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If you want to ensure a safe supply of food for your family in case of emergency, and you are just beginning, your first step needs to involve purchasing food items that your family normally eats. This will ensure that, in case of emergency, you will not have to depart significantly from your normal diet. And just as important, it ensures that you can rotate these items into your normal pantry. When you do it this way, food storage will not be an expense. In fact, since you'll be able to buy items in larger than normal quantities when they are on sale, you'll actually save money.
But after you have taken this first step, there may be some gaps that you wish to fill. This page will give you some ideas on how to fill those gaps.
Especially if you have children, storing enough milk can be a challenge. Most families buy milk a gallon or two at a time, and it's not possible to stockpile for any length of time, particularly if refrigeration is not available. For this reason, milk might be one item where your emergency food stockpile will have to contain some substitutions. But you can still maintain a normal diet with storage food, with some advance planning.
The easiest, but most expensive, option is shelf-stable milk. This is more popular in Europe, but is available in the United States. This is normal milk that is packaged in such a manner that it can be stored for many months without refrigeration. It is available from Amazon, and sometimes at normal supermarkets, under such brand names as Parmalat, Borden, and Organic Valley.
This type of milk is quite common in Mexican-American grocery stores. One brand name that I have found is Lala . I have begun to see Parmalat on the shelf at Walmart, usually for about $2 per quart. If it's not available at your local store, you can order online and pick up at your local store with no shipping charge. I've also occasionally see Parmalat and other brands of shelf-stable milk at the local dollar store. When it's available there, it's a dollar a quart, which is not much more expensive than the normal milk price.
Shelf-stable milk is also usually available in Supermarkets as flavored (chocolate or strawberry) milk in single-serve packages.
This type of shelf-stable milk can be relatively expensive, but it can be quite useful for short emergencies, or just to prevent having to run to the store at some inconvenient hour.
Another option for milk is, of course, powdered milk. This is generally relatively inexpensive. Quite frequently, people have an immediate negative reaction to the idea of drinking powdered milk, usually stemming from an unpleasant experience. It is important to note that not all powdered milk is the same! The taste varies considerably from brand to brand. Some taste the same as regular milk, some are palatable in an emergency, and some are absolutely horrible.
The best that I have tasted is Nestle Nido, which is available at Amazon, WalMart , and often at other supermarkets. This is usually found in the Mexican food aisle of the supermarket. What sets Nestle Nido apart is the fact that it is not skim milk. It actually contains all of the fat of whole milk. This makes it taste much better than other types of powdered milk. Unfortunately, it also makes it more expensive, and reduces the shelf life. While some powdered milk will last more or less indefinitely if packaged right, the Nestle Nido that I have bought generally has a "best by" date of about one year in the future. So while it might form part of your milk storage, it probably isn't the only solution. If you can't find Nestle Nido locally, one convenient way to purchase it is from WalMart . You can order online and then pick up the order at any WalMart store with no shipping charge. You can see the various sizes available at WalMart by following this link .
Of course, all supermarkets sell powdered milk, and the most famous brand is Carnation . While powdered milk does not usually taste as good as fresh milk, it can be an adequate replacement in an emergency. Some people imagine it to be horrible, but this needn't be the case. There are two key facts to keep in mind to make powdered milk palatable. First of all, not all brands taste the same. I have not tried every brand of powdered milk, but in my experience, the Wal-Mart store brand . tastes much better than Carnation , and it is cheaper. Other people's tastes might vary, so it's probably worth it to taste test a few brands. You can view or order the WalMart powdered milk online at the following links: 64 Ounce , 25.6 Ounce , or 32 Ounce. In most cases, you can order online and then pick the product up at a local store, which is a very convenient option if you're placing a large order of bulk items.
The second secret of making powdered milk is that the finished product will taste much better if you start with warm water, mix it thoroughly to add air, and then chill it overnight before drinking. Obviously, if refrigeration is not available, it might be difficult to chill it. But if you are able to do this, the resulting product will taste much better than if you simply mix it with cold water and then immediately drink it.
