Have you been working to increase your food storage but have stalled due to budget, lack of inspiration or just not sure what to do next?
Last year I did a post about Real Food and Food Storage. Having a well stocked pantry is something that is still important to us in fact it may be even more important now than it was a year ago. While my pantry probably doesn’t quite make the cut as food storage these are the things we have found to be helpful.
I don’t want to sound like I need to tighten my tinfoil hat but… holy cow! The state of our economy continues to be dismal, nuclear arguments abound in certain regions and there seems to be a general uneasiness. All this leads me to think food storage is a super good idea.
We have been continuing to figure out what works for us combined with how we normally eat in regards to food storage. Eating real food and having food storage is possible. One of the ‘things’ with real food is real food spoils. Finding things with a shelf life that still meet the real food criteria is important and the goal for most of my food storage.
Affording food storage is another concern. Because we choose to buy many items that are higher quality (and usually on the expensive side) our food budget gets a bit of a stretching anyway. Is it possible to add the purchasing of food storage into a food budget without increasing the budgeted amount? Yes! It can be done. It may take longer to reach your food storage goals but any food storage is better than none.
Buy a big bag or two (or three) of any variety or varieties of beans you like. But don’t just stick those beans in the pantry, eat them. Last winter my family ate beans 3 or 4 times a week. I know what you are thinking, ”no way could my family eat that many beans!” We actually had very few complaints about the number of beans eaten. One reason is I made all kinds of different bean dishes. This is a concept called “Stretchy Beans”. I make one big pot of beans early in the week and turn it into 3 or 4 different meals. We didn’t get tired of the ‘same old beans’ because they weren’t the same old beans.
These Stretchy Beans worked in our favor in two ways. 1. I was learning tons of new ways to prepare beans. If we were ever in a situation where we were relying on beans as our food source, we’d eat well! 2. By eating beans we were cutting our food costs which allowed us to put more money toward food storage. This is a very important concept to remember not just for food storage but to help your overall grocery budget. Worried you won’t get enough nutrition from beans? Combine them with nutrient rich bone broth. Remember, bone broth acts as a protein sparer allowing you to consume meat less often and still maintain excellent health. Take a look at our 13 Week Menu Plan from last winter to see what we actually ate.
Remember, don’t just eat the beans. The money you save by eating beans can now go toward increasing your food storage. I buy beans (and grains) in either 5 or 25 pound bags (depending on the variety and how often it fits into my 13 Week Menu Plan) from Azure Standard. Beans, along with just about everything else, has increased in price lately. Even so, many varieties are still less than $1 per pound. How would you like to add a legume to your food storage that is only 41 cents a pound? Check out this post for more information.
Concentrate on Fats!
I think fats are super important in food storage. You don’t want to store rancid, fake fats. Grocery store shortening, canola, vegetable oil and the like are FAKE fats that will harm you instead of help you. Even if it says heart health on the package, it’s not. Learn more about these fake fats here. You want traditional fats. Our food storage contains coconut oil, olive oil, palm oil and animal fats. We are still light on animal fats since we only get those when processing our poultry but I guess you could say we store those on the foot. haha.
Why are fats important to your food storage? Fats are essential for your health. They help with brain function, they enhance the immune system, help with leaky gut and help you feel full longer along with a whole other host of benefits. You need fats in your diet. Not to mention, they give you energy and help you prepare foods. Think about the meals you make, now think how difficult that would be without any fat/oil. I remember watching a movie (one from the Love Comes Softly series) and one of the characters brought bear tallow as a housewarming gift. Now that is a gift!
Fats are my most expensive storage item. I’ve found that ordering in bulk (5 gallon bucket for my family of 5) is the cheapest way to purchase coconut oil. It’s still a chunk of change to put out at one time. 5 gallons lasts my family just over a year and the price per gallon is substantially less in this size than buying just one gallon at a time. Sales or free shipping really helps with the costs. I order olive oil and palm oil by the gallon. Again, I use sales or free shipping. I’ve also started storing ghee. I love ghee for cooking with and it has an excellent shelf life. For other animal fats, you could contact local farmer/ranchers to see about getting fat to render yourself to tallow/lard. I spoke to a farmer I know about this and he said he would let me know next time he has it available. Of course, you could always go searching for bear tallow from your favorite bear hunter.
