Southern Agrarianism and the culture of the Old South

Food Storage Wisdom

IMG_6492_640x480A generation or two ago, families had the good sense to always maintain a good food storage program because they understood that bad things can happen to food supplies. At some point, America became complacent and assumed that there would never be a time when we couldn’t get in the car, drive to the grocery store or restaurant, and find exactly what we wanted in bountiful quantities at cheap prices. That is not a good assumption. Now things are starting to return to a more sane idea that every family should have their own secure food storage plan. Food storage is still viewed as a somewhat quirky, semi-paranoid idea, but anyone reading The Southern Agrarian understands that it is a very wise move.

These are some notes compiled by a relative who spent forty days living entirely off of stored food supplies. I have known him for my entire life. He is a physician, and looks at this from a very analytical and physiological standpoint. I found myself modifying our family’s own food storage program after following his experience during those forty days.

  • CANNED GOODS—Canned goods have a limited shelf life and should not be part of a survival food program unless they are rotated as part of one’s regular eating. Older foods may not make a person sick, but they taste funny and stress the digestion.
  • FREEZE-DRIED FOODS—Freeze-dried foods have a very long shelf life and are quite palatable and satisfying, both the vegetables and the meats.
  • OILS—Oils are not sold as part of a survival package. They must be acquired separately. They are needed for cooking, palatability, and calories. Vegetable oils probably have important essential fatty acid nutrients, too.
  • NUTS—Easy to store, and a satisfying supplement to many foods.
  • GRAINS—RICE, RICE, RICE. Easy to prepare, easy to store, goes well with other foods. More palatable than freeze-dried potatoes, easier to prepare than breads. (If I had it to do over, I would have bought more rice and less wheat. THIS WAS ONE OF THE BIG LESSONS OF MY EXPERIENCE.)
  • LEGUMES—Easy to store, easy to cook, satisfying. (Legumes, along with rice, became the staples to which I added other things.)
  • SEASONINGS—Seasonings are critical to making legumes palatable. They are sold as packets in grocery stores next to the legumes (dried beans).
  • DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS—Fish oil caps, and hard-coat (i.e. oxygenation-resistant) vitamin pills. Just in case something is missing from the other foods.
  • BULK SUPPLEMENTS—Fiber supplements and perhaps mag citrate. Under survival conditions they can make it so you have one less thing to worry about.
  • PRESERVATION—Many foods come in large containers and once opened, unused portions are susceptible to spoilage unless properly stored. I use mason jars and evacuate air with a vacuum pump. (Completely filling the mason jar is another way to minimize the amount of oxygen in the jar, too.) Weevils can destroy grain supplies if grains are exposed to oxygen.
  • MISC—Salt; sugar; anything you use for cooking. Tincture of iodine, to make drinking water safe. (Think of other supplies.)
  • PRACTICE—If you are not experienced, you will neglect supplies that are important and overstock supplies that are unimportant.
  • PRESERVATION II—Light, heat, moisture, oxygen. To maximize shelf-life, keep these to a minimum.


  • Old canned goods may taste alright, but leave me feeling slightly queasy for hours.
  • Freeze-dried meats and vegetables can be sprinkled onto moist foods and eaten with no additional preparation. This is convenient, and they are more palatable dry than reconstituted.
  • Ketchup, mayonnaise, and salad dressings are wonderful for dressing up foods. They have limited shelf life, probably about a year, but they are so good and so familiar it is worth keeping a fresh supply.
  • Some freeze-dried fruits are more suitable than others. Raisins are substantial and flavorful, whereas strawberries and blueberries are puffed-up and acidic. The raisins would be more of a staple, and the other berries serve as part of a treat recipe.
  • Powdered milk can be sprinkled onto foods (like oatmeal) and taste quite good (add peanut butter and raisins, please) and avoid the nuisance of reconstituting to an insipid, fat-free drink that must be protected from spoilage.
  • Beverages will be limited. Coffee, tea, grog, crystallized drinks can be properly stored indefinitely. Liquid concentrates do not have indefinite shelf lives. I favor the fortified orange drink from my supplier.
  • #10 cans are much more convenient than 5-gallon pails, unless one has carefully thought out his usage patterns.
  • Lots and lots of mason jars will be needed in order to have opened a variety of foods without losing the balance to spoilage.
  • The moist, hot, recently prepared rice and legume combo made me feel like I was eating fresh, rather than off-the-shelf survival foods.
  • Many “combo-recipe packs” (e.g. beef stroganoff, spaghetti and meatballs, etc.) are very salty and should probably be “cut” with a bowl of rice.
  • Pan breads (pancakes, waffles, cornbread) are more practical than firing up an oven to cook loaves or biscuits. Under survival conditions, baked bread will become a luxury item.


  1. Linda

    The bread advice, even in good times, seems saner for me than wheat storage and bread-making. As a child I had water to drink and never had juices, cokes, and sugary drinks. We did have milk. I can live that way again and be healthier. I would miss Coke even though it would be a healthier lifestyle. I never drink coffee and could do without iced tea. If I reverted to my diet from birth to 21, I would be thinner and healthier. Eating would be cheaper for me today.

  2. JayJay

    Mayo, ketchup, and salad dressings have a 4 year shelf life so far at my house.
    I started storing in 2008 and they are part of that storage.
    I bought a case of mayo for 99¢ a jar–didn’t pass that deal up. They are fine.
    Same with canned fruit; some caution about shelf life–almost 5 years on the shelves and just fine.
    For that powdered milk, I have lots of cocoa stored. Also, I make my own chocolate syrup with water, sugar, and cocoa. Better than Hershey’s and no preservatives!!
    While storing fruit drink mixes, etc. for that yukky taste from filtered water we will be drinking, store Tang…2 for 1. Great vitamin C and great disguise for the yukky taste(of course that taste isn’t present when using a filterer, not bleach).

  3. Judy On Big Turtle Creek

    Mustard, for us and even in less than ideal storage conditions off-grid, seems to have a shelf life like uranium. Beans will develop a tough skin after a while, but remain edible. A pressure cooker is a good thing to keep on hand for these as it cooks them thoroughly with less fuel usage. Dried milk here in the heat gets nasty quickly.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      We hadn’t really considered mustard but, like Ketchup, it helps the taste of just about anything.

      Beans have been a problem for us. Beans that we have had in storage for several years turn out very tough no matter how long Laura cooks them. They are still quite edible, but the texture means that it isn’t something she would want to serve to others. We haven’t tried a pressure cooker on them yet – thanks for the tip! We have two pressure cookers for canning, and there is a small one that I could also use. Pressure cookers are under-appreciated when it comes to cooking with as little fuel as possible. Again – thanks for pointing this out.

      • Linda

        You use your beans to grow new fresh beans. Just soak them in water and wait till a few rise to the top. Take a hole and dig a small row and broadcast them out cover and you will have fresh pinto beans black eye peas etc.

  4. JayJay

    Soak those beans overnight in water and baking soda.
    Guaranteed to cook quicker and not hard when cooked.
    I cook beans I have had stored in 5 gallon buckets for more than 4 years.
    Now, how they will be in 10 years? Who knows?

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      Thank you – we’ll give the baking soda a try next time we cook the beans.

    • Douglas Bird

      In 10 years they will be fine. Most expiry dates are BS. Having said that, look, sniff and if you are not sure don’t use it. I found some condensed soup that I had put away, at least 10 years ago, no problem.

  5. Jeanne

    I pressure canned dried kidney beans that were on the shelf for five years. I just rinsed, picked through and tossed out broken or shriveled beans. I used 1/2 cup to each pint jar and 1/4 tsp non-iodized salt, filled with hot water to 1 inch from the top. Put on seals and rings.. I canned them at 15 lbs pressure for 90 minutes. They came out tender and tasted fine.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      Thank you, Jeanne.

      I have borrowed a small pressure cooker so we don’t need to use our big canning pressure cooker. What we’re focusing on at this point is using dried beans that we have had in storage for several years. The only canning that we do for beans is ones that we pick fresh and then can right away. It looks like the steps you took to can them are the same basic steps needed to make dried beans tender.

      We are hoping to set up a test of different methods to see what works best. It looks like soaking and using a pressure cooker are common to just about everything I’ve seen on this. I’ve seen salt and baking soda recommended, so we’ll try one batch with each (and other things if I can find other suggestions). The results of that will make a good post when we’re done.

  6. Gen

    What is that recipe for chocolate syrup??

  7. Damion

    Have you ever tried dry canning? I have heard that you can keep beans, flour and rice good for 20-25 years. I just have never tried it.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      Yes, I have tried dry canning, and it works very well. I used standard canning jars and lids, and a Food Saver vacuum sealer with a jar attachment to pull the vacuum. Getting everything all aligned can be a bit tricky, so sometimes I had to do one over, but when done, it holds the vacuum. You can also build a hand crank vacuum sealer pump by using the air conditioning compressor from a car. My cousin built one and it works very well (will pull a stronger vacuum than the electric one will). I have the parts to assemble one, but never got around to doing it. I’ll try to write up a post about it and include some pictures.

  8. Bob Packer

    I vac seal things like powdered milk, potato flakes, noodles, rice and dry beans in quart canning jars.
    To keep powdery stuff from getting into the vac sealer, put a coffee filter over the product.
    I also dehydrate veggies and fruits and vac seal them in quart or pint jars, depending on the produce.
    I remove the rings from the jars so that if a seal does fail, you can tell right away.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      Bob – thanks for the info. I had never heard of using a coffee filter; that tip should really come in handy. Most of the dry packing I’ve done has been different types of dried beans, dehydrated vegetables, and pasta.

