Approaching food storage with Skillet Stretchers

This guest post by Denise H and entry in our non-fiction writing contest.

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 a on-going battle for our family.

Breakfast is not a problem. It is the meal we can eat anytime of 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 was 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 for 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 grape seed 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 dz 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- pastas 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 desert 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 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 spices 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 real 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 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 recipe, I use a pre-packaged box of generic mac and cheese + 1/2 lb of extra elbows.
  • (May instead use 1 and half pounds of elbows with jar of cheese sauce. or Velveeta..)
  • 1 Tbsp. Olive oil, or grape seed 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 grape seed 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.

This contest will end on February 16 2013  – prizes include:

Well what are you waiting for – email your entries today. But please read the rules that are listed below first… Yes


About M.D. Creekmore

M.D. Creekmore is the owner and editor of He is the author of four prepper related books and is regarded as one of the nations top survival and emergency preparedness experts. Read more about him here.


  1. You can add some oatmeal to cooked hamburger after browning to soak up fat or liquids to really stretch every ounce. With most seasoning you’ll never know it’s there.

  2. Thanks.

  3. Any idea how many EMT’s it takes to carry a skillet stretcher?

  4. Petticoat Prepper says:

    Denise H,

    Good article! I too have lists and more lists. After the Carter recession I became ‘odd’ about having extra food in the house. I thought I had 6 months worth but found at the time of need for this recession I only had like 3 months. I’ve managed (with couponing and canning) to re-build my stock pile and now KNOW I have 8 months. Unless DD brings her BF then it’ll drop but he hunts and promises to suppliment should he show up here 😉

    I love the quick chicken stew recipe. I began to use the liquid from canned vegies last recession too. I think there are nutrients in that so don’t want to waste it. Again, good post and shows how to build your stock pile.

    • Sw't Tater says:

      The only problem I’ve had with adding the liquids from the vegetables, is from some brands of commercially prepared string beans…some of them have the tin taste..My DH has sensitive nose and taste I usually drain those.I use all canning liquids otherwise.
      One of the important reasons for using the canning liquids is…saving the water! That’s also why the pasta is not drained. If you look at each recipe you will notice that each is prepared with out draining…esp the pasta. In the boxed dinners, they always call for large amount of water to cook pasta in, then drain, and add more to mixture as it is combined.By using the water, what ever vitamins were in there are kept.

      • Petticoat Prepper says:

        Sw’t Tater,

        Yes, ya do have to watch on the store bought stuff! I’m a canner (most of my life) so I have glass jars. DD grew up with home canned; we went to a buffet when she was about 5 and she told me the peaches were rotten. I tasted them and laughed…store canned. She’d not had that before!

    • Probably a good idea to get used to using the water in canned foods, unless you want to cut the salt. In a shtf time with water being scarce the liquid in canned goods will be valuable.

      • HomeINsteader says:

        You are absolutely right, george. Which is why, when I home can my own (all veggies and fruits!), I use the same bottled spring water we drink daily; I know it’s clean, and we do not waste it. It’s perfectly good to drink.

        I also can my fruits in fruit juices, rather than water; this gives them a much better flavor and gives you an excellent drink, after you open the jar (if you don’t need it for your recipe!).

        Sweet taters canned in apple juice make fantastic sweet tater pies, casseroles, etc. Try it some time!

  5. Shepherd GIrl says:

    Great article, it made me think more about how I can stretch our meals. Thank you!

  6. Love the article! I like having the opportunity to look into other people’s food preps to get new ideas and build upon my own. Thanks for writing this.

  7. You might also want to try my books, which have recipes and methods for combining bread and soup ingredients for easy storage. Look on Amazon also under my name. Pam Emick.

  8. Encourager says:

    Whew, Denise, and I thought I had lists! I am impressed. Now I don’t feel so bad about all my lists, I too have a list of my lists. Some people just don’t understand!

    One question: in the first recipe, Basic Hamburger Stretcher Skillet, are the instructions in parenthesis a bigger amount? It seems so, but then some stuff hasn’t been expanded.

    Thanks for the encouragement to start converting our standard every day recipes to food storage. You truly do not know how much you have until you do this. You could be in for a big shock WSHTF.

