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Cooking with Food Storage - Featuring Dinner is in the Jar

Saturday, 08 September 2012 03:29 Written by 

So, you have cases of #10 cans filled with dehydrated vegetables, Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP), dairy products, and 5 gallon buckets full of grains, beans, and sugar. But, have you ever prepared a meal with your food storage items? If you currently live the self-sufficiency lifestyle or already prepare foods using food storage ingredients, then you are way ahead of the game. But, for the majority of us that survive on food from fast food chains, restaurants, frozen dinners, and eating out of a box; we know little about cooking with food storage. If you are overwhelmed with the thought of preparing meals using food storage items, join us as we explore Kathy Clark’s Dinner is in the Jar and make one of her delicious recipes.

Dinner is in the Jar

My Take on Food Storage

In a survival situation, you are playing the calorie game. If your caloric intake is higher than your physical demand, you will maintain a healthy weight balance. I could lose a few pounds, but excessive weight loss during a survival situation is unacceptable. I learned this lesson in 2003, during the initial stage of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). Between December 2002 and August 2003, I lost 40lbs due to low caloric intake and Dysentery. My daily food regiment consisted of Meals Ready to Eat (MRE) and T-rats (field rations similar to MREs). Food boredom, caused by eating the same types of bland foods every day, can lead to a decreased appetite even when your body is craving calories. A quality home cooked meal would have made a big difference for my health and morale.

We all know the current marketing campaign targeting the prepping community is built for financial gain. In my opinion, there are very few companies that put together a food storage system which includes all of items that you will need to make your own meals, or food items that you will find satisfying over a long duration. Also, while some may have great products, most companies do not provide recipes to use with their products to prepare meals. So, in addition to conducting research on which foods to purchase, we also have to discover how to “get back to the basics” of preparing meals from scratch.

When I first started developing my food storage plan, I purchased a dehydrator, Mylar and vacuum bags, mason jars, and #10 cans of dehydrated and dry foods. As my stockpile grew, my next phase was to package complete meals that could be cooked easily, which I call “Meal Packs”. Each meal pack had to meet long term storage guidelines (5+ years). Additionally, I wanted to ensure that each meal contained adequate food for every member of my family. It was at this moment I humbly realized that I did not have a meal plan for using food storage items. And, if it were not for Dinner is in the Jar, I still would not have a plan.

Meal Pack Recommendations

Before we look at the book, let’s first discuss my recommendations for putting together meal packs, mixes, and recipes identified in the book.

1. Think long term food storage. If you select the correct ingredients and properly package them, your stored meals should last five or more years. Use separate packaging for items that do not have a long shelf life, which can include flour, bouillon, baking soda, and baking powder. While the advertised shelf life of these products is around two years, they should last more than five years if properly packaged.

2. Ensure meals contain sufficient calories. To do this, analyze what you currently eat each meal, and replicate the portion size when packaging meal packs. This should be accomplished for every member of your family.

3. You should like eating your meals. Often, people sacrifice taste when selecting or preparing survival meals. You should enjoy your food, as it will ensure you maintain a healthy appetite and will raise your morale.

4. Have a variety of meals. I would recommend a minimum of 12 meal options.

5. Try your recipes to determine if you like them, but more importantly to see how much food each recipe makes. For instance, the recipes from Dinner in the Jar produce too much food for my family of four (two adults and two children). In most cases I half the recipes.

6. Pay close attention to your ingredients. Most recipes call for bouillon or other flavorings. Some bouillons are high in salt, and you should reduce the amount. Or, increase it (if low in salt).

Dinner is in the Jar Review

Dinner is in the Jar is for individuals who have food storage items, specifically dehydrated and dried vegetables, beans, rice, and anyone interested in cooking with food staples. The book provides a practical approach for cooking with food storage, especially for those of us who rely on restaurants, fast food, and microwave dinners. Better yet, the recipes contained in the book, meet or exceed my above recommendations. The book has 30 recipes, providing a large variation of meals. The meals are flavorful, and they can fit into your current food rotation; yes you can eat them now “pre-disaster”. While the title of the book is Dinner is in the Jar, I package my mixes in vacuum and/or Mylar bags, with an oxygen absorber. This ensures I do not need dozens of glass jars, and significantly reduces the cost and weight of packaging. Great if on a budget or you need to move your food storage between locations.

