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How To Save Perishable Food In An Off-Grid Emergency

by Jeremiah Johnson, Ready Nutrition:

“That morning, when Helen apprehensively opened the freezer, she found several hundred pounds of choice and carefully wrapped meat floating in a noxious sea…As any housewife would do under the circumstances, she wept. This disaster was perfectly predictable, Randy realized. He had been a fool. Instead of buying fresh meat he should have bought canned meats by the case. If there was one thing he certainly should have foreseen, it was the loss of electricity.” – “Alas, Babylon,” by Pat Frank, page 151

Readers, there’s your standard…what to read and what we may very well face. The cited work, if you’re into disaster fiction/apocalyptic reading is the end-all be-all of survival stories of how a community organizes and makes it through a nuclear war. It is not so much a how-to as a story with real-life situations that average people face.

What we are focusing upon is the initial problem: refrigerated food, and an emergency just hit and took out all of the electricity. In this day and age, most of the family is working and out of the home. Still, someone will return home eventually and the actions that are taken could very well save your family some of the foodstuffs they have. If you read the articles I wrote on my personal experience during Hurricane Katrina, I detailed how I prepared all of the food that was in the refrigerator prior to the power going out.

To be sure, you’re going to lose some food. There are generators, yes, but you’re going to have to weigh the use of it with silence around the house. Picture the scenario of three days or so after an EMP and you are the only house on the block with a generator running. There’s a formula for disaster via the marauders who used to be the friendly neighbors chatting about the football games. So what can be done?

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

One thing the can be done is to start stocking a prepper’s pantry in your home. Foods that are shelf stable and nutritious are the best to stock. Here is a list of 25 must-have emergency foods and how to get them organized. Along those lines, you want to ensure you have canning supplies, Mylar storage bags and plastic bags on standby to store all the food you are about to preserve.

Another method that is done in the JJ home is when the groceries are brought home, all meats are cooked immediately, placed into Ziploc bags, and then into the freezer they go. Remember, after a power outage your fridge will still keep things cool for about 24 hours. The frozen meat adds about another 24 hours to its “frozenness” until it needs to be consumed. You can do this with other portions of food as well, such as soups, pasta, vegetables, and so forth. It’s better to have it a few days longer than to lose it in the first 24 hours.

Now what do we do? Here’s a possible solution. That frozen meat? It’s cooked, so if you have the generator, why not stack up those dehydrator machines with already-cooked meat and dry it out? It would be a one-day risk, and you could dehydrate a certain amount of it and have it last a little longer. There’s also another method. Break out your canning manuals, and prepare to can. For this you’ll need something a little special. Here’s what I have: The Coleman two-burner dual fuel stove.

Yes, that green camping stove…runs on white gas/Coleman fuel or gasoline. The reason this is a “goodie” is that you can steadily regulate your temperature and pressure with this little gas-burner stove as you are monitoring your work. Such regularity is important when it comes to canning. Can away! You’ll need to know your stuff: your elevation and the proper recipes that you have in your canning manual for your ratios of seasonings and salt. Can the meat, can the veggies, can whatever you can! Better to save most of your food than eat akin to the proverbial last meal and lose most of it.

Meat can also be salted; therefore, it would behoove you to pick up some 25 – 50 lb. bags of salt, and whatever can’t be canned can be preserved in this manner. Then there’s the Brinkman, the smoker. Yes, time to break out the charcoal and mesquite chips and smoke the daylights out of that meat. Smoke some veggies, and dehydrate them as well. It’ll be a race of the likes of which you’ve never run. Have a woodstove? Well, you can scramble all of your eggs on the top of the stove on a baking pan (hopefully yours has a lip). Scrambled hard…and then you can dry them out after cooking them.

Seafood is tricky. I’d throw that in the Brinkman and smoke the daylights out of it, being careful to season it, as dried fish on its own tastes pretty crappy. Just try and avoid the use of butter or dairy sauces or any cheese. That’ll make the meat go rancid as it goes south.

Speaking of which, if you’re going to have any kind of a “gorge” then make it a breakfast special. Break out the pancake mix, and eat up all of the dairy products that you can for the next couple of meals, while the electricity is out and the fridge is still within that 24-hour window. Load up on the powdered sports shakes, the grilled cheese sandwiches on the woodstove, the pancakes and cereal, because fresh milk will be a thing of the past, barring Bessie the cow being tied up outside in the backyard.

