I’m excited to have been invited to join up with many other great preparedness bloggers today, adding a post about the biggest threat I see in our aim for preparing for the future. Here’s my contribution, you’ll want to “hop” over to see others which have been posted by following the links below.
The “biggest threat” to successful preparations, that I see, is the act of storing food away (relaxing and thinking you’re prepared) but neglecting to have a plan for it.
Through this post, I’ll detail 9 areas of planning which need to be addressed — in addition to the storing of food — in order for your food storage to become a “parachute” in your preparedness plan, effectively serving (and possibly saving) your family the way you want it to.
Without taking a close look at these details and double checking your preparations it’s easy to find a false sense of security lulling you to sit back and relax. All the while- as you’re thinking you’re taken care of in the food storage department– an oncoming train could be barreling it’s way around the corner and you’re in fact not ready for it.
The absolute truth is this: no matter how many #10 cans of food you have in the basement, if you don’t have a way to be able to transform what you have into meals your family will eat, you’ll still end up with the same sorrowful results as the person who didn’t store anything at all. You might endure a little longer than they do, but the end result will be the same. There are many aspects to this, which we’ll talk about in a minute.
First, however, I’d like to speak to a potentially dangerous way of thinking I used to subscribe to pertaining to self reliance with food storage.
“If We’re Hungry Enough, We’ll Figure it Out and We’ll Eat It.”
I used to think so long as I had a few good preparedness cookbooks on hand I’d be able to figure everything out if we ever had to put our food storage to use. Now 6 years later, having since immersed myself in learning to cook with these foods, I can tell you it just won’t work. We entirely overestimate our abilities to cook with these very different ingredients, without an understanding of the challenges involved.
The amount of time alone, in researching and finding recipes, that I’ve had to invest — made possible only by extensive help from a wide variety of online resources (things which wouldn’t be available if we were in a true survival situation) — has taught me there’s absolutely no way for anyone to “wing it” with their food storage, just because they have a book with some recipes stored. You can base the foods you store on a book’s recipes but depending on a book as your guide (working from a wall of food storage while in crisis mode) and trying to figure it out from there…it just aint happening.
Beyond this, this way of thinking assumes we’ll be successful in convincing our families, including our little children, to eat in a completely foreign way than they’ve ever been used to because (possibly overnight) the world has changed. The experience I personally witnessed seeing a friend’s young children struggle to eat foods 100% from their family’s food storage — a trial run they did just to see if it was possible– has stayed with me for years. Meals my friend would work extremely hard to make from her supplies were turned away (whether the kids were hungry or not) and the little 5 year old was often discovered in the pantry eating handfuls of freeze dried corn. This, simply because he was needing to eat and it was the only thing he liked. These kids didn’t suddenly “learn” to eat differently, they just didn’t eat.
You’ve Gotta Have a Plan
From the lessons I’ve learned, I’d like to share with you 9 important “plans” to consider for your food storage to be successful.
1. Plan to Save Fuel
Just about everything made with food storage requires some kind of cooking time. I’m convinced it’s far more likely you’ll run out of fuel before you run out of food, unless you have a plan to conserve the fuel you’re storing.
For my own plan, using my Sun Oven is my #1 choice in baking anything since it requires no fuel at all. My savings in fuel, thanks to this tool, outweighs it’s initial cost one hundred fold. In fact, because of what I’ve learned in cooking with it (for example there are limited “best hours” in the day to use it and because I know how much baking is required to feed my family) my goal is to eventually have two sun ovens to serve our family of seven.
My plan “B” in conserving fuel, if clouds or weather make it impossible to use the Sun Oven, is to use a Wonder Oven in my cooking. A wonder oven acts to insulate whatever temperature the food goes into it with. If it’s boiling hot, the food will stay boiling hot for more than 12 hours (so long as certain rules are kept and it’s not disturbed); likewise, if frozen foods are placed in a wonder oven they’ll stay frozen for the same extended period of time. I’ve made it my mission to get the word out any way I can about this tool because I believe it’s so extremely useful and necessary. There really isn’t another tool out there that I know of that can do all a Wonder Oven can do in saving fuel while cooking.
