This post is a list of simple things to keep in your short-term home stockpile. Most are not “typical food storage” items, but this isn’t a typical food storage site. All items listed can not only be stored, but can be easily used in your daily life. Storing these things is a painless way to “get into” food storage. This isn’t a complete list nor is it what I could consider a great variety for the long term, but this will get you started and is great for your short-term needs. It also includes some interesting items you might not think of keeping on hand.
Alum (white, powdered)- This is a food item, but unless you’re making pickles, you’ll probably never cook with it. I store it for its medical uses. When sprinkled on an open wound it will draw out infection and any drainage. It will leave the sore disinfected and dry, and will speed healing. (Buy alum in the spice department at your grocery store.)
Applesauce- Whether canned, bottled, homemade, or store-bought, cinnamon flavored or unsweetened, applesauce is very convenient and nutritious. It has a long storage life if sealed airtight, and can be used in cooking (pancakes, bread, muffins, cake, cookies, and even casseroles). Since it has natural sweetness it can even supplement or replace sugar in most recipes. The old adage “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” aptly applies to applesauce (and apple juice). My personal favorite is the Strawberry Applesauce, my husband is partial to the Cinnamon.
Basil- Excellent seasoning for all foods and dishes. Stores well in airtight containers. Basil tea taken hot stops vomiting and eases stomach cramps. Helpful when applied to snake bites and insect stings. (The tea is made 2 tsp. per hot cup water once a day.)
Baking mixes- Cakes, cookies, rolls or biscuits. Ready to go mixes are great time and ingredient savers. Try to get mixes that are “complete”, meaning you don’t need to add eggs. If you can’t find those there are ways to substitute the egg. To know which substitute to use though, we need to know what purpose the egg has in the recipe. If eggs are binders in a recipe, it can be replaced with Arrowroot, Soy Lecithin, Flax-seed Mix, Pureed Fruits or Vegetables, Silken Tofu, Unflavored Vegetarian Gelatin Powder (agar agar). The ratio is, for every egg replaced, 1/4 cup of the substitute is used.
If eggs are leavening agents, Buttermilk, Yogurt, Baking Soda, Commercial Egg Replacement Powder such as Ener-G can be used. If eggs are added for moisture, Fruit Juice, Milk, Water or Pureed Fruit can be used.
Beef Jerky- or other cured smoked meat needs no refrigeration and tastes as good as it is convenient, while offering important protein.
Bottled Salad Dressing- Your favorite flavor will be a good way to eat sprouts (if you’ve discovered the benefits and ease of sprouting your grains, beans, legumes and lentils). When sprouts and dressing are joined by canned or fresh vegetables, you have a fiber-rich, nutritious salad.
Bouillon Powder- Great for broth to feed an invalid or sick person. Good to use as a base for any soup. Simply add any vegetable, grain, meat, pasta, etc. Can be used to make gravy, or added to the water used to boil rice. Stores well in airtight container.
Candy- A special treat now will become an even more special treat in time of emergency when luxuries are scarce. Wouldn’t it be nice to have candy to give a child on their birthday if they had no other gift? Candy also offers a quick burst of energy because of the high sugar content. Candy could well be one of the more popular items for barter (as would soda pop). Luxury items usually are. Most candy will store for a long time (though it may lose color, flavor or texture slightly), if kept airtight, cool and especially DRY. Individually wrapped candy is better than soft. If you decide to store candy be very cautious about leaving any open for any length of time. It’s an invitation to ants and other insects.
Canned Foods- Stores for a very long time. Try to keep dry and un-dented. Bulging cans must be thrown away. Rotation is very important. Many canned foods are complete meals and don’t require other foods to complete. Be sure to have more than one manual can opener. A good variety of canned foods are a smart foundation to your food storage. Examples of canned foods you may want to consider storing are:
Soup (If you store the kind that doesn’t need water you can eat it right out of the can in case of a power outage.)
- Pasta (ravioli, spaghetti, etc.)
- Sandwich spreads
- Ready to eat meals (Hormel or similar brand)
- Evaporated milk
- Sweetened condensed milk (My husband eats this right out of the can lol.)
- Pork and beans
- Hash (If you aren’t familiar with this product it is either roast beef or corned beef mixed with potatoes.)
- Meat (turkey, chicken, etc.)
