Three is the luckiest number when it comes to prepping. There’s the old saying, “One is none, two is one, three is better.” There’s the Survival Rule of Three which is that you can hang on for “3 minutes without air, 3 days without water, and 3 weeks without food.” And then there’s the approach that in all things survival, you need a layer of three, including food storage.
For example, Selco wrote an article a while back about layers when it came to bugging out. Basically, you need a layer close to you (as in on your person), a layer for more intense situations within easy reach, and another one someplace in your bag.
The same is true with food. Every prepared family should have multiple layers in their food storage. Let’s take a look at the three layers of food storage. (Don’t forget to take your family’s dietary restrictions into account when building your supply.)
Layer 1: Stuff with a shorter expiration date that you’d use if you can’t get to the store for a few weeks
Layer 2: Stuff that will last a year or so that you’ll use during power outages or longer-term emergencies
Layer 3: Stuff for all-out, apocalyptic long-term events in which there’s no such thing as grocery stores
(Note:Some of the links in these lists are affiliate links. If you buy them, I make a little money at no cost to you. If you don’t want to buy them, no problem at all – you can still take a peek to see the products that I use and recommend.)
This is the easy layer. This is the stuff you turn to when something goes a wrong and maybe you can’t get to the store right away. These foods may or may not have an extremely long shelf life and generally require power to store or prepare.
They are the basics that you keep in your freezer, in canisters, and in the kitchen pantry.
These are the items you’d substitute for the fresh foods that likely make up a big part of your diet right now. You can easily throw together a great meal if you have an assortment of the foods above that mirror the foods your family normally consumes.
Chances are that you have these foods in your kitchen right now, and you already intersperse them into your menus on a daily basis. I like to have at least – at least – a one month’s supply of these first layer foods. Having a supply that will see your family through at least a month means that a short-term emergency will hardly be noticeable to your family and that they’ll experience very little difference in the way they normally eat.
When a bunch of us did the Stockpile Challenge in January, lots of folks found that they had enough first level foods on hand that their families didn’t even realize they hadn’t been to the store for an entire month.
The Second Layer of Food Storage
The second layer is made up of two parts:
a) scratch cooking ingredients
b) the things that will see you through a totally different type of emergency.
This stuff is generally shelf-stable for at least 6 months, and will most likely be a bit different than how you normally eat.
As far as “b” above is concerned, this is the stuff you crack into when the power goes out for an extended period of time, what you eat when you’ve gone through all your first layer supplies and things aren’t looking up, and the first foods you’ll go through in an all-out epic disaster that changes the way we live.
* indicates that the food could be either storebought or home-canned.
Obviously, you’ll also want to have a can opener on hand.
The thing that most folks these days will find a bit different is the need to eat preserved fruits, vegetables, and meat instead of fresh. Frozen, like in level 1, is pretty similar to how we normally eat, so this could be a challenge for finicky family members.
You can mitigate this to some degree by throwing some of these types of food into your everyday menus now. I know these things aren’t quite as healthy as the fresh foods we have the privilege to enjoy daily right now, but if you feel like you are truly going to need to rely on some of these items at some point, by sampling the foods, you can find your family’s favorites and stock up on those.
The Third Layer of Food Storage
There are sublayers to this, too.
a) Supplies/skills to produce and preserve your own food
b) The stuff that most folks think of when they think of preppers. It’s the longterm foods that will last, literally, for decades.
This layer is for a time when you’re in it for the long haul. Perhaps some world-changing event has occurred, there are no more grocery stores on the horizon, or you’re hunkering down for the foreseeable future.
One thing that lots of folks don’t consider is that no matter how many supplies you have, they’re not going to last forever – at some point, you’ll need to supplement your supplies with food you can grow or acquire. This means things like gardening, raising livestock, hunting, and foraging. For this, section, not only do you need to stock up on seeds and gardening supplies, but you need to practice these skills right now when you have a grocery store as a backup.
For section b, we’re talking full-on bunker pantry with long-term food that has been carefully packaged and protected.
A few examples:
Coconut oil (it lasts for a very long time and can be used as a substitute for butter, lard, etc)
Coffee (who wants to face the apocalypse without caffeine?)
Spices (freeze-dried and packaged for the long-term)
* Remember that freeze-dried foods are not the same things as the food you dry yourself in a dehydrator. Home-dehydrated foods will not last for much more than a year, according to many accounts. Commercially freeze-dried food is your best option for long-term unless you have a high-quality freeze-drier like a Harvest Right.
You’ll need a high-quality manual grinder to turn the whole grains like wheat berries and dried corn into flour or meal that you can cook with. I have the Wondermill Junior.
It’s wise to pull a small amount of the long-term ingredients out before you stash them away for the long term so that you can learn to cook with them. Making bread from home-ground flour is a whole different animal than making it from commercial flour. Do some experimenting now so that you don’t waste food later.
Don’t make this common mistake!
One mistake that I see a lot of new preppers making is that they go straight for the third layer without adding the items for layers one and two. The truth of the matter is, while it’s important to build a long-term stockpile, I believe the first two layers are actually more important.
That probably sounds outrageous on a preparedness blog, but there’s a method to my madness. We have to prepare for the things that are the most likely, not the apocalyptic scenarios that may or may not ever occur. I’ve often written that the number one thing we need to prepare for is personal financial hardship. I’ve experienced it myself and used layers 1 and 2 of my food storage extensively. I never even cracked into layer 3 during those difficult times.
If you’re new to prepping, start with layers 1 and 2 before you move on to prepare for a dystopian event. These items will serve you well during everyday events and if your money is limited, are far more practical.
Obviously, these lists aren’t meant to be comprehensive. Because of different budgets, dietary restrictions, and tastes, that would be impossible. What I hope is that this gives you something to think about when building your stockpile.
There’s a lot more crazy and a lot less money than usual, and as I’ve written before, the face of prepping has changed. It’s a lot more difficult (and expensive) to go out and stockpile as we did a few years ago, and the event we’ve faced has been a slow-burning SHTF event that has slowly and insidiously taken away financial security from hundreds of thousands of Americans.
I wondered how others have changed the way they prep to adapt to these times so I asked the folks in our Me-We group if they’ve changed how they prep and if so, what changes they’ve made. If you are interested in joining the group, go here, answer four questions, and be sure to change your profile picture from the Me-We basic images. We don’t care what you change them too, we’re just trying to avoid “bot” traffic from prowling through our group.
Here’s how readers have changed the way they prep.
With some of the comments, I’ve added a comment or a link in italics for more information.
I am working on doing even more with even less. I was laid off at the beginning of Covid. Hubby’s paycheck is down a bit. We have been watching the cost of regularly used items skyrocket, yet again. Teaching myself to grow more long term food items this year. At this point, Daisy, just not giving up feels like prepping, even if it’s just to get up tomorrow and try again.
We are getting ready to move. I am using my food preps to see what we really need and what has been hard to use up. Mostly pertaining to food and household essentials. Saving the money to buy fresh preps after the move. We moved a year ago and I had a huge stockpile that had to be moved twice in two months. I think it is better to use it up than move it and then replace it with fresh food and water.
This is a great way to rotate your stock and always have fresher products available. Just pay attention to the things that are in shortage or difficult to acquire. You may not want to go through that supply just yet. ~ D
I have been building up at least a year’s supply of essential items like laundry detergent, shampoo, hand soap, toothpaste, etc. I will be using the stimulus check to add to my freeze-dried food inventory (mostly protein) since I have 1k lbs of dry food stored away. I don’t know if hyperinflation, war, or another pandemic may hit but if it does the goal is to be able to go at least a year without leaving the house.
This is a fantastic goal!
After the Texas snowstorm, I’m prepping mainly for life without electricity. I’ve lived off the grid before but had stopped so I’m going back to it. I also realized my need for more stored water .
Prepping mainly for economic upheaval. We kicked up food storage (have a working pantry) January 2020, but it wasn’t an issue to grocery shop in my area, so I slacked off a bit. August of 2020, we put together 6 months of food (again a working pantry I use and replenish), paying off debts, saving money, buying silver, ammo, guns, etc. Anything that will aid us as food and fuel prices goes up or our income goes down. So far, our income has increased since last year, but you never know. I’ll add my pantry includes HH / personal items too.
Stocking up on things other than food is really important. Here’s a list of non-food stockpile items that may inspire you to add to your own supplies. ~ D
We are prepping for civil unrest and skyrocketing inflation. I’ve been watching the groceries I normally buy going up a lot. We are planning to grow more veggies and put in some more fruit trees. We are also making sure we have extras of the tools we use, and enough supplies to fix things(tools, machinery, plumbing, electrical, etc.) that might break. Lumber has also gone up a huge amount, so we are buying extra of that too.
Having spare parts for tools and essential equipment is a vital and often overlooked prep. ~ D
Diane: Everything I can think of from food to security.
I think hyperinflation and the possible dollar collapse is more possible now than ever. I am adding canned and dried food stocks to my preps especially items that are predicted to become exorbitantly expensive like corn and coffee. I am also eagerly watching my garden waiting for it to thaw out. Most of the snow and ice is gone except in the woods.
I’m turning more of my yard into vegetable/herb gardens and will preserve most of the produce. Adding to non-perishables when I see a good sale. Learning basic survival and self-sufficiency skills. Moving toward a simpler lifestyle, so living without modern conveniences will be less of a shock.
Survived Texas without blaming the governor or president for leaving me in the cold. We need more stored water. Had enough but saw that I needed more for cleaning. Need larger pots. Fed 7 people easy as my house was only one with gas cooktop. Need cookware to feed 20…and preps to make my own soup kitchen. Need back up potty! Do I have 100 candles? More lamp oil. The little tealight under flowerpot did help to make room cozier. Store for this. A way to wash clothes. A way to take warm shower and wash hair. Prepare a menu, recipes, and storage for meals on the stove top. Prep to share with family. (I live on 20 member family compound.) A way to charge phone. Size c batteries to listen to CDs….more CDs. Hootch. OTC
We are focusing on our garden this year. Our goal is to be as self-sufficient as possible in regard to produce. I want to save seeds from the garden for the future. We aren’t growing grains, wheat, and oats, though. That is a future project.
The money hasn’t changed for me in the Great White North. I’ve realized, though, that prepping for an event like an EMP is trying to play apocalypse lottery; better to consider the consequences of whatever it is you worry about and prepare for those. It stops you from making assumptions. (Makes an ass of U and umptions). I.e. instead of prepping for an EMP, I’m prepping for a collapse of communication and transportation of goods like food, no matter the cause. I’m expanding my EMP-proof storage still but I’m more prepared to handle, say, a food shortage whereas before my food plans only involved getting out of the city and joining a full farm.
Hi Daisy, I’ve been watching everything since early 2018, and the most striking thing is the correlation between Q and the Bible!! I did most of my prepping back then. Long-life food, seeds (I learned how to grow veg). All done under the radar, especially Crypto and PMs. Skills will be the REAL asset. I’m hoping a local viewer of my channel will ‘kidnap’ me because the idiots that wouldn’t listen will be banging on my door
Not much change, if any. Been prepping for the collapse of society, food shortages, and the possibility of a grid failure. We try to do all farming, gardening, preservations without the use of electricity and fancy gadgets. We recycle, upcycle, make do and live outside the box.
Simplicity is key! I like your style :). ~ D
I need to get ready for a garden! Strawberries will come back, and I’ll start canning again. I need to check my jars. I have some cases but need to check in case folks are back to normalcy or still canning. I need to practice shooting! I need to work on security with more cameras and change the button lock on my back door. 🙄
DEFINITELY practice shooting. It’s a perishable skill. Here’s an article about creating a safe room at a reasonable price that might be helpful for the security aspect. ~ D
Taking care of my animals and plans to raise more meat chickens – so more to feed. Buying feed in bulk and pricing out different feed options, etc.
Have you checked out the fodder method? I took a class on it when I lived in California, but did not set up my own system because we were moving. Here’s a really good article about it. The guy I took the course from had chickens strictly on fodder and free-range. ~ D
We’re pretty much preparing for our retirement. Then we’ll be on a much lower income. We’ve paid off all our debt except what we use on our credit cards which we pay off every month. We’ve sold off a lot of things which we didn’t need to get rid of the debt. We’re thinking we could be looking at another depression or some other economic troubles. I’ve been trying to grow different vegetables to learn how to do it well. I also have been dehydrating what I can and vacuum sealing them in large mason jars. I plan to learn to pressure can this year so I can take advantage of any sales at the stores on meats and vegetables which don’t grow here.
We of the Down Under are keenly aware that we no longer matter with your particular ruling family’s politics. China is now a far more serious threat in the Pacific area. We also no longer refine fuel here, much of it comes from Singapore. We are prepping for blockade/ interruption to supply lines as this would pretty much cripple the country. We have gardens, fruit trees, and are stocking up a bit more on canned goods. We aren’t allowed to store more than a couple of jerry cans of fuel. Also, I have been sure to keep medical checkups and dental checkups very up-to-date for the family as you never know when these things just won’t be available.
You bring up an excellent point with regard to medical and dental care. During the past year of Covid restrictions many people saw health issues getting far worse because they were unable to seek preventative care, or even take care of conditions that arose. Handling these things while we an is vital. ~ D
I prep for hyperinflation, power grid issues, (due to natural disasters), and civil unrest. I live in the PNW, so we’ve had our share of rioting, unrest, and fluke weather. Prepping food, supplies to deal with no electricity, trying to learn how to cope without electricity. We sold property in Ca. and moved up here and bought property with land.
