WELCOME ALL SUBSCRIBERS to Volume 6 of Author Raymond Dean White's Newsletter.
More on the Name Book 3 Contest:
As many of you know I'm hard at work on Book 3 of the Dying Time Trilogy. My tentative working title is The Dying Time Reprised, but I'd like to change that to something better and that's where you come in.
I am holding a Name Book 3 Contest to get your suggestions for both the title and the cover art. The winner gets a character named after them in Book 3. You can choose if you want your character to be a good guy or bad guy. Due to a very limited response the contest winner will be announced either late this summer or early fall to allow for other entrantries.
I am also open to suggestion regarding plot development and in particular the best and most just way to get rid of Joseph Scarlatti.
Feel free to email me direct or use the contact link on my website.
New subscribers who have missed previous editions of my Newsletter can find the past volumes on my website www.RaymondDeanWhite.com by clicking the Newsletter link.
After The Dying Time (Book Two in The Dying Time Trilogy) is now available.
I'm still working on the CreateSpace (print version) of the books and hope to have them out sometime in April.
And now for more of that Prepper content I've been delivering to you. This is an excerpt from a non-fiction book I'm working on titled:
BUGGING IN: WHAT TO DO WHEN TSHTF and YOU LIVE IN SUBURBIA by Raymond Dean White
People can live for three minutes without air, three days without water, and three weeks without food. Yet food is often the first thing folks think about when preparing for emergencies, so stock up on items you and your family like to eat. Few things are more demoralizing after an emergency occurs than being forced to eat foods you don’t enjoy or simply aren’t used to consuming. In fact, a change of diet can upset your entire digestive system and lead to problems you really don’t want to deal with in an emergency.
Before we discuss the kinds of foods you will store, let’s talk about food preparation. For the most part that means cooking, which, unless you’re using a solar oven (good idea) will require you to make a fire (unless you’ve stocked up on self-heating MRE’s--also a good idea). Even if you’ve restored limited electrical power to your home you probably can’t cook on an electric range without seriously depleting your batteries. Those things are power hogs. Much more likely you will be using a microwave (less power usage) or a propane or charcoal grill (outside only, for God’s sake), or a wood stove, white gas or butane camp stove, your fireplace, or even a “camp” fire in your backyard.
Since we’ve already mentioned the need for a stockpile of matches and fireplace lighters, let’s move on to other useful fire-starters. Magnesium/flint and steel types work in all conditions. I prefer the Gob Spark Armageddon Fire Steel over any of the others I’ve tried. It’s waterproof, in that water doesn’t harm it and it’ll work after you dry it off. It’s windproof, though you should always place your tinder in a sheltered area to keep it from being scattered by wind. Mine came with a palm scraper to use when striking the 5500 degree sparks and I use it, rather than the back of my hunting knife or the can opener blade of my Swiss Army knife because, it’s less likely to scatter my tinder.
I also favor the Gob Spark Armageddon over others because the handle design makes it easier to use and because it has no moving parts. Get at least one and use it a few times. You’ll be shocked at how easy it is to start a fire this way. I’ve been using mine to light my propane grill. In a SHTF scenario I plan to use it just to conserve my supply of matches. I got mine from FireSteel.com.
You can also use fire gels, fire sticks, road flares, magnifying glasses, steel wool/9 volt battery, and about a million other ways to start wood, coal or charcoal fires. I am excluding the use of fuel-type accelerants such as gasoline or even charcoal lighter fluid because you have better uses for them. Besides, if you start a charcoal fire with either of those it tends to flavor your food and who needs that.
If you use a charcoal grill get a “chimney” type charcoal starter. Look for one that is made of stainless steel, holds a minimum of five quarts of coals, has holes on the sides of the cannister to allow good air flow and has a “stay cool” handle. The Weber Model 7416 Rapidfire Chimney Starter is widely recognized as one of the best and it’s one of the cheapest. Win, win.
If you have to start a wood fire you need good tinder. The cheapest and one of the best I’ve ever used is dryer lint. Seriously. My other favorite is cotton balls with a bit of Vaseline smushed into them. These will burn longer and hotter than dryer lint. Sparks from your Gob Spark will often light either up on your first try. The old standbys of dried grass, pine needles or wood shavings work well too, but you might have to work at it a bit harder. Fire was one of our very first tools--probably only rocks, broken branches and pointy sticks came before it. It remains one of the most essential, so give yourself plenty of different ways to start one.
Cast iron cookware rules. It wipes clean, is indestructible, and once you get it properly cured and start using it you won’t want to go back to anything else. Yes, it’s heavy, and yes, if you’re not careful you can break your glass top range with it (for reasons previously mentioned you won’t be using that glass top electric range anyhow). But you only have to buy it once so long as you don’t wash it with soap and let it rust, and it heats evenly. You’ll either get some and fall in love with it or you won’t. If you don’t, eventually you’ll be bartering for some. Enough said.
If your water is off, use up your paper plates to reduce water consumption. I should mention to those of you who are environmentalists that saving the planet at this point will come a distant second to saving yourself and your loved ones.
Stoves, Ovens and Other Ways to Cook
My wife and I are fortunate to have an excellent gas range and oven, which we can “easily” convert to propane. The oven part may be a bit tricky as it uses electric igniters only--so we will have to replace or re-plumb that valve and possibly go back to matches or a long-nosed butane lighter, though our generator should provide enough power for the electric igniters.
We also have several alternative ways to cook:
A 6 burner propane grill that is a bit of an energy hog.
A Bayou Classic SP10 High-Pressure Outdoor Propane Cooker that we use for both water bath and pressure cooker canning, to avoid overheating our home.
Seven of those twenty pound propane bottles--all recently refilled. And if I lived in the country instead of suburbia I'd have a 1,000 gallon propane tank.
A kettle-style charcoal grill and four, forty-pound bags of briquettes, plus the Weber chimney fire starter referenced above.
An ancient Coleman, white gas, two-burner, camp stove and a few cans of white gas.
A more modern butane camp stove and four extra butane bottles.
A wood burning fireplace, that, because of its small size, would be difficult to cook on.
