Monday, February 1, 2010

7 super-easy, mostly healthy meals anyone can store (and eat)

Do you want to start storing food in the case of an oil shock, trucker strike, quarantine, widespread crop failure, hyperinflation, ice storm, blizzard or hurricane... or even a job loss or family sickness? Perhaps you live in an apartment where you don't have a garden, or maybe you don't have the money to spend on a specialty item like a grain mill or a big freezer full of meat. And if disaster, or just inconvenience and discomfort, strikes, you might not want to be spending hours over the (camp or wood) stove cooking.

To make an entire meal easily storeable for many months, storeable without electricity (no generator required), yet available from the grocery store (no specialty freeze-dried items required), I eliminated meat, dairy, eggs, and fresh fruits and vegetables. I also chose meals that could be prepared with little cooking experience (no need to bake bread, tortillas or scones) , in a short amount of time (and thus low fuel use) or which could be cooked in a Sun Oven. If you have a garden, root cellar, and chickens, or you have a spot to store garlic/onions/sweet potatoes/butternut squash in your house, you'll have many more options. If you know how to make yogurt and cheese from dry milk that can be stored, you'll have even more options.

Over the long term, I encourage everyone to buy food from the Farmer's Market, Co-ops and CSA's, local ranchers, and from their own garden, but not everyone is already used to that life - and you shouldn't wait to store food until you are! Many of you are already transitioning to a more sustainable lifestyle, which to many people means growing and preserving your own food, which you can then store. But you can start food storage even before you get that far.

So here's a short starter list for people who want to lay in a month or two or three of food that can be eaten and rotated regularly without too much effort. Three caveats: first, since this is a mostly vegetarian list of meals, this diet may be lacking in vitamin B12 - so consider getting some vitamins to meet that need. Second, these meals are heavy on the canned foods, which means you may be getting some more sodium than you normally do. Three, because of the dependency on beans for your protein/calories, this diet may be higher on fiber than you are used to. If so, you probably need to drink extra water to help the fiber pass through.

Meal 1: Pasta and pasta sauce with green beans

What could be easier? Pasta and pasta sauce are easily available, reasonably cheap, and fairly healthy. The tomatoes in pasta sauce contain both vitamin C and A, and pasta sauce comes in many different types to provide a flavor variety. Pasta is quick-cooking, and this meal can also be cooked as a one-pot meal in the Sun Oven. Canned green beans provide a little green in the diet.

Meal 2: Beans, rice and salsa

Hmmm, this sounds a little like a naked burrito. Beans and rice combine to provide a complete protein, beans offer many nutrients, and almost no one is allergic to rice. Rice will also provide a break for your body from eating all the grains that contain gluten. Salsa adds flavor, color, and vegetables (onions, tomatoes, peppers). White rice has a very long shelf life (you can also use brown rice, but it has a shorter shelf life), and canned beans have a shelf life of several years. Dried beans can be bought in bulk, and take less space, but require much more cooking time.

Meal 3: Vegetarian chili with corn

Combine two cans of different beans, a can of corn, a can of tomatoes, some water, whatever herbs and spices are available, and voila! Crowd pleaser comfort food with little cooking time. The combination of beans and corn provides protein, and the tomatoes provide vitamin C and A. I like to add barbeque sauce for the smoky sweet rich flavor. This is a great meal to cook in the Sun Oven, and is another non-gluten meal.

Meal 4: Oatmeal with raisins/dried fruit, honey, and cinammon

More comfort food. Oatmeal (not the instant kind) has a shelf life of several years and comes in conveniently storeable packages; and is full of fiber and protein (for a grain). The dried fruit can add various vitamins depending on which ones you pick. People often yearn for sweets during stress, so this meal will provide some sweet taste. This combination can be eaten for breakfast for weeks with no complaints (in my case, anyway). It also cooks pretty quickly.

Meal 5: Peanut butter and honey or jam

OK, this might not be strictly a meal without bread. But peanut butter is a good source of fat that stores well - the storeably hydrogenated stuff anyway; and honey lasts forever (although it may need to be heated to de-crystallize it). This is a tasty snack that will comfort people who are bored, yearning for sweets, or getting cranky. PLUS, it requires no cooking, and is very portable.

Meal 6: Bean and pasta salads

Personally, I like the combination of pasta, garbanzo beans, sundried tomatoes, canned artichokes and olives, with a sauce of olive oil and vinegar and herbs. I also like garbanzo beans, kidney beans, and corn with olive oil, red vinegar and herbs. There are many combinations to experiment with, and you might store several to keep the variety up. This "meal" may not seem like a meal to a carnivore, but it does provide a lot of nutrients, fiber, and flavor.

Meal 7: Pasta and tuna salad with peas

Canned tuna will provide some "meat" for people who are used to eating it. The cans and packets aren't really cheap, so this could be a special treat of a meal. Frozen peas are superior to canned, but hey, cans will stay stored with no electricity - and the peas provide some green color and nutrition. Add some olive oil and cracked pepper, and it's pretty tasty.

So, to summarize, the above seven meals are a "starter" list that provides calories, protein, fiber, nutrition, some variety, and flavor. They aren't gourmet, but they do offer the basics that you can get from your local grocery store in an easily cookable format. And once you get these items stored, you can mix and match for more variety. Disclaimer: Keep in mind, these are just examples to get you started thinking - you should store what your family will eat and what will meet your family's dietary needs. Obviously, this won't meet the needs of a two month old infant (for example) or someone who is allergic to gluten.

To make these meals, you will need to store, date and rotate:

- Rice
- Pasta
- Canned beans (several varieties: kidney, black, pinto, garbanzo)
- Pasta sauce
- Canned diced tomatoes
- Canned corn
- Canned green beans and peas
- Salsa
- Peanut butter
- Tuna (canned or packets)
- Assorted variety extras: canned olives, sundried tomatoes, jarred red peppers, canned artichokes (as desired)
- Dried fruit (raisins, craisins, apricots, prunes, etc.)
- Olive oil
- Vinegar
- Honey
- Cinammon
- Salt /pepper
- Chili powder/cumin/oregano

And, of course, water, a NON-electric can-opener, and some combination of ways to cook without electricity: woodstove or fireplace insert, rocket stove, Sun Oven, Kelly Kettle, haybox cooker, etc. These meals can also easily be supplemented with snacks: Tang, dried fruit, canned fruit, sauerkraut, pickles, applesauce, lollipops, lemonade mix, hot chocolate mix, etc. Don't forget to store tea and coffee if you're a caf-aholic!

For more resources see: Apocalypse Chow, The Crisis Preparedness Handbook, and Sharon Astyk's online Food Storage series (LOTS more links there).


Sharlene T. said...

What a great post! Very well thought out and and perfect for printing to use as a checklist. Thank you.

Dan said...

That was a great article. I am happy you mentioned the sun oven and kelly kettle. So many people for get how to cook off grid. I sell alot of them on my website at