Food. It’s what’s for dinner.

The post Thanksgiving turkey abundance has finally abated. I was in my local Albertson’s and, as usual, I did a quick pass through the meat department looking for bargains. They had boneless turkey breast, seasoned with rosemary or garlic, marked down 30% off the regular price. Hmmm.

“Excuse me. Is the manager around?”
“Is there a problem?”
“No problem, just wanted to ask him something.”
:::she trundles off to get the manager. Manager shows up.:::
“Can I help you?”
“Yeah, you’ve got a dozen trays of turkey breast in the bin there marked down 30%. Would you gimme a better deal if I took all of them?”
“Best I can do is 50%, I can’t…”
“Done.”

20161202_152435So, these will get vacuum sealed and then off to the cryo-nap. Now, lets do some math. Each turkey breast is enough for two people. With the discount, that’s about $1.35#. Add in a box of Stove Top stuffing at $1.00 (purchased in bulk when on sale), add a can of corn (also purchased by the case on sale). And you have a basic turkey dinner for two people at a price of..hmmm…about $1.50 per person. And thats for a not-inconsequential amount of food landing on your plate. It all comes out of storage or the deep freeze, so it’s good to go for the next, oh, five years or so.

We may store ammo & camo, but food is something we know we’re gonna wind up using. You can never go wrong taking advantage of sales like that. And…don’t be afraid to ask for a discount. They’re not gonna throw you out of the store or anything..worst that happens is they say no.

Security, thy name is food.

 

Adventures in food shelf-life

When it comes to storage-type food, you very often trade flavor for shelf life. You can have a product that tastes really good, but only lasts a minimum amount of time…or you can have a product with a great shelf life but its flavor is such that you would only eat it after the fallout settles and the Kroger’s is a smoking ruin.

Years ago (eight years, actually) I bought a bunch of the Idahoan instant potatoes in pouches. I recommend these highly, and find them to be very good. So good, in fact, that when I’m feeling too lazy to peel, boil, and mash ‘real’ spuds I reach for these. For the price of two of these pouches I can buy a 5# bag of potatoes at my local supermarket, so economically it may not make a lot of sense to have them all the time, but for storage food….very highly recommend.

One concern I had was the durability of the paper pouches. Its heavy duty paper, to be sure…but how will it hold up over time? Funny you should ask….

13890According to Idahoans website FAQ, this particualr pouch o’ spuds was born almost eight years ago. I’d bought a bunch of these when they were on sale and stuffed ’em into a plastic tub, sealed it up, and sat it on the shelf with all the other mid-term food storage in the classic ‘cool,dry place’. But…after a few years, I was pretty certain theyd have gone stale or bad or whatever happens to dehydrated potatoes. In fact, while I wasnt sure enough to pull them off the shelf and discard them, I was sure enough to pull them off my inventory spreadsheet.

Well, to make a long story short, it appears that even in the simple heavy paper pouch, stored under good conditions, they actually held up quite well for eight years. No discernible loss of flavor or texture. In fact, they seemed just fine. So, despite theyre not being packaged in a long-term manner from the factory, if you just stuff the pouches into a hard container, seal it up, and store it under the usual conditions…it lasts just fine.

So…if you’re looking to ads something to the ol’ pantry that tastes good enough to eat on a regular basis, but has a shelf life that goes on for quite a while…..these come highly recommended.

 

CostCo canned pulled pork

I’ve mentioned the Costco/Kirkland canned roast beef before. It’s really good stuff and although food preferences are subjective, I recommend the stuff highly. Last time i went to buy some at CostCo they no longer had it and I was told it was only available through the website. Bummer. But, apparently, it’s back on the shelf at my particular CostCo. As I was picking some up, I noticed that they also had cans of pulled pork. The thing that really caught my eye was that the pulled pork was quite a bit cheaper than the beef. Well, for my end-of-the-world planning, protein is protein. So lets pick up a roll of four 12 oz. cans for $6.99 which comes out to…uhm.. lets see….$2.33/#, which is actually pretty good.

20150906_130743I figured I’d try one of the recipes on the can and see how it turns out. In this particular case, a form of chili. Now, lets get this part out of the way – I’m from the school of thought that says chili doesn’t have beans. I’m not going to argue it with you, I’m just puttin’ it out there. Moving on, now.

  • 1 can of pulled pork
  • 1 diced green pepper
  • 1 diced onion
  • 1 small can of chiles
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes

And we’ll toss that in the cast iron, cover it, and simmer it for an hour to give everything time to mix.