  9. Mary Jane Plemons

    I was taught to NEVER salt dried beans until they are done, or they will be tough. I’m 69 and have cooked them often all my life, and although I have encountered old beans at times, and they were a little tougher, they will eventually cook soft. I put them on with water about three times the depth of the beans, (after picking through them and rinsing them), bring to a boil and boil 5 minutes with the lid on them. Turn off the heat and let set an hour. Bring back to a boil without lifting the lid. When boiling well, add a meaty ham bone, chunks of ham, salt pork bacon, or no meat, if you wish; garlic powder, chopped onion, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook with lid, adding hot water if needed (never add cold water). After they have cooked tender, you can add salt, if you wish. Sometimes the ham may make them a little slower to cook, if it is salty. I keep little packages of ham, wrapped in waxed paper, in a larger freezer bag, in my freezer, just for this purpose. Any time I cook a ham, I save some just for this. We love dried beans, especially pintos, limas (butter beans), and blackeyed peas. The peas cook much more quickly than the beans. Seasonings can be varied according to taste. The garlic powder is important, especially if you are not adding meat. It also “freshens” canned vegetables to add a sprinkle when you reheat them.

    Macaroni, noodles, and spaghetti are very versatile and last almost indefinitely. They stretch foods and combine in a multitude of ways with other ingredients. Another staple for us is cornbread. It can be cooked in a skillet and turned over to finish cooking, if you don’t have an oven. It can also be cooked in a waffle iron.

    Meat is easy to pressure can, once you try it. I started with chicken. It was so simple and is so nice to have on hand. An excellent canning guide, called “Growing and Canning Your Own Food”, is available from “Backwoods Home Magazine“, and it is written by Jackie Clay. She lives off grid and has produced and canned most of her family’s food for many years. It is my best canning book. Check out their web site.

    I hope this is beneficial for you and your readers. I really appreciate this article.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      Thank you, ma’am. I have been a fan of Backwoods Home for a long time. It is a great resource on a number of topics. I added a couple of links to your post so others can see for themselves.

      I have heard that before about never adding salt to beans when soaking them. I’m thinking that we will try it with salt as part of our testing to see just what it does.

      Cornbread is a real favorite of ours. Some folks will prefer it to be all home-made, but I have to admit to a real fondness for the Jiffy Cornbread Mix from the grocery store. We always keep a few boxes of it on the shelf. (By the way, I learned the hard way that it does not keep very well – I made some using a box that was long past the expire date and it didn’t rise at all. The chickens still enjoyed it though.)

      • Bob Packer

        I was brought up in the country (I am 77) and was taught to never salt beans until just before serving. That said, I do salt the ones I can, just as has been mentioned.

        And we use Jiffy cornbread mix, also. Baked in a cast iron skillet with a little bacon grease on the bottom.

        • Stephen Clay McGehee

          Thank, Bob. We try to use only cast iron cookware whenever possible. There are several advantages that cast iron has over the modern aluminum/stainless/Teflon stuff. The others have their advantages too, of course, but there is something timeless about cast iron. It’s something that can be passed down from one generation to the next if it’s reasonably cared for. I’ll add a post on cast iron to my “things to do” list.

  10. JayJay

    What is that recipe for chocolate syrup??

    1 cup cocoa
    1 cup cold water
    2 cups sugar
    1/4 tsp salt
    1 TB vanilla
    Mix cocoa and sugar–add salt and water—bring to a slow boil–remove from heat–add vanilla.
    Store in fridge when cool.
    I use the Hershey’s container I saved.

    My husband did the blindfold taste test of commercial (I found one in storage forgot I had) and home made an home made won. 🙂

  11. JayJay

    I haven’t tried the Jiffy cornbread because someone at the store said if you are used to bacon grease cornbread, I’d not like the sweet taste of Jiffy.
    Now, I will try it.
    By the way–the Jiffy pie crust is worth a try. No, not a bakery taste, but quick and less mess than home made crusts (which I NEVER get right!! 🙁 )

    • Bob Packer

      It is a sweeter cornbread. I think taste varies by the region you are from.

  12. JayJay

    There may come a day when we will be cooking over an open fire!!
    Cast iron will be worth a lot then. I have acquired 3 different sized skillets and the last one was $3.33 at a flea market!

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      There are some great deals to be had in cast iron skillets at flea markets, farmers markets, and yard sales. Unless it is rusted to the point of excessive roughening of the cooking surface, they can be cleaned to “good as new” condition. I have several pieces of cast iron cookware that I got that way. A good scrubbing (with soap, which is never done once it is seasoned and in use), followed by seasoning it, and it’s ready to go for another generation or two.

      When a series of hurricanes knocked the power out here for a while, I used some of my cast iron to cook with outside. I used a propane cooker, but a wood fire would have worked just as well. I had more convenient ways of cooking, but I wanted to cook at least one meal in cast iron just for the fun of it.

      • Bob Packer

        I have a lazier method of cleaning old, crusted cast iron. I build a bonfire and toss them in on that. Let the fire down naturally and let the iron cool slowly. Then you can pretty well use steel wool or a scrubber to clean of the white residue.

        Then I use shortening (or lard if I have it available) smeared all over the inside and outside and handle and put it in a hot oven for a couple of hours. Ensure you put a cookie sheet or something underneath to catch any drips.

        I have been given a number of pieces and bought some from Ebay and some at flea markets and farm auctions. Sometimes you hit the jack pot!

  13. Wayne Pickard

    Thanks for the feedback, it’s nice to know that people are interested.
    There’s a lot of interest in legumes, in particular how to assure that they’re tender. I DON’T KNOW THE ANSWER! One of my early cookings resulted in hard split peas. The next time I added some salt before soaking them and the result was perfect. I assumed that the added salt was what made the difference and have added salt before soaking ever since. Now I read some people say to do the opposite! Who knows? The baking soda was an interesting suggestion, though.

    One of my favorite seasonings for split peas was a ham flavoring made by Goya. The ingredients label indicates it is mostly salt, MSG, and some mysterious “sabor a jamon”. The MSG was probably the most important ingredient. At any rate, it seems to no longer be in production and I haven’t found a satisfactory substitute. I tried garlic powder and onion flakes and for hours afterward my breath tasted like I had been poisoned and I was having reflux. Probably an overdose of one of them, but for sure they have medicinal properties and not all good. Maybe MSG is not so bad. I DON’T KNOW THE ANSWER!

    After having disparaged bread as inconvenient to prepare, I have taken a renewed interest in hard biscuits. Reason? Food-on-the-go. The MREs of an earlier century. As inconvenient as it is to prepare, it is wonderfully convenient to carry, which is why soldiers, sailors, and pioneers relied on them. If they’re soft, they last a week before starting to grow mold. If properly cooked (very dry), they can last months–but will be very hard and must be soaked for a long time before eating, or broken into small pieces using pliers (no kidding!) after which they are reasonably easy to chew.

    One point I should have made is that calories obtained from protein and oils provide long-lasting satiety. This is important for morale. Candy, syrups, sweet drinks and such, satisfy only briefly and then awaken the tiger of one’s appetite. At least, that’s how it worked for me. I didn’t eliminate sweets, but was always looking for a way to reduce them (e.g. raisins instead of syrup in the oatmeal).

    Regarding oils, I have a prejudice against trans-fats. Circulated reports indicate they are unhealthy and that’s how they make me feel after eating them. Fats should be natural, either from plants or animals. However, it seems all lard and solidified fats sold in grocery stores nowadays are trans-fats (hydrogenated)–ordinary pig lard is all but impossible to find.

    I was disappointed that no one was inspired to try the project for themselves. It would be interesting to hear another person’s story.

  14. Debbie

    If you want an easy protein to store, store lentils because they do not get hard like the other beans. Plus, they do not require soaking prior to cooking. We have stored lentils for years and never had any problems with them.

    Great article, and comments!

    • Bob Packer

      We dice up potatoes into a small dice and cook them with the lentils. When I lived in Germany, my mother in law cooked small wurstchen, similar in appearance to the small cocktail wieners, in them along with some dried carrot flakes and the potatoes. Some chopped onion on top and a tad of vinegar and voila, a meal fit for a king, or at least an American son in law.

  15. Debbie

    I forgot to add, I love cast iron pans and cook almost exclusively in them. My mother-in-law gave me an enameled cast iron pan that she had for over 30 years and it is one of my favorite pans for soups, stews, and braises. I look forward to being able to pass it on to my daughter.

  16. LeeAnn

    I often pressure can old beans. New beans when pressure canned for 90 minutes often become mushy. Old beans canned 90 minutes become tender. Its a perfect solution.

    For past best date cake or corn bread mixes adding baking powder will solve the problem of raising. We like the Jiffy cornbread mixes because they are the right size for the two of us and very inexpensive at Aldis.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      Two great tips, LeeAnn – Thank you!

      Jiffy is one of those comfort foods that is also an incredible deal. On several occasions, I have made myself a supper from a pan of Jiffy cornbread and a tall glass of cold milk and a whole lot of butter. It’s not something that anyone would want to make a steady diet of, but it makes a great meal once in a while.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  17. Tina Frick

    Living my first 35 years enjoying nuts beans oats, corn and being fit. i was bitten by a spider that made me very sick for 3 years. After the dust settled I was allergic to all of those staples. I’m 54 now and still can’t et them. But back in the good old days..I made a lot of cornbread. I love it with a small can of sweet corn drained first, then added to the batter….once you try it, you can’t go back! Really dolls up a box of jiffy corn bread! Also Betty Crocker makes a pie crust in a box you mix with water. It is so darn good I stopped making my own. Comes in a red box, usually near the graham cracker crust in the grocery store. Puts the jiffy boxed crust to complete shame, it is seriously so good. And it dry cans like a dream. I love to make hand pies and pasties from it too. ground beef with a bit of Worcestershire sauce, peas, thyme, mashed potatoes and cheddar cheese makes a great filling. Like a hand held shepherds pie.

