Sunday, May 8, 2022

Getting Started With Food Storage: The Essentials

I know that this blog post is a long time in coming and that I may already be too late in sharing these items with you.  But, I am hopeful that those who are looking for a list of items to buy at the store to get started with food storage…well I am praying this might help just a bit.  Just to warn you:  This post is going to be long (and I’m not kidding) and I’m just scraping the surface here…I have other things I’ve decided to put into other blog posts, so yeah…this might be a novel when it is all said and done.  Just stick with me.

Practical experience-wise from a perspective of someone who has lived off of her food storage more than a few times throughout the years, these are the brass tacks I was able to get down to and I’m sure I’m forgetting things. 

1.   Fruits and Vegetables.

Get yourself some canned fruit or vegetables.  Yes, frozen tastes better and fresh is always best (and hey, get some of those if you can afford it too), but a flat of cans will last you indefinitely if they are in good shape and it will give you some nutrients in your diet from fruits or vegetables when fresh or frozen aren’t around.   When using canned vegetables or fruit, try to heat up the vegetables in the liquid that is in their can.  During canning nutrients leach into the liquid in the can, so don’t waste the nutrition there!  I used to take the liquid from a can of vegetables and use it to make up some instant mashed potatoes or other dish so that I didn’t waste the liquid.  If you are worried about salt in vegetables and sugar in fruit go for low sodium or no salt added vegetables and go for fruit canned in juice instead of syrup.  I use the juice from the canned fruit to flavor glasses of water for dinner or I add it to some iced tea to give it a new flavor. 

For my family the bare minimum for vegetables and fruit always seems to boil down to canned green beans and canned peaches.  Those are the two we go to the most.  When you are really broke monotony is your friend when it comes to keeping costs down on getting food storage going.  I’d love to recommend you get every canned vegetable or fruit under the rainbow for variety’s sake, but start small.  Aim small and miss small as they say.  Calculate how often you eat your favorite fruit and veggie per week and than multiply that number by the amount of weeks in a year.  You may not get that much stocked up if your budget is really tight, but get what you can afford each week and aim for that target of getting enough for a year.  At this point, with the way costs are going, anything you stock up will be something that you have stocked up on that has beat inflation by a bit.

Also, be sure to get yourself canned tomato sauce and tomato products.  I know a lot of people like to make their own sauce with whole canned specialty tomatoes and things, so keep that in mind when you stock up.  Myself, I go for the Hunt’s Pasta sauces…they come in 28 oz cans and up here are going for around 2.89 a can (they have gone up in price along with everything else).  I keep a variety of pasta sauces around the house since pasta is one of our staple foods and definitely stock up on tomato sauce.  I keep diced tomatoes around for chili, I keep whole tomatoes around for well…everything really that you might need to make with canned tomatoes as you can dice them, crush them, etc.  I also keep tubes of tomato paste around versus cans as I like being able to use what I need from a tube and putting it back into my fridge instead of having to freeze what is left over from a can only to have it get lost for years in my freezer (true story there).

2.  Canned meat. 

Do I recommend canning your own?  Sure, if you have the materials and can get a good deal on meats at the store and have the time to do it.  Do I recommend learning to can right now and starting to can your own stuff?  Man, that’s a hard one.  It would depend on materials, your budget and availability of those materials in your area.  My area?  I haven’t been able to find a good supply of canning lids in years, jars are darned near impossible to find in stock and if you buy from the used store you might find them here and there, but they sure aren’t as common as they used to be. And if you want to can meat you need a pressure canner and those are REALLY hard to find right now and they have gotten more expensive.   There’s a lot of things to consider there.   If you are planning on putting up your garden this year and have limited freezer space, though, you might want to try and get the materials throughout the growing season so you have them for harvesting season in the fall and be sure to get yourself the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving…best book out there and a lot of good recipes.  Best advice I can give there.

I am going to assume that you don’t have the money and time to invest is learning to can right now for this post.  So taking those things into consideration, I’m going to stick with canned meat for now that you purchase.  If you have the money, I’d suggest buying in bulk.  At a minimum I would suggest getting canned chicken as I found it to be the most versatile.  I get flats of 12 to 24 cans (5 oz…tuna fish sized cans).  You can usually get the Hormel brand chicken for a flat of 12 cans for about 15 or so dollars (right now…be aware prices are going up fast). I use the canned chicken in a lot of recipes.  Anything that you shred chicken, cut chicken, etc. canned chicken can be subbed in for.   I’ve made everything from chicken salad to casseroles, soups, pasta dishes, you name it.  Canned tuna is another option if you prefer tuna.  But, to me, it is important to have canned meat available should fresh meat be too expensive to afford (or, in the case of chicken, quickly becoming harder and harder to find with the avian flu ripping through the chicken farms all over). 

