Week 4 – Question of the Week: What are the best foods for stockpiling?

Week 4:  2011-03-31 

 Today I’m asking our professionals to weigh in on the question:  from a medical perspective, what are the best foods for stockpiling, and why?

You, too, are welcome to post your responses and questions below. 

Check back soon and see what our panel of over 100 professionals has to say.

– Doc Cindy
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About Cynthia J. Koelker, MD

CYNTHIA J KOELKER , MD is a board-certified family physician with over twenty years of clinical experience. A member of American Mensa, Dr. Koelker holds degrees in biology, humanities, medicine, and music from M.I.T., Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and the University of Akron. She served in the National Health Service Corps to finance her medical education.
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18 Responses to Week 4 – Question of the Week: What are the best foods for stockpiling?

  1. Stan STNA says:

    As a child, I witnessed a way of living that seems to have passed, along with my grandparents, grandaunts, and uncles.

    During the late 1970’s there was fear of – well, the same things that have built this website -survival. I stockpiled, learned to can, and built a food dryer. I also bought a bunch of books on living with less. I discovered and bought the Foxfire books. Then the days of plenty were upon us, and the books are still on my shelf, gathering dust, and I hope the day will never come when I need them to survive. However, you may have never heard of them, so I did a Google and found they are still much alive and there is activity, education, and a museum in Georgia to their credit.

    • “Foxfire” is the name of a series of books which are anthology collections of material from The Foxfire Magazine. The students’ portrayal of the previously-dismissed culture of Southern Appalachia as a proud, self-sufficient people with simple beliefs, pure joy in living, and rock-solid faith shattered most of the world-at-large’s misconceptions about these “hillbillies.”
    Yes friends, at one time as a teen and young adult I was ashamed of my Hillbilly heritage. Then I learned that there was much more to them than a twang in their voice, haute grammar, and ignorance of popular culture. They had living skills, knowledge of their environment, and faith to get through hard times that we could all put to good use, especially during Armageddon. Learn more here: http://www.foxfire.org

    • CC says:

      Stan: I loved your post. When I was prepping for Y2K I purchased these and they are wonderful. The old ways chronicled in this series are bare bones survival and will teach so much to those who are interested. Besides the skills such as saving green beans into “leather britches,” the personalities of the people just come alive. Thanks for sharing this with everyone.

  2. Wh2thdr says:

    I think that there are stages in food storage preps. Food is important, but water is more so. You need to have MULTIPLE REDUNDANCIES of sources of it, of ways to store it, clean it, and disinfect it. More disease and death come from bad water than any other source.

    1. Full Pantry. Close your eyes and imagine that you cannot get to the grocery for 2-3 weeks. What will you need to eat, drink, and use in that length of time? What is in a can or box that does not need refrigeration? Then go out and buy it and use them off the shelf. As you use it from the front, replace it in the back that way there is really no need to worry about spoilage.

    2. Intermediate term. 6 months to 2 years. Most everything will survive and be editable in this time frame if it is kept cool, dark, dry, and protected from vermin. Cans of everything – flour sealed in mylar and frozen once for 3 days then again 30 days later, oil all types. vitamins Multi w. minerals and many of them. Spices to keep bland palatable. Seeds for sprouting, easy high quality nutrition

    3. True TEOTWAWKI: Who knows if we will even want to live at that point…but assuming we do, then Salt, Sugar, Honey, Vinegar – all keep indefinitely. Wheat, Rice, Beans, about the same if sealed with O2 absorber or CO2. Corn treated that way is not so good but close, use it in the first 10 years. Seeds for a garden will be worth many times their weight in silver. Oh how we will crave fresh fruits and veggies. Oils and fats will be the most sought after items. They are rare in the wild and difficult to source and do not store well.. Eggs, ducks, and geese and pigs are good on the hoof for this provision.