A couple of “Cooking Bags” that require no fire or electricity, just water and a heating tablet, to warm up canned food. These won’t really cook anything, but they’ll warm them up enough so you aren’t eating cold food.
If push comes to shove, I’ll dig a fire pit in the backyard and cook over wood coals and open flame, though I’d probably end up burning dead cacti and trash and windblown debris, since there just aren’t many trees around here. I guess we’d end up eventually scavenging wood from abandoned houses.
I intend to buy, or build, a solar oven as it’s sunny almost all the time here. If I decide to build rather than buy, I’ll likely make the heavy duty model shown in the link below.
Otherwise, I’ll probably end up purchasing one of two commercially made Solar Ovens. Either a Global Sun Oven (below -- the current front runner) or a Sport Solar Oven Combo, which is large enough for two good sized pots. $199.95 from Emergency Essentials. This model is wider than the Global Sun Oven below but is only half as deep. It also only weighs 10 pounds, so where I live I’d have to anchor it down to keep it from blowing over. However, it is specifically designed to maintain moderate 210 to 260 degree cooking temperatures so it’s kind of like a crockpot. With the reflectors temps can get up over 300 and they say that can damage the oven. It is made in America. Here’s the link.
The Global Sun Oven is also Made in America. It has a sterling reputation and comes recommended by Kellene Bishop and others. It’s $279 from the Solar Oven Company in the link below. It comes with a couple of baking pans, one or two pots, a dehydrating and preparedness kit, and a turkey roasting rack. It’s deeper than the Sport Solar Oven above and weighs 21 pounds, so it should be more stable in the high winds where I live. It is designed to meet 70% of the needs of six to eight people in developing countries where they must rely solely on the sun. It is also designed to boil, steam, roast or bake foods at temperatures of 360 degrees.
Surprise, surprise, I ended up getting an All American Sun Oven, instead of any of the above. It’s made in America and I love it. I got it at a special discounted price via a bulk buy through the Las Vegas Preppers meetup group for a hair over $200. It came with graniteware pots, pans, racks and a couple of cookie sheets.
I’m still learning to cook on it but have had no problems so far. I’ve made soups, casseroles, baked pork chops, roasted chicken and brownies with excellent results. It’s sort of like using a non-electric crockpot. Just load it up, point it at where the sun will be at mid-day and when you get home from work dinner is ready. Foods that need to cook at higher temperatures (350-400 degrees) will require aiming the oven at the “moving” sun every hour, but that’s it.
It seems to be impossible to overcook food in this oven. There’s probably a scientifically valid explanation but I don’t know what it is--just that food stays tender and moist. I was always drying out the pork chops when I fried or baked them on our gas stove. Baking them in the Sun Oven is now my preferred cooking method.
At 22 pounds it remains stable even in the high winds around Kingman, Arizona. I could keep on raving about it but I need to stop now before I dislocate my elbow patting myself on the back for being smart enough to get one of these. Here’s a link:
If you plan to prepare and store your own food (and you should) there are a few items that qualify as “must haves.”
First is a good quality pressure canner. I use an All American Model 921 Pressure Canner. Not only is it arguably the best, but it’s made right here in America. I liked that a lot. I also liked that it does not have a gasket seal to wear out and that it is built to be handed down from generation to generation. I got mine on Amazon for $199, but shop around.
You will also need proper canning tools, jars of various sizes and rings and lids to fit them. Many canners recommend Tattler lids that can be reused for a lifetime. I got some because they are a great idea, but since I’m fairly new to canning I’ve elected to stick with traditional metal rings and lids so far. I prefer the wide mouth jars so I use the wide mouth rings and lids more than the regular size.
Once food is properly canned it will last for years without refrigeration, though, as with all food storage, it should be kept as cool as possible and away from light and heat.
Next up, and absolutely critical, is a seven-quart pressure cooker. Note, do not confuse these with a pressure canner. A pressure cooker cooks food much faster than standard cooking methods, while keeping it moist and tender. Because it cooks faster it saves you fuel, whether that fuel is gas, propane or wood. It also preserves more nutrients and locks flavor in. It takes the place of a rice steamer, or a crockpot and performs their functions better. We have a Kuhn Rikon model 3344 (Swiss made because I couldn’t find a decent American made one). My wife says she prefers it to our microwave for heating casseroles, especially rice casseroles, and meats. I made the best, melt-in-your-mouth, pot roast dinner I’ve ever tasted in it (Sorry, Mom).
Most folks who use them frequently say to avoid the cheap models. I agree, but if you must get a cheap one I know folks who like the Fagor eight-quart model. I would avoid anything made by Presto since I don’t personally know anyone who has had one who would buy another. But then I don’t know that many people, so take what I have to say about Presto with a grain of salt.
The next on your list of “needs” is a vacuum sealer. My FoodSaver GameSaver model paid for itself within the first two years. We were always throwing out freezer burned meats until we got one and started using it. Now I vacuum seal everything. Blanched vegetables from our garden, filet mignon, hamburger, fish, chicken, dried goods like spaghetti (with the jar attachment) and boxed goods like Rice-a-Roni, flour, rice, and on and on. We even vacuum sealed our most important documents. Removing oxygen from food that is being stored makes it last much longer (as does keeping it away from heat and light).
I’m not going to go into all the other brands of vacuum sealers out there because my research convinced me the GameSaver was the best deal for the money. I got it because it has a reputation for being rugged enough for use in the field when hunting. I’m ashamed to admit I haven’t gone hunting for years, but I can see a time coming when I will, of necessity, start shooting Bambi and his big brother Elkbi again.
You will need bags or rolls of plastic from which you can make your own. I get mine from Sorbent Systems because they seem to be more durable than the ones I got from FoodSaver and because they cost much less. Another win, win, which is good because vacuum sealing is addictive.
