Does your pantry contain all of the basics for scratch cooking? There are 25 ingredients that you need in your pantry at all times to cook from scratch.
More and more people are reclaiming the lost art of cooking from scratch in an effort to save money and avoid the trend toward processed food. A good pantry should have everything you need to whip together a pie, a loaf of bread, a casserole, or a batch of biscuits with no trip to the store required.
This is a list from my book, The Pantry Primer, of the things you need to go with your whole foods to turn them into delicious meals, so you won’t find things like canned goods, flours, grains, meats, or veggies. These ingredients are the supporting actors to the starring roles. If you like to think ahead, be sure to acquire these items in multiples – you should never run out of them. Many of these basics can be purchased in large quantities. One of my favorite destinations for pantry basics is Amazon, where I purchase yeast, aluminum-free baking soda, and other building blocks of a scratch pantry. I have also acquired 50-pound bags of organic sugar at Bulk Barn for a reduced price.
To build your stockpile, look through your cupboards and see what you use the most. Every kitchen will be different but below are my most-used items – the ones that I search out and buy in bulk. Links are for high-quality versions of these items, as opposed to store brands that could come from more questionable sources. Feel free to select whatever version you prefer of the items – just be sure to load up and get prepped! 🙂
Just because the grocery store sells foods that are food storage friendly and have a long shelf life, doesn’t mean the food is packaged in a way that will protect it from elements that destroy nutrients, flavor, color, and texture. In many cases, it will be up to you to repackage that food so it lasts for many years.
The following foods will all need to be repackaged unless you’ve purchased them in metal cans:
A vacuum packing machine, such as the Food Saver is my own preferred method of repackaging small to moderate amounts of food. These machines can be found on eBay and Craigslist at very affordable prices. Amazon, Walmart, Target, and Cabela’s carry them as well.
Pour the food into one of the plastic bags suitable for your machine and follow the machine’s instructions for vacuum sealing the bag. Use a Sharpie to mark the date sealed on the outside as well as the name of the food. (“Golden raisins, June 21, 2013”)
If a food can be easily crushed, such as cookies or crackers, place them in a large canning jar and seal it with your machine and a jar lid attachment. This is very convenient and gives long-term results. If you want to store shortening, pack it into a canning jar, place the lid on top, cover with the jar sealer and seal it. Here is more information from the Food Saver company.
All the foods on my list can be packaged in canning jars, but I’ve had problems with using the vacuum sealer with very powdery foods, such as flour. Storing food in canning jars is especially handy if you are storing food for just 1 or 2 persons or cannot lift heavy buckets and large mylar bags.
Some foods with sharp edges, such as pasta, can wear through the plastic storage bag. To avoid this you can seal the food and then place it in a second sealing bag and seal a second time or place it first in a Zip-Loc bag (do not seal) and then into the food storage bag. The machine will suck the air out of both bags, sealing them shut at the same time.
Yes, the big plastic bucket — a staple in many a prepper/survivalist pantry. These buckets are popular because they can hold a very large amount of food, making many smaller containers unnecessary. The plastic protects food from light, and although rodents and some insects can chew their way through the bucket to the food, that takes some time, and hopefully, you’ve pest-proofed your pantry!
It’s easy to obtain 5-gallon buckets, but smaller sizes may be harder to come by. If you’re lucky enough to live near a food storage retail store, you can buy them in person. Grocery store bakeries buy things like frostings and fillings in food safe buckets and those are smaller. Often they will sell used buckets and may even give them away for free.
The biggest downside to the 5-gallon bucket is its weight. I cannot easily lift one of these when it’s filled with food. Dragging it along the ground is about all I can manage. And, once the bucket is opened, you’ll have to plan on using the food inside within a reasonable amount of time, say 6 months or so if storage conditions are optimal, or reseal the bucket.
One popular solution is to fill the bucket with many smaller, individual packets of things like rice, oatmeal, and so on.
Keep in mind that you’ll need to protect the food in an opened bucket from pests and deterioration caused by heat and humidity. I recommend using Gamma seal lids to make it easier to open and close buckets. They will also help to keep pests out of the food.
Pour your food into a canning jar, mylar bag or a food-safe bucket of an appropriate size. Just before sealing with the lid, drop in oxygen absorbers according to this chart:
100 cc absorber 32-ounce canning jar
300 cc #10 can
300 cc 1 gallon container
1500 cc 5 gallon container
For more detailed instructions, refer to our printable, “Your Guide to Oxygen Absorbers“. Oxygen absorbers are available on Amazon, from food storage retail stores, and I’ve even seen them in Winco grocery stores.
I also use empty and sanitized 2-liter soda bottles for things like rice and oats and add a 100 cc absorber just before capping the bottle.