    • Sw't Tater says:

      Exactly, the ( ) contain for a serving for 6,usually.. It is the things that give bulk to the meal for more volume, …
      ..if you think a recipe needs more of every spice feel free to add it, my family can’t eat highly spiced, but we do like the flavors of many spices.
      …It is my suggestion that as you try the recipe, prepare as these, then after it completed…taste!… then add what you think it needs, stir in, serve.See how your family likes it.
      I knew I had hit on a good thing, when DH asked what ‘KIND’ of helper mix it was.:>)

  9. Good article. Lose the Splenda as that stuff is poison to your system. You can grow your own stevia and bring the pot in in the winter time. Speaking of winter you’ll need to add calories to your supplies for working in the cold, especially if you power is down and you’ve got no heat or limited heat. A bunch of folks all in one room will heat it up, but that heat is used body energy that must be replaced.


    • Desert Fox says:

      I agree, Ken. No artificial sweeteners, please! Better to use less of the true cane sugar. The same with butter vs. margarine. The latter is made with secondary cheap unsaturated oils. Butter is better in the long run. Great article for a reminder and re-checking of our own preparedness. Thanks.

      • Sw't Tater says:

        I use olive oil and grape seed oil to replace butter and margarine, and shortening in all recipes.

        • Encourager says:

          Sw’t Tater, are you talking about Crisco type shortening? If so, that stuff is poison! The following quote is from Sally Fallon’s book “Nourishing Traditions” page 14:

          “Hydrogenation is the process that turns polyunsaturates, normally liquid at room temperature, into fats that are solid at room temperature – margarine and shortening. To produce them, manufacturers begin with the cheapest oils – soy, corn, cottonseed, or canola – already rancid from the extraction process, and mix them with tiny metal particles – usually nickel oxide. The oil with its nickel catalyst is then subjected to hydrogen gas in a high-pressure, high-temperature reactor. Next, soap-like emulsifiers and starch are squeezed into the mixture to give it a better consistency; the oil is yet again subjected to high temperatures when it is steam-cleaned. This removes its unpleasant odor. Margarine’s natural color, an unappetizing grey, is removed by bleach. Dyes and strong flavors must then be added to make it resemble butter. Finally, the mixture is compressed and packaged in blocks or tubs and sold…”

          Page 140, sidebar: …”a food technologist told me how he thought the term ‘plastic food’ must have originated…I decided to do a little experiment …I put a cube of margarine, on a saucer and placed the saucer on the window sill…I reasoned that if I made it readily available and if it was real food, insects and microorganisms would invite themselves to the feast. Flies and ants and mold would be all over it just as if it were butter…that cube of margarine became infamous. I left it sitting on the window sill for about two years. Nobody ever saw an insect of any description go near it. Not one speck of mold ever grew on it. All that ever happened was that it kind of half-puddled down from the heat of the sun beating through the windowpane, and it got dusty – very dusty, a cube of margarine doesn’t clean up very well. Finally it got to looking so revolting that I decided to terminate the experiment…’ by Fred Rohe, PPNF Health Journal.”

          I highly, highly recommend this book. And I quit using any margarine/Crisco and similar products immediately after reading about this experiment.

          • Hunker-Down says:

            What do you use?

            • HomeINsteader says:

              Pure coconut oil; I buy it off the shelf in the baking section at China…er…Wal-Mart. But it’s much more expensise. Olive oil as much as possible, but, some things are better with Coconut Oil.

              There is a movement on to get people to use lard again. Yes, Grandma’s lard. But, I’ve tried it, and, frankly, it has a strong flavor that I, personally, don’t care for.

              Sticking with coconut oil and olive oil as much as possible. (But I still use vegetable oil for the RARE occasion when I fry, because I can’t afford to go through that much coconut oil; call me a “health food hussy!”….see if I care!

            • Hunker-Down says:

              Dear “health food hussy”; We bought a big jug of Olive oil but not for the same reason that you would. We will use it after TSHTF as lamp fuel because of the claims that the flame will go out if the contained is knocked over. OK, maybe for cooking to:-)

            • HomeINsteader says:

              It sounds so much funnier when you say it! LOL!

