Peanut butter has been available in the United States since the late 19th century. Originally sold as a snack food, or used for therapeutic purposes, today peanut butter is a ubiquitous American product that is inexpensive, and readily available.
Because peanut butter is a good source of concentrated food energy, it is worth examining how peanut butter can become an important part of your prepper needs. Ranging from a pantry cornerstone to an emergency food product in your bugout bag, peanut butter can be as important in the survival diet as it is in your regular diet.
Rich in fats, protein, carbohydrates, B vitamins, and many minerals, peanut butter is a nutritionally valuable energy food. Roughly three and a half tablespoons could literally serve as a meal in terms of caloric and nutritional content. While that won’t leave you feeling full, it serves as a quick pick me up, or a survival meal in a pinch.
But that is the barebones basics of peanut butter, and something any prepper who can read a nutritional label can work out for themselves. We’ve got more interesting things to examine about peanut butter – what are the different kinds, how long can it sit on the shelf, and what are some of the best ways to deploy it for the prepper and survivor?
Types Of Peanut Butter
Right now, I’ve got a big ol’ jar of peanut butter sitting on my counter, a smaller one in my bugout bag, and a couple more buried in my emergency supplies. There are a great many brands and types of peanut butter out there, and while I take the lazy way out, and just buy whatever creamy peanut butter is on sale when I’m shopping, you don’t have to mimic my bachelor ways. Let’s look at the different kinds of peanut butter you can buy for you and your family.
Broadly speaking, peanut butter can be divided into two types – regular peanut butter and natural peanut butter. So-called natural peanut butter is just ground up peanuts and some salt for flavoring. Many people appreciate the simple ingredients list and flavor. However, because it is not made with any hydrogenated oils, natural peanut butter will experience oil separation over time and will have to be stirred prior to use. This isn’t really a problem for most people, and if you prefer simple things, natural peanut butter is the way to go.
Regular peanut butter starts out life like natural peanut butter, but will typically also have added sugar, and some form of hydrogenated oil or oils to prevent the normal oil separation found in peanut butter. This means you’ll have a few more calories per serving, and if you want to keep hydrogenated oils or sugar from your diet, you’ll want to avoid regular peanut butter.
Both kinds of peanut butter can be had smooth or chunky. This doesn’t change the nutritional profile of the peanut butter and is simply a matter of personal taste. I like smooth peanut butter, but there is nothing wrong with using chunky peanut butter in your survival supplies.
Making Your Own Peanut Butter
You probably quickly noted that natural peanut butter is just ground up peanuts and salt. Sounds pretty easy to make at home, right?
Well, it is! You just need a few simple ingredients and a food processor, and you’re in the peanut butter business. If you live in an area where you can grow your own peanuts, that is even better, because then you are in full control over the main ingredients, and can improve your self-reliance. Even if you aren’t growing your own peanuts, you can still make a batch of fresh, healthy, all natural peanut butter at home in fairly short order.
Of course, if you make your own peanut butter, it will have a shorter shelf life than commercial peanut butter of any type. Even so, peanut butter has a decently long shelf life in the refrigerator. If you can your homemade peanut butter, you can extend its useful life. But given how easy it is to make peanut butter, I’d just buy commercial stuff for prepping and long-term storage and save the tasty, fresh homemade stuff for daily use.
Some grocery stores and natural food stores will also have self serve peanut butter machines, which offers all the benefits of freshly made peanut butter, with a lot more convenience.
Prepping With Peanut Butter
Ok, right now we know what kinds of peanut butter are out there, and even how to make our own. I’ve shown you that peanut butter is a calorie, vitamin, and mineral-rich food that has all the good stuff to fuel the human body for hard work, or just to supplement your diet. I think we can all agree now that peanut butter is pretty darn good stuff. So how do you prep with it?
Well, you can take the easy way and just keep a few jars in your pantry and rotate through them. Most commercial peanut butter should be good for at least a year in a sealed jar, and possibly a bit longer. If you pay attention to rotating your food supply, you should always be able to have a solid year’s supply of peanut butter on hand.
If you have to dip into your supplies, there are a lot of different ways you can use peanut butter. One of the simplest ways is to just eat several big heaping spoonfuls for a quick meal or energy boost. Remember when I talked about the calories and nutrients in peanut butter? Few survival foods pack such a strong punch in such a small package.
MRE style peanut butter packets are great for packing in your bugout bag, or other portable emergency kits. They offer a generous serving of peanut butter, take up very little room, and have a several year shelf life. This means MRE style peanut butter is a must-have item for any serious prepper. Plus, in a pinch, they make great snacks!
Peanut butter powder is another great choice for prepper use. With up to a five-year shelf life, it offers convenience unavailable with any other peanut butter product. Sure, it isn’t as nice as the real thing, but it takes up less space, stores for a long time, and opens up a new world of cooking with peanut butter. Use the powder in smoothies, or stirred into hot cereals, or sprinkled on top of fruit. There are many ways the savvy prepper can use peanut butter powder!
Lastly, in a survival situation, you can just use normal peanut butter exactly how you’d use it during normal times. It requires no cooking, can be eaten on its own, used in cooking, spread on bread, crackers, or biscuits, is easily transportable shelf stable, and tasty. What’s not to love? As a bonus, it’s a great prepper food that offers immediate familiarity and comfort. When you are in the middle of a survival situation, you want food that is both familiar and pleasant to eat. Peanut butter fills that bill quite nicely wouldn’t you say?
Honestly, writing an article about the prepper uses of peanut butter isn’t the sexiest survival topic. There are no wicked cool knives or the rugged self-reliance of making a bushcraft shelter using only a homemade stone knife. There are no shocking accounts of how easy it would be for our entire grid to go down or survival after a crippling natural disaster.
But you know what? Peanut butter can see you through those situations. It can fuel your body and mind for difficult survival tasks, and, if you use natural peanut butter can even burn to provide light or a bit of warmth. Peanut butter is as important to the self-reliant prepper as a good hunting rifle, or a backup generator.
For well over a century, peanut butter has been a food of choice for untold millions of people around the world. Nutritious, calorie dense, easy to store and transport, and made from a plant that can be grown in many parts of the world, it represents a triumph of human will. Because peanut butter took what was once common animal fodder and food for the lowest of the poor and slaves, and turned it into a global commercial success and pantry staple.
Peanut butter is cheap, healthy, quick to eat, versatile, easy to serve and available almost anywhere. These are all darn good reasons to put some in your survival pantry and bugout bag. Heck, you could just shove a jar of peanut butter into your bugout bag and be good in a pinch -but I’d look for a more balanced food supply, even for short-term use. But it’s pretty nice to know, that peanut butter can be a short-term sole source of food.
In the end, peanut butter should serve as a key piece of your emergency food supplies. Oh yeah, and maybe a little bit of chocolate to go with it. Yeah. Now that’s the good stuff.
Steve Coffman is a freelance writer and consulting historian. He has a BA in US history from The Evergreen State College and lives near Tacoma, Washington. He collects antique telephone insulators and is presently researching labor union relations in Washington State during WWI.