There are many other great tools out there which can be utilized to conserve cooking fuel in a “no electricity” type of situation, however these are the two main ones I’ve based my own family’s plan on.
2. Plan Meals Your Whole Family Will Eat
I imagine there could be nothing worse than pulling out the food you’ve stored for a time of emergency only to discover your family wouldn’t eat it. A time of crisis is not the time to find out no one will eat what you’ve stored.
Your best bet is to look at what your family is already eating and base your food storage plan off similar types of meals. Discovering good recipes and adapting familiar favorites to be made with food storage is what this blog is all about. The most successful recipes will be the ones you pull over on your family without them ever suspecting it was made with food storage in the first place! You’ll find this is done most successfully (usually) by adapting an already very good “normal recipe” using equivalent shelf stable substitutions.
The one thing I do not recommend is buying an entire years supply of “just add water” style meals and calling it good. I’ve personally spoken with people who have tried eating these meals exclusively (as you might have to do in a crisis) day in and day out just to see what it’s like and how long they can eat them. Two weeks has been the longest I’ve been told this experiment has lasted before these adults have said they couldn’t stomach the food any longer. Good luck getting your kids to last two weeks if the adults couldn’t do it.
3. Plan Ahead Mentally for the Work and Schedule It’ll Require
Cooking with food storage means cooking nearly everything from scratch. Some meals are easier than others but no matter what, it’s just plain hard work! Be prepared to pull together as a family to get it done.
What takes so long?
- Supplies, both the ingredients and the tools needed, have to each be located and gathered ahead of time. Keeping supplies organized and being able to find everything you need before cooking is time consuming.
- Grinding anything by hand is a surprising amount of work and there’s a lot of grinding that needs to be done. Got wheat?
- The average food storage recipe has 8-10 additional steps compared to recipes we make everyday. Ingredients within recipes often need to be re-hydrated first separately, while others require being made beforehand by scratch.
Additionally, in my own planning I’ve realized our daily meal schedule would need to change from breakfast – lunch -(main meal) dinner to breakfast- (main meal) dinner – lunch. Because the best hours of usable sun light for sun oven cooking are mid-morning, the majority of the cooking and food preparation would need to happen early in the day. Also, many of my own meals have been planned with extra portions in mind (to allow for less overall prep time), so without refrigeration these “left overs” would need to be eaten quickly. This would make a late “lunch” in the evening make sense rather than keeping until the next day.
4. Plan for Alternate Cooking Tools if the Power is Out
Nearly as important as the foods you’re storing is the “how” of preparing them. A plan is needed, including gathering the right non-electric tools ahead of time. By getting to know which tools work and how to use them, you’ll be much more prepared to use your food storage. Most of the below tools –the ones which have worked for me– are extensively detailed within the recipes here on the blog in which they’ve been used. If available, I’ve always included links on where I’ve found them to buy within the recipe posts.
In my cooking I’ve discovered quite a few surprising (and not so surprising) tools that have helped get the job done! Some of these tools are used all the time in the recipes, while others are more “recipe specific”. I’ll do my best here to give a short explanation with each tool I list:
- Kitchen Timer (with extra batteries)
- Pizza Cutter — useful for pizza of course, but also to cut doughs of all kinds. For crackers, a pastry wheel is a nice change for a fancier shape.
- Cheese Cloth — For straining soft cheeses as well as yogurt.
- A Fine Meshed Strainer — I use this ALL the time. Nearly everything in powdered form needs sifting before it can be used.
- Sturdy measuring tools — These tools will last! Beyond that, the bottom surface of the measuring cups is great for pressing doughs flat, such as in this recipe for Raspberry Squares.
- Pastry Brush — I use this mostly for egg washes on breads, pies and rolls.
- A Good Can Opener — my favorite is this Swing A Way. It lasts and lasts (but still do have some extras on hand!)
- Quality Kitchen Thermometers (do store extras, for some reason they seem not to last an extremely long time before their temperature is “off”) — Cheeses, yogurt, homemade candy.