With the changes you’ve made, you are most likely looking for some suggestions on becoming more self-reliant with the land and new resources you have available. Check out the self-reliance manifesto here. (Some links are no longer working – we’re striving to keep up!) ~ D
We’re planning to buy a house/property in the next few years, so we’ve been saving wherever possible. Luckily the covid didn’t affect our income. Cutting back on trips to town. Waiting for the garden to dry out and also waiting for my seeds to arrive. Going to grow mostly for cellar storage this year….potatoes, squashes, carrots, turnips, etc. Jar lids are really hard to find here on Vancouver Island…hopefully, by the fall, I’ll be able to can sauce and V8. Keeping up with buying hard copy books on natural medicine, crafts, foraging.
I’ve really lucked out and gotten some used books on those topics at yardsales. I once spent $100 at a yardsale buying every book the person was selling because her deceased relative had been into food preservation and herbalism. Talk about a motherlode. Another potential goldmine for you is Thriftbooks, which has millions of used books for sale. If you are new to root cellaring, this article may be helpful. ~ D
I’ve spent the last year really focusing on smaller potential SHTF situations (a week to a month type). I feel like I’m in decent shape as far as that goes. Now my focus is more long-term. I want to get sustainable food production set up and keep hounding my kids about the likely change to digital currency in the next few years along with a rise in inflation. I have preached for years that our reliance on food from outside of our areas is going to be a problem in the future. That’s my focus now.
Economic misfortune, (job loss, economy downturns) civil unrest, power grid/natural disasters. I am set for two years monetarily, approximately 6 months for comestibles, and a decent self-defense set up although still working on hardening the house. I am also to a lesser extent prepared to bug out home if things really go to s**t, however as I am currently OCONUS I am probably screwed on that part.
That definitely makes things difficult. I think what I would focus on in your shoes is making certain that your family members are able to hang in there for a period of time while waiting for you to make it home. You don’t want them to be in a situation where only you know how to do something important. Redundancies are essential. ~ D
We have concentrated more on being self-contained and self-sufficient. We source our needs locally as much as possible. A LOT quieter about accomplishments and acquisitions. For the most part, we no longer have strong public opinions about much of anything. We are becoming more internalized and grey. As we get older, the fighting spirit is still there, but reality says to stock up and shut up. We see civil unrest, and difficult times, if not out and out economic collapse and civil war. The USA is a powder keg right now and some dumba** is going to light the match
Economic collapse is my greatest concern. We are planting a larger garden and stocking up on nonperishable food. I plan to can more this year. In fact, today I scored a lightly used All American 910 canner at the goodwill. $5.99. Scratch that off my bucket list!
Oh my gosh, what a SCORE!!!!!! I’m sure a lot of us reading that are positively green with envy. And the good thing about the All American is there are no parts or gaskets that might need to be replaced. ~ D
I can’t shake the feeling that we will have a grid-down situation in the near future, so getting prepped for that has been my top priority. Next is food shortages and hyperinflation. Bigger garden & more canning is on my list for this season. I wanted to buy heating mats & lights too this year but didn’t have the extra funds, so I am trying Winter Sowing in gallon water & milk jugs. I have 20+ jugs done so far with lots more to do. Fingers crossed it’s a success!
I’ll be really interested to hear how your Winter Sowing goes! Please keep us posted. Here’s a link to my book on Amazon, Be Ready for Anything. It goes into a lot of detail about long-term power outages in both summer and winter. ~ D
Although my area doesn’t normally see really low temps, it does get cold in the winter, and after seeing what happened in Texas, I’m adding a portable heater (either propane or kerosene) to my list of supplies ASAP. Just wish AC was as easy to prep for if the grid goes down. Looking at doing solar with battery backup to keep fridge, freezer running too, and even 1 window ac unit to keep the house at least bearable when it 115 in the summer.
In light of the recent hacking into MULTIPLE national security systems, I think the grid down is the biggest threat. Financial collapse would be second after that. I’m using some of the stimulus funds to buy larger ticket items. A respirator/gas mask is next on my list. Additionally, I bought heating pads and fluorescent lights for seed planting this year-going well. Also just bought five 55-gallon water barrels that need washing and set up. Busy time for me trying to keep up with all this.
Yep, it’s me. The thing that I have changed over the past year about my preparedness is paying attention to the local governments and how they’ve responded. I’ve lived in 3 different places over the course of the lockdowns and each place has managed the response to covid very differently. It’s important to understand how your own local government reacts to things because once you do, you can begin to predict what they’ll do in a different situation. I’ve also gotten a lot better at getting information from others without them realizing I’m doing it, and making friends who can be helpful in a variety of events. (Read more in this article.)
Traveling from place to place, I’ve learned to prep fast and I’ve learned how to make due with what’s available, instead of being so choosy. I plan to continue working on my adaptability levels, for I believe that is my most important skill. My primary goal is to avoid trouble in the first place and my secondary goal is to survive if I can’t. I foresee more restrictions after a brief reprieve and a lot more difficulty for those who just want to be left alone to do so without jumping through hoops…
Atlas Obscura has a recipe for qurt, a dried, dairy product, which when hardened can last for years without refrigeration, though a thirteenth century friar said it was “hard as iron slag.” The hardened qurt can be softened with water and mixed with jerky and flour to make a sort of stew. Here is Make the Ancient Road Snack of Central Asian Nomads.
ONE WINTER MORNING, PRISONERS AT the Akmola Labor Camp for Wives of Traitors to the Motherland, part of the Soviet gulag system from the 1930s to 1950s, trudged to a nearby lake. As they began gathering reeds to heat their frigid barracks, children and elders from the neighboring community approached the shore. The kids hurled small, hard white balls toward the women, and the camp guards cackled: Their charges weren’t hated only in Moscow, but here in remote Kazakhstan as well, recalled Gertrude Platais, who had been arrested in 1938 and sent to serve her sentence there.
While it initially seemed like an insult, the villagers had the opposite intent. One of the prisoners tripped on the projectiles, got a whiff of milk, and suspected they were edible. Back in the barracks, Kazakh prisoners explained that it was qurt, a traditional dried dairy product that had sustained nomads across Central Asia for centuries. Long-lasting, easy to carry, and packed with protein and calcium, the balls—described as “precious stones” in a poem about the incident by Raisa Golubeva—provided a much-needed supplement to the sparse prison rations.
Qurt, also called qurut or kurt, derives from the word for “dry” in many Turkic languages and is made by straining fermented milk from a sheep, goat, cow, camel, or mare until it’s thick enough to be rolled into balls and dried in the sun. In a 13th-century report from the Mongol empire, the Flemish Franciscan missionary Friar William of Rubruck described the result as “hard as iron slag.” Different variations exist throughout Central Asia, the Caucasus, and the Middle East, including the Persian kashk, Jordanian jameed, and Armenian chortan.
Qurt’s portable nature and long shelf life made it an ideal road food for Central Asia’s nomadic peoples. According to Kazakh historian Moldir Oskenbay—who likens the taste of qurt to “a dried and salted feta cheese”—it dates at least as far back as the seventh century B.C., when the Scythians roamed the Eurasian Steppe. Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Turkmen, Uzbek, and other groups of herders took along versions as they moved to graze their animals. “Qurt was a really good way for them to preserve yogurt so they could eat it while they traveled,” says Malika Sharipova, a food blogger from Uzbekistan who has written about making traditional Uzbek cuisine. Hardened qurt is also highly versatile: It lasts for years without refrigeration and can be eaten straight, dissolved in boiling water to create a beverage, or mixed into traditional soups and dishes like Tajik qurutob.
Centuries later, freeze-dried qurt nourished Soviet cosmonauts in space. Today, it’s still hailed as a source of longevity, said to improve digestion, ward off osteoporosis, and support the health of children as well as pregnant and lactating women. Kept in a dry place, it will remain edible for several years, and some say close to a decade. “It won’t spoil, but it will get really, really hard,” Sharipova says. (If exposed to humidity, however, it can become moldy.) While qurt is traditionally made at home in rural areas and bought by city-dwellers at markets, mass-produced versions are now available at grocery stores and online.
Central Asian markets like the Chorsu Bazaar in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, showcase the vast array of qurt available: softer “new” qurt; rock-hard “stone” qurt, which may have been dried for years; light brown smoked qurt, which Sharipova recommends pairing with beer; qurt with red pepper, coriander, dill, mint, or basil; and shapes ranging from tiny spheres to apple-sized balls.
“People are getting crazy and creative about making different kinds of qurt,” she says. “You can play with the texture, you can play with the taste … you can make it less salty, you can make it really salty.” Sharipova prefers the classic white variety and doesn’t like it to get too hard, so she keeps it in a paper bag in the fridge.
You can make your own qurt at home, the way it’s done in Central Asian villages. However, it’s a multiday process and if you don’t have access to the sunny, dry weather of the Eurasian Steppe, you’ll need to employ a few hacks to “cheat nature,” as Max Malkiel—a home cook born in Tajikistan who now lives in Germany and posts recipe videos on YouTube—puts it.
Note: Methods and terms for the various dairy products below may vary by culture and location.
Ingredients 2 liters of whole or low-fat milk 6 tablespoons of plain Greek yogurt Salt to taste Dried herbs and spices to taste (optional)
To make qurt, first you need to make suzma, a creamy drained yogurt with a spreadable consistency. To make suzma, you need to make qatiq, a natural (and also delicious) drinkable yogurt. If you’d like to speed up the process, and you can find suzma for purchase in your area, you can also start there and skip to Step 3. (If you don’t have a Central Asian bazaar at your disposal, you may be able to buy suzma at a Central Asian shop like Brooklyn’s Tashkent Supermarket. Some recipes also describe how to make qurt from tvorog, a farmer’s cheese widely available at Russian grocery stores; I did not test this, but if you go this route, you’ll also want to start with Step 3 and ensure that your cheese is well drained before attempting to roll it.)
To make the qatiq, heat the milk in a pot to about 122° F (50° C). (If using unpasteurized milk, boil it first, then let it cool to this temperature.) If you don’t have a thermometer, turn the heat off when the milk is noticeably warm, but you can stand to hold your finger in it for 10 seconds without discomfort. Then stir in the yogurt. At this point, the contents of your pot will still be milky in consistency. Pour the mixture into glass jars and wrap them with towels to keep them warm; Sharipova suggests using three thick ones. (I wrapped my jars in dish towels, topped with hand towels, then covered them with a large bath towel and a blanket.) Leave the wrapped jars in a warm place and let them ferment for eight hours. Then enjoy a glass of creamy qatiq; it will be a drinkable but noticeably thicker liquid.
Now, it’s time to turn your qatiq into suzma. First, add salt to taste. Then carefully pour your qatiq into a flour sack towel. I found it easiest to do this by laying the cloth over a colander first. Secure the top of the towel with a rubber band and hang it over a bowl or your sink to drain. You can also use a cheesecloth, but make sure it’s not too gauzy. The qatiq should drip steadily as it drains, but you don’t want it to gush through all at once. Leave it for about eight hours as the whey separates.
Now we have suzma; set some aside to eat on bread or as a dip for vegetables. If you’ve purchased your suzma, it may be thick enough to begin rolling into qurt (Step 4). However, if you made your own, you may need to let it drain in the cloth for another few days to reach the optimal consistency. (I learned the hard way by trying to roll suzma that wasn’t thick enough and wound up with sticky, yogurt-covered hands.)
There is no exact timeline, but Sharipova says the suzma is ready to be rolled when you can stand a spoon in it. Mine took about two days to get there.
Once your suzma is nice and thick, add salt to taste and any additions, like ground red pepper or dried herbs. Roll it into balls, keeping in mind that smaller ones will dry quicker. (Mine were about the size of small to medium gumballs.)
Put your qurt balls on a wooden cutting board, cover them with a clean dish towel, and leave them in a warm, sunny place to dry for several days, depending on how hard you’d like them to be.
If warm and sunny is not in the cards where you live, you can use Max Malkiel’s method. (I discovered his advice after my first batch of qurt started to grow mold as it dried.) Set your oven on the lowest possible temperature—he uses 50° C, which is approximately 122° F—and place your qurt inside on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper for an hour. Do not preheat the oven first.
Your qurt should now be a bit rubbery. Dry the balls with a hair dryer on full power for about 10 minutes. Set aside to dry further at room temperature. Repeat the oven and hair dryer steps three days in a row. For harder qurt, leave to dry for a few more days at room temperature.
Enjoy your qurt and go slowly. A little bit of the salty stuff goes a long way! Store in a breathable cloth bag in a dry place or in a paper bag in the fridge.
When people talk about what you need to buy as a prepper, I once heard it boiled down to: “Beans, Bullets, Bandaids.” I believe it was James Wesley Rawles of The Survival Blog that coined the phrase. The “Beans” in the saying represent your food storage. And if you have food storage……you probably have or use five-gallon buckets (or sometimes six-gallon).
***There are links in this post. Some of the links may be affiliate links. My promise to you is that I will only recommend the most economical version of the best quality of items to serve you. All of these are the items that I have bought for my own family. If you click on a link, your price will remain the same. If you make a purchase, we may make a small commission that aids in the cost of the running of this website.***
Five-gallon buckets have become expensive!
But those can be stinking expensive! Have you looked at prices for them? Amazon has 5-packs of buckets WITH lids for $53.99. This makes the buckets $10.80. If you’re wanting to purchase a single 5-gallon bucket from Amazon, the best price that you’ll find is $13.99.
Another place that I’ve had friends purchase five-gallon buckets from is Wal-Mart.com. On Wal-Mart.com, you can purchase a 10-pack of five-gallon buckets WITH lids for $120.99. This makes them $12.00 each.