People have been grinding grain with stones to make flour to bake bread for thousands of years. As I’ve alluded to repeatedly, no matter how much flour (or anything else) you store you will eventually run out of it. So, if you eat bread or bake anything you will need a grain mill. There is no doubt an electric mill is more convenient than a hand mill. But if the power goes off, and stays off long enough for you to run though your stores of flour, you will have to grind your own by hand. A hand-cranked grain mill beats a manos and metate any day. Stored wheat berries will last longer than stored flour. If you get a flaker attachment you can grind oat groats (which store longer than rolled oats) and dried beans. Wheat berries are also much cheaper than flour.
The important point to take away here is you can make your own flour. Therefore, you can bake your own bread, and in a survival situation, bread is the staff of life.
Most preppers recommend having both electric and hand-cranked models. I think that’s a great idea, but if you can only afford one, get the hand-cranked model. My research into these items covered different types of materials for grinding burrs and plates, different handle types, hopper capacities, warranties, how adjustable the “grind” was from coarse to fine to powdery, and what kinds of grains or even beans and nuts could be ground. My conclusion was that, even though this is probably another one of those devices where you get what you pay for there is at least one adequate mill for under $100. Let’s start with that one.
The Victorio VKP1012 Hand Crank Grain Mill is $59.95 plus $6 shipping from Emergency Essentials www.beprepared.com.
It features cone-shaped self-aligning, cast stainless steel burrs, grinds wheat, corn, rice, barley, oats, peppercorns and any other non-oily seed (no sunflower seeds), dry grains or spices. It is adjustable from coarse to fine, though to get truly fine flour for baking cakes and such you need to make more than one pass through the grinder. The hopper holds two cups of grain. The manufacturer claims it makes about one half cup of flour per minute (like sugar or corn meal consistency) and more than double that on the coarse setting.
What they don’t tell you is how fast you have to turn that little wheel to get that much flour in a minute. In practice, to make three cups of fine flour seems to take about thirty minutes and can leave your arm feeling “used.” It is easier on your arm to run the wheat berries through on the coarse setting first, then do it again on the fine setting. A few people tried to compare it with electric flour mills but that isn’t fair--of course the electric mills are easier and faster and probably grind a finer flour.
The most common complaints were that the clamp needed to be retightened a few times during grinding and that small seeds tended to clog in the hopper. Retightening the clamp gives your arm a break from grinding and tapping on the side of the hopper is usually sufficient to clear a clog. Regardless, people who use this little mill tend to like it.
The combination of low price and good reviews makes this a decent buy in my book. It’s made in Taiwan and comes with a two-year warranty from the manufacturer. Not “made in America” is a huge reason I haven’t already got one of these.
Choosing the right grain mill is a very difficult topic for me since I have not yet bought one, know I need at least one, and am totally torn between laying out around a thousand dollars for one of the alleged Cadillacs of the grain mill world (GrainMaker or Diamont), getting the very affordable Victorio above, or going somewhere in the middle (Country Living Grain Mill, or Wonder Junior Deluxe).
Right now I’m leaning heavily toward the Wonder Junior Deluxe Hand Grain Mill. It “only” costs about $220, can grind almost any seed or grain, corn or bean, dry or oily, including coffee and even peanuts into peanut butter. It gets fantastic reviews from several people whom I respect (Kellene Bishop of www.PreparednessPro.com, M.D Creekmore of www.TheSuvivalistBlog.net, Lisa Bedford aka www.TheSurvivalMom.com and a host of others). It’s Made in India by craftsmen who have been making grain mills for more than 100 years. Not made in America, but still well made.
The Country Living Grain Mill is highly regarded by all who use it. Aside from the grinding plates, which will eventually wear out, it is supposed to last for generations. It’s a bit pricey at $429 plus shipping. Spare grinding plates, which most folks would never need, are available for $109 plus shipping. There’s little doubt this is a top quality item. It grinds from cracked wheat to pastry flour in one pass. It has a flywheel type handle that make grinding easier on your arm, and the flywheel had a vee notch so the grinder can be hooked via a fan belt to a motor or bicycle. It won’t grind corn or beans without purchasing and installing a separate augur so it’s not as flexible as the Wonder Junior Deluxe, but customer testimonials are glowing.
The Diamont D525 Grain Mill is rock solid, with all cast iron construction. It weighs 55 pounds, but people who use it say it grinds easily because of the heavy fly wheel type handle. Mother Earth News raved about it as well they should since it costs $850 at a discounted price. It’s manufactured in Denmark. Because it is made of cast iron it should outlast any mill made from aluminum (such as the Country Living or Wonder Junior), which is good since the Diamont comes with a lifetime warranty. I’d note here that those other mills should last a lifetime as well. The Diamont is easily motorized, has a large hopper. It has as options plates to either grind the finest flour or coarser plates for cracking livestock grain. All plates are adjustable for finer or coarser grinds. Like the Country Living Mill, it is not as flexible as the Wonder Junior, which can grind virtually any seed.
The GrainMaker Model 99 is made in Montana and all of its parts are manufactured in America. it is built out of steel and stainless steel and comes with a lifetime heirloom guarantee on the entire mill including the burrs. This is the only mill I know of that offers such a complete warranty. It’s a work of art that, with easily interchangeable augurs, will grind anything--just like the Wonder Junior. I costs $650. It grinds flour more fine than any other hand mill because it’s burrs are machined and therefore are sharper than the cast burrs of the Country Living or Diamont Mills. It is easily motorized or run from a bicycle. To top it off, this machine is very easy to clean. Customer reviews are simply outstanding. The company has a reputation for excellent customer service to back up its best ever warranty. This is the one I want because I know it would be a once in a lifetime investment that I could pass on to the next generation. But it’s going to be hard to justify this cost to my better half.
I believe every well-prepared kitchen should have is a hand cranked meat grinder. Some folks will grind meat in a food processor but I think the cleanup would be excessive. We have an old Hamilton Beach electric grinder that my wife inherited from her grandmother. The thing has to be at least sixty years old and it still works beautifully, but we’re talking hand-cranked models here. Our hand-cranked model is a cheap old CucinaPro, which is probably tin plated cast iron. Nevertheless, it works just fine for me, in spite of terrible reviews on Amazon. Whenever bone-in chuck roast goes on sale my wife and I hurry to stock up, then we trim some of the fat off and grind ten or fifteen pounds into hamburger. Delicious! When we grind that much meat my arm gets tired but it’s worth it since the end product is so tasty. It is also very easy to clean.