            • I quit using Crisco 30 years ago when I first began reading about trans fats. Trans fats are artificial, and cause injury in the veins. natural fats, even saturated fats are less problematic for your body because they are naturally what your body was created to use.
              Transfats are the cause most of the time when the veins go closed and get clogged and cause heart attacks. the body creates and uses saturated fats all the time. But Crisco isn’t saturated, it’s HYDROGENATED. made solid by passing lots of hydrogen gas through it til it becomes basically rancid. Since learning that Crisco was originally invented to replace coconut oil in cooking and baking because coconut oil wasn’t available during WWII and then was marketed heavily and possibly with deceit in order to recoup the cost of research and development I began replacing Crisco with coconut oil in all my recipes such as cookies.

              if you are worried about wasting coconut oil by using it for deep frying, then don’t. Coconut oil is so much more stable than crisco when heated, that it can be filtered through some cheese cloth and reused much more than Crisco can. and it doesn’t go rancid like Crisco can. I just use it same as fresh coconut oil.

            • Encourager says:

              We use butter for pie crusts, cookies, cakes, etc. We also use olive oil.

          • Sw't Tater says:

            Cl…arifier!I only use olive oil and grape seed oil, but I have some recipes that call for butter, margarine and shortening…. I have found that both these oils work well…DH prefers olive oil, I prefer the grape seed oil… Want to try red palm oil…. the only thing I would buy crisco for is to make a long burning candle!

    • Sw't Tater says:

      I have found Splenda is made from sugar cane, it does not taste like sugar to me..It is a danger to your system the same way refied sugar is.
      .. I can’t use normal amounts of sweetners. I like to eat some things- sometime, that other people eat regularly. Splenda ( generic) allows me to have splurge items.
      I have tried to raise Stevia, but mine did not do well. I have some liquid stevia, I keep it, and use it to make sugar free jellies and syrups-with good results. I do what works for us. It might work for someone else as well.
      Thanks for expressing your opinion, we all have one..:>)

      • “splenda taste like sugar, because it’s made with sugar”. True but bs. Sugar is used in the manufacturing process, but it’s burned off in that process. That’s why it don’t taste like any sugar. It’s totally man made poison. A chlorine based poison. That’s my opinion to your opinion.

        • HomeINsteader says:

          It’s not just an opinion, Ken; it’s science. I have a Neurosurgeon who once said that he is convinced there are many people, adults and children, being treated for neurological disorders, i.e, Alzheimers, Epilepsy, etc., who don’t have those conditions; what they have is a reaction to these chemicals.

          I blacked out at the wheel in rush hour traffic to discover that I’m one of those people. It has a cumulative effect, however, and it took eight (8) months to get it all out of my system.

          If you’re having memory issues, it isn’t necessarily normal, and not necessarily attributable to old age. Having trouble standing for long periods of time? Is your gait off when you walk? Have you been diagnosed with Vertigo, or anything like it? If you’re consuming artificial sweeteners under ANY NAME (and there are hundreds) STOP IMMEDIATELY. Give your body time to recover, and your “medical problem” may just disappear!

          Stevia in the Raw is acceptable, as far as we know, as a replacement, but it must be “in the Raw”. TruVia and PurVia are both Stevia, but are processed with ethanol. Just say, “no!”. And, as you pointed out, it is easy to grow stevia – it’s just a plant; dry the leaves and use to your heart’s content!

      • HomeINsteader says:

        As I understand it, what’s used in Splenda is not actually sugar, but what remains of the stalks after sugar cane is processed; these are ground up and used as “filler” for the neurotoxic chemical that gives “Splenda” its sweetness; all artificial sweeteners require a “filler” to make usable in a powdered form.

    • HomeINsteader says:

      We’re always reluctant to make comments that might be construed as “negative” when someone has worked so hard in an effort to provide useful information. But, I have to agree – LOSE ALL ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS. They are proven neuro-toxins, they will kill brain cells, just as Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) does the same thing.

      Also, reading through these “recipes”, I’m sorry to be a party poop, y’all, but, this IS NOT healthy eating. When SHTF, it will be very important to eat as healthy as possible in order to avoid aggravating existing medical problems, or creating new ones. You can eat well and eat cheaply, just by making wise choices in your planning and stores.

      Cheese “sauce”/velveeta is not cheese; in fact, while you will find it in the “refrigerated section” (because people expect to find it there) you will also find it on the shelf – no refrigeration required; that should be all you need to know. Mostly oil and salt. Use long-term storage cheese powders, instead, and, if you need to mix them with milk, use long-term storage powdered milk, mix and blend with cheese powder; adjust liquid in recipe for milk. ALL cheese has high sodium content, including powdered, so, take that into account. But powdered cheese is not OIL, as is Velveeta, cheese “sauce”, etc.

