Approaching Food Storage with Skillet Stretchers
by Denise H
When I first started my food storage and rotation, I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of food necessary to feed an average family of four for an extended time. I took the yearly plan, broke it down, and then multiplied it by the numbers of persons who would likely be on my doorstep.
Let’s think for a few moments about these challenges – I know that those who periodically depend on my assistance now, given an emergency, will likely be in need again. I certainly need to provide for my family, however, there are those who are simply unable to be prepared due to extreme limits in their abilities. My extended family includes those with whom I have regular contact, as well as “blood relatives” through a common Savior.
Some of those, have finally discovered their own need, to make some preparations for those around them.
I have tried to encourage them with information and short-cuts to deal with storage challenges. The more people who are better prepared, in the event of interruptions in services and supplies, the less likelihood of a severe life-threatening lack of basics. Preparing for an unknown number of persons presents challenges, as does preparing for larger- family needs. Somewhere I may have to draw the line, but for the short- term I have chosen to prepare what I can against the day of a lack of what are presently easily obtained supplies.
A disaster is very real when it affects an individual you know, or where you are. TEOLAWKI-may be a family emergency where all funds must be diverted to assist someone with critical need…or it can be a regional event, like one we experienced a few years back with a massive ice storm. No one came to feed us, or to verify we had essentials, during those 10 -12 days we were without power. Nor did we expect it.
I looked at serving sizes, by the American Diabetic Association, looked at the usual amounts we consume of certain foods to determine if these amounts would be sufficient, and decided they were a rough guide for the actual amounts we would require, to keep from starvin’ plum to death, but would not be sufficient to do a days labor in our garden or some other type of physical work. The doubling of recommended amounts is closer to what we will require for more than mere existence.
We have limited resources and space to store foods due to heat and humidity. I began by determining how long our basic staples lasted. (Flour, sugar, cornmeal, tea, coffee, pasta, rice, oatmeal, beans)Then, I began making a list of the foods we could eat regularly, by easily changing the flavors with various seasonings. Food fatigue is an on-going battle for our family.
Breakfast is not a problem. It is the meal we can eat any time of the day. A little flour, baking powder, sugar or Splenda, oil, cinnamon and egg powder, with water to mix -will make pancakes. Syrup, honey, jelly or peanut butter are all good with them. Oats can be made with sugar/ Splenda / stevia, and olive oil in 5-8 min, topped with a little sugar, cinnamon, or raisins…or peanut butter added for more protein. Rice, can be served with cinnamon, sugar, and milk as well. The oil added to each should be the very best Olive, Grape Seed or Palm Oil you can purchase to assist in the balancing of the fats in your body. Cheaper oils will exact a price on your health. We discovered this when I used peanut and corn oil for a month…and labs were done at the end of that month. We corrected this with the return to Olive oil.
Next, I began working from the list of staples to determine how much of each was required to make each entre’. I noted that textures and flavor of the famous one box dinners were in two items, the pasta/rice variation, and the spices. Many of the additives in those diners were un-digestible to certain members of our family, and no one wanted to continue with the boxed versions available. We were often hungry after consuming the allotted portion. Most were too salty and too spicy unless we added more pasta and meat. I found I could kill two birds with one stone- cutting the intolerant items and adding portion size.
I made list after list, and lists to keep up with the lists- until I found this quick method for making skillet stretcher meals. It has made buying long-term food options easier, our food dollars stretch further and has given me a method to use to prepare ever-changing meals on a daily basis that are both nutritious and filling.
Lists? Oh yeah! Have they ever changed! Now, I have an urgent list-things for immediate replacement, a list of monthly needs and a list for quarterly needs. I rotate my long term foods, with a regular use for the variety they provide. Bought canned goods, meats, and most vegetables are rotated, by date as well. Tomatoes, tomato products, and fruits that are canned get special attention, but most fruits for longer term storage are dehydrated, with raisins, prunes, dehydrated tropical fruit mix and coconut being our favorites.
Our pantry is based on staple foods.. flour, sugar, rice, oats, pasta, beans, coffee, tea, seasonings. Healthy cooking oils, (which I daily use in the place of butter. And creamed shortening) round out the list. I keep a certain amount of basics out for daily use. I use these with the meats I have available from fresh purchases, harvested or canned meats, and a supply of condiments, seasonings and preferred vegetables.
