We are continuing to talk about food in our Be Prepared series, almost as important as the topic of water!
Food and water and the two absolute MUSTS in emergencies. Food is a giant topic and we have been trying to decide how to break this down with ideas on how to be prepared with food! Btw – if you haven’t seen our introductory article to this topic, we recommend that you read that first here. We first talked about water as this is a MUST in any emergency! But food is pretty much just as essential.
Remember that our rule is to have an emergency supply for a minimum of 3 months. Again the reasons why are listed in our Be Prepared post HERE.
So how do we even begin talking about the giant topic of food? We already covered produce in 2 parts talking about the immediate, inter-mediate and the long-term.
Here’s a review of how we are going to talk about the food category:
1. We are going to break this down into 3 categories: produce, meat, staples
2. From there, we are going to discuss the immediate, the mid-term or intermediate (2+ week supply) and then the longer term (3+ months) and ideas and options with all of them so that you have usable versatility with your food storage options.
As a reminder, we are going to encourage you to have a “usable now” food storage and be rotating through your bulk supply and learning to use your bulk foods a few times per week (more on all of this later, but having a practical usable bulk food supply is the key to both a healthy frugality and an emergency food supply!) but having proper food storage, even in small spaces where no storage really exists.
So now let’s dig in and talk about source of meat! There are other ways to get a “vegetarian” source of protein, but we are going to talk about these in the articles covering the staples, and we will identify the staples that can also be a protein replacement. There are also some “meatless” proteins found in such things like dairy products and eggs, and we will cover these in this article!
#1 – Immediate Sources for up to 2- weeks.
Always keep a few dozen eggs on hand!
There are several facts about eggs that I am learning all of the time that makes it more and more possible to keep a good supply of fresh eggs on hand. These tips may sound a little strange, alarming and different, but I have confirmed them from many sources (emergency preparers and egg farmers). Eggs are so essential in our family. We currently try to eat eggs 5 out of 7 breakfasts each morning. Here’s how to have several dozen eggs on hand all of the time:
- Eggs are fine to eat for 4-6 weeks after expiration date.
- You can freeze eggs (this isn’t the best option for emergencies, as some disasters will knock out power, but it is a source) and they will last for 1-year (again, if you don’t lose power – not all emergencies will knock out power, so it could work as one source)
- You do not have to keep eggs in the fridge. They can be stored in a cool dark place (like a basement) for several weeks without refrigeration. Now I know that many egg farmers have told me this, but I still try to keep my eggs in the fridge if at all possible. But it’s nice to know that I don’t have to!
- Even better, you can store your eggs for up to 9 months in a cool dark place without refrigeration by rubbing them in mineral oil. The mineral oil helps to preserve them for longer than the 4-6 weeks because it closes the oxygen sources and mimics the egg in-vitro. The egg will stay for this long this way!
- Hard boil eggs after this time if you still haven’t used them and then you will extend the eggs by another week!
As a thrifty habit anyway, learn to buy your meats in bulk!
We pretty much just eat Chicken and Beef (with small exceptions like nitrate free bacon and nitrate free sausage as well as Salmon). I am personally picky about meat and so our short list makes it easier because it is a simple list!
We purchase our chicken in bulk a couple of times a year and we also buy 1/4 – 1/2 of a cow from a local farmer once or twice a year. This has not only saved us tons of money on a daily basis anyway, but it is a good plan for emergencies too! If there is a disaster or emergency, we have a good supply of frozen meat. Now frozen foods are the least helpful in an emergency as the power will most likely go out…. but you can use your freezer foods for several days as long as you keep your freezer shut and only open for a few seconds to grab something to eat. So if it is a short emergency, then you might be just fine with this option.
If it is longer (again, please prepare for at least 3 months to not have your eggs all in one basket), then this will not be a viable option for that. We have discussed how in an emergency, we will be eating pretty much nothing but frozen and fridge foods for the first few days and eat like kings and queens. After that, we move to the pantry and bulk foods…. and probably start cutting back on caloric intake 🙂 In addition, Alex and I have discussed that if there is a disaster and we lose power for several days and it is in the dead of winter, we will most likely be able to store our frozen and fridge foods in the ground (wrapped and boxed of course) in the dead of winter. That would be one benefit of a disaster in the winter! But this is only 2-3 months out of the year here, but an option to extend our frozen food longer none the less.
When you find a good sale, buy jerky in bulk! We love jerky and we eat it often! Our family hikes 4+ mile hikes each week in the summer and we finally plan to start snowshoeing (the kids are old enough) this winter. We consume jerky on the trials as a source of protein. So we will eat it anyway! Find a bulk source in your area and stock-up! Jerky will last forever, 1-2 years in fact for store-bought versions. Homemade versions are a good option too, but they typically only last 3 months. However, some of both will get you through the immediate, intermediate and long-term options! We found a great source of nitrate free natural beef jerky that we plan to buy by the case here soon!
#2 – Intermediate Sources of Meats and Proteins (2 weeks – 3+ months)
Buy powdered milk in bulk!