      Why “oil-packed” tuna? Why not water packed to save calories? Water also leaches out more mineral elements, such as mercury, and tuna is known for high mercury content, regardless of origin.

      Chicken Bouillon powder is almost entirely salt, which is the only reason it is shelf-stable, and probably a lot of artificial flavor and color. Why not just use chicken broth and cook it down in our recipes? In other words, “reduce” the broth by cooking in an open pan until much of the liquid dissipates and it becomes thicker. REAL chicken, real chicken flavor, no chemicals, artificial colors, flavors, etc. Or don’t reduce it, but use a thickening agent and make a “sauce” of the real chicken broth?

      Commercially canned veggies very often contain tons of salt, and, sometimes, artificial neurotoxic chemical sweeteners (and Splenda is no different). Why? Because Americans have a sweet tooth; for large volume producers, artificial sweeteners are cheap, and producers can throw a little neurotoxic chemical in a can of inferior quality product, and Americans will like it! That means it will sell. That means profit. That’s why. Read labels carefully, Or, better still, home can your own veggies, purchased from your local farmer, farmer’s market, or even grocery store, by the case, seasonally for best price.

      My personal favorite sweetener is RAW, unfiltered honey – but it needs to be from your own locale, to take advantage of all the good things those busy little bees gathered, which will help you build immunities against the pollens “in your neck of the woods”.

      I sincerely hope I have not rained on everyone’s parade, but I must speak up – WE ARE WHAT WE EAT, after all, and when SHTF, we can’t afford to be sick(er). I’m genuinely sorry if this upsets anyone.

      • Encourager says:

        Homeinsteader, I have to agree with you. I read the recipes but mentally noted, “How can I alter this recipe to use natural ingredients?” I know that cooking with artificial ingredients is normal for many, many people. It was how they were raised, and conditioned by advertising. Good grief, many companies such as Kraft, have their own websites for putting out recipes using their artificial ingredients. It is very easy to go to those sites when we are in a hurry, or are tired of cooking from scratch.

        We went shopping after a very tiring day, both physically and emotionally, and bought a frozen meal from the freezer section which we heated up that evening. Within an hour had a headache and was all stuffed up. I know better, but gave in to exhaustion and bought it anyway.

        Cooking truly from scratch is hard, hard work. Made French Onion Soup, but first had to roast meaty bones, peel veggies and then cook it all for broth. That was a 24 hour process before the broth was cooled enough to use after being cooked, strained, cooled, put in fridge; next day lift off the fat and reduce the broth some; saute the onions, add broth, put in crocks and bake. Whew. But it tasted wonderful. If I had to do that with every meal, ugg. So I buy organic as much as possible and read labels constantly.

        • HomeINsteader says:

          Hey, Encourager! Good to hear from you.

          Did you can some of that French Onion soup? You know you can – can it! : ) Then, as you know, when you want French Onion Soup again, pop a jar, heat it up, throw in some french bread and to it with your cheese of choice. Yummy!

          • Encourager says:

            Hey my Homie!! No, I did not can it because I made just enough for two crocks…it went into the oven and came out dripping cheese. And it was YUM!! I know I can can it but I had other uses for the leftover broth…like beef stroganauf (sp?) tonight!

        • Sw't Tater says:

