Survivalist, Disaster Plan, Preparedness, TEOTWAWKI.
These are all words that conjure up end of the world scenarios in which, we are humans must fight to survive.
One of the key components to surviving an apocalyptic event is food storage. No matter the scenario, if you are going to survive to fight another day, you must be well nourished and fed not all stripped and burned out from eating heavily processed foods that you have had in the basement for the past 10 years. Most survivalists are well-versed in the MRE or Meal-Ready-To-Eat. These are much touted in the neo-survivalist community for their ability to be stored for years, and lightweight enough to grab and stuff in your bug-out bag, when you need to get the hell outta Dodge. But they don’t offer much in the way of nutrition.
Although I think having a few MREs on hand for very dire emergencies is OK, there are some major issues with them that caution me from making them my primary source of apocalyptic food. These factors also make me question having them on hand at all. They are full of preservatives, contain very little dietary fiber, and have an abundance of trans fats. All of which can wreak havoc on the body, weakening you when you need to be strong and making it hard for you to be at your best physically, thus earning them the nickname of “Meals Requiring Enemas”. You really don’t want to be dealing with constipation, hives, or projectile vomiting when you are running for your life in the wilderness or fighting off Terminators.
Bullets, Beans and Band-Aids is a common phrase used to describe survivalists and what they tend to stockpile for TEOTWAWKI. The first and last, are great, but it is the middle, beans, that I have a problem with. For most people this means canned beans. Modern cans are made from materials that contain BPA a known estrogenic, which interferes with hormones. Another thing that is not good for those who want to be in optimal physical shape. Plus heavily preserved beans create a lot of flatulence and you don’t want to put yourself in the position of being “sniffed out” by marauders.
So what is a Survivalist to do?
Here are a few suggestions that my family has implemented in the past year that has worked out great:
Food rotation means having non-perishable foods that your family enjoys on hand, in large quantities. These foods may not have more than a year to two for shelf life. That is OK, the plan is to eat them as part of your regular meal rotations, and replenish as you use, making sure to always have a 1-2 years supply (depending on the shelf-life).
Examples of foods to have on hand:
Canned Fish – tuna, salmon, mackerel, kippers, sardines, anchovies. . If you can find wild caught, all the better. These fishes are great for Omega-3 fatty acid intake as well as a great dose of protein. Good things for your muscles, including the most important one – your brain. You need to be at your best both physically and mentally to survive and thrive.
Pasta and Rice – these can be made to bulk up any number of recipes and stretch food supplies. I suggest organic pastas and brown rice as they have many more nutrients than their generic counterparts, an important component for survival foods, plus, a good part of a healthy diet today. You can also try other grains like quinoa, buckwheat and barley.
Nut Butters – great source of fat and protein. Add protein to your oatmeal in the morning. Spread on bread, use as a binder in baking, or eat off the spoon for a quick jolt of energy. You can choose from a large variety - anything from peanut butter to almond and cashew. You can also store large batches of these raw nut varieties and make your own as the need arises.
Organic or Preservative-free Food Pouches – like TastyBite Indian entrees (also Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods sell other brands). A Taste of Thai is another brand that can be found in most supermarkets. There are very few added ingredients of harm and they are good in a pinch. All you have to do is boil the pouches in water for 2-3 minutes. For your rotation, take them to lunch or use them as a base for dinner by adding fresh meats or veggies to it. Kids love these too.
Preserved Foods – if you do any gardening or have a farmers market nearby consider preserving your own fruits and veggies, either through canning, lacto-fermenting or dehydrating. If you absolutely can’t do this, then make sure to buy canned fruits and veggies with as few ingredients as possible. Fruits should only have the fruit and their juice; veggies should only have water and salt to preserve them. This won’t save you from BPA, but at least you aren’t also adding corn syrup and weird chemicals to your body.
Fun Items and Condiments: If you are surviving on your stored food for a long period of time, you need to make sure your meals have variety or you will soon grow bored and your morale will be sure to drop. Having favorite condiments on hand like ketchup, mustard, barbecue sauce, etc. will help. So will having items like pickles, olives, capers, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers. You can toss these into pasta or beans and rice to give them a depth of flavor. Be sure to choose items that your family already enjoys so you can use them in your rotation.
Dark Chocolate and Raw Honey – both sweet items that are good for energy and can be stored almost indefinitely, especially the honey – use in baking, cooking, drinks. Stir in oatmeal, or other hot cereals and/or yogurt. Definitely great pick-me-ups in a drab world and can be eaten and enjoyed in the world as we know it right now. Besides sugar is bad for you, so you might as well do your body a favor and get on less processed sugars right away.
Dry Bean and Whole Grain Storage: Did you know that whole dry beans and grains like wheat berries can be stored for decades if packaged properly? That’s right. They have found wheat berries in archaeological digs that are still good. The important thing is to get the grains whole, and then have a way to grind them, without electricity, into flours for baking. You can also eat them whole and use them to feed livestock. They can also be sprouted as a way to add fresh produce to your diet, even in the worst of times. Using food grade storage buckets, Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers are the way to go for long term storage items. I suggest keeping some for your rotation and then storing some for super long term storage.
Livestock – for true survivalists having your own livestock can mean life or death. Livestock insures your family fresh food year round whenever you need it. You can also make things like yogurt, butter, cheese and have milk to drink and eggs to eat. Having some fresh foods in your diet is so important not just for survival but morale. Of course you can enjoy all the benefits of having livestock even if the world is not over. They make great pets and keep you connected to the natural cycles. Something you will need to familiarize yourself with when there is no electricity or running water.
Pemmican, Nuts and Berries: For a different take on the MRE and perfect for your bug out bag, consider foods that are good for you, have a decent shelf-life and that can be easily transported. Pemmican comes to us from the Native peoples of North America. It is a highly transportable and highly nutritious food. It is a combination of dried meat and fruits and held together with fat. Mmmmm…fat.
My favorite producer of Pemmican is the Native American owned and produced TankaBar . This version is made with buffalo meat (high in CLA and higher in B-12 and iron than other red meats), dried cranberries (an antioxidant) and an herbal-based preservative. I believe it is also lacto-fermented. The shelf life is one year, and you can buy in bulk to save money. Or you can make your own . If neither of these options works for you, you can find many all-natural-nitrate free jerkys – beef, salmon and turkey are just some of the options out there.
Whether you go for pemmican or jerky, having a good supply of raw nuts and dried berries (try to find no sugar added, sulfate-free) available is a great idea. If you have to bug out, having a bunch of portioned out baggies containing some of all these items is perfect for the grab-n-go scenario. For your rotation, you can make trail mixes with them or just eat them plain. The goal is to make these a part of your family’s regular diet and replenish them as you use them up. All of these items make great snacks and quick breakfasts.
These suggestions are better than having MREs or the types of food supplies that many survivalist websites and books suggest. For one, you don’t know if you family likes the taste of those foods until you open them after the world ends. If you have to survive on them for a year or more and you dislike the food or someone in your family has an allergy to something in it, you are in big trouble. No food, means no survival. It is a big risk to take. Both for your health and your wallet – on foods you aren’t used to.
I have briefly touched on many different topics in this overview. This is the beginning of a series of posts on this topic and I need you to tell me what directions to take. So in the comments, please let me know which topics you’d like to learn about in more in depth.
Thistle is a SCCS member who also has a food blog, The Leftover Queen