I personally have purchase five-gallon buckets WITHOUT lids through Azure Standard. A 10-pack of buckets WITHOUT lids for $72.55. So the cost per bucket works out to be $7.26. But then you will need to purchase additional lids. A regular ‘clamp on’ lid costs $3.25 each. For specialized lids called Gamma Seal lids (I’ll cover these lids later), it’s an additional $8.02. So the cost per bucket for clamp-on lids is $10.51. Your cost per bucket for Gamma Seal lids is $15.28.
You Can Get Buckets Cheaper!
A friend of mine recently talked about Covid Scalping. One of the reasons that buckets (and canning jars, and canning lids, and so many other things) are so expensive is because the demand for them has gone up exponentially because of Covid. So this – in many ways – is an example of that Covid scalping that was mentioned.
But there is another alternative to paying exorbitant rates for buckets! You can get buckets for either FREE or very cheap. Today while I was at Wal-Mart, I swung by the bakery. When I was greeted by a bakery worker, I asked if they had any empty five-gallon frosting buckets. They had three. It took her a few minutes to find them and bring them out. Now before today, when I had gotten these buckets from Walmart, they were free. Today, however, when she brought them out, they had a $1 price tag printed for each of them.
What I have discovered to this point is that while you can still get buckets for free at some places, some places have begun charging a marginal amount. In our area, we can still get buckets free at Kroger and Schnucks. Walmart now charges $1, and Costco charges $2 locally.
The best way to figure out if a store charges and how much they charge is to call them. It’s also the best way to find out if they have any buckets to sell/give away so that you don’t drive there to find out that they don’t have any to give you.
I know that this sounds a little unusual when talking about getting buckets for free. But these things actually tie together. There are three main types of bucket lids that I’ve come across. Some of them are better for food storage than others. So if you get your buckets for free, you may still need to purchase lids depending on what you’re using your buckets for and what type of lid came with your free (or cheap) buckets.
Shallow snap-on lids
When I got my lids from Walmart today, this is the type of lid that came with the buckets. These lids have a lip that measures about 3/4″ deep. These lids are fine for long-term food storage. In other words, if you’re going to put food into mylar bags and use oxygen absorbers, this is a fine lid. If, however, you plan just to use the bucket for short-term food storage of large quantities of foods, don’t use this lid.
Deep snap-on lids
These are the type of lids that you can purchase from Azure Standard and they measure just about 1″ all the way around. First off, these lids will fit on the same buckets as the 1/2″ deep lids do. This means that if you get free or cheap buckets with the 1/2″ deep lids and you want to do short-term food storage of large quantities of foods like oats or wheat, you can use these lids to do so. You can get your buckets free and purchase your lids from somewhere like Azure.
Gamma Seal Lids
These lids cost the most of any of the lids, but there is a reason for it. These lids come in two pieces. The outer ring snaps down on your five-gallon bucket – or even your six-gallon bucket. The inside part of the lid screws into the part that snaps onto the bucket. Why these bucket lids are so amazing is that you can easily use them for short-term or long-term food storage. These will keep the air and critters out, but will allow you access to your short-term food storage very easily. That is part of the reason that these lids cost so much more.
Before you can use the buckets that you get for free or cheap, you will need to make sure that you clean them. When I get buckets, I go through a two-step process to clean them out properly.
First off, you want to make sure that you clean out your buckets with warm soapy water. I like to use Dawn dish soap as it removed the frosting residue from the buckets very well.
After I’ve cleaned the buckets out with dish soap and water, I then clean it out with a solution of bleach and water. The dish soap will clean out the residue, but the bleach solution will take care of any bacteria. I use 1 T of bleach and enough water to cover the bottom of the bucket and then use a rag that you don’t mind getting bleach on and wipe down the entire inside of the bucket.
Once you have done that, dry the bucket out and it’s ready to use whether you are using it for long-term food storage or short-term food storage.
Why Would You Use Buckets for Short-Term Food Storage?
I’ve mentioned several times that you may want to use these same five-gallon buckets for short-term food storage, but why might you want to do it?
Purchasing foods in bulk makes sense not just for long-term food storage, but for short-term food storage as well. We purchase items like oats in 25 – 50-pound bags because it’s cheaper than buying the canisters of oatmeal. We can store these items short-term in buckets and save ourselves money because we are storing our food in five-gallon buckets…
My family and I love oat groats. When I placed an order for an entire case of oat groats and they arrived at our doorstep, my teenage daughter cheered! They are one of her favorite breakfast foods.
As you know, oats have many excellent nutritional qualities. We hear all the time about oat bran’s ability to help lower our cholesterol and oatmeal is one of my favorite foods to store in my own food storage pantry, but what makes oat groats different?
Oat groats are the untreated, natural, hulled oats with the outermost inedible chaff, or hull, removed. Are these any better for us than rolled oats or quick oats? Yes, they are. When rolled oats, or oatmeal, are made, the process begins with the oat groat which is soaked in water and then pressed. At this point, some of the fiber and nutrition is lost. Even more fiber and nutrition are lost in the process of making quick oats and more still with instant oats.
Okay, we know oat groats are better for us, but how are we supposed to use them? They are at their best when used as is in hot cereal or when ground into flour. They’re sweet and add some moisture to your baking, which is perfect for muffins, pancakes, and quick breads.
What about using these wonderful oat groats on their own for breakfast? I tried out a recipe just for you and am so happy I did. It’s super easy and is very nutritious for you and your family.
Slow-Cooked Oat Groats
1 ½ cups whole oat groats
6 ½ cups water
Pinch of salt
Combine everything in a 3-5 quart crockpot. Cook on low overnight or for about 7-9 hours. You can remove the lid during the last few minutes to thicken it up. Discard the cinnamon stick. Sweeten with brown sugar or raisins if desired. You could also add apples. Serves 6-8.
Grinding oat groats
It’s a very smart idea to have multiple grains in your food storage pantry that can be used in a variety of ways, from grinding them for flour to cooking them whole. This complete guide to food storage grains will be very helpful as you build your own emergency food storage.
The best advice I can give you for grinding groats or any other grain is to verify that the grain mill you own is suitable for that particular grain. Many well-meaning people damage their sometimes-expensive mills by grinding things the burrs were never meant to grind! Check with the manufacturer’s instructions first, to be on the safe side.
As with any other grain, including wheat, there’s no point in grinding a massive amount of flour unless you’ll be using it within 30 days or so. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but since I don’t love pulling out my grain mill all the time, nor do I care to store several pounds of ground groats with no definite plan to use them, I’ve found the 30-day rule works for me.
How to store oat groats
Once ground into flour, store it in a tightly sealed container. As with any food, it will be affected over time by heat, humidity, oxygen, and light. You can read about those “enemies of food storage” as I call them, in this article.
So, go enjoy those oat groats! Cook them up in a hot breakfast cereal and experiment with different additions. Grind a few cups into flour and try a half-and-half blend with all-purpose flour or freshly ground wheat to bake something amazing for your family!
Ashley Adamant of Practical Self Reliance has another detailed article on How to Freeze Vegetables (A to Z Guide). Many vegetables are covered individually and, as usual, more photos through the link to the original article.
Freezing vegetables effectively preserves them at the peak of freshness, provided it’s done properly. If vegetables are not properly prepared before freezing, then you might as well skip it altogether.
I know what you’re thinking. Who needs instructions on freezing vegetables?
You just bag them up and stuff them in the freezer, end of story.
Well, not quite.
Years ago I remember thinking it’d be really convenient to have a freezer full of frozen butternut squash, already peeled and cubed for easy weeknight dinners. I bought a case of squash, peeled it, cubed it, and packed it into gallon-sized freezer bags for my chest freezer.
When I pulled the first bag out of the freezer I was sorely disappointed. The squash was rubbery, once fully defrosted had the consistency of a wet sponge. I literally wrung out a few cubes before I braved cooking them, just to play with their strange sponge-like texture.
It was a disaster, and the butternut squash was completely disgusting.
Freezing changes the texture of some raw foods and had I know that butternut must be blanched before freezing it would have saved a lot of squash that ended up in the compost pile.
Blanching preserves more than just texture, it also preserves quality in some vegetables. Freezing only slows down degeneration, and enzymatic processes are still happening (though slowly) within bags of frozen vegetables. They can actually still spoil in the freezer, if not properly prepared.
Every type of vegetable is a bit different, and some can be quickly thrown into bags with no prep at all. Fear not, I’ll walk you through how to freeze vegetables for peak quality.
For those vegetables that need blanching before freezing, there are two main methods: boiling or steaming.
Boiling is simple, but much less gentle than steaming. The agitation in the water can break apart tender vegetables, and it’s best reserved for firm-fleshed types. Being submerged in water also causes the veggies to lose more flavor, so it’s often not the best option.
Steaming, on the other hand, is gentle and helps the vegetables retain flavor. You’ll need a steamer basket of some sort to keep the vegetables suspended over an inch or two of boiling water, but the results are usually better.
Whichever method you choose, steam or boil, and then quickly transfer the veggies to an ice water bath. This stops the cooking immediately and helps ensure the vegetables don’t get overcooked or soggy.
Freezer Storage Containers
The storage container you choose is nearly as important as the way you prepare vegetables before freezing. Standard Ziplock freezer bags are one of the most common choices, but they’re not the only option.
Ziplock Freezer Bags ~ One of the simplest and most economical options, freezer bags are made of a thicker plastic than regular storage bags. That helps prevent both leaks and freezer burn, but it’s still important to remove as much air as possible from the bags for the best quality frozen vegetables. Vacuum sealed bags are a better option for longer storage.
Food Saver Vacuum Sealer Bags ~ A better option than Ziploc bags, vacuum sealer bags remove air from around the food and dramatically reduce the risk of freezer burn when veggies are stored for more than a month or two. It’s a bit of an investment upfront buying a vacuum sealer, but we’ve had ours for over a decade. It’s literally sealed thousands of pounds of food, and it’s been well worth it.
Freezer Safe Gladware ~ Many types of Tupperware are not designed for freezer temperatures and will become brittle in the freezer. Even once they warm up, they won’t recover and can shatter easily. If you do use storage containers, choose varieties made from freezer-safe plastic, such as Gladware Freezer Safe Containers.
Freezer Safe Mason Jars ~ Some glass mason jars are freezer safe, and they even have a freezing “fill line” embossed on the side. Be sure to leave around 1 1/2 inches of headspace below the top rim, as the food may expand when frozen. Only use straight-sided “wide mouth” mason jars, as jars with “shoulders” are not freezer safe and can crack as the food expands. Jars are best for pureed vegetables (such as frozen pumpkin puree) since it’ll fully fill the jar without air space.
Pumpkin puree ready for the freezer! Note the straight-sided wide mouth mason jars, which are freezer safe.
How to Freeze Vegetables
Once blanched, most vegetables are then either placed directly into bags, or flash-frozen on baking trays to keep them from freezing together. This depends on the type of produce.
Home-canned asparagus tends to get mushy, and while pickled asparagus is delicious, it no longer has that fresh green flavor. Freezing asparagus is the best way to store this short season vegetable.
Blanch asparagus for 2-3 minutes, preferably by steaming since fresh asparagus can be tender and delicate. Remove the stems to an ice water bath, or place in a colander and rinse with cool water for a few minutes to stop the cooking.
Pat the spears dry and arrange on baking trays. Freeze the spears on trays for 2-4 hours, until firm. Transfer the spears to storage bags, press out the air, and seal tightly before storing them in the freezer.
Frozen asparagus will generally lasts 8-12 months if properly blanched and stored in a tightly sealed bag.
Artichokes can be frozen, but only after cooking. If you freeze artichokes raw, they turn brown when unthawed, and their flavor changes. Blanching isn’t enough because it won’t heat the center and cook thoroughly.
You can find several methods for cooking and freezing artichokes. Here’s one option.
Trim the tops from the artichokes and rub cut surfaces with lemon. Then, cook it in water flavored with lemon juice for preservation purposes. Let it cook for 20-25 minutes. Then, let it drain upside down and place upside down on a baking sheet, and flash freeze on trays before storing in freezer bags.
Make sure you thaw correctly, in the refrigerator rather than on the countertop. When ready to eat them, wrap each artichoke in aluminum foil and steam until hot…(continues)
If you’re not familiar with the term seitan or wheat meat, it refers to a meat substitute that you can make from flour. Wheat meat has a “meatier” texture as a meat substitute than most others such as tofu. That was the consensus at least before the most modern substitutes like the inconceivable burger, or whatever it is called. Vegetarians who make their own wheat meat would typically just buy vital wheat gluten rather than starting with flour because it vastly simplifies the process. But if you’re a prepper, then you may have a few hundred pounds of wheat berries stored for making flour. You probably don’t have as much meat stored. At some point you may want or need to use a vegetable meat substitute. To make seitan, you go through a process of developing the gluten (proteins) in flour, washing away the starch and bran, and adding flavorings.
Below is a recipe for making seitan from Delectable Planet. Please note that the amount of starch that you wash away will affect your final texture. How well you cook it will also affect the texture. The higher your flour protein the better for this. If you can get locally sourced high protein wheat berries, you’re set. If you have to buy flour, then flours designated as bread flour will be your high protein sources- whole wheat flour will be best. You can find numerous recipes on the internet for making seitan/wheat meat as well as different tips for making it. All of the additions aside from flour and water are to improve flavor and consistency, so you can still make this if you’re missing some ingredients. Experiment and find the texture/flavor profile that you like best.