- Seafood (Tuna, shrimp, salmon, kippers etc.)
Cold Cereal- In its sealed package, in a dry place, most cold cereals will store 1 to 2 years. Besides being eaten with milk for breakfast, some kinds of cereal make handy, nutritious snacks straight from the box. It’s very important to use and rotate your storage of cold cereals. This will provide you with maximum freshness for the longest period.
Condiments- These are important to store for your own use as well as use for possible barter. These are the often-overlooked items, which will make a big difference when you are dependent on your food storage. Important examples:
- Mayonnaise (rotate!)
- Steak sauce
- Worcestershire sauce
- Barbecue sauce
- Soy sauce
- Tabasco/hot sauce
Salsa (A word about the beauty of salsa…salsa is amazing! It contains tomatoes, onions and peppers. You can use it to flavor soup or roasts or eggs or many other foods. Salsa is my go to, can’t do without it, food. We don’t even want to talk about how much of this stuff I store and use!)
Dehydrated and/or Freeze-Dried Foods- These are the foods with the moisture removed. This allows for extremely long storage. These are convenient and lightweight to carry, and are easy to prepare. Water rehydrates them. Flavor is retained, and it takes much less space to store per serving than other food storage items because the process shrinks the food to 1/8 to 1/7 their normal size. They don’t need to packed in space consuming water like canned foods. (Often, though, the “water” from canned foods can be used.) You can dehydrate foods yourself in your oven (lowest setting, door ajar), or in the sun at temperatures of at least 110 degrees. The process takes an average of about 18 hours. Turn the layer of food occasionally during process. If you think this is something you want to get into there are commercially available dehydrators and home freeze dryers available.
Dried or Ramen Soup- Complete, nutritious, lightweight, and easy to prepare. Requires only hot water. Stores for a very long time because there is no moisture in it. (which is what limits the shelf life of some foods).
Flavorings- Vanilla, almond, and maple are the most common and useful, though others (orange, lemon, etc.) can be included to suit your family’s preferences. These could one day be handy when creativity with your food supply has you trying to make new and different foods. If you only store one, stick to vanilla, it’s very versatile.
Gatorade/Sports Drink- These drinks can restore vital minerals and nutrients and prevent dehydration (which can be fatal). Their shelf life is about 9 months unopened. Now, Gatorade or sports drinks are no substitute for Pedialyte or other electrolyte drink for dehydration. Certainly, keep it in your storage for general hydration, but you need to keep an electrolyte replacement in your medicine storage as well.
Ginger- Powdered or ginger root. Made into a tea it can be used as a decongestant (like hot mustard plaster, but better because it won’t burn the skin). Just immerse a towel, rag or old shirt in a strong, heated ginger tea and place on chest to loosen chest congestion. It causes heat even after it’s cooled, though it can be re-rinsed in the warm tea. A milder tea can be drunk for upset stomach and gas. Ginger in the water of beans as they soak will control gas problems. Ginger is a good spice to add to any cooked vegetable. It’s often used in Chinese cooking.
Instant Hot Chocolate- A nice treat, quick energy and very convenient at home or when camping. It can also be a source of warmth on cold mornings. Baking cocoa powder can be stored too, but it requires more ingredients to use it to make hot chocolate (but it certainly does have many uses in baking that make it a good item for your storage).
Instant Mashed Potatoes- A convenient source of the nutrients in potatoes. It will store a very long time. The better the packaging, the longer its shelf life will be. Canned is better than boxed. Mashed potatoes leave stomachs feeling full faster than most foods, which is an advantage when trying to stretch your food storage.
Jell-O- This product offers a way to cover the taste of chemically treated water. It can be added to with canned, fresh or dehydrated fruit. Jell-O can also help relieve diarrhea symptoms. To do this prepare Jell-O as directed with just slightly more water than normal. Then drink the Jell-O water while still warm, like tea. This will also provide necessary liquid to avoid dehydration, which is a big danger of diarrhea.
Jelly & Jam- Stores well. Easy topping for pancakes, tortillas, crackers, and all bread items. Adds flavor and sweetness to bland foods. Can be added in small amounts to cake or cookie recipes for extra zing, or for a sweet, fruity flavor if used in place of sugar.
