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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Prepping From Scratch

It has long been considered wise to keep a couple or a few of months cash on hand for when times get rough. Lately I have been hearing people suggesting 6 months is probably a better idea. Of course this is sage advice and we would do well to follow it.

Then there is the question of food supplies. Of course, as many of us live paycheck to paycheck we also live grocery trip to grocery trip. Even if we're going to a warehouse type of operation, we're still buying triple-sized Fruit Loops, cheese bricks the size of our heads, Prilosec in bottles traditionally reserved for multi-vitamins, bags of nasty heat-and-serve meatballs, or monster sized bags of boneless and skinless chicken breasts. Of course, to change to a prepping approach is not to simply buy more of this... and when the freezer runs out of room to buy another freezer. No, we need to go to a from-scratch reality.

We need to be ready to make meals from basic ingredients and we need to start now. We need to understand that the food we store now is as important or more important than saving cash. We need to think of some of our efforts now as a bridge to what we'll need to do in the future: an effort funded by what's left of the reality that is about to change drastically.

Those big warehouse stores started out serving businesses like restaurants. Smart restaurant operators make as much from scratch as they can. Of course, this costs less, increasing margins. To serve them, the warehouse stores have 50 and sometimes 100 lbs bags of flour, 25 and even 50 lbs bags of pinto beans, 5 lbs bags of yeast, etc.

Of course, we can go even more basic than this on the flour. We can buy wheat berries and a flour grinder. For this, coops are a good source. However, you will pay more than a $1 a pound for organic. Searching further will probably reduce the cost. I like to use the organics because I rotate the supplies into my weekend bread making efforts. To increase my supplies further, I may find a non-organic source.

I worked for years as a cook and have always enjoyed cooking and baking from a young age. I have enjoyed cooking from scratch long before I realized that we were heading for the crisis of a lifetime. This gives me some insight into what's needed and in what proportions.

I don't think my time here will be best spent talking about recipes. Working back from the recipes you like will allow you to do the math and figure out exactly what you will need. Some Mormon sites I have read suggest making a list of 7 days of meals that will keep your family happy, then working back from that to gauge your supplies. That seems like excellent advice and we'd do well to listen. The Mormons have been prepping for a long time now. Note that they have also suggested that supplies be worked into your daily routines. I think this can be phased in and I don't doubt you'll actually improve your lifestyle because of it.

So let's make some generalizations about the supplies we need.

Beans are easy. Calculate how much you need per day for a good storable protein source and multiply that by the number of days, weeks, years for which you are prepping. What isn't obvious are the things that will make the beans enjoyable to eat. At the very least you will need salt. Calculating 1 tablespoon per pound will give you more than you need. I have to admit, I've also started stocking chicken boullion for this. Sure it's high tech and processed, but it stores well and will make things easier for a time until you adjust to a harder, if more satisfying life.

I'll be drying vegetables this coming season for beans and soups. Don't forget that many vegetables that are being thrown away by coops and other organic stores will be excellent for drying. So in addition to growing your own vegetables, take advantage of the last days of the throw-away mentality.

For breads, we need salt and yeast in addition to the flour. Gluten is a nice processed item to have on hand to make your whole grains lighter if you're going to be grinding from berries. Sugar and honey will make things more enjoyable in desserts, etc. And this can be purchased in 50 lbs bags.

For some luxury, I buy powdered cocoa for the desserts. But I also buy canned chicken (ideally thighs since they taste better). This is a luxury item and a "bridge" item.

Fats are going to be necessary as well. Large containers of vegetable oil are available at the warehouse stores. Those are a good choice. I suggest the cheapest for quantity but also think about oils in different forms. Crisco for example will be good for frying as well as for making pies. The ideal solid fat is lard though it is hard to find in my area. I have already been in the habit, learned from my depression era grandparents, of storing rendered fat from bacon and other meats including chicken. I keep these frozen and use them for beans and dumplings.

In my next posts, I'll go into using the flour. I'll suggest a plan for what will be needed in addition to the flour. Only a few generations ago, flour was essential for expanding meals and filling hungry bellies. Bread and noodles should be a basic part of the menu for a new food reality. I'll also expand on the food as stored wealth and how to use processed foods, not intended for a long-term strategy, as luxuries that can make life easy in the transition and can even be used for trade.


  1. Bad Axe:
    Very nice post. It's very conversational and reasoned... and whets this reader's appetite for more common sense.
    Common sense can be interesting! Who would have thought.
    And welcome to the blog.

  2. A Big Canadian Welcome to you Bad Axe! I thoroughly enjoyed this post and look forward to more! The Minnesota Preppers Network is an excellent source of info!
    Please keep up the great work that you are all doing here!

  3. It's interesting you should mention the foods thrown out by coops and grocers being good for dehydration.
    When I was raising rabbits one of my weekly chores was going from grocer to grocer 'bumming' the boxes of veggies discarded daily. Rabbits love the greens, especially the spinach and broccoli.
    My point, though, is that much of this discarded food was in 'fresh' condition but was discarded due to 'expiration' dates or that one or two pieces in a bundle was showing bruises and the merchant can't sell it, yet it's perfectly fine for human consumption. We, as a hi-brow nation, have become too finicky about the beauty of what we put on our tables rather than the nutrition. How many, I wonder, are going to change their thinking rather than go hungry in the coming months?
    Shy III


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