Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Got Food?

It has been a pretty lousy year for food harvests, all over the globe. America had the Mid-Western floods April to June. Drought conditions led to widespread slaughter of herds. Kind of a cool Summer in Europe. Most rice producing countries are not exporting any surplus these days. Do a bit of research and look at commodity prices and you can conclude supplies are tight and getting tighter.

Food is one of those gotta haves... You buy what there is and pay what you have to, or you go hungry. Go hungry long enough and you starve. With poor harvest, and minimal supplies in a world with 7 Billion mouths to feed, and inflation set to run wild on fiat money; you can depend on escalating prices for food, especially the items you prefer to eat.

Investing in food, or even just stocking up will soon pay dividends. When you begin to build a food supply you're enabled to shop aggressively and optimize your buying; plus you have food to eat or trade. Rather doubtful that in this economy that quality food will cost less in the future. So, how do you build a food supply to see you and your family through monetary or societal collapse?

Many sources for "survival food". There've been sellers of freeze dried meals in institutional pack #10 cans since the 80s. Nitro-Pak was an early source, and there was a firm in Utah that sold survival food and surplus gear of all sorts. Now with the internet and the Y2K concerns, there are many sellers of freeze dried foods, but few sources for Whole Grains, herbs, and other foodstuffs which really give you more options.

In late 1990, we bought some #10 packed grains from Arrowhead Mills in Hereford TX. At the time they had a subsidiary that packaged variety packs or sold whole grains packaged for very longterm shelf life. To a beginner Survivalist, these seemed like a good idea. A couple years later, we had adapted macrobiotics and learned much about using whole grains, so would have chosen other solutions.

Wasn't until 1995 that we really got into food storage. We'd been buying Organic Brown Rice for several years, and other grains, but not packing them for longterm storage. We'd lost several 50lb bags of grain to mold due to condensation and new there had to be a better way. We did soon learn how to use 5gal buckets with gasket lock lids and dry ice to keep our grains for many years.

Organic Short-grain Brown Rice is the finest all-around grain for a storage plan. White rice is polished, that is the husk is removed and only the starchy kernel remains. Tastes great, but has no nutritional value. May as well be eating corn starch. The husk is where the nutrition is.

Brown Rice combined with beans makes a Complete Protein. Beans and rice offer the best value and longest storing source for protein. Beans come in many varieties. Can't really endorse soybeans as overly tasty, but they are used to make a wide variety of high protein processed foods like Tofu, Miso, and other products. If you own soybeans you have the basis for many nutritious items, but they aren't much cooked up in a pot and served over rice...

Macrobiotics is a Japanese inspired diet that offers many restorative health properties. Many testimonials from cancer survivors who began the macro-diet when diagnosed. Also useful for building your immune system and optimizing your health. Might want to check your library and read a couple of macro books, especially the cookbooks. Lots of great recipes and ideas for those using WholeGrain Food Storage. Hiroshima and Nagasaki victims were largely restored to health by dark red and brown Miso Soup. Miso is a fermented soybean paste soup-base that stores almost forever. Probably want a few tubs of Miso on hand. Doesn't require refrigeration. Tastes great and can serve as a base for many meals.

Whole grains will store virtually forever. You may hear that Brown Rice will go rancid in short term storage. In 2009 we opened a 5gal bucket of rice put up in 1997 and the taste was perfect as was the grain. We have put up lots of buckets of rice and none seem to show signs of any problems.

Grains, beans, and legumes we've stored include: Short-grain Brown rice, Yellow Corn, Golden Wheat and Hard Red Winter Wheat, Oats, Soybeans, green & red lentils. Plus these bean varieties: Black, Red, Kidney, Navy/White, Anasazi, Adzuki, Black Soybean, and Garbanzo. We grind wheatberries for flour. If you are gluten intolerant, you can grind brown rice. Beans can also be ground for flour. Ezekiel bread is a very nutritious recipe every survivalists kitchen ought bring forth. We have a couple of Corona grain mills. Good quality item, but take forever to grind a fine milled flour. We use an electric grinder to mill rice and wheat. Highly recommend an electric grinder. There are quality hand-grinders, but the cost is usually more than a good electric. We have a Kel-Tec mill and can grind 25lbs of flour in under 30min.