And yes, I realize that not everyone out there eats meat, so don’t consider this advice geared toward yourself (obviously).

3.  Rice/Beans/Lentils

At a bare minimum I would suggest stocking up on rice.  It is the most calorically dense grain there is and will go the farthest.  If you have an electric pressure cooker it usually has a setting you can make rice with, or you can make it on your stove top (or, if you are me, you have a rice cooker that you love).  You can make rice into porridge, rice pudding (dessert) and other things as well.  Rice also keeps its nutritional value a LONG time.  The Mormon church has done tests on rice that are so old that the rice changes color and tastes awful, but the nutritional content is still there and perfectly safe to eat.

I would also suggest getting dried beans.  There are quick cooking methods for beans if you don’t find the time to do the soaking and cooking method.  I like to make a big batch in a slow cooker and then freeze them or I home can some to use later.  But, if you combine beans with rice you will have a complete protein, which will keep you going when nothing else will.  If you don’t eat beans regularly and find that they give you an upset stomach, SLOWLY incorporate beans into your diet by like adding some homemade refried beans to your taco meat or adding a few beans to your soups and things.  Beans are something, I’ve found, that takes your body getting used to so you can eat them without your stomach protesting its lot in life (I also have a stomach condition that I have to tip toe around, so that’s part of my issues).  Don’t think you can suddenly eat beans every day and not suffer until your body gets used to the idea.  Trust me.  You have to get used to it.  If beans take too long to cook for you, get some lentils instead as they cook a lot faster (although check out making beans in your electric pressure cooker…it is way quicker than the old, cook them all day, method).  I personally have black beans, Great Northern Beans and pinto beans in my stores as well as some home canned adzuki beans and some lentils and most of those are from people giving me a bunch of bulk beans they didn’t use up.

4.  Wheat/Flour

If you eat wheat based products, I would suggest stocking up on bread and all purpose flour (if you can only afford one go with all purpose as there are bread recipes, including my never fail bread that call for all purpose flour).  If you don’t eat much at a time go for bleached, not unbleached flour as the more bran in the flour the quicker it will go bad on you.  I store my flours in five gallon buckets with airtight lids and keep the in a cool dark area in my pantry.  They have survived there just fine.  Even for my family of four and me baking bread weekly now, a 50 lb bag of bread flour will still last me about 8 months.  I’ve been supplementing with home ground wheat flour of late because I’ve been given a lot of whole wheat berries over the years and we figure now is a good time to get in the habit of using them.  Do I suggest going down to your local Mormon cannery and getting some bulk whole wheat and grinding flour yourself?  Not unless you have a grain mill at home or something that can grind the wheat for you.  Wheat grinders are expensive for the electric ones (if you can find them right now) and while there are hand crank ones you can find on Amazon and such, I can’t say that I can recommend one in particular. 

Also, having personally ground wheat by hand the last couple of months, you better have a lot of time to commit to grinding wheat for your bread and other baked goods if you have a hand grinder as it takes quite a while to get a couple of cups of flour to use.  You can use a coffee grinder to grind wheat, but be careful as I’ve actually burned up a coffee grinder trying to do that.  If you do decide to get a wheat grinder and grind the wheat to use, be sure to have a series of flour sifters for flour so that you can sift out some of the bran from the flour to use it for different things.  You CAN keep all the bran in the flour, but it will make a really dense final product to the breads you bake, so if you do that I’d suggest mixing the whole wheat flour into store bought bread flour about a cup at a time in your bread recipe until you get the consistency in your baked goods that you like.  Right now, I sift my flour through a couple of different sifters and I still am mixing my flour a ratio of 1 ½ cups of home ground flour to 3 ¾ cups of regular bread flour to bake two loaves of bread (I have finer sifters, but this works for me at the moment).  This will help to extend the life of your bread flour if you bake bread a lot.  And don’t throw your wheat bran away.  You can use that to make different things as well, including gluten to use as a meat substitute in recipes, should it come to that (I store left over bran in my freezer).