Ferment, Ferment, Ferment!
This is a very important element to my food storage. Fermenting is a wonderful way to extend the life of vegetables, fruits and even meats. Not to mention the nutritional benefits of fermenting. Well, I’ll briefly mention the benefits of fermenting. Fermenting can make the food more digestible (especially vegetables) plus increase vitamins, produce enzymes and even add to our overall gut health. You want a healthy gut! Ferments can help make that happen. And if you were in times of stress (if you are relying on your food storage, that might qualify as a time of stress) maintaining a healthy gut is going to be essential.
The only drawback to ferments in your food storage is the fact that they need to be kept in cold storage. A refrigerator works perfect for this but if you are like me, you have limited space in your refrigerator. You might consider a second fridge (try freecycle.org to find a free one) or if you have a cellar that will work wonderfully for cold storage. We don’t have a second fridge or a cellar (we have plans to put in a cellar this year) but I do have a very cold closet. My ferments stay just fine in that space. Depending on your location (I’m in Wyoming, it gets cold here) you might have a similar space to keep your ferments. Or you may be able to come up with some other makeshift cold storage space.
Becoming comfortable with fermenting now, means you will have that skill to use in the future. You will be able to preserve your garden produce year in and year out. Many people that are considering food storage want to combine the storage items with their own home grown produce. Knowing that you have several methods for preserving that produce is a relief. One of the wonderful things about ferments is it requires less water than preserving by canning. And I really like that I can do just a few jars of ferments at a time with a very short amount of hands on time. New to fermenting? You need the GNOWFGLINS Lacto-Fermentation eCourse. You’ll learn just about everything you need to know regarding fermenting. Even how to ferment fish, meats and eggs! One of my families favorite ferments is Spicy Pickled Carrots, you can see a demonstration of that ferment here.
Fermenting is a very low cost preservation method. The only equipment needed is jars and salt. We have chosen to add a considerable amount of salt to our food storage mainly for the purpose of fermenting (but also because I read Alas, Babylon and they ran out of salt. It was not pretty!). Wide mouth jars are best (I’ve used regular mouth too) and you do not need to use new lids like with conventional canning. I find that to be a plus! Based on your research you might choose to do completely anaerobic fermentation. Cooking Traditional Foods has several articles on this that are worth reading.
Many people are of the mindset that in order to have food storage it must all be shelf stable. I admit that I lean in that direction too. However, I think the freezer is an important component to food storage as long as at least one thing is understood. If there is a catastrophic event in which we no longer have electricity, that frozen food is not going to stay frozen too long (obvious, right?). I still believing in stocking up the freezer to keep food on hand, purchasing at the best prices and for things like job loss. I also have somewhat of a plan to deal with that food if there is a long term power outage. You might consider a plan for that also. We already mentioned fermenting. You can ferment some items that have been previously frozen. I’ve successfully made salsa out of frozen (thawed) tomatoes and always ferment frozen (thawed) fish. In the case of the fish, the shelf life of that ferment is less than a fermented vegetable but even buying yourself a couple of weeks to consume it can be helpful.
Do you find your freezer to be a black hole? I know I do! When we only had the side by side freezer I was very good about keeping inventory of what was in there. But with the addition of the chest freezer that went by the wayside. By the end of July we try to have both as empty as possible to prepare for hunting season and chicken processing. In June I start the task of emptying out the freezers. Last summer we still had alot of antelope. I became very creative at cooking antelope in different ways! This year, I’m hoping to do better at using things up regular like.
