Common Sense 101
Food is fuel; it’s as simple as that.
It is also true that high-calorie foods contain more fuel than low-calorie ones. It’s quite simple, common sense 101. It goes without saying that the best food items are going to have a high caloric value.
However, it is safe to say, that the highest caloric foods are usually the most expensive.
As I used to teach my children about economics, the entire system revolves around energy. Whether the energy is Oil & Gas, sugar beets, or electrical energy using coal or gas powered generation, it’s all just calories that make up the basic needs of this world. Energy is the real intangible currency in life.
Energy is what makes the world go around. Therefore, whether you are talking about fuel for your car or food your body, energy is the key component. Whether you are canning food or growing your own, you need to optimize the amount of caloric potential for the family or group, especially in a long-term survival situation.
For example, dehydrated vegetables are not as high in calories as fried chicken or Jerky. My apologies to those of you who are vegetarians, but that is a fact. Calories are fuel. A calorie is simply the energy used to heat a cubic centimeter of pure distilled water by one degree.
Meat is the concentrated form of energy. That is why a cubic centimeter of fat has more caloric value than a cubic centimeter of, say, a carrot. The cow has turned the grass into a concentrated form of energy, such as fat and proteins. Have you ever tried to light a carrot on fire? It’s not so easy, but, we have all seen what happens when hamburger fat drips into a barbecue, right? That’s energy.
Furthermore, for those of you that feel the need for variety in your diets or who are vegetarian, there are some good pioneer recipes available to create bricks of vegetables. Vegetable bricks are compacted for easy storage before rehydrating them in soups or other recipes.
So, grow vegetables yourself. I am sure an apple press or a simple bench vise in a pinch, with a type of piston cylinder made out of pipes, would compact vegetable bricks. Compacting vegetable bricks can easily be done at home and then vacuum-sealed for longer shelf-life. A vegetable brick that looks similar to a strange hockey puck would be perfect.
Another consideration to any large group is the cost of feeding them over a long period.
Convenience foods are costly. Ready-made foods are going to cost way more than something you prepared yourself. The cost of whatever foodstuffs you set aside for your group is directly proportionate to the number of meals you will provide them. Alternatively, fewer meals per person equal less of a buffer against possible starvation for the group.
Here are some old time common sense ways of feeding a large group of people for an extended period to survive post collapse.
I have found that many of the scenarios we think we may face in our future have happened in our past. The Great Depression, the many wars, the famines, and the diseases. All of these plagues have impacted humanity in our not so distant past. So, the answer to our question of how to survive lies in the past.
History is our best teacher sometimes. History contains lessons many people have forgotten, but in truth, we have already faced all of the future scenarios. Years of living under these tough conditions developed many practical solutions for survival, so take heed.
One of the things that always intrigued me as a child was watching Western movies, reading Louis L’Amour Novels, or some other pioneer adventure. I loved those books and soaked up everything in them. When the characters were in that proverbial General Store scene, and they always seemed to order the same staples no matter what story it was, that stuck with me. I thought maybe it was the only thing available to them back in those days. But, later in life, I understood why the old-timers ordered the same staples in every story.
Beans, flour, coffee, salt, sugar, cured bacon, and a few odds and sods, along with the inevitable plug of tobacco. You can consider tobacco an optional item in your kit. Although I bet, you could barter a plug of tobacco to a smoker for just about anything they had that you needed.
I’m going to digress here for a bit, but bear with me; there is a point.
Now as a child growing up, this sounded like hearty fare and a grand and rugged way of independence to my fertile mind. I imagined loading my mule up with the winter’s supply and hitting the trails to the Gold Mines or wherever they may lead. Hunting and trapping my way where ever I pleased.
I lived those adventures vicariously as I anxiously flipped those pages under the steady light of my army-style Boy Scout flashlight. It was the one with the interchangeable red lenses for map reading, according to the included insert. It was held firmly between my shoulder and my chin, as I flipped page after, adventurous page, hidden beneath my covers so my mom wouldn’t see the light.