If you have never baked bread before but are still worried about the rising costs of wheat products (some are saying that bread might go up to 20.00 a loaf by the end of the year), I will try and put up a tutorial on how to make bread, but in the meantime (especially if you are pressed for time) I’d suggest going to your local thrift stores and looking for a bread maker.  Don’t worry if it doesn’t come with a manual as you can look those up online in 99% of the cases.  The bread maker directions will give you basic recipes to make and will break down the order to put your ingredients into the bread maker.  A lot of the newer ones even have a timer on them so you can bake fresh bread in the morning for yourself to enjoy before going to work.  If you have 70 to 100.00 to plunk down on a new bread maker, that is definitely preferable as you know it is new and SHOULD work, but I know the bread makers at my local thrift stores go for about 10.00 (some you can find as low as 5.00 if you keep looking), which is a lot more affordable.  A note of caution with a bread maker from a thrift store, though, is to look for one that looks new or close to new.  The older ones, you don’t know how long they have been sitting there, how hard they were used, if the pan fits in the bread maker (I ran into that once) and if the bread maker works.  A lot of thrift stores here will give you a return window on electronics that don’t work and you’ll get store credit when you return them, but I know I would rather just get a electronic device that works and doesn’t need to be returned and have me wasting money.  So, just be cautious.

5.  Sugar and Salt. 

Yes, I consider both sugar and salt to be important.  Both can be used to preserve foods.  Sugar can be used as a way to preserve fruit and is also important if you are going to bake things like cookies.  Sugar even assists in baking bread.  So, yes, I consider it to be a staple ingredient to keep in the house.  I buy 25 to 50 lbs at a time and keep them in heavy plastic containers (like a five gallon bucket with a gamma lid) to keep them safe from bugs and rodents.   I also keep about 4 lbs of both powdered sugar and brown sugar around in my food storage so I have it when I need it, but I don't use them tons, so I don't keep a lot of either of them around.

Salt is another staple item.  I am going to be the minority out there of people (so it seems) that are calling for everyone to only buy pink salt or Redmond Real Salt as those are the only “real” salts that they will buy.  Look, if your budget is tight and you don’t care?  Buy table salt for cheap.  Stockpile enough that you can use it, not only for salt for cooking and baking but also buy enough to use in pickling your foods, or if you really want to be prepared, get enough to use to salt meat if needed later on.  I know that the bulk stores like Costco sell 25 lb bags of salt and they really weren’t that expensive the last time I saw them (which, admittedly has been a while).  Think of it this way with salt.  Say you go overboard and are stuck with tons of salt.  It is a rock.  It doesn’t go bad on you.  If you end up sitting on salt for a while, is it really a crisis to you?  I bought a 25 lb bag of salt years ago and still have a bit of it left that I’m slowly working through.  I’ve used it to kill slugs, salt food, bake bread and other baked goods, pickling (the books will tell you to only use non iodized salt to can with so you might want to get some plain salt and put it aside for that) and even to salt my driveway when we ran out of ice melt one nasty winter.  It is a really versatile thing to keep around the house and definitely a fundamental item to keep as far as I’m concerned.

6.  Leavening Agents (Yeast, baking powder and baking soda) 

Leavening agents are a must.  Some are more versatile than others. 

Yeast.  ALWAYS and I mean ALWAYS store your yeast in the freezer.  It will keep your yeast fresh for years.  I buy a couple of pounds at a time (like I said before, I bake a lot of bread) and the one that I open I empty (nearly) into a quart sized mason jar and keep it on the door of my freezer for easy access.  I always end up with a little baggie of yeast left over that doesn’t fit in the quart jar, but that is easily put beside the jar so that I don’t lose it in the freezer.  I highly, and I mean highly, recommend SAF instant yeast as my yeast of choice.  I buy it two pounds at a time from Amazon right now as my local deli where I was buying it stopped carrying it the last time I went in.  They come in vacuum sealed bricks, so if you put those in the freezer they’ll keep for a good long time and yes, I put them in the freezer as soon as I get them…I don’t care about the two year use by date on them…I’d prefer to stick them in the freezer as quickly as possible to put those little yeasties into suspended animation without worrying about heat getting to them and making them go bad on me.  I store my unopened yeast down in my standing freezer on the door so that I can keep good inventory of how much yeast I have at any given time.     

