One young Catholic family on a Journey towards Intentional and Communal Sustainability. One Artist, one full time Mama and two babies, we'll tell you about all our successes, and failures, as we try to make it in our overly Consumeristic society on just the bare necessities.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Survival for the Fittest: Inexpensive Nutrient Dense Survival Stores

The other day I gave my criticism of a prepper's guide to "Survival Food for the Poor." As I mentioned in my critique the biggest problem with the suggestions given in the guide boiled down to lack of nutrient density and an over abundance of carbs.

Rather than leaving you with a mere criticism I promised that I would provide an alternative list of foods to stock up on while still retaining the budgetary spirit of the original list.

My suggestions follow:

1- Water: It truly cannot be overemphasized. Water is necessary for life, plain and simple.  The minimum needed is about half of a gallon per person, per day. However, you truly cannot have too much water as, even if you have more than you can drink (unlikely) water can also be used to cook, clean, grow foods etc. I recommend storing at least 2 gallons of water, per person, per day for a minimum of 2 weeks. This sounds like a lot of water but water is very cheap. It is cheap to buy, even cheaper to bottle/can tap water. Don't forget to have an alternative water collection source beyond your stores be it access to a body of water coupled with water purification methods (tabs or filters) or even a rain barrel or two.

2- Brown Rice: This is one of the few carb rich foods you will see me recommend in this list but I do so never the less for a few reasons. First of all, rice coupled with beans will provide the range of amino acids. Not as good as meat, fish or fowl, but very good and additionally, very cheap. As I mentioned in my last post, don't let the reduced shelf life brown rice has compared to white rice trick you into opting for the latter as it literally pales in comparison. Furthermore, the shelf life of brown rice if properly stored is still about 2 years, which is more than enough. An added benefit to storing brown rice beyond the fact that it contains more nutrients than its white counterpart is the fact that you can actually plant it and expect something to grow later (given you live in a moist enough climate.) As it turns out, most places which you can buy both brown and white rice, they tend to be the same price. Well... kind of, they are the same price per pound, by per nutrient, brown rice is actually cheaper.

3- Dried Beans/Lentils: A necessary counterpart to brown rice. Together you will be getting a complex amino acid profile with a food that stores indefinitely and is tremendously inexpensive. I recommend a variety of dried beans and lentils as each provides a slightly different nutrient values, but more importantly you can enjoy a variety of flavors, textures and colors which will assist in keeping up morale. If you want to get the absolute most bang for your buck, check the nutrient labels and stick with the beans and lentils that afford the highest amount of protein and fat per unit. Typically this will be things like split peas and garbanzo beans.

4- Nut Butters: These will be a valuable source of both fats and proteins while giving a unique flavor addition to your stores. There are dried options of things like peanut butter which can store for many years, but if properly canned and stored, just the nut butters themselves can last upwards of 15 years too. My same reasoning as with brown rice (if you are still eating your stores out of necessity years from now, you need an additional food allocation plan in motion) applies with non-dehydrated nut butters. In addition, the dehydrated forms actually contain less fat and require water and preparation time and effort. When picking nut butters select options that contain as few additional ingredients as possible, particularly sugars. Instead, opt for "natural" versions which should contain nothing more than the nut in question, and salt. These will store longer, be more nutrient dense, and contain more nutrient value per dollar, even if they are slightly more expensive at face value.

5- Dehydrated Eggs: This may be slightly less palatable than the fresh versions, however they are pretty inexpensive and will provide you with the top tier protein available, even if you have to reconstitute them. Honestly, most people can't tell the difference as many of the eggs consumed in restaurants are reconstituted from dry.

6- Dehydrated and Canned Dairy Products: Most people are familiar with dehydrated milk, but you can also get dehydrated cheese, sour cream and even butter. Canned versions of each of these if you can fit it into your budget as they taste better and have more fat retained. This is where I would have ended my commentary on this category, but thanks to the wonderful world of other preppers on the internet I found viable ways to can milk,  butter and cheese so perhaps you can get the best at an inexpensive price after all just for exchanging a little bit of labor.

7- Fish Canned in Oil: Canned fish in general will be the best, and likely cheapest, source of "meat" that you'll be able to find. There are certain options which are better than others (eg. whole albacore vs. chunk tuna) but this will boil down to price and preference. Even if you get the bottom of the line versions of canned fish, the nutrients will still be very high. Canned fish will also be a source of nutrients like iodine, which will likely be lacking from the rest of your food stores. I recommend choosing oil canned fish rather than water, simply because the price is typically the same, but you will be adding additional fat content. If possible and within reason of price, try to get olive oil rather than canola oil or soybean oil, but this is about emergency rations, not ideal diet, so the fat afforded by even substandard oils such as soybean oil is still a good idea to get for your stores.

8- Bone Broth: This is likely to be the most unique suggestion on this list simply because it really isn't something that you can go out and buy. Bone broth is a tremendously healthful food as it contains readily assimilated nutrients. While you can't go to the store and buy a pallet of bone broth, you can gradually accumulate it for your stores (a strategy you should employ to satisfy all of your food stores by the way). Each time you eat something with bones: chicken, ribs, thanksgiving turkey etc. throw the extra bones in a freezer bag, once it is full, boil the bones with enough water to submerge them and a tablespoon or two of vinegar for 2 or 3 days. This is most easily achieved by means of a crock pot as it will keep a low but constant heat with minimal power. After straining the bones and lil bits of leftover meat, cartilage and fat, can the remaining bone broth. Don't fret if the contents gel, that just means its good for you. 