If you have the space for a second freezer buying beef in bulk could be extremely beneficial. Not only will you have a large quantity of food on hand but buying a half or whole beef is considerably cheaper than purchasing by the cut. Having freezer space might give you other opportunities also, you would be surprised how many times people offer me frozen meats. I guess once a person makes it known that they are comfortable with ‘weird’ cuts it opens new avenues. I’ve received several calls from people trying to empty out their freezer to put new stuff in and they want to know if I want the oxtail, liver, heart, etc. left from their last whole beef. I always say yes. One time I was given 2 full boxes of stuff and not all ‘weird’ cuts. I was certainly thankful for freezer space. Another advantage to freezer space is seasonal items. Where I live (Wyoming) most chickens are only raised during the summer (free range or pastured chickens from small producers). Being able to buy a years supply of chickens at that time and having the freezer space is nice. We don’t actually buy chickens, we raise our own but the concept is the same. We raise them during the summer and store them to have during the winter- I can’t quite store a years worth yet due to space but very close to using a few tricks.
There’s 4 out of 8. Let’s quickly review; By eating more beans (which makes a wonderful addition to your food storage) you have freed up $$ to put toward food storage, we talked about the importance of fat and where I find the best buys, I shared my love of fermenting and how that should be part of your food storage, and we talked about using the freezer.
I have really been enjoying using my food dehydrator. Mine is a very basic (that means cheap) model but still does what I need it to do, just in smaller quantities. I do alot of antelope and venison jerky. It frees up freezer space plus my girls take it in their school lunches and it makes wonderful snacks. I also get boxes of fruit (usually from Azure Standard) when they are at a good price. With my last Azure order, I got a box of ‘juicer’ apples for $10. Those apples were wonderful for drying. We ended up with a box of kiwi a few months back and I tried a few trays of those. They are interesting, good in small doses but super sweet. I have many more things that I want to dry.
As I mentioned, my dehydrator is a cheapy. Less than $50. Someday I hope to have an Excalibur. There are several advantage to a dehydrator like the Excalibur. You can dry more at one time plus you can do other things like make yogurt. Very nice features. Something to think about, if there is no electricity could you still dehydrate? You could order a Non Electric Dehydrator or figure out a homemade version of this. My Great-Aunt dehydrated alot of produce each summer. Outside on a homemade dehydrator. It was essentially two screen doors hinged together on legs. Brilliant!
Learn to Jar!
Home canning is something that I am learning thanks to lessons from friends. I’ve done water bath canning a few times and have had one lesson in pressure canning. I do have all of the equipment for each, just haven’t taken the time to really pursue it. I believe that there is a place for home canning in a real foods kitchen. Yes, you will lose some of the nutrients in canning, but if you compare that your home preserved goods to the commercial counterpart the choice is clear. Home preserved. You know exactly what went into that jar, you know the quality of the ingredients you started with. When you are building food storage to feed hungry tummy’s the loss of some nutrition is acceptable (in my opinion). Especially if you are combining it with your lacto-fermented items!
While my home preservation experience is still new, I do have goals. A friend gave me a lesson in canning meats and they turned out great! We live in Wyoming where hunting opportunities are abundant. By having the option to can some of the meat we can really increase our wild game supply. More wild game means less beans haha. Our home grown chickens would also be good for canning. Right now, I can’t quite fit enough chicken to last until the next year in the freezer (too much antelope and deer in there!) If I can combine the freezer with canning that would be wonderful. Plus I hear that canned chicken is quite tasty especially in chicken salad sandwiches. Beans are another item I want to can. I love the idea of having properly soaked beans that I can just open up a jar and have ready in an instant. Broth is also on my list for the same reason. I intend to can fruit and some vegetables. Most of my vegetables I plan to ferment as space allows. Obviously the biggest advantage to canning over fermenting is the lack of need for cold storage. Canned food is shelf stable.
Getting set up for home canning does have some expense involved. I have a water bath canner and a pressure canner. The pressure canner is a must for canning meats, beans and broth. And when canning new lids are require with each batch. Things to think about in storage supplies. Also to think about, if there was a catastrophic event that knocked out the power (there I go again with my tinfoil hat) would you be able to preserve food? That freezer that no longer works will have food going bad. If you have the ability to home preserve it you can save some/most/all of it. My stove is gas and the burners continue to work with no power (not the oven though) but if I had an electric stove I’d look for an alternative such as this outdoor camp stove.