Monthly usage amounts include Coffee 2 lbs, tea 100ct bags,10-15 lb.SR Flour, baking powder,5 lbs sugar, a 550 serv.(generic) Splenda, 5 lb cornmeal, 6 lbs oats, 8 lbs rice, 10 lbs pasta, approx. 30-35 lbs of assorted meats, 20-36 oz Olive oil, and 24 oz grapeseed oil.. 40 cans vegetables, Seasonings: the one we use most is cinnamon@ about 3 oz per month. Rounding it out is,2-24 oz natural peanut butter, 2 each grape and strawberry jelly,4 doz eggs, 3-6 packs each of ramen, mac and cheese, and chicken noodle soup.
I have 4 lists I use for preparing a meal/main entre’.
The first one is all meats and Oils…I include every meat we like and have available some part of the year. Canned 3-5 oz varieties of ham, chicken, tuna, turkey, kipper, sardines, larger cans of Spam, Treet, Tripe.. salmon, processed meats, polish and summer sausage, and fresh meats of all varieties…pork- loin, bacon, sausage, and ham. beef, steak, cubed or roast, chicken or turkey parts or whole Chicken stock, beef stock, bone broth, and chicken, beef and tomato bullion.Oil selections include canola, olive oil and grape seed oil.
The second list is all grains- kinds of pasta of spaghetti, rotini, shells, both large and small, elbows and bow-ties. three kinds of rice, white, Jasmine and brown and egg noodles, Ramen….a few boxes of mac and cheese.
List three includes seasonings and prepared sauce mixes. Spaghetti, chili, and taco seasoning powder packs, with the ingredients these mixes call for in basic prep. instructions including …Spaghetti sauce, tomato products of all kinds, diced, sauce and paste, gravy and white sauce mix, sea salt and a high potassium salt replacer, black, red and white pepper, dehydrated powdered vegetables, onions, bell pepper, garlic, celery, carrots, basil, parsley, sage, oregano, bay leaves, nutmeg, cinnamon…and items to make glazes from- honey, molasses, Karo syrup, red plum jelly, orange extract, worcheschire sauce, soy sauce, canned prepared chili, green chili peppers sweet relish, sliced pickles of two or three kinds.
List four includes vegetables to add to main entree’s – this list sometimes overlaps…When this happens I double or triple the amount, if possible on that item. This list includes mushrooms, tomatoes, whole kernel corn, sweet peas, carrots, olives, mixed vegetables, dehydrated or frozen vegetable mixes, canned beans of several kinds.
In addition to these to be included into the entree’s, you will need additional vegetables for a side dish…instant potatoes, dehydrated vegetables, canned vegetables., and a fruit for a dessert if wanted. All this is, completely dependent on the number of persons being served and your desires for that meal.
When I buy, I buy maybe 4 of each item, enough to have the item 4 times, like I am preparing for a large family gathering. No one becomes worried they will be unable to obtain pasta after they see my cart. I make it a policy to never clear the shelf of an item unless I have an immediate need. When 2 of the purchased items are used, I put it on the list to buy 4 or 6 of them again, always rotating…the just stocked with the oldest on hand. Once I have a months supply of meals, then I begin to obtain the amount I can fit in a container for longer term storage.. and prepare it accordingly. once and then again….after 6-9 months, I begin to rotate this as well, depending on how I prepared it, and what I have learned in the process.
Most of my recipes for a skillet stretcher begin with 3/4 lb of pasta, 3/4 lb of ground chuck or turkey, browned in olive oil….To either I will add a selection of a sauce…white, a gravy or tomato based, then spices, then select vegetables… to add into the dish or to serve as a side.. This amount will make 4 reasonable portions which include at least one vegetable, but often 3 or four. Usually, I serve one vegetable on the side, and two if the portions of the entre’ are smaller.
Spaghetti, made with seasoned ground chuck, mushrooms, diced tomatoes, dehydrated bell peppers, onions, fresh or powdered garlic served, with string beans on the side, is just one of our favorites. If we desire it to be Mexican inspired I’ll add a small can of green chilies or a small can of mild rotel in addition.