Powdered milk isn’t the cheapest protein on the block, but powdered milk is so super essential – at least I know it is for my family! I would recommend buying it from a bulk food provider and storing it properly to make it last longer. Buying it from a bulk food source is going to save you money per ounce vs. the boxes in the store. We actually volunteer our time at a local cannery, in return we get to buy bulk foods of all kinds for a good price. About 6 years ago, we bought a case of powdered milk, which will last 10 years for a nice price. They come in the #10 cans (the giant cans) and I only use it for these purposes: 1. my SOS mix, 2. my homemade, pre-made pancake and waffle mix, 3. during our “penniless weeks (the weeks we don’t spend a penny to save even more) and if we happen to run out of milk, and my kids want some milk! I am rotating through it in a very practical sense. I am actually on my last can from the case and so I need more 🙂 By also buying it in the #10 cans, it makes storage much easier as I don’t have to worry about how to store a 25-lb bag of it. But you can always store it like we show in our bulk foods post HERE. Properly stored powdered milk will last 10 years!
Buy canned meat when it goes on sale and learn to use it in your cooking.
Now let me be honest, this is my least favorite source of meat for everyday use and for emergencies, but it is such a good and practical one! I am talking about canned chicken, beef, tuna, other fish and even ham. They are not the healthiest sources due to the high salt content and more, but this is the easiest, most practical way to have a longer-term meat option whether we like it or not! I honestly don’t buy much of it, but I do buy canned chicken and tuna when it goes on sale. I will use these a couple of times a month for salads or other dishes so that I am rotating through. You can buy a lot of it, but not have to use it very often to rotate through because it has a very long shelf life. Here’s how long canned meats will last:
- Canned Chicken – lasts 2-5 years
- Canned Tuna and Fish – lasts 9-12 months
- Canned Beef – lasts 1 year
- Canned Ham – lasts 2 years
Can your own meats!
I would like to think of it as “jarred” meats to distinguish between store bought canned meats. This is actually something I will be doing this year – canning/jarring my own beef and chicken in those glass mason jars. You can also can/jar ham! I have already taken a free community class on it, I just now need to do it! I have great sources of chicken and beef in bulk and so I want to finally do this! By canning your own, you can safely have meat for 1-year!
Finally, consider buying freeze-dried meats.
There are many companies out there that specialize in long-term food storage foods and so there are many, many options available! I am offering up this piece of advice, but we haven’t personally done this yet. The budget only allows me to go so far and this is way down my list at this point….. but freeze dried meats can last 25 years. I haven’t tried them, but I would also want to learn how to use these in everyday cooking (not use them everyday, but every once in a while to rotate through in my everyday type cooking ;)) Do any of you have experience with these?
#3 – Long-Term Meat and Protein Options (Over 3+ months to many years)
Okay, here’s where the crazy might seem to have been unleashed over here. Honestly, I am passing along ideas that I have heard, have in my back pocket, but haven’t implemented yet myself. However, I have been seriously considering some of these for everyday frugality as well as healthier options anyway! Before I share these “extreme” ideas – note that most everything in #2 will also last for 1+ years or more!
Raise backyard chickens.
Many, many people, including many of my own friends raise their own chickens for eggs and for meat. If you raise your own, it could set you up for long-term options. Most urban areas will still allow you to do this!
Raise backyard goats.
Goats are easy, not very loud, they don’t require much space, and they can be raised in an urban backyard. Goats provide fresh milk, from which you can make cheese, yogurt, butter, and even beauty products. From my research and understanding anyway (I am not an expert!) Goat’s milk is better for you to be drinking anyway than cow’s milk. And…. they can also be meat (I have never tried lamb, goat or anything as I am so, so picky about meat, but I am sure I would to survive)! It is actually becoming a craze to raise goats in your urban backyard. In fact, I researched this many months ago and found this informative and humorous article on a lady that raises backyard goats in the heart of San Francisco! The best option is what is called Pygmy Goats. They are smaller, but just as useful! I spoke with a goat farmer about raising backyard goats – they are great pets apparently too! She has raised goats her entire life and she said that you can easily raise 2 Pygmy Goats in a 10×10 space. Bigger areas are better, but it is very doable in even this small of a space. Also, you should get at least 2 goats as they HATE being alone. It is also a great activity for kids! Again, most urban areas will still allow you to have small livestock like this!
The nice thing about chicken and goats is that you can feed them all sorts of scraps too! Feeding them is easier than many pets/livestock!
Finally, when I first heard about this from several preparedness sources, I cringed. But at the same time, it totally makes sense. I am sure you have heard of the phrase “multiply like rabbits”? Well, we hear it a lot since apparently having 5 kids close in age is quite a site to many people. But regardless, it’s true. Now you are going to probably cringe at the thought of this like I did (and still do), but for an idea for easy, yet seemingly extreme meat survival options – raise bunnies! They multiply fast, they are easy to take care of, easy to raise and can be a good source of meat.
Perhaps having an urban little farm would be a fun activity for any family and kids too, but serve a triple purpose: 1. a fun, learning and growing experience for kids, 2. provide fresh foods for long-term for emergencies, 3. save your family money everyday as you work towards your thrifty goal, while being healthier at the same time. I know that #3 is my motivation – health and thrift, but #1 & especially #2 for when needed!
One thing that is my “dream” at this point….. growing a lush garden (I am working on that) that is both fruits and veggies, but having backyard chickens, 2 pygmy goats, and …… wait for it……. fresh raw honey! I seriously want to have backyard honey bees. This is also a craze as it is so practical, healthy and thrifty! Not only would all of these be such a fun hobby, there are many practical benefits to all of them!
We hope we have shared some easy and unique ideas to get you prepared on a budget – knowing the meat options will be the most expensive in terms of your food options. Just get started little by little devoting $5, $10, $20, etc. each week/month to your meat options and you will soon be on your way to having a source!
We want to know your thoughts on this topic too, please share!
Coming up on the next topic are the staples in your pantry!