    The last thing I wanna bend your ear on is a product by Morton salt. It’s called Nature Seasons. This stuff is all natural, no MSG it is a simple blend of salt pepper onion garlic and celery. Whatever you put it on tastes perfectly seasoned,without tasting the same. It just brings out the flavor in the food. Also it has 25% less salt than season salt, so it adds more flavor! not more salt. So many folks never heard of it…I know my family, couldn’t “survive”without it!

  18. Nancy

    Does bottled water really have a shelf life…or just start to taste stale? I would guess even stale water could be used to cook…my problem is that there is no guaranteed fresh water supply and the only water we could purify would be any rain water we caught.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      Nancy, it depends on several factors – what it is stored in, what is in the water to begin with (distilled water is pure H2O – everything else has various minerals in it) and how it is stored (heat and light). Clearly, stored water is not viable for anything other than a very short term emergency. If your area has a decent amount of annual rain fall, cisterns are a pretty good option. Cisterns are still in common use in the Caribbean islands and other parts of the world. If we did not have hand pumped wells here, that is what I would be looking at for a water supply.

      We keep about 75 gallons of water stored even though we have the hand pumps. Things break, short-term circumstances may be such that going outside is not a good idea, etc. That will get us through until we can use the pumps again.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  19. pat

    Good advice

  20. Dawn

    Thank you all. I have enjoyed all your ideas and suggestions……I am new to canning and do not know the term “dry canning”, do you use heat or simply remove the air to prevent oxidization?

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      Dry canning uses no heat. Some folks try to use an oven, but that’s not a good idea – heat is one of the things you want to avoid in food storage (heat, light, moisture, and Oxygen). There are variations on the method, but when I do it, I use regular canning jars and lids, and use a vacuum pump to remove the air from the jar. Some folks just add an Oxygen absorber packet to each jar, and that should work just fine also. The objective is to remove the Oxygen, either by removing it from the air in the jar (Oxygen absorber packets), or by removing the Oxygen along with the air (vvacuum pump). Some folks like to use both methods, but my thinking is that’s probably overkill. It certainly wouldn’t hurt though.

      Dry canning is used for food that is already dry, such as dried beans and things that you have dried using a dehydrator. One time, we dry canned some sliced eggplant just to see how it would do. They still appear just fine – no sign of mold or any deterioration after several years. On the other hand, dried eggplant isn’t very appealing to look at, so there it sits – unopened.

  21. Maribel Myers

    Wayne Pickard (above) mentioned a Goya flavoring. It’s called Sazon and is used a lot by Hispanics. It’s is a wonderful seasoning, ‘Sabor a jamon’ means ham flavoring. It’s still made, you’ll find it in the Hispanic Section of the grocery store.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      Thank you for the info, Maribel.

  22. Tracy Lalonde

    I am a brand new prepper.a newbie ! Lol.i am very thankful that people with experience & knowledge, take time (which is so valuable) to share with those that are trying to attain this skills. Everything I’ve read here is great info that I am ready to try myself. Thanks for the knowledge & courage to move forward in my prepping.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      Thank you for the kind words, Tracy. It means a lot to know that others are being helped by what they find here.


    Bread baked over a fire instead of an oven is doable and just as good. We used to make campfire biscuits all the time when we were kids. Our daddy taught us how to do that. So much we need to go back to doing and leave off all the stuff we are caught up in now. Rice, beans, dried and canned foods always kept in the cupboard. I now have chickens for fresh eggs ( and meat if needed). We cannot rely on frozen foods. God has blessed us with the knowledge and we need to put it to use. Love your site sir. Keep spreading the Word.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      Thank you for the kind words.

      I remember doing biscuits over an open fire when I was in the Boy Scouts (by the way, old versions of the Boy Scout Manual are an excellent resource for your library). I’ve had conventional loaf bread made in a Dutch Oven. It was good, but it definitely takes practice and technique to get it right. Bread over an open fire usually means something other than conventional loaf bread – biscuits, pancakes, flat bread, etc.

      These are skills that need to, once again, become part of the common pool of knowledge. As it is now, they are known by only a very few.

  24. Jay

    Thanks to all who share. Glad to have found this website.

  25. Hoosier

    Liquid smoke can be used to flavor dried beans if you don’t have a ham bone.

    Also, add 1 tsp. of baking powder to muffin and cake mixes that have expired. If your baking powder has expired, to see if it is still “active” add a tsp. to hot water out of the faucet. If it fizzes, it is still viable.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      I wish I’d known about the baking powder trick some years ago. I had some Jiffy Cornbread mix that had gotten old. When I used it, it turned out very flat and hard. From that point on, I made sure to use them well before they got too old. Thank you for the tips!

  26. K Curtis

    I make cornmeal “pancakes” using Jiffy or any other mix -OR make homemade! Then I put a big cornmeal pancake on each plate, then top with a ladle of chile (with or without beans), a handful of grated cheese, a dollap of sour cream and whatever else you can think of! Talk about yummy!!! All of it can come from canned or freeze dried foods. (Except I’m not sure about the sour cream).

  27. Ray

    Whats the best way to store dry rice and beans? Does keeping rice or beans in Tupperware containers help preserve them longer?

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      I have never used Tupperware containers, but they should work just fine – IF you also take other precautions. The things that degrade food (in addition to time) are Oxygen, heat, and light. If you store them in a cool dark place, you’ve got two of those knocked out already. The third is Oxygen, and Tupperware will help keep additional Oxygen from getting in, but you want to do all you can to eliminate the Oxygen that is already in there.

      There are several ways to do this:
      1) Displace the Oxygen by adding CO2 or dry Nitrogen. Adding a small piece of dry ice in the bottom of the container with the lid on loosely will cause the CO2 to force the Oxygen up and out. Put an air-tight lid on it and you’re ready to store it. I’ve used the dry ice method, as well as just using a tank of compressed CO2 and letting it slowly bleed into the beans or rice. Both work well. Note that the loose lid is there to release the pressure from the CO2; be sure to seal it up tightly once it has completely evaporated.

      2) Oxygen absorbers. Adding one or two O2 absorber packets in a container will cause the Oxygen to bind to what is in the packets (I think it’s really just powdered Iron that absorbs the Oxygen to form Iron Oxide, i.e., rust). That greatly reduces the Oxygen level in the beans or rice, which greatly prolongs the useful life.

      Reducing or eliminating the Oxygen does two things: without Oxygen, you get no degradation through oxidation, and any insect eggs that may be mixed in will be killed as soon as they hatch since there is nothing for the hatching eggs to breathe.

      Tupperware is probably a great container to use, but it’s probably more expensive than you need. If you’ve got them though, may as well use them.

  28. Dorothy lenhard

    I love my electric bean cooker, .

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      Is that basically the same thing as a crock pot?

  29. Teresa E Brown

    Stephen Clay McGehee, I am reading through the comments and read yours about Jiffy Corn bread mix. No, shelf life is not good. I freeze mine, right in the box. Take out of the freezer the morning or afternoon, when you plan to use it for supper. Gives it time to thaw naturally, and bakes up great. I lived in Florida for awhile. I kept everything in my freezer, to keep bugs out. I still freeze it and my other Jiffy mixes too.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      It never occurred to me to freeze Jiffy Cornbread mix – thanks for the tip, Teresa! It’s one of my favorite foods treats. It tastes so good, it’s more of a dessert than a bread.

  30. Denise McCracken

    All the comments here are very useful. I work in a supermarket an am surprised at the amount of people that have no clue on cooking from scratch, yet alone canning and preserving their food. I have offered to teach anyone that wants to learn, but so far no takers. Yes it is work, but it is so rewarding to look into the pantry and see what you have accomplished. I was able to get a good deal on active yeast, so I dry canned it, I hope it is still active when I get ready to use it.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      I hope your yeast stores well. We haven’t had much luck with putting it in the freezer, and I suspect that dry canning it would not be as effective as freezing. There’s nothing like looking forward to a batch of fresh baked bread and then having it come out flat and heavy – what a dissappointment! It seems to me that the best way around that is to maintain a batch of live yeast and use that. We haven’t tried it though – I found out that I needed to remove most carbs from my diet, so bread is a rare treat for me now.

  31. LeeAnn

    If you have any doubts about your yeast, proof it before using it. I currently am using yeast that was frozen for several years. I tested it before I trusted it and its working perfectly.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      Yes, that was definitely a lesson learned.

  32. TJ Adams

    Dates are a good dried fruit that can be used in place of raisins . Honey is a great sweetener for those over a year. It is not bad when it turns to “sugar”. I also keep some dried sourdough starter. Originally cultivated about 200 years ago, passed down through generations. Have had mine for about 35 years. Can make almost anything with the starter, its your yeast. Was taught that you add salt to beans last as doing so before makes them tough. Was taught if you use the oven in the summer, put a pan of cold water in it when finished. Cools the oven quickly and the water gets hot enough to wash dishes in. When I was small and went to grandparents house, they still cooked like when they grew up. Any meat not eaten at dinner, was served at breakfast, prevented waste from spoilage and was high protein for energy to farm. Just some thoughts from this grandmother.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      I had almost forgotten how good dates are – my grandmother used to always have some around for us when I was a child. Have to add that to the grocery list – thanks!

