Phoenix Bird


What about red wheat (and other food questions)?

Christmas night found a group of us talking about food storage. One of the things I tell people is that before you run out and buy 500 lbs. of hard red wheat decide what the heck you're going to do with it when the time comes. Do you have a non-electric grain mill? Do you have some well-tested recipes stored away with your grain? Do you even like baking from scratch or will anyone in your family find the finished product edible?

There are a lot of ways to acquire a long-term food supply and much depends on your budget and the amount of storage room you have. Old backpackers like me love the dehydrated stuff and could eat it for months on end. The new products on the market are very good, and you can even get freeze-dried steaks if you're so inclined and your budget can bear the burden. If you like the idea of dehydrated products for long shelf-life and economy of storage space, you have two options: you can buy commercial dehydrated food in #10 cans, or you can make up your own supply from store-bought dry goods and some vegetables dehydrated at home.

Commercial products generally require nothing but a measured amount of boiling water and a pot with a tight fitting lid. JRH, Mountain House, Alpine Air Foods available at REI and other distributors, and REI (to name a few) all carry these products. Check the Packed and Ready to Go page for more vendors. You can buy only what you like or get one of the package deals that has an assortment of everything you'll need. Though I don't have it (yet), word-of-mouth recommendations for the book "Cookin' with Home Storage" are running very high.

You can dehydrate fresh, canned or frozen fruits and vegetables, then vacuum seal them in canning jars using a commercial sealer like the FoodSaver or a homemade vacuum sealer like we use. You can seal a variety of vegetables along with some bullion or other spices and dry flavorings of your choice for soup or stew base, then just throw in some meat or TVP when you're ready to cook. Don't minimize the convenience factor of soup greens, onion and garlic flakes, and other spices - and make your money count by frequenting Dollar General, CVS Pharmacy and other stores which sell spices in large containers for low prices. For the red beans and rice crowd, don't forget to stock up on Tony Chachere's unless you really like bland food! Powdered scrambled egg mix with bacon or ham-flavored TVP tastes great cooked over an open fire. You can add a side of hash browns if you've made up Ziploc bags with half a box of Betty Crocker hash browns flavored with onion flakes. All that's required is a frying pan, boiling water and a little cooking oil to make a great breakfast! I've used dry products that have been in boxes in my pantry for a couple of years and they seemed just fine - tasted okay and I'm still alive!

Before you stock up on potato slices or dices, be aware that you can easily dehydrate your own potato slices at home. We have 2 dehydrators and during peak buying times they're going just about 24/7. A wide-mouth quart canning jar will hold what's left of approximately 8 lbs. of potato slices after dehydrating. Whenever I find 10 lb. bags of potatoes on sale I take advantage and fill up a few more jars. What am I going to use them for? Well, there's home-fried potatoes and potato-green bean soup and scalloped potatoes and... you get the idea. I'm a big fan of dehydrating due to space considerations. Also, Jiffy Mix can be used for biscuits, pancakes, sausage roll, waffles etc. and in a pinch you can just use water instead of milk. Most grocery stores now sell powdered milk in foil-lined one quart sized envelopes and the storage life of these is usually about two years. I use a lot of information found in Mary Bell's Complete Dehydrator Cookbook plus recipes in a number of backpacking books like Home in Your Pack by Brad Angier (Collier Books ISBN 0-02-062130-2). I've had my copy of this one since 1978 and am still referring to it. I've been collecting recipes from the group and welcome any new ones you might have.

If your survival plans center around your home location, canned foods may be the way to go. While many of them may say they are only "fresh" for a year, they are edible much longer. For some specifics on shelf-life recommendations, see the Food Expiration Date page. Some of my old group members from New York just retrieved a bunch of canned goods put away in 1993 and are rotating them into their regular food supply with much success. Since you can get by without cooking canned foods, this may be an inexpensive and simple way for you to build up your food supply. Just make sure you keep your cans in a cool, dry place for maximum storage life. Watch for sales and stock up by the caseload whenever possible. Don't forget a couple of sturdy manual can openers and if you're not fond of cold chili, buy some cans of Sterno or a small backpacking stove!

Regardless of which type of food you choose to stock (wheat, rice and beans or dehydrated meals or canned goods), make sure you have the right variety of foods to provide balanced nutrition. One good way to make sure you get enough of everything is to keep all of your grocery receipts for a month, then make a list of the type and quantity of each product you use. Since staples like oil, flour, sugar and salt are often overlooked, take the time to make a list of everything you use in the course of making several meals. A little time spent now can mean a lot of comfort and convenience later.

For those who envision themselves hunting and living off the land, keep in mind that the game supplies won't last long when that method becomes a way of life. Also, if you've never dressed out fresh game, the time to practice is now! Most game animals have little body fat, which means you'll need to find an alternate source of this very important calorie-provider (solid shortening will keep indefinitely as long as it's unopened).

There are many links related to storage food on the Foodlinks page. Be sure to check out the specials at JRH.