Note: This is a follow-up article to the original piece on the 34 best staple foods to stockpile which you can read here.
You need to eat. So do I. Before I wrote this, I had scrambled eggs, buttered toast, coffee with cream, and a bowl of green grapes. I got protein, fat (which you do need some of) carbohydrates (which are necessary, not the enemy) fluids, caffeine, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Yes, you can live without it for about a month, or even longer, though it will not be an enjoyable process. Most Americans eat way too much too often, and the wrong kind of food (guilty). Food is a morale booster, restores energy, and gives one fortitude. Food prepared with others, and eaten in the company of others can build comradery and teamwork.
In a crisis situation, you may have to do hard physical work, travelling on foot, carrying a heavy load over rough terrain, in extremes of weather and temperature. In a lesser crisis, maybe you are at home sitting in an ice storm and blizzard, with the power out, and three inches of ice under or on top of 18 inches of snow, the roads are hazardous, and nothing is moving.
Maybe you have lost your job, and were ill prepared with little to nothing in the way of savings, and less in the form of family support. (Been there; and it is a shit situation).
An at least 30-day supply of food will keep your anxiety levels down, and your morale and energy levels up to facilitate finding a new job ( I almost just wrote fondling a new job; what would Sigmund Freud have said about a slip like that?).
Here is a maxim about food storage and safety:
If in doubt, throw it out.
One of the most memorable experiences I had was when I was 18 and dined on breaded chicken nuggets from a well-known Scottish restaurant chain. The nuggets were fine; however, I had the poor judgment to apply BBQ sauce from a packet that had opened. Shortly thereafter, I had nausea and vomited until I was emptied out.
Then came dry heaves that really hurt, followed by diarrhea, in the form of water emerging explosively from the wrong orifice, and throwing up water I tried to drink.
In-between, I lay on the bed saying something that sounded like owwwgh as I had severe stomach cramps. To this day, 34 years later, I have not eaten nuggets from this well-known Scottish restaurant.
If something does not smell right to you, do not eat it. Do not even taste a little bit of it. It is not worth getting a foodborne illness with diarrhea and vomiting, which will make you miserable, incapacitated, and dehydrated at best, or can be life threatening at worst.
Here is a list of nutritious (for the most part) food, with a long shelf life, ease of prep, and good tasting (for the most part). I taste tested all below at one time or another, including chocolate chip cookies, M & M’s, chocolate bars, maple bacon, and brandy. I hope you reader’s appreciate this hardship, as someone had to do it.
1. Water, water, water. Start here. You need water every day. Store water, and be able to capture rainwater, and purify questionable tap water and water from creeks, streams, rivers and lakes.
Water purification tablets, water filter straws, and chlorine is options. Clean water in a sealed container has an indefinite shelf life unless bacteria or any contaminant is introduced into it. Obviously, don’t store below freezing temperatures or containers will rupture.
2. Vitamin gummies to supplement a limited diet.
3. Herbs and spices to add flavor to packaged food, or keep a repetitive diet interesting. Hit the dollar store and stock up. Spices will keep indefinitely as far as being safe to eat as long as they are kept dry, though they will lose flavor and become duller over time. Just use more, or rotate your stock.
4. Flavored electrolyte powder can also help hide any nasty tastes from treated water to encourage hydration. Electrolyte powders in original sealed containers will have an indefinite shelf life as long they are kept from temperature extremes.
5. Power gels were explored by me thoroughly in another article. They are little packets of gel or syrup, with glucose, electrolytes and most have caffeine. Some taste very good, others less so.
Try a few to see which flavors you prefer. Power gels should last indefinitely as long frozen or overheated. Packets will rupture and make a sticky mess if kept in a vehicle in winter or a hot summer day.
6. Honey. It is a versatile source of calories that can be added to coffee or tea, mixed with peanut butter, or stirred into oatmeal or rice and diced fruit. Honey has a shelf life of millennia.
Containers of honey found in Egyptian tombs are still edible after over 3,000 years. It will crystallize, but is fine to eat. Heat it and it will be restored to its original consistently.