And, of course, this was all while wearing my fake coonskin hat. Living the adventures of those dime store novels like, Davey Crocket or trekking the Kentucky wilds with Daniel Boone or other mountain men.
My bedroom floor was strewn with dozens of Wild West comic books. Those adventures certainly did shape the way I look at life nowadays. I am sure if mom had fed me a big plate of beans like the cowboys ate every night, I would have certainly rebelled as a kid.
The funny thing was, I hated beans when I was young. Beans and liver, yuck!
Which reminds me?
A short digression, the Early Morning Moose Hunting
I remember quite a few years ago when my Dad and I were moose hunting. We got our truck stuck many miles back in the bush, on an abandoned logging road, far from our camp.
The trip was during the special draw season. We drove my Dad’s old red 1972 International pickup truck in to check out a low-lying area of muskeg early in the morning. The road had been frozen solid on our way in that morning. But by midday, it was slick and muddy, and we became so bogged down, we couldn’t leave.
We had not planned on doing anything more than a morning hunt that day and then a short jaunt back to town for supplies. It seemed a simple enough plan. We had run out of provisions at our camp, and the rural store was a half day there and back. At the time it seemed like a good idea to try and catch a morning hunt before heading to the rural General Store near midday.
Moose hunting was only by draw or lottery in that area. The season was just two weeks long during the September rut. The bog was the same area where my Dad had shot a moose during his draw several years before.
The reason we had run out of food at the camp was that originally we were only hunting for a week. We started the hunt with a group of hunters, but they had headed home early the day before, and Dad and I decided to stay on the extra week to fill his tag.
Anyway, “we were stuck real good,” with no hope of getting out unless the road froze up again. After five or six hours of trying every trick, we could think of we only managed to get a hundred more yards up the slick hill. The sun was going down, and we gave up to build a shelter.
We spent the first of two nights in the bush without much food with us. Water was not a problem, as we were in Moose country, so there was plenty to drink. However, it was late October and cold in the open air, hence the frozen ground in the mornings.
We made a makeshift camp in a rickety old dynamite shack we saw near the bog. It was what the remains of a burned down logging camp, which had obviously been vandalized by someone decades before.
That night we fashioned a hobo stove out of a five-gallon tin and a rusty length of stovepipe we found. It had plenty of holes in it to smoke up the shack. The only food we had was a bag of chocolates called rose buds, my Dad’s favorites. I will never forget them.
Most of you must know that young boys require plenty of calories to keep them going. I was no exception to this rule. So, of course, I ate as many of the chocolaty treats as I could stuff in my face. I ended up spewing the brown mess all over the frosted ground outside the shack door. The magnificent sky was full of a million stars, but the enjoyable view didn’t make losing my meal feel any better. Whatever else I had in my stomach was now gone, making the situation even worse in my eyes.
I shivered all night long as I fed the tiny fire, while my Dad slept like a rock. My Dad could sleep anywhere anytime. I always envied him for that. In the morning, the ground had frozen a little, but it was not enough to get any traction. We spent another afternoon without food and had no luck getting up the hill.
Yes, I may have been young, and I may have been foolish, but I was stubborn too.
Eventually, I got fed up with our situation, and I left my Dad with the truck and cut across the country for a mile or two through the bush. I found a secondary logging road that led to the trunk logging road. I remember being a little dizzy from lack of food, and a glucose imbalance. It was about twelve miles down the secondary road then several miles to the camp after that. The plan was to flag down someone before I got there or drive the camp skidder back to get Dad and the truck. Yes, country kids in those days knew how to drive tractors and skidders, usually by age twelve or even younger, if we stole them when no one was looking.
Anyway, when I arrived at the main road, I lucked out and was able to flag down another group of Moose hunters within half hour or so of walking toward our camp. It was funny because I remember being a little pissed off because I almost made it all the way back to the camp before anyone drove past. I mean the entire time I was cursing the fact nobody went by. Now within a mile of camp, a ride decides to show up.