    • CC says:

      Wh2thdr: This is such a great post. Would you permit me to share it with my FB friends at PrepStepsInfo? Of course I would credit it to you and this website. Please accept my apoligies if this is considered inappropriate for this site. Just thought I’d ask. I’m so thankful to have found this site. So much wonderful information that people can use to the benefit of themselves and others. Thanks again for the post. CC

  3. CC says:

    So, there I was trying to come up with a way a 64 year old woman, with a limited budget, could build a rootcellar on a postage stamp suburban lot. I was already storing dry goods in galvanized trashcans in the garage…but where is the challenge in that? I had sealed the seams inside and out with a good quality bathroom caulking as a barrier for moisture and insects. I had conducted a little experiment with storing sweet potatoes purchased the first week of November 2010. Arranged them in a single layer in a disposable aluminum roasting tray in my garage. So far it’s been five months and I’ve only lost one. These won’t be for eating but just to see just how long they will last. The single rutabaga in the experiment lasted about two months then bit the dust. Anyway, the first thought that struck me was that SURELY the trashcan could also be turned into a type of root cellar. I knew the basic principals from watching my father build one as a child. Second thought: it’s too simple. Third thought: too easy. Fourth thought: too inexpensive. Fifth thought: this is such a great idea, SOMEONE has GOT to have already figured this out. Sixth thought: google it. Seventh thought: EUREKA!!!, low and behold, this first site at the top of the list was titled “The Trashcan Root Cellar”…I felt so…so…uhmm, I think the word is validated! I have one pick axe, two shovels and two very strong sons. Check it out, very informative, easy and inexpensive. The owner of the blog is Philip Glaser and his blog is: From The Tower: Uncommon Views on Many Things. You can find him at http://viewfromthetower.wordpress.com/2008/10/20/the-trashcan-root-cellar.

  4. pa4ortho says:

    Good food, water, and hygiene are the best medicine. Disaster or not, I think we can all agree that fast food is unhealthy. When I travel, I love how fresh and delicious the local food is. I can only get food like that if I grow it or buy locally. Otherwise its just mass-produced fast food made in depleted factory farms.

    I grow a few key crops on my small farm. I use a root cellar for squash and root crops. I store white rice, beans, oats, and some wheat. I use new enamel-lined reusable paint cans. I rotate stock each 2 years so I don’t bother with nitrogen. I dry or can fruit. I have figs, walnut, and almonds also. I store animal feed like corn, sunflower, alfalfa/clover. I have bees, chicken, ducks, sheep. Need geese. And am setting up the rabbitry. I also have a lot of regular canned food. My fisherman patients hook me up with canned fish also. I have a gill net to get more fish if laws are not an issue.

    I work a full-time medical job and travel a lot so the whole farm is automated. Tractor spreads manure from the horse facility or the dairy. Tractor tiller is fast. A subsoiler rips the ground deep for a double dug effect. A disk hiller makes raised beds. A 1/2 to 1 acre garden is ready to plant in about 2 hour. Cover crop or black plastic in the winter kills weeds for most of the season. Solar well, drip lines, a little weeding with a circle hoe or cultivator. I have hand tools for backup if needed. I save seed and improve it to my soil and climate each year. The animal set up is automated so I only attend to it once a week. Electric fence and dogs for predator and deer control. Also helps with the 2-legged varmint. Put peanut butter on a hot wire around the garden and every deer, raccoon, dog, coyote, etc. will soon be averse to approaching your garden. Use a solar charger. I am still eating butternut squash from last year. Favorite Apple for storage is cameo then fuji. Still eating crisp sweet apples. I grow dent corn for feed. And am trying hopi blue as a multipurpose corn this year.

  5. KF says:

    Great cost savings can be had if you grow your own vegetables and process them yourself for freezer storage with a vacuum sealer. The nutrients in fresh vegetables are best retained only if you blanch-process them first before you vacuum-pack them for freezing. Also, the vegetables will emit a gas (enzyme release) after they have been vacuum-sealed that will interfere with the seal of the bag unless they are blanched first. Vegetables processed like this will freezer store for 1 year with nutrients intact. Palatable, though with less nutrients, for up to 2 years.

    To blanch vegetables, place them in boiling water or steam them. Always use the freshest and best quality vegetables. I use a wire blanching basket and a canning pot to blanch process.

    Wash, cut to size, and blanch the vegetables first by submerging the entire basket in boiling water, then remove it from the boiling water and submerge it into an ice water bath to stop the cooking process. Allow them to cool and dry. Then vacuum seal the vegetables for long-term freezing.

    Onions, peppers, and herbs do not need to be blanched. Squash, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin should be fully cooked before freezing. All other vegetables should be blanched.