You can also save the rinse water that has the starch and bran and use it as a soup base so as not to be throwing away those calories. This starch water can also be used in making crackers and pizza crust. Additionally, if you set aside the rinse water in a large jar or container and let it sit, it should eventually settle out to three layers – water, starch, and bran. At that point you can pour off the water and then spoon out the starch and bran separately for use in things like gravy and bran muffins.
For even more detail on the process, consult The Amazing Wheat Book by LeArta Moulton which has several pages devoted to this process as well as using the rinse water.
Seitan is a high-protein food made from wheat gluten.
Yields: Serves 8-10
For the Seitan:
2 1/2 pounds wheat flour (7-8 cups)
2 tsp spices
2 T nutritional yeast
1/2 cup tamari or soy sauce
2 1/2 cups water
For the boiling stock:
2 T vegetable stock powder
3 tsp spices
1/2 cup tamari or soy sauce
4 cups water
In a large ceramic or glass bowl, combine the flour, nutritional yeast and spices. Add the tamari or soy sauce and 3 1/2 cups of water. With a wooden spoon, begin mixing. When it gets too sticky, continue mixing with your hands. When it starts to come together, turn out onto a board or counter-top and begin kneading. Knead for 10-15 minutes until the dough no longer sticks to the counter-top and is like bread dough — adding small amounts of flour if necessary. Roll into a ball and let it rest in the bowl for a few minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the cooking liquid. In a large stock pot with a lid, mix the vegetable stock powder, spices, tamari or soy sauce and four cups of water.
Take the bowl with the dough to the sink. Fill the bowl with warm water and begin gently kneading the dough inside the bowl of water. Keep the water running and knead for 15-20 minutes until the water becomes clear. As you knead, do your best to keep the dough together. Cool the water as you go so that by the time the water is clear, you are using cold water. At that point, let the seitan sit in cold water for a few minutes so it firms up.
After a few minutes, drain the seitan in a colander.
Boil the seitan whole, in pieces or form into logs or patties.
Add the seitan to the stock pot. Bring everything to a boil, lower the temperature, cover and simmer for 45-60 minutes. When it’s done, turn off the heat and let it cool to room temperature.
Drain the seitan. For a firmer texture, press out the water with the back of a spoon.
Store in a sealed container, with or without the juices, for up to a week or freeze in airtight containers for a month or two.
The spices can be any mixture you choose. Try onion, garlic and ginger for an Asian taste; basil, oregano, rosemary and sage for Italian; or garlic, cumin, cilantro and red pepper for Mexican.
If you don’t have vegetable stock powder, use your favorite pre-made stock from a carton.
Use the simmering stock for soup.
When washing the seitan, place the dough in a colander or seive 2 or 3 times during the process. Squeeze the dough and rinse to help remove a little more of the starch.
You can also bake, steam, deep fry or saute the seitan instead of boiling it.
Use seitan in stir fry, pasta dishes, simmer in gravy, smother with tomato sauce, bake in casseroles, and warm and add to sandwiches.
A Year without the Grocery Store writes 5 Vegetables to Grow Indoors During Winter. Mint is basically ground cover in our garden, so we don’t need any more in the house, but we do usually have some green onion growing on a window sill.
Especially in northern climates, the winter months can not only mean a dearth of as much outdoor activity as we’d like. Maybe I’m the only one that the cold keeps bottled up, but I’m guessing I’m not alone. This time of year with its cold temperatures and short times of sunlight also put a damper on gardening and provides little opportunity to grow food whether that’s fruits or vegetables.
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While that’s not AS MUCH of an issue at this moment, in hard times, it will be much more of an issue. We need to know how to grow food indoors in winter so that we can feed our family during much of the year. While there are ways to grow food outside by using cold frames or greenhouses those take some time, money, and effort to set up. Growing food indoors is much easier at the outset and can provide you with some foods in as little time as a few days? Don’t believe me? Read on.
Also known as Microgreens. These are not only so simple to grow, but they are a nutritional powerhouse! Sprouts are estimated to contain more than 100 TIMES more beneficial enzymes that your body needs compared to raw vegetables. Some sprouts also protect against cancer.
Once seeds are sprouted, they also contain 10-100 times more of an enzyme inducer. Our bodies need enzymes on a daily basis and can become depleted if we are not replacing them. Sprouts are an amazing way to replace enzymes.
Sprouts are also rich in vitamin C. Many sprouts also contain a good deal of protein. If a disaster struck during the winter and it was too cold to grow a garden, you could subsist on sprouts – though it would be much less than tasty to eat them 100% of the time.
The biggest upside of sprouts is that you can have them in as little as 3 days.
Lettuce is a fairly easy food to grow inside during the winter. The question isn’t could you grow it inside, though. Because the best types of lettuce to grow indoors are loose-leaf lettuce, there are some varieties that are better than others for growing indoors. Some of the best varieties to grow include black seeded Simpson, tom thumb, and mesclun mix, The question should be why should you grow it inside? If your indoor gardening resources are in short supply…
Why grow lettuce?
It grows quickly! Loose-leaf lettuce can be harvested as early as it has a sustainable amount of leaves. If you want to grow head lettuce, it will take 45-55 days, but loose-leaf varieties will grow in much less time.
Lettuce contains 20% protein! This is a good thing if you need to grow food that will sustain your family.
Lettuce can actually help your body rid itself of toxins. This, in turn, helps your body to remain healthy.
It’s an antimicrobial agent.
It also has anti-anxiety properties
Radish is an easily grown veggie! Not only are they easy to grow, but they are also a fast veggie. These can be grown from planting the seed to decent size radish in about 3 weeks. This is a huge upside in case you need to grow food to sustain yourself. If you plant radishes weekly you will have a continuous harvest indoors throughout the winter.
On top of that, sometimes (especially in soups), you can cut up radishes and use them almost like potatoes in soup. Do they taste just like a potato? No, but they have been used by a lot of people to replace potatoes.
But why grow radishes?
Help protect red blood cells
They guard blood pressure
Keep you from getting sick from their high vitamin C content
Contains anthocyanins which protect your heart
Helps keep our blood vessels supple and prevents atherosclerosis
High on nutrients and fiber
Does that one surprise you? Yea, it did me too, but they are possible to grow inside during the winter. What I did discover is that smaller varieties like cherry tomatoes do grow better inside. I also love the idea of growing tomato plants upside down! You’ll need a sunny window, but it’s very possible to grow these indoors.
A single tomato provides 40% of your daily vitamin C
Improve your vision
Help protect healthy digestion
Protects against cancer.
This is a wonderful perennial herb to grow indoors if for no other reason than to flavor your meals. Oregano a grown easily in a pot – actually it’s best grown in a pot because it can take over spaces easily.
Oregano takes light, well-drained soil. It will need a good deal of sun, so make sure that you have a sunny window to keep it in. Oregano needs water, but not too much. Only water it when the soil feels dry to the touch.
Oregano has so many wonderful qualities. Throughout the years, oregano has been used medicinally to treat.
Respiratory Tract Disorders
Urinary Tract Infections
Mint is just like oregano in that it will spread and easily take over space. It is better to have this in a contained area or in a pot. You can grow it indoors especially in winter because it only needs partial sun. You can put it in a part of the house that gets sun some of the time, but it doesn’t have to have constant sun.
Fortunately, it takes more to kill mint than it does to grow it! Even my black thumb (that I’m trying desperately to reform) couldn’t kill mint when I tried. It’s pretty amazing! So find needs partial sun. They like moist, but well-drained soil.
Mint has been used medicinally for a long time especially when it comes to upset stomachs.
It’s benefits and uses include
Stomach calming tea
It has one of the highest levels of antioxidants around
helps stomach spasms
helps gallbladder spasms (shouldn’t be used if there are gallstones)
Keeps numbers of bad gut bacteria in check
What About You?
Have you successfully grown any foods indoors in the winter? What lessons have you learned? I’d love to hear. Leave a comment below and share your experiences with us so we can all learn.
Ashley Adamant at Practical Self Reliance has a nice, detailed article on How to Make Cheddar Cheese. As usual with her articles, there are a lot of useful photos of the process through the link to her site.
Homemade Cheddar cheese is a labor of love, and the results are well worth the effort. It can be made as either a waxed cheddar, similar to many of the nice options available at the cheese counter these days, or as clothbound cheddar.
Traditional clothbound cheddar is unbelievably flavorful, and it’s dramatically different than what passes for fine cheddar on the supermarket shelves these days.
Whether clothbound or waxed, the process for making cheddar cheese at home is the same right up until the last steps and I’ll walk you through all of the options.
When I started making my own cheese, the first thing my kids asked for (of course) was homemade cheddar.
I love cheddar just as much as anyone, but my preferences are for an intensely sharp, crumbly wheel of traditional clothbound cheddar. My kids love the mild smooth textured high moisture cheddar, that’s perfect for grilled cheese.
Why not make a bit of both?
In the process of writing this tutorial, I made quite a few wheels of cheddar. Some using raw jersey milk from a farm down the road, and others using pasteurized grocery store milk.
Some wheels were waxed or vacuum sealed before aging, and only aged a few months for a mild high moisture cheddar. Still, others were clothbound so they’d develop a natural rind, dry crumbly texture and aged for over a year for an incredibly sharp delicacy.
I’ll walk you through all the options after showing you how to make a traditional cheddar cheese.
Types of Cheddar
These days, most cheddar is either waxed or vacuum-sealed to mature. That seals the cheese off from the outside environment and doesn’t allow it to naturally “breathe” throughout the aging process.
In an industrial setting, that’s ideal, because it’s a lot easier to age the cheese consistently. Moisture within the cheese is maintained, regardless of the outside environment.
This is a great option if your aging space is less than ideal, and you can’t maintain proper humidity. It’s also a good option if you have children in the family, as the waxed cheddar generally maintains a higher moisture content (thus it’s softer and less crumbly).
If you’d like a real treat, I’d suggest making clothbound cheddar, as it’s hard to find these days and it’s a truly artisanal product. Since the cloth binding allows the cheese to breathe and develop a natural rind, it’s a complex live food full of unique and intense flavors. (Nothing like the bland yellow dyed commodity sold on grocery store shelves.)
A few producers still make clothbound cheddar in the traditional way, wrapped in bandages, and aged in a controlled environment. In fact, one of the best is right here in Vermont, and they sell their clothbound cheddar for $30 per pound.
It’s spectacular and totally worth every penny in my book, and it’s the reason I’m taking all this time to perfect my own homemade clothbound cheddar.
I’m going to walk you through a recipe for a 4-pound wheel of homemade cheddar, whether waxed or clothbound is your choice.
Yes, it does take all day to make (mostly hands-off time), plus a week of drying, and then many months to age before it’s ready. Given that the effort is the same, I’d strongly suggest trying your hand at clothbound if at all possible, if you have a way to control humidity in the aging space.
But there’s nothing like slicing into a $120 wheel of cheese you made yourself…
It was one of the first home cheesemaking books written in the US, and it was the original spark that kindled a movement of home cheesemakers that’s burning strong 40 years later.
The book has a number of homemade cheddar recipes, from farmhouse cheddars to stirred curred cheddars and flavor-infused sage cheddar. Ricki notes that “Making cheddar the traditional way takes longer, but is well worth the effort.”
If you’re going to go through the effort of making cheddar cheese at home, you might as well do it right and make really good cheddar…
The ingredients for making cheddar are pretty straightforward. You’ll need just one cheese culture, along with a bit of rennet to form the curds, plus fresh milk of course.
I’m using raw milk from a dairy just around the corner, but pasteurized milk works as well (just not ultrapasteurized). If you’re using pasteurized milk, add calcium chloride to help the curds form (since it’s damaged during the pasteurization process).
Start by heating 4 gallons of milk to 86 degrees F. (Note: You can cut this recipe in half for a 2-gallon recipe.)
Sprinkle the packet of mesophilic starter culture over the top of the warmed milk, and allow it to rehydrate for 2 minutes undisturbed. (This helps prevent clumping.)
If using farm-fresh raw milk, you can use half the culture because the raw milk already has natural cultures present.
(There are in fact traditional methods of making this cheddar without any added culture, though it’s tricky. If you’re interested in that process, I’d suggest reading The Art of Natural Cheesemaking by David Asher.)
Stir the starter culture into the milk using an up and down motion for 1 minute.
Cover the milk and allow it to ripen undisturbed at 86 degrees F for 45 minutes.
After 45 minutes, check to make sure that the milk is still at 86 degrees, and if it’s cooled more than a degree or so re-warm it gently.
Dilute the rennet in 1/4 cup of unchlorinated water and add it to the cultured milk. Add the diluted rennet, and stir it in using an up and down motion. After 1 minute, use the spoon to still the milk (stop the motion).
Be aware that rennet comes in varying strengths, so check the bottle to be sure of the measurement. My rennet, which I believe is single strength, says one teaspoon will set 4 gallons of milk in 45 minutes.
Cover the pot and allow it to sit completely undisturbed for 45 minutes.
Don’t try to heat the milk, take the temperature, or otherwise fuss over the milk during this time. Ideally, it should stay at 86 during this period, but fussing over the milk will cause more harm than good.
The pot needs to be still for the curds to form properly, so really try to leave it alone during this time.
After 45 minutes, check to make sure the curds have formed into a solid mass and give a clean break. (This shouldn’t be an issue unless it’s really quite cold in the room and the pot has cooled substantially.)
If they haven’t formed, give them another 5-15 minutes before proceeding.
Cut the curds into 1/4 inch cubes and then allow them to sit for 5 minutes. (This allows the curds to heal a bit before you move along, which will improve the structure of the finished cheese.)