The men reluctantly drove me all the way back to Dad and the truck. They thought it was too risky driving down the wet and muddy road, and wanted just to walk in to get my Dad. I finally convinced them to risk it, and when we arrived, we hooked up to the big red 4×4 with a long tow line and pulled the truck up the hill.
The men had some victory beers, and we made our way back to camp after two days in the bush. To say I was hungry would be an understatement. Most of the men were amazed I had walked out so far, but in my mind, it was far better than another night in that shack with no food. It has been a survival philosophy of mine ever since. Energy is finite. We are always consuming it, even sitting still, so when the tank runs out, we are done. I figure it’s best to get out while you still have gas in the tank.
Well, the point of the story is that when we got back to camp, the only thing we had left to eat was, you guessed it, liver and beans.
I had three helpings and ate until I could not move.
Liver and Beans have now become one of my favorite meals, and I will always appreciate the elegance of simple foods.
Back to the Wisdom of basic Staples
Then again, the wisdom behind these frontier staples still rings true today. I believe the idea back in the old days, was to simply provide a base diet, subsidized with whatever one could find in the wilds.
I’m sure occasionally you may only have a plate of beans for a meal, and that is fine. If you keep a wary eye out when you travel, you could surely find something along the way, something extra to throw in the pot at suppertime. Wild greens’ maybe or an opportunistic survivalist might even stumble upon a rabbit or grouse to shoot if they are lucky.
So, in keeping with those pioneer traditionalists, I suggest reading as much about factual, and I repeat factual survival techniques from those stoic pioneers from our past.
Dry beans can be very cheap if purchased in bulk by the sack full. They can be stored nearly indefinitely, though eventually they do dry too much and become very difficult to soften by soaking or even slow cooking. It does not make them inedible but simply challenging to consume because of the toughness. Beans can also be cooked for a long time on a wood stove and used in many meals, as the recipe dictates. You might recall an old nursery rhyme.
“Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old.”
Well, that is because ideally, it took about nine days to get the peas soft enough to eat.
That reminds me when I say beans, I mean to include peas, legumes, and don’t forget rice, or barley either.
As a footnote, brown rice does contain oils, and may not have as long a shelf life as straight white rice, which can last for years.
The flour is a no-brainer; it inevitably can be purchased cheaper by the sackful too (Straight from the mill).
Now I know I have read many comments on the Internet that flour will spoil in a year or so. I disagree. I believe this is a modern myth due to the improper technique of storing the flour. Perhaps it is also because of warmer climates. I believe some people are having problems because they are not storing their flour properly. They might want to try a tip that helps me store flour for extended periods of time.
If you simply keep it in a dry environment, in an airtight container, it will do fine. My big secret I believe for long term storage is to keep my flour in an airtight container and also allow it good long winter freezes each year to keep it fresh from mealworms, mildew, and the like. This method prevents it from becoming rancid.
I have no scientific proof other than I am still using my flour and it is fine. I believe my storage method is the trick to making my personal stash of flour last so long. I keep mine in sealed airtight containers in a cool, dry space, that stays below freezing every year in the winter, for several months. The flour has lasted (3) three years now, with no sign of odor, spoilage or rancidness at all. Now obviously you need to live in a cold area of the planet for this to work, or if you have power, I suppose you could use your deep-freeze. However, I believe it is the extremely low winter temperatures, which does the trick.
Now my flour will only be in negative freezing temperatures during the winter months, and this seems to do the trick for me.
If any of you are old enough to remember back in the day when women would put flour through a sifter before using it to bake and were a curious kid, you know why they did it. It was to introduce air into the flour, as well as to sift out lumps, small stones, and the occasional mealworm. Sifting introduced air before use which helped the yeast and/or baking powder to work better too.
I believe the only real reason no one sifts flour anymore is that we are convinced that somehow flour automatically goes rancid in twelve months no matter what we do and so we throw it out if not used up.
Also, the corporate agenda tells us with printed labels that read pre-sifted flour on the outside, expires blah, blah, blah, or whatever that means. I guess it means no more little stones, and compels us to buy more flour whether it has gone bad or not.
