Sharon December 18th, 2009
Friday again! Time to add more to the food storage. Ok, this week we’re going to take advantage of holiday sales and add beverages and some quick cooking food. This is a departure from our usual focus on nutritious staples, but it is a necessary one.
Why this stuff instead of more basic staples? Well, there are a couple of reasons. In the case of beverages, most of all they are useful for keeping everyone hydrated and comfortable. In a real emergency you may find yourself drinking water that has been stored for a while, or powdered milk or soymilk. Moreover, you may be living with a lot less heat, and need hot beverages to keep yourself warm internally. Plus, if you a caffeine addict or even psychologically addicted to your cuppa, you will be very, very unhappy in a difficult time if you don’t have your fix. No one needs a crisis and a caffeine headache.
The same goes for the quick cook staples – you may not have a lot of cooking energy to use, or you may need to evacuate and cook quickly over an open fire, sterno or camp stove. Or you may be so enmeshed in a crisis that you simply have no time to cook staple foods. So everyone needs to have a small reserve of edible, tasty, calorically dense and tolerably nutritious quick-cooking food. It is possible to buy this from good sources or preserve it yourself, and if you can, I’d certainly advise that, but I’m assuming here that most of us will be going to a regular supermarket.
What should you store? Well, for beverages, it depends on what you drink. Our family drinks water most of the time, but the reality is that stored water may not taste all that good. Adults can force themselves to drink, but kids may not – and can become seriously dehydrated. So I advise families with kids to get a flavoring agent – the best is probably Tang or Hi-C – these are not normal staples in my house, I know they are junk, but I think it is the better part of valor in difficult imes. They cover unpleasant tastes and do add some vitamin C, which is often in short supply. Or you can store honey, rose hips and a favored herb, and make sweet vitamin C-rich tea for your kids, if they will drink it, although you will be able to taste the water through this more.
If you store powdered milk, rice or soy milk you might want some cocoa – you can store cocoa powder and sugar or instant cocoa, as your family prefers. It isn’t as good as fresh, but it will be more palatable than most dry milks. Or you can store the ingredients to make spiced milk – honey, cardamom and cinnamon.
If you store coffee, I think the best option are vacuum sealed whole beans kept frozen until the power goes out, and a manual grinder and press pot or non-electric percolator. For tea, you can buy fair trade bulk tea in mylar bags and freeze it – don’t forget a tea ball.
What about quick cooking foods? The cheapest, as we all know, are ramen – if you are going to buy these, I think it is worth buying slightly higher quality ones available in some asian grocers – they tend to be tastier too. But even plain old ramen will do. They aren’t nutritious, and they are extremely high in salt, so make sure you have water with you, but mixed with some foraged dandelions or lambsquarters they will be decent. Some shelf-stable tofu actually brings you into the range of “not-that-bad-for-you.”
Canned soup is fine if you aren’t planning on evacuating – it gets heavy if you have to carry it, and it shouldn’t be frozen, because it ruins taste and texture. You can can your own soup, of course, but if you are buying commercial varieties, or need metal cans, I’d recommend low-salt varieties that don’t require water added – organic if you can find it, but Progresso or something similar if not.
Dry bean “cup a soups” are good if you have water – often salty, again, but with more fiber and calories. I do *not* recommend MRES – everything on this list is tastier by a good long bit. If you can buy good quality hiking food, that will be better than much of this, but I’m assuming here that most of us are looking at supermarkets. If you like it, instant foods like rice a roni and macaroni and cheese are another option, although they will take more fuel to cook.
To supplement this, I’d add some good quality trail mixes (no chocolate, which may melt), some hard candy (I use dum dum lollipops, since they are small and come in quantity) for quick energy and as a bribe when things get nasty, along with dried fruit and nuts already in storage. You can make up small packages, one for each meal, say with a ramen pack, a small package of dried fruit, some nuts, a piece of candy and a small ziplock of your favorite water-taste coverer and put them in bug-out bags.
I don’t like most energy bars that you can buy commercially – they tend to be sweet and bland, and offer a lot of crap for the money, but they can be a good addition to a bug-out bag. You can also order ones made for real emergency use that are of higher quality and better nutrition.
You can go with peanut butter and crackers – whole grain rye crackers last a long time, along with dried fruit and whole nuts. But when you do it, think about circumstances – how long will your family be content with peanut butter and crackers? There’s something to be said for a reasonably comforting quick food – soup is probably worth keeping on hand.
Again, I’m not suggesting that anyone rely on processed and preserved foods as a basic staple - you want to be eating whole foods, not processed crap. But there may be times when that’s not possible, and adding a little bit to your reserve is a good idea, enough for a few meals when no one has the ability to focus on food.
Finally, our non food item this week will be multi-vitamins. Yes, I’ve put this on before, but let’s make sure you really do have an adequate supply. I’d also take this time to check over your evacuation kit, and make sure it has things like band-aids, ibuprofen and other basic first aid materials.