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.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Survival of the Weakest: Poor Survival for the Poor

In my recent re-invigoration with prepardness I came across a post at UrbanSurvivalSite showcasing a video someone else posted entitled: Survival Food for the Poor.

The reality is that most "preppers" are actually just geardos with an excuse. There is a glut of survival advice that boils down to little more than "buy this cool expensive thing." In light of this phenomena I was excited to see preparedness approached from a more economically aware angle.

After the first minute or so of the video, however, I was less enthusiastic about the incoming advice because of comments such as, "rice, pasta and bread: very very very important to existence", and "on top the unimportant stuff: fats, oils and sweets." Both of these comments, and the rationale which guides them is in direct contradiction to the research and reading which we have been embarking on lately regarding health and proper diet.

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Regardless of my personal opinions about the deficiencies of FDA suggestions, in any given survival situation fats and proteins are greatly prized. Sure, if all you have to eat some tree bark to survive, eat it, but its a bad idea to eat that bark preferentially over a fish that you just caught. Similarly, if you are preparing then that means you should prepare the best you can, not the marginal and mediocre.

Sure enough, after viewing the entire clip I found myself disagreeing with the majority of the suggestions in the video, for one fundamental reason: nutrient density.

Nearly everything that was showcased was not as much inexpensive as it was simply cheap, cheap because it was nutrient deficient.

Here is my critique of the suggestions given in the video, but stay tuned for my own list of Nutrient Dense Survival Food for the Poor.

1- Water- Good, this is something that can honestly never be overemphasized. In addition to the needs of water outright, many foods which will be kept in long term storage will need to be cooked and rehydrated, a job which water is yet again essential to perform.

2- Dry Milk: Not a bad suggestion actually. I would never suggest that this be something which is regularly consumed because the process by which milk is dried can lead to some carcinogenic dangers long term. However, in a survival situation this is likely to be one of your few sources of any sort of dairy vitamins and minerals. Dried milk will also come in handy as a flavor modifier for drinking as well as a component in meals.

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3- White Flour: At first I want to suggest whole grain flour over bleached white, but the more I think about it, the more I'm compelled to say: forget the flour all together. It would be better to stock up on protein and fat rich foods rather than a VERY simple carb like white flour. Not to mention the fact that it requires some amount of preparation before consumption. The suggestion about the Australian damper bread is interesting, but while someone is fooling around with a blob on a stick I'd rather be eating rice and beans.

4- Dried Food/Canned Food: Canned potatoes? I don't get that at all. White potatoes can be fine, but first of all they store well just in a cool dark basement, they needn't be canned. Secondly, the industrial canning process tends to wreck the nutritional content of most veggies, way too high heat etc. If you are going to get canned foods I would recommend you can them yourself, but if you can't/won't then go for the nutrient dense canned foods such as spinach and leave the simple starches to the dried food category.

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However, his suggestion of beans and lentils is great. I often hear all kinds of preppers say "don't forget to store a variety of food" I'm not really sold on that advise. A variety of nutrients, maybe, but there are a handful of things that I will preferentially stock, even if it is at the cost of other items. That being said dried beans and lentils is a category in which you can add some variety of flavor/texture/color without adding any cost or complexity of storage or preparation.

5- Pasta: Pasta is cheap, sure, but its just glorified white flour. His tri-color pasta suggestion is...better but still I consider pasta a waste of space/time/money that could be used to supply important nutrient dense foods with protein and fat.

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6- Spam: At this point, he has been suggesting starch, starch, starch. Flour, potatoes, pasta. Starches provide reasonably simple carbohydrates and as such don't have very many calories per unit. Not to mention the depleted mineral and vitamin content given the nature of the processing of these foods. I was glad he suggested a canned food that wasn't a veggie or a starch, but spam is both expensive and not as nutritionally dense as other foods such as canned tuna and salmon. Spam contains starches and sugar as binding agents and to modify the taste, these again are more simple carbs and won't benefit you as much as the proteins  and fats found in canned fish.

7- Tabasco Sauce: I don't disagree with the notion of flavor modification in the case of the Tabasco. However I think it would be better to utilize dried seasonings since they are cheaper, lighter and store longer. In addition you could get a variety of spices rather than relying solely on the flavor of hot sauce which will afford some of that variety so often suggested when it comes to stocking up on food.

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8- Salt: Yes, very good suggestion. Some food hippies in the circles I run in probably wince a little bit at his comments regarding the necessity to get iodized salt as you can get sufficient iodine (as well as other trace minerals etc.) from unrefined sea salt. But in a pinch (pun, yes) refined, iodize salt is pretty darn cheap. Whether you splurge on the unrefined salt and get the added minerals or go with the cheap industrial version, salt is a versatile addition to your food stores. It helps with flavor, it helps preserve, it is an essential nutrient, it assists in cleaning and disinfection and it lasts basically forever.

9- Vitamins: Another very good suggestion though I must confess that in light of the nutrient deficient foods he suggested up until this point his reasoning made me laugh. He cites the necessity of vitamins to supplement for the times when you will need to hunt and forage, when the irony is that the foods you get from those endeavors will likely be far more nutrient dense than any of the foods he has suggested you stockpile.

10-Hard candies: I understand his suggestion and it is coming from a good place, but the practical manifestation of it is wrong. DO NOT waste your money on candy. Its good to have something sweet to help spirits and its also good to have SOME sugary things to help boost energy quickly in certain situations. However, instead of candy I would suggest honey as it lasts indefinitely, has a more complex sugar index  than high fructose corn syrup and also boasts certain added benefits such as an inherent anti-microbial nature and allergen resistance if local honey is consumed. It is also more versatile than hard hfc candy as it can be added to foods to modify flavors, and can be added to drinks to give that quick energy boost mentioned earlier. I won't say that honey is inexpensive, however, pound for pound I'm sure its cheaper than candy.

11- White rice- Rice is good, especially when coupled with beans. However, white rice is yet again, a nutrient deficient option. Ideally brown rice is a better option. Now, many survivalists will say at this point "yes, but brown rice spoils faster." Technically, yes, the added oil content (which is partially why it is more nutritionally dense) also reduces its shelf life. At the same time, I don't see this being a huge issue  as the shelf life of brown rice is still something like 2 years if stored in cool, dry conditions. White rice can store for upwards of 10 years, but honestly if I'm in a situation where I'm still eating food stores 2 years later, I really should be moved on to my alternative food allocation plan. Plus, if you've stored enough rice for your family to still be eating it 2 years from now, you've got more space than I do.
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8- Vodka- This is a case where it is a good suggestion, but for bad reasons. You don't keep vodka around to help reduce stress or whatever he suggests. You keep vodka for its disinfectant qualities. Additionally there are some nutrients which are alcohol soluble and not just water or fat soluble. So on occasion it may be a good idea to put a dash into a meal to get more nutrients from the food.

So, if you shouldn't go store up on empty carbs and store them in bulk in your house, what is an economically viable food storage plan? Come back and I'll make a post about that just for you.

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