Certain Commercial Canned Goods!
Yes, I do believe that there is a place for commercially canned items in a real food kitchen/storage. Label reading is super important when choosing these items. Some ‘canned’ goods that I use include salmon, tuna, coconut milk, tomatoes, tomato paste, pimentos, olive, and artichoke heart all immediately come to mind. Okay, some of those items I buy in jars but in my mind they still count as ‘canned’. I understand that not everyone feels it is okay to use any canned goods in real food. I’m okay with that. Just like I’m okay with the few canned goods we do use. I really think that if food storage is a priority, especially shelf stable food storage, some canned items will be necessary. At least as an interim item. I hope someday to be able to eliminate some of these items. Home canned and dehyrated tomatoes will replace commercially canned (if my garden ever cooperates) and we’ll use less salmon/tuna and more home canned chicken. But for now, I’ll continue to have these commercial products that will fill my children’s stomachs in times of need and combine them with my ferments.
Cut Down on Food Waste!
You might wonder what this has to do with food storage. Lots! First by cutting down on food waste you will not be throwing away the money you spent on that food. Every time food is going in the trash can so is your money. By cutting down on food waste you are saving those food dollars and (in theory) will have more money to put toward high quality foods and food storage. What if you could create at least one meal a week out of food that would have just ended up in the compost, down the disposal or in the garbage can? Concentrating on eliminating food waste has been HUGE for my family. I really do believe that this (combined with eating beans) freed up a good amount of money to add to the food storage budget.
Need some ideas for cutting down on food waste? The most obvious would be to make sure all leftovers get eaten as lunches or leftover Smorgasbord this works well if your family is okay with leftovers. How about actually adding to your food storage while eliminating leftovers? Doesn’t that sound smart? I was blown away when I read about that idea in an article. The idea is brilliant! Check out the post on this. If I ever have foods that I’m concerned about not using up, I’m going to implement this. Right now, we don’t really have much of a food waste issue (okay, once in a while I’ll find something forgotten in the back of the fridge looking like a science experiment but it is becoming more rare).
Wondering how we keep our food waste under control? One thing that has been huge for us, is very similar to the Stretchy Beans concept I’ve talked about. Taking bits of leftover food and turning them into an entirely new dish. I love the results of designing a new dish in this manner. And once you know a few simple tricks the end results are not only tasty but extremely rewarding. I get all warm and fuzzy thinking about using these methods and being good stewards with our food dollars. I want to share these ideas with you so I’ve created an eBook
that will be available in a few days It’s available NOW. Click here for more information.
There you have it! 8 ideas to help you increase your food storage. These 8 ideas are really just the tip of the iceberg. Food storage is very possible even when focusing on a real/whole/traditional foods diet. See part 2 of this post–7 More Ways to Increase Food Storage Real Food Style
Want more information?
I have heard excellent things about this DVD from Russ Silver (I’ve not watched it myself), this is a great podcast from Stumbling Homestead, and KerryAnn from Cooking Traditional Foods has a book available, Real Food Storage: How to’s and Recipes. KerryAnn’s family lived on their food storage for 11 months so she writes from experience.
Be sure to follow this blog (realfoodforlessmoney.com) as I continue to share food storage thoughts and other ideas on Real Food for Less Money.
Update: When I put up this post in February of 2012, my husband and I were not entirely on the same page as far as food storage. He agreed that we should have a well-stocked pantry but didn’t want to go ‘over board’. I wanted to go over board.
We compromised by building up a pantry that had about a three month supply. Late summer my husband changed his mind (read more in this post) and decided that a twelve month (minimum) supply made more sense for us. That is what we are currently working toward. As a result, I’m doing a series on food storage– Introduction to Food Storage that shares our thoughts and actions on this topic.
Is food storage important to you? What are you favorited ideas or tips for adding to food storage?
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