[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hile you are prepping, it is easy to believe that you will be able to adjust to eating beans and rice every day, after all, TSHTF you will not have much choice; there is no need to make things harder than they already will be.
In a post SHTF scenario, it is likely that stress will be high and after a while, nostalgia is bound to set in. This is why it is important to keep up morale and do things to alleviate stress. This is where comfort foods may prove useful.
Stockpiling comfort food may seem like a waste of time; for the reasons listed above it is clear that comfort food belongs in your survival pantry. Comfort foods take us back to happier times. They remind us of better days and helps in lifting our spirits.
They may prove to be crucial in surviving a disruptive event with your sanity intact, surviving is more than just keeping your body going, you will also need to look after your mental health.
Without further ado, here are 13 common comfort foods and how you can extend their shelf life.
This is probably the first thing that comes to mind when we think of comfort food, it is likely that the smell is enough to transport you back to your childhood, which is the whole point of it. While the nutritional properties and value can be debated, there is no denying that it will have, at the least, a high barter value post SHTF. Unfortunately, chocolate is not known for having a long shelf-life due to the high fat content; there are a few ways you can ensure your access to chocolate when TEOTWAWKI comes.
a) Powdered Cocoa
This is without a doubt the most popular way of storing chocolate long-term, an unopened can of Hershey’s unsweetened cocoa powder can last for over 10-years. Cocoa powder will provide you with everything you need to satisfy your chocolate-based needs. You can make your own chocolate bars, all you need is sugar (which you should already be storing) and the fat, you can use coconut oil instead of butter, it will taste great. With cocoa powder, you will be able to make your chocolate goodies yourself, all you need are good recipes so make sure you store some of those as well.
Baker’s cocoa powder has an indefinitely long shelf life as long as it is kept in a cool and dry place. Having it in your survival pantry along with other goods for baking will allow you to make nearly every dessert your heart desires, which will come a long way on the hard days.
b) Chocolate Bars
While storing chocolate bars is more complicated than storing powdered cocoa, it is also a good way to ensure access to chocolate, and it is likely that chocolate bars will have a higher bartering value than the powdered cocoa. To store chocolate bars, you will need to be able to vacuum seal them and keep them stored in a cool, dry place. Experimentation with freeze-drying the chocolate bars have shown to extend the shelf life for two years.
If you want to consider stocking up on chocolate bars here is a useful tip to remember: The higher the cocoa content, the higher the shelf life. Dark chocolate will last for a lot longer since the fatty contents are lower, this means that the fat will not separate and spoil your chocolate. If you are determined to store chocolate bars, it is advisable that you choose a sugar-free, low-fat brand with a high cocoa content (70% cocoa has been shown to work best).
2. Mac n’ Cheese
While it might seem unusual to stockpile Mac n’ Cheese you must remember that it is a dish that reminds many of us of the comforts of home. Attempting to make homemade-tasting dishes post SHTF is very important to keep up morale and making a hard day a little better. Mac n’ Cheese can be stored to last as long as 10 years. While you might be tempted to buy the organic kind it is better to avoid it since organic foods have an unfortunately short shelf-life. There are two successful ways of storing Mac n’ Cheese:
Boxed Mac n’ Cheese does not have an impressive shelf-life but it can be extended by separating the powdered cheese from the macaroni and vacuum sealing them with O2 absorbers, remember that vacuum-sealing bags will only keep the air out for a few years so if you want to extend the shelf-life further you can use the O2 absorbers and can the cheese powder
b) Canned Homemade MRE
While canning pasta seems ridiculous, it can greatly extend shelf-life, it will not be as delicious as a freshly made batch and it might get a little mushy but it will do in a pinch. You will need a pressure canner to manage this and it is advisable that you experiment a little to make sure that it will not be spoiled when TSHTF. Undercooking the pasta will definitely improve the taste and consistency.
If you are not already stocking honey, then you should start right now. Honey has an indefinitely long shelf-life since it naturally contains preservatives that keep it from spoiling. When buying honey to store always remember to avoid ‘honey sauce’ as it contains corn syrup and will not keep as well, it does not matter if you get pure honey or processed honey as long as it only contains honey.
While honey does not go bad, it can crystalize; you only need to heat it up to get it to be runny again. Because of this, it is advisable to store it in glass jars since heating up plastic is not a good idea, just make sure that the glass is perfectly clean and does not contain water –unless you feel like making mead.
4. Freeze-Dried Fruit
Without a doubt, it is necessary to ensure your access to fresh fruit; there are many benefits to storing freeze-dried fruit, for one they make an excellent, nutritious snack for both adults and children, combined with nuts they will provide you with the energy to keep going until dinner time after a light lunch which is always welcome. Freeze-dried fruits can last for up to 30 years when unopened, meaning that you can stockpile them without worrying about them going bad. The longest lasting freeze-dried fruits are produced by the Mountain House brand, they last 30+ years and are packed in airtight #10 cans.
The advantages, besides the very long shelf life, of freeze-dried fruit is the fact that it retains its original taste and the nutritional value, something you will not necessarily get with dehydrated food. This makes the fruit perfect for making little homey treats such as apple pies and even jam.
Another hidden benefit of freeze-dried fruit is that you may powder it and make fruit-flavored water with it. This is the best alternative to buying artificially flavored drink mixes such as Tang or Kool-Aid, which do not have a very long shelf-life anyway. It has been reported that freeze-dried fruit powder is very effective in masking the taste of treated water.