9- Dehydrated Dark Leafy Greens: This is pretty much the only "veggie" that you'll see on my list. Part of the reason for this is that the more nutrient dense dairy, egg, and fish you eat, the less necessary many vegetables actually are.  Another reason is that most of the vegetables you consume should be sourced from your garden. However, for sake of variety and just to be certain about getting vitamins and minerals it is a good idea to include leafy greens, basically the most nutrient dense vegetable option. This is another suggestion that will require some work on your part however, but yet again, the work is minimal and affords huge pay off. You can buy greens and dehydrate them, but if you aren't yet gardening (shame on you) creating food stores may be a good excuse for you to start since leafy greens are pretty easy to grow and usually have a very high yield. I recommend in particular kale, chard and turnip greens. Each of these have an enormous amount of vitamins and minerals per unit, turnip greens in particular even offer a high calcium profile. To prepare these for storage either use a food dehydrator, or lay leaves out on a few baking sheets and leave in the oven at 200F until they are completely dry. They will be very dry and crumbly at this point, which is good because you can then crumble them into swing top jars and fill them quite densely. Try to limit the amount of stems put in as these contain less nutrients and are more bulky. To use these dried leafy greens you can just sprinkle them into soups etc. to increase the vitamin and mineral content of a meal.

10- Unrefined Sea Salt: "That sounds pretty fancy" you may be saying to yourself, and yes, compared to industrial refined iodized salt, it kind of is, if by fancy you mean "nutrient dense" that is. Unrefined sea salt contains trace minerals which will benefit you while still serving the versatile purposes of salt such as flavor modification, preservation, sanitation, and providing much needed sodium. Is unrefined sea salt more expensive than industrial refined iodized salt? Yes it is, but we're talking salt here so its still really cheap. This is a store that I really can't imagine you storing too much of either. 100 lbs of salt sounds like a lot, but remember that its cheap, versatile, and stores easily. The worse case scenario with storing "too much" salt, would be that you could use it as a much sought after trade commodity in a post-collapse scenario.

11- Honey: This could be classified as a "luxury" option. But honey is an important addition to any food store. For one its sweet, and thats actually a good thing, sometimes its good to have sweet things around to help keep up morale. However, honey is more than just empty sugar calories. It has a strong anti-microbial quality that will actually assist with immunity from disease. Additionally if you are consuming honey which was created locally, you will receive a reduction in allergy affliction.

12- Dried Spices/Teas: Again a "luxury" option at face value, but don't underestimate the importance of WANTING to eat the food that you've stored. I don't' care how much variety you've dried to build into your food stores, you will start to get a little tired of the daily fare. One way to fight against this malaise is to literally spice things up. More importantly, many spices contain additional benefits than simply flavor. Dried chile flakes and powder will provide capsaicin, a chemical which helps a variety of ailments for example. Teas are another good idea as they will give some flavor variety to your drinking options while providing additional benefits. I suggest in particular: chamomile, red raspberry leaf (particularly for women), ginger and peppermint. However, go check out your local tea selection, many of them list the ailments for which they will benefit the imbiber on the packaging.

13- Vinegar: If possible, get apple cider vinegar with a mother. I suggest this because it is contains more benefits which can be easily assimilated by the body than refined white vinegar affords. The reason I suggest that you get vinegar "with mother" is that if emergency situations are greatly prolonged, you can actually make more vinegar since you have the mother culture in the bottle too. Whatever kind of vinegar you end up getting, don't skimp on amounts. While the average person may not use a lot of vinegar day to day, you mustn't forget the nutritional benefits of adding vinegar to food and drink, nor the preservative and sanitation qualities vinegar possesses. Vinegar is yet another store that should be stored in large amounts due to its versatility, inexpensive nature, and potential future as a trade commodity.

14- Cheap Vodka: Don't be confused, this suggestion is not intended to be drunk as you might think but rather to release nutrients from foods, aid in food preservation and assist in sterilization. I won't get into the non-nutritive qualities of vodka here, but there are many. I would suggest that you add a splash or two of vodka to various meals to release more nutrients from the foods. Many nutrients are water soluble (easily achieved, any meal you will prepare will contain water in some fashion) some nutrients are fat soluble (this can be achieved by use of the oil from the canned fish as well as the dehydrated dairy products) and some are alcohol soluble (these are the ones that you won't be able to take advantage of without the assistance of the vodka). While vodka is useful, even in its cheapest forms, it is still more expensive per unit than basically anything else on this list, and you could do without it if you must. Leave this as one of the final additions to your stores, after you've satisfied the rest of your needs.

15- Whole/non-gmo/non-hybrid dried seed foods: This could contain some of the above suggestions such as beans and rice. However, this category could also include: wheat berries, whole oats, quinoa, peas, sunflower seeds, whole peanuts, heirloom corn etc. I would suggest storing much smaller amounts of these than the rest of the list because they will be part of a long term food procurement strategy ie. growing your food. However, most of these dried seed foods can be bought in bulk at average grocery stores so instead of a handful of them, you could have several pounds of each on hand. If you have to eat some, there will be enough to supplement the rest of your food stores you can, but try to not eat these outright.

1 comment:

  1. these tips are even better than some I have read from other sources