High Nutrition, Low Weight, Eat Forever
“Your longevity depends on the nutrient density of your food.” –Koushik Reddy, MD.
Many preppers store food in the form of rice, beans, and Ramen, then what? Many get stumped at this point, and their inventories are a hodge-podge of things they probably wouldn’t eat or cook unless it were an emergency. 72-hour kits and #10 cans of freeze-dried foods are great, but they can be challenging to use and expensive. They are also a bulky item if you need to bug out in a hurry.
This blog will cover about 16 different foods divided into their main nutritional categories. You should have a pound of each of them in your prepper inventory, and we will tell you the reasons why. You may already have a couple of them. You may have all of them, but you might not have them in the forms we will discuss here. We are going far beyond beans, rice, and Ramen here. These are going to be staples that will get you through, and they’re light enough that you could carry several days of food for several people in one backpack. You could sow a whole new crop with some of them and feed an entire community. Here’s what you should stock up on before disaster strikes:
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Fats are essential to good health. You have to eat some fats, especially when your body is stressed trying to survive a disaster. For fats, some of the best, most portable are tallow, lard, ghee, and Crisco. Ghee will have a shelf life of about a year, and you can easily make it at home from quality butter. Crisco is good for at least two years. Lard is only suitable for about six months at room temperature. That being said, there are a few things to know about these fats. If you were to put any of them in a plastic bag and submerge them in a cool or cold stream by weighing them down with a rock, you could safely come back to it years later, and it would probably still be pristine. They have determined cavemen used to do this with whole wooly mammoths and use the stream as a sort of refrigerator and to keep the meat from predators.
The other thing to know about these fats is that you will know by smell, taste, or color when they turn rancid. You can still use them as oil for lamps, spread on cloth or skins to make a water barrier, or as a moisturizer. You can also use these oils to make soap if you can get your hands on some hardwood ash or lye.
More than likely, you will need these fats to cook. My suggestion is to get some extra clean tallow and then boiling water bath can it. Keep it sealed and untouched. It will probably last a lot longer than you think.
When we think of protein, another essential for the body, most people think of meats like beef and chicken. Some preppers approach the need for proteins by stockpiling pinto beans. Both are excellent sources of protein. The problem is that after any prolonged disaster’s aftermath, sources of animal meat protein will be scarce. Most butcher sections will be empty in a day. Hunting resources will be highly competitive. And, let’s be honest, if you aren’t accustomed to eating a cup of pinto beans a day for the 41 grams of protein in there, your body is going to reject those beans because of the 30 grams of soluble and insoluble fiber. Most of us aren’t willing to turn to insects for food except in the direst situations. None of these mentioned protein sources, except for the beans, are very easily transported. That said, having freeze-dried meats and raw, dry beans are essential to your survival stash.
We will recommend a few protein sources you might not have considered. Dehydrated or freeze-dried peas contain more protein and fiber than pinto beans. They also take up less space. One cup of dried split peas will provide you with almost 2,000 milligrams of potassium, 119 grams of carbs, 16 grams of sugars, and 48 grams of protein. They will last for three years at normal room temperature and 320-degree minimal other preservation efforts. Vacuum seal, freeze-dry, or seal them with some oxygen absorbers to extend the shelf life way out. Also, a legume but different lentils fit this category. Copious amounts of protein and a good shelf-life make these a must-have.
For another protein source with an even lighter weight, I suggest mushrooms. Some people don’t like mushrooms. If you’re not one of those people, know that 1 cup of raw mushrooms will have over 300 milligrams of potassium and 3 grams of protein. When it comes to fiber, though, it’s also going to have just 3 grams of fiber. That might not give you the feeling of fullness that beans will, but pound for pound, it will provide you with great protein without the fiber bomb. Add to this that once dehydrated or freeze-dried, you can powder the mushrooms up and pack copious amounts in a tiny container. One cup of dried powdered mushrooms is the equivalent of 4 pounds of fresh mushrooms. That’s also going to have 56 grams of protein, 36 grams of sugar, 60 carbohydrates, and 5770 milligrams of potassium in it. It is also, I remind you, a cup. Imagine how set you would be with one well-sealed 16-ounce container of mushroom powder? It would be one pound in your pack, but it would be 10 pounds of fresh mushrooms. We are not even going to do the math on that. We will tell you that eating it is as easy as mixing it in some hot water, a stew, or even flour to bake bread.
The final protein we will suggest here is Amaranth. Learn what it looks like in the wild. Amaranth is native to North America and Central America, but it is now grown as a decorative flower worldwide. It has been cultivated as a grain for at least 8,000 years.
The actual positive with this grain is how all-around balanced it is. One cup will give you protein, Manganese, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Iron, Selenium, Copper, and more. It contains antioxidants, it’s gluten-free, and you can powder it for an alternative flour. A twenty-four-ounce bag of Amaranth, organic, untreated, and sproutable, will provide you with a crop of it under the right conditions. Pound for pound and beyond just the protein consideration, having some of this stored with preservation in mind would allow you to restart a culture to rival the Aztecs. Amaranth was their staple.
