicker and more efficient to use an alcohol stove to fry foods. This type of preparation also helps if you have some leftovers in the frig when the power goes out. Frying the food with oil reduces the bacterial count, making food safer to eat.
Leftover cooked rice can be fried up with oil, spices, and whatever vegetable you have available, for a tasty fried rice recipe. Leftover pasta can be used in much the same way. Or fry the pasta in oil until crispy for a delicious snack food.
Vegetable oil is one of the most important foods to store. Dietary fat is an essential nutrient, and it makes almost any food taste better. Also, more fat in a meal will usually satisfy hunger for a longer period of time than a low-fat meal.
If you have power for cooking and refrigeration, you of course have many more options for cooking with stored food.
Soup is an excellent post-disaster food. The number of possible soup recipes is nearly infinite. Combine whatever grains, meat or poultry, and vegetables you have available, and simmer for an hour or two. Rice, pasta, barley, wheat berries, and potatoes all make excellent soup ingredients. Vegetables from your garden will make a good soup stock. Add meat or poultry, if available, and spice to taste. You can also start with a dried soup packet; these keep very well. Then add whatever other ingredients are available.
Instead of storing glass jars of pasta sauce, I would store cans of tomato paste and canned tomato puree (sometimes called ‘sauce’, but it is just tomatoes and maybe some spices). I use one large 15 oz. can of puree to one small 6 oz. can of tomato paste. Don’t add water. Add spices, sugar and vegetable oil. Then simmer for a long time (hours) — the longer the better. Again, adding some fresh veggies from the garden is a plus.
If you have wheat flour in storage, you can make a simple pizza. Make the bread dough and allow to rise. Place the dough on an oiled cookie sheet. Stretch out the dough, don’t press it down, so that it remains light and airy. Take some tomato paste; mix with oil, sugar, and spices. Spread across the dough. If you have grated parmesan or Romano cheese, sprinkle it lightly over the top. Then bake at 425 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes. All these ingredients store well without refrigeration. The grated cheese is one of the few types of cheese that keeps well without refrigeration.
Freeze-dried meals and individual foods offer several advantages over other stored foods. The freeze-dry process allows for a wider range of stored foods. This makes meals prepared in post-disaster situations more palatable and more varied. It is easy to store large amounts of rice and pasta. But you will get tired of eating the same food day-in and day-out. The storage times are longer for freeze-dried foods, because there is less water and the foods are prepared and sealed with long-term storage in mind. Meal preparation is also easier with freeze-dried complete meals than when you are storing individual food ingredients.
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Alcohol Stoves for post-SHTF Cooking
More On Cooking Post SHTF
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Low Temperature Cooking in a Solar Oven
Food Storage Prepping: frozen foods