          HOme insteader, Encourager …Any others interested,
          Just to briefly address concerns.
          ….If you are able to obtain all your food organic, you are blessed, Organic is not available in our area., unless it’s in season.My garden did not do well last year, will try again. I want to CAn some stuff this coming year, and will continue dehydration too.
          This is not a perfect world, I choose what’s available , affordable, my family likes.
          … My lists, are that, My lists.. they are not all inclusive, nor exclusive. if you don’t want to use an item, that is YOUR choice. We have a choice in the food we each choose for our families..I may not be able to tolerate an item you would choose…and vice-versa.
          Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater! The point for you to take is take the basic ingredients YOU have , and be able to prepare meals your family will eat. To alter those ingredients for variety. If, you choose to alter , a recipes for your use, you gained an idea.
          Thank you for the point on health. is well taken..and very valid! ..This works for us. HIS blood work looks good, so we’ll be ok when shtf happens. We now know, how we react to items we use. We had problems with use olive and grape seed oils, due to HDL / LDL counts and imbalances.
          Three recipes does not a menu make!
          Variety is the spice of life.
          NO, I do NOT use shortening or Lard. I use Olive and Grape Seed Oil in PLACE of ( substituted for) all butter, margarines and shortenings in ALL recipeS.
          ..I DID NOT post a POLL.. I have poor tolerance of ALL sweetners. This includes fruit, fruit juices, honey and sugar. (Some- times, I eat a banana, or a couple sections of an orange.) I use Stevia liquid, for my jellies and syrups. It works well, when I use it to sweeten .(2 gtts.) coffee, tea…etc. it is bitter…Splenda , MY gut accepts. I’m an odd-ball! My family is not this way. I stock and use sugar & raw honey for them.
          I use my broths when I have them, ..I keep bouillon , in three flavors,for a back–UP ( REmember the rule of 3!.), just like I do many items, including some of the ones you have attacked, as unhealthy. Tuna and shelf stable cheese, are proteins my family will eat, and will give variety to the beans, pasta, gravy, biscuits and rice..
          Water packed tuna tastes like cardboard. I have to be able to eat a food, for it to assimilate. Oil packed?We probably eat it once,every 2 – 3 weeks..
          Commercially canned foods are available,..I do buy some frozen, but mostly canned.. always trying for variety and shelf stability.
          I have started cutting certain foods out of our diet…some I have found no acceptable substitute-both available and affordable.
          I tried to include some other foods, and none of us liked them. My lists are ever a work in progress, as I learn and we try different foods, and storing methods.
          I still have several items to try to add more proteins ( veggie based,) but we don’t eat fake meat. I have to limit nuts including soy.

          • Encourager says:

            I feel bad that you thought I was criticizing you, Sw’t Tater. I wasn’t but it came across as if I was. I just wanted to point out the dangers of artificial sweeteners and hydrogenated fats.

            Please accept my apology.

            I did learn a lot from your article and needed that kick in the toosh to get off my butt and make up a menu plan for when SHTF – it has been #1 on my to-do list for three years and I get overwhelmed just thinking of it, so haven’t done it. Time to just DO IT!

            • Sw't Tater says:

              Apology accepted. I thought what you wrote was unfair because.. I clearly wrote I had replaced butter, margarine and shortening, with healthy oils.I do limit even splenda-I am concerned, I will become intolerant to it.
              I know when I write that anything I do will be critiqued…it goes with writing.
              I have basics, but needed some things that could be cheaply stored, without a tight rotation schedule. Using a variety of products both things we use often and items used infrequently, I have found a way to build a large number of meals, cheaply. As long as I have set amounts of basics, I don’t have to worry about the exact menu. Just rotate our meats for the variety. Someone suggested canned gravies, a few weeks ago. I have added mixes , of spices, seasonings, and gravy,to storage because of space limitations, My goal is to eliminate all those.
              By buying multiples of those stretcher items,you have the ability to quickly build a supply of foods your family will eat.
              Our economy is not getting better. This site exists to help us learn ways to provide for our family on the cheap.
              I am reluctant to condemn all of any product,because each person/family has different needs and priorities.Try this, cutting All fruits, fruit juices, honey, and sugar from your diet… for 7 days. See how it works for you…then you will be able to understand, how boring a diet plan becomes.Some people don’t get to return to even “natural sweetners”

  10. Thank you Denise, I needed this for my recipes note book. Very good advice since we never know how many may show-up at meal time:>D.

  11. ladyhawthorne says:

    Excellent article, thanks for sharing!

  12. Denise,

    This is a good article. You made a number of important points–the most important, IMO, is that the food storage calculators only represent the minimum amount of food necessary to keep a person alive and not the amount needed to feel full.

    I grew up cooking for six, and we didn’t have a lot of money so we stretched whenever we could. We ate a lot of rice and pasta. I have switched us over to eating oatmeal for breakfast most mornings–dh’s doctor said he needed more fiber. That has saved a lot of money.

    Thanks for taking the time to write this up.

    • Sw't Tater says:

      Bam Bam,
      Try making the oatmeal with one of those tow oils listed above, My hubby had trouble with all his fat balance- in the blood, until I started using those.after two months – doing that and cutting his sugars in half, re-balanced his cholestrols, including triglycerides.He also needed the fiber.We eat Oatmeal 5 or 6 days of the week.