Keep mind that as you open the package of absorbers, they start absorbing oxygen. You’ll know this is happening because they get hot. Quickly place the required number of absorbers in each container with the food and then store the remaining absorbers in a canning jar. (The lid of a canning jar gives a much tighter seal than other jars.)
The process of vacuum sealing using a Food Saver removes most of the oxygen that exists inside the bag. This will prolong the shelf life of those foods. However, over time I’ve found that air can and does leak into the sealed bags. When storing these vacuum sealed bags, do check on them at least once a year to see if any have refilled with air and if so, open the bag and reseal.
Dry pack, or oven, canning is a process that involves pouring DRY food into canning jars, heating the jars, and then sealing them with lids and rings.
To be very clear, dry/oven canning is not the same as traditional canning, which uses a water bath or pressure canner. It’s simply heating up dry foods in canning jars and then closing them with seals and lids.
There are a number of questions about dry canning, sometimes called oven canning. At first, the method sounds like an inexpensive and very easy way to repackage dry foods but with quite a bit of research, I haven’t come up with any true advantages and there are a couple of reasons to avoid this method.
From my research, it seems like the only advantage to this process is possibly killing insect eggs with the heat and that it doesn’t require the expense of a Food Saver.
A much better way to ensure insect eggs are killed is by placing tightly sealed containers of food in the freezer for at least a week.
Heating these jars in the oven does not remove oxygen, which is a necessary step in prolonging shelf life. Storing any food in glass jars continues to allow the food to be affected by light, which also deteriorates food. (Store filled glass jars in boxes, under beds, and in any container that doesn’t allow in light for longest possible shelf life.)
The possibility of glass breakage exists since canning jars are designed to be heated in wet environments, such as a hot water bath, and not in a dry oven. Canning jars are made from tempered glass, which is designed to break into hundreds of fairly harmless little particles, not shards. However, to be on the safe side, it’s best to use canning jars for their original purpose only.
How dangerous is dry/oven canning? If only dry foods, such as flour or oats are involved, I’d say the risk of a glass jar exploding in the oven is very slight. Bacterial growth in such foods is negligible as long as no moisture is present. Some nutrients will be lost due to the application of heat, but dangerous? In my many hours of research, I’m not convinced, but there doesn’t seem to be any reason to use this method, either! All it seems to do is heat up the food, maybe kill insect eggs, but little else.
The previous repackaging methods I’ve listed are far easier and more effective in lengthening the shelf life of food, which is the main point of this activity in the first place!
If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t have ordered wheat germade at all and would have ordered far more #2.5 cans of cocoa! Yes, we prefer brownies to hot cereal!
If you need a recipe before you can make a pot of soup, this article is for you! No-Recipe Soup is so easy to make that sometimes I wonder why soup recipes are needed at all.
To be fair, there are varieties of soup and variations of soup that call for specific ingredients in specific quantities, but if you want a big ole pot of hot soup, especially on a chilly evening, there’s truly no need to Google “soup recipes”! You only need to browse through your fridge and cupboards to come up with your own creation.
Have you ever thought about soup as being one of the most economical, simple, and filling meals you can prepare? I’d be very surprised if you couldn’t come up with a No-Recipe Soup right this very minute.
Any and every soup contains two or more of these five basic categories of ingredients:
That’s all there is to it, and with that combination in mind, you can invent literally hundreds of soups yourself. For penny-pinchers, nothing beats soup because there needn’t be any expensive ingredients and, even better, every ingredient is shelf-stable.
In the soup base category, invest in a few #2.5 cans of bouillon. I recommend these larger sizes over the tiny jars of bouillon and bouillon cubes at the grocery store. Also, humidity can turn a pile of bouillon into a solid mass as hard as a stone, so a #2.5 can will provide plenty of bouillon for many batches of soup but not so much (as in a #10 can) that the bouillon hardens before it can be used up in a reasonable amount of time. You can buy these large cans of bouillon from Thrive Life in both chicken and beef.
FOOD STORAGE TIP: If a #10 can is more economical than the smaller size, just scoop out as much bouillon as you think you’ll use within 2 or 3 months and seal the rest in a canning jar or Food Saver bag.
You’ll use this bouillon for any soup that is broth-based and usually, bouillon comes in chicken, beef, and vegetable flavors. Some companies sell soup “stock”, which is just a richer flavored bouillon. If you make your own stock, by all means use that for the freshest flavor and nutrients you won’t get with store-bought bouillon.
Of course, not all soups start with a broth base. You may be in the mood for a rich and creamy chowder or cream-of-something soup. In that case, you’ll want to start with a cream base. If you have fresh cream, milk, or half-and-half, fill the pot with as much of the liquid as you need for your soup/chowder. From your food storage pantry, you can use dried milk. I double the amount of dried milk when I reconstitute it with water for soup or chowder, and you would never know that fresh milk hadn’t been used. I’ve also used powdered sour cream combined with dried milk for a different flavor.
