Monday, July 1, 2013

TUTORIAL - Building a Food Store of Your Own

So there was our big food storage post earlier, but what about the contents? What foods do you need and why?

Well, that depends on certain factors. So what this post is for is to cover some of the best long-term storage foods, how best to store them, and why they're good to have. That way, when planning your food stores, you can see what you might need!

Breadmaking Supplies

Learning how to bake bread is a priceless skill, but to do it, you'll need certain ingredients in bulk. The issue, though, is that storing breadmaking supplies in bulk comes with risks and certain requirements.

Here's what you need to make basic bread:
- Flour
- Sugar
- Yeast
- Cooking oil
- Salt
- Water


Storing each of these things has certain requirements.

Flour


You can get straight flour, but you can get longer storage out of raw grains. But you'll need a grinder of some kind to turn that into flour if you want to use it to make bread. Grains breed weevils, so you'll need to freeze your grains overnight before storing, and then store in a totally airtight, food-safe container with oxygen absorbers inside to prevent an infestation. When storing grains, keep them in a dark, cool place, well away from sunlight and heat: under some stairs, in a cellar if you have one, etc. A good practice is to break down your store into manageable containers which you can break open and use one by one, rather than risking a compromise of your entire store just for one cup of flour.

Sugar and Salt


Sugar and salt, on the other hand, are super easy to store. Get a large, airtight, food-safe container and dump it all inside. It handles being exposed to air from time to time, and doesn't go bad for a good 30 years if you look after it well. It likes the same sorts of conditions as any food storage. Cool, dry, away from sunlight.

Cooking Oil


Any sort of oil is good to have, be it vegetable oil, olive oil or ground nut oil. When you buy it bulk, you'll get it in a large tin with a pop-top lid. These tins are the best way to store the oil, and it'll last a very, very long time like that. If you want an even bigger tin, find a bulk supplier of raw olives, and ask if they have any spare tins. Olive tins are much larger than olive oil tins, but have the same make and can be used in the same way.

Yeast
 
Yeast is picky. There are two ways you can store it long term. One is vaccuum sealed, and the other is "live". Don't forget that yeast is a living microorganism in the fungi family. Just as you can't expect your cat to stay alive very long if you just vaccuum pack it and stuff it in a cupboard, you also can't expect it from your yeast. Yes, it's hardier than your cat, but it has similar needs. A vaccuum packed lump of yeast will keep for 2 or 3 years, but once you break the seal of it, it will start to deteriorate unless it is fed. That's why the second alternative is handy and most recommended. Keeping a sourdough starter alive in your house is a great way to maintain yeast long term, and it's one of the first things you should organise if the shit hits the fan. Here's a video showing how to make it work for you:


Water



Water storage is something else entirely, and is luckily very easy to do. We cover it fairly thoroughly towards the end of this article, so have a read of that. One thing I'd like to point out here though is that water doesn't ever "go stale" as many people think. The water you drink from your taps at home has been sitting in rusty old pipes underground for a good 2 to 5 years before you drink it. It stores forever. The only important thing is to keep it clean.


Sundries 


It's the little comforts that you'll miss. Things many people don't think about when they prepare a store. Toilet paper, toothpaste, deodourant. All things that - while not at all essential - will do wonders for morale. If your plan is to keep a stockpile of 3 months worth of food, keep 3 months worth of Poo Tickets, toothpaste and deodourant as well.

Dried Food

Dehydrated food is a great way to keep well fed. It's quite picky when it comes to storage, but if you have an airtight, waterproof, food-grade container then you're set. Here's what you should aim for:

Pasta
Get a wide variety of pasta types. It stores a long, long time. Buy it bulk in individual bags as it'll keep the weevils out (remember that pasta is mainly flour, so weevils will still get you unless you keep the oxygen out)

2-minute Noodles
A fantastic long-term food. Comes in a variety of different flavours, are quick and easy to prepare and can be combined with other things for a more complete meal.

Rice

White rice stores better and longer than brown rice, but weevils are a real problem. Follow the same storage routine as you do with your grains and you'll be fine.

Vegetables

Dehydrated vegetables can often be purchased in bulk lots and are a great way to add palatability to your food.

Meat

Yep, you can buy dehydrated meat! Stores a ridonkulously long time and is packed full of protein and precious calories.