Baking soda.  Baking soda is one of the most wonderful things you can keep the house.  You can use it for cleaning, for helping to bleach your laundry, to make single acting baking powder (with some help of cream of tartar) , to brush your teeth (if you can’t get ahold of toothpaste), to make your own deodorant…there’s tons of uses for it.  You can even bake it to make washing soda (for those in other countries who can’t readily get ahold of it, that might be a good tip).  So, when I buy baking soda, I try to fid it in the big bags that you can get at the bulk stores or you can try places like Home Depot and Lowes for them as well.  Definitely something to keep in bulk.

Baking powder.  Baking powder is definitely a leavening agent that you should buy sparingly.  It only has a life span of about two years and then it starts to decrease in effectiveness.  Ever gone to make some baked good and it turns out dense and hard?  That’s probably why.  Your baking powder died.  As far as I can find there really isn’t a way to extend the life of baking powder.  Vacuum sealing it or freezing it doesn’t seem to make a difference as it depends on a chemical reaction within the baking powder itself to work.  So, at most I buy one or two containers and keep cream of tartar and baking soda around as a back-up in case I can’t find baking powder at the stores.

7.  Fats and oils. 

This is a tough one, but it is definitely something we want to try and stock up on as fats and oils are getting harder and harder to come by with global supply shortages and crop failures.  And they are skyrocketing in price.  And, unfortunately, oils are something you need to bake (you can sub in different fruit and veggie purees and things, but I prefer to eat the applesauce instead of using it in baked goods if I can help it) or if you want to fry foods, so it is something I consider a staple to keep around in my household.

So, how do you preserve oils for long term storage without them going rancid on you (and they will go rancid on you if you don’t use them fast enough)?  Well, just about any fat can be frozen.  I’ve stored lard in my freezer in its original container for YEARS.  I just chisel off what I need for the project I need it for and just let that set amount come to room temperature before I use it.  Same with tallow.  Olive oil and other liquid oils can be frozen (things like vegetable oil won’t freeze solid but will be preserved by the freezing temps all the same) to extend their shelf life for at least two years.   You can also place oils in the fridge and they’ll keep for at least a year without worries of them going rancid.  I actually go through quite a bit of oil around here, so I do keep my liquid oils in my pantry (a cool and dark place), but things like lard and tallow I’ll put in my freezer since I don’t use them as often.  Crisco I’ve started buying in small containers as I find it will go bad on me in larger quantities long before I use it and I just keep it cool and dark (in hot weather I transfer the small container to the fridge to keep it nice and cold) and it seems go keep for quite a while.

And butter?  Forget about it.  Just place it in your freezer in the original boxes and it freezes wonderfully.  I have stored butter for years in my freezer and never had a problem with the texture or any of its properties when it defrosts.  So, definitely stock up and freeze butter if you have the opportunity.  I am still running into decent sales on butter up here (limits are in effect, of course, on the sale item, but let’s face facts.  If you are on a budget, you can afford to pick up two pounds of butter for 2.49 a pop, but there is NO WAY you’d want to pick up like ten in a week or you’d be broke, so limits aren’t a horrible thing), so hopefully you have time to get some before it becomes really expensive and hard to come by.

Coconut oil, if kept clean (always scoop out with a clean spoon) will last for years if you just keep it in a cool and dark location.  I don’t cook with coconut oil, but I keep it around for making skin care products and lip balm.  If things get hard to come by, this is one I’d suggest getting at least a container of it to keep around so you can make the things you need for daily comfort.

I regularly store canola oil and olive oil for my liquid oils.  I don’t want to go overboard with these as I only have so much fridge and freezer space (like everyone) and don’t want to scramble to figure out how to keep them from going bad on me if the temperature starts to go up, but I am trying desperately to keep ahead on them so that I don’t run out anytime soon.

8.  Milk. 

I keep various types of this staple in my house, but you don’t need to keep all of these around.  One of my son’s staple “real” foods he’ll actually consume is whole milk, so we try desperately to have different ways to keep it in the house.

Dehydrated milk.   I use this regularly in my baked bread to give the bread a softer crumb and will definitely use it in cooking and baking when milk gets hard to come by at the store.  If you don’t use a lot of milk, try to avoid buying #10 cans (big coffee can size) of dehydrated milk.  You have to use the milk within a year of opening or it will start to go rancid on you and a #10 can gives you a lot of milk to go through.  I have heard you can freeze milk powder to keep it fresh, you could do that, but be sure not to lose track of it in the freezer.  At the time I’m making this post, Augason Farms #10 can of milk on Amazon is only going for $16.78, which is a really good price for that.  I actually bought six packs of Carnation milk on Amazon last year, which I love the smaller sized cans, but that isn’t available right now (and hasn’t been for quite a while), so yeah, do some exploring to find what fits you best.

