Preppers know there’s often a calm before the big storm… it’s during that “calm” that there’s still time to add to stores of food, purchase essential supplies, and continually gather survival information for making it through the next major disaster, or worse, an apocalyptic event…
The pantry is the heart and soul of every prepper’s plan.
They types of power, cooking, security, and even home size and location all depend heavily upon the contents of a well thought out pantry. Although many of the basic and universal elements can be found in just about every pantry, storage, preparation and consumption methodologies play a crucial role in how to stock the prepper’s shelves.
1. Dehydrated Food
Let’s start with one such staple, dehydrated food. Dehydration, of course, is the process of reducing or removing water content from foods. Doing so effectively can prolong the shelf-life of essential food items if packaged and stored correctly. While it is possible to purchase foods that are already dehydrated, these pre-processed foods come at a premium price that some frugal preppers are unwilling to expend. Instead, these people choose to grow, cook, or purchase the items ahead of time and then dehydrate and package them in their home. Doing so can take on many forms and this is why the chosen process can affect other factors such as power usage. This is because there are electric appliances that can be bought that aid in the dehydrating process, but there are also outdoor methods that harness only the power of the sun and air. Some of the most widely prepared dehydrated items include:
2. Canned Food
Another popular method of storing food for the prepper pantry is by canning. This option also includes retail-ready solutions, but again this involves a substantially higher cost compared to doing it yourself. Like dehydrating, canning foods has been a method of food storage since long before the term “prepper” was born. It involves storing freshly prepared food in some form of liquid preservative inside an air-tight container. There are two main camps to choose from when deciding to can your food, either a boiling water bath or through the use of a pressure canner. The method a prepper chooses to can their food can be greatly determined by the kinds of food to be stored. Typically low acidic foods such as vegetables, beans and meats are better prepared using the pressure method while high acidic foods such as fruits should be prepared with the boiling water method. The different methods require somewhat unique heating sources, thus it is important to understand these before determining which one (or both) is best for your storage needs. Here are some of the basic, universal foods stored by canning:Fruits (often as jams or jellies)
3. Dried Goods
Dried goods aren’t necessarily considered dehydrated foods although they are stored after the water content is reduced. These items are best stored in containers that can protect the contents from the ravages of both moisture and insects or rodents. Pasta, beans, rice and whole grains such as oats, wheat and corn are considered dry goods as well as baking soda, sugar and salt. Necessary food storage supplies enable a serious prepper to stockpile an assortment of food that, when correctly packaged, can store in your survival pantry for several years at a time.
4. Liquid Storage
Not everything in the pantry can be stored dry. There are certain crucial items that unfortunately must be stockpiled before disaster strikes. These items include ammonia, bleach, cooking oil, vinegar, vanilla, and of course plenty of clean water. While it is possible for the adventurous prepper to find ways of producing cooking oils and vinegar, water is crucial to cooking (and life in general). Remember those dehydrated foods? In order to prepare them for consumption water needs to be reintroduced, in most cases.
While it may be completely possible to survive on a diet that doesn’t include any level of heating or cooking, doing so is very unconventional and rather unrealistic. At the very least, dehydrated foods typically require boiled water for rehydration. Ensuring you have safe drinking water also includes boiling. Due to these factors alone it is important to plan what method you will choose for cooking and make preparations accordingly. Some examples of cooking options include:
• Ground fires or grills (see our article on survivalist cooking for more info)
• Portable cooking stove (Propane, butane, kerosene or other fuels required)
• Standard stove/oven (requires a good source of electric power and/or LP gas)
• Solar Ovens (Not practical in cooler climates)
In addition to the food ingredients that will be stored, deciding on how to prepare and cook them is essential to a well-rounded pantry. Today’s modern kitchens are stocked with pots and pans that are not only lightweight, some are even fragile. Thin walled aluminum, stainless steel and copper pots may be well suited to the typical urban or suburban home, these materials may not withstand the abuse of rural cooking, especially if open fires are used. In the case of using ground or camp fire to cook meals, the best solution is cast iron. Over the years, cast-iron lost favor in the mainstream due to their weight and size, but today there is resurgence in popularity. This is due, in part, because of their durability and quite frankly their versatility. Cooking with cast iron can appear to be quite a challenge at first, but once the difference is grasped, cast-iron can provide years of delectable enjoyment. There are scores of cookbooks devoted solely to Dutch ovens alone. Properly seasoned and maintained cast-iron ovens and skillets will often outlast the user to be handed down for generations.