You can use the sun to dry out your fare if you have the time, and that is a big if. You need to get everything cooked and/or canned, and get it out of sight. The day started out as “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm,” but after an off-grid disaster, you can bank on the day ending as “The Planet of the Apes.” Out of sight and out of mind. Get it cooked, dried, smoked, and canned, and get it in your vehicle if you’re getting out of Dodge, or get it out of sight.

Yes, there’s always room for improvement in this case, and any tips or suggestions you wish to add will be great to glean some of your experience that you have tested on your own. The most important thing: go into action on this immediately. You don’t have time to waste, and it’s best to get it all done before the “Drama in Real Life” becomes more real, and more dangerous. Save the food, get it out of sight, and then be ready to defend it. Hopefully it won’t come to that, but then again, it’s better safe than sorry. Hope this piece gave you some “food for thought,” and we look forward to hearing from you. Keep up that good fight! JJ out!

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2 comments to How To Save Perishable Food In An Off-Grid Emergency

  • Craig Escaped Detroit

    Great tips, including about NOT trying to run a NOISY generator when the world around you is deathly quiet.

    Portable gas (or kerosene stoves for cooking, canning), and DON’T forget to BUY some SOLAR Panels, Deep Cycle batteries, inverter, charge controller, etc etc.

    I still recommend the $5.70 bags (40 {POUNDS) of Swimming Pool SALT (yes, it’s FOOD grade), and because it has NO other chemicals or even iodine, it’s really CANNING SALT at the cheapest price you’ll ever find. Anything that needs canning salt, Kosher salt, or “non-iodized” salt, this is the one for you. If you don’t buy at least 3 of these (for less than $20, you’re an idiot.)

    You’ll need salt for canning, preserving meats, brine treatment for veggies, fish, meat, etc.
    Salt in the “olden days” was sometimes used as MONEY, and without it, entire cities would have died.

    Big bags of SUGAR too (it’s also a PRESERVATIVE- for fruits, jams, jellies), etc. It’s another valuable thing to have MORE than 100 POUNDS of it. Don’t be an IDIOT.

    Another valuable PRESERVATIVE, is VINEGAR. If you’re not stocked up with MORE than 10 gallons, you’re another idiot. Pickling meats and veggies has saved MILLIONS of people during the ages that man has known how to pickle things.

    Fermenting foods (saur kraut, Kimche, etc etc.)

    The part about drying (dehydrating) foods is VERY important. This method has been used for MILLIONS of years.

    But now, even when it might be DAMP outside, you’ve STILL got a HOT, DRY dashboard in your CAR just sitting there. Put some cookie sheets on the dashboard, lay the sliced fruits, veggies or meats on it, and let the HOT sunshine in your car do the work FOR you, and there won’t be any wild animals or flies, bees, wasps, etc. trying to take over everything. CLOSE the windows to keep out the bugs. DUH.

    Digging a HOLE in the ground, about 2 or 3 feet deep, will be a MUCH COOLER place on those hot summer days. Cover it not just with plastic, but how about a couple layers of FOAM insulation board. Or, lay some plywood over the hole and shovel a bunch of DIRT on it to keep out some heat (and deter the local cats, dogs, etc.

    Do you live in a HOUSE? Does it have a ROOF that gets hot enough to cook EGGS on it? Can you dehydrate food up there (cover it with a window screen, etc, and make sure to keep the birds off your food box so they won’t POOP into it.)

    Got a concrete sidewalk or driveway? Black top? That’s another HOT surface for drying things. Can you PAINT some area of your concrete with DARK paint so it gets HOTTER? DUH?

    Can you put the bedroom mirror or aluminum foil out there to reflect the sun? Can you make a SOLAR OVEN? A SOLAR Dehydrator? YES you CAN.

    GOOGLE it. Youtube learning, turn off the TV GAME, get out there and MAKE something.

    Gonna be living without meat but need to get your Lysine and Omega 3’s, Proteins, etc?
    Purslane is high in Omegas & Malic acid (healthy stuff).
    Beans.
    Peanuts.
    Amaranth is another good one to grow.

  • Ed_B

    “Kimche”

    Perhaps the only “food” on earth that smells better AFTER it’s been digested than it did before it was eaten. 😉

    Levity aside, the real point of your comments is for people to become proactive and not just reactive. Realize our own capabilities and independence. That’s the only way they are ever gonna happen. Those who do not are gonna be in a WORLD of hurt.

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