Turns out, it was actually pretty good. The pork isn’t really ‘pulled’ as we recognize it from, say, a good BBQ joint. It’s more ‘flaked’, like tuna fish. But, even though like all meats it smelled like cat food when the can was opened, it was good.  For the price, this is an excellent product to have on the shelf…cheaper than the roast beef and quite useful in a variety of dishes.

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Hey! Paratus is this coming Friday! Tell your friends!

Back into the breach with MH

Much like the slapped-around trailerpark housewife who goes back to her drunk, abusive husband I have renewed my dealer account with Mountain House.

Years ago I got dealer status with them to punch up my food storage. The plan was simple – sell enough of their product that it would finance my own acquisition of that product. It actually worked pretty well. But then…MH came home drunk one night and things got dark.

More specifically, there was a period a few years back where MH stopped selling to small-time dealers. The thing that was especiialy hard to find were the #10 cans. There were all sorts of rumours swirling about trying to come up with a reason for MH freezing out its small-time dealers. The most popular rumour was that MH had gotten some big .gov contract and was purposing as much of their production as possible towards filling those contracts….thereby leaving the little guys out in the cold.

MH denied the .gov contract angle, but then again wouldn’t the terms of any .gov contract require them to keep hush-hush about it anyway? So for a year or so MH was in high demand in the preparedness community and in low supply. Eventually, MH started shipping again and things resumed an even keel….except with me. I was kinda annoyed with MH for their actions.

A year or so goes by and, lo and behold, I discovered this.  (Here’s the complete post.) By that point I had a pretty good amount of MH on the shelf and was branching out in the much broader variety of Augason Farms.  I figured my needs with MH had been met, so I didn’t take any steps to keep my dealer account active with them. Then, the other day, I was up at REI and I was perusing the camping food section (because….why not?) and I saw some new things. Specifically, these. The Italian Pepper Steak, especialy, caught my attention.

So I called the guys (gals, actually) at MH and asked if my account with them was still valid and could be brought up-to-date. (See, MH really tightened up their dealer policy a while back and getting dealer status with them nowadays is a bit trickier.) They said they could do that and, by the way, we’ll send you some samples of those new products.

And then FedEx came by today.

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Yay for free samples! Maybe..maybe he’s really sorry this time! Maybe I’m being to hard on him…maybe….

We shall see. In the meantime, I’ll be getting together with my local cadre of like-minded individuals and see if we can’t all pool our resources and needs to put in one big group buy.

Article – School serves 6-year-old meat to TN students

ROGERSVILLE, Tenn. – Meat dating to the year of President Obama’s first inauguration was served to students in some Hawkins County, Tennessee schools last week.

Hawkins County Commissioner Michael Herrell was alerted after a cafeteria worker sent him a photo of the pork roast they used for school meals was from 2009.

The 6-year-old meat had been frozen and then was thawed for meal preparation, according to WCYB.

Herrell said the photo was taken at Joseph Rogers Primary School where the staff decided not to serve the meat. However, it was served at other schools.

Eating 6-year-old meat is not a big deal if it was stored properly. We routinely eat meat thats been sitting in the deep freeze for a year or two, and the oldest I’ve pulled out and consumed has been around five years old. As long as you packaged it well and kept it frozen, it’s usually just fine. There may be some spots of freezer burn if you didn’t get all the air out of the package, but those don’t affect the nutritional value or the safety of the food.

As an aside, if you’re really upset about the quality of the slop slapped onto your kids lunch tray, either pack ’em a lunch or give ’em five bucks to go get a slice of pizza and a Coke. It’s not .gov’s responsibility to feed your kid. Public government schools already do a crappy job of educating your kid, why would you think they’d do any better job of feeding them?

Canned meats

Canned meats are something that, no matter how objective I try to be, always elicit a shudder and a mental “Ewwww”. I mean, just about every form of canned meat, when opened, whether it is Spam, chicken, beef, hash, whatever, smells and looks like cat food.

It was only with great trepidation and great surprise that I was willing to try the CostCo canned roast beef and discover that, once you fry it up, it’s really quite good. In fact, it was so good we have added it as a regular inventory item to our spreadsheet of stored food.