  33. Sue Rankin

    If you have a cast iron dutch oven you’ve got a real oven that you can bake almost anything in! Cobblers, cakes, biscuits, breads, casseroles, brownies, pies – anything!
    I store water in old gallon glass cider containers. Has anyone had success with old -fashioned salting and smoking techniques for fish or meat?
    And pre-soaking old dried beans in water mixed with baking soda is a must. After soaking I rinse off the beans a bit before cooking them just as a recipe calls for or your granny taught you. I am going to have to get one of those vacuum meal sealer things – that sounds so fast and nice to use. I just worry about the plastic.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      Sue, several years ago, my wife and I went on a camping trip with a large group of folks with preparedness as our common interest. One of the activities was a Dutch Oven Cook-Off. Everybody who wanted to made their favorite Dutch Oven recipe and shared it. I can’t remember who the winner was, but I’m thinking it was a peach cobbler. It’s a truly versatile cooking system.

  34. Julie Henry

    I was very grateful to find this post with all of these wonderful comments. I was beginning to feel like the lone ranger. My husband and I have been homesteading in an urban setting for almost 6 years now. We are 90% off grid with a combination of wood heat and cooking, propane and solar. We have propane instant water heaters and a propane stove, washer and dryer. (I also have a clothes dryer). I have been canning for years and not only love the ability to take the bounty from our gardens and preserve it for the winter months when fresh vegetables are a premium, but I love the way it looks on the shelves in my house. God’s art.
    We converted a chest freezer to a refrigerator and it cut a huge chunk out of our electric use. Getting the hot water heaters off of the electric was another big savings. We are working towards a second array of solar panels in order to cover the use of the a/c in the summer, but it really has not been bad with all of the other electric items running off grid.
    Regarding the food prep, I cook in the winter on a 1910 Monarch wood cook stove. If you’ve never had pizza in one of these ovens, you haven’t lived. It was a big learning curve, but I am grateful for the opportunity to use such a beautiful and historic piece of equipment. I have some very fancy expensive stainless cookware gathering dust as almost everything cooks in cast iron. The key with cast iron is to wipe them out immediately after use and don’t let them get humid. If you have any stuck on gunk, use a dry paper towel and salt to scrub it out. Rinse the pan and dry it thoroughly.
    We have learned the “old ways” and replaced most of our modern conveniences with more simple items that can be used with little or no power.
    If you are making a list of things to keep on hand in a SHTF scenario, don’t forget medicinals. Neosporin is your friend. There are hundred of plants you can grow in your own yard that have wonderful anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and probiotic properties. You may never look at your weeds the same again.
    I wish you all great blessings. If you want to see some of what we are doing, we have video taped most of it and put it on youtube under the unknown cat.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      Congratulations, Julie! That’s quite an accomplishment. I’ve read articles and seen videos on using a chest freezer as a refrigerator, but never talked with anyone who actually did it. I have a cousin who has a solar powered chest freezer, and some missionaries that we work with in Sierra Leone, West Africa are using a solar powered refrigerator (which I’ve got to order a part for since it’s not working at the moment). You’re right about Neosporin – we stocked up on it at the local Sam’s Club. I’ve got a book in my library titled “Medical Botany: Plants Affecting Man’s Health” that sounds like it’s right up your alley. Regarding cleaning cast iron – we recently got a piece of stainless steel chain mail through Amazon for cleaning cast iron. My wife has been amazed at how well it works. Seldom does something like that actually work as well as the ads claim it does, but this is one of those cases. I’m way behind on writing new posts here, so maybe I’ll do one on that. I’m looking forward to finding and watching some of your videos. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  35. Jane A

    My question is: I have a 6 qt pressure cooker and a 4 qt.
    Can I pressure can 1 or 2 qt jars of a product in this or do you need a special pressure cooker? Do you know the time for this offhand?

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      To the best of my knowledge, there is no need to fill a pressure canner. If your canner will hold 6 quart jars and you only want to can 2 quart jars, then it’s just a matter of wasted effort. The reason for having a bigger pressure canner is so you only have to go through the process one time for a larger number of jars. Canning heats up the kitchen, and takes time, so you generally want to get the most out of each batch.

      As far as times go, you definitely want to refer to one of the standard canning books – don’t take someone’s internet posting as a guide. Too much is at stake – make sure you follow a standard reference guide to the letter.

  36. Jane A

    I don’t think you understand my question.
    Is it okay to can in a regular electric pressure cooker or do you need a special kind of cooker?

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      EDITED TO ADD: This is not correct – a pressure cooker is NOT the same as a pressure canner. Be sure to read the other replies.

      You’re right – I didn’t understand the question. Any pressure cooker that you can fit jars in should work just fine. Heat and pressure (the pressure allows a higher heat due to the higher boiling point at higher pressures) are all that matter. Most canning books are based on standard pressures that are regulated by the weight that is on the stem. As long as you can regulate the pressure and temperature, you’re good to go.

      • LeeAnn

        The Extension Service does not recommend using a pressure cooker to can. In fact, they definitely say you should NOT use a pressure cooker for canning. Only pressure CANNERS should be used for canning.

        • Stephen Clay McGehee

          Interesting, LeeAnn. I didn’t realize there was a difference. My guess is that they have different standard weights for regulating to different pressures. If that’s the case, then if you have one with a different pressure than the charts are made up for, then the times would have to be adjusted accordingly (assuming that you were able to get the pressure up to a minimum level in the first place). I seem to recall that my mother had a pressure cooker that came with a weight that had different settings, or perhaps it came with more than one weight for different pressures – I just don’t remember. If someone used the wrong one, that could certainly cause a problem (perhaps a bit over-cautious, but given the fact that so many folks wouldn’t check, certainly understandable and reasonable) I’ll definitely defer to your post and encourage anyone reading this thread to do the same. So, just to emphasize:

          Follow the directions from a standard canning manual, and follow them EXACTLY. Failure to do so may not only result in spoiled food, but in possible food poisoning. Canning is no place to cut corners. If the instructions say to only use a unit specifically made as a pressure CANNER, then do not try to use an ordinary pressure cooker.

          Thank you, LeeAnn!

          • LeeAnn

            Go to this web addresss for total information on food preservation — canning, freezing, drying and much more:

            One of the first titles is Principals of Home Canning. It is well worth reading. I think educating ourselves in the right way to preserve food is important for our families health and safety. When I have a question that I can’t find the answer for I turn to the Extension Service either locally or the Iowa State University 800 number. I have some older recipes that I was unsure were considered safe for canning so I took them to the county extension office and used the information I received to tweak the recipies for safe canning.

            I’ve watched a lot of U-Tube videos of canning and have seen MANY incorrect practices — some potentially dangerous. The Internet is a wonderful source of information, but I process it thru the filter of proven guides to be sure its correct.

  37. allen parr

    Plenty of valuable advice, thanks to each and every one of you.

  38. Rebecca Ann

    Thank you so much to everyone here for your great tips. I am rather new to sorting food. My husband and I bought one of those pre-assembled freeze-died survival food packages, but I really want to do better and leave that as our dire need stock, as there are many things in it I don’t eat in my regular diet. Your tips give me a great start. Now to avoid overwhelming myself!

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      Thanks for stopping by, Rebecca Ann. Freeze dried packages are a good way to start, and make up an important part of any good food storage plan. I bought my first freeze dried food in about 1981. It was in #10 cans from Mountain House. We still have some of those. Every once in a while, we’ll invite someone over for dinner and serve that as part of the meal. You should see the look on people’s faces when we tell them that the food they are eating is over 30 years old! It really makes for some true believers in freeze dried food. I hope you’ll stop by regularly and post a comment – or at least write a quick email to let me know how your food storage program is coming along. It’s a satisfying feeling knowing you’ve taken care of your family food needs.

  39. Greg Lake

    This is a great discussion and I appreciate all the wisdom…especially the suggestion of lintels for protein. I guess that this could explain their wide use in India and other countries. 1 cup dried seeds unsalted provides 18 grams of protein. Check out the nutritional value here:

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      Good resource, Greg. Thank you for including the nutrition data link.

  40. Greg Lake

    The difference between pressure canners and pressure cookers is that a pressure canner has a pressure relief valve and a gauge that provides for the canning of low acid foods which must be monitored during the canning process. A pressure cooker has either a stem and weight regulator or built in pressure regulator in the lid of the cooker and can NOT be used to can low acid foods, meat or fish. There is a huge difference! reference:

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      Thanks for the link and the information, Greg.

  41. Laura Jensen

    Don’t ever throw out dry milk! I have made cheese with dried milk that was 25 years old! You won’t want to drink it, but you CAN make a reasonable, edible cheese out of it, without rennet. Better than nothing!

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      A good quality dried milk will last a looong time. Years ago, we started using dried milk rather than fresh. The taste is great, and the cost (at that time anyway) was less than fresh.

  42. JayJay

    I have been canning vegetables and fruit for 40 years.
    Get with the program–canned goods last for decades.
    Now, commercial canned goods can last 5 years or longer, especially meats.
    I am eating fruits and vegetables stored in 2008–they are fine.
    Tuna is fine; salmon, hams are great for long term.

  43. JayJay

    Also Betty Crocker makes a pie crust in a box you mix with water. It is so darn good I stopped making my own

    I bought a case of the Jiffy pie crust mix–it was great!

  44. Pamela

    Does anyone know of a book or link for freeze drying?

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      Pamela, are you thinking in terms of do-it-yourself freeze drying? If so, I think you’ll discover that there is a reason that it’s only done on an industrial scale. I’ve looked into it myself, and while I’ve seen discussion of ways to do it on a very small test basis, everything I’ve seen generally agrees that it is definitely not a do-it-yourself process.

      Freeze drying is a great way to store food – I’ve got some that is almost 35 years old, and it still has great taste and texture. I suspect that a careful chemical analysis might show some degradation of the nutritional value, but that’s not really a problem. A few bottles of multi-vitamins would easily take care of that deficiency. Put your money into freeze dried foods prepared by a reputable company rather than into equipment.