Several of my friends think dehydrating many foods is an even better way to preserve them than canning because it’s more economical and you can fit a large quantity of dehydrated food into a very small space. For instance, 15 pounds of carrots will fit into a single quart jar with room to spare. That same 15 pounds canned would take several quart jars and lids. A ten-pound bag of potatoes, diced and dehydrated, fits into one quart and one pint jar. You can see where I’m going here. Lots more food, fewer jars, less cost, and less storage space.
Almost any vegetable, fruit or meat can be dehydrated and you can mix several ingredients in a single container so you have a meal in a jar. Vegetable beef stew, Beef and tomato macaroni with cheese, plain mac and cheese, just about any other casserole you can think of, blueberry pancakes, the list goes on. Use your imagination.
The main considerations in purchasing an electric food dehydrator are: heat and air flow distribution; ease of access to trays; versatility; quality of construction; design; and capacity. As always, cost is a factor.
There are two fundamental designs. The Stackable Trays design is found on the less expensive models such as Nesco/Amercan Harvest and L’equip. The Shelf Tray design is used by Excalibur and other manufacturers who make stainless steel models.
Heat and airflow is probably the most important factor, especially if you intend to dehydrate meat, since you’ll need a quality unit that can maintain a temperature between 145 - 155 degrees F to kill pathogens. You want an even flow of air, which assures even distribution of heat and the Shelf Tray design achieves this. Uneven heat and airflow is a common problem on inexpensive models built on the Stackable Tray design. That’s why you don’t want any of the cheapest models, since many don’t even have fans. Good quality Stackable Tray dehydrators are designed so the heated air flows up or down a central column and out across each tray to the edges. You do not have to rotate the trays to get even drying with these models.
Shelf Tray models allow easier access to all trays and are superior in this regard, period. Stackable models require you to lift and unstack them to gain access, which can be cumbersome and lead to spills.
Shelf Tray dehydrators are more versatile. You can lift out a few trays to dry taller items than would fit into a Stackable model, like if you wanted to make yogurt in your own jars or dry cut flowers.
I’ve never seen a Stackable Tray dehydrator made of stainless steel, whereas many of the Shelf Tray models are. To my mind, better materials equals better durability and thus better quality. Some folks worry about offgassing from plastic models. I do not, because of the low temperatures at which they all work. Most dehydrators are made of food grade plastic. The more expensive are made of stainless steel.
As far as capacity goes, more is better, because you will generally be dealing with large quantities of food as the same time. Here the advantage lies with Stackable Tray dehydrators, because they are easily expandable, just add more trays, while, because of the fixed dimensions of the box, Shelf Tray models are not.
All quality models will have an adjustable thermostat, since not all foods dry at the same temperatures, and a timer. All the good ones will run quietly.
My wife and I got lucky and found an old Harvest Maid Model FD-5000 Electric Dehydrator for $40 at a garage sale. It was very clean, and gently used. It works well and is designed a bit like much pricier models with the fan at the rear of the machine to blow heated air across all the trays evenly. It’s noisier than newer models but not annoying. Besides, we put it in the sunroom while it’s running, so we don’t hear it at all. They seem to be out of business now so getting parts will be dicey, which is the only thing wrong with this deal.
I just made banana chips with it and thought it took much longer than I thought it would (more than 24 hours) I think that was because I cut the bananas too thick. Still, it did work and they are tasty. Eight pounds of bananas would have more than half filled a quart jar.
If I was buying a new electric model, I’d look hard at these brands: Nesco/American Harvest (the Gardenmaster model), Excaliber, and TSM. Here is more about them.
The advantages of the Nesco American Harvest Gardenmaster Food Dehydrator are that it is widely available, relatively inexpensive ($124 and up), expandable in capacity up to 30 trays, and seems to be durable. Folks who use it like it. The disadvantage is it is of the Stackable Tray design and comes with the limitations discussed previously. Opinions vary on ease of cleaning. I don’t know, but seriously doubt, it is made in America.
Excalibur food dehydrators are widely touted by those who own them as being the very best. They have a sterling reputation for performance and durability, come in several models (including a couple made of stainless steel). They are of the Shelf Tray design so heat and airflow distribution and ease of access are not problems. There are plenty of accessories available. They are reputedly easy to clean and very quiet. They come with all the bells and whistles and are quite versatile. Best of all, they are made in America. The sole disadvantage to Excalibur dehydrators is that they are expensive $250 to $500.
TSM Stainless Steel Food Dehydrators are Shelf Tray models that appear to be of superior quality. They get rave reviews from owners, especially those who are avid cooks. They are made in America by The Sausage Maker, Inc. This 10-tray model looks like a once in a lifetime investment.
People worldwide have been using the sun to dry and preserve food since long before electricity was discovered. If you have a solar oven like those discussed previously you can use it to dehydrate food, though it has limited capacity and you’ll have to see it doesn’t get too hot.
I like the idea of building my own so I went on the Internet and found about a million free, how-to plans. The problem is, how do you know which one will work best and have the features you need? After mulling it over, I bought a copy of “The Solar Food Dryer” by Eben Fodor. I got mine on Amazon since I could combine it with another order and get free shipping. I highly recommend you get his book, as the knowledge I gained from it was invaluable. Plus, the book comes with the complete plans for building his SunWorks Food Dryer which is definitely on my to do list.
If you are not a complete do-it-yourselfer, but have some skills, you can buy Eben’s SunWorks Food Dryer kit and simply assemble it. It costs $350, but is large enough to handle the needs of a household, is made from quality materials, has adjustable vents to control temp and air flow, loads and unloads easily, is a breeze to clean, is pest proof, and the food screens are made from nonstick, food grade material. Here’s a link.
Both appear to me to be too flimsy to mess with, but check them out for yourself. There are other “hanging” type dehydrators out there also. It’s so windy where I live I think they’d end up behaving like windsocks, if they didn’t simply disintegrate.