Evaporated milk.  Great to use as a substitute for half and half or cream in baking recipes in a pinch (I use it in a particular scone recipe I make that calls for cream when I make it occasionally).  If times get really bad people can also use evaporated milk to make their own formula for babies (I will let people do their own research on that), so I try to keep some extra around not only for my family but to donate to the food bank if things get really bad.

Condensed milk.  Sweetened condensed milk is an item that I’ve found more and more uses for over the years.  I’ll have to share some of them.  But, I do consider this a staple to keep in my food storage and usually aim to keep at least six cans to use in different desserts.

UHT/Boxed/Shelf Stable Milk.  I have become quite the connoisseur of UHT milk over the last few years as we bought a bunch pre-lockdown I’ve had to use up.  This doesn’t have the long use by dates that the other types of milk do, but I have found it keeps longer than the use by date by quite a bit.  I used up all of my older UHT milk to make home made yogurt (yogurt is another wonderful thing to keep around as it works as a substitute for sour cream and other things…I’ll do a post on that later on) and recently used one of our newer boxes this week when I was trying to avoid going to the store until Friday so I was trying to keep the fresh milk around for the son to drink.  So, I used the boxed milk to make soup instead of fresh milk.   Great stuff to keep around.

9.   Powdered and frozen eggs. 

This is one that I suggest keeping around for the sake of necessity.  With the avian flu ripping across the globe, eggs are going straight up in price and may very well be hard to come by everywhere here soon, having longer term storage solutions seems to be a good idea.  So, I bought myself a #10 can of powdered eggs when I first heard of the avian flu break out months and months ago.  This was bought to use in baking.  

I have also, when fresh eggs start to get a bit old in my fridge, been scrambling one egg at a time lightly and then freezing them in reusable muffin liners in muffin pans (the reusable liners make the eggs easy to remove once frozen and saves your poor muffin tin from getting damaged as you try and chisel them out of the muffin tin).  I then bag the eggs in a freezer bag (I just add eggs as I freeze different batches to the same bag).  Once I get enough I’ll vacuum seal the eggs in a bag to use for scrambled eggs when things get scarce or to use in baking as well.  I wouldn’t suggest going out and buying a ton of powdered eggs as one #10 can of eggs is actually a decent amount of eggs.  When I open my can I am planning to separate it out into different portions and then vacuum sealing the eggs into mason jars so that I don’t have to try and blow through a can of eggs within a year.  Since I don’t have a freeze dryer this is the best options available to me, so do what is best for you.

10.  Potatoes.  

Potatoes are a great, calorie dense, food to keep around.  You can feed a lot of people with potatoes (as my Irish ancestors would attest).  

I like to keep a good supply of fresh potatoes in potato bags in my fridge.  Yes, I know that they say not to do that as it is too cold, but I’ve found my pantry is just warm enough that the potatoes immediately sprout, so my fridge now has a potato drawer.  It is a great use for the old “vegetable rotter” as my mom used to call the crisper drawer.  

I do not like instant mashed potatoes for the most part, but I do keep them around as they work great for things that don’t include making mashed potatoes.  And let’s face facts, some mashed potatoes with meatloaf, instant or not, is better than no mashed potatoes.  But, instant mashed potatoes can also be used as a thickener for soups and stews, can be used a filler instead of bread crumbs in things like meatloaf and other things.  I actually have quite a store of dehydrated potato products in my long term food storage.  Shredded potatoes, potato slices, potato dices…you name it.  #10 cans of dehydrated potato products were going for about 8.00 a pop a few years ago, so I grabbed some here and there for long term food storage.  Amazon still has them, but the potato slices that I found are now 16.00 and something for the Augason Farms brand, so you might want to check around if you want to do that option.  Potato flakes are still readily available and should have a use by date of at least a year or two out from when you purchase, so I’d definitely consider this to be a good thing to have around. 