Juice- (canned/bottled/boxed/powdered) An essential storage item. Quick, convenient and very nutritious. Adding a variety of flavors is good addition to your food storage. Juice can be used as a snack or small meal in and of itself. It can be used in cooking in place of other liquids in many recipes. Apple juice can be poured over cold cereal or granola in place of milk. Tomato juice can be used in cooking meat or pasta. Tomato juice or vegetable juice makes an excellent base for soups and stews.
Kool-aid- This is another item that will help the water taste better when it’s been chemically treated. It can be served either cold or as a hot beverage on a cold day. It’s also a nice addition to pancake batter or muffins to add a sweet fruity flavor. It contains vitamin C, which is an important one because the body is unable to store it and therefore it must always be replenished. If you store the unsweetened kind (which is much cheaper and compact), be sure you have sugar stored (or sweeten it with honey). You may prefer to store the kind that already has the sugar added because it is so convenient. For these, however, you absolutely must keep them dry. It is important that they remain airtight as well, so it may be a good idea to keep them dry, airtight, and organized for easy access and the ability to rotate, by putting them into a plastic container (Tupperware, Rubbermaid, etc.).
Marshmallows- These can be eaten even if they get dried out (which just makes them crunchy). Toasted marshmallows are the highlight of camping. They can be used when cooking yams and pumpkin. They’re also good right out of the bag for energy. Kids love them. Used in making “cereal treats” (ex. Rice Krispie treats- though most cereals will work). They should be fresh (not dried out) though to be used this way. A handful added to Jell-O, during preparation, is also a nice treat.
M.R.E.’s- (Meals Ready to Eat) Good for 72 hour kits. Compact, complete, healthy, lightweight, and convenient. Needs no refrigeration, and can even be eaten unheated if necessary. But they are expensive!
Meal Replacement Bars or Beverages- The term “meal replacement” generally refers to a calorie-controlled, prepackaged product in the form of a bar or beverage (ready to drink or powder), that replaces a regular meal. Meal-replacement products usually provide 200 to 250 calories per serving, are fortified with more than 20 vitamins and minerals at “good” or “excellent source” levels and often bear nutrient content claims, such as percent fat free and reduced sugar.
Packaged Dinners- Examples: Tuna or Hamburger Helper, Noodle Roni, and boxed Macaroni and Cheese. These have both advantages and disadvantages. The negative points are that they usually take up a lot of space per serving over other storage foods. Also, you usually need other foods to prepare them such as milk, margarine or even meat. But if you’ve got butter powder or butter-flavored Crisco and canned or powdered milk, these can be very convenient. (Meat can be omitted or substituted). Any prepared food is also very high in salt. They are good because flavors (cheese, etc.) and spices are already added. Everything’s pre-cut and pre-measured (though additional pasta, rice, etc. will stretch the number of servings without drastically affecting taste or consistency). You can also add any canned or dehydrated meat to make it a complete, balanced one-dish meal.
Pancake Mix- Yummy, quick to make (the best kind to store is the ones that require only water to be added). Be sure to have a good skillet to cook the on. Store completely dry and airtight in cool place. (Muffin Mixes are similar and a good storage item, but once again, be sure to store ones that need only water to be added unless you have the other needed ingredients stored as well.)
Parsley- Fresh or dried. Parsley is rich in vitamin C and in iron, calcium, potassium and vitamin A. Prevents urinary infections. Good for fevers. Excellent for prevention of, or maintenance of, cancer. Cures sting from insect bites when used in a poultice. A tea made from the seeds can be used as a shampoo to kill vermin in the hair. Helps aid digestion (which is the original thought behind sprigs of parsley being placed on dinner plates in restaurants). Excellent addition to soups, salads, coleslaw, potato salad, casseroles, on meat, or cooked into scrambled eggs.
Pasta- Some regions have an easier time than others storing pasta do. All pasta, however, will be usable stored for long periods of time IF kept cool (to avoid insects like weevils), dry and completely AIRTIGHT. Simply add any number of food storage items to cooked pasta. For instance, things like powdered cheese; cut-up meat product; spaghetti sauce; vegetables; soup; canned milk; powdered butter, etc. Cooked pasta can be eaten cold or hot. Often, leftover pasta dishes can be fried in a skillet (even over a campfire), either plain, or with added scrambled eggs.
Peanut Butter- Excellent source of protein and quick energy. Stores for a very long time unopened. Can be eaten plain or on bread, soda crackers, or tortillas. Travels well and is convenient because it doesn’t need to be cooked or refrigerated. One teaspoon per day gives needed protein.