The last category of soup bases is the tomato base. You’re in luck if you have tomato powder on hand. Acidic tomato sauce and tomato paste in cans have a shelf life of 12-18 months or so, which isn’t bad if you’ll be rotating them in with your everyday cooking, but tomato powder is the better bet when it comes to long-term storage. Combine tomato powder with dried milk for a cream of tomato base. Yumm!
The addition of protein can be beans or legumes (very budget-friendly), canned/freeze-dried/fresh meat/chicken or TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein). A little protein goes a long way in a soup, and many options are suitable for long-term storage. Combine some rice with beans in your soup recipe and you have a complete protein combination. Just by switching out chicken for a cup or so of black beans will change the flavor and texture of your soup, and voila! You have a new soup recipe!
Your soup’s cooking time will depend, in part, upon which type of protein you’re using. Freeze-dried chicken, for example, will take just 5 or 6 minutes to rehydrate in the hot broth — this is perfect for quick meals. Dried beans and legumes take longer and you’ll need to keep an eye on the soup so the liquid doesn’t boil down before the beans, in particular, are tender and ready to eat.
The type of produce and amount you use are completely up to you in your batch of No-Recipe Soup. Personally, I love to melt a bit of butter in my soup pot and cook chopped onion and celery until both are tender. This step is easy but adds a deeper, rich flavor to the finished dish.
If you’re adding several different veggies to your soup, you’ll probably need less than a cup of each variety. Fresh is great, but soups are where dehydrated and freeze-dried produce really shine. They rehydrate and cook through far more quickly than fresh produce,while retaining nearly all the same nutrients. When you use freeze-dried and/or dehydrated veggies in soup, remember they will absorb some of the liquid, so expect to add a little more milk or water, as the case may be.
#10 cans of mushrooms, bell peppers, carrots, potatoes, onions, celery, green onions, and more easy to store for several months, even after the can is open. Soup/stew blends are also handy because they combine several different veggies that are typically combined in many different recipes.
It usually doesn’t take much of any one ingredient for a soup to be a success and the beauty of this step is that there are no hard and fast rule when it comes to combining ingredients.
A black bean soup can have a Cajun flavor, a Mexican flavor or a hearty ham flavor depending on how it’s seasoned. Stock up on a healthy supply of herbs, spices, and other seasonings so you can add variety at a moment’s notice. Go easy with your salt, pepper, herbs, and spices at first and give your soup the taste test. You can always add more of any one seasoning, but it’s really hard to backtrack if you’ve been a little too heavy handed.
Those buckets of wheat contain a grain that adds flavor, texture, vitamins and more when they’re cooked up in a soup. Yes, cooked wheat, or wheat berries, is a very healthy addition to soups, and this makes it wonderfully versatile. Barley, quinoa, and white or brown rice are inexpensive additions, adding calories and bulk for filling up tummies. Add, perhaps, a quarter cup or so of your selected grain. If you overdo this ingredient, the grain will absorb so much water that you may end up with a casserole instead of a soup!
Add a handful of macaroni or any other small pasta for yet another version of your No-Recipe Soup! Inexpensive and filling, small pasta is a great way to extend your soup if you discover you need to serve 8 people rather than 3 or 4.
Potatoes in just about any form are yet another inexpensive and versatile ingredient for your soup. A few scoops of leftover mashed potatoes are just right for finishing off a creamy leek soup or turning a cream-based soup into a thick, hearty chowder. Dehydrated potato dices are inexpensive, and a little goes a long way.
Bottom line? You really don’t need a recipe for making soup! Add a little something from two or more of these categories, heat, and give it a taste test! You know better than anyone which ingredients your family likes best and what you have in your pantry and refrigerator. Soup is really the perfect survival food, and there’s no reason to not enjoy a different variety of No-Recipe Soup every day!
TIP: If you make a soup that is to die for, be sure to jot down the ingredients and quantities that you used, so you can replicate it, exactly, another time. Did your No-Recipe Soup turn out kind of meh? No need to put anything in writing! Just give it another try, with a different combination of ingredients on another day!
Storing food, say a month or two’s worth, is no longer the habit of a fringe group of Doomers. Everyday moms like me have an extra stash of food set away for those “just in case” events. After storing food for 7 years now, here are 13 resolutions you should make to keep a smart food storage pantry.
You don’t need freeze-dried food to have a decent food storage pantry. Cans of food, lots of cans!, will do just fine. Stay focused on stocking up on shelf-stable food your family will eat and stay within your budget.