      • I always make our oatmeal extra thick and what isn’t eaten at breakfast has a bit of honey, berries and nuts added. That mix is put in a parchment lined loaf pan and left in the fridge to set up. Then I slice it and either dust it with flour and dry fry it or put the slices in the oven to bake (depends on whether it’s summer or winter). Makes good snacks if I’m out clearing brush, working in the woods or what ever.

      • I'm A Prep Kat says:

        I make our outmeal from whole oat groats in the crock pot. 1 cup of groats to 3 cups of water, and a pinch of salt. Set up a double boiler arrangement in your crock and cook in on low all night. Breakfast is ready when you get up.

        • HomeINsteader says:

          Oh, thank you, Prep Kat! Need to use some oat groats I’ve stored and hadn’t thought of this! Woo-hoo!

  13. Tactical G-Ma says:

    Denise H,
    Good article. I can remember getting very creative when not enough to go around.
    Thanks for the reminder.

  14. Ozark Flower Lady says:

    Excellent article. I will be switching from Spenda to stevia this summer. Remember to take plants inside as soon as night temperature drops to 45 degrees. It will grow in a sunny window sill all winter. Keep cut back so it will branch out more. My pantry looks much the same but without the meat as I am a Vegan for health reasons. Persons with certain chronic diseases do not fare well when meds are not available. I have reduced the need for meds drastically. This coming year, I will begin preparing for meat needing extended family.

  15. Hey thanks for the great article and the recipes. More data for my big binder!

  16. How are you storing the meat’s, Canning? I do like your list. and am about to start my own totes filled with surival supplies and food.. Very helpful….

    • Sw't Tater says:

      Primarily the freezer, right now, but have made some jerky, and dehydrated some. I use oil based tuna. It is My choice, because I like the flavor.The water packed tuna doesn’t taste good to me. I have begun to add more canned meats, … we don’t eat any canned meats some weeks.When we don’t have many meats on the shelf, we will need the fats in that tuna.
      I have other reasons, for many of the items on my lists… one of the main ones is to give variety. . to beans ,rice and oatmeal!
      The next main consideration was looking for foods that will store well…and each cheese sauce,from a can,cheese sauce (bought as a dip-and shelf stable) can be used for several meals,…for us….adds protein to a low meat meal. My family need high protein, lower carb meals- some of us have several intolerances. Even tho we like beans , we don’t tolerate them well. My lists are a reflection of trying to give variety-to an already limited diet. I save my broths and make bone broth, but there are times I need the salt and the salt substitute to stop muscle cramps. A large jar of Chicken bullion usually lasts me two years.

  17. I love your article. I used to add extra macaroni to the old “helpers” when I was a young mother. I was always able to feed five or six healthy appetites with one box and way less salt that way. Now days I have diabetes and am way obese so on a low carb diet.

    I appreciate that you’ve made me think though, about how to judge if I have enough, and how to store it and inventory it all so I can feed extended family that all have excuses not to store anything “just in case”. Daughters and grandkids. I’m going to print this off and read it over a few times to get all the good from it. thanks, Kitty

    • Sw't Tater says:

      My lists were not made for anyone but me..nor are they complete!.. they are specific for my family, our likes and intolerances..
      Great! …Someone got the point, take the foods you eat, sometimes.. .and get those “base” ingredients , so you will have food security, for the length of time you choose. That was the reason I shared my method. The methods I used can be used with any “style”..of meal you like, whether it is a veggie stir fry…or a hamburger skillet meal.. or a stew made from beef jerky. It is only limited by your imagination. If I have to feed 3 or 4 extra people for 6 months- I will need every lb. of pasta , can of tuna, pack of cheese spread, cheese sauce- I can put back. … each of those will give a welcome change from beans, rice oatmeal, gravy ,biscuits and cornmeal mush.
      I know your pain. I was there one time. I Had a radical surgery. It worked for me and I am 18 years post -op. If you can do it without surgery, that is the way to do it! I had dietary intolerances before, the surgery did make those worse, but I have been able to find some natural herbs that has helped offset the complications of the surgery I had.
      ….There are many foods, I don’t tolerate at all, but my husband likes.I have been trying to make sure those things are available…
      ..he gets food fatigue really easily….Me, not so much..I will make a pot of soup and eat it til it’s gone..then make a different one. it the same way. My prescription diet is 90 grams protein and 40-50 grams carbs..but I can’t eat those amounts continually.
      For a rotation…. I will make one entre – enough for three meals, and another one-enough for two meals and another one for two meals…then rotate them so that no meal is used back to back, except if I choose, for me. That way I don’t have to spend a lot of time in the kitchen.
      … We have high protein pancakes for supper once or twice a week,and I eat mine without anything , usually…but sometimes, sugar free jelly. I have some Stevia liquid I use to make my own..with the sugar free pectin.
      .. He gets regular labs and all is normal now, but When we used corn oil and peanut oil for about 4 weeks last spring, it threw all his fats off,,, So please, do note , and use healthy oils, because they balance your triglycerides,HDL and LDL.
      .. B vitamins reduce cravings.