11.    Pasta. 

This is another thing that I definitely keep in bulk around my house.  Pasta is great.  Keep it dry and safe from bugs (store pasta that comes in boxes like Barilla in plastic containers to keep it safe from weevils and things) and it’ll keep indefinitely.  Also be sure to secure it from mice as rodents are determined little buggers. 

I keep different shapes of pasta in my food storage for different uses.  At a minimum I am always sure to stock up on spaghetti as that is usually the cheapest one you can get and also still comes in a 1 lb package versus 12 oz (at least the last time I checked it did, but watch for shrinkflation).  Pasta is also one of those things that you can pick up a few boxes every week and it will quickly add up for you, so I definitely suggest adding this to your pantry essentials.  I keep enough around to feed us for at least a year (figuring on eating pasta at least once a week), but have had to double that in the last few months  as my son is inhaling food like a Hoover and will go through a pound of pasta by himself within a day…I might even have to buy more to be safe the way he is going.

12.  Seasonings.  

This is a big one.  If you have a certain type of grill seasoning that you like, see if you can buy it in bulk and pick up a big container of it.  Salt and pepper go decently far, but spices and seasonings really make life a lot less hard to live through.  

I have a big spice cabinet that I’ve built back up since 2018 (with help from others in the beginning, thank you all!) when we had an earthquake that wiped out my spice cabinet (along with a ton of other stuff in my house) and I rotate things out regularly.  If you don’t really have a spice cabinet and know you are going to have to start cooking soon with the way prices are going up on take out, the bare minimum of things I’d suggest is getting a grill seasoning you like (I always have McCormick’s Montreal Steak Seasoning on board), salt and pepper, an Italian herb blend (it will have a bunch of herbs in it so you won’t have to buy them all individually), lemon pepper (a wonderful asset to have for fish or when you need a citrus note), seasoning salt (I really like Morton Season All, but haven’t been able to find it in a long time, so I got a store generic that is okay right now), garlic and onion powder, taco seasoning and chili powder (so you can make chili, of course).  

Paprika might be a good one to invest in as well as you can use that as part of a base to make your own seasoning blends and one that a lot of people don't think of is cumin, which is a big one when it comes to making seasoning blends like chili powder and taco seasoning.  With spices, I’d suggest getting cinnamon, at least, vanilla extract (I have imitation vanilla and it works fine) and anything you find you reach for regularly.  For me, I make sure to have an extra container of ground ginger in the house as I have a cookie recipe for my son that calls for a lot of ground ginger in it, so I know I’ll need it.

13.  Condiments and vinegars.  

Ketchup, mustard, relish, pickles.  Be sure you get as much as you need to last you a while on those staples you use all the time.  We go through a lot of ketchup, so I make sure to be stocked up on that.  Soy sauce is one that if you like to make Asian food, you will want to stock up on that.  I also store miso paste in my freezer as I like to cook Japanese food decently often and I store shelf stable tofu for the same reason.  Salad dressings.  Think of what you really want to have should things become unavailable and stock up a few extra of those items.  I'm not saying go and buy 12 bottles of salad dressing when you normally go through like one or two a year.  Try to be realistic about what you'll use and go from there.  

Vinegars are usually in this category, but I nearly put them by themselves.  I keep gallons of white vinegar around (you can use it for making salad dressings, making pickles and also for various cleaning duties) for canning pickles and making quick sauerkraut brine.  I usually keep a gallon of apple cider vinegar for pickling purposes and I recently got a gallon of rice vinegar because I needed rice vinegar for a recipe and it was cheaper to buy the gallon than it was to buy a smaller container (the weirdness of internet shopping) and I’ve been using it anytime an Asian recipe calls for vinegar (it’s worked so far as just brining pork for sweet and sour pork calls for a decent amount of vinegar in it *laugh*).  I usually keep a small thing of balsamic vinegar around for salads as well during the summer months.  

If you can only afford one vinegar, though, I’d go for white distilled vinegar.  It is the most versatile and can be used for food purposes as well as cleaning purposes.

14.  Stocks/Bullion.  

I stock up on powdered bullion instead of boxed stocks around here.  I find the Mexican Knorr brand to be the best and I stocked up in bulk on the beef and chicken flavors over a year ago.  They will last me for quite a while and I find they have the best flavor (and don’t’ taste overly salty) of all the brands I’ve tried.  

