Lessons learned

5 May

Recently I was asked by a group trying to collect a “best of” preparedness ideas to submit the top 3 things I’ve learned from cooking with food storage.  It got me thinking, as I wrote it up, that it might be helpful information to those here visiting too.  So today, instead of a recipe, I’m offering instead some “food for thought” from someone who, I assure you, has had plenty of mishaps along the way in cooking with food storage. And it’s no wonder… trying to cook with ingredients and methods that are totally different from what we’re used to equates to a steep learning curve, one that costs money (from thrown away food) and time.  Been there and done that.  Thank goodness it’s been during a time when my family hasn’t depended on the food we store to survive, as I’ve many times ended up calling out for pizza to save dinner the nights recipes have bombed (which explains my family’s support of me in this project :)).  Anyway, for what it’s worth, here’s my top 3 tips when trying to store food that your family will eat:

  1.  After storing the basics (flour, wheat, milk, rice, etc.) what you store should be based around a meal plan of foods that your family will eat.  When I first started branching out past basics I bought all kinds of cans of freeze dried foods thinking I was going to have a great variety of choices available  if we ever needed to break into it.  You know how many times I’ve used that can of freeze dried cauliflower?  Never.  Freeze dried onions on the other hand have been something I use all the time.  If you were planning your family menu for a month you’d never go to the store and just buy ingredients hoping it would all work out into something in the end.  It’s the same for food storage, but with food storage you’re putting a lot more money and trust into your investment.  Going along with this is the idea that if you’re going to buy food to store *be sure* it’s quality food.  Try it first if you can before buying a lot of it.  The truth of it is, cooking with food storage is difficult as it is — high quality ingredients are *the only way to go*.  I’ve done a lot of research since starting this looking into taste tests on certain products to know which ones to try (this after throwing away a lot of canned food I wish I hadn’t bought). The reason being that with one bad product you can ruin an entire meal!  So if you want it to be used rather than thrown away (whether while keeping it rotated or in an emergency) it’s much much better to pay a little more for quality starting out.
  2. You will have the best luck getting your family to eat from your food storage if you use your ingredients to make meals that look and taste like things they’re already familiar with. Along with this the opposite is true…you’ll have a very difficult time getting them to eat food they’ve never seen before, emergency or not (esp. with young children and the elderly) and it doesn’t matter how hungry they are!  This, again, goes back to making a plan.  It’s not hard to make up “food storage” versions of family favorites, subbing in storeable ingredients for fresh.  Make a list of the types of foods your family already likes to eat and go from there rather than trying to turn a #10 can of something into food you’ve never eaten before.
  3. It’s critical to have a back up plan as far as cooking and baking tools goes.  You may have all the food in the world but without some way to cook it you’ll be stuck.  Along with this, consider fuel.  It’s really next to impossible to store enough fuel to cook like we’re used to cooking.  Because of this a back up like a wonder oven that cuts your need for fuel is such a great option to have.   For baking there’s really no other replacement for a sun oven.  It will pay for itself in the fuel costs you’ll save from using it now and be an invaluable tool for times of emergency.  Other tools that I’ve discovered can really expand your ability to cook from your food storage (my top 5) would be: a pasta maker, a manual food mill, a high quality can opener, a cast iron tortilla press and pots/containers for cooking different things with a wonder oven and sun oven.

2 Responses to “Lessons learned”

  1. PlicketyCat May 5, 2012 at 4:29 am #

    In addition to sun ovens and wonder boxes, stove-top & grill-top portable ovens do allow some baking and roasting on wood, charcoal and gas cookers. Particularly useful for those of us who are already planning on woodstoves for heat!

    A couple supplementary lessons I learned:
    1) Store foods in useful amounts for your family. A 28 oz can of soup is too much for 2 people, and you need a lot of 5 oz cans of tuna to feed a family of 8!

    2) Store your foods how you’d use them. Rather than 5 gallon buckets that contain a bulk amount of only one thing, consider putting smaller packages of a variety of things into a weekly/monthly bucket. That you aren’t digging through a dozen buckets to restock your pantry, you can just grab the next combo bucket. This really helps promote FIFO and good inventory tracking on bulk staples!

    3) Don’t forget the seasonings! Herbs, spices, sauces and condiments can make a world of difference when it comes to pantry meals.

    4) In addition to the best grain mill you can afford, and the heavy-dutiest can opener you can afford (or as many cheaper ones as you can afford), make sure you splurge on the heavy-duty metal bucket wrench/lid lifter if you plan to store in buckets… the cheap plastic ones will break when it’s least convenient. For buckets you access often or might need fast access to, the cost of spin-top gamma lids is totally worth it!

    • myfoodstoragecookbook May 5, 2012 at 6:23 pm #

      Thanks — you filled in the blanks. I can’t believe I forgot to mention grain mills!! Great idea about simplifying with the weekly/monthly buckets. I’ve caught myself before not using something only because it’s difficult at the moment to go and get out of a big bucket. I’m going to try that.

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