Honeyville Food Products has an interesting product called "milk alternative ", which seems to be the best trade-off between low cost and shelf life on the one hand, and palatability on the other hand. While it does not have the exact nutritional composition as milk, it is quite close. And as powdered milk goes, it tastes fairly good. You can order it directly from Honeyville or from Amazon. This "milk alternative" is somewhat hard to describe, but it amounts to hot chocolate mix without the chocolate. In fact, Honeyville also makes "chocolate milk substitute", which is essentially the same as hot chocolate mix from the supermarket, in bulk. It tastes best hot, but it can be drunk cold. I haven't tried it, but Honeyville also sells strawberry milk substitute
Speaking of hot chocolate, ordinary hot chocolate mix from the supermarket can fill one part of your milk storage. While not nutritionally identical to milk, it generally is a close substitute. It is, of course, available at any supermarket. If you want to buy it in larger quantities, Honeyville has a very good selection, which you can order online directly from
Honeyville or from
Honeyville also has a large selection of fruit smoothie mixes. These are essentially milk and fruit. We typically make them in the blender (sometimes adding ice cubes), but in an emergency, they would make a good milk substitute. Again, you can order either directly from Honeyville or from Amazon.
One good source of some of your milk needs can come from Sweetened Condensed Milk and Evaporated Milk. These are especially good sources of milk nutrition if you sometimes use these products for cooking or baking. You can then stock them at no additional cost, and they will provide the nutrition of milk.
For those who are not familiar with them, the two products, despite the similarity of the can, are quite different products. Sweetened Condensed Milk is a very sweet thick syrup. Kids will eagerly eat it right out of the can. Evaporated Milk should probably be called "partially evaporated" milk. It is skim milk, but with enough water removed that it's the consistency of cream. It can be drunk right out of the can, but it's most often used in cooking. It also makes a good "creamer" for coffee or as a replacement for normal milk over cereal.
The overall cost of these products is higher than other milk options. However, if you normally use these products, it is wise to consider including them in your food storage, since they make an excellent substitute for fresh milk.
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Closely related to the problem of fresh milk is that of fresh eggs. Honeyville also sells powdered eggs, which are surprisingly good. They are best used in recipes calling for eggs. However, by simply adding water, they make surprisingly good scrambled eggs. You can order them directly from Honeyville or from Amazon. You can find a good description of Honeyville's egg products on its website.
One disadvantage of Honeyville's powdered eggs is that they are sold only in a large can. As long as the can is unopened, they will last more or less forever. But once the can is opened, they do need to be consumed within a month or so. They will still be safe long after that--but they won't taste as good. So they are rather difficult to work into your family's normal diet, because most families simply don't use that many eggs that fast.
While on the subject of bulk foods, I should also mention Honeyville's 9-grain cereal. At first, I was reluctant to purchase this, since it was slightly more expensive than oatmeal, and I assumed that it probably wasn't much better than oatmeal. I was wrong, and this product is very good, and our family eats it regularly, emergency or no emergency. It's simply a hot cereal made of (as the name suggests) nine different grains. It does require cooking (the package instructions say 20 minutes, but you can get by with less), which limits its use in emergency situations where cooking facilities are not available. But it's an excellent high-protein item for breakfast or other meals. You can also order it directly from Honeyville or from Amazon
Finally, Honeyville has a large selection of
freeze-dried fruits. While these items are more expensive, calorie-for-calorie, than other "staple" foods, they make good snacks and could make quite a difference in making good meals during an emergency.
For long term-use, you'll want to stock up on staples such as flour, sugar, cooking oil, etc. You'll find more information at my food storage basics page. Another excellent source of information on storing these items can be found at A.T. Hagen's Food Storage FAQ. One inexpensive source of carbohydrates that is often overlooked is tortilla flour. Not only is this inexpensive and easy to store, but it can be prepared with minimal cooking facilities. If you don't already have one, a tortilla press makes the process much easier. You can get a tortilla press at WalMart or at amazon.com. The flour is called "maseca" and is available at your supermarket, at amazon.com or at WalMart .