I am afraid this is another urban fantasy, created by improper storage techniques. We now believe that flour only needs sifting once at the mill for the little stones, and that is the only reason to sift it.
Now I have heard the only way to be sure to have flour for an extended period, is to store it as whole grain before milling. The recommendation is to mill only what is needed. I suppose this is possible if you owned a personal mill. However, even our pioneer ancestors didn’t own personal grain mills. They brought their wheat to the local Miller where they had it turned into flour. Families milled the entire harvest at one time, scheduling their turn in advance with the mill. The farmers forfeited a percentage to the Miller for his work.
Yes, I know many will disagree. But as I said, I still bake with flour that is over three years old. It rises perfectly fine and tastes great. I simply add air by sifting before use. I keep it in an airtight container all the time, in my cupboard and the storage area, that freezes every winter.
Moving right along, now what is next? Oh yeah.
Salt, and sugar, ah preserving foods, the reason for salt and sugar in large quantities has nothing to do with flavor, but everything to do with preserving foods. A high concentration of salt or sugar in food prevents bacteria or organisms from growing during storage. Especially heavily salted foods, for instance, has anyone ever seen spoiled million-year-old sea salt or a moldy sugar cube? I think not.
Fats and oils can also be used to preserve foods, for example, in the case of canned goods in oil, like sardines, preserved peppers, or the fats in Pemmican. The salt and fat content help to preserve the pemmican and preserved meats like pepperoni.
Even though oil can go rancid, it does resist mold and bacterial growth. So adding a container of cooking oil or olive oil to the kit is not a bad idea. Either way, most oils are expensive, so learning to filter them is a good solution to extending their usage.
Now, sugar can be used for making preserves, such as jams, and jellies. Preserving with sugar is an excellent way to keep berries and fruits for a long time without refrigeration. Canning fruits in sugar syrup extend shelf life. Honey is used in this way to store many things. Honey has antibacterial qualities that prevent spoilage.
Interesting Fact: Alexander, the Great’s dead body, was shipped home after his death in a vat of honey to prevent it from spoiling
Now for thousands of years salt has been used as the primary way to preserve many food items which would normally spoil without freezing. For this reason, salt was highly valued back in ancient times. It was worth its weight in gold, in some cultures.
Salt Cod, Salt Pork, Brining meats and Corning, and preserving sausage for making dry meats, and fish is done before smoking to add to the process and enhance flavor. Salt is probably the best ingredient one could have in the warm summer months for preserving meat and fish. It is a very versatile food additive, so do not fear salt people. Salt is life, our bodies would shut down without it, and our immune system certainly depends on it.
Now that we are on the topic of preserving food, I must mention our old friend, Vinegar. This wonderful acid is the ultimate food preserver and should be in everyone’s survival kit. I do not think I need to go into much detail of the many uses for this wonderful old time discovery.
So in conclusion, to feed a hungry mob of people on the cheap, you cannot go wrong with the staples above that our pioneer ancestors, and their practical knowledge of living with less, have taught us.
The true way to prepare for the unknown is with knowledge of these few basic staple ingredients. Armed with this knowledge, you will have no problem feeding your family or a group for quite awhile after the collapse of society. It is how it was done then, and it still works today.
Your list of Staples:
- Beans (Legumes, peas, whatever)
- Rice (White or Brown)
- Flour (Whole grain or milled)
- Salt (pickling salt or any kind you prefer but get lots)
- Sugar (White or Brown, it is all pure energy in any of its forms)
- Oils (For preserving, and deep frying, learn to filter and reuse it to extend its use)
- Vinegar (gallons of this cheap liquid, can be a life saver)
- Coffee (because its coffee, and bundles of tea)
I believe if a person orders most of these directly from the mills, they can store up several years of inexpensive food, for mere pennies of what readymade meals will cost. This advice isn’t just for families or groups either. Solo preppers can certainly gain value from buying these staples.
Keep fighting the good fight everyone.
From your practical prepper,