    To preserve the natural color of artichoke, eggplant, mushroom, and sweet potato, soak the vegetables for 5 minutes in a solution of 1 teaspoon of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) to 1 quart of water.

    Download and make a hard copy of this helpful Blanching Time guide

    What to do if the power goes out with all these vegetables in the freezer?
    Dehydrate them! and bag them in ziplocks with O2 absorber packets.

    {Thanks, KF, for more great tips. – Doc Cindy}

  6. TC says:

    I agree with KF above. All of the input here is really helpful. I personally advocate having a garden using heirloom seed, a permacultural fruit/nut tree yard, along with farm animals such as dairy goats, rabbits, and chickens for an ongoing, renewable food source that provides milk, meat, vegetables, fruits, nuts of wholesome food for a balanced diet (although all of this requires an enormous amount of hard work, a source of clean water, food sources to feed all this livestock even through the winter, supplies to fix broken equipment, and lots more!).

    However, we know that for most people, this is not possible nor probable, and that there are many around us who are complacent in their belief that their comfortable way of life will continue to go on unhindered in any way forever. For these folks, Amanda’s suggestion about storing canned foods is really good, because these folks might actually take this suggestion and do it. We have a preparation group that meets regularly, and we’ve found that it’s as important to tell folks “how to do storage” as “what to store.” The latter involves a list and a one-day shopping trip. The former requires some work to make new habits. One idea that came up in our group meetings was for people living in apartments. They can discretely store cases of canned food in each room, and then eat their way through the house, for a 6-month storage program. They eat all the living room food in April (dumping the food into the kitchen cabinets just as they would if they went to the grocery store) before eating all the dining room food in May and the master bedroom food in June. They refill the empty boxes in April to store back in the living room to use 6 months from now. Obviously, these are mixed cases of a variety of canned food that people normally eat for the meals their family likes. For those with very limited cabinet space, they would dump one case at a time, necessitating storing mixed cans in each case to make complete meals out of each case.

    We found that new people coming to our group meetings were buying lots of dehydrated food and freeze-dried food and thinking they were “prepared.” They had not thought through how they were going to rehydrate all this dried food, how they might find enough clean water during a crisis to use for this purpose, how they might prepare/cook the food, or even whether or not they liked the stuff. Because of the cost, they were reluctant to crack open any of their #10 cans to taste the food, which is too bad, because they might find they were allergic to some of the filler ingredients. A time of crisis is not the time to discover a food allergy resulting in gastrointestinal upset. Also, some of these foods taste good, while others are pretty bad. Some, such as powdered peanut butter, are made better by adding jam, which, due to its high sugar content, stores for years. Some of our new folks were storing lots of buckets of wheat but didn’t have a grain mill and had never made a loaf of homemade bread. It’s important to store what you normally eat and know how to prepare now, and to store things that “go together” to make a complete meal with complete protein (either meat, or beans+grain, etc). Most people get too much protein now so they don’t realize the importance of eating complete proteins for all the tissue building, repair, and enzymatic reactions that the body requires on a daily basis.

    For those who can’t grow a garden, I advocate storing sprout seed. A year’s supply can be stored in mylar bags in a box on a closet shelf and will last for years in storage. Sprouts contain invaluable vitamins, minerals, and live enzymes lacking in most dehydrated foods. They can be grown in a glass jar on a countertop with a cheesecloth strainer top, or in a pinch a piece of t-shirt and a rubberband. It takes only a few days from seed to eating, and they can be eaten “as is” or added to any canned food. Most people are familiar with alfalfa sprouts on salad bars so they aren’t too wierd. If you can’t have a garden, having sprouts is a good substitute for greens. Storing a bottle of multivitamins is still a good idea.

    This is an excellent question to post and I’m looking forward to everyone’s responses. Even more than food, I’m concerned about water. It’s very difficult to store enough water and keep up with the rotation of it – even for a 2-3-week supply. I think we all take too much for granted the blessing of turning on the faucet and getting reliably clean water coming out every day.