The last, but certainly not least, item every kitchen should have is a hand cranked can opener. After all, not all cans come with pop-tops and if the power is out your electric can opener is a great paperweight. That’s not to mention opening cans with a knife is not only hard to do (unless you are well-practiced) but is also an invitation for a nasty cut.
We have two or three different models but until we got an Amco Swing-A-Way 6090 Easy Crank Can Opener my wife’s favorite can opener was me. She has arthritis in her hands and wrists, which made using most hand models hard.
I’m not saying it’s the best can opener out there, but with the long crank handle to give a person better leverage it makes opening standard cans easy.
As a backpacker, I would take a can of peaches along on long trips. (I can see the purists cringing at that extra weight.) I carried an old military model P-38 to open it, but those things were always a pain because the “handle” was too short to give you any leverage. Now I have the improved P-51 model, which is more robust.
I may never have to use it. In fact, I hope I never have to use it, but having a couple around is cheap peace of mind. Two of these have a home in each of my vehicle's Get Home Bags.
Since we’re talking about bugging in and weight it not an issue, canned goods are mostly cheap and very easy to store. They will also last almost indefinitely, in spite of “expiration dates” dreamed up by marketing execs to make you buy more. Perhaps of even greater importance, we are all familiar with canned goods. Besides, with your pressure canner you’ll be canning your own produce from your garden, or fruit from your trees, or meat from your chickens. Food that will not require refrigeration and that you know does not contain harmful chemicals or GMO’s.
My family stocks up when our local stores have case lot sales. We have a large variety of canned veggies from beans of all sorts to whole kernel and creamed corn, peas, spinach, mixed vegetables, green beans, black olives and asparagus. We have cases of canned pears, peaches, and pineapple, as those are our favorites. We have canned sauces, meats like tuna, chicken, roast beef, spam, potted meat, hams, and corned beef, soups, chili and stews. It's probably heresy to say this but we like canned goods.
In a survival situation, one of the best things about canned foods is that they require little or no preparation other than opening the can and heating the contents. Remember, you can eat canned goods right out of the can with no heating. You may not enjoy your meal from the standpoint of palatability, but that comes in a distant second to survival. And hey, you have several alternative ways to start a fire so you’ll be able to heat them up anyhow.
We can foods we grow ourselves as well as buy at stores or farmer’s markets including many vegetables, but we’re also learning how to make apple pie filling, cherry pie filling, pomegranate jelly and prickly pear jelly. I’ve made bread and butter pickles, sweet gherkins and spicy pinto beans. It’s an evolving experience, the beauty of which is, your home canned products taste better than their store bought counterparts--unless you mess up the recipe like I did with my first batch of chili beans--but that’s another story.
We are learning to can meat, chicken, beef and pork for starters. As with all efforts at canning we use the Ball Blue Book as our guide even though it’s no longer blue.
An added advantage to putting up your own food is that working together in the kitchen brings the whole family closer, developing stronger bonds and good memories that will last a lifetime.
I haven’t yet built or bought any of those fancy roll out type shelf units for cans or jars. I just stack the cases up on top of each other and shift them if I need something from the bottom. It’s not a very efficient system but it gives me some exercise and it works.
So, put that pressure canner to work and start stocking up on foods you’ve prepared yourself. One final hint or reminder is if you get one of those single-burner, turkey fryer propane grills like the Bayou Classic mentioned previously you can do your canning outside and avoid heating up your kitchen.
What To Do With The Food In Your Refrigerator
If you’ve lost power and can’t get it back on the meat in your freezer will probably not stay frozen for more than three days. Anything in your refrigerator won’t last that long. Start cooking and canning by any means at your disposal. Preserve what you can, while you can. Fish, chicken, and pork, except for bacon, will go bad first, so begin with them. Beef tends to last longer, maybe just because it tends to be in bigger chunks. Food lasts longer after it’s cooked, and for a very long time after it’s canned. And yes, you can preserve food by canning it on a propane grill. Many here in Arizona do exactly that to avoid heating up the house.
If you have a solar food dehydrator start slicing your meat into thin strips, add some salt and pepper and make jerky. If you don’t have one, roll your car out of the garage and into the sun, take a few window screens off your house and clean them off. Place the strips of meat on the screens and stick them inside your car with the windows raised. I can’t guarantee it will get hot enough in your area to dry the meat and prevent spoilage but it does here in Arizona.
Unless you know how to make cheese quickly there’s not much you can do about dairy products like milk and sour cream but consume them before they spoil. There are a variety of dehydrated milk products as well as shelf stable milks that need no refrigeration, but we’ll get to those later. Meanwhile, here are a few links to learning how to make your own cheese. Now, I understand that unless you’re an urban goat farmer, the likelihood of you having the fresh dairy products available to make your own cheese is a bit remote but knowledge weighs nothing and the more of it you have the better.
Butter will last for at least a week outside the fridge even if it’s very hot where you live. I’ve read articles that say you can melt butter, pour it in a canning jar and put the top on and it will keep for months if kept in a cool, dry, dark place. Opinions differ about the wisdom of doing this but I come down along side those who do it.
Eggs can be taken from the fridge and coated with mineral oil or jojoba oil, placed small end down in their cartons, and left at room temperature for up to five months. Some preppers say this keeps them good for up to a year.
Most eggs will keep at room temperature for a month according to Mother Earth News, which surprised the heck out me. My wife simply refuses to believe anything left outside the fridge for more than a few hours is safe. The evidence says otherwise but try telling her that--I dare you.
Hard cheeses, like cheddar, romano, parmesan, swiss, gruyere or colby can be coated with cheese wax (and ONLY cheese wax) and will last for months. They will age and get “sharper” but they’ll last. When we do this we wash the cheese first with vinegar to kill any germs lurking on the surface before we wax it, then pat it dry. We wear food handling gloves and we use black cheese wax since it lets in less light than red or yellow wax. We apply several thin coats of wax. I prefer dipping the cheese into the wax, once the wax is heated to about 200 degrees. My wife uses an old basting brush.