7. Instant Coffee Packets
This is good when mixed into eight to 10 oz. of hot water. I tried it in 16 oz. of hot water, and while it tasted fine, it was too weak. If you prefer to add the cream and sugar yourself:
Instant coffee will keep for about three to six months. After that, it is still drinkable, but the flavor will not be the best.
8. Slim Jim Bacon Jerky, Maple
This is so good. It is cold bacon. It is sweet, salty, smoky, and tender. I have not tried putting it in a hot skillet, but it is so good straight from the package.
Commercially prepared beef jerky in a sealed bag has a shelf life of 1-2 years. The leaner the jerky, the longer it will last. Marbled bacon jerky will have a lower end shelf life. Jerky made in a dehydrator or oven will have a lower shelf life of several months.
Spam is a classic food for hunters, hikers, and other outdoorsmen. It is loaded with sodium and fat, so it is not the most nutritious item. It does have a lot of protein, and it’s unique, sweet ham taste, is familiar and comforting.
It is also versatile. Eat it cold with mustard on crispbread crackers. Dice it up and stir it into eggs, or use it in soup. Sear it in a hot skillet and serve it with eggs. Spam in a sealed package has a shelf life of two to five years.
10. Quaker Green Apple & fig Oatmeal.
Oatmeal is loaded with fiber, tastes great, and is easy to prepare. All you need to do is add hot water. If you can’t heat water for some reason, empty the packet into a container, and cover the oats with cold water.
Let them soak and absorb the water for a few hours, and the oats will be tender and ready to eat. Keep it dry and sealed, and oatmeal will keep for two or three years.
11. Dried fruit: dates, figs, prunes, apricots, raisins, golden raisins, and cranberries.
Add to oats, rice, or eat as they are. Dried fruits provide fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
12. Uncle Ben’s Ready rice
Easy to open packs, available in a variety of types of rice and flavors. The rice is parboiled to where it is firm, and not quite edible. They can be microwaved in about a 90 seconds, or the contents can be put in boiling water.
Try throwing in some chopped spam. In extremis, you could eat it out of the pack, though it will be chewy and not taste very good.
13. Thai Rice noodle soup
Add water and the spice packet and you have a meal. These are really good, upscale versions of Ramen.
14. Instant potatoes. They come in a variety of flavors, in several serving packets. Use them for mashed potatoes of course, but also potato soup, to thicken other soups, or to fortify breads or cakes.
15. Wasa Multi Grain Crispbread
This is nutritious, full of fiber, relatively durable for a cracker, and versatile. Use it with the albacore, salmon, or peanut butter listed below.
They are hard and while chewable, they are also good for dipping in coffee, hot cocoa, or crumbled into soup. Keep them dry and they should last over a year, and still taste as good as they have no fat to turn rancid.
This is a very good source of protein. The packets tear open easily, instead of having to fight to open it. You can eat it with a fork straight out of the package. I like to add some hot sauce and a squeeze of lemon or lime, though you can buy varieties with the seasonings included. Tuna in a sealed package has a shelf life of two to five years.
17. Chicken of the Sea Premium Skinless & Boneless Pink Salmon
Also very good. Easy open packets you can eat from. Also available in a variety of flavors. Salmon is very nutritious, offering protein, omega threes, and calcium among an abundance of other nutrients. Salmon in a sealed package has a shelf life of two to five years.
18. Larabar Gluten Free Bar, Apple Pie, 1.6 oz. Bars (16 Count)
The gluten free nonsense is so overstated. The actual incidence of celiac disease is .071%, or one person out of 141. When a product is advertised as gluten free, it is mostly marketing toward all the people who think they have it because it is a trendy diagnosis.
How sick that an illness is trendy and people want to have it. Anyway, disregard the gluten free part of the label unless you really do have celiac disease. These bars taste good, have a long shelf life, and are chewy and nutritious.
19. Honey Peanut Butter Squeeze Packs by Justin’s
The addition of honey makes the peanut butter less sticky and pasty, making it ideal for eating right out of the pack. It can also be spread on the crispbread. Peanut butter is a good source of protein and healthy fats.
You need a few things just because they are so good.
