Monday, March 12, 2018
"Prepper" foods: you may not like what you eat
A news report last weekend mentioned that a major retailer is offering various "package deals" on freeze-dried foods, designed to provide nutrition for up to a year for individuals or families. It's not a bad idea, albeit rather expensive . . . but there are other factors to consider.
Such foods offer a number of advantages; light weight, ease of preparation (usually, just add hot water), and a certain variety. However, they also rely on additives such as salt, spices and preservatives to provide or enhance flavor. These can get very monotonous after a while. If you doubt that, try living on such foods alone for just two weeks, and you'll see how quickly you can become tired of them. A year of eating them would probably drive anyone to desperation! There are also obvious health risks in eating too much salt.
I have no objection to freeze-dried foods. I have several dozen freeze-dried meal packets in my emergency food storage. However, they're there as quick-and-easy food for times when it may be inconvenient to take longer preparing meals. They're not the largest or most important part of our preparations. I think most of us will be better served by storing food in three categories.
Category One is the stuff we eat every day. If you usually use several cans of beans each month, why not double or triple your usual quantities of them, and treat the surplus as a short-term reserve? A dozen cans each of black, navy, pinto, kidney and baked beans gives a total of 60 cans - enough for two to three months, when used with other foods as well. The same goes for canned corn, peas, green beans, carrots, or whatever. Simply increasing the supply on hand will go a long way towards meeting short-term needs.
Category Two is medium-term food, things we might not use on a regular basis, but which will substitute for them at a pinch. I classify freeze-dried meals in this category. I'd also add cans of meat, such as corned beef, Spam, tuna, and so on. Again, buy more of what you usually consume, and store it. You can add cans of meat products you might not ordinarily use, such as beef stew, chicken breast, etc., and rotate them as they come near to the end of their useful life.
Category Three is long-term food: rice, dry beans, pasta, dried milk, sugar, flour, and other foods that can be stored in bulk, usually vacuum-sealed using mylar bags with oxygen absorbers, or #10 cans. We put them aside in suitable storage containers and conditions, and forget about them. Ideally, we'll accumulate enough for at least two to three months; some recommend sufficient for a year or more, if you can afford it and have enough space to store that much. I can't and don't. YMMV, of course.
Of course, we don't use each category in isolation. We'll stretch our Category One and Two foods by adding Category Three foods as "fillers" or base items. A bowl of pasta served with a can of tuna makes a nutritious meal, and is easy to prepare. We can also fill out our freeze-dried foods by layering them on top of a pile of rice. However, the variety also means we don't have to eat just one type of food to the point where we get sick and tired of it.
Don't forget flavorings and seasonings, either. Salt, pepper, herbs, spices, sauces (Worcestershire, Sriracha, ketchup, etc.), mustard, vinegar, pasta sauces, etc. - all should be stored along with our emergency food supplies, to help make them more palatable and flavorful. That's very important if we're having to exist on such foods for a long period. Don't forget cooking oil and other ingredients necessary for cooking - including dish-washing soap or detergent! Of course, some means to purify and store water is also essential, given that we'll be cooking, cleaning and washing with it, as well as drinking it. It's no good having a thousand pounds of rice in store if there's no water in which to cook it!