Up until now, most canned meats are pretty basic: canned chicken, canned pork, canned salmon, etc. But things are starting to get a little more ‘niche’. An example was this that I found in WalMart:

Canned beef fajita strips and canned meatballs. Part of me was quite curious about this stuff and another part of me was slightly nauseous contemplating how badly these things could turn out. Yes, I was a coward and took a pass on these…mostly on the strength of WalMart being known for ‘low prices’ and me not wanting to know where the corners were cut on these cuts of meat. BUT…it is interesting to to think that with some stored pasta, a jar of spaghetti sauce, and a couple cans of meatballs, you could have a hearty comfort-food meal with a shelf life measured by election cycles.

Interesting the things you see when you start mindlessly examining everything on the ‘canned meats’ shelf at WallyWorld.

50% off One Month Pack from Augason Farms

Augason Farms is having a 50% off sale on their “One Month Pack”. (No idea how long the sale is running.) I bought a couple of these a while back and it is an excellent way to get introduced to their product. Foods are in #2 cans, which are far more practical than #10 cans, and when you factor in the price ($128.50 / 48 cans) you wind up getting a great assortment of stuff to try for, on average, $2.68. Nice fire-n-forget package for tucking away in cabins, RV’s, bunkers, caches, and relative’s houses. They also make great gifts if you’re the kinda guy who is willing to spend that kinda money on other folks.

My experience has been that when they have these sales it may take a week or two for product to ship, but to me it’s worth any delay to save a hundred bucks.

Since my food prep needs are small, two people, I find the #2 can (Augason Farms calls it their ‘Everyday Size’) to be a more practical size than a #10 can. A #10 can is a lot of food and if you don’t consume it fast enough you wind up wasting it. The #2 cans are just about the right size for one or two people.

I wound up buying a few other #2 cans of product to ’round out’ the ‘One Month Pack’ more to my liking. In conjunction with some canned/freezedried meats you can put together a pretty nice menu.

Anyway, they sent me a notice in email about the sale and I’m passing it along.

CostCo hashbrowns

There are some combinations that are just counter productive – black Klansman, blind tattoo artist, deaf piano tuner, claustrophobic escape artist, that sorta thing. Sadly, my particular dead-end combination is that Im a person who really likes to eat but doesnt really like to cook. In short, Im a lazy cook.

For example, I can make a very nice red sauce from scratch. Fresh basil, tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, a bit of onion, a long time on the stove and – voila – terrific homemade spaghetti sauce. But nine times out of ten, I’ll just crack open a jar of prepared sauce because I want to eat, not cook.

As a result of this, I’m always on the look out for food that tastes good, keeps well, and requires minimal effort. As I was strolling through CostCo the other day I came across these:

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Yup, another crappy cellphone pic. Brand is “Golden Grill Russet”.

Now, to my way of thinking, nothing is going to make an apocalypse more bearable than a decent breakfast. The cheap and easy way out for most of us is a bucket full of those little packets of Quaker instant oatmeal. And, yeah, its better than nothing in a pinch. But when you’ve got a long day shooting looters, moving debris, scavenging the ruins, and running for your life ahead of you it might be nice to have a real breakfast. Fortunately, with a little pre-planning you can have eggs, bacon, fruit, hasbrowns, coffee, and orange drink for breakfast.

CostCo had these hashbrowns in little pint-size cardboard cartons and, being a sucker for ‘individual serving size’ packages, I threw ’em in the cart. Figured I’d take a chance on them. The instructions say to open the container, fill with really hot water, close container, let sit for twelve minutes, drain, then fry in a pan. Okay, followed the instructions and twelve minutes later there was a huge pile of hash browns ready for the pan. I mean these things increased in size exponentially. I’m not a shy eater…. ‘two servings’ is what I’d consider single serve. But there was a lot of hash browns coming out of that container. Easily enough for two hungry guys and probably enough for at least three average people.

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Theres nothing in this pic for scale, but trust me…thats a LOT of hash browns. And they’re yummy.

Fried ’em up in butter, added some salt and some ketchup, and they were really good. Highly recommend. Im going to have to pick up another one or two packages of them. Eight cartons to package so one or two should handle most short- to mid-length crises. They’d also be an amazingly good choice for camping if you break it down to a smaller package.

The packaging is about the same as a pint of milk – a treated, coated cardboard container. Expiration date is about a year, but as is usual in these sorts of things that date is probably very conservative. Unless the packaging takes some damage these should have years on them. I found them at CostCo but it turns out they’re available on Amazon as well (where they get very high reviews.)