  18. oops, I almost forgot. a good point for everybody is, make a rotation. say, Sunday is Chicken night, Monday is sausage, Tuesday is tacos (any meat desired or leftover meat), Wedensday is burgers, or beef, Thursday is Pork, Friday is fish, Saturday is leftovers.

    Make up your own rotation and you’ll have a basic plan for dinner. then all you have to do is decide how you want to prepare it, or what ethnic bent to give it and choose a veg and starch.

    Hope this helps you all. it helps me a lot.

  19. MountainSurvivor says:

    Good way to handle things, Denise H. Barbecue sauces and canned sloppy joe sauce are necessary around my home because they break up times when nothing sounds good or time’s a wasting.

  20. This article was very helpful. I need ideas for how to stretch the food stores economically. Loved the article and loved the comments too. They are all so helpful.

  21. Thanks Denise. Wow, the Master of Lists.I envy you so. I have a ton of them, but can’t find them or remember why I made them!
    This is a great way to manage and make meals from food stores. I love how you figured out how much you use, right down to the spices.

    • Sw't Tater says:

      Exactly why I ended up with just make the main part of a meal.
      …..and only 3 shopping lists. immediate, monthly and quarterly.
      If we don’t use an item in a month that item rolls over into storage. So the amounts on some monthly lists is larger than I use most months, for that purpose. 2 or three months I buy minimally.

  22. Our family just does not like the canned meats you can buy locally. Ham maybe, if I add it to bean soup, but tuna, sardines, tripe as you mentioned in your article… no thanks! I have found that sells really good tasting freeze dried chicken, beef and ground beef (NO pink slime!). We have stored a years supply of these items. Since they have a long shelf life (25 Years) we can enjoy fresh meat now and eat the freeze dried should the need arise.

  23. Can your own meats in a pressure canner. Even the cheapest cuts come out tender. For one 12oz can of store bought you can make a whole quart of home packed. The left over juice is great for soup base if your not using that meat in a soup. Pressure canning is really easy, it just takes time to process. Cut the meat into strips or cubes. Brown lightly. Place in jars. Add hot water with I tsp of salt, optional. Can at 10 pounds for 90 min, adjust for altitude if needed. Browning and hot water is optional too. It’s called raw pack and works just fine.

  24. Great stretchers.
    For stretching salads in rationed food I would go out side and find wild grape tendrals for tart flavor, Lambs quarters leaves and seeds, wild pea blossoms,wild rose petals, wild grass seed and small fried puffball mushrooms for my salads. It sure fills a bowl over the brim and delicious and more nutritious than regular garden grown additives. I used a half bottle of buttermilk ranch, a few dashes of olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic to stretch dressing. I served a huge bowl at a wild game feed when I came short of lettuce from my garden and it was the first bowl of food to empty.

    They asked about the rose petals, neatly decorating the top of the salad like a bouquet, with a spray of wild pea blossoms.

    Sometimes your store is right outside, if not in pastures or woods, some can be found in empty lots and roadsides as well as garden weeds you may discard without thinking. Since I cook for one (me) I can be short sighted on food supplies for many, and it fits my budget to feed 35 people a fresh wild salad for about $1.

    • Donna,

      I’m with you. Not ony have I learned about the ‘weeds’ around my home that go great in almost everything, but I’m teaching my grandchildred as well. Additionally, most of them have medicinal properties as well – two for one. Someone once told the the Chinese word for food and medicine are the same word.

  25. Sw't Tater says:

    I eat the dandelion greens, I tried purslane this year for the first time. and have eaten upland cress and what we called sheep-shires..since I was small.I am still learning in the wild plants dept. DH is very good at finding the different plants.

  26. These are some great ideas to stretch my food storage. Thanks for your input. Being creative is the best way to eat through your food storage.

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