No spaghetti sauce? No problem, spaghetti seasoning packets are easy to store, to use you will need tomato sauce or paste and diced tomatoes…. a little extra Italian spice either pre-mixed or just a little basil and parsley. If you have tomato powder, it could be used in place of sauce or paste.
It is really easy to start this system. Using this method can enable you to quickly boost supplies of entire meals. Start with two or three of your favorite stretcher meals, obtain supplies to prepare each of them 4-6 times. Prepare them twice, restock for another set of three – six meals with the money you saved. I try to buy in multiples of 6, but will buy in 12-24 if sufficient stock is on the shelf, especially when it is a versatile ingredient.
“Don’t know what you want” kind of a night? Then start with little choices, shells, rotini, elbows or bow-ties…chicken beef, pork, ham… Do you need something with creamy, spicy, tomato or cheesy sauce base? You can make something to suit everyone with the same basic ingredients, just alter the seasonings. To get you started, here are three recipes we use. These are specifically for my family if you like highly spiced foods add more seasonings accordingly.
Basic Hamburger Stretcher Skillet. Larger family recipe.
- ….In small saucepan.. put measured Rotini, 3/4 lb (1-1 1/4), Add warm water, Use just enough to cover contents.
- Add 1 Tbsp Olive oil and 1 TBSP. chicken bullion powder,
- Cook… at a low simmer for 7-10 min. until just tender.
- Allow… to sit in remaining water, while meat finishes browning and Do not drain.
- Next:.. In large skillet.. put Hamburger meat,3/4 lb-(1 1/2) lb. chuck or ground turkey,
- Brown in 2 tsp (1 Tbsp) of Olive oil. with 1 tsp ( 2 tsp)Onion powder,
- 2 tsp,(3 tsp) garlic powder, 1 tsp, celery leaves, and 1 tsp. parsley leaves, crushed.
- When both pasta and meat are completed as above,
- To the skillet, Add 8oz(15)oz.. tomato sauce, one 15 oz can of diced tomatoes,
- 6 oz. sliced mushrooms, and a package of spaghetti seasoning mix,
- Mix in well with meat…then, Add pasta. Stir it in well and heat through.
- Add cheese last- (I add after portion for lactose intolerant has been removed.) Heat until cheese is melted.
- Check to see if salt needed- after adding cheese. We like this with garlic bread and sweet peas or string beans.
Basic Tuna Helper
- For the recipe, I use a pre-packaged box of generic mac and cheese + 1/2 lb of extra elbows.
- (May instead use 1 and a half pounds of elbows with a jar of cheese sauce. or Velveeta..)
- 1 Tbsp. Olive oil, or grapeseed oil. 1 Tbsp. Chicken bullion granules.
- 2 cans of Oil packed Tuna, 15 oz., can, sweet peas
- Cook, Pasta with oil and bullion with just enough water to cover – on medium heat, until pasta is done,7-10 min. Do not drain,
- Then, add tuna with canning liquids and sweet peas with liquids.
- Heat until it returns to simmer.
- Add Cheese sauce (2-3 Tbsp.), or cheese powder from mac and cheese box, and stir in until melted,
check for saltiness.. may not need it.
Quick Chicken Stew
In 3 Qt pot. Combine…4 cups water,1 1/2 tsp chicken bullion, gran., and 1 C. diced chicken. (I used baked leftovers) Allow to come to a low simmer. ….and begin adding oils and spices…2 tsp grapeseed oil, + 1 Tbsp. Olive oil,
1 tsp each of dried crushed basil, crushed parsley flakes, celery seed, poultry seasoning, onion powder……and 1/2 tsp garlic powder. Then add 15 oz can sweet peas and 15 oz. carrots with canning juices. Allow to return to simmer. Add 1 1/2 cups uncooked small pasta shells. Cook until pasta is tender. Check flavor for saltiness. Add pepper if desired. Makes about 2 qts. Serve with toasted cheese sandwich or over biscuit.
For more food storage and cooking ideas please check out The Prepared Prepper’s Cookbook: Over 170-Pages of Food Storage Tips, and Recipes from Preppers All Over America!