    • LeeAnn

      Dehydrating foods and then vacuum sealing works well. Freeze drying isn’t really practical/possible to do at home.

  45. Della

    I’m interested in dehydrating milk. My question is does it matter how much fat the milk has in it? I use regular almost raw milk which has a lot of fat. I read somewhere that fat goes rancid over time.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      If you mean dehydrating milk yourself, the answer would be the same as the answer to Pamela’s question about freeze drying – don’t. Dehydrated milk is a fairly recent technology. That’s why you don’t read about people in our grandparent’s generation and back ever doing it. Just buy a good quality dehydrated milk that has been properly packaged in sealed #10 cans, and use your fresh milk as you need it.

      I’m confident there are other good ones out there, but we have been using Provident Pantry Non-fat dry milk for about the past 7 years and been pleased with it.

  46. Della

    It’s really confusing on preparing items to store when some web sites say you can do something and others say don’t do it……..!! And I don’t need to be any more confused than I already am!! Thanks for the quick reply…..enjoy reading what everyone has to say and have gotten some really good ideas and recipes.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      Della, the difference is probably a matter of whether something is possible to do versus practical to do. If you want to (for example) make your own dehydrated milk just to know that you can do it yourself, that’s one question. If you want to have a real food storage program that will feed you and your family in the best way possible for a limited amount of available money and time, then that is an entirely different question.

      I enjoy experimenting with things like that (though I’ve never tried dehydrating milk), but I know that if I want dehydrated milk as part of my family’s long term food storage program, then there is no question about it – buying it in sealed #10 cans is the only way to go. If I had lots of “play time” and lots of money to set up a small scale system for dehydrating milk or freeze drying food, then it would be a fascinating hobby – but it is definitely NOT a practical way to build my family food storage.

  47. Della

    I understand what you’re saying…… I think I’m tending to agree with you. Thanks!!

  48. Wyandotte

    About storing food for any possible future disasters: when the hard times come, fuel for cooking will probably not be as easy to come by or as cheap as it is now. So where legumes are concerned, it is a much better idea to buy and store split (skinned) beans instead of whole beans, as soaking isn’t required and cooking time much shorter. I’d keep a few whole mung beans on hand just for sprouting as a source of Vitamin C, though.

    South Asian grocery stores have several varieties of split legumes. These stores usually have large bags of legumes available, as well as smaller bags and scoop-your-own. I could not be bothered buying and cooking whole beans any more except on special occasions. The exception is Yellow Eyed Peas, which are wonderful (and pricey, too…)

    Hope this is useful to you.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      Thank you!

  49. marshall reagan


  50. Helen

    I think it is important to note that anything with oil in it will eventually go rancid, I realized this after storing some salad oil. This would include nuts and peanut butter. Rotate these items.

  51. Robert Wright

    Lots of great ideas! Here’s one that has been missed though, grind the beans into meal or flower and it doesn’t matter if they have gotten a chewy texture. Great for soups and chilies! check out: “Country Beans” by: Rita Bingham ISBN: 1-882314-11-5.
    Rita also wrote two other books, “passport to survival”, and “Natural meals in minutes”. Don’t forget to add “how-To” books(candle making, basketry, pottery, soap making, knot tying, etc.) to your library for incase the internet is no longer available to look things up. In a worse cast scenario you can even trade information from those books to those who need it, to trade for things you need. 🙂

  52. J Fischer

    I have just found this site and have read completly thru it. I am amazed at all the information I have learned and appreciate being able to read everyones comments. We can and have the vacuum sealer that I put different kinds of beans, corn, okra, nuts —We have not managed to do the long range thing, but have considered doing the noodles, rice etc.

    We live a about 15 miles from a decent grocery store, so buy the buy one get one is taken advantage of often…..Only recently have I thought about the dry foods. This would at least let us put things up in the amounts that we usually cook.

    I have a friend that is completely off grid in California….Right now I dont think the long term storage is being done, but there has been new solar panels to take care of freezer and evan a washer with out having complications from other systems when the new things are in use —Tho I am quite taken with all the things being done that makes being off grid as easy as living on the grid—-Just not having the bills

  53. Vickie Harmon

    So glad I found this site. I have enjoyed reading all the information everyone has shared. I will be bookmarking to come back 🙂
    I have a couple questions about long term storage of organic items. I buy all my flours and such organic and I store them in my freezer because they have a much shorter shelf life than the commercial counterparts. Does anyone know if it is possible to store them in mylar? or dry can? without compromising their nutritional value or having them spoil?
    Also, Stephen, is the dried milk product you use a whole milk or low fat? I am interested in finding a good dried milk product to store.
    I also have a good homemade recipe for jiffy cornbread mix that I am perfecting (it wasn’t sweet enough and too much corn meal/ needs corn flour too) once I get it perfect I will share with you Stephen 🙂

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      Vickie, I’m looking forward to the cornbread mix recipe!

      The dried milk that we use is low fat. We got several cans of fortified dried milk in case our grandchildren were to end up here on a long term basis, but we haven’t tried that yet. I just mixed up two quarts of the regular low fat milk about an hour ago. The trick to using it is to get a dried milk mixer. Without that, it is difficult to get all of the powder to mix with the water and you can end up with lumps of undissolved powder in the milk. With the mixer (it is a very inexpensive plastic pitcher with what looks like a butter churn dasher in it) and mixing it with warm water, it works great.

      Regarding long term storage of flour – the answer to that is to buy raw wheat berries and then grind it as you need it. Two reasons why this is important: 1) Wheat berries (hard red winter wheat) will keep longer than any of us will be alive, and 2) the nutritional value of wheat begins to degrade almost immediately after it is ground and exposed to air. Storing it in the freezer definitely helps, but being able to grind your own as you need it is what you want to be looking at.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  54. Becky

    On pressure canning etc…i use a pressure cooker than will hold 7 pints. BUT it is one of those that has the “jiggler” on the top that i can change pressure to either 5, 10 or 15 pounds. I have been using it for years and it does fine. I wouldn’t have a pressure cooker without this option. Pints are all we need of anything and i have done beans, carrots, tomatoes, pears, apples, peaches, etc in it. When my last one died i found this one at a yard sale for $2 but it didn’t have the jiggler…good thing i had 2 of them already. i can cook meat in it and can…the perfect solution in my opinion. We have apple butter and pear butter that is over 23 years old that was canned that is still good.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      Becky, thank you for the info. I thought I remembered my mother canning that way, but I wasn’t sure. Canning done wrong can have some really nasty consequences, so it’s best to play it safe. Pressure is pressure, no matter what it is contained in. The problem would arise when folks don’t realize that they come in different pressure settings. Using a lower pressure jiggler would give a lower temperature than expected if you’re going by instructions intended for a canner set to a higher pressure.

      I suppose the best advice to folks is, “If you aren’t sure what you’re doing, only use something designed as a pressure canner. If you are SURE that you know what you’re doing and know that the jiggler you’re using is for the correct pressure, then go ahead and use it.” That’s just my opinion, of course. Always best to confirm with a reliable source (and that’s not me).

    • LeeAnn

      Apple and pear butter can be water bath canned so I’d assume any amount of pressure would be acceptable for canning those in a pressure pan. However, USDA has recommendations and reasons for not using a pressure pan for canning. Check their website or check with your local Extension Service office. Canning non-acid foods such as vegetables and meats requires careful attention to rules and requirements of proper equipment.

  55. Jana

    One thing that I do is try to never store empty canning jars. I fill them with water and put them in a water bath to seal them. That way the jars stay clean, the storage space is not wasted, and I have fresh water stored. I bought water from the machine in front of the store so the cost was minimal (in our area the water is nasty). I’ve tasted it after it was canned and it was delicious.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      One simply cannot overestimate the importance of water, yet so many folks take it for granted. They open the tap and assume that good, clean water will always be there. If you don’t have access to a hand pump well or a spring or some other source of clean drinking water, then storing it this way is a great idea.

  56. Kahne

    Love this site and all grand advice. I have a few tricks I have found.
    You can reuse any pickle type bottles, any glass bottle with a ring of rubber in the lid can be reused this way, and using a food saver canister, fill clean jars with the dry powder you want stored, put lid on set inside the foodsaver canister, using your foodsaver vacuum out the air until it seals then release the seal on the canister, which seals the jar inside, and no powder gets into your foodsaver to ruin it.
    2nd Always freeze your yeast, will last 10 plus years that way, I use Saf instant and never had a problem.
    3rd America’s Test Kitchen had a segment on soaking beans in a salt water, then rinse well and cook, we do this with all our beans now and it works very well, give it a try.
    4th Using the old 2 quart mason jars is another awesome way to store items like beans or dry mixes, to chocolate chips or candy bars, vacuum out the air, done, uses less shelf space.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      I seem to recall something about adding a crumpled up piece of paper towel on top of any powdered material being vacuum sealed with a Food Saver. That keeps the powder from being sucked up during the process. I might be confusing that with something else though. Either way, it seems like a good precaution. We have used that same technique here and the seals have always held up well.

      Thanks for stopping by and adding to the information!