Slowly heat the curds to 100 degrees, increasing the temperature by no more than 2 degrees every 5 minutes.
This will take quite a while, be patient!
The curds likely cooled a few degrees as the curds were setting and are somewhere between 82 and 86 degrees. Assuming they’re 84 degrees, they need to heat by 16 degrees total…at no more than 2 degrees every 5 minutes you’d need at least 40 minutes of gentle heating.
Placing the pot in a sink full of hot water generally accomplishes this, but you’ll need a big sink (possibly a bathtub…) to accommodate a pot holding 4 gallons of milk. I gently warm the pot on my simmer burner, turning it on very low for a few minutes, then off for a few minutes.
Gently stir the curds during this heating period to prevent them from matting.
Once the curds and whey reach 100 degrees, hold that temperature for 30 minutes and continue gently stirring.
After 30 minutes, stop stirring and allow them to settle for 20 minutes.
Once settled, pour the curds through a cheesecloth-lined colander, reserving the whey.
Pour the whey back into the original cheese pot and set the colander holding the curds at the top of the pot over the warm whey. A special “pasta making pot” that has a colander fit into it helps with this process because it allows the curds to be suspended over the whey (or warm water) for the cheddaring process.
Place the colander over the whey and allow it to drain and settle for 15 minutes. The curds will quickly mat together forming a single mass.
Matted cheddar curds after draining but before slicing
Remove the curds from the colander and cut them into 1-inch strips, and then place them back into the cheesecloth-lined colander supported over the warm whey, stacking the curds so the weight of the top curds presses on the curds beneath.
Keep the whey warm, at 100 degrees F (38 C) for the next 2 hours. During this time, flip the curds every 15 minutes to ensure they’re evenly pressed by their own weight.
This process of slowly pressing warm curds, flipping them often, is known as cheddaring and is what gives this cheese its name and distinction.
In smaller batches (from 2 to 6 gallons of milk), sometimes cheesemakers will fill a gallon ziplock bag with warm water and set it on top of the curds. This additional weight helps with the cheddaring process, as traditionally cheddar is made in very large batches (at least 6 to 10 gallons).
If you don’t have a way to suspend the pot over the warm whey, you can simply place the drained curds in the cheesemaking pot and then put the pot in a sink full of 100-degree water for the cheddaring process.
(It’s not essential that it’s suspended over whey, warm water will work just fine. If you prefer, strain off all the whey and use that immediately for making whey cheese, and simply suspend the curds in a colander over warm water.)
Periodically pour off the whey from the pot during the process, and flip the curds every 15 minutes as with the colander method.
Slabs of Cheddar cheese curds stacked inside a cheesecloth-lined colander, suspended over warm water at the start of the cheddaring process. A Ziploc bag of warm water will be placed on top for weight, and then the curds will be flipped every 15 minutes for the next 2 hours.
Once the cheddaring process is complete, the curds should be quite tough and have a texture like cooked chicken breast meat.
Break the curd slices apart with your fingers into 1/2 inch pieces, still keeping them over the 100-degree water bath.
Stir the curds with your fingers every 10 minutes for 30 minutes to keep them from matting. Just stirring, don’t try to squeeze whey from the curds, just gentle stirring.
After 30 minutes, add the salt (2 Tbsp cheese salt for 4 gallons milk, or 1 Tbsp. for a 2 gallon batch) and gently distribute it through the curds with your hands.
Line a cheese mold with cheesecloth. This should be either a pair of 2-pound molds or a single larger mold capable of handling 4 pounds of cheese.
Press at 20 pounds of pressure for 30 minutes. This initial press just gets the loose curds to start to hold together enough to be handled.
Remove the cheese from the mold, undress it, flip it over, and re-dress it with cheesecloth.
Then press it for 12 hours at 40 pounds of pressure. (Usually done overnight.)
Pressing curds for traditional clothbound cheddar
In the morning, remove the cheese from the press, undress it, flip it and redress it. Then press the cheese at 50 pounds pressure for 24 hours.
Remove the cheese from the press and remove the cheesecloth. Allow the cheese to air dry for 2-5 days at room temperature, flipping daily, until it’s dry to the touch.
Dressing Homemade Cheddar for Aging
At this point, it’s time to decide how to “dress” the homemade cheddar cheese for aging. There are three common methods used these days, clothbound, waxed, or vacuum packed.
I’m opting for a traditional clothbound cheddar, where strips of cheesecloth are slathered with lard to form a barrier around the outside of the cheese. We render our own lard, so I have plenty on hand, but you can also use coconut oil or butter.
The cheesecloth helps the lard stick and forms a barrier that helps retain moisture, but still allows the cheese to “breathe” so that it can develop a natural rind and complex flavors.
Making a waxed cheddar is also an option, and the cheese is dipped in melted wax to create a barrier around the outside. Since it’s fully surrounding the cheese in a waterproof layer, moisture isn’t lost during aging and it’s easier to age if you’re not able to maintain consistent humidity in the aging space.
The wax also prevents a natural rind from developing, which means you don’t lose the outer layer of the cheese. (Thus a higher yield by weight due to the higher moisture content.)
The cheese won’t develop the complex flavors of a clothbound cheddar, but really intense crumbly aged clothbound cheddar isn’t everyone’s cup of tea anyway. If you like high quality aged waxed cheddar, then this is a good option.
The last option is vacuum packing, which is what happens to much of the industrial cheddar produced in the US.
This assumes you have a home vacuum sealer, but they’re not too expensive and handy for packing meat and frozen veggies anyway.
Simply place the cheese in a vacuum sealer bag, suck all the air out, and seal it up. It’ll age in there similar to waxing, as either way it’s creating a waterproof layer excluding air around the outside.
Aging Homemade Cheddar
Regardless of how you’ve dressed the cheddar, it must be aged for at least a few months (preferably longer) to develop flavor.
The cheese cultures don’t have nearly enough time to work during the cheesemaking process, which is mostly about preparing the curd and developing the right texture within the cheese.
The flavor happens during the aging period, and it’ll get more pronounced the longer you age the cheese.
Ideally, cheddar is aged at 50 to 55 degrees F (or 10-13 degrees C) and 85% relative humidity for at least 3 months. Ideally, it’s aged 6 months to a year, or up to 2 years if you’re patient.
Humidity isn’t important if you’ve waxed or vacuum-sealed the cheddar, that’s more of a concern with clothbound cheddar.
I’m using a wine refrigerator, which allows you to set the temp to anywhere between 45 and 60. That’s the perfect range for cheesemaking, and it has really nice built-in wooden shelves that work well too.
Timetable for Making Cheddar Cheese
I know, that was a lot. I’m going to briefly recap the process in bullet form, which will likely be easier to follow as you’re actually making the cheese. Since timing is important, I’ve set the bullet points to times starting (as I did) at noon. This is a time-intensive process, so you might want to start a bit earlier in the day…
That said, most of the time is waiting, so it’s easy enough for me to incorporate this into a rainy day afternoon of indoor play with my two preschoolers (so long as I set a loud timer for each step…).
On day one, the activity takes about 6 1/2 to 7 hours, on and off. Then pressing and drying takes about a week. Finally, the cheese is aged for months.
12:00 ~ Heat the milk to 86 degrees F.
12:12 to 12:15 ~ Sprinkle culture over the top, allow it to dissolve 2 minutes, then stir in for 1 minute.
12:15 to 1:00 ~ Ripen the cheese for 45 minutes.
1:00 ~ Dilute rennet in 1/4 cup of water and add it to the cheese, stirring 1 minute.
1:00 to 1:45 ~ Allow the cheese to sit undisturbed for 45 minutes until curds form.
1:45 to 1:50 ~ Cut curds into 1/4 inch cubes and allow them to set for 5 minutes.
1:50 to 2:30 ~ Heat the curds to 100 degrees, raising the temperature no more than 2 degrees every 5 minutes.
2:30 to 3:00 ~ Hold the curds at 100 degrees for 30 minutes, stirring gently.
3:00 to 3:20 ~ Stop stirring and allow the curds to settle for 20 minutes.
3:20 to 3:35 ~ Strain the curds through a cheesecloth-lined colander (reserving whey), and allow them to set 15 minutes.
3:35 to 3:40 ~ Place the whey back in the original cheese pot and heat it to 100 degrees. Cut the curds into 3-inch slices, stack them and place them back in the colander suspended over the warm whey.
3:40 to 5:40 ~ Hold the curds at 100 degrees for 2 hours by keeping them suspended over the warm whey. Flip the curds every 15 minutes so they can press under their own weight.
5:40 to 6:10 ~ Mill the curds with your fingers into 1/2 inch pieces (keeping them suspended over the warm whey). Stir the curds with your fingers every 10 minutes for 30 minutes.
6:10 During the last stir of the curds, add salt and stir it in, ensuring it’s equally distributed.
6:10 to 6:25 ~ Line a cheese press with cheesecloth and press the cheese for 15 minutes at 10 pounds pressure.
6:25 to 6:30 ~ Remove the cheese from the press, undress it, flip it, redress it and then put it back in the press.
6:30 to Next Morning ~ Press the cheese for 12 hours at 40 pounds pressure (or a bit longer if you’re sleeping in).
Day Two in the AM ~ Remove the cheese from the press, undress it, flip it, redress it and then put it back in the press.
Day Two AM to Day Three AM ~ Press the cheese at 50 pounds pressure for 24 hours.
Day Three to The rest of the week ~ Remove the cheese from the press and cheesecloth. Allow it to dry at room temperature for 2-5 days, flipping daily, until it’s dry to the touch on all sides.
At this point, a full week later, the cheese is ready for dressing (cloth binding or waxing) and aging for at least 3 months (but preferably 6 to 12).
In this article, Lisa Vargas at I Need That to Prep gives a pretty thorough discussion on Canned Meat Survival Food. While it is pretty common in our area for people to have experience raising or hunting meat animals, there are still a large number of people who do not. The human body needs protein every day to produce essential acids and will die without them. While proteins can also be found in lentils, beans, and whole grains, meat is what most people think of first for protein. In order to get all of the required essential acids that your body needs, you must consume what is referred to as a “complete protein.” Foods that contain the nine amino acids which a body must consume are called complete proteins. All animal proteins are complete proteins. A very few plant foods contain complete proteins — soybeans, quinoa, buckwheat, hempseed, and blue-green algae. Other than those, you need to combine incomplete proteins, like whole grains with beans (i.e. beans and rice, beans and tortillas, etc). Meat is more difficult to store long term than dry foods like beans, rice, and whole wheat berries, which is why most long term food storage plans focus on vegetable matter proteins than meat. That said for variety and psychological health/comfort it’s good to store what meat you can.
In our community there is this strange idea that we are going to transform from burger eating desk job dawdlers to hunters and trappers that feast primarily on wild food.
I think if you are not currently eating lots of wild food, you killed or raised, then you will really struggle in becoming a hunter or farmer that survives off of these kinds of animals. That is the reason canned meat for survival is such an important topic.
In this article, we will dive into the subject of canned meat. Whether you realize it or not there is a wide range of canned meats to choose from and some are better than others.
Why You Should Stock Up on Canned Meat for Survival
Protein is key to any preppers pantry and it is also what most pantries are lacking. Some of us keep chickens and hunt to assure we have access to protein outside of the home. These are both great answers to the protein issue, but you can also stock your pantry with great protein options if you know what canned meat to stockpile.
Canned meat for survival does not eat, it doesn’t need to be killed and it is always in the same place. You cannot say that about other sources of meat protein. You do not want to depend on the outside world for all of your meat for this very reason.
Canned meat has a long shelf life and if you know what to buy you can add these meats to meals or even eat them straight from the can! The landscape of the canned meat market is a lot wider than you think. From things like quality canned fish to something as obscure as canned pork brains, it’s all out there!
The canning process is pretty flawless and removes air from the can that prevents bacteria from growing. This is why you can have such a great shelf life out of canned meats. Industrial canning is an incredible technology that changed the world! Why not take advantage of this in your own prepper pantry.
Keys to Look for in Quality Canned Meats
Canned meats are quite possibly one of the widest ranging canned products on the market. Perhaps soup would be the only meat product to compare. Meats are varied and really are broken down between two main categories.
Meat – These meat items are those which are still, mostly, in their original form.
Force Meat – Force meat is a category of meat that is highly processed and reformed into something either resembling meat or takes the shape of the can itself.
If we are talking about quality canned meats, you are looking for those that have been minimally processed. Things like canned salmon, canned chicken and canned mackerel are all minimally processed.
Meats that are highly processed like Spam and Vienna Sausages are tasty, but they are loaded with salt, sugar, and nitrites. While it is not a bad thing to have these on the shelf, you would not want them to be what you eat each and every meal.
Another good tell is to look at the ingredients list on the canned meats you enjoy. Canned meats with the smallest ingredient list are going to be the best.
Shelf Life of Canned Meats
To understand the shelf life of canned goods you have to know what makes them go bad. You see, canned goods are fully cooked, processed with salt and citric acid, placed in sterilized cans, and then vacuum sealed. The cans feature a lining that protect the food from direct contact with the metal.
Overtime the can takes damage from moving around and this can allow micro punctures in the can to allow air inside. Once air gets inside you are going to have bacterial growth. You could also have an acidic food that will wear out the inside lining of the can. This will create a heavy metal poisoning issue over time.
The wonderful thing about canned meats is that they are a non-acidic canned food. Unless they are canned in a tomato sauce you are safe with canned meats.
In the survival community we hear a lot about use by dates and there is much debate about how long you can keep food. Having worked in the food banking industry for 5 years, as a food safety manager, I became an expert on quality and use by dates on canned goods. You see, we had to be able to tell what was useable and what had to be discarded for safety reasons.