  7. KF says:

    I have chosen foods that have longevity, have high nutrient value, and can also be used everyday, as well as for Teotwawki.
    My philosophy is to stock only food items that we actually eat. In my early years of stocking up, I learned a very valuable and expensive lesson, after purchasing a pallet of MRE’s. Not only were they loaded with sodium and unhealthy nitrate-based preservatives, but they were quite bland and some were downright nasty tasting and thus we did not enjoy them. Lesson learned 20 years ago.

    So, here’s what I stock for staples now.
    All of these, I self-can from purchased bulk dried foods in #10 cans with oxygen absorbers.
    The shelf life is 30 years if stored in a non-humid, dry location in less than 75 degree F environment, except for the Powdered milk and powdered eggs, their shelf life is 10 years.
    Brown Rice goes rancid after a year in storage. Same with pre-ground whole wheat, rice, oats, rye, millet, corn, triticale, barley, amaranth, quinoa, and buckwheat, where the endosperm will go rancid quickly once the grain is ground.
    Pasta products can have NO eggs in them. Check the labels when you purchase these to can or store in mylar bags for long term storage.
    Same goes for any “mix” that contains a shortening product in it’s ingredients.
    You can also procure peanut butter powder and powdered shortening.
    Don’t forget your favorite spices, condiments, and treats, like baking cocoa, leaveners like yeast, cheese and yogurt cultures, soda, lots of iodized salt, powdered gel for pack canning in jars, cornstarch, baking soda, baking powder (or make your own).

    Include canned dried herbal teas, canned green coffee beans that you can roast yourself in batches when you need it, chicory, and koolaid for a kids treat or when you have to flavor a homemade electrolyte mix. Don’t forget an ample supply of potable water and a combination Ceramic and Carbon water filter system.

    For bulk volumes required, these items get stored in 5 gallon Food Grade Buckets lined with mylar bags and sealed with oxygen absorbers, and a Gamma lid is used to seal it.
    For long term Feed stores for my farm animals, or for holding open-pollinated seed over from harvest to the next season for planting, I use 55 gallon drums lined with heavy Food Grade drum liners.
    This method is best done with two persons. We flood the grain with canister CO2 using a long piece of copper tubing which reaches the very bottom of the barrel, and for good measure, add a small hand full of O2 absorbers thrown only on top of the grains. The copper tube is slowly withdrawn and removed, the bag immediately twisted and tied shut with two nylon wire ties, and the lid screwed tightly down to seal the rubber gasket against the barrel or drum.

    How much bulk fits in a 5 gallon bucket or a #10 can?
    I did some research and assembled this helpful guide:

    Food Item #10 Can 5 Gallon Bucket

    Wheat berries 5 pounds 37 pounds
    White Flour 4.5 pounds 33 pounds
    Buckwheat, Rye, Triticale
    5.3 pounds 33 pounds
    Popping Corn 5 pounds 37 pounds
    Rolled Oats 2.5 pounds 20 pounds
    White Rice 5.3 pounds 36 pounds
    Spaghetti 3.9 pounds 30 pounds
    Macaroni 3.1 pounds 21 pounds
    Dried Kidney Beans 5.6 pounds 35 pounds
    Dried Lima Beans 5.4 pounds 35 pounds
    Dried Soy Beans 5 pounds 33 pounds
    Dried Split Peas 5 pounds 33 pounds
    Dried Lentils 5.5 pounds 35 pounds
    White Sugar 5.7 pounds 35 pounds
    Brown Sugar 4.42 pounds 33 pounds
    Powdered Milk 3 pounds 29 pounds
    Powdered Eggs 2.6 pounds 20 pounds

    Beans and rice need to be served together to get the complete 21 amino acid proteins that your muscle tissue needs for building and repair, and for long term nutrition status.

    If you chose to incorporate the addition of fats and meat proteins, I keep several cases of canned meats on hand. Turkey, chicken, beef, tuna, salmon, clams, kippers.
    We also raise our own poultry for meat and eggs, hogs, cattle and keep a stocked pond with fish.
    I make our own cheeses, hard and soft, and make weekly batches of butter, yogurt, kefir and feed a sour dough starter for bread.