If you don’t have cheese wax, put the cheese in a ziplock bag and “vacuum” seal it by mostly closing the bag and then placing the opening to your lips and sucking the air out as you finish zipping the bag closed. Cheeses are made with active cultures and need to “breathe” but ziplock bags are air permeable so it’s okay. In spite of what I just told you I vacuum seal cut up chunks of bulk cheeses with my vacuum sealer and then freeze them. They last for months and months.
I’m not going to go into salting or smoking meat because unless you have bunches of salt in storage you won’t have enough and because you probably don’t want a column of smoke going up from your backyard advertising your position to one and all. If you are interested here’s a link.
Now that you and your family have eaten or preserved the food in your fridge and freezer let’s get into the types of foods you should stockpile for an emergency. I will start with the easiest to prepare and consume and move on from there.
Gorp is a shelf-stable, high carb, high calorie food that can be kept in baggies, or jars. It can be vacuum sealed and frozen or left out at room temperature. Once mixed, Gorp requires no preparation, making it the practically perfect survival food. Its only drawback is that it doesn’t last very long, especially around children, (or me) because it’s totally yummy.
“Okay, enough already,” you say. What the heck is Gorp?
Gorp is a mixture of chocolate, dried fruit and nuts. You mix it up yourself, using whatever types of those things you like most. It is the basis for all modern trail mixes.
My basic “recipe” called for plain M&M’s, raisins, and peanuts, with roughly half again as much of raisins and peanuts as M&M’s. I would later add hulled sunflower seeds, cashews, pecans, almonds, macadamias, dried pineapple, apple and bananas. (I’m drooling just thinking about it.) I’ve since started substituting M&M Peanuts. I am soooo bad.
Seriously though, this stuff got me through winter mountaineering expeditions where you lost weight if you ate 6000 calories per day.
If you’re Type II diabetic, leave out most of the chocolate by using M&M peanuts or some other less sweet item you like. If TSHTF you will be so busy trying to keep yourself and your family alive weight is going to melt off you like butter in a hot pan, which could ease your diabetes. I guess it’s an “ill wind that blows no good” situation, huh. Though it is obviously better for everyone if you get in shape before TSHTF. That last bit of advice is a DAISNAID, Do As I Say Not As I DO, since I’m now in my 60’s and struggling to lose weight.
Self-heating Meals Ready to Eat (MRE’s)
MRE’s are still being called Meals Rejected by Everyone by soldiers but, in my opinion, that is not because they taste bad. It’s because soldiers, who love to gripe, and who are always coming up with clever alternative wordings for military acronyms and who often invent their own (FUBAR, SNAFU) get tired of eating the same food all the time. It’s called appetite fatigue and, if you don’t stock a variety of foods, it will happen to your family.
Note: I always get the MRE’s WITH the heaters (they are available without).
“A” Packs (manufactured by Ameriqual) contain 12 meals (2 each of 6 different types). Each meal is a bit over 1050 calories -- be sure to check, some civilian type MRE’s have as few as 500 calories per meal. They are sold online at: The Ready Store, and dozens of other places, or more cheaply at Meyer’s Custom Supply (both below). I’ve tried all six menus (literally labeled Menu # 1 through 6) and enjoyed all but Menu 1’s Chicken with Black Beans and Rice (which I normally like, so maybe my taster was off that day). All of the side dishes were good.
“Sure Pak” MRE’s (manufactured by Sopakco) have a wider variety of meals though again they come 12 to a case, like above. They contain roughly the same average daily calorie count (1058) as the A packs. I’ve tried the H, J, and L menus and like most of the entrees and the side dishes. The Epicenter (below) has a deal where you can pick the entrees you want. Good pricing too.
My advice is to get a few individual packets of these meals and see if you and your family find them palatable (most find them surprisingly good). Then order case lots and store them. The manufacturers claim shelf-lives of about 5 years, but I’ve read accounts of people eating them when they were 15 years old who said they were fine.
Back in the ’70’s I did quite a bit of backpacking in the Colorado mountains and elsewhere. I choked down C rations and Pemmican bars and peanut butter and jelly on crackers. I ate fresh caught trout and mountain strawberries and raspberries. But mostly, I gobbled Gorp (above). Then an outfit called Mountain House came up with something called Freeze-Dried food and all of a sudden I was eating Beef Stroganoff, Chili Mac, Beef Stew, even Neapolitan Ice Cream and loving it.
There are now several manufacturers of Freeze-Dried Foods. Here are the ones I’ve tried: Mountain House; Alpine Aire; Augason Farms; BackPacker’s Pantry; Honeyville Farms; Saratoga Farms; Thrive from Shelf Reliance; and Wise Foods. I’ve noted a few of my favorites as I wrote this.
All of them have their strengths and weaknesses -- the chief weakness being they are expensive. Mountain House, Alpine Aire and BackPacker’s Pantry have lots of different entrees. They are, after all, primarily in the business of feeding campers, so they put together complete meals that tend to be good tasting and easy to prepare, requiring only hot water. All of these companies offer Number 10 cans as well as mylar pouches and Alpine Aire’s Gourmet Reserve meals apparently have a self-heating option.
I am not alone in thinking Mountain House Chili Mac is excellent, but so is their Creamed Beef. At least those are my favorites. Beef & Broccoli Stir Fry from BackPacker’s Pantry is one of my all time favorites. Alpine Aire’s Hawaiian Style Teriyaki Chicken is very, very good.
Augason Farms, Honeyville Farms; Saratoga Farms and Thrive offer large selections of staples like grains, beans and rice but also dairy products, vegetables, fruits, meat substitutes (TVP) and meats. Because everything they sell comes in Number 10 cans or larger they are a bit more economical. They also sell entrees, several of which are really good. Perhaps the best thing about these companies is that you can use their ingredients to build your own meals and therefore are in better control of your portions. The only drawback to the Number 10 cans is that once they are opened the contents have a six-month to one-year shelf life. I take manufacturer shelf life recommendations with a huge grain of salt since they are determined by lawyers and marketing specialists, not by scientists or food experts -- but that’s just me.