Did you ever drop a bag of sugar and have it break open on you or spill a bunch on the counter? You have to have sugar, and having it in granular form is excellent too, but I suggest you take it a step further with preservation in mind. Convert at least part of your inventory into sugar rocks or rock candy. You can easily smash it between two rocks back to its fine form. You can dissolve it into a simple syrup by just letting it sit in some water. However, what these sugar rocks provide you is portability, less susceptibility to spillage, and they are far less likely to be carried off by ants. If ants get into your granule sugar, they will form a train and haul it all away and infest all your other food in the area. You could eat ants if you had to, but you will likely not get as much from them as you would the sugar they have stolen from you. In a rock form, the ants can’t make off with all your sugar. Technically, sugar never spoils. While it’s recommended that granulated sugar be discarded after two years, chances are it will still serve its baking purpose even beyond that.
To make your sugar into rock, bring a cup or two of water to a boil. Add in sugar. Keep adding in sugar until it won’t dissolve anymore. Don’t let it burn or change color, but keep a low heat on it until it passes from milky to clear. Then try and add more sugar, a little at a time. When the granules no longer dissolve, pour the liquid into a 9 x 12 or similar glass baking dish and place it in a 320 degree oven. It has to get above 310 to harden to a rock candy state. After 5 to 10 minutes at this temperature, pour into molds. Here I have some soap bar silicone molds that will work nicely for this. After they cool, we can easily extract the sugar bars. Each one is about 4 ounces. So each will break down into about ½ cup. You can store them in a mason jar or a mylar bag. Large amounts of sugar can be stored easily in rock form. Hard candies are also a great source of instant sugar for the same reason, and these rock candies are essentially the same.
Finally, you have to get honey in your inventory. Honey has no shelf-life so long as you keep it free from exposure to air. Honey is hygroscopic, so it will pull moisture out of the air, become thinner, and eventually reach a point where wild yeasts in the air can move about within it. Add a little water to it, and wild yeast in the air will be able to ferment it into a mead of about 6-9% alcohol content. If properly sealed, however, it will harden and crystallize with time. Applying a little heat will restore it to a liquid state. Honey, because it has such a low moisture content of just 17%, doesn’t allow bacteria or anything else to grow. It has been directly applied to wounds for thousands of years to form a protective barrier and speed up healing.
When it comes to sugars, go beyond granulated sugars. Get some solid rocks of sugar in your inventory and some honey. These sugars will outlive you or provide you with the necessary sugars to keep moving and survive.
Many people only have dried beans or pasta in their inventory for carbohydrates. The next level is to store cereal grain berries. Wild-harvested grains have been a food source for people since prehistoric times, and domestic cultivation of grains began more than 10,000 years ago. Cereal gets its name from Ceres, the ancient Roman goddess of agriculture, and grain crops like wheat and wheat berries are the typical prepper stored grain. In their berry form, they are less susceptible to degradation, so they will keep much longer. In their berry form, the unprocessed kernel is very hard. If you have unprocessed grain kernels in your supplies, you want to make sure you have the means to grind them. Either a hand mill, pearling machine, or mortar and pestle is required to pound and grind them down. Alternatively, you could sprout them by soaking them in water to soften them and cook them. You may also sew a grass crop as you re-establish yourself in a new location since they are basically seeds. Pay special attention to your storage method to protect from insects, moisture, oxygen, and rodents.
The food that we recommend in the carbohydrates category is corn. While a can of corn will only have a maximum shelf-life of 5 years, dehydrated corn adequately sealed in an oxygen-free environment will extend that shelf-life out to 10 years. It is easier to eat if you freeze-dry corn, but the shelf life goes out to 25 years or more when properly stored. The nice thing about freeze-drying is that you can make cornmeal by crunching it in your fingers. Mix one cup of this cornmeal with a pinch or two of salt, half to three-quarters cup of boiling water, and about two tablespoons of any fat from bacon grease, to butter, to tallow, and you have a skillet batter called a “hoecake” in the South. It was named this because it was often mixed up on the dryer side, flattened into a pancake, and cooked over a fire on the flat metal piece of a hoe or shovel. Some people add a little sugar or baking soda to give it sweetness and rise.
You may not have popcorn in your inventory, but you should. The reason popcorn pops is that the outer shell of the kernel is so hard and uncracked. When the corn inside converts its moisture to gas and steam, it explodes out of the shell and creates the familiar popcorn we all know so well. It is this hard shell, however, which will help to preserve your corn. You can simmer in water popcorn kernels for a few hours and then bring it to a boil. The long slow simmer will crack the shell and ruin the explosive nature of the grain. Add a little soda ash or hardwood ash into it while it cooks, then rinse well, and you will be able to make a type of Massa for tortillas out of it by simply mixing in some lard to the paste. If that’s all too much work, you can just smash it into cornmeal between two rocks and cook it into cornbread. Is that still too much work? If it is, make it into popcorn. Popcorn will provide you with good carbohydrates, fiber and will fill you up fast. Whatever you do, get a few pounds or more of popcorn in your inventory, and go beyond canned corn. It will last much longer than regular corn grain because it is less susceptible to absorbing moisture.
