Food storage that can be eaten in times of emergency is a top priority for lovers of emergency preparedness. With the ease of ordering buckets of wheat and having it shipped to your door, and keeping in mind the wide variety of foods now available in #10 cans, acquiring food storage has never been easier. But what do you do with it once you have it elegantly squirreled away in your basement or pantry?
For some, and probably for most of us to some extent, eating our food storage is a completely different problem. It’s one thing to have buckets of wheat nicely stacked in the corner but quite another thing to make it into something edible. Food storage has become synonymous trudging through Laura Ingall’s Wilder’s “The Long Winter:” bowls of flavorless, lumpy oatmeal; coarse, plain brown bread with nothing on it. Foods that the British refer to as “stodgy.”
Prepare to have your paradigms shifted. What if I told you that you could turn your stodgy potatoes into things you’d actually want to eat, like shepherd’s pie, leek & potato soup, potato pancakes, and potato-stuffed Anaheim chilies?
Keith Snow, professional Chef and cooking instructor, has a new online class that will teach you how to make these dishes and more – all with the things you can find in your long-term food storage. I had the opportunity to chat with him about his course, Food Storage Feast, found at FoodStorageFeast.com
Beth: First of all, everyone has their own story about how they got interested in emergency preparedness. Could you describe your journey into getting involved with emergency preparedness and food storage?
Keith: In 2008 I was producing a very expensive television cooking show when the crash happened. The corporate sponsors emailed us and said there weren’t going to be any more payments. We told them, “No, that can’t be true with us, we have a contract.” But they wrote back and said everything was frozen. Not only did I have a family, I also had six people on the team who cost a fortune. Eventually we got that situation straightened out, but it made me a little nervous.
My family had a big pantry, but it was a very expensive chef’s pantry stocked with gourmet high end meats and cheeses. We had a power outage and lost a couple hundred pounds of beef. I don’t consider that food storage. I thought, what if we have another collapse, what are we going to eat? That’s when I started looking harder into survival cooking and food storage. I found The Survival Podcast, which is all about becoming less dependent on outside systems. I started learning which foods do store well, and started building a “survival pantry.”
I always knew that I needed to get into cooking with my long-term storable food. Even though I had decades of training as a chef I wasn’t much different than people who had to use Mylar bags to store beans. I put it off for a few years, until one day I said, “That’s it, I’m going to cook from our pantry for a month.” I learned a lot about how to use rice and canned beans, and what fats I could store. I found that not only did my family really enjoyed the food, but also our grocery bill dropped like a rock.
I decided needed to tell other people. As The Survival Podcast grew to 150k downloads a day, I got more questions about food storage cooking so I decided to create a course. Noah Darco started writing and I started shooting videos.
Beth: Many people just starting out in emergency preparedness in food storage are often afraid of cooking from scratch – they worry that it’s too hard – and they’re afraid of food storage food – they worry it will not taste good. What would you say to those people?
Keith: I would definitely say that’s an accurate statement because when you’re starting with poor quality ingredients it’s difficult to get something good. If you go into it with a British idea of no spices, you’ll get terrible food. Legumes are bland by nature. Oatmeal is super bland. It takes a little massaging, some chef skills, the ability to add spices, texture enhancers – add a little cooking knowledge. That’s what I offer in the course and I teach ways to make oats taste good.
From plain rice, by adding just a little bit here and there you can make Mexican rice, green rice, confetti rice, coconut-raisin rice pudding, and risotto. From beans you can make red pepper hummus, refried pinto beans, and black bean chili.
One very popular dish at my house is Caribbean rice and beans. The rice has some coconut milk in it, the beans have simple spices and peppers. We have it at least once, maybe twice a week. I’ve made it at events before. It’s a really satisfying dish. Watch the recipe video here.
The concept is to transform the bland foods into something very enjoyable by adding just a little bit of know-how. There are dozens and dozens of videos in the course.
Beth: What is your favorite food storage ingredient? What do you find is the most versatile?
Keith: Rice and beans. I just think there are a lot of benefits to using canned beans. It takes a lot of time and energy to cook them dried beans. Even with soaking overnight, they take hours to cook. You could use a pressure cooker, but that is still 40 minutes. Rice and beans are flexible foods, cook quickly, and can cook a wide variety of foods from different cultures with them.
Beth: What is your top recommendation for building what you term as a “survival pantry?”
Keith: The first thing I tell people is to not to do something. Don’t buy a lot of instant meals. Some of the freeze-dried instant meals are fine, especially from the Mountain House company. But a lot of people fall victim to what I call “flavored powder syndrome.” You add water to it, when you’re done you have some miserable prison food. People sometimes purchase $6,000-$7,000 dollars’ worth of it, which is a complete waste of money. Freeze-dried meals to put in 72-hour kit are fine, but you should base your everyday diet on something more substantial: store what you eat, eat what you store. Replace what you already eat with food storage, heavy on things that are inexpensive and readily available: rice, beans, wheat, corn, and freeze-dried foods.
People should also store a lot of canned foods, and also some freeze-dried and dehydrated food as well. You can get started for a lot less money by starting off with one hundred cans of black beans. Canned vegetables are not as good as fresh or freeze-dried, but they do work. Also buy fruit in cans, tuna fish, coconut milk, canned chilies, canned tomatoes. Get some dried spices, ethnic sauces, and flavoring agents like soy sauce, sesame oil, and coconut oil. That kind of stuff is critical and will help you take bland foods and make them exciting.
And don’t forget to factor in rotation for your food storage. My family just finished eating rice that was purchased in 2012; I bought I bought jasmine rice and put it in Mylar, vacuum pack it, put it in a bucket. Those longer-term items we have in labeled buckets, and when we eat it we replace it. 10-pound bags. Once it gets low, go to the store and buy another 30lbs of rice. We are still eating peanut butter that’s from 2015. Make sure that we’re constantly chipping away at it. Once that bucket is gone, replace it.
Five to seven years is the longest that I’ll let beans stay in storage. Using the food as part of your menu is part of the process. Make sure the foods that you’re storing are things you’re eating. It’s like having a spare tire. Even if you have it, sometimes getting the jack out is difficult and you trash your knuckles, and even then, you might not know how to put on the spare correctly. Just because you have food storage, if you’re lacking the practice of using it, it’s not much different. Have to have a mindset that you use what you have.
The tuition for “Food Storage Feast” includes a lifetime enrollment in the course. The membership will never expire. The content is available for viewing on every device, including all videos and recipes and updates. New videos and recipes are added every month. If you struggle with creating good meals with your food storage, or even if you feel like you have a handle on it but want to try something new, this is the perfect course for you.
This course comes with my personal stamp of approval – I’ve tried out a couple of recipes for my family, and the resultant meals have been met with great enthusiasm.
This interview has been edited for clarity and readability.