5. Hard Candy
Storing hard candy might not seem important but for a family with a sweet-tooth it might make all the difference in a SHTF situation. Hard candy is also likely to have a high bartering value. While making hard candy yourself might seem tempting, it is a long and tedious process that might not give you the best result in relation to the shelf-life.
Your worst enemy when storing hard candy is moisture, it will only take a couple of months for the candy to get sticky after it absorbs moisture from its surroundings. This is why the best way to store hard candy is in an airtight container with desiccants, you might be tempted to add some O2 absorbers to try and protect the aromatic oils that give these candies their flavor; O2 absorbers give off water which would end up making a sticky mess out of your candies.
Stored like this, the shelf-life of your candy will be around 5 years, though the flavor will definitely change because of the oxidation of the aromatic oils.
6. Coconut Oil
As with honey if you are not already stockpiling coconut oil then you should start as coconut oil seems to have an indefinite shelf-life as long as it is as pure as possible. For refined coconut oil the shelf-life at room temperature is of 2 years, for virgin coconut oil the shelf life is of 4+ years. If you are unable to find the good stuff then you might want to vacuum-seal it and freeze it, that way it will last upwards of ten years. The reason coconut oil is on this list is that it is the best substitute for butter when making baked-goods and stable-top treats.
Spices are a game changing addition to your pantry, they will make even the dullest dish seem interesting and make almost every meal taste like home and comfort. Now, there are a variety of powdered spices that can be stored for as long as two years, you can also consider growing your own herbs as this will ensure that you have a lifetime supply.
In many recipes garlic is a must and if you do not like to use the powdered stuff then you can always mince garlic, add oil and seal it in a jar. In this way, the garlic will keep for years unopened and after that for at least 3 years, it is an excellent way to ensure your access to fresh-tasting garlic.
The kind of spices and herbs you store is entirely up to you though it is advisable that you store only the ones that you are sure that will not be available, such as the kind you cannot easily grow in your garden. The best way to store spices is using Mylar bag, it is strongly advised that you store them in small amounts in separate packages so that you do not compromise the bulk of it when opened.
Storing in Mylar bags is very easy, all you need to do is place the spice with O2 absorbers and vacuum seal them, then place the packages somewhere safe such as a bucket but remember that chemicals can degrade Mylar over time which means that you should always use new buckets.
When stored in a dry place popcorn has an indefinite shelf life. It is a great treat and can be ground into cornmeal to make different treats and filling meals. You can use Mylar bags in the previously described way to store popcorn if you want to ensure that it will not go bad even though the tough grain shell will most likely stop this from happening.
Due to the tough shell you will need a tough grinder to be able to make cornmeal so make sure your grinder can handle it before considering storing popcorn for such purposes.
9. Peanut Butter
Peanut butter does not keep well for the same reason as chocolate: it has a high fat content. You may try to de-oil the peanut butter though the extra ingredients may not allow for an extended shelf life. For this reason, your best bet is powdered peanut butter.
You can find powdered peanut butter in #10 cans, which are quite cheap by volume; like all powdered foods it has a long shelf life and being canned extends it even more.
If you absolutely do not want to use the powdered stuff then you can freeze your peanut butter since fats keep well in the freezer, just remember that you might not have access to a working freezer in a post SHTF situation.
It might seem odd to stockpile alcoholic beverages; it will have a high bartering value and it is –almost by definition– a comfort drink. Most alcoholic beverages have a long shelf life; especially any spirit with over 20% alcohol content has virtually no expiration date.
You can get pasteurized wine easily, and ensure that you will be able to drink a glass on special occasions without worrying about it spoiling. If you are driven by practicality but would not mind a drink now and then, you should buy spirits with over 40% alcohol content as these can be used as a disinfectant if need arises. Things like:
- Whiskey/ Bourbon
- Pasteurized wine
Tea is a fantastic comfort drink, whether you need the caffeine or the warmth you will want tea in your BoB. It is rare to find teas with a ‘best-by’ date printed on the package, this is because tea has a long shelf life and it usually runs out before it gets a chance to spoil. When properly packaged, tea will last for an extremely long time so you may want to pack it in Mylar bags with O2 absorbers. As with spices, it is strongly advised that you pack tea in small bags so that you do not compromise all of it when all you want is a cup of tea. If you do not like black tea, then you can package your own chamomile or mint infusions in this way.
For many people, life would not be worth living if they did not have coffee, aside from that coffee is likely to have a high barter value so even if you do not share this view, you might want to stock up on it anyway. Unfortunately, roasted coffee does not keep very well, the roasting process significantly reduces the shelf life so even when sealed in Mylar bags you will not have a good product after 2 years.
Instant coffee keeps well enough and it will do in a pinch; there is a way to have great coffee available to drink or barter with when TSHTF: Get green coffee beans, a deep cast iron pan with a lid and a good grinder. Storing green coffee bins in Mylar bags with O2 absorbers will extend the shelf life of your coffee indefinitely, as with tea it is recommended that you do not store them in very large bags. Learning to roast and grind coffee is easy and it will ensure that will get the caffeine you need to get through the day even after TEOTWAWKI.
#13. Powdered Milk
Commercial powdered milk can last up to 20 years, but you can make your own out of regular milk, and using a dehydrator.
While focusing on the essentials while prepping is understandable, adding things that will make it easier to survive is always worth it. Do not forget the power that comfort foods have over your mental health and good mood, while physical needs are essential you must never forget that staying sane and making life worth living is equally important.
As it has been shown, it is not difficult to add comfort foods to your pantry, neither of these requires especial kinds of packing and finding reliable brands is surprisingly easy.