  57. vicky bullock

    I use Betty Crocker cornbread mix, like it a lot better than Jif. Makes great pancakes too

  58. Tamara Miller

    I am very impressed with this site. Not only did I receive some good stuff from the original site, I’ve gotten even more from the comments.(no offense Stephen) Kuddos to you all for the nice way you play with others. I’ve read so many comments from other sites where people are very rude and downright mean in their comments. Here, all were gentle and considerate in replying to some of the “incorrect” statements. I have been reading here and writing things down for over an hour. I bookmarked this site, but I don’t always remember where I saw something, so I have to put it in print. Thank you to everyone for the help.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      Thank you for the kind words, Tamara. As you pointed out, often the best stuff comes from the great folks who stop by here and comment. If I do nothing more than get the conversation started, then I consider it to be a job well done. Anything more is just icing on the cake. The civility of the comments has, I think, a lot to do with the fact that this was originally focused on the Southern Gentleman, and then shifted toward where it is now. (That’s still very important to me; in fact, I am currently writing a book that is tentatively titled, The Aspiring Southern Gentleman.) Politeness and civility are the hallmarks of the Southern Gentleman and the Southern Lady. I think we have a great representation of those here on this site – no matter where they come from.

  59. David Nash

    This is a very good article. I stored beans in the mid 90’s when I got out of the service. They are quite hard and I have trouble cooking them soft – but I have ground them into a powder and cooked them as a paste – think refried beans.

    I have also used bean powder when baking a cake – you can’t tell a difference in texture and taste (but I did tell a difference about 45 minutes later)

  60. Kim

    I wanted to comment for those who are worried about placing yeast in the freezer. Most commercial yeasts will remain active in the freezer for 3-4 years. Best long term alternative is to make your own “mother” yeast. It’s very simple to do and you can keep the culture active or “alive” indefinitely as long as you care for it routinely. It will make the absolute best bread you have ever tasted and you never have to worry about storing commercial yeast.

    Directions for homemade mother yeast:
    1. Use any organic fruit (raisins work extremely well). Place 2 cups of raisins in a
    Mason jar (large jar). Keep the jar on a countertop.

    2. Fill the jar half way with distiller water making sure the raisins are covered. MUST be distilled due to possible contaminants in other water sources

    3. Place lid on jar and seal jar snugly.

    4. Once per day for a total of 7-10 days take the lid off the jar and briefly allow air to go inside the jar. Then secure lid onto jar when completed. Usually only takes 5-10 seconds.

    5. On day 6-9 you will start to see your raisins bubbling. They are beginning to ferment from the sugars inside the raisins. Each day you take the lid off your jar near days 6-9 you will notice the lid is harder to remove and will actually pop coming off when opening.

    6. Around day 9-10 when you have a hard time removing the mason jar sealed lid and there is a slightly fermented smell then you know you are there!

    7. KEEP THE WATER! drain your raisins from the water being careful to avoid any possible contamination from dirty hands or instruments. In a new clean large mason jar place the water that the raisins were in and mix in 1 cup of all purpose flour. Mix the solution well.

    8. Keep the mixture on your countertop covered with a cloth under the seal. I use a coffee filter under the lid. Keep the mixture on the counter to make sure you have active yeast. You will know its live when your mixture starts to fill your mason jar. Hint: use a large mason jar!

    If your mixture grows then you have active live mother yeast! You can use the mixture in equal amounts of any type of flour and will have magnificent bread every time with an amazing rise!

    Tips for storing the mother yeast- you do have to feed your mother yeast. When you use any amount replace the same amount with all purpose flour. I keep my mother in the fridge. When not in use you will need to activate the yeast by feeding it flour (1cup) about once a week still. You MUST mix the mother prior to adding flour to feed it due to the fermentation of yeast. It will separate and will smell of fermented alcohol which is completely normal. If your mother stops rising you can easily start a new one.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      Kim, thank you so much for the information! That is something we have talked about doing, but never got around to it. Good to hear from someone who has done it.

      Question for you – what happens if you don’t store it in the refrigerator? I’m wondering what would happen if electricity were not available to keep the refrigerator.

  61. Kim

    A few really important notes on making homemade mother yeast I forgot to add:

    1. When you take your lid off the jar each day you must GENTLY swirl the jar to allow the raisins to move around and allow oxygen to infiltrate the water. Do this gently.

    2. Anytime you feed the mother yeast with 1 cup of flour, first stir the mixture prior to adding the flour to mix the entire solution together thoroughly. Then add the flour and stir that into the mixture. I always allow my mother to sit on the counter generally 5-7 hours to make sure it rises in the jar to check to make sure it’s still active.

    3. I have has friends throw their mothers away because they thought it was spoiled due to the fermented smell and separation of the fermented liquid from the moist flour when stored in the fridge. Do not throw away! This is completely normal and will remain completely usable and active as long as it’s fed routinely.

    4. You can also remove part of your mother and give to someone else and they can have their own mother to take care of. Although it’s routine upkeep it is completely worth it for the best bread ever. When baking with your mother the rise WILL take longer than commercial yeast. Just account for that when baking. It generally takes 90 minutes for my bread to rise with my mother.

    5. Once you create your own mother, giving away part of it to another “prepper” it makes a tremendous gift to have a favorite staple checked off the list. Another fantastic way to remain self sufficient!!

  62. Kim

    Storing the mother at room temp is absolutely doable. It will require a more steady upkeep to keep the mother alive. The rationale for this is because low temp of the fridge keeps the mother more dormant and does not require frequent feedings or use (usually once per week in fridge).

    When it’s on the countertop it will stay perfectly good and remain active and alive as long as there is a balance of use and re supply of its food source (flour). On the counter it will generally need to be fed every day or so. Without balanced use of the mother you will have a LARGE mother pretty quick. Around holidays when I know I will be baking a lot I keep my mother on the counter (sounds funny just saying that) and regularly use it for several days in a row. It’s a good idea to do this every once in a while to get it out and stretch it’s legs!

    Also room temp active mother yeast will become contaminated easier. Be sure to AVOID keeping the sealed lid on the jar when at room temp. This will cause pressure to build up in the jar. Keep a cloth or a coffee filter (clean) over the jar to allow air in but contaminants out. If there is ever mold in the mother time to start over again. Hope that helps!!

  63. Carla

    Stephen, First off great article! Thanks! You were worried about yeast….in the olden days they made it! It really is very easy to do, simply take an equal amount of flour and water and mix. spread it out and let it sit uncovered. the next day scoop out 1/2 and replace it with more flour and water. so if you start with 8 ounces, take out 4oz of the starter and replace with 2 oz of water and 2 oz of flour. do this for 3 or 4 days and you should have a starter….keep it in a warm location and it will keep on working!

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      Thank you for adding to the knowledge base here, Carla!

  64. Harlan Richey

    You can Can Your beans dry, look them & put in a quart jar warm oven to 200 degrees put open top jars of beans in oven for one hour & take out of oven & quickly put on flat & ring & tighten ring & put back in oven for 35 minutes then set out & they will seal just like you canned them but you will have to cook them with water when you open them. Iread they will last 20 to 30 years we even caned flour & beans & rice hard & instant & soy beans. hope this helps & I will have to see for sure how long it lasts

  65. Lynnette

    A quick tip about baking soda. A absolute staple must have for me. You can buy 50# bags of baking soda at your nearest feed store. I pay about $11. Goats need it for proper nutrition. It is a coarser consistency that what we all are used to in the little yellow box. It is food grade. Perfectly fine for human consumption, cleaning or what ever you use baking soda for. Thought I would share. A friend who raises goats told me about it.

  66. Mary Brabble

    I dry can with the oven. 225 degrees for two hours. Take clean dry jars fill to within 1/2 inch with rice, beans, pasta, flour, cornmeal products, mixes, etc. Place the jars without lids in the oven and heat for two hours. Put the jars on a flat pan or take the risk of an accidental spill. After two hours remove them one at a time, attach lids and sit on a towel in a breeze free place until sealed. I do process the lids to moisten the seal but I do dry them completely and the heat from the jars dries any moisture.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      Thank you, Mary. I wasn’t aware of that technique. The only dry canning I’ve done is with a vacuum pump and no heat.

  67. Kim Moore

    Wayne Pickard mentioned a ham seasoning for split pea soup made by Goya back about a year ago. I found one that looks like it might be what he was talking about. Many of the Mexican grocery stores carry it around here. Going to try it this weekend.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      Thanks for the link, Kim. Please be sure to let us know how it turns out. In the mean time, I’ll see if I can find out more from him on that in case it’s something different.

  68. Debora

    Lee Ann
    Your recipe for chocolate syrup is not the same as mine but I learned after years of making it if you add 1 Tablespoon of corn syrup it will not crystalize and stay smooth for its use.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      Thank you for the tip, Debora – I’m passing that one along to my wife.

  69. Adam

    Don’t forget that potato starch, recovered from making mashed potatoes, will thicken sauces and stews as well as add depth and “filling” to help reduce the amount of meat used in a recipe. We add potato flakes and starch to any hamburger dish to stretch our meat and make the meal more filling.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      There will come a day when stretching food and making it more filling will be routine. Thanks for the tip.

  70. Patty

    Don’t forget to add oats as a meat stretcher. Brown off your hamburger meat and toss oats in there ‘uncooked’ for the last few minutes. If you use something like worcestershire sauce it will brown up and become invisible.

  71. Mary Preston

    I have canned in my pressure cooker it worked fine. I had my canner full and had 3 pints to go so I put them in the pressure cooker they did fine.

  72. LeeAnn

    USDA says not to use pressure cooker for canning. Go to the USDA website and read their reasoning. When canning food for my family, I follow USDA and current Blue Book 100%. I will not take a chance with our food. SHTF I don’t want to find food spoiled or have someone get sick because I took a shortcut.

    Before the rules changed I too used a pressure cooker for canning and it worked fine, but I don’t do it anymore.