I know it’s not an entree but I really like the Augason Farms Cheesy Broccoli Soup, though I add extra cheese. Likewise with Saratoga Farms Bacon Potato Chowder, to which, you guessed it, I add cheese. Thrive’s Macaroon Cookies are delicious and most of their dairy products and fruits are really good. Honeyville Farms gets my vote for best Powdered Whole Eggs and for their Freeze Dried Blueberry Yogurt.
Wise Foods sells long term food storage and supply kits to preppers. They put together entrees, many of which are good, package them in four person servings (so if there is only one or two of you, less can potentially go to waste than if it was in a Number 10 can), and pack them in stackable, grab and go, food grade, polyethylene buckets. Their meals have shelf lives ranging from 15 to 25 years. One of the things I like about Wise Foods is that, instead of simply selling you a package of freeze dried chicken to add to one of their meals, they give you a choice of teriyaki or southwestern or roasted chicken flavors. They do the same thing with beef. One of my favorite dishes is their Creamy Ala King & Rice to which I add some of their Roasted Chicken.
Note: The only thing I have against all of these companies (except BackPacker’s Pantry) is that their “individual” portions are too small, with virtually all being less than 300 calories. So when you are shopping for Freeze Dried or Dehydrated Foods read the labels closely. Sometimes a “meal” is only a couple of hundred calories and sometimes “feeds two” means “if they are both anorexic.” I can easily polish off a “two person” meal by myself and go looking for more. According to the USDA 2010 Dietary Guidelines an adult woman who wants to maintain her weight should consume between 1600 and 2000 calories per day, and adult man between 2000 and 3000, depending upon age and activity level. Now, don’t quote me on this but I’ve heard that in Auschwitz the SS fed their prisoners 1100 calories per day while working them. Most of them starved to death. So, read the labels and do the math to see how many so-called servings you will need per meal to stay healthy.
One further tip -- if you live at altitudes above 3000 feet I’d double the time they say to leave the food rehydrating before I ate it. Better yet, add the water to it and let it soak for a couple of hours before heating it up.
Dehydrated/Dried and Staple Foods
I’ve already covered the companies I’ve dealt with who make these foods. If you lay in a decent and varied supply of them you can make almost anything you can cook with fresh ingredients. You just have that extra step of re-hydrating the food to go through. The main advantage of these foods is that you already eat many of them. Do you use instant potatoes? Minute Rice? Do you eat pasta? Beans? Fruit leathers? Raisins? Oatmeal? Unless you grow your own herbs (good idea), most of your spices are dehydrated or at least dried.
But there are other categories of dried foods many folks don’t think about -- grains, diary products, baking powders and sugar. Most preppers store wheat, rice, corn and oats at the minimum, then grind their own flour or cornmeal. Why? Because processed flour won’t last long after TSHTF. It will get buggy, or moldy, or simply be used up, since everybody who isn’t gluten intolerant loves bread. So think of storing wheat, rice, corn or oats as storing flour or corn meal long term.
Other people store rye, barley, millet and pretty much every other grain you can think of.
I like pinto beans and navy beans. My wife loves limas. Stored in mylar bags with oxygen absorbers any seed or grain you want to eat can last for years. They’ll last longer and be much more rodent and insect proof if you place the mylar bags inside food grade plastic five gallon buckets.
We dehydrate potato cubes and slices, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, peas, beets, tomatoes, apples and strawberries, then vacuum seal them in canning jars. Bananas and pineapples will be impossible to obtain after TSHTF so in they go. We recently discovered it’s possible to dehydrate oranges and grapefruits. Of course, grapes make raisins. I’ve even heard rumors of cantaloupe and watermelon being processed like this but I wasn’t able to confirm them. Also, dehydrating wet fruits like oranges or pineapple takes forever and you have to rotate or flip them a couple of times to get uniform drying. If you slice pineapple into very thin rings they dry much faster.
Many of my friends make so-called hamburger rocks as well as jerky. It’s a great way to preserve meat without refrigeration though I’ve heard that it won’t make good hamburger patties because it won’t fully reconstitute. In other words, it’s tough and chewy. The fix for this problem is to add breadcrumbs to your ground hamburger, chicken or turkey, before you dehydrate it. This allows more water or broth or sauce (whatever you’re using) to penetrate the meat as it re-hydrates. Voila! Tender meat. Here is a link about this subject.
Even the hamburger rocks that didn’t have breadcrumbs in them that I’ve eaten in spaghetti sauce and casseroles, where it had a long time to soak up the juices, tasted fine. In any event, just about any lean meat can be dehydrated -- fish, chicken, lean ham, rabbit, venison, elk and turkey. Lean meats dehydrate best because fats can turn rancid and cause the drying meat to spoil. Many cook the meat first (especially chicken, turkey and lean hamburger), then dehydrate it or make jerky out of it. Here’s a link to a chicken jerky recipe where they cooked it first.
Dairy products such as dehydrated cheese, butter and milk are available from many of the same companies that make freeze dried foods. I’m not crazy about any powdered milk, but then I didn’t like skim milk when I first tried it, and now it’s all I drink or use on cereal. Any milk that isn’t skim tastes like cream to me. My point is, tastes change and adapt, and if it’s the only milk you have you’ll learn to like it.
According to people who use powdered milk you can add the fat into it to improve the flavor by adding either a pat of unsalted butter to the water, blend that and the milk together and let it sit in the fridge overnight. Accomplish the same by adding a cup of evaporated milk per gallon of dehydrated milk. Another way to improve the flavor is to add a few drops of vanilla to it -- again let it sit in the fridge overnight then shake it up to get some air into it.
In a taste test of powdered milk brands done by Adventures in Self Reliance Blog the Morning Moos brand (donated by Augason Farms) was the clear winner scoring 4 out of 5 possible taste points, but it has added whey, creamer, coconut oil and sugar. The milk (and this is just milk) from Provident Pantry (Emergency Essentials) came in second with a score of 3.5. Third was Country Fresh Farms (Walmart) which scored 3.29. Then there was Country Cream from Grandma’s Country Foods that people either loved or hated. It got a few 1‘s but the most common score was 4 for an average of 2.77. If I was using it to cook with or bake, I’d use the ones that are real milk with no additives like Provident Pantry.