Our guidelines were to keep canned meats for 5 years past the best buy date! This low acidic food has no problem extending an already generous best by date by as long as 5 years. That is pretty impressive and gives you one more reason to store canned meat for survival.
Safety of Canned Meats
The canning process is incredibly safe and has a tremendous benefit. There is a reason it has been so widely accepted and we still have cans in every home in America, nearly. However, the process is not flawless and there are some things that we need to consider.
When you remove oxygen from an environment it stops the growth of bacteria. That is why this process is so effective. However, there is one bacterium, Botulinum Clostridium, that really enjoys the low oxygen environment.
The bacteria make the botulinum toxin that can be extremely dangerous to the nervous system. This bacterium likes a low sugar, low acid, low oxygen environment and thus canned meats make for a perfect home.
In the worst cases a person can experience muscle paralysis as the nervous system is affected. It is best to react to symptoms of an infection early.
Symptoms can include the following:
a thick-feeling tongue
At home you can avoid botulism by practicing safe canning practices and using a pressure cooker when canning low acid foods, like canned meats. However, when you are buying already canned meats it is hard to know what has happened to that meat in its own process.
There is one telltale sign when it comes to identifying canned meats that could pose a threat from botulism: SWELLING.
When you see a swollen can where the top or sides are bulging there is some kind of bacterial growth affecting the contents of that can and you should avoid any canned meats that have this kind of bulging. You may notice this at the store or at home in your own prepper pantry. Either way, that can should be discarded.
How to Properly Store Canned Meats
A canned meat is just like any other canned food when it comes to storage. There are optimal conditions for storing canned goods and you want to be sure that all of the items in your prepper pantry are in those conditions.
You want to avoid extremes of temperature at all cost. Tin and metal alloys that are the base of these cans can expand and contract rapidly in extremes of temperature. This could compromise the seal on your canned food. Once air gets inside bacteria will begin to grow.
Store your canned goods off the ground and in an area that will not experience a lot of movement. When cans fall the damage can be minimal on the surface but, again, if your seal is compromised then you will have a better chance of opening a can and finding it spoiled.
How to Cook with Canned Meats
Cooking with canned meats is quite simple. There are two things to consider when you add canned meats to your meals.
Canned meats are cooked all the way through. That means that you do not need to cook them for a long time. They should be added at the end of the process and just warmed through. The only exception here is if you are using canned meat to make a meatball or stuffing of some kind.
Canned meats flake and breakup easily. When you add them to a dish you do not want to mix or stir it excessively after the meat has been added. Too much stirring and you will wind up with meat flecks in your meal rather than pieces.
Consider these two important principles when using canned meats in your cooking food.
Facts About Dehydrated Meat Products vs. Canned Meat Products
There are lots of questions when it comes to dehydrated meat products versus canned meat products. Most people are still up in the air about dehydrated foods. They just haven’t eaten them and don’t really know much about the process and its effect on food. To be honest, the process of dehydration is very gentle on meat and preserves a lot of its integrity and nutritious makeup.
Even if you have eaten many dehydrated meals you may be eating TVP or textured vegetable protein, so you need to go after freeze-dried meat to really understand the flavor and texture of dehydrated meat.
Canned meats are rapidly heated and cooled and this affects the quality of the meat. However, these meats are easier to eat and prepare. They are also cheaper and easier to stock up on because of their location at your local market.
It lasts longer
It is more nutritionally sound
It can be stored as part of other meals that are easy to store and rehydrate
It is lighter and can be stored more effectively
Easier to buy
Exponentially more affordable
Quicker to eat
People are simply more comfortable with it
Nutrition Facts of Canned Meats
All forms of canned meats are nutritious in some ways. However, some are better for you than others. Again, don’t forget that preference is a huge part of food storage and while canned sardines are much healthier than canned Spam, if you hate fish you are still going to be hungry!
Canned fish is probably your most healthy option and has the lowest sodium content. Salmon is going to provide you with 23 grams of protein per serving and that is impressive. Of course, fish are going to give you the most bang for your buck in terms of Omega 3s in canned form.
Canned chicken is very low in sodium, when it is not canned in salty broth, and contains a whopping 30 grams of protein in a 5oz serving. Its deep in B vitamins, Selenium and Niacin.
Canned beef is king when it comes to protein and you are going to get 88 grams in a 14.5oz serving. That is just a serious punch and why people turn to beef. You will also get some great b vitamins and a nice iron boost, as well.
Eating meat is massive uptake of nutrition no matter what type you choose. Having a variety of canned meat will give you access to easy digest protein in large amounts and the nutrients attributed to those meats.
When it comes to canned meats you are dealing with a few different kinds of packaging. Most are canned but the canning can be a little different. You will be dealing with thick mylar for some tuna and salmon options, too.
The absolute best option is the sturdy cylindrical can. It is designed for stacking and durability. Most meats can be found in this kind of packaging and it the very best for long term storage. These types of cans can only be opened using a can opener and that is how you know the most durable of all the other options.
Some canned fish, like sardines, are packaged in the rectangular can. These are designed to be opened by hand which means they are less durable and less reliable. If they are stacked to heavily or sustain a fall the thin top could open from the damage. Worse yet, it could open a little and you wouldn’t know it.
I still store things like canned sardines and mackerel in this kind of can, but I just keep them separate and understand we have to be careful with them.
The final type of packaging is the Mylar bag that contains tuna and salmon. These are typically 4oz packages and are zip top after you eat them. This type of packaged meat is tasty and convenient but not something you would store for the long term. They are too small to feed a family and are really designed to feed one person away from home.
Stick with the traditional tin can for the bulk of your canned meat packaging.
Meat Canned in Oil or Water: Which is Better?
Canned meats can be canned in all kinds of things from sauces to mustard to spring water. Remember, if your canned meat is packed in tomato sauce or some other acidic sauce than it will cut short the shelf life of your canned meats.
However, certain meats are delicious when they are canned in oil and other meats are better just canned in water. You should also look at this choice based on how you plan to eat and use the canned meat. Are you going to eat the meat right out of the can, or will it be an ingredient in something else?
Consider this: If you are adding canned meat in oil to a soup you are going to create an oil slick on the top of your soup. That could be a problem for you. You should also consider the type of oil the meat is canned in.
Canned meat in extra virgin olive oil is a much different food than canned meat stored in soybean oil. Know your oils!
That said, one of my very favorite canned meats is a canned mackerel that is packaged in olive oil. I will bite into that any day of the week, right out of the can! So, when it comes to meat canned in oil or water much of it has to do with use and preference.
Canned Meat Survival Food
While the supermarket shelves are filled with a wide range of canned meat products there is one company that stands out as THE canned meat for survival headquarters. They are called Survival Cave Food and they do one heck of a job with canned meat.
While the supermarket features 8oz, 4oz cans and some 1lb cans of meat Survival Cave Food offers a higher quality meat in larger portions. They offer all meats in 14oz and 28oz cans!
You cannot substitute the nutritional value and morale boosting effects of meat in a survival situation. Like all things in preparedness you should have a tiered approach to solving the problem of meat and protein in a disaster or emergency. Canned meat for survival should play a huge roll.
Canned meat is a high quality survival food that lasts a very long time and can be purchased in a wide variety of forms. Do your best to buy quality canned meats that are minimally process but you can have some forcemeats around, too!
While food safety and product quality are essential to a good, canned meat stockpile don’t forget about preference. There is no point in storing a bunch of canned tuna if you hate it! Even though it can be cheap.
Find the meats you really like to eat from companies like Survival Cave Food and build out a stockpile that works for you and your family.
When someone says, “long term food storage” what do you think of? I used to think of canning, simply because years ago I had a huge garden and did a lot of canning. Now, I think of the closet in the basement of our house that has shelves of a different variety of foods that are preserved in many different ways.
There are so many options out there for preppers regarding long term storage! Where does one even begin? Well, the first place to start is to educate yourself. You want to get the best bang for your buck and one way to do that is to research what is available. Some important things to keep in mind are: what is the most economical; what you will need to use to prepare it, i.e. water, camp stove, etc.; and what is going to last the longest (shelf life). This can take a lot of time and research to find what the best choices for you and your family are, and that’s why I’m here to help! I will share what I have found in my research (and experience) that may be helpful to you in yours.
Store bought canned foods
Store bought canned foods are a good, economical choice. One thing that makes canned foods economical is that you can pick some extras up when you’re buying your normal groceries. That way you aren’t spending a whole wad of cash on them at one time.
Canned foods usually have a “Best By” date of 1-1/2 to 5 years. However, they will last long after their best buy date, as that simply means that they will taste the freshest until that date. After that date they will lose some of their flavor from having sat in the liquid for that long of a time. But, they will still be good for eating. Be sure to check the cans and don’t buy any with dents in them. If they have dents, or are leaking any food they can be contaminated and could cause botulism. When you are ready to open the can, make sure there are no dents, leaks, rust, or corrosion on them; as air may have gotten inside them and spoiled the contents. If there are not dents, rust or corrosion and you open the can, make sure are no small bubbles in the liquid inside the can, no bad odors, the food hasn’t become mushy, and the liquid isn’t cloudy. Any one of those would indicate the food has gone bad; don’t eat it. Also, if you open the can and the contents explode, don’t use it or eat it.
Make sure you rotate your canned foods to keep your stock fresher longer. Simply take out the ones that may be close to expiring and replace them with newly purchased ones. Then you can use the ones you took out with your normal family meals. This will just ensure that if your food stays stored for a number of years you will have the freshest selection you can.
If you have the space, canned foods are the best choice for long term food storage because you can eat them right out of the can if you don’t have the means to warm them up and you don’t have to have an abundant supply of water on hand to cook them.
Home canned foods
Does anyone really can their own foods at home any more? Yes, there are those who still do! If I had a garden, I certainly would. Most home canned foods will last up to 10 or more years. Just make sure the seals are still tight, there are no dents in the seals, and there is no mold or cloudy liquid inside the can. Home canning is probably the most economical in long term food storage! But, how many of us have the time or the resources to can our own food?
Freeze dried foods
Freeze dried foods have a very long shelf life; some up to 25 – 30 years if properly stored! However, they are not the most economical; whether you are lucky enough to afford a freeze dryer or purchase the food from a company that uses commercial grade freeze dryers. I know you can freeze dry foods at home without a freeze dryer just using your freezer and dry ice, but I haven’t gotten into that as of yet and don’t feel qualified to talk about it at this time.
Freeze dried foods are a good choice if you don’t have a lot of space, if you go camping a lot, or for use in your MREs (Meals Ready to Eat, which I will talk about at a later date). Do keep in mind you will need to have a good and plentiful supply of water on hand to cook them. I have some freeze dried foods mixed in with my canned foods in my storage, mostly to have a variety of choices as well as saving space. I will use those when water is more plentiful.
Freeze dried foods come in a variety of packaging. There are small individual pouches that will feed one, larger pouches with 4 or more servings, and the number 10 large sized cans that have enough to feed several people for several meals. Pouches are usually packaged in tubs or boxes and some companies offer individual pouches for purchase. The pouches are convenient in that you can add hot water directly into the pouches to heat them up and don’t need additional cookware.
Here is a list of three of the most reputable companies that sell freeze dried foods. You can easily purchase their products on their websites. All three companies also sell some of their products on Amazon, and shipping charges can be avoided if you have Amazon Prime. Plus I think delivery is quicker through Amazon. (I always check to see if what I want is available on Amazon before I purchase directly from the company.) Some of their products may also be available at local stores such as Walmart.
I will be honest with you here, I have not had that much interest in dehydrated foods until recently. In my research for this article I was unable to find any companies that dealt strictly with manufacturing dehydrated foods and the sale thereof. Although, I did find that Augason Farms offers some dehydrated foods as well as their freeze dried foods.
Recently, for some reason (I believe it was God) I was prompting to look up and research how to dehydrate food. I’ve thought about it a couple of times in my lifetime, but never really felt like it was something I wanted to pursue. But, it was brought to my attention that now that I’m a prepper it might be something that would be of benefit for me and my family. So, I started watching YouTube videos on dehydrating food. They really grabbed my interest!
I always thought the only things you could dehydrate were fruits and beef jerky. Boy, was I wrong. One of the things I discovered was that I could make the meals that my family likes to eat and dehydrate them and store them! And, let me tell you, there are some pretty picky eaters in my family! I discovered I could make my homemade spaghetti, hamburger stroganoff, hamburger vegetable soup, chicken alfredo, fruit roll ups, and a plethora of other things that I make on a regular basis (minus the fruit roll ups, I’ve never made them). So, lo and behold, after watching dozens and dozens of videos I decided to take the plunge! I’m looking forward to receiving my food dehydrator from the UPS man this coming Monday! Yay me! I found what looks like a pretty good and reliable dehydrator on Amazon for only $60. Of course, that was after researching them for at least three days.
Getting back on track…dehydrated foods are another type of food that have a pretty good shelf life, and aren’t overly expensive if you make them yourself. If the foods are dried and stored properly they can last up to 10 years. They do need water to re-hydrate them, but I figure since they won’t be my main source of food storage they will be worth the effort of finding enough water to cook them. They would be primarily for eating once or twice a week at the most. I’m sure dehydrating your food is something I will post a lot more about once I actually try it and see how well it goes, so stay tuned!