  73. Sandy

    Don’t forget to store sprouting seeds, which can be used to sprout micro greens like brocolli, mung beans, clover, alfalfa, cress, and others to add fresh vitamins to your diet. I store good quality olive oils and krill oils which comes with its own astaxanthin as a preservative, all in a very cold cellar. Plus, unshelled nuts, spices, and vinegars. You can make your own fresh mustard and mayonaise from a few simple ingredients. I keep powdered eggs, peanut butter, and cheese in addition to rice, beans, and dehydrated vegetables. And I cook from my storage foods as a regular part of my diet.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      Thanks for the reminder, Sandy. I used to use sprouts regularly but drifted away and just forgot about them. They are, indeed, an excellent way to have “fresh” and “storage” food at the same time.

  74. Howard Huggins

    I have enjoyed reading all of the comments, suggestions and recipes! I am really sad that I have little time to be able to devote to canning or gardening.
    The soil on my property (failed farm) has no nutrients to support a garden and, I’m certain, too many residual chemicals. NONE of which I’d want in my food anyway.
    Last year I tried my luck growing just two, non-hybrid, tomato plants (one beefsteak and one cherry tomato) in large planters using what I was told was the best prepackaged soil for that purpose.
    Feeding them with fertalizer for that purpose per the directions on the package and using rainwater as often as I could collect it (otherwise using tap water) I had a very disappointing crop. I got ONLY one (small) beefsteak tomato that wasn’t fit to pick or eat but the cherry tomato plant did fairly well, although with yields that couldn’t be counted on. 🙁
    I feel like a failure. Sadly, I cannot afford to have anybody come in to dig up a plot of soil and replace it with GOOD soil, but would be willing to construct a green house to shield the garden from the brutal summer heat (I live in the desert southwest of AZ) if only i could create a decent plot.
    I am so envious of you all that have such success.
    Farmers markets around my area are few and far between and when I do get to shop them, their offerings are dismal and of too little quantity to make the effort to do any canning.
    My best success with canning is making my own applesauce and apple butter. I have THAT down to a science and friends and family are always asking for a share when I do make batches. Jerky in my dehydrator is another of my specialties. And if I have access to elk meat it rarely lasts long, but if I can get a lean roast on sale, I buy one or two, slice it thin and make a variety of flavors.
    So, to all of you that have the time, fresh supplies and skill to garden and cook fresh foods, I applaud you and envy you, too!!

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      Howard, your comment serves to make all of us stop and count our blessings. Thank you!

      If you haven’t already done so, try getting a detailed soil test done for the area you’d like to put a garden. Not just a simple Ag Center test, but a real detailed one. I just had one done here (haven’t gotten the results yet) and it cost me $50. When I get it though, I’ll know exactly what the soil is lacking and how much of what to add to it to build it back up. You won’t be able to get old farming chemicals out of it, but most of them break down pretty quickly after a few years. A purist would say that’s not enough, but it’s not a perfect world we live in – I would much rather know there are some remnants of chemicals in the soil in my garden than buying vegetables that I KNOW contain fresh chemicals.

      Another thing to consider is that your soil may just be lacking in some trace minerals (a detailed soil analysis will show that also). I have started adding trace minerals to my soil using Azomite. I haven’t had it on there long enough to be able to say that it helps, but I know that I have had problems in the past with my tomatoes not having enough calcium (one of the trace minerals in Azomite). A lack of calcium causes the fruit to ripen unevenly so that you’ll have yellow stripes and blotches on an otherwise ripe red tomato. In addition, a lack of trace minerals or a severe imbalance of other minerals will result in the plants not being able to take up nutrients through the roots.

      Pay close attention to your soil and don’t forget that most soil problems can be fixed – IF you know what needs to change.

  75. theresa9274

    I had some old Jiffy cornbread mix that was a couple years past it’s use by date (oops!) so The mix still looked and smelled fresh so I added a tsp of baking powder and baked it per the directions and it was just like fresh mix!

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      Hopefully, I’ll be more careful about watching the dates, but if I slip up again I now know what to do. Thanks for the tip!

  76. Terri

    Great site and great comments! I enjoyed reading everyone’s hints and advice. Just a note about the bread situation since no one else has mentioned it. If your on the go, don’t have much time or the means to bake bread, tortillas have served very well for a “bread”substitute in times when yeast is unavailable and/or cannot be made at the moment. Flour, water and a little salt for the basic tortilla. You can also flavor them with just about any seasoning that suits you. We use them quite often.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      It’s not just a matter of time either – the fact that tortillas and other pan bread (like pancakes) do not require an oven makes them a very important food item. The time may come when the idea of turning on an oven to bake is a luxury that is only a distant memory.

  77. Lori

    I keep my yeast in the refrigerator. It will last eons that way.

  78. Sue

    Even heavily rusted cast iron can be restored easily. One way is by firing it. Build a good size campfire and place the pot on top before lighting the fire. Get some good hot coals going and let it sit in the coals for at least 4-5 hours. Let the fire die down naturally, and don’t remove the pan until coals are cool. Do not place a cold pan into a hot fire. Extreme temperature fluctuations will crack the iron. This removes all old seasoning, and rust. Just re-season. Sandblasting pans works great too.

  79. Barbara

    Storing food in mylar bags with oxygen absorbers works very well. You need to make sure, however, that your food is very dry…less than 10% moisture content. Botulism poisoning can result from moist food stored in a reduced oxygen environment. That goes for vacuum sealed foods as well.

    We’ve done a little bit of everything for our food storage. We have some Mountain House dehydrated food but that can be very expensive so we also have been stocking up on canned goods (which usually have around a 5 year shelf life) and using the mylar bags and oxygen absorbers for the dry food like pasta. I also plant a garden every year and can everything I can get my hands on. When stocking up, try to remember to stock up on things like salt, baking soda, baking powder, etc. If things go south, money will be worthless but food will be priceless and things like salt can be used as a sort of money to barter with.

  80. Barbara

    I also forgot to mention that brown rice is not good for long term storage. It has a higher oil content than white rice which will cause the brown rice to go rancid.

    Also, while I’m not a member of the Morman religion, they do have some good information on long term food storage that can be found at
    You can also purchase food from them that has been packaged for long term storage.

  81. Rose

    In Israel, years ago, people used a pan called a ‘Sirpella’ or Wonder Pot to bake on the cook top. The down-side was that it was made of aluminum, tho I inherited something similar here, with Teflon lining. It looks like a bundt-pan, but smooth-sided, not fluted with a ‘hooded’ lid that has vents in it. There is also a device I call a heat diffuser that is placed under the Wonder Pot. I am quoting Wikipedia here to describe the third part of it – “a thick, round, slightly domed metal disc with a Center hole that is placed between the pot and the heat source.” I don’t know about their present availability. But among other things, it means that you can bake on top of the stove. I have made cakes, pies, bread, buns, even cookies with it. And of course it can double as a regular cooking pot. I see there are recipes using it on the Internet – I have an old cookbook called ‘The wonders of a Wonder Pot’. Many people in other parts of the world, Europe comes to mind, do not have an oven, particularly if they live in an apartment. It would be interesting to find out what they use as a stove-top oven.

  82. april

    I do not keep low fat dried milk I keep a milk whey product that actually tastes good when reconstituted. this also gets transferred into mason jars and vacuum sealed after the big can is opened, no loss issue with this thank god

  83. april

    As to a oven it is quite easy to build a ground oven to bake in ……I don’t want to do without my breads lol so have been practicing such ways of cooking

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      Thank you, April. If you get a chance, can you elaborate on the ground oven? Is that sort of like a pizza oven or hot rocks in a pit?

  84. Beth Dotson

    So many people started using frozen foods and forgot or never learned how to cook from scratch. If you are planning for a power outage or just a last minute emergency I make bread in tapered mason jars. Pick your favorite receipe fill jar about one half to three quarters full and bake. Immediately upon taking from oven put your sealing lids on and screw tight. Keeps for at least a year. I also do quick breads (vegi breads) but don’t try banana bread as mine always went bad. I have been working on using everything. If you are canning tomatoes after you have removed the skins lay them out in the dehydrator or over on low. When dry powder (I usually throw it back in the oven either when I am preheating or in the dehydrator. Had a lovely fresh flavor to soups and stews.

  85. Lorrie Ferguson

    We love dryed beans in our family. Black Beans and Rice is a staple in this house. I also use Sazon seasoning for my rice and never have to use any added salt to the dish. I’m not sure the still do this or not, but the LDS Church has or had a Dry Packing Program. It was very helpful and affordable to build up our years supply of food storage. We stored everything from dry beans, grains and sugar. This was a life saver for us the year my husband lost his job and had to have back surgery.
    I was wondering if anyone has ever dry packed garden seeds?

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      I contacted the LDS cannery in this area, and they don’t let any non-LDS people use their facilities. Policy varies from place to place and at different times, as they told me. I’ve never seen one, but I hear they are pretty nice operations.

      Personally, I would not try dry packing garden seeds, although I hear about folks doing it. Keep in mind that unlike dry packing food, a seed is a living organism. Dry packing means pulling a vacuum on it, and if there is any air pocket within the seed, that vacuum is going to make the air suddenly expand and most likely fracture part of the seed. That just doesn’t sound like a very good way to improve the viability.

      Heat and humidity are the two big enemies of long term seed storage, since they cause the seed to use up its food supply quickly (remember, it is a living organism and requires some amount of food to survive just sitting waiting to be planted). If you keep your seeds DRY and COOL, you’ve done the best you can do for seed viability.

  86. Az

    How come there’s no mention of honey? Or did I miss it? 🙂

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      No, you didn’t miss it – somehow it just slipped by. Honey is one of the few “last forever” foods, and definitely one that folks need to be aware of. If I can ever get back into the habit of writing regular posts here, I will be covering that, but from the view of keeping bees rather than just buying and storing honey. I have three unassembled bee hives that should be ready and filled with bees later this summer. We have been active in a beekeepers group (I built and maintain the web site for that), and we also went to the two-day Bee College that is put on by the University of Florida. There is a lot to learn, but we have been enjoying learning and working with bees. Thank you for writing!