Pudding- (boxed mix) With adequate cooling or refrigeration, pudding is a nice treat and a good use of your powdered milk. If refrigeration is a problem, then pudding can be used to make a special treat: “Quick Shakes”. This is simply unset pudding, but could be viewed as an energy drink because of the calories and carbohydrates it offers. During stress your family will be happy to get such a yummy surprise. It does also offer protein and vitamins. Evaporated milk may also be used (water should be used to dilute the evaporated milk first, however, because it is so rich). Pudding can also be used in baking delicious cakes, cookies or pancakes, by simply using it to replace an equal amount of flour in the recipe. This adds a rich texture and flavor.
Sage- Good seasoning for roasts, soups, etc. Can be used as a cure-all. A strong sage tea is an excellent gargle for tonsillitis or ulcers in the throat or mouth (good mixed with lemon and honey). The sage tea can be drunk cold or hot. It’s one of the best remedies for gas, liver, stomach, kidney or bowel trouble. Will stop bleeding and is good used to clean old wounds and ulcers. And wound will heal more quickly when washed with a sage tea. It’s useful for typhoid and scarlet fever, measles and smallpox. Soothes nerves and relieves headaches. An effective hair tonic (will make hair grow if roots haven’t been destroyed), and will remove dandruff. When used in high quantities sage is good for easing female problems, and all lung problems (colds, asthma, coughs, bronchitis, influenza and pneumonia). Tea from sage should be steeped (while covered), not boiled.
Seasoning Packets – While these may be high in sodium they are invaluable for making a quick meal. Keep a variety in your pantry.
Seeds for sprouting- Many people find they cannot tolerate grains, seeds, nuts and legumes, or products such as breads, cakes or bean dishes made from them. Do you suffer from indigestion, flatulence, heaviness and other maladies after eating them? Early humans did not evolve with grains or legumes as part of their diet. It is only in the last 10,000 years since the advent of agriculture, that humans have started to eat them. Grains and legumes are a new food and that the human body has not fully adapted to digesting them. No other primates eat them. A diet with grains or legumes that have not been sprouted or soaked can lead to serious mineral deficiencies, bone loss, and digestive problems such as reflux, bloating, food allergies, irritable bowel and other forms of weak digestion. Sprouts are a living, enzyme-rich food, natural and low in calories. Their vitamin A content will usually double, various B group vitamins will be 5 – 10 times higher, and vitamin C will increase by a similar order. Their protein content becomes easily digestible, and rich new nutrients such as enzymes and phytochemicals are created. They contain significant amounts of bio-available calcium, iron and zinc. Most seeds sprout easily, as do many legumes. Nuts are more difficult to sprout.
Soda Crackers- These have a longer shelf life than you might think. The key is to keep them dry, and of course, air- tight. If they so get soft and stale, it takes only a few minutes to “re-crisp” them in the oven. Soda crackers are a bread item in your diet and can even be eaten like sandwiches, topped with tuna salad, meat & cheese, or peanut butter and jelly (it’s good, try it!). Soda crackers can also help alleviate queasiness. They provide the body with salt, and are a good addition to a meal of coup, stew or chili.
Spaghetti Sauce- This makes a quick, easy meal out of any pasta item. Vegetables, powdered cheese, meat, or spices can be added to it to taste.
Spices- If there are spices that you frequently use, it is a good idea to add them to your food storage so that you can continue to “spice up” your cooking. Some of the “musts” are onion and garlic powder, salt and pepper, cinnamon and a dried pepper of your choice. I wouldn’t be without both paprika and chipotle, but you need to store what you like.
Velveeta- This product doesn’t need to be refrigerated when it’s unopened and stores fairly long. It’s good added to many dishes, melted over bread, tortillas or crackers, or eaten plain. It’s a great source of vitamins from the dairy food group.
NOTE: Since we’re not talking about disaster survival I want to say a word about frozen foods. If you have access to freezer space, it offers you a wonderful opportunity to store meat, cheese, margarine, and many other great food items. Remember to rotate things as you use/buy them. I, myself, have a freezer full of food. However, it’s extremely important that your ENTIRE food storage is NOT frozen, to prevent the loss of your complete supply if power is lost.