20. Symphony chocolate bar.
This is a delicious chocolate bar which balance low cost with great flavor. Chocolate has a shelf life of at least a year as long as it is kept cool and dry. Chocolate that is older will develop a white coating called bloom, and will not taste as good, but it is still edible.
21. White chocolate M & Ms. A relatively new variety. White chocolate covered with the classic M & M candy covering.
22. Mint chocolate M & Ms.
23. Freihofer’s chocolate chip cookies. These are classic chocolate chip cookies, soft and chewy and they smell so good.
24. Trader Joe’s vanilla snaps. These are the best vanilla snaps I ever had. They are crisp, sweet but not cloying, and have the best vanilla aroma and taste.
Other Comfort Items
25. Hot sauce to wake up flavors. Tabasco, Frank’s Red Hot, or Cholula are good choices.
26. Citrus crystals. True Lemon or True Lime are good to add to the tuna, salmon, or rice noodles. They are also good to flavor water, or add some bright flavor to electrolyte powder or tea.
27. A bottle of good quality brandy or bourbon. Go easy; quality over quantity. This is for a comforting sipping beverage, not to be used as medicine to shut off reality and impair your ability to cope.
Whiskey can also be used for bartering, and in extremis, a disinfectant for wounds, or hands and instruments to treat wounds, though this is not the most effective method. Whiskey can also be used a fire starter. Soak birch bark, pinecones, or other tinder in it before lighting. Some suggestions are:
- Christian Brothers brandy. Inexpensive, smooth, and tasting of oak, vanilla, brown sugar, and spices. Good neat, warmed, or in coffee or tea.
- E & J brandy. Also inexpensive and smooth. Similar to CB, but not as sweet.
- Old Granddad bourbon. Low cost, and highly under rated. I know you are sick of hearing this by now, but… it is so smooth.
- Jack Daniels. Charcoal filtered Tennessee Whiskey. A little rougher than Old Grandad.
- Grand Marnier. This is a delicious blend of cognac and orange liqueur.
- Cointreau. Another orange liqueur, a little sweeter than GM. Try Cointreau or GM in hot cocoa.
- B & B. Benedictine liqueur and brandy. Also very good, as is or added to coffee.
Discriminating whiskey connoisseurs will be able to detect some muted or duller flavors in an opened bottle of several month old whiskey as it gets down to a quarter full, but it is still fine to drink.
Whiskey and brandy in unopened glass bottles can keep at low temperatures for decades. Alcohol content over 40% will keep the beverages from freezing down to -17 F.
In 2015, bottles of Scotch whisky were found in the basecamp of Antarctic explorers, which was over 100 years old and was likely still drinkable once it was thawed.
This was after over 100 years of exposure to subzero temperatures. Ethyl alcohol’s boiling point is much lower than water; 141F vs. 212 F for water.
This means that as the whisky is heated through improper storage, the alcohol will expand and can shatter a bottle. Alternating extremes of temperature, storage in plastic, or exposure to sunlight can render a whisky undrinkable and foul tasting.
My preference for food storage is dispersion. I keep stuff in my EDC man bag, BoB, my car, my office, and of course at home. I want it accessible, and in several places to minimize losses from theft, water damage, freezing, or melting, as applicable.
There are other options, such as a buried cache, or renting a storage center. That is for another article.
Other Food Safety Tips
- Beware of any foil packets that are bloated. Some of the food listed below, e.g., Spam and salmon are contained in sealed foil packets that undergo a virtually identical process to caning. Swelling or bloating is indicative of gases being produced from bacterial contamination and fermentation. Discard any packet of food that has ruptured or is leaking unless you just accidently tore or perforated it. In that event, eat it promptly.
- When handling food, be certain your hands are as clean as possible so you do not introduce bacteria into any uneaten portions you save for later.
- Make certain any utensil or surfaces that come into contact with food are clean as possible.
- Keep dry products dry. Bacteria love water, and reproduce abundantly.
- Salt is hydrophilic, meaning it loves water, attaching to water and absorbing about twice its weight in water. Salty foods will last longer. Salt has been used for food preservation for millennia.