All of these will cause your food to deteriorate more quickly: heat, humidity, pests, oxygen, light and time. Heat is the worst enemy of all, so do everything you can to store the bulk of your food in the coolest part of the house.
Buy from reputable companies such as Thrive Life and NuManna, but first, buy the smallest containers possible for a taste test. With each purchase, check for flavor, fresh-looking color, and then use that food in multiple ways to see if it’s a good fit for you. My family loves freeze-dried corn and I buy it, knowing that we can use it in chowders, stew, my Mexican rice recipe, and a whole lot more. The more versatile a food is, the more value it has in your pantry.
At first, I stocked up on things like juice boxes and granola bars, only to find that they had mysteriously disappeared, leaving only the wrappers behind! My kids saw them and figured, “Hey, Mom’s finally buying the good stuff and hiding it from us!”
Buy what you actually like and will use and resist the temptation to stock up on something just because it’s super cheap on double coupon day! At one point I had about 15 bottles of salad dressing that we never used and 2 years later, they were all such a disgusting looking color that I threw them out.
Diatomaceous earth, sprinkled around the floorboards of your pantry area is a good, non-toxic method for controlling pests. I also set out small containers of cornmeal mixed with borax as a safe way to kill off bugs. Given enough time, a really determined rodent can chew through the plastic of a 5-gallon bucket, so keep an eye out for rodent droppings.
Buying an exotic spice for just one recipe is fine under normal circumstances, but stocking up on versatile ingredients for your food storage pantry is the smarter strategy. Also, beware of buying mostly just-add-hot-water meals. Those quick meals are fine for short term emergencies, but you want a pantry that will contain healthy ingredients for delicious meals — more of a long-term solution.
These recipes should be ones that you and your family love and require only shelf-stable ingredients. If you already have a good start on a balanced food storage pantry, you’ll find that you already have many of the required ingredients stored. With fresh, new recipes, you’ll spare your family of food fatigue if you are ever completely reliant on that stored food.
This is simply the process of using the oldest food on the shelf and replacing it with new food. If you’re conscientious about food storage conditions, heat, especially, your food will stay fresher longer, but if you have food that is more than 5 years old, begin using and replacing it.
If your kids love macaroni and cheese, buy macaroni in bulk and repackage it for longer shelf life or buy it from a food storage company that has already removed the oxygen and sealed it in a can. Buy cheese, butter, and milk powders, and you’ll be able to make that mac-n-cheese years from now without having to buy any fresh ingredients! Chocolate chips, jelly beans, and other candies are other comfort foods to consider.
Rule of thumb: if a food comes in a cardboard or flimsy plastic bag, it must be repackaged. I have full details in this article.
That little something could be just a single can of store brand soup or a pound of sugar. It really does add up over time.
I buy a lot of white vinegar, baking soda, bleach, and toiletry items. These categories lend themselves very well to coupon shopping.
When you stock up on food, you are buying it at today’s prices and planning ahead for a time when those prices will increase. Food price inflation is tricky because it isn’t always about the number on the price tag, but the size of the package and the number of ounces the package contains. When I compare cans of tuna for sale now with cans of tuna that I’ve had in my pantry for a few years, the older cans are noticeably larger — but the price is the same! Food price inflation is happening but most people aren’t aware of it.
I’ll never forget the very first time I placed an order of food from a food storage company. It was with Walton Feed and, although their products are very good quality, their order form made me dizzy. A friend helped me through the order process and for many years afterward, I figured that the big #10 cans were the way to go. The bigger, the better, right?
My pantry is currently stocked with mostly #10 cans. If my family’s survival depends on this food, I’ll be glad I went for the biggest containers possible.
That’s what I used to think.
Now, 7 years later, I’m rethinking that strategy. It all started when a perfectly good #10 can of freeze-dried grapes became virtually inedible due to a small level of humidity one Phoenix summer. The grapes became sticky, a little gooey, and clumped together. It was hard to eat them and I ended up throwing most of them away. That can of grapes was a #10 can, and my young kids just couldn’t eat that many freeze-dried grapes and weren’t all that crazy about them to begin with.
Food storage companies sell most of their freeze dried and dehydrated foods in 2 different size cans. Cans labeled #10 are the really big cans you might see at Costco or Sams Club, holding foods like nacho cheese sauce. They hold about a gallon of food each and in many, many homes are the building blocks, so to speak, of a family’s food storage. The smaller #2.5 can holds about 1/4 that amount.
In almost every case, if you are stocking up just for yourself or maybe one other person, you may want to buy more of the #2.5 cans, but that depends on the individual food. For smaller households or for people who eat smaller amounts, these cans each hold enough of any given food to last several days or weeks, and you’ll likely consume the contents before they’re negatively affected by heat, humidity, oxygen, light, or pests. They’re also easier to transport and their smaller size means they can fit into nooks and crannies — space that would otherwise be wasted.