- Pasta Hanging Rack
- Manual Food Mill — this is my “non electric” alternate to a food processor. I’ve found it very useful for many recipes.
- Pasta Measuring Tool — Important especially in keeping correct rations if working from a limited supply.
- Manual Grain Mill
- Simple Spray Bottle — I use this often. Spritzing with water before baking is called for a lot in sun oven cooking. It’s also used to spray flavorings, such as butter, on to many things I can’t use a brush with, mostly doughs.
- Manual Pasta Maker — I love my pasta maker! Beyond using it for pasta, I use it in making thin doughs of all kinds, such as for crackers and chips.
- A Good Rolling Pin
- Flexible Cutting Mats — these mats will save you from needing wax paper in many recipes. I’ve loved using them for pressing out doughs and tortillas.
5. Plan Enough (of everything) to Last
How can you make sure you’re storing enough of what you need? Base the supplies you’re storing on tested recipes. The goal is to have a successful meal and the only way to get there (and be assured you’ll to have enough of your ingredients for the future) is by following a map. Your recipes are your map! Once tested, their requirements won’t change and you can have peace knowing you have all you need to successfully feed your family.
Along with this, an important detail not to be overlooked is remembering the amount of water needed for cooking. Water is needed to re-hydrate, use for boiling and use for constituting many of your ingredients. Again, the key to keeping all of this information straight, is in basing your supplies on a map: recipes.
6. Plan Ahead to Learn Skills
There’s a learning curve to being able to take basic ingredients from their simple beginnings to becoming a finished product at the table. Some of these things can be learned by only trying them once or twice, while others take more practice. Take it slow and easy by trying a new skill just once a week. Before you know it, you’ll be surprised how much you’ve learned! The most important thing is trying things out before the emergency requires you to do it.
7. Plan to Learn What Your Storage Can/ Can’t Do
It’s important to have a correct understanding of the products you’re storing and what they’re capable of. Many times the pictured labels on emergency foods are misleading, causing someone to think the finished product is going look and taste much closer to it’s fresh counterpart than what it actually does. While there are many things which can be replicated with food storage successfully, there are definitely a number of limitations. Here are just two examples:
- Butter Powder doesn’t reconstitute to become successful in frying as fresh butter does.
- Whole egg powder works fine for baking but scrambled eggs, if wanted, should be made with a different product. Honeyville’s Ova Easy Egg Crystals are a better product for the job if you’re looking for scrambled eggs.
8. Plan Some Convenience
If there’s one thing you truly need in your food storage meal plan, it’s a plan to add in some convenience. It’s difficult to emphasize how important this is until you’ve tried cooking this way yourself. It’s tiring and you just need a break from all the work sometimes! Add to that the way life just “happens” (sick child, added concerns, etc.) and there are many reasons to have a simplified alternative ready to go for dinner. In my plan, I’ve named these meals Pantry Meals. Simply put, they’re meals who’s ingredients have been mostly pre-measured, so they’re 80% ready to go in the box, just as if you’d stored a boxed meal from the grocery store (yet better and without as many additives). You can see all I’ve posted on these by visiting the recipe archive here. Or, for a quick intro, visit here and see my intro video #3 where the basic concept is demonstrated. Bottom line: some built in convenience is absolutely needed to have a successful food storage plan!!
9. Plan a Printed Copy
It only makes sense that in a time where you’d be needing your food storage, you’d also be needing a hard copy of all the details within your meal plan. No guarantee of internet access in a time like that! Beyond simply “having’ your recipes available, having a printed copy of your plan is essential in order for others in the family to know what the plan is as well. Would your family know what to do with all those mysterious #10 cans if you weren’t around? Having some pictures included (where needed) is also a smart idea in translating the “how” of cooking with food storage over to someone who might not be the usual cook in the family.
All recipes on the blog are packed with step by step pictures, all the way from beginning the recipe to the end. Be sure you have a thorough printed copy of the plan you’re following, both for yourself and for others who might need it when you’re away!
Check out some other amazing blogs and how they attack their biggest threats to being more prepared and more self-reliant!