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I know, I know. Survival Foods. Those two words sound completely scary and overwhelming. When I first started learning about food storage and preparedness, I came across the phrase survival foods and totally balked. I mean, seriously, that sounds so…paranoid.
But really, if I’m not filling my pantry for my family’s survival, why am I bothering?
Once I wrapped my mind around the idea of survival foods, I embraced the concept. I live rurally, about 35 minutes to a town of any size. In my small community, we have a restaurant with a convenience store where we can buy soda, milk, butter, and a few other items. But for real food shopping, we’re driving to town. For massive food shopping, we like to go to the city, almost two hours away. For me, a well-stocked pantry isn’t just for a serious event, it’s smart.
Let’s talk about serious events for a minute. Why might people stock their pantry? Why might they look at keeping survival foods on hand? Many times, people think it’s only in case of an attack on the United States, something like World War III. But there are so many more reasons to have provisions available. In my case, the long drive to town.
My friend Tammy Trayer keeps a well-stocked pantry because of her remote location and the possibility of being snowed in. I was a recent guest on her podcast (listen here or watch the YouTube video here), and she and her husband were stuck at home with 36 inches of snow! Wowzers.
I have another friend who, several years ago, her husband lost his job. They relied on their food storage during the year of limited income. Can you imagine being out of work but knowing your children still have full tummies? As a parent, what a wonderful relief that would be. Another friend counted on her food storage when her young son became ill and subsequently passed away. She says not having to grocery shop during her time of grief was a huge blessing.
Food storage and preparing for an unknown future is smart. None of us know what the future holds. But being able to make plans when we’re able to could be a huge benefit later.
One adage used often when discussing food storage is, “Eat what you store, store what you eat.” This is an excellent place to start. But keep in mind, there are foods that store better and keep longer than other foods. We rely on these long-term storage foods for the backbone of our food storage. These are our survival foods.
But if I don’t know how to cook or prepare these foods, then when I need them, I may end up in a pickle. My goal of keeping my family’s tummies full would be in jeopardy if I didn’t know how to take a hard, inedible legume and turn it into a soft, tasty meal. Or make that whole grain into a delicious bread or another side. We don’t save the use of these survival foods for a time we might need them to actually survive. These are a regular rotation in our meals. The five listed below are items we make and eat on a regular basis.
Beans and Rice
If you’ve followed this blog at all, you are probably not surprised beans are on the top of my list. I’ve practically made a career out of finding new and interesting ways for my family to enjoy beans and legumes! My Stretchy Beans articles and my 13- Week Menu Plans (which feature Stretchy Beans) are my most popular series. Adding dried beans to your diet now will also help you stretch your budget so you can buy additional foods in bulk, helping to build your food storage.
Combining beans with rice, bread or other grains makes a complete protein. It used to be believed you needed to eat these at the same meal. Current research suggests the body can create the complete protein over a 24 hour period. We still love having beans and rice together. The rice acts as a base to absorb that yummy bean juice!
We buy oatmeal in 50-pound bags for around 60 cents a pound. We like steel cut oats also, but these are priced a little higher at 97 cents per pound. Both are a welcome addition to our food storage. Oats are a whole grain with excellent nutrition. They make a hearty stick-to-your-ribs porridge, our family favorite butterscotch oatmeal, fried into patties, and delicious pancakes. Oats are also wonderful in cookies, muffins, ground into flour, turned into homemade granola or granola bars, energy bars, and even made into a mock chicken fried steak (make your own gravy instead of using canned soup) for dinner! Oatmeal is an excellent addition to your pantry.
Does anything beat a slice of hot bread fresh from the oven? As I’m typing this, we have bread on the counter rising. Today, my son was the bread maker in the house. He’s become very efficient at making wonderful French bread. Most of the time, our bread of choice is whole grain sandwich sourdough or this easy no-knead sourdough (I use whole wheat instead of einkorn), but the French bread makes for a nice change of pace. We especially enjoy the French bread either slathered with butter (in my humble opinion, all bread should be slathered in butter) or dipped in an olive oil and balsamic vinegar combination.
Oh, jerky, how I love thee…let me count the ways.
Jerky is not just a wonderful snack, it can be the basis of a meal. When my two youngest girls were home, as high schoolers, they brown-bagged their school lunches. I’ll admit, I wasn’t overly creative with putting their lunch together. At least one time per week their lunch was homemade jerky, chunks of cheese, nuts, and homemade granola bars. These days, our hiking and backpacking meals look about the same!
I make three different varieties of jerky strips: teriyaki (using a variation on the Teriyaki Sauce recipe from Nourishing Traditions), black pepper and lime (my favorite!), and plain. The plain is only flavored with salt and doubles as stew meat. The jerky is easily rehydrated.
Something I really appreciate about making jerky is the variety of methods which can be used. The easiest is using a dehydrator (I own an older version of this one. I covet this one) but during my off-the-grid years, our solar system wouldn’t support the dehydrator. We have a Sun Oven with a dehydrating kit and I’ve dehydrated in the kitchen oven and even on top of the woodstove. You can dehydrate in the sun, in a car (using it as a large dehydrator) or smoke jerky by a campfire. Don’t you love it? So many options for this survival food!
A few times, I’ve over dried my jerky. I experimented with making pemmican using those pieces. I ground them up and added fat and dried berries. Delicious. Unfortunately, my pemmican wasn’t shelf-stable because I used coconut oil as my fat (it melts above 70 degrees) but I’m going to make this again using tallow.
Like jerky, this is an easy do it yourself item. Dried fruit makes amazing snacks. The concentrated sweetness seems to quickly satisfy my sweet tooth.
How about fruit butter? Dried fruit is perfect for fruit butter. Try this on your homemade bread! You’ll love it. The dried fruit can be rehydrated and cooked into a compote or fruit sauce. Or you can turn the dried fruit into pie. You definitely have options with dried fruit!
Don’t wait until you need survival foods to try them! Try them now, incorporate them into your weekly meals and your life.
What are your favorite survival foods?
Looking for tips on building your own pantry?
Stock the Real Food Pantry
A wonderfully stocked, real food pantry will save you money, time, and give you peace of mind.
But where should you start? What if you don’t want to fill your pantry with foods devoid of nutrition? What if you prefer to focus on real, whole, or traditional foods consuming the highest quality ingredients your budget will allow? But how do you do this if your food budget is already stretched to the max?
Stocking your pantry can seem like a daunting task. This is where my handbook, Stock the Real Food Pantry, comes in. I provide details, tips, and knowledge to help you make the most of your food dollars, and begin building a pantry that will soon pay for itself in money, time, and peace of mind.