It’s also important to check the directions to see how much powder you must add to get a gallon of milk as it varies greatly and that impacts the cost per gallon. Morning Moos took 2 cups per gallon, Provident Pantry used 2 ⅔, Country Fresh a whopping 5 ⅓, and Country Cream took 3 cups.
Another consideration is how hard is it to mix up? Morning Moos mixed easily in warm water. So did Provident Pantry and Country Cream. Country Fresh did not mix well and was referred to as a big pain.
The instant butter is perfectly fine in baked goods. I haven’t seen any that reconstitutes into actual butter -- it’s more like a sauce. If you can set it in the fridge it will set up a bit. The Thrive Butter Powder (from Shelf Reliance) tastes great on toast, pancakes, or on veggies, but you cannot fry with it.
Provident Pantry Freeze Dried Cheddar Cheese (Emergency Essentials) gets raves from those who have tried it. I tasted some at a Survival Expo and could not tell the difference between it and regular melted cheddar. Very good.
Salt, sugar, syrup, honey, baking soda, baking powder, corn meal, corn starch, bouillon, brown sugar, powdered sugar, shortening, and every spice you use in cooking should be part of your preparation. I use Agave nectar as a sweetener. Others use Agave to make Tequila, but that too, is another story.
You do not want to run out of salt so, unless you live near a salt lick, or by the ocean or the Great Salt Lake where you can mine the stuff, store at least twice as much as you think you’ll need. It’s cheap, just takes up room. After TSHTF it should make a great trade item. You can vacuum seal it in jars or even just put it in a jar with an oxygen absorber if you’re worried about it drawing humidity during long term storage.
Sugar is another commodity we take for granted, but how many of us know how to refine sugar from sugarcane or sugar beets? How many of us even have access to those crops? Not I, and probably not you. So stock up big time then store it like you do your salt.
Honey will likely be the sweetener of choice in the years following a SHTF event so an intelligent person like you will want to learn the art of beekeeping. I am not getting into that subject here since I know nothing about it and my only firsthand knowledge of gathering wild honey involved helping my dad smoke/sedate a hive in a honey tree I found exploring the local woods. After the smoke settled them down, he broke open part of the dead tree and scooped out several large chunks of honeycomb he placed in a bucket before covering it with a cloth. I may get into this area of homesteading eventually, if for no other reason than honey would be an excellent trade item and bees are always welcome in the gardens. Google beekeeping if you’re interested.
Honey will last indefinitely and has antiseptic properties if applied to wounds. Honey found in King Tut's tomb was still palatable.
Lard will last longer than butter if your fridge goes off and stays off. At room temperature it should be okay for six months to a year. But unless you have refrigeration, it will eventually go bad. Here’s the answer. Thrive Shortening Powder. It will last for years, unopened and up to a year after you open it.
Gossner Foods also makes UHT milk in several fat contents and flavors. They even make shelf stable whipping cream. They appear to be less expensive than Parmalat and offer a longer shelf life on the package. Gossner Foods makes it’s products in the USA and can often be found at the Dollar Tree. YouTuber Katzcradul taste tested the whole milk version of this product to 15 months past the “best by” date and found it still tasted as good as when she first got it. I will definitely be grabbing some of this to try.
You can get canned butter, canned ghee (clarified butter that makes a good cooking oil) and canned cheese - Red Feather from New Zealand. Buy it on Amazon or from places like Internet Grocer since they have the best prices I’ve found, though it is pricey.
You can always can your own butter, cheese and meat and even whole meals. There must be hundreds of YouTube videos on the subject.
Warning: the USDA and FDA do NOT recommend canning your own dairy products so proceed at your own risk.
One thing many people overlook is the need for a supply of good multivitamins as emergency rations can be thin of nutrients. We get ours in large containers from Costco, though I’m pretty sure we get all the vitamins we need from our garden and milk.
Homemade Survival Meals
All of these meals can be prepared by simply adding two cups of very hot water and letting it sit for twenty minutes, or longer if you are at altitudes above 3,000 feet. They are nutritionally balanced. Each meal fits into a one quart ziplock bag, or they can be vacuum-sealed. All vegetables, dairy, fruit and meats are either freeze-dried, dried, or dehydrated. I’ve left out specific amounts of each because this is only to give you the idea and you’ll have to experiment to see what you like in what proportion.
Rice, broccoli, powdered cheese
Ramen noodles, veggies, bouillon, chopped meat
Ramen noodles, beef, onions, sour cream powder, mushrooms
Ramen noodles, beef, instant onion soup, veggies, garlic powder, ginger, cilantro
Ramen noodles, ham, peas, Parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes
Rice, veggies, bouillon, meat
Rice, vanilla instant breakfast, powdered milk, cinnamon, cranberries, sugar (love it)
Rice, curry powder, chicken, bouillon, onion, garlic, turmeric, cashews
Beans (instant), beef, onion, tomato and tomato powder, chili powder
Instant mashed potato, ham or bacon bits, sour cream powder, onion, parsley
Instant oatmeal, cranberries, ground flax, chopped pecans, cinnamon
Instant oatmeal and blueberries, strawberries or raisins (I eat this a lot)
Instant farina wheat with the same added ingredients as the oatmeal above
Granola, fruit, vanilla instant breakfast, powdered milk (add cold water ... no need to heat water)
That's it until next month folks when I'll cover Fresh Foods
See you next month--and I would definitely appreciate any feedback you can give me on either Bugging In or my Dying Time Trilogy or how to improve my website.
I AM NOT ASSOCIATED WITH ANY OF THESE BUSINESSES IN ANY CAPACITY OTHER THAN THAT OF CUSTOMER. I OFFER THESE RECOMMENDATIONS BASED EITHER ON MY OWN PERSONAL EXPERIENCE WITH THE PRODUCTS OR MY HAVING RESEARCHED THEM EXHAUSTIVELY. USE MY RECOMMENDATIONS AT YOUR OWN RISK.