One of the downsides of many long-term storage foods is they are somewhat bland. Rice and beans will get old after a while. Sure, you can add some rehydrated ground beef to change it up a bit but still, rather blah.
Sure, you can buy things like MREs and other dehydrated or freeze dried meals but they are expensive. A case or two set aside for short-term emergencies is a great idea but trying to stock up on enough to last a family of four or five for months on end will put quite a dent in the budget.
I look at food storage as setting aside ingredients for meals, rather than meals themselves. Ingredients give you options. And any cook worth their salt (no pun intended) will tell you, the spices and herbs can make or break a meal.
Freshly caught fish is pretty good but if you add salt, pepper, maybe a bit of lemon pepper? Mmm, good! Even better, use flour and some spices for a breading, then fry it up.
Spices are an essential part of a long-term food storage plan. In the same vein, baking staples are essential as well.
Here’s a very short list of spices I’d consider essential.
Ground pepper (or peppercorns with a grinder)
Bay leaves (not really a spice, per se, but along the same lines)
Crushed red pepper
Cream of tartar
Oil and shortening (watch the expiration dates on these)
Naturally, the fresher the ingredients in a recipe, the better. But, all of the above will store reasonably well in cool, dark places. With access to those ingredients, coupled with just basic food storage items like canned meats and dry pasta, anyone should be able to put together a pretty tasty meal…one that will beat the hell out of canned soup.
Naturally, it should go without saying that the more experience you have with scratch cooking, the better off you are to begin with. If you aren’t that adept around the kitchen yet, invest time and energy into getting better. There are, at last count, approximately elevently bajillion websites out there with recipes. Find a few that look good and give them a shot. Even better would be to pick up your own copy of one or two basic cookbooks, like those put out by Betty Crocker. They will not only have all the recipes one needs but they are full of tips and information about the art of cooking.
Setting aside buckets of rice and beans is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. You need to learn how to use those and other ingredients. Sure, a plate of plain beans and rice will fill a belly and provide needed calories. But day after day of that will result in appetite fatigue.
Also worth mentioning is growing your own herbs for cooking. This is a wonderful idea for those plants that will thrive in your area. However, picking up small jars of dried herbs as backups is also essential.
Don’t overlook condiments either. Hot sauce improves just about everything, doesn’t it? Other basics would include ketchup, mustard, and BBQ sauce.
Your assignments this week:
1) If you don’t already possess at least rudimentary scratch cooking skills, begin working on that this week. Pick a few recipes to make and get cracking. Bonus points if the recipes use things you already have in your food storage.
2) Begin gathering together spices and baking essentials. Watch the expiration dates on things like oil and shortening and make sure you use them up before they go bad.