Recently I reviewed the sites of a couple of food storage companies and developed a sort of checklist I’ve followed to determine which size of can is the best choice for my family. Three of the biggest companies, Thrive Life, Augason Farms, and Emergency Essentials all carry similar products. Here are my recommendations for what you should buy in a #2.5 size can or a #10 can.
NOTE: Virtually all baking ingredients should be purchased in smaller amounts, except for sugar and flour — if you normally use those 2 ingredients frequently.
NOTE: Definitely consider buying varieties of freeze-dried and dehydrated vegetables and fruit that you cannot grow yourself, for whatever reason, and/or tend to be pricey. Blackberries, raspberries, cherries are all some of my favorites, but I’ve chosen to stock up on their freeze dried versions because they usually are more expensive in the grocery stores. I’ve purchased fewer freeze dried blueberries because I live in Texas blueberry country and can easily buy them in large quantities and can them for later.
As always, always, your mileage may vary! One of my prepper pet peeves is the occasional complaint by some of my readers who don’t stop to think for themselves when they read different types of survival advice: “You say to stock up on peanut butter, but we’re allergic to peanut butter.” “Why should I buy mangoes when we hate mangoes?” All food storage absolutely must be customized to your household’s preferences, allergies, food sensitivities, storage space available, finances, and even the level of motivation.
In survival and preparedness, as in every other area of life, you must make the decisions that suit your family and your circumstances best! Use my suggestions here as guidelines but do consider:
Sooner or later you’ll be faced with the dilemma of what to do with the contents of an opened #10 can when you know full well that you aren’t going to polish it off any time soon. The food doesn’t have to go to waste, and shouldn’t. You can easily repackage it.
Most of the foods I’ve listed here can easily be repackaged in canning jars of the size you prefer. You’ll need a selection of jars, canning lids, a vacuum sealer, and a jar sealer attachment. This is a very, very simple process, and I’ve used it to package in jars everything from salt to biscuit mix to quinoa.
You can also use the vacuum sealer and vacuum sealer bags. That’s a nice option because the individual bags can be stored in larger bins and buckets.
In this video, I demonstrate how to use a vacuum sealer and jar sealer attachment to store small amounts of food in canning jars.
Ask any “food storage expert” what they recommend in a basic food storage plan and they will likely recommend the same types of things: wheat, rice, dry milk, salt, beans, sugar / honey, oil, pasta etc. The Survival Mom recommends many of these important items on her list of top 10 foods for stocking up.
But with all their similarities, sometimes these lists include an item here or there that I hadn’t thought of before…something useful that I suddenly see as essential to my food storage plan. I thought I’d share a few of these with you today. Some you may have, or plan to have eventually. Others may be new to you. Or, you may have something to add to the list!
Vinegar has many many uses: just look at all the uses for it you can find on pinterest!
Some of my favorites include prolonging the life of flowers in a vase, keeping ants away, getting rust off of things, sterilizing laundry (instead of bleach), removing perspiration stains and more.
The uses in the kitchen are just as varied: use it to make fluffier rice, use it to make buttermilk, wash fresh vegetables and fruits (especially berries) in it to make them last 2-3 times as long, use it to tenderize meat, make salad dressing or pickle anything. I also use it to get rid of onion or garlic smell on my fingers..
Vinegar is truly versatile!
In addition, vinegar is inexpensive, readily available and stores very well.
The ability to grow your own food is essential for true self-reliance. Storing heirloom seeds is simply smart. You will need to rotate them every couple years or so, but seed packets are inexpensive so this shouldn’t be too difficult.
Add seeds for grains and beans for sprouting. This is a super easy way to add intensely nutritious sprouts to your meals.
Often, many “basic” food storage plans lack variety. They include items that provide a lot of calories, are inexpensive and easy to store for a long time. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always mean they provide a wide variety of nutrients and vitamins.
This is often true even if you buy a pre-made food storage package. Often, they are heavy on nutrient-weak calories such as sugar and drink mixes. There are many reasons I don’t recommend buying mostly pre-made food storage packages, but this is one. People invest in these packages thinking they are getting a certain number of calories. I feel it is a bit deceiving when a heavy number of those calories are nutrient-less.
However, not everyone can afford to go out and buy nutrient dense freeze dried fruits and veggies as part of their food storage plan: especially right at first. They may be able to invest in some canned produce, but even these are lacking in nutrients compared to their fresh counterparts.
A diet full of calories, but not balanced nutrients will not be likely to give you the energy and mental acuity you will likely need in a disaster situation.