I know a lot of people make their own stocks and can them themselves (which good for you if you do!), but I have a small pantry and limited amounts of mason jars to spare.  I do, from time to time, make some pints of stock to add to soups and stews later (like I turn the turkey carcass from Thanksgiving into stock), but for the most part I turn to powdered to save space and time.  So, for Erika, powdered stocks are just fine by me.  Stocks and bullion are essential to have around to use for bases for soups and stews, to add depth of flavor to dishes and sauces and things.  So, yes, I consider these to be a big one for me to have on my “don’t run out” list.

15.   Chocolate and cocoa powder.

I know some people who don't stock up on chocolate items, which is fine, but for my family with a deadly peanut allergy in the house (who also happens to love chocolate), I try to stock up a year at a time on things like chocolate chips.  

Cocoa powder is another one that is great to stock up on as it is one of those items that will keep indefinitely and will come in handy when you want to make brownies, chocolate cake or other chocolate recipes.  

16.  Satellite Items/Other Stuff 

These are things I keep in my home that, while you can live without them, are good to have in your stockpile.  

One is honey.  Honey does not go bad.  It will crystalize over time, but it doesn’t go bad.  So, it is a great thing to keep around as a sugar alternative in baking (you can even use it to make jams and things with if you get the right pectin).  But, I'll be the first to admit that honey can be pricey to have around.  So, use your own judgement on this one.  If you are into canning and have the supplies available you can make dandelion jelly or parsley jelly and they come out tasting a lot like honey, so that is an option if you really can't afford to buy honey regularly to top your corn bread or yogurt.

Maple syrup is one that I keep on hand because when my son sometimes eats pancakes, he will only eat real maple syrup on them, so it is an investment I’m willing to make.  

Molasses is a good one to keep around to make gingerbread, to serve on top of oatmeal and other things, so I do keep that around the house as well.  

 Coffee.  Okay, not necessary for survival, but my husband and I still like to drink it.  So, we keep that in our stores.

Juices and Drinks:  I try to keep a good stock of powdered drinks in food storage so that we are sure to at least get a good dose of vitamin C from somewhere.  I keep lemonade mix, Tang and a few different flavors of Gatorade powder in the house if at all possible to give us a bit of variety in what we can drink and also for the sake of the ever important Vitamin C. 

Cornmeal/Polenta are staples in my house to make cornbread and other things with (I’ve got some plans on recipes to share coming up, so stay tuned), but you can also just buy Jiffy cornbread mixes to last you and call it good.  

Prepackaged items also have places in my house.  I buy and stock Jello puddings in various flavors (or Royal puddings in some cases) that I can quickly mix up for a fast dessert.  I also stock up on things like cake mixes, muffin mixes and other foods that while they have a life span on them, help me to not have to do things like bake a cake from scratch (not something I’m very good at) and use up materials and I keep those in my short-term pantry and rotate them out regularly.   I also have some prepackaged rice mixes and potato dishes that we like.  I know it is not a strict survival thing, but it is nice to have.  Same thing with boxed macaroni and cheese.  Not a favorite of mine, but my daughter loves it, so I keep it around for a quick go-to lunch or if we just want to throw some chili into macaroni and cheese and call it good for dinner one night.  

Nuts/Nut Butters:  These items are great to have in your food storage, but can be pricey to buy, so I put them here.  I know peanut butter is filling and cheap, but I don't know how cheap anymore as I haven't bought any in over a decade (you know, peanut allergy).  I keep peanut safe cashew butter in my stores, powdered Barney butter (peanut safe almond butter products)  as well as Biscoff cookie butter for baking some decadent treats (or to eat with a spoon when you are having a down day...maybe...not that I would know anything about that *laugh*).  I also store bulk amounts of peanut safe tree nuts.  Right now I have almonds, walnuts and pecans in my freezer to use in baked goods.  None of these items were cheap for me to buy, but I like to have them around for use in nut butter sandwiches or in baking and in salads (in the case of the whole nuts).  But, I did want to mention them here.  I don't really consider these a major need to keep in our food storage (I know, I'm weird like that), but I do like to keep them around in multiples for the sake of having them when I want them.  When you have a peanut allergy, you can't really go down to the store and just buy nuts (even if they are available)  so I have to plan ahead doubly for these types of items.