Herbs

You can make even the most terrible, scrounged food taste better if you have a good store of herbs. They also have MASSIVE medicinal qualities and will go a long way to keeping you healthy. I keep mine in an old 50cal ammo tin, as it seals airtight, is watertight and very rugged, so they won't get damaged. If you don't know which herbs to get, grab parsley, rosemary, basil, paprika, cayenne pepper, ground black pepper and some good quality salt (preferrably something like tibetan rock salt, as it holds its flavour much longer)


Canned Food

Canned food goes without saying, but what types should you get? And why?

Canned Vegetables


An absolute necessity as it will help keep your nutrition levels high. Buy a combination of mixed vegetables and also plenty of cans of individual vegetable types. Corn, carrots, peas, baby potatoes, lentils, etc, are all good. Amongst your choices, however, try to include the following:

    Creamed Corn
    Not only is it quite healthy for you, but it's almost like a dessert in itself. It's delicious
    cold or hot, makes an excellent dip for breads or other foods, and it packs a punch in
    terms of boosting your morale. If you doubt it, grab a small can of it next time you're
    at the supermarket and try it out.

    Diced Tomatoes
    Diced tomatoes are the best thing for when you're making soups and stews to give
    body to your food. There's nothing worse than eating the same, watery, thin rations
    each day.

    Baked Beans
    My all-time favourite canned food. Baked beans are delicious, simple to cook,
    RIDICULOUSLY healthy for you, high in protien and can be mixed with all manner
    of different things. The only thing to watch for is the salt content, but if you're doing
    a lot of activity, it won't be a problem. You can also buy salt-reduced varieties, so
    that fixes that problem.
   

Stock Cubes
Try and get a range of beef, chicken, fish and vegetable stock cubes if possible, as each has its own specific flavour. All, however, help add flavour to your dishes, which is something you don't want to forget about.

Condensed Milk

A fantastic treat and energy booster. Its high sugar content prevents bacterial grown and so it stores well.

Evaporated Milk
Basically dehydrated milk. Add water and you've got milk, but it is incredibly shelf-stable.

Powdered Milk


Another way of storing milk. It's good stuff and keeps for ages.

Spam

Good ol' Spam. We've all been there at some point, and it's a great thing to have in your store. It's tasty enough, high in protein and really adds a sense of substance to a meal, especially when you've gone a long time without meat. Be careful about eating too much of it, though, as it does pack a LOT of salt (which lends to its long shelf life) and also contains sodium nitrate, which in excess can cause problems, but you'd have to gorge yourself on Spam every day for it to be a major issue. Keep it as a treat for morale.

Chicken

Canned chicken usually only comes in quite small cans, but it's good stuff, and often comes in various flavours. Avoid buying those "whole chicken in a can" things and go for the smaller cans of shredded chicken. They're a great way to add some protien to your diet, and are a bit of a treat as well. Many varieties don't even need to be cooked first, but check the label.

Soups

There are oh-so-many varieties of canned soup to be found, but try and get a good variety. Also try and aim more for the chunky soup types with lots of vegetables and herbs, as you'll get more nutrition from them.

Canned Meals
Many companies sell pre-prepared meals like stews or curries or spaghetti or ravioli in a can. These are pretty handy to have and are quite easy to cook up and eat for a quick and easy all-in-one meal.

Long-Life Spreads

Things like peanut butter, vegemite, etc store quite well and oftentimes come in large containers. Peanut butter, in particular, is great for this. Have a few kilos of it in your store, as it can even be eaten on its own as a bit of an energy food.

Cereal

Things like muesli store well under similar arrangements to grains and rice, and make for a delicious breakfast when combined with reconstituted milk!


So there's a pretty good range of items. There are other things, of course, but it comes down to personal taste. The list above is aimed at being fairly well-roundedto try and suit as many different tastes as possible.

They key to a good food store is variety. Eating the same thing every day will quickly make you sick of eating that way. Many people will often keep a bucket store of MREs for this reason, as they are always really tasty and make for a really nice treat after "roughing it" in terms of your dining for a week or so.


Best of luck in your food store endeavors! If you have any items to add, we'd love to hear from you in the comments section!

-CumQuaT

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