We can’t leave the carbohydrate category without also mentioning hardtack and sunchokes. We have a blog on each of these, which we will link below. The hardtack has a 100 or more years shelf life, and you can smash it back down to flour and make bread if you have to. The sunchokes will provide you with an unlimited source of carbohydrates. Both will keep you alive long after a disaster has struck.
Your body uses salt to balance fluids in the blood and maintain healthy blood pressure, and it is also essential for nerve and muscle function. The electrical impulses that fire off in your neurons and muscles, like your heart and diaphragm all, depend on salt. Without salt, you will die. Granulated salt is excellent, and insects won’t carry it away like they will your sugar. If you spill it, though, or it gets a splash of water, you will lose it all. We highly recommend following a similar procedure for making rock candy out of sugar. The significant difference between the two procedures is that the salt doesn’t need to be heated beyond 320 degrees as the sugar does. You will want a mold, and you don’t need to achieve any specific temperature with salt. If you can’t wait for the natural evaporation, you can place the salt in a mold in a 300-degree oven, and the water will evaporate off. Pack the salt tightly in a waterproof container. If they then get splashed with water, you’re still okay.
You can smash it between rocks to get it back to a fine salt, or you can just throw a small salt rock in whatever you are cooking. When it comes to salt, a little bit is all you need, but you also need it for preserving foods, brining, pickling, and drying meats. You may need just a little, but you do need it. Don’t rely on granulated salt only, but carry around a few salt rocks, as well. Just don’t mix them up with your rock candy.
Here, we have also to include bullion cubes. They are extremely salty but will allow you to quickly impart chicken, beef, or other flavors to your food. Even in the absence of actual chicken, having the taste will help to make other foods more palatable while also providing you with essential salts. A bouillon cube has a typical best buy life of about two years, but we have used it for years and years beyond two years. If that’s all you had to survive on, you would still get a few days out of a few cubes. If you can forage for some plants to add to your broth, you can stretch it much, much further.
SPROUTS & MICROGREENS
At the risk of sounding like a hippie, I have to tell you that sprouts and microgreens can feed you for months on less than a pound. This is a ½ cup of unsprouted lentil seeds just four days later. The nutrition I could have put in here to rival any of the categories mentioned earlier. It has protein, but complex and easily digestible proteins, so it’s better for you. It has vitamins, minerals, nutrients, and enzymes only fresh plants can provide. Many attest that sprouts are more easily digestible as the seed germination breaks down some indigestible components and heightens the nutritional value.
The difference between sprouts and microgreens is the stage of life. You let a sprout grow a bit more, maybe adding some soil for it, and you have a microgreen. The leaves and stems of the microgreen are what you consume.
Ponder this fact: there are about 199,000 alfalfa seeds per pound. You could sow an acre field with that. You could eat the sprouts. You could powder the dry seeds. The fact is that 1 pound of dry sprout seeds will serve you amazingly well. You don’t even need light to get them to sprout. These are so important that we will be doing a follow-up blog just on these, so subscribe to this channel for when that is released.
For our purposes here, know that a pound or more of seeds saved in a sprouting container and placed in a bugout bag will feed a small family for a very, very long time.
While not a nutritional powerhouse, we have to include teas in your must-have foods. Basic caffeinated tea leaves will provide you with a level of alertness and awakedness, as well as some tannins and a few trace minerals. The caffeine and warm tea will help with hunger pangs. Herbal teas can have some medicinal qualities as well. Teas can be supplemented with foraged items like pine needles and mullein.
Tea leaves, once boiled, though to make tea you shouldn’t boil it, can be used as a poultice on wounds. Many teas have anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. This is also where the tannins come into play. Tannins can improve wound healing, reduce scarring, and prevent bacterial growth. So, though I have teas in the alertness category, they are so much more to you.
All you risk in consuming tea past its expiration date is quality when it comes to shelf-life. You won’t get sick from drinking expired tea. Consider what a compressed one-pound block of tea leaves could do for you, then get it in your inventory.
That’s it. If you get one pound of each food we mention here, your pack would weigh just sixteen pounds, but you could feed a small group for several weeks. You could provide yourself with some hunting and foraging added in for several months. With any of the items, the more tightly packed, oxygen and moisture-free the foods are, the longer shelf life you will get out of them. You could sow acres of crops in that one pack, make soap, broth, and even cornbread out of popcorn. Think of your food stores in terms of these seven to ten pounds. Realize the maximum potential of these food sources. With just ten compressed blocks or cans or vacuum-sealed bags of these, you could be eating well long beyond any disaster. The great thing about these is the cost versus value and utility. For a few dollars, you can be well supplied and highly mobile.
What do you think? What’s your nutritional powerhouse that’s lightweight but will fuel you mightily through a disaster? Let us know in the comments below.
As always, stay safe out there.
LINKS: Sprouts & Microgreens
I learned a lot from this post, thanks. I really need to learn more about sprouts. I knew they provided good nutrition but I really had no idea how valuable they can actually be! I’ll be heading down that rabbit hole now. Thanks