In my work as an Emergency Preparedness expert, the question on top of everyone’s lists about food storage is, “Yeah, but how do you cook with it?”
We all know that you’re supposed to rotate your food storage regularly so it won’t go bad – even wheat will become inedible if it sits for enough decades in your basement – but many people have trouble with this. Part of this is because many Americans no longer cook their own meals, choosing instead to eat at restaurants or whatever can be found in the frozen food aisle. How does one cook dry beans, anyway? I knew one woman who said in complete seriousness that she didn’t know what wheat was used for.
The other reason people may struggle with eating their food storage is because they think it’s bland and gross. I had the opportunity recently to be involved in an Emergency Preparedness awareness night. During the planning stage, I suggested we serve refreshments made from food storage. Another person on the committee pulled a face.
“Ew. Don’t do that; no one would come!”
Admittedly wheat, beans, oatmeal do seem pretty stodgy. Most people look at that list and immediately think of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s The Long Winter and imagine meals of lumpy cold porridge and gruel. In short, food that tastes like despair.
Thus, it becomes both a vicious cycle and a self-fulfilling prophecy: people don’t know how to cook their food storage, so they do it wrong and make yucky meals, which makes them unwilling to cook it since it’s going to be horrible, so they never figure out how to do it right.
It doesn’t have to be this way! With only a little extra oomph, you can turn your long-term food storage into flavorful, delightful meals even your picky kindergartner will love.
Let’s start with wheat, the go-to staple of almost all food storage. What on earth is wheat used for, you ask? Everything! Whole wheat tortillas, whole wheat pizza crust, whole wheat bread, whole wheat biscuits, whole wheat naan (made with homemade yogurt created from powdered milk from food storage!), whole wheat pancakes. I’ve even made whole wheat donuts. I use hard white wheat because it’s so much lighter than red wheat. Just substitute whole wheat flour for white flour in any recipe. (This is assuming you have a wheat grinder of some kind to turn your wheat berries into flour – I have a Nutrimill, but as an intellectual exercise we did spend six months using exclusively our Victorio hand-cranked model and found it quite doable.)
Here’s my bread recipe. My children love it and celebrate when I make it. I love this recipe because it’s quick and easy to mix up, is suitable for those with allergies to eggs or dairy, and you don’t even need bread pans, which saves me the unhappy job of washing them out afterward. I loathe washing out my bread pans and I bet you do, too.
Super Easy Non-Bread Pan Bread
2 tbsp yeast
2 tbsp sugar
2 1/2 c HOT water from the tap
1 tbsp salt
2 tsp vegetable oil
About 6 c flour (whole white wheat is best, but you can also use plain white flour)
Optional: 2 tsp dough enhancer
Combine all ingredients, mix until dough-y. Let rise until double, etc etc. I form it into french-bread style loaves and bake on my pizza stone. If you do not have a pizza stone, a cookie sheet may be used. Bake for 10 min at 400, then reduce oven temp to 375 and bake for 20 more minutes. Perfect bread every time. Serve with butter and honey or fruit preserves of your choice. Makes two loaves. Can be a meal in itself.
Let’s talk beans next. I am notoriously bad at cooking beans over the stove – they always end up crunchy. The only way I can get them edible at all is if I cook them in my crock pot. Here’s a recipe for crock pot refried beans you can try. Serve with whole wheat tortillas made from your food storage wheat and you’ve got yourself some tasty bean burritos that are better than anything that comes from the frozen food section. Optional: top with reconstituted freeze-dried cheese.
If you have garbonzo beans (chick peas) in your food storage, you can also make hummus to go with your food storage whole wheat pita bread.
I would encourage you to give oatmeal another look, too. Most people I know hate oatmeal because they grew up with instant oatmeal that comes in paper packets with too much salt and artificial flavoring. Real oatmeal is a whole different ballgame. Cooked fresh over the stove with a pinch of salt, ½ teaspoon of cinnamon, and a generous amount of brown sugar, once you taste the real thing you’ll wonder where it’s been all your life. It is not unusual for my 5-year-old son to request oatmeal for dinner.
The trick to cooking with food storage? Don’t think of your long-term food storage as sadness-food. Think of it as ingredients for meals you already love.
Beth Buck has been involved with emergency preparedness since her very earliest years. She enjoys hiking, martial arts, reading, and writing about food storage. Beth lives in the Intermountain West with her family.