To store whole grains we use new 5gal paint buckets and gasket lids from Sherwyn-Williams. Wipe these out with vinegar on a cloth or paper towel before you begin filling them. Many supermarkets sell Dry Ice/CO-2 these days. About $5 for a 2lb brick. Buy your dry ice after you have all your grains and buckets ready to go, because it will gassify unless you have a -110F freezer to store it in.

We don't use oxygen absorbers or mylar bags as so many tout as necessary. We fill all the buckets we are doing about 1/3 full and then wrap the Dry Ice Brick in a towel and smash it into small chips about fingernail size with a hammer. Then layer about 8 chips in on top of the first third of grain, add another layer of 1/3 fill, and add more chips. Do the same until reaching the top of bucket. Be sure to leave enough room for the lid to seal. The lid will press in so leave a gap. Add another 8 chips to the top layer and then place gasket lid Loosely over the bucket. In about 30mins the chips will have gassified and permeated the grain. This is when you hammer the lid down, firmly sealing the gasket lid. Probably a good idea to label your bucket contents before you seal the lid. Put date on your label and the origin of the grain. Note that the lids may be difficult to pry off. There are lid wrenches available that make it easy to pry up the gasket lid.

Lots of other ways to store food. The Excalibur Dehydrator, especially the 9 tray model is a superb tool for dehydrating vegetables, fruits, making jerky, fruit leathers and even using low temp settings to make yogurt. Vacuum packing dried foods is an option, but one we've had minimal luck with.

Canning in mason jars remains a proven technique. The Ball Blue Book is a great resource and you likely want a large or XL Pressure cooker or Pressure canner to really process food safely.

Canned vegetable, meats, fruits etc are also long-storing. Coffee seems to store very reliably, but we store whole beans and grind them for each use. We've found some institutional pack items at retailers, but Costco has a good selection of #10 130oz cans and other baking items like bulk yeast which we use.

Roast beef with minimal fat makes excellent jerky. Buy whenever you find it onsale and cook until hard as nails. Any oil or fat in the jerky means it will go rancid in a few weeks. We've made turkey jerky also, and eaten salmon jerky. Lots of ways to dry meats and fish...

We bought most of our grains from healthfood stores. Any dealer that sells bulk grains etc will likely order 25 or 50 pound bags of grain for you, and do so at 10 or 15% discount. Always ask, and shop until you find a dealer that wants your business. Always be there to pickup your grain same day it arrives.

As for spices and herbs, unless you really like the Spice Islands jars, buy your spices in bulk at your grocer or healthfood store. The savings are huge and you'll likely get fresher product. San Francisco Herb Co is a great resource as is Gold Mine Natural Foods for macrobiotic products, both are on the net. Hard to beat Arrowhead Mills for quality organic bulk grains and Lundberg Farms is our primary choice for Organic Brown Rice products.

As far as using your freezer or refrigerator, If you live where you have a cold Winter, you can move your freezer outdoors, or buy an old freezer off craigslist and keep it locked in a shed or in a shaded spot. If your power goes, you can likely use the outdoor freezer being watchful for extended warm-spells in ambient temperature.

If you have a generator and/or inverter setup, you can likely keep your food frozen by running the compressor an hour or so every day. Move the freezer to basement or other cold spot in your home and be sure it isn't in direct sunlight. Can also insulate the freezer box exterior with foam or blankets, taking care not to cover the compressor's air flow causing it to run hot and inefficiently. Be sure you run your fridge and freezer when you run your genset, like when using your washing machine or battery charger. If you have solar panels or other AE generation, be sure you can actuate your compressor with your inverters surge capacity.

The Chinese Peasant Farmers used to bury most of their food so as not to be faced with starvation after the Nationalists or Communists came through town. Might be a good idea for you too. 5gal buckets can be buried, but remove the handle-bails so they won't register on a metal detector. Replace with nylon cord for easy removal from their hidey-holes.

Now is the time to begin using wholefoods and cooking from scratch, so your family will be acclimated and used to the foods.

Will probably do an entry on menus and meal ideas. Great idea to have a number of cookbooks like Betty Crocker, Joy Of Cooking etc just to have the cooking from scratch recipes and detail on how to prepare.

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