    Carbohydrates are best obtained with high fiber, green leafy vegetables. We prefer Greens of turnips, collards, kale, cabbage and broccoli which are grown seasonally. I either pressure can them or I dehydrate them and then can them in the #10 cans.
    I dehydrate and can carrots, eggplant, squash, tomatoes and peppers annually.
    I purchase dried onion, garlic, chilies, lemon slices, apples, potatoes diced and flaked, and then can these in #10 cans. These will store for 10 years or more.

    Fruits are jar-canned in a thin syrup that are harvested from our fruit trees. I also keep ample supplies of dehydrated strawberries, blueberries, apricots, raisins, and bananas on hand in #10 cans for Fe, Vit C, K+, and natural anti-oxidants.

    We top our storage off with the additional intake of a multi-vitamin a day per person.


  8. Marian, RN says:

    Dried beans of many kinds, spring and winter wheat, rolled oats, rice, farina, corn meal, and lots of home canned foods including peaches, and apples (applesauce too), green beans, potatoes, corn, carrots and lots of tomatoes and tomato juice put up from our garden. Have also canned spaghetti sauce and chili. We have found that by simply putting a non-zip type sandwich bag over the canning jar before storing reduces the lids’ propensity to rust. Have a grain mill to make flour. Bulk yeast in the freezer which we use on an ongoing basis and replace as needed. We have a cow in our freezer with solar back up but have also canned some of our beef with the pressure cooker (as is directed for meat) as well as chicken and turkey. Have several cans of tuna, lots of peanut butter, some jellies, olive oil, instant potatoes, spices, baking soda, bleach, and bars of soap, and toothpaste stored as well as medical supplies. We have found that the stuff we canned usually lasts a lot longer than the recommended times. Have the capability to cook in a fireplace insert should it be necessary and should we feel that doing so would not draw too much attention to us.

    • KF says:

      There is a come-back product of old which has no metal to rust.
      The canning lids are white milk glass and forever re-usable. I love them!
      Here is their web site. http://www.reusablecanninglids.com/Products.html
      They are cheaper if bought in bulk quantity. I get someone else to go in with me and we order in mass and split the cost and pass the savings on.


  9. Charles says:

    I believe in diversity, both now and when the Schumer hits the fan. I have whole grains (an added benefit is that whole wheat, for instance, can be sprouted — fresh greens!), dried beans, dehydrated and freeze dried vegetables and fruits, canned fruits, canned vegetables (the extra salt can be a big bonus in tough times, not to mention the ease of preparation), canned beans, fats (vegetable oil, olive oil, butter — dehydrated and regular, coconut oil), salt –iodized and sea salt (this is extremely difficult to obtain in the wild), milk and dairy products (dehydrated and canned), and powdered eggs. I also have a few wild plant identification guides, and some spices to make boring foods more palatable. Appetite fatigue can be dangerous when you have to be at your peak.

  10. Dave, RN says:

    Protein and fats. I don’t store any grains. Protein and fats are much more calorically dense and you can’t absorb vitamins A, D, E and K without adequate fats.
    I keep a half a cow in the freezer (solar backup is coming). When ordering your cow asked for as much of the suet (fat from around the kidneys) as possible. Render that down to tallow. Store in your freezer if possible. From grass fed beef, it’s very good for you (don’t believe all that low fat, saturated-is-bad-for-you dogma that you’ve been taught the past 50 years).
    You can also store coconut oil for long periods. It’s great to cook with and very beneficial.
    Another fat is Ghee. You can render it down yourself or buy it online. Ghee is pure butterfat with no milk proteins left. It can keep for years, or longer when prepared correctly. It’s an integral part of ayurvedic medicine as well.
    For long term, unrefrigerated storage, you can’t beat pemmican. That’s a mixture of 50-50 powdered jerky and tallow. It has a shelf life of years. You can literally live on it for an extended period of time. Literally years. And it’s far better for you than those “survival bars”. It might not be really tasty, but you will be alive, and healthy too. The plains Indians lived on it in the winter and on extended hunts.

  11. Amanda says:

    I would say anything that has been canned (preferably food that you have canned yourself). The shelf life is a lot longer than some other types of foods.

  12. Jim H says:

    For me–canned salmon, canned mackerel, canned pinto beans, canned sardines, canned tuna (all have added water or oils), lots of rices, dry beans, gravy and other mixes for taste and lots of chicken and beef broth. ANY kind of canned vegetables and meats. Peace, Jim

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