When considering food storage, one is supposed to eat what one stores. One should also eat in a way that is beneficial to healthy living. Salt is over abused today in the standard American diet. The average American consumes as much as 8,000 mg of sodium a day. You only need 200 mg to survive and it is recommended you only have an intake of 2000 mg per day. Excessive salt intake is a major contributor to health problems.
Many folks have #10 cans of food items stored for emergencies. Take a look at the label on many of these. One tbs. of imitation bacon bits has 139 mg (7%) of sodium. One quarter cup imitation chicken bits can have up to 600 mg (24%). A quarter cup seasoned breadcrumbs has about 795 mg while a cup of regular breakfast cereal has 200 to 350 mg. Add a cup of milk for another 120 mg. Hotdogs and sausages are 600-900 mg each depending on brand. I don’t know about you, but I rarely eat such small amounts! Two hotdogs is the norm and can ruin your entire day’s allotment at a single sitting. As you can see, it does not take long to add up.
So, you have decided to be more careful on salt intake. You walk down the store aisle and look at something you have decided to eat regularly and to store for emergencies. You see it only has 200 mg. Not bad, right? Then you notice that is for a 1 ounce serving and experience tells you that you eat no less than 4 ounces at a time. Oops.
What’s a person to do? By time you find foods that your family will eat and are low in sodium, you suddenly discover they can cost two to three times as much! Perhaps the answer is easier than you think. It consists of two parts. One, carefully consider all foods and lean towards the basic ingredients of making your own meals, and two, make your own pre-made meals.
If you learn to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables as well as grains and use them to make your meals from scratch, you will have complete control of what goes into your foods. This will extend into storing grains and legumes as well for your emergency supplies. Store them but use them now so there will be minimal disruption if you have to fall back on your storage.
How do we store fresh fruits and vegetables though? My answer is home canning. The next time you are at the store, look at the sodium content on a can of vegetables. Imagine being able to store up your own green beans that have little or no sodium in them.
I know that a home garden can help, and if it is large enough you can have enough to can extra. Most of us though will not have a garden going with food ready to harvest if an emergency happens in January. We will need to rely on our stores, so be sure to prepare them now.
Another reason to learn canning is convenience. If you are watching sodium intake, commercially canned chili is basically out of the picture. Make your own at home though and you can come home from a hard day at work and just pop open a jar of your own home made chili for the same convenience as store bought, but without the harmful amounts of sodium.
Will it be cheaper? Not normally, unless you have access to a large garden or great deals at the farmer’s market. It will still be cheaper than buying commercially made low sodium foods from the store. I never could understand why there can be two cans of tomato paste on the store shelf, one with salt added and one without, but the ones they never added the salt to in the first place cost more!
Meats are another area of sodium problems. Think you can avoid it by buying fresh chicken only? Check again. I would prefer to avoid using brand names, but as far as I can tell in our neck of the woods Foster Farms is truly the only producer that does not plump up the chicken they sell with salt water. Even beef and pork are high in sodium.
If you can find sources of lower sodium meats, canning will allow you to store these products now and have them available in an emergency. The convenience factor during stressful emergencies is incalculable. You also will not have to rely on electricity for the freezer should the worst happen.
As a side note here, sodium content is not the only healthful reason to can your own foods. If any member of the family has allergies or strong dislikes of certain types of food, you can customize your pantry and emergency stores to suite. Not to mention preservatives.
I am not going to go into the specifics of how to can foods. There are many good books and resources available. All I can say is to use caution when choosing your information source and always try to go with up to date recognized authority. Incorrectly done and it can be harmful. You may read how grandma done it, and nobody ever got sick, but don’t risk your life, or the life of your family on it.
Use quality equipment and always have it inspected by a competent person if you buy used. Your local county extension agent is a great source for assistance.
One thing I do recommend though is reusable canning lids. Tattler brand can be found on the internet and are great, especially for long term use like in ‘grid down’. Metal lids are relatively cheap, but not reusable.
Keep your storage grains, legumes and canned foods in a cool dry place, secured against falling and you will find that every time you look at your food stores you will feel a true sense of security deep inside knowing that come what may, you will not only have foods to support yourself and family, but you are doing in as healthful a way as possible.