Food For Thought

Oops! Now it happened! You grab that bag-out-bag with all the "suggested items" contained in it as described by the government, and get to the nearest emergency shelter. And then, well now what? Will you be sitting idling around on the school gym floor for a few days, or even longer, or perhaps being involved with trying to cleanup the aftermath? What food do you think will need now? Are you only going to wait until the Red Cross or whoever can arrive and hopefully dish out some hot chow?

Food is important not only for your dietary requirements and energy needs, but it is very important to your well-being psychologically. Tasty food helps keep the spirits up during physical stress, even improving the scenery of a drab and boring shelter situation! A critical characteristic of the "best" food in a survival situation is food that you like.

Food and menus can easily become a most exuberating chore for some and that is why I am trying to give some "food for thought" to help you start planning for one of the basic survival essentials; food.

Planning: Deliberate food planning can ensure proper nutrition, and reduce the total weight and bulk of surplus food you may carry in that cramped and heavy bag. The challenge comes in trying to keep weight and bulk to a minimum while keeping nutrition and good taste to a maximum. As if this were not a hard enough balancing act I also place a high premium on ease of preparation and clean up.

I recommend starting by simply writing out a list of the total meals needed for a day and include a variety of foods for each individual day if possible. Merely begin with Breakfast for Day #1. Get a bit creative and think of some foods you can easily prepare without the need of a stove. (I will get to some recommendations further on). Then go onto Lunch for Day #1, Supper for Day #1 and continue for all the meals you think you need to have in your kit for each person.

After planning out a day's food, including snacks, condiments and drinks, I prepackage all the food items for that day in its own Ziploc bag. I also break-down the meal items into individual servings and package them in smaller bags. For example, if dry cereal is on the menu I put it into a small plastic bag and measure out the powdered milk needed; instead of tossing in a bag of dry milk which only takes up space. After the foods for that day is then gathered I put them into the larger plastic bag to be used for that day. As each of the smaller and the final plastic bag is filled, I zip up the bag most of the way and use a plastic straw to suck out the air. It makes for a nifty package with all the food for a single day.

Calories and Energy: I admit upfront I am not a dietitian. Survival takes an amazing amount of energy. Most "experts" tend to agree survival foods needs to supply your body with roughly 2,000 to 4,000 calories a day, the lower figure for light activity, the higher figure for intense activity as in doing manual labor cleaning up the aftermath of a disaster. The middle-ground, 3000 to 4000 calories results in a minimum of 1 ½ to 2 pounds of food per day per person.

In his book, "Factors and Formulas for Computing Respiratory Exchange and Biological Transformations of Energy", T. M. Carpenter lists the caloric expenditure of almost every activity imaginable, including sleeping and hiking. Search Google for the "House of Nutrition" site, which has this type of information. I found that my 225 lb. body will burn well over 6500 Calories during an 18 mile day of hiking that includes 3000 feet of elevation gain. Maybe you need to re-think your food requirements if "running off to the hills" are part of your plans.

Survival food for a disaster requires quick, short-term energy which are carbohydrates, starches, and sugars; such as breads, cereals, pasta, crackers and the like. You may also need long term energy, provided by proteins and fats; such as canned meat, cheeses, dried eggs, dried milk, cheddar cheese, chocolate and nuts.

I also suggest eating several small meals during the day to keep the energy up rather than the traditional three meals a day; Breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch, mid-afternoon snake, supper and perhaps a snack in the evening.

Food Sources: There are basically two kinds of foods meeting our criteria. You could get commercial freeze-dried backpacking meals, in a variety of meals, but at tremendous prices. Or, you can get inexpensive food (with a wide variety of tasty choices) at your local grocery store. I prefer the later and think this is best way to go to get the foods you like.

If water is not a major concern where you live, I suggest buying pre-packaged and a small amount of freeze-dried food. You'll want to use dehydrated food ("Instant foods") to save weight. Grains, pastas, breads, dried potatoes, etc, are already dehydrated or naturally dehydrated. You can also buy dehydrated fruits and vegetables. Dried vegetables can really add much-needed variety to your dinners. Dried fruits are wonderful eaten alone or added to breakfast rice, for example.

Unless you can afford to buy and have tried the backpacking prepared meals, get some samples. I personally shy away from them. Those freeze dried meals are about $7-$12 each. Price, however, is not the only problem that I have with using commercially prepared freeze dried backpacking meals. They tend to be bulky, the portions are on the smallish side, their quality is inconsistent, and they are often lacking in nutrition. My advice if you are planning on stashing some in the bag, try it first.

Some Foods for Thought: The best survival foods are lightweight, tasty, and calorie-packed and require no cooking or can be quickly cooked with a personal mini-stove if you have one in the kit. Your local supermarket can provide most of the foods for your hiking pantry. Health food, ethnic food, and online specialty food stores will provide variety and some harder to find items.

Here is a list of some things that can go into "easy cook" bug-out-bag:

Breakfast foods
Instant oatmeal
Maltomeal (add raisins for more bulk)
Instant rice
Granola (with instant milk)
Fruit cocktail (small cans)
Cereal (with instant milk)

Lunch foods
Instant soups
Jerky
Bagels (cream cheese)
Pita bread
Logan bread
Granola bars
Candy bars
Dried fruit
Gorp (nuts, m&m's raisins, yogurt peanuts, crackers, dried fruit, etc)
Pringles
Crackers with peanut butter &/or cheese
Wheat thins
Tuna (sold in pouches now)
Lunch meat in small cans

Dinner foods
Burritos (toritillas, refried beans, cheese, peppers, salsa, onions)
Canned soups, etc (if you don't mind the weight)
Couscous with dried veggies
Cup noodles/ramen
Cup o soup
Instant potatoes
Lipton rice or noodles
Potatoes and gravy (3-5 minute gravy mix)
Ramen with dried veggies
Spaghetti with dried veggies (can of tomato paste to make sauce)
Vegetable soup
Complete dinners as from delmonte
Dehydrated cooked ground beef, chicken, or tuna
No-bake desserts, cheese cakes, etc.

Mid-morning & afternoon snacks
Gorp, individual size bag
Trail mix, individual size bag
Dried fruit, individual size bag
Chocolate candy bars

Drinks
Hot cocoa
Powdered juice, lemonade or crystal lite (masks bad-tasting and/or iodine-treated water)
Coffee &/or tea bags
Instant milk

Condiments (little individual packs like from fast food restaurant for inclusion in meal packet)
Salt & pepper
Sugar
Creamer
Ketchup & mustard
Jelly
Honey packs

-Jerry B Blaine

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