Beans and Rice
Dried, uncooked, beans are a good addition to have in your long term food storage. However, I wouldn’t plan on having a ton of them without other foods to go with them as I’m sure even a hangry person would grow tired of them over time. They are definitely inexpensive and if prepared and stored properly will last up to 10 years, maybe longer. The best way to prepare them for storage is to put them in mylar bags in family meal sized portions (depending on the size of your family) along with an oxygen absorber and seal the mylar bag. I will have more on how to properly prepare and store beans later on.
White rice is another good addition to have in your inventory. The same would go for rice as beans, it shouldn’t be a primary staple as you will grow tired of eating only rice or beans after a long period of time. Rice is also relatively inexpensive food item and when prepared and stored properly it can last anywhere from 25-30 years. It should be prepared and stored in the same was as the beans.
Thank you for hanging in there and reading this entire post. I know it’s longer than my usual ones (thus far) but there was a lot to cover in it. Please bare in mind these are only the basics of prepping and we will delve into some of these subjects much deeper in the future.
If you have any tips or insights that you think would help others regarding long term food storage please feel free to comment below (you will need to be signed up and logged in before commenting). Take care, and God bless.
The UN World Food Program was the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2020, and the head of that agency is warning of the potential for absolutely devastating famines around the globe in 2021. The COVID-19 lockdowns that were instituted all over the world this year created tremendous hardship in many wealthy countries, but in poorer nations the economic devastation has created alarming waves of hunger. There was hope that things would get better when lockdowns were being lifted, but now a new round of lockdowns is being imposed, and many experts are warning about what this could mean for those living in deep poverty.
David Beasley was absolutely thrilled when his agency was given the Nobel Peace Prize, because all of the attention has given him more opportunities to ask for money. Because without a massive influx of money, he says that we are going to see “famines of biblical proportions in 2021”…
The head of the World Food Program says the Nobel Peace Prize has given the U.N. agency a spotlight and megaphone to warn world leaders that next year is going to be worse than this year, and without billions of dollars “we are going to have famines of biblical proportions in 2021.”
As I have previously explained to my readers, widespread crop failures along with the economic shutdowns brought on by COVID-19 have put a tremendous amount of stress on global food distribution systems. Food prices are rapidly rising all over the planet, and this is hurting the people at the bottom of the economic food chain the most.
According to a joint analysis by WFP and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization in October, 20 countries “are likely to face potential spikes in high acute food insecurity” in the next three to six months, “and require urgent attention.”
Of those, Yemen, South Sudan, northeastern Nigeria and Burkina Faso have some areas that “have reached a critical hunger situation following years of conflict or other shocks,” the U.N. agencies said, and any further deterioration in coming months “could lead to a risk of famine.”
Here in the United States, the good news is that nobody is facing starvation at this point.
But the bad news is that we are in the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s, and some Americans are waiting in line for up to 12 hours for handouts. If you don’t believe this, here is an excerpt from a news report about a food distribution event that just happened in Texas…
Thousands of families lined up to receive groceries at a Texas food bank this weekend, some queuing for as long as 12 hours as the on-going coronavirus pandemic continues to inflict hunger and economic hardships on the state.
The food bank distribution event, held by North Texas Food Bank (NTFB) in Dallas on Saturday, saw 600,000 pounds of food given away – including 7,000 turkeys.
You have to be pretty desperate to be willing to wait in a line for 12 hours.
But when you are very hungry and you are very short on money, all of a sudden you will be willing to do things that you wouldn’t normally do.
For those that wouldn’t have a Thanksgiving dinner otherwise, this food distribution event was “a real big deal”…
“I see blessings coming to us cause we all struggling. And I appreciate North Texas helping us out,” resident Samantha Woods said while waiting in her vehicle.
“I haven’t been working since December, can’t find a job, they cut my unemployment, it’s a real big deal,” said Cynthia Culter.
Elsewhere, millions upon millions of impoverished Americans are facing the possibility of being evicted from their homes right after the holiday season is over.
A national moratorium on evictions is scheduled to end on January 1st, and it is being reported that we could see a record number of evictions in January 2021…
An estimated 11 to 13 million renter households are at risk of eviction, according to Stout, an investment bank and global advisory firm. It predicts there could be as many as 6.4 million potential eviction filings by January 1, 2021 if the CDC moratorium is lifted.
Since the order does not cancel or freeze rent, all of the tenant’s back rent will be due come January 1. Without rent relief or an extension of the protection, many struggling renters will — again — face eviction.
I have a feeling that the moratorium may be extended, but that will just put even more financial stress on landlords.
And at some point there will be no more moratoriums, and all of that back rent will be due, and most of those households will not be able to pay it and will be evicted anyway.
There’s a lot out in the blogging community about “getting prepared” (a.k.a. “prepping” or “food storage”) and the people who adhere to this premise typically fall into one of several categories: they either grew up in a culture where this was common (farmers, for example), or they’re hard core survivalists believing that everyone else is the enemy, or they’re doomsdayers who are fearful of the future and sure the world is coming to an end.
Just like a lot of things in this fallen world, there are some truths and good points each group espouses, but none of these philosophies would be consistent with a Christian world view.
Why then, would a Christian prepare? Is it biblical to practice food storage? Would it be a sin to do so? How could a believer even go about prepping without falling into sin? And prepare for what… natural disasters? An enemy? Economic instability? War? Terrorism? With such huge ethical questions to answer, it’s no wonder that most Christians don’t prepare in the least.
To answer these controversial issues, we must turn to the Bible for wisdom. And if you were to do so, you’d find that there are examples of both; where God’s people or individuals prepped for hard times and famine (Genesis 6-7 and 37; Matthew 25: 1-13) and instances when they were called to go without being prepared (Exodus 16; I Kings 17:1-16; Matthew 10).
While there seems to be more examples of people not being prepared in the Bible than those that were actually prepared, I believe that during biblical times, trusting God to literally provide manna from heaven wasn’t the norm and preparedness was more of a way of life during Biblical times. (Just do a Bible word search on “store” to get an idea).
Food wasn’t readily available at a supermarket, so people had to daily think way ahead for food supplies in order to just survive. Hunting, fishing, raising their own food, storing wheat… this was normal. Walking in faith that God would provide at the very moment of need was not!
What’s important to grasp from the Scriptures is that in both categories, God provided. Sometimes God provided in advance before the event occurred while at other times He provided at the moment of the actual need, during the crisis, or even afterward. But it all came from Him. And it still does!
Since there isn’t a specific biblical command not to prepare or store up food, I think it’s pretty easy to come to the conclusion that a Christian can prep without being in sin. But why would a believer want to or feel the need to do so?
Any number of scenarios might require a believer to be prepared, from the very possible financial crisis to the less likely terrorist attack. Since we do not know what tomorrow may bring (Proverbs 27:1; James 4:13-15), we would be foolish indeed to assume that everything will always remain stable in a fallen world.
This isn’t Mayberry and there’s an enemy out to destroy us (I Peter 4:8). And anyone watching, listening, or reading the news lately would most likely agree that the world as we have known it is fragile indeed.
Often in the past, Christians have avoided storing food based on Luke 12:16-20, but I believe they are misinterpreting that passage of scripture when they do so. The issue was not that the man in Luke 12 stored food. All farmers store food. And this farmer had barns already, which he had used in the past.
The sin came to fruition when he became proud, selfish, and didn’t acknowledge God who had provided for him. Unfortunately, this is still true today, and many who store up food and supplies miss this point and end up becoming fearful, stingy, and paranoid. (Yes, those are ugly words, but sin IS ugly!).
All preparations should be made with the intent to share both food and the good news with the less fortunate, our neighbors who are truly in need, and the vulnerable in our society (elderly, orphan, widow, handicapped, physically infirm, etc.).
There are plenty of examples in the Bible that speak to this, but the one that is both comforting and chilling can be found in Matthew 25:31-46 where Jesus talks about the sheep and the goats – those that took care of the stranger or their neighbor and those that did not. After reading the passage, there is no doubt in my mind that we must maintain our food stores with an open hand.
Sadly, there always has been and will always be those who do not feel the need to prepare nor be ready to share.
They have not carefully considered the question of should a Christian practice food storage.
God knew this would be the case and so He gave us several reminders in scripture that speak about the fool as the one who is not prepared:
Proverbs 21:20 – “There is precious treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise, but a foolish man swallows it up.”
Proverbs 6:6-9 – “Go to the ant, O sluggard, Observe her ways and be wise, Which, having no chief, Officer or ruler, Prepares her food in the summer And gathers her provision in the harvest. How long will you lie down, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep?”
Proverbs 30:24-25 – “Four things are small on the earth, But they are exceedingly wise: The ants are not a strong people, But they prepare their food in the summer;”
Which presumes upon God and is more arrogant and foolish?
Being self controlled enough to set aside some food each week into storage for hard times or presuming that the grocery store will always have what you need when you want it?
Saving three months worth of extra food like you save extra cash in the bank for emergencies, large purchases, and needs or eating everything in your pantry each week and assuming you’ll have an opportunity to buy more later?
Working diligently to put up extra canned goods, water, batteries, and such for a natural disaster or depending on FEMA to be at your door within 24 hours of a crisis?
Keeping a spirit of hospitality in your heart and adding a bit more food than your family needs at the moment to the pantry in order to be ready to share with a friend or stranger in need or thinking only of your own family’s needs with the attitude that others will provide for them (like the government perhaps)?
So, should a Christian practice food storage?
I’ll be the first to agree that we can’t prepare for everything and some disasters could wipe out all we’ve set aside. We’ve seen what earthquakes, tsunamis, and tornados can do. Do not let that fact keep you from being faithful with what God has already graciously bestowed. And who knows? If your food storage is suddenly gone, perhaps He’ll provide for your own family from someone’s food storage who has wisely prepared as well!
This article at The Survivalist Blog caught my eye because I’ve been adding rice variety to my food storage. Previously I mostly just stored jasmine rice as it was our go to staple for regular (non-emergency) cooking. Jasmine rice can be purchased rather inexpensively from various local and remote sources. Recently I’ve been exploring more Japanese cooking and was impressed with the flavor of some short-grain rice varieties and, because we now use it more day-to-day than the Jasmine rice, have added some to storage. Here’s Rice Storage: How to Store Large Amounts.
As the saying goes… Rice is nice!
The world uses rice. The world needs rice. In some parts of the world, the majority of a person’s calories come from rice. This is their main food and they use extensively. Or it’s their only food.
In times of need, rice is the first food brought by aid workers. They do this because it is calorically dense, good for delicate diets, and it stores and transports well.
Preppers love rice. It’s one of the perfect prepper storage foods. Put simply it’s cheap, it stores, and it’s an absolute chameleon in the kitchen. For these reasons, rice is one of the first bulk foods preppers add first to their kitchen cupboards. Then to their deep pantry. Then to their long-term storage.
It seems that the most difficult thing about rice is taking that first step into storing large quantities of it. As you will see in this article there’s nothing to fear about taking that step!
At the risk of over-glamorizing rice, we first need to understand why rice. What makes it such a great survival food? Why should it form the foundation of your long-term food storage?
Rice (Oryza sativa) was domesticated by humans around 10,000 years ago. Rice was such an important grain; humans began the process of understanding ways to control its growth rather than leave the valuable harvest up to chance and mother nature.
Today the world produces over 700 million tons annually. With it, we feed our ever-growing population. Many cultures depend on it as a staple of their diet.
Nutritionally, rice is approximately 80% carbohydrates by weight. The grains are mostly starch and are flush with calories. The result is that 1 cup of uncooked rice has 700 calories. At 6.5 ounces per cup of uncooked rice that equates to 1600 calories per pound of uncooked rice.
1 cup of uncooked makes between 3 and 4 cups of cooked rice. That’s a pretty big serving. From this, it’s easy to see how a bag of rice keeps bellies full.
It’s not just the calorie count that makes rice attractive to preppers, although it helps. The second benefit is how long it stores. Properly packaged, white rice has a shelf life exceeding 30 years.
Next, is rice’s price. Pound for pound, calorie for calorie, it doesn’t get much cheaper than rice. At about $0.06 per ounce or $0.96 per pound, rice is affordable on any budget.
Adding a 5-pound bag to the grocery cart each week is obtainable to any prepper. That 5-pounds adds up quickly over the months. Especially considering at that rate you’re adding 32,000 calories per month (16 – 2,000 calorie days) to your panty.
Finally, you must consider the flexibility of rice. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner all have a spot on the plate for rice. We all know it as the traditional side dish. A little salt and butter and there it sits. It gets more exciting than that though.
How about rice porridge aka congee? Boiled low and slow with extra water until silky smooth is the foolproof recipe for Congee. Congee forms the base of a savory side with the addition of chicken or pork. It can be breakfast if you stir in an egg. It can even be dessert if you boil it in sweetened milk or coconut milk.
As rice is normally bland – it absorbs the flavor of whatever it is cooked with. Growing up it was used as a meat extender. My mother added it to chili, meatballs, and several soups.
In my house, we use it as a thickener for chicken soup. A bit of rice allowed to boil for a while transforms soup into a rib-sticking stew.
When more exciting food is at a premium, rice will be the ultimate addition. A large portion of the world lives on it and so can you. With the benefit of a few spices or protein, you can add rice in infinite variety to your prepper meals.
How Much Rice to Stockpile?
So how much should you store? Let’s start with calorie counts. A pound of uncooked rice has about 1600 calories. Note: I prefer to estimate low when working with food. I’d rather be pleasantly surprised than starve. Let’s look at a quick recommendation.
I realize that every person and every case is unique. If you want to get an exact break out, a basal metabolic calculator and fine-tune these estimates.
