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Food Storage Made Easier - Salt, Fats, Sweeteners, Spices

When planning food storage, it’s easy to fall into the quick food trap.  Some people go the instant food route while others stock up on grains, beans, and the like.  It’s about planning for a future that may never happen.  It’s inconvenient.  It’s expensive.  Then there’s the advertising.  I almost get suckered into it – the quick kits, the “you don’t have to think about this” kits.  Some feel affordable.  Some feel like they will be there to comfort you in your time of need.

I am not one who likes the food in these kits.  I’ve bought a few instant camping meals – the same they sell in the kits and my family doesn’t like them.  Instead, I focus on what is easy for me.  I end up going the beans and rice route.  They are things we will eventually eat so having extra is a good thing, right?

One day, I was reading on food storage and the author said something that never crossed my mind – you have to make the food feel normal and comforting.  “What?”  Normal?  Comforting?  They suggested packing in some chocolates and spices so the food would taste good.  It may sound like a “duh?” moment but I wasn’t the only one.

Last year I asked my favorite canning group about canning vanilla extract so I could add it to my emergency kit.  I know it doesn’t need canning nor is it recommended that you can alcohol but I was looking for a leak proof solution.  After all the canning discussion, someone asked me why would I put vanilla extract in my emergency kit.  In my house, vanilla is essential.  If nothing else, we could have hot milk with vanilla.

Now as I get to learning more and more about food storage, I start to understand why it is necessary to add sugar, oil and spices to your plan.

The suggested plan I have been using as the guideline for my food storage recommends that you have 5 pounds salt, 60 pounds sweeteners, and 40 pounds fat per person.  This is not just so your food tastes good.  They are all necessary in their own way.  If planned well, your added ingredients can not only improve the taste of your food but your health.

Let’s start with salt.  If you purchase pre-packaged meals, you will not need salt.  In fact, you may have too much.  However, if you go the rice and beans route, salt will be necessary.  Salt helps our body function.  We need it as an electrolyte.  Salt can also carry trace minerals that our body desperately needs.  Personally, I am planning for sea salt and pink Himalayan salt because they are amongst some of the best salts for nutrition.  A local bulk foods grocery store carries both at amazing prices.  If, I did not have that option, I would still look for a sea salt.

The reason I don’t go for a basic table salt is that they have anti-caking agents that I am just not sure I am comfortable.  I like the added iodine but I can get that from sea salt without the other additives.  I could go for a canning salt which doesn’t have any additives but then I would miss out on important nutrients such as iodine.

There is one thing I could add and I might still add it to my pantry – seaweed.  There are seaweed snacks, sheets or a fun product by Maine Coast Sea Vegetables – Sea Seasonings.  Some of the Sea Seasoning shakers have salt but they all have bits of seaweed designed to be shaken onto your food.

No matter which way you go, you need to plan for 5 lbs per person and be aware that the large boxes of salt are 4 pounds.

When looking at sweeteners, it’s easy to focus on sugar.  It’s affordable but it’s not overly nutritious (so we can just skip it, right?).  Even basic table sugar has a purpose.  Our body needs sugar for survival.  It’s the energy that drives our body.  Sugar (sucrose) is a fast absorbing sugar which gives us quick bursts of energy.

I would not recommend focusing all your energy on table sugar, though.  I know that my family goes through a 25 pound bag of sugar about every 2 months.  That’s with baking and canning, as well as sweetening drinks.  So my plan involves 125 pounds of table sugar (white sugar).  For a family of 3, we need 180 pounds of sweetener.  My remaining 55 pounds will be a combination of honey, maple syrup and molasses.  All three are nutrient dense.

Here’s a little math for you.  Since honey, maple syrup and molasses are all liquids, they are sold by the ounce instead of by the pound.  This requires some conversion.

Honey – 10.67 fl. ounces equals 1 pound (so a 12 ounce honey bear weighs just over 1 pound).

Maple Syrup – 16 fl. ounces equals 1.4 pounds

Molasses – 16 fl. ounces equals 1.5 pounds

Per gallon, each of them are somewhere between 11 and 12 pounds (maple syrup is the lightest, honey the heaviest).

So if I got 1.5 gallons of each honey, maple syrup, and molasses I would have enough to meet that remaining 55 pounds (give or take a pound or two).  It’s an expense but if I shop carefully and in bulk, it won’t cost me much more than the 5 bags of sugar.  On top of that, I would know that I am giving my family something more nutritious (especially more than a couple of chocolate bars).

Speaking of figuring out the weight of liquids, fats were a nightmare.  It’s what really started my learning how to calculate the difference and this series of blog posts.

Forty pounds of fat per person meant that I needed 120 pounds of fat in my pantry.  We purchase olive oil and coconut oil from Costco so buying in bulk wasn’t the problem, I had no idea how to figure out what that meant when it came to the food storage plan.  So I went to my trusted friend – Google – and did a search.  I will share my results here but if you have a different item you want to convert, the search is easy – type in the item and ounces to pounds (or something like that).  My first search looked something like this “olive oil fluid ounces to pounds”.  In the beginning, I got websites for each food.  My last search found me this, it may or may not work for your needs.

The math:

Olive oil – 1 liter equals 2 pounds (note that these weights are not exact but more of an average)

Coconut oil – 1 quart equals 29.44 ounces which equals 1.84 pounds, 1/2 gallon equals 58.88 ounces which equals 3.68 ounces

I purchase my olive oil in 3 liter containers which equals 6 pounds.  The coconut oil comes in 56 ounce containers which is about 3.5 pounds.  I could just leave those 2 as my only source of fat but I thought I’d love to add some organic shortening because I like to make up mixes.  Shortening does better than coconut oil in that instance.

My plan is 10 3-liter bottles of olive oil (60 pounds), 15 containers of coconut oil (52.5 pounds) and 5 1.5 pound containers of shortening (7.5 pounds).

I did forget to mention why fat is important, especially since fat is the enemy of our current eating trends.  The truth is fat is our long term energy source.  It’s, also, something our body uses to absorb nutrients, allows hormones to function correctly.  It’s necessary for brain function and it helps us feel full when we eat.  It will be one of the most important nutrients in a disaster situation because it will make us feel happy.

After all that, there are still a few things to consider that won’t come up on any food storage list.  These are the things that your family needs to function.  These are the things that your family will ask for.

In our pantry – that’s gelatin for marshmallows and cocoa powder for hot chocolate.  Tea for kombucha and drinking (hot or cold).  Lemon juice.  Taco seasoning (and the herbs/spices to make more), curry powder, dill weed.  Maybe even a case or two of top ramen for the teenager.  Definitely some chocolate bars and a lot of vanilla extract.

It’s a good idea to ask your family what are some foods they can’t live without.  I talk about the “experiments” I did with my family to uncover what foods were necessary in a post I wrote this past January.  Basically, I had my family tell me what foods they liked in a variety of scenarios then I looked for commonalities.  That allowed me to discover what foods were necessary.

Take it from my experience, you never know when an emergency will appear.  The reason it’s an emergency is because it’s never planned.  But a good plan will keep you from regret.  Anything you can plan now will ease the burden of whatever happens.