Utensils are probably one of the most overlooked items because they seem so common. Problems can arise though when modern utensils are employed in a more rugged environment. The dainty, soft metal forks, knives and spoons of today may not survive well when exposed to the harsher methods used in preparing meals from scratch day in and day out. One item that many people have even in today’s modern kitchen is the wooden spoon. It may come as a surprise, but it is possible for people to make their own wooden utensils and could be a very essential craft to learn in a real world survival scenario. In fact, some basic knowledge of woodcraft will aid the prepper’s cooking in unseen ways. For instance, cutting blocks can and do break, but if you know some simple basics in identifying wood species and how to make a few simple cuts, a replacement block is easily made.In addition, if the choice is made to cook with cast iron over an open fire, it is essential to equip the pantry with strong wrought-iron cooking tools. These not only handle the heavier weight of the posts, skillets and ovens better, they typically have a longer reach that’s needed to protect the cook from heat. Cooking grates, grills and tripods should be considered must-have items in this regard as well.
8. Food & Grain Grinders
Grinders are also an important consideration for the prepper’s pantry. Shelves can be jam packed with containers full of store-bought ground flour and coffee, but space is often at a premium. To save space, bulk grains such as wheat, corn, and coffee can be stored elsewhere and then ground down when needed. There are some great (and sometimes expensive) electric powered grinder options available, but back before there was electricity, the hand powered grinder did the job just as well. Perhaps one of the greater benefits of a hand grinder over its powered cousin is space. Because they don’t require bulky motors and gears, hand grinders can be disassembled for easy storage. At the very basic end of the grinding options, preppers can even resort to hand grinding methods such as a mortar & pestle, or even a grinding stone.
Lighting is an integral part of the kitchen, whether indoors or out. Space in the pantry should be reserved for an ample supply of large, high quality candles and of course matches. Flashlights and survival lighters are convenient, but eventually lighters will run out of fuel and batteries don’t last forever, but a large supply or properly stored matches will outlast any lighter.At the very least, these are among the very base and essential items for a proper prepper pantry, however, if time and money allows, there are several additional items that can be added to create variety and even lift spirits when times are tough. Chocolate, especially dried cocoa is a favorite item that can usually lift the mood when needed. Peanut butter powder, cinnamon, flavorful teas, soy sauce, syrup, molasses and hard candies can be put aside for whenever someone is in need of a little change of pace that may be needed during prolonged periods of survival. Meeting basic needs is paramount during an emergency, but finding ways to introduce variety and special surprises now and then can produce the motivation to press onward.
10. Optional Storage
Not included in this list are plans that include freezing. Running a freezer can require a lot of energy over time and in the writer’s opinion, the potential for losing vital food storage due to power failure is not an acceptable option. In certain climates, root cellars are a much better solution. The root cellar is not necessarily part of the pantry, but is an extension of it. Usually located not very far from the home, a root cellar can serve to store bulkier items that can be accessed as needed. Unfortunately, for those who live in a warmer and more humid climate, root cellars are typically not going to be a possible option.While times are good, take some precious time to consider how to make it through a month, three months, or even a year (or longer) from the shelves of your own pantry. Consider a time when going to a store is not an option and have fun with the “what-ifs.” Finding creative solutions to what could be life threatening situations can be entertaining, but also most enjoyable when you get it right and the situation demands your creativity. There may be no real way to plan for every potential outcome, but start where you are today and work towards whatever goal you set.