  87. Sue

    I remember my Mom using the frothy starch off the top of the boiling potatoes in making bread, but I cannot find any of her recipes. Does anyone on here have any ideas?

  88. Jane Barber


  89. Macy Widofsky

    I scour Craigslist, local thrift stores, and flea markets for old cast iron pots and pans. I got free Griswold pans last year by doing this! They really perform better than many moden pieces I’ve used. Covered in YEARS of old, suspicious-looking crap, though…

    My trick? I put them into my oven on a cleaning cycle! It started out cold, and gradually built up heat so I didn’t have to worry about the pans warping or cracking. The crud all came off, with no effort from me! After that, I seasoned them as usual.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      Thanks for the tip, Macy!

  90. Raylene Lawrence

    Our family likes peanut butter. A lot. Freeze dried peanut flour makes a great, shelf stable, long term supply of peanut butter. Reconstitute it with water, oil and a pinch of salt, sugar if desired. You can also use it in other ways to make other peanut dishes, like peanut butter cookies! My favorite brand of peanut flour is from Thrive Life (not Thrive Market!). The taste and consistency is much better!

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      Thank you, Raylene! We have (or at least had) some here that was given to us. I haven’t tried it yet myself since we always keep plenty stored away here. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are my “standard” lunch most days.

  91. Garnet Barkley

    for those of us that have to minimize salt in our diets, I recommend using Mc Cormicks brand Perfect Pinch. It is a salt free seasoning. It has onion spices, including parsley,basil, oregano, thyme, paprika, red pepper, lemon peel and celery. I use it on potatoes, eggs, salads, soups and stews.

    Also, I was reading a lot of posts about canning. Is vacuum sealing just as good…if the product is dry?

  92. Kelly C

    I am wondering if the faux meat called tvp, (I kept ‘sausage’ crumbles and bigger chunks for use with meat flavorings, Sauzon, for vegetarian friends meals) would dry can well? It made them a meatless version of any dish I was serving. It is a great meal stretcher when the power is out.
    Thanks for all the ideas!

  93. Kelly C

    Oh, and in response to Sue above: that is how we make our sourdough starter. Using starchy, strained potato water anyway. I am not sure, but the froth would likely make a starter also. It’s a fast and full bodied starter that makes very moist and savory bread, biscuits, waffles, and pancakes.

  94. Cindy

    Someone mentioned not knowing of a good source for non-transfat lard. Here is a link to the place where I get mine. It is great!

  95. Hattie

    Very detailed article, it’s great! I’m making my own food storage for the first year this year and although there are many advices out there in the Internet, what I like for this one is talking about particular meal and how to improve them. Thank you so much for sharing!

  96. survival food

    It won’t be the end of the world, but it is
    enough time to dehydrate, become malnourished, and raise the casualty counts.
    In the event of a disaster whether it is natural or man-made, local emergency people will be facing
    the same problems as the rest of us. With this said, I still enjoyed the meal in total and definitely
    see it as a good meal that would keep one full.

  97. Merry

    Farmer John lard does not contain trans-fats. It does have BHT and citric acid added to protect flavor.

  98. MI Patriot

    When you season your cast iron, don’t use vegetable oil. Use lard or coconut oil. Vegetable oil makes your pans sticky and gunky and they don’t have that slickness that a well-seasoned pan has. Also never use soap or anything abrasive on your pans. I usually put the cast iron on the stove and fill it with water and bring it to a boil. Let is simmer a bit and the stuck on food comes right off. Wash with a plastic scrubby, dry and then set on a low burner to make sure it’s dry and store. I put a paper towel between my fry pans. Treat your cast iron well and it will perform forever. I have a couple of fry pans from my mom when she was younger. She is 87 now and she gave them to me when I moved into my first apartment when I was 24. I am now 60 and still using them.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      Cast iron just can’t be beat. We use some that I bought at a farmer’s market. They were well-used and rather rusty, and that was many years ago. My wife uses a plastic brush for normal cleaning. When there is something stubborn, she uses a piece of stainless steel chain mail and it works great. Anyone who regularly uses cast iron cookware should seriously consider getting one. Do a search for “stainless steel chainmail scrubber” on Amazon and you’ll find quite a selection. They all work well, so it’s just a matter of the size and shape that you prefer. If you haven’t tried one yet, you really owe it to yourself to get one.

  99. Toni DeGain

    For those that use cast iron. It is best to heat dry them. NEVER use soap on them. Since If you don’t use them frequently, make sure to very lightly coat them with vegetable or virgin olive oil. It will keep the from rusting and losing their seasoning. Also pick one frying pan and dedicate it to eggs ONLY. The first few times be prepared for your eggs to stick, but after a couple of times the pan will turn non stick for eggs. I could always tell when someone used my egg pan for something other than cooking eggs! They will start to stick again!
    Having grown up in the south I learned to cook using self rising flour…only have to add a little oil and water to it and they make great tortillas. It also works great on cake recipes, pancakes, etc. I make cakes from scratch and only have to add eggs, oil and flavoring like vanilla, orange extract, cocoa, etc. I have never had a problem with it “going bad” after the expiration date. I would caution when storing flour, and sugar to keep in container that lid is secure and place bay leaf on top. Will help to keep out weevils, ants, etc.

  100. Marlena

    i just read your article 🙂 and i just want to add something. My uncle told me that story just month ago: he was at his family, some old aunt of him had a wedding more than 50 years ago and they’ve made some meat and lard in glass jars then. And year or two ago they were totally cleaning their pantry and found three glasses of this meat. One was already bad, but the second one was good – they ate it and no one got sick because of it. But it was just pure meat, without all these weird stuff they add to meat (ever raw) these days.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      That doesn’t surprise me, but I don’t think I would chance it with meat. Properly canned and stored food will last a looong time. The taste may degrade, and the texture become mushy, and the nutritional value may decrease, but it’s usually still safe to eat.

  101. Delilah Ann Gill

    A tip I learned for storing most dry goods like rice, beans, cornmeal, flour, etc. Microwave it in small batches for one minute, stir, then 1 more minute. This kills off any insect eggs in it and they will not hatch out. After microwaving, then store goods in preferred containers and add labels from the bag it came in for nutritional content and cooking directions. I always overnight soak all beans, then pressure cook them, even older ones are tender. Using a crock pot to cook beans works well.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      Interesting idea! It sounds like a variation on the idea of putting storage food in a deep freezer for a couple of days to kill any eggs or other living things before packing it for long term storage. I have to wonder, though, if microwaving it would start to break down the food? It would be interesting to do a side-by-side comparison of food that had been frozen vs. food that had been microwaved, and then compare their taste, texture, and nutrition. My guess is that microwaving would not do any significant harm – AS LONG AS ALL MOISTURE WAS REMOVED BEFORE MICROWAVING. Since it is the water that initiates the cooking in a microwave, a completely dry food might be virtually unaffected.

      Thanks for the reply. Something new to think about.

  102. Gina Rodgers

    I too, wondered if microwaving would cause any undue stress to the staples. Going to try this and store it to see if I find any problems after 1 month, 6 months, 1 year, and 2 years…marking them accordingly. Reading these posts have led me to a renewed passion for my prepping! As I’ve always known and too frequently forget, the old ways will always get us through. Any new ideas are worth checking out and giving their rightful place in our information bank, and sharing with others. Thank you to all, who have joined and contributed to this conversation for the well-being of our families!

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      Thank you, Gina. Please be sure to stop back by and let us know what you find in your testing. That’s what this site is all about – sharing that kind of knowledge. It’s the sort of information that can help us get our families through some very hard times ahead. It’s a great feeling knowing that what we share here could make a real difference.

  103. Judy Fritts

    There was an earlier comment about freeze drying. Now home freeze dryers are available at a much lower cost (although still expensive) than the commercial freeze dryers. Do an online search for home freeze dryers. I won’t mention brand names here. I have done fruits, veggies, meats, dairy…anything that is not extremely greasy, and when processed and stored correctly, the food is food is good for 25 years. Tried some re-hydrated broccoli and some orange slices the other day. Tasted just like fresh. It was amazing.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      Thank you, Judy. I’ve been reading about those with great interest, and I’m a real advocate of freeze dried food. I’ve enjoyed serving freeze dried food to guests and then informing them that the meal they just ate was over 30 years old (I’ve had Mountain House freeze dried food in the pantry since about 1980). I would really like to hear more about your experience with it. If you’re willing to pass along some details in an email, I’d love to write that up as its own post on The Southern Agrarian so it could get better exposure. I hope you’ll consider sharing what you’ve learned – both the good and the bad; if so, just use the Contact link. I’m confident that others could really benefit from it, and I know I would. Thanks!

  104. Crabapple

    Thanks for the insight!

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      It’s becoming more and more relevant with each passing day. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  105. Maydaliz

    Stephen, before cooking the beans, soak them in water for a day and then pressure cook them. When I was little, we didn’t have canned beans and this is the way my grandmother would make them. Enjoy!

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      Thank you, Maydaliz. I hope that works – from what I’ve seen, that’s the standard way, but only works up to a point. After several years of dry storage, they get so tough that even that won’t work. Perhaps there is some other trick to it, but I haven’t found it. Yet.

  106. Phil

    could the hard beans be used as sprouting beans for greens or could they be ground up for a cake or bread? I say this because I have just seen a wartime recipe on using a type of bean for a cake . Just a thought,(I think a lot, don’t say much) Phil.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      Good question, Phil. I suspect you’re right – they probably could have been sprouted for greens or ground up and used as a flour. I wish I’d thought of that – just as an experiment. Thanks for stopping by.

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