Case of these, a can of bacon, some freeze dried eggs, big tub o’ Tang, and a couple cans of fruit, and you’ve pretty much got the long-term-storage breakfast thing under control. But, they’re also quite good to the point you might just use ’em on a Sunday morning where you don’t feel like making a lot of effort. One of the rare ‘storage foods’ that really is good enough to eat during ‘normal’ times.

Fun with eggs

Have you ever actually eaten powdered eggs? I know theres all sortsa stories from military folk talking about the horrors of such tings, but those stories are also usually pretty dated. Food preservation (and fabrication) technology has changed a bit.

Being an unapologetic bargain hunter, I always peruse the ‘marked down’ shopping carts in the back of the store where my local supermarket dumps the stuff it wants to sell now. Usually it’s things no one wants like sugar-free cake frosting, squirrel-flavored olive oil, dill pickle flavored barbecue sauce, and other ‘food’ items that are obviously not moving and taking up valuable shelf real estate.

So, the other day as I was sifting through the cart I found this:

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My history with powdered eggs is a long one. I originally wanted some back in the late ’90s but had no idea for a source. I found this particular brand, Deb El, but found out they did not offer any larger quantity of them than these cans and some industrial-sized 50# bags that I was in no position to repackage. A few years later I discovered ‘Wakefield’ powdered eggs (an excellent product) but its availability was spotty since it was basically manufacturer overruns from .gov contracts (they can sometimes be found through REI). Finally, I found that Mountain House offered #10 cans of eggs and I picked up a few cases of that. Later on I found that Augason Farms offers whole eggs in the far more convenient #2 size cans…and scrambled egg mix in the larger #10 cans. I got a buncha those as well.

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The first time I used powdered eggs I was extremely skeptical… the powder, when mixed with water, made this foul-smelling, orange-colored, pancake-batter-consistency mix that looked amazingly unappetizing. but, after a couple minutes in a frying pan with some butter it was like some sort of culinary magic trick – the orange turned into that lovely scrambled-egg-yellow that we all know and love, the smell was just like regular scrambled eggs, and the texture, while quite uniform, was also very similar. In fact, the giveaway that fresh eggs were not used came from the even coloring of the eggs….’real’ scrambled eggs have random flecks of white among the yellow. These were an even yellow across the board. But….absolutely delicious and indistinguishable, taste wise, from fresh eggs.

The powdered eggs are a bit more orange-y colored that fresh eggs, but in the half-light of your average apocalypse-induced power failure you probably won’t notice the difference. However, here’s a comparison of the powdered egs [first photo] cooking versus the fresh eggs cooking [second photo]:

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Takes about two  minutes to cook. Powdered:

IMG_1928Fresh: IMG_1931

Side by side on a plate you can see the color difference. (Too be fair, I used much more butter with the powdered eggs and virtually none with the fresh, so that may contribute to the color difference.) However texture is identical:

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The powdered eggs come out looking not as good as the bright-yellow fresh eggs, but they have a far greater shelf life and lend themselves to mass feeding. Ever go to a hotel that has a breakfast bar and you can get all the omelettes you want? Notice the cook often has a juice bottle or container full of egg mix he pours or dips from? Yeah. Thats powdered egg (or liquid egg mix from powder) that he’s using.

So what good is this stuff? Well, for starters, if your breakfast includes scrambled eggs, french toast, or anything that requires an egg….well, heres your egg. No refrigeration necessary (although refrigerating eggs is, I am told, a mostly American notion. In Europe eggs are left at room temperature.) When Hurricane Sandy knocks out the power and the morning promises a long day of grunt work it’d be nice to be able to have scrambled eggs to go with the canned bacon, canned hash, or other breakfast fare. (According to my research, a post apocalyptic breakfast can be pretty impressive – scrambled eggs, hash, bacon, breakfast cereal with milk, oatmeal, canned fruit, orange drink, and coffee….a better breakfast than I have now.) And, of course, anything that requires egg like pasta dough, breaded foods, etc, etc, are going to be needing this stuff as well.

So…for those of you who may be curious about powdered eggs but don’t feel like cracking open a $40 #10 can of them for an experiment…well, I risked $4 to show you what to expect:

My suggestion to you? Buy the long term eggs in the smaller cans (because once you open a can of powdered eggs it’ll start drawing moisture and if you dont use it soon it’ll cake solid). Don’t expect it to taste/look exactly like fresh eggs, but don’t be terrified about it either. Its about the same quality as fastfood/breakfast bar/college cafeteria eggs.