So, there you go.  My choices for pantry essentials.  I know it is a lot, and believe me I tried to keep the list down, but when you are looking at having to make things from scratch it really is hard to start to narrow things down.  Making things from scratch takes a bunch of ingredients, time and money, no matter how you work it, so it is hard to try and narrow it down to keep it cheap for folks.  But, I do consider your pantry and food storage to be the BEST investment you can make in life in any time, good or bad, as you just never know what is going to happen from one month to the next, let alone looking at all of the bad coming the world’s way very quickly here.  I apologize if I forgot and or spaced things or if this post was too long and overwhelming.  I've been working hard on this post for about a month now and finally decided I really just needed to post it so it might still be able to do some people some good.  

Do the best you can for you and your family and may God guide us all in the coming storm to land us all on safe shores.

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Saving Some Pennies: Making Your Own Spreadable Butter

This is a recipe that came out of necessity more than inspiration.  Although, the phrase "Necessity is the mother of invention" really does apply here.

Money for us is tight.  I know that goes for pretty much everyone anymore.  So, I went shopping last week and tried to keep it as cheap as I could on the grocery front.  I did keep it decently cheap, which made me feel good as with quickly rising food prices, it wasn't easy.  But, per usual (am I the only one here?), I forgot something.  Spreadable butter.

Yes, I know spreadable butter isn't exactly a necessity, but I really do like having it around for home made bread and toast and things as I found it really cuts down on how much regular stick butter we consume.  By buying one big container of spreadable butter a month I cut out going through pounds of butter every month.  Not sure why, really, maybe because we know that the spreadable butter is for toast and other home made baked goods while the stick butter is for baking and cooking exclusively?  Either way, it has worked and saved us money.  Yes, I know margarine is normally cheaper (who knows anymore if it is or not), but we just plain don't like margarine...I've tried in the past to I just stick with butter.  Anyway, it has been something I've bought for quite a while now.

I thought of going to the store and maybe picking up just a thing of spreadable butter, but then I looked on the store apps to see how much spreadable butter is going for and decided buying it was out for now.  I then thought, "Well, maybe I can make some."  I looked at the label on the spreadable butter and realized that it was simply butter and oil and that was it.  So, I decided to give it a shot.

My biggest worry was the ratio of butter to oil.  I didn't want to screw it up and end up with unusable butter as that would make me cry.  But, I actually pulled it off, thank goodness and it came out well.

If you are just trying to refill one of those big containers of spreadable butter I'd cut this recipe in half.  I decided looking at the amount that was in our big container of butter (24 oz) that I'd start out with a full pound of butter (bought on sale ages ago and was in my freezer...I paid like 2.49 for the butter) and add oil to make it spreadable.   To figure out the oil I decided to go with the 24 oz total, took my 16 oz of butter (1 lb) and added 1 cup of light olive oil (8 oz) to make 24 oz. total.  Yes, I know that doesn't really work, but it was a good starting point in my mind.

And you know what?  It worked out really well!  The only issue I have when it is all said and done is that by using a full pound of butter and the one cup of oil I filled a 4 cup Pyrex glass container with just enough room to fit the lid on ( is still sitting a bit on top of the butter, but we're getting to the point we can close the airtight lid properly).  So, yeah, this recipe makes a lot.  Just be aware.  

But, hey, the process could not be easier!

Here's how to do it.

DIY Spreadable Butter


  • 1 lb of butter (I used salted, but if you want to watch your salt, start with unsalted and then you can add salt if you want when you mix it all up), softened to room temperature.
  • 1 cup neutral flavored oil (I used light olive oil, but canola oil or other neutral flavored oil would work...avoid coconut oil as it'll solidify into a solid chunk when done).


1.  Put butter into a medium to large mixing bowl.  Whip with an electric mixer (you can use a stand mixer if you'd like as this does take a little bit and could make your hand cramp) until it lightens in color and is well whipped.   

2.  Slowly pour the oil in a bit at a time and whip with the electric mixer after each addition until well blended before adding the next addition.  This is a good time to add salt if you used unsalted butter and want to add salt to the final product.

3. Once all oil is combined with the butter (it will be runny, but don't worry, it will set up in the fridge) pour into your container of choice (I used glass to avoid grease problems with plastic later on) and store in the fridge.  Use as you would store bought spreadable butter.

I did notice that my home made spreadable butter is a teeny bit harder to get out of the container than the store bought stuff, but it spreads on toast just fine and tastes great.  And it makes a lot more than the store bought stuff, so it'll last us quite a while =D.

So, if you use spreadable butter, are in a pinch and don't want to buy some (or can't find it at the store), this is a great hack to make it on your own.