While fresh is always best, storing vitamins can help combat this issue until you reach a point when you can invest in more nutrient dense foods.
Nuts are a great protein and fat source, are less expensive than freeze dried meats, and tastier and healthier than TVP. They can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner and are available in a large variety.
But nuts have one issue: they are tough to store long term because of the oil in them. One simple work-around to this problem is to store nuts in canning jars and use a Food Saver to remove the oxygen. This will extend the shelf life of nuts for several years.
A diet full of items recommended in many food storage plans: rice, pasta, bread, milk and beans would become pretty boring very quickly without some flavor!
Spice it up a little! Bouillon can be used to make soups and flavor rice. Spices can add an incredible variety to basic staples. If you are adventurous, you can dry your own or if that is too overwhelming, simply buy a few extra of the spices and herbs you use most often now so that you can easily rotate through them.
How many of you have the majority of your family’s favorite recipes stored electronically (on your computer or online somewhere)? What would you do if you couldn’t access those electronics? Do you have recipes specific to the food you have stored?
Make sure you have recipes for the food you have stored in a non-digital format so that you can access and use them anytime you need to. The more recipes you gather, the more variety you will have in your meals. Old cookbooks can be especially valuable for many reasons!
Stocking up on food gets expensive, and every frugal bone in my body shudders at the thought of anything going to waste. I try to store everything in the best possible conditions and watch out for these six enemies. Depending on your storage conditions all, some, or none of these may be a concern.
The longest possible shelf life is attained when food is stored somewhere between 40 degrees and 72 degrees. For every 18 degrees above 72, food will lose its’ nutritional value by half, and over time, it will lose much of its’ original flavor, texture, and appearance. If you can keep your food consistently cool, you’re in great shape.
It’s important to keep food as dry as possible. An air-conditioner or a dehumidifer can help as well as making sure the food is packaged with as little moisture as possible. Store food off the floor and away from outside walls where moisture might seep in. Rust will be another concern if your storage area is humid. Place containers of Damp-Rid in the storage area — they really do help absorb moisture in the air — if you don’t have or can’t afford a dehumidifier. Keep in mind that a dehumidifier is great but will need to be frequently emptied.
Over time, oxygen changes the appearance, flavor, and texture of food. When fats oxidize they become rancid. Use oxygen absorbers, rotate food to reduce the chances of oxidation, and pay attention to the other five enemies of food storage. Working to eliminate oxygen will also kill any bacteria, and vacuum packing food can help with this.
Many dry foods can be popped in the freezer for at least four days to ensure that microscopic insect eggs will never hatch. Keep food in air-tight containers. Make sure there aren’t any food particles on the shelves or floor, and keep all food storage areas very clean. If mice are a problem, well, you know what you’ve gotta do. Given enough time, a determined rodent can chew its way through a 5-gallon plastic bucket.
If possible, keep your pantry area dark. Light can and will affect the flavor and appearance of food, but it’s also the easiest enemy to keep at bay. If you have food stored in clear containers, keep them in labeled boxes with lids. It won’t be as attractive as all those pretty jars filled with homemade preserves and canned veggies, but they’ll last longer.
So far, I’ve lost entire boxes of granola bars, energy bars, and two or three cases of Capri-Suns have mysteriously emptied. Perhaps a kid-proof lock on the pantry door can take care of this particular hazard.
Food storage is an investment and should be treated as one. Since an insurance policy like you get for your house or car isn’t possible, taking the extra steps to keep it safe from these six enemies is well worth your time.
The wheels of time turn, and keep on turning. The only way to protect your food from growing old and losing nutrients, color, flavor, and texture is by using it up. This is where keeping your pantry organized is key. As you purchase new foods, those containers should be placed in the back of the shelves, pushing the older food to the front. Use those older foods every so often and keep adding new foods to replace the food you eat. This is called food rotation and needs to be a part of every long-term storage pantry.
When a summertime monsoon storm is on the way, I quickly track down my kids, bring them indoors, and prepare to hunker down. It’s a mom-instinct. We unplug the computers, make sure all the windows are securely closed and locked, and if my husband isn’t home, I call to make sure he’s okay.
A storm of a different kind is on its way, creating an uncertain future for us all, and has already been wreaking havoc with family incomes and our sense of security. No one knows what the extent of the damage will ultimately be, but moms everywhere are responding to their maternal instinct to gather everyone together. Since food and meal preparation is part of our responsibility, food storage is a basic, simple step to take in order to keep our families healthy.
Having enough groceries on hand for a period of three months is a good first goal, but if buying enough for three months is too daunting and not in the budget, start with buying enough to have a pantry fully stocked for one month.