Upon opening the book, most will realize that your food storage reserve contains the staples, but there are still several ingredients that you will need.  Do not let this be a deterrent, as the recipes do not call for anything that is not in a seasoning packet, box dinner, or frozen meal. Dinner in the Jar provides the foundation for replacing these common store bought methods, with your own food storage items. Some things you may not have in your pantry include: Textured Vegetable Protein (called TVP in Beef, Sausage, Pepperoni, and Taco flavors), Cheddar Cheese Powder, Buttermilk Powder, Dry Milk, Ranch Dressing Mix, and Shortening Powder. Additionally, if you are making several of the same meals, you will need to have a large quantity of specialty items, such as gravy powders and bouillons.

There are several things I like about this book. First, it contains a meal for every day of the month. While I have not tried every meal, I have found 15 that I have modeled my meals packs around. You can try them all, or find a few that you really like.

Second, the recipes call for dehydrated vegetables, beans, pastas, rice, and canned food items. This way you can mix long term food storage items with canned or fresh meats. You can purchase canned meats, or use meat that you have pressure canned. Additionally, the recipes calls for pint sized meat portions, which compliments the size most people already store and purchase canned meats.

Third, the meals actually taste very good. I was skeptical at first, because when I think mixes, I envision watery soups. After trying a few of the meals, I was rather impressed. Even the soups are full of flavor, and contain adequate portions. I prefer the soups over major canned soup brands. In addition to soups, the book also contains recipes for biscuits and gravy, beans and rice, casseroles, pot pie, chili, pizza, enchiladas, and spaghetti and meatballs. My spouse and children also like the meals, which is a huge plus.

Fourth, the meals are significantly cheaper than purchasing freeze dried foods, or store bought equivalents. You can think of these meals as gourmet survival foods, that you prepared with hand picked ingredients, in your own kitchen, and on a budget.

Fifth, the book has instructions that can be printed, so that you know how to prepare the meals. I simply print the instructions and throw them in the Mylar bag before it is sealed. Additionally, I have laminated meal cards, and keep them with my other important documents. The book even provides an overview of all of the items and quantities you will need. 

Last and what I feel most important, the recipes convert dried and dehydrated food items into practical quantities, and pair them with the proper amount of water to rehydrate the foods. Really, how many servings does 3/4 cup of dehydrated Green Beans make, and how much water should I use to rehydrate it? What about all of the other dehydrated foods, and their water rehydration requirements, and all of these mixed in a single pot? Great thing about the book is I do not have to do these calculations; all I have to do if follow the ingredient list and the recipe directions.

One thing of caution… These meals produce a lot of food. While not really a caution, you should prepare a few recipes and determine if it meets or exceeds your portion requirements. When packing meals for my family of four (two adults and two children), I cut the recipes in half. I prepared a single meal for five adults and one child, and still had left overs. Additionally, I hosted a dehydrating class for 10 adults, prepared two meals, and had some to spare. I am not exaggerating; please cook a meal and determine how much food it makes before you start packaging your meals.

Pasta Soup Recipe (Courtesy of Kathy Clark)

Ingredients

1 ¾ Cups Macaroni

¾ Cup Lentils

¾ Cup Dried Chopped Mushrooms (I replace with dehydrated Green Beans)

½ Cup Parmesan Cheese

3 ½ Tablespoons Dried Minced Onion

2 ½ Tablespoons Chicken Bouillon Granules

1 Tablespoon + 1 Teaspoon Italian Seasoning

1 Tablespoon Parsley

1 ¾ Teaspoons Oregano

¼ Teaspoon Garlic Powder

1 Pint Cooked Chicken Cubes (canned or fresh)

10 ½ Cups Water

(If packaging, put all dry items in a Mylar bag, vacuum bag, or Mason jar. Always use an oxygen absorber (100cc-300cc). Optional: separate the Parmesan Cheese and Chicken Bouillon in a separate baggie inside your bag or jar, since these items have a shorter shelf life)

Directions

Remove oxygen absorber. Boil water. Add soup mix and chicken. Reduce heat and cover. Simmer for 40 - 50 minutes until lentils are tender, stirring occasionally. (How simple is that?)

Conclusion

If you are feeling overwhelmed about cooking with your food storage items, purchase Dinner is in the Jar, by Kathy Clark. You can also visit her website (http://www.dinnerisinthejar.com/) to find bulk purchase options and a wealth of other information. Please let us know what you think about the recipe. Be Prepared. Get Connected. 

P.S. Kathy, thank you for your important contribution to the Preparedness community, and for allowing us to publish one of your recipes. - Prepper Link

Last modified on Tuesday, 12 March 2013 18:08
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