Assuming a daily requirement of 2,500 calories it is recommended that half of that comes from carbohydrates. This is 1,250 calories from carbs. That equates to about 12.5 ounces of uncooked rice per day. This assumes that rice is your only carb.
Depending on your storage goals we now get the following:
30 days – 25 pounds (rounded up from 23)
6 months – 150 pounds (rounded up from 140)
1 year – 300 pounds (rounded up from 285)
Assuming a 4-person family, that’s 1200 pounds of rice for a year of carbs. Naturally, you will be reducing it based on your other long-term storage items.
Just as a side note wheat berries, pasta, oatmeal, and beans all have about 1600 calories per pound. This makes the math easy. If you have a combined 300 pounds per person of these staples then you have your carbs covered. Next, you must focus on fats and protein. But that’s another article.
For your bulk storage, you also need to consider the selection of rice for the longest available term. First, let’s look at the rice that should be avoided for long-term storage.
Brown rice for all its flavor, complexity, and nutrition is not a good candidate for long-term storage. The same goes for wild rice. Each of these retains an amount of the natural oils. These oils eventually turn rancid. As a result, their shelf life is measured in months, not decades.
The next option is instant rice. Instant rice is pre-cooked and then dehydrated. Cooking times are greatly reduced (only a few minutes compared to 20-45 with other rice varieties).
The biggest benefit is the fuel needed to cook instant vs normal rice. While you can store it for the long-term there are several disadvantages.
First is the cost. Instant rice can cost up to three times as much as white rice. Shop around, you may find deals. Secondly, instant rice can have fewer nutrients as a result of the cooking process.
Finally, the cooking process can lead to an inferior cooked product. I’m not sure you’ll be judging post-apocalyptic meals based on the number of broken rice kernels, but it is a consideration.
Your attention should therefore turn to good old fashion white rice its variants. Long grain white rice is the prepper staple. It can be found in bulk and cheap. Considering variety, you can also add jasmine, basmati, and sushi rice.
No matter how you treat it, rice can get a little monotonous. The subtle differences in taste and texture of jasmine and basmati can help to avoid food fatigue when relying on your long-term storage goods. It costs very little extra to add 25-30 pounds of each in the name of diversity.
Sourcing Rice in Bulk
Rice, being one of the staple crops of the world, is widely available in bulk. While the biggest package you get from your local grocery store may only be 5-pounds. Don’t fret. There are numerous other places to source this valuable grain.
First are the big box stores. Costco, BJ’s, and Sam’s are the first that come to mind. My local Sam’s carries several varieties of white, basmati, and jasmine, all in 25 and 50-pound bags.
Then check local ethnic stores. Look for Asian and Hispanic specialty stores. Both cultures use rice heavily in their cooking. They are sure to have 50-pound bags as well as a much greater variety.
Asian cuisine is known for its use of specialty rice for dishes. Make use of their variety for adding change up to your own shelves.
The next option is restaurant supply stores. These stores cater to the hospitality community. They carry food mostly in bulk.
If you need 40 pounds of chicken or 50 pounds of cabbage, this is the place for you. They also carry rice. Lots of it and in many different variations. They also tend to be the most economical.
One warning, they may require a membership. Most, however, have open days where anyone can come in and purchase. Keep your eyes open and stock up.
The final option is the ubiquitous Amazon. A quick search yielded several options at good prices.
Enemies of Rice Storage
There are several enemies to look out for when putting up large quantities of rice for the long-term. Namely light, heat, oxygen, moisture, and critters. Let any of these variables into your storage equation and you are bound to lose food.
Light and heat will eventually rob stored food of flavor, nutrients, texture. Oxygen leads to rancidity and associated spoilage. In bad cases, moisture contributes to mold. Finally, insects and rodents can wreak havoc on food stores.
The last thing you want is to open a bucket of rice after 15 years to find if filled with weevils or half-empty from rats. Let’s look at ways to manage these risks.
Light and Heat
First, light is easy to manage. With the proper container (e.g. 5-gallon bucket) then light is kept to a minimum. Heat is straightforwardly overcome if you have a basement or other climate-controlled storage area.
Oxygen can either be removed or displaced. The most common method is removal via oxygen absorbers. These small packets contain iron powder that, during the rusting process, absorbs oxygen out of the atmosphere.
In a sealed container the process also creates a vacuum. They are sold by the volume of oxygen they absorb. We will talk a lot about 5-gallon buckets in the next few sections.
Here’s a little math to help out with your O2 absorber calculations. The volume of a 5-ballon bucket is about 19,000 cubic centimeters (cc). With our air being about 20% oxygen, that means an empty bucket will contain about 3,800 cc of O2 to remove.
By placing O2 absorbers rated at a total of 4,000 cc you will remove all the O2 and have room to spare. That’s two 2,000 cc absorbers per bucket. The fact that your food will take up significant volume also gives you room to spare in your calculations.
The displacement method is a little more complicated but just as effective. To displace oxygen in a container you must push it out, generally with something heavier. This includes Nitrogen and Carbon Dioxide (CO2).
Unless you have a ready supply of Nitrogen, skip right to Carbon Dioxide. The easiest method is to place a few chips of dry ice (solid CO2) into the bottom few inches of your rice. Then fill up the bucket within a few inches of the top and wait.
As a test, you can place a tea light candle on the rice. When the flame goes out ,you know it has been robbed of oxygen and that the bucket is full of CO2. Make sure that the dry ice has fully sublimed before you seal the bucket. Otherwise, you may have an overpressure explosion on your hands.
Water promotes mold and mildew growth as well as a host of other nasty outcomes. The good news is that as long as you are not repackaging your food in a very humid environment you are probably OK.
If you have flexibility, pack your food when it is dry. For example, in northern climates, the best time is usually in the winter.
If you don’t have the luxury of time add a few silica gel desiccant packets. The silica in each packet absorbs water vapor out of the air making the environment dry and safe from mold.
The packets linked here are good for approximately 600 cc of volume. For our 5 gallon buckets, we can assume that 90% of the volume is taken up by rice which leaves 1,900 cc of air space. Three to four packets per bucket should be sufficient.
Pests Big and Small
Unless you are sourcing your rice from a pretty sketchy supplier it is doubtful that you will have visible insects in your rice. If so – change suppliers.
More likely you will have eggs within the rice. This is normal, they are everywhere, in everything, and 99% innocuous. Occasionally they will hatch, eat, and make more insects. To be honest, these bugs are more psychological than physical. That being said, I’m not a fan and therefore prevent them.
If you plan on packing with O2 absorbers you are removing the critical component to the insect’s survival. They won’t hatch without air. Problem solved.
If you are not using O2 absorbers you can utilize a second method. Freezing. Storing your grain in the freezer for 5-7 days will kill off all the eggs in your rice. As long as you immediately package them, they will be free from re-infection.
Finally, you can add Diatomaceous Earth to your rice. Diatomaceous Earth is simply the fossilized remains of diatoms. Diatoms are microscopic creatures that died and fossilized a few million years ago. Their fossilized skeletons are murder on insects.
The saying goes something like “death by a thousand paper-cuts.” The Diatomaceous Earth cuts then dehydrate any insects it contacts.
Diatomaceous Earth is a powder and does not affect humans unless you inhale tremendous amounts of it. Mix it in with your rice before packaging. If you wish, you can quickly rinse your rice before cooking.
Diatomaceous Earth is perfectly healthy to eat, and may even help eradicate intestinal parasites. While you do not want to breathe it in, as it may irritate your lungs.
The next concern is vermin outside your containers. This includes ants, mice, and rats. Ant’s are easy to prevent. Seal your package, and if you happen to see ants in the area, wipe any containers down with Clorox wipes. This removes traces of rice as well as the scent trails left by ants leading others to the food source.
Mice and rats are a different matter. Once they get it in their head that they have found food, little will stop them. Rats especially can chew through a plastic bag, bin, or bucket.
The best course of action is prevention. Sealing properly limits scents that attract rodents. Secondly, store your long-term supplies in rodent-free areas. This means to seal up any access points and set ample traps to immediately kill any that get in.
5-Gallon Bucket Primer
I’m talking about your standard 5-gallon utility bucket from your local big box store. Buckets are a modern wonder in the prepper world. They are sturdy. They can have a remarkable seal. They take a substantial amount of abuse.
For rice storage, you want to use clean food-grade buckets. You can tell a food-grade bucket by the recycle symbol on the bottom. The triangular recycle symbol for a food grade bucket has a 2 printed inside the triangle:
Usually, these buckets are High Density Polyethylene, or HDPE and also labeled with HDPE above or below the triangle. These are your best bet!
While you can order these at Amazon, there are much cheaper and readily accessible options.
If you want new buckets, I highly recommend Home Depot. Their buckets are everything a bucket should be: heavy-duty, well made, and orange. For about $4 per bucket and another $2 for a lid, you will be able to store about 30 pounds of rice.
If you are on a tight budget or want a little color variety I recommend heading to your local baker. They receive icing in 5-gallon buckets. A quick wash and rinse, as well as a new lid and they are good as new:
A note about buckets and color selection. I have found that I can take advantage of different colored buckets. White are for bulk goods. Orange are for freeze-dried components. Blue are for complete meals. It makes identification quick if I need to “grab and go.”
I honestly would avoid the lids sold at Lowe’s. Nothing against the company, just their lids. They are too flimsy and don’t have a good lock around the edged for my long-term storage goods.
Regardless of where you source buckets, give them a good wash. If you are not using Mylar (we will touch on that in a few paragraphs) wash the inside with a 10% bleach solution. When you are done packing them place a label on the outside.
Method #1: Storing Rice in Bags and Totes
The first method for storing large amounts of rice is relatively simplistic. Use totes with well-fitting lids. Before packing them away place each bag of rice in the freezer for a week, and then stack the bags in your tote. No need to repackage. Fill the tote, then start on a second.
If you want a little extra protection, place each bag of rice in a giant zip lock bag. Add a few desiccant packs to each bag before you zip them up.
This is a great way to store large amounts of rice, however, you may only get 4-5 years of storage. This is a better solution for periodic rotating. Check your rice each year, and look for failures of the totes, Ziploc bags, and original packaging. Replace or recharge your desiccant packs each year during the inspection.
Method #2: Storing in Buckets with Diatomaceous Earth
Our second long-term storage method for bulk rice is 5-gallon buckets and Diatomaceous Earth. Add Diatomaceous Earth to the rice to destroy eggs and kill any insects that happen to hatch or wander through. You’ll need ½ cup of Diatomaceous Earth for 5-gallons of rice.
First, add a thin layer of Diatomaceous Earth to the bottom of the bucket. Then add 4 inches of rice and another layer of Diatomaceous Earth. Repeat until the bucket is within an inch or two of the top then hammer on your lid and add a label.
It’s best to roll the bucket around about to distribute the Diatomaceous Earth. Alternatively, you can dedicate a bucket to mixing and fill it ½ way with rice and ¼ cup Diatomaceous Earth. Mix thoroughly, then pour into your storage bucket. Remember to wear a mask as Diatomaceous Earth can be irritating to your lungs.
This method is not airtight as a 5-gallon bucket doesn’t form a perfect seal. This type of preparation gives a little more than 5 years of storage.
Method #3: Buckets and O2 and Mylar, Oh My
Time for the prepper-approved method for long-term storage of bulk grains. Mylar, O2 absorbers, and 5-gallon buckets. The buckets provide durable storage. Mylar bags provide an airtight seal, and O2 absorbers provide the environment for long-term preservation.
Mylar bags are the perfect prepper accompaniment. They are non-porous, flexible, yet tough. This allows them to when sealed, hold a vacuum for a long time without the risk of failure. The metallic coating also adds additional light blocking above and beyond that provided by your bucket.
Finally, they seal with a little heat. I’ll cover that in a minute.
To prepare your perfect long-term storage bucket put a Mylar bag into your clean 5-gallon bucket. Drop in an O2 absorber and start filling with rice. Add your other absorbers as you fill.
One bucket should hold about 30 pounds of rice. When filled within 2 inches of the top of the bucket, fold over the Mylar and press out as much air as possible.
To seal the Mylar bag, you have two options. The first is to use a food saver or other impulse sealer. You may not be able to cover the entire width at once. In that case make two diagonal seals (one on the left, one on the right).
Then make one last seal bridging the gap between the two. I always make 3 seals in each direction for a little added protection:
In 20 years of prepping I have yet to lose a bag to this method.
The second option is to lay the bag over a dowel, small square wooden stake, or metal level then run your iron (on low setting) over the bag.
The ideal temperature is about 400 degrees Fahrenheit. You can measure this with a thermometer, or just make a few practice passes on a scrap section of Mylar.
Once you are done packaging add labels both inside and out. Make sure to include the contents (rice), the method (Mylar and O2), and the date.
Given a good seal, you will see the bag collapse and pull into the rice in a day or so. Once the O2 absorber has done its job, the bag will be completely pulled in. If this doesn’t happen after 3-4 days, open the bag, add a new absorber or two, then reseal.
Expect more than 20 years with this method. You may even get many more. Periodically pop the lid and check for seal failures or other damage.
I have used this method for years, and have yet to see a bag fail. Every few years I pick up another 100 pounds of grains or pasta and fill up three new buckets.
Rice is cheap. Rice is flexible. Rice stores for ages. If there are three better reasons to store large quantities of rice, I can’t think of them. Rice should be the center of your long-term food storage plan. Over the ages, it has earned its place there.
Storing large amounts of rice is not only cheap but it’s easy. Regardless of the best method for your situation, there is little reason not to put up many, many pounds of it.
Even if you just put the bags in totes today and then move to Mylar and orange buckets later, there is no time to start like right now!