If you’ve been losing sleep over the state of our economy or your own personal finances or you’re worried about an Ebola pandemic or just a really bad winter storm, there’s no time to waste. Use coupons and grocery store sales to get the most bang for your buck, examine your budget for anything that can be cut (temporarily) until you’ve reached your food storage goals.
To get you started, here are some of the simplest ways to stock up.
That’s two batches of soup per week for three months. If you make a double batch, you’ll have leftovers for the next day. As a first step, buy high-quality bouillon in bulk from food storage companies such as Thrive Life.
Add to your soup stash:
Do you have to buy these ingredients? They will end up lasting longer and will be more cost effective in the long run, but go for store-bought cans of soup if that’s what it takes to get you going! Use coupons, buy generic brands, and shop store sales, and you’ll end up with a very large stash of canned soup, quick.
Calculate how many cans you’ll need for 24 meals and then set that number of cans as your goal.
If you already know how to do this, stock up on enough ingredients to make a loaf of bread per day if you have more than four people in your family, or a loaf every other day for smaller family units or individuals. Keep the recipe very simple, as your goal is to stock up quickly, using every penny and dollar wisely.
You’ll use bread for sandwiches, toast, garlic bread, French toast, bread crumbs, etc. If you don’t have a grain mill for grinding wheat, buy enough flour for not only bread but other, occasional treats such as cookies. Before storing the flour, place it in a container with a tight lid and freeze it for at least ten days. This will kill off any microscopic insect eggs so there won’t be any nasty surprises when you’re ready to use the flour.
Check out this list of Depression-era meals that show just how versatile bread can be! Choose a few of the bread-based meals for your own food storage meal plans.
They are inexpensive and pasta is very versatile. You can buy 15 jars/cans of ready-made pasta sauce or buy enough ingredients to make 15 batches of homemade sauce. Plan on eating a hot vegetable and slices of garlic bread with each meal. This utilizes your homemade bread and hot veggies can either be from your stash of dehydrated/freeze-dried, canned or frozen veggies from the grocery store, or home grown.
A batch of white gravy is easy to whip up with flour, milk, and some form of fat (butter, bacon grease, or oil). Buy a #10 can of freeze-dried sausage crumbles and make your own sausage gravy served over homemade biscuits. If you’re stocked up on ingredients for bread, you’ll only need to add a can of shortening for the biscuits.
Use butter as your fat, add a little garlic, salt, and you’ve got a nice white sauce to pour over pasta or egg noodles. With some cooked vegetables, you have pasta primavera.
Plan on a “white gravy” meal once a week with a couple of biscuits and gravy breakfasts thrown in the mix.
Tuna casserole is a simple budget-friendly dinner. Multiply the ingredients in your recipe times 12 in order to serve it once a week for three months. Keep in mind that the size of tuna cans has been decreasing, much like those containers of ice cream that keep getting smaller and smaller! You might have to buy more cans of tuna in order to have the same amount of actual tuna.
In order to make this once a week, buy 12 cans of the soup, 12 cans of sliced mushrooms (or use freeze-dried mushrooms), and splurge on a #10 can of freeze-dried jack or mozzarella cheese.
The classic meal of beans and rice is versatile and the ingredients can be stored for years.
Keep in mind that repetitive meals can be quite boring, so stock up on a variety of beans, buy multi-bean mixes, and different types of rice. Most importantly, stock up on spices, herbs, and seasonings! Keep them stored in a dark, dry, and cool location for longest possible shelf life.
Just this simple array of ingredients will allow you to make dozens of different dishes. Check out this recipe book for more ideas.
For more simple dinner ideas, buy 100-day Pantry by Jan Jackson. Choose a recipe, multiply the ingredients by 12, and start shopping!
Your dinner menu will be complete with soup/chowder twice each week, a pasta meal or two each week, tuna or chicken casserole, white sauce with vegetables served over noodles, and two dishes of rice and beans.
Oatmeal. Oatmeal is simple.
Oatmeal makes a healthy and filling breakfast and has the added advantage of being versatile. It’s also inexpensive. Some stores carry oatmeal in their self-serve bins, along with beans, cornmeal, etc. Three pounds of oatmeal will provide 30 servings. Figure out how much you need to buy in order to have an oatmeal breakfast 3-4 times per week, one serving per person, per day.
For an easy change, make baked oatmeal.
Buy extra if homemade granola, oatmeal cookies, and homemade granola bars sound good to you. In addition, buy 6 pounds of brown sugar and/or 2 quarts of honey, extra cinnamon, raisins, and any other add-ins you and your family enjoy.
A few other breakfast suggestions
Plan on eating pancakes (homemade or using a mix like Bisquick), French toast (from the loaves of bread you’ll be making), homemade muffins, gravy and biscuits, and eggs for the remaining breakfasts. Leftovers are good, too. Keep breakfast quick, easy, and filling. You don’t want a ton of dishes to wash after this first meal of the day.
Cooking three meals from scratch will get old fast. There’s nothing wrong with planning on canned ravioli, chili, tuna sandwiches, canned stew, peanut butter and jelly, and even Kraft Macaroni and Cheese (stock up on instant milk and butter powder).
Freeze-dried cheese is pricey, but it can be used in quesadillas with homemade tortillas, sprinkled over a baked pasta dish, pizza, and so much more. When it’s rehydrated, it melts and tastes just like real cheese. In my opinion, it’s worth splurging on a can or two, and then using it as a luxury ingredient, sparingly. I keep cheese in my freezer, but for long-term storage AND a quick way to reach your food storage goal, freeze-dried is a really good option.
Finally, make sure you have at least one alternative way to cook your food and heat up water. If a Sun Oven is too pricey, many people make their own solar cookers. Many moms on this blog have been using an energy efficient rocket stove, such as EcoZoom, and find them easy to use. Should your power go out or energy rates skyrocket, cooking a few meals off the grid will be smart.
I found this “famine menu” on a political forum, of all things, several years ago. There was no link to an original post nor was any author listed. I liked the plan and wanted to share it because too many Americans see the need to prepare but can’t. The paycheck, if there is one, doesn’t come anywhere near to meeting the necessities.
On this one-year famine menu food storage plan you’ll find very basic foods that are available anywhere. If you’re using an EBT card currently, buying a few of these items each month will barely make a dent. Once you have these items in place, you can always begin to add additional foods that you and your family enjoy. I’d recommend adding additional meat and chicken, either freeze dried or home canned. (Read this article on home canning meats. When you can buy meat or chicken cheaply enough, this is a great way to stash some away for emergencies.)
Keep in mind that every food storage plan must be customized to your own circumstances. If someone in your family is allergic to one of the items on the list, buy less or substitute something else. Stock up on the spices you use most. Those vary from family to family.
If you’d like a printable of this list, click here.
Per day for one person
3 slices of whole wheat bread (lunch and dinner)
1 pot of oatmeal (breakfast, vary with spices, fresh/canned/dehydrated fruit or nuts)
1 pot of rice (dinner)
1 pot of beans (dinner, vary with spices and fresh/canned/dehydrated vegetables)
1 glass of milk
In addition per week
1 pint of jam
1 jar of peanut butter
1 spaghetti dinner with hamburger
4 pots of soup (from leftovers)
7 jars sprouting seeds rotation
In addition per month
1/2 -#10 can popcorn
1 can potato flakes
1 can refried beans
1 can white flour
Shopping list: Amounts to store for one person, two persons, three persons, four persons. This is for a year’s worth of food.
Wheat: 90 lbs, 168 lbs, 252 lbs, 366 lbs
Rolled oats: 24 lbs, 48 lbs, 72 lbs, 96 lbs
Rice: 60 lbs, 120 lbs, 180 lbs, 240 lbs
Dry beans: 60 lbs, 120 lbs, 180 lbs, 240 lbs
Refried beans*: 24 lbs, 48 lbs, 72 lbs, 96 lbs
Peanut butter: 17 lbs,34 lbs, 52-16 oz, 52-16 oz jars
Canned hamburger and other meats: 52 pints
White flour: 48 lbs, 96 lbs, 144 lbs, 192 lbs
Granulated sugar: 40 lbs, 80 lbs, 120 lbs, 160 lbs
Oil: 9 Quarts, 18 Qts, 18 Qts, 18 Qts
Yeast: 2 lbs, 4 lbs, 8 lbs, 8 lbs
Salt: 8 lbs
Honey: 18 lbs, 36 lbs, 57 lbs, 57 lbs
Powdered milk: 16 lbs (kids 32 lbs), 32 lbs, 48 lbs, 64 lbs
Potato flakes: 18 lbs, 36 lbs, 54 lbs, 72 lbs
Spaghetti sauce: 52 Quarts
Spaghetti noodles; 60 lbs, 120 lbs, 180 lbs, 240 lbs
Spices of your choice and preferences
Multi-vitamins: 365, 730, 1095, 1460
Popcorn: 6 #10 cans
Fruit jam: 52 Pints (one per week)
Sprouting seeds (Wheat, beans, seeds), 40 lbs, 80 lbs, 120 lbs, 160 lbs
In a dire emergency, you may not have electricity, or it could be subject to black-outs. In that case, start your famine menu using lesser amounts of food than you’ll need, since you won’t be able to refrigerate the leftovers. With each meal, add a little more food until you’re consuming everything within one day and tummies are all fairly satisfied.