After the grocery stores have been stormed and their aisles emptied of Hungry Man TV dinners and beer, your post-apocalyptic grocery cart will be as barren as the flame-charred landscape. That is, unless you're prepared.
As any prepper worth his or her dried beans will tell you, it's imperative to have a supply of well preserved food at your disposal when the current world order comes crumbling down around your Don't Tread on Me novelty socks.
How much food should you have stored?
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's ready.gov, they recommend people "store at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food," including "canned foods, dry mixes and other staples that do not require refrigeration, cooking, water or special preparation."
But The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recommends hoarding a larger load--at least a three-month food supply, supplemented by longer-term supply items like grains and beans that have low moisture content. It recommends storing 25 pounds of wheat, white rice, corn and other grains per adult per month, along with 5 pounds of dried beans.
What food preservation methods are best?
In times of turmoil, when zombies are picking bits of fresh brain from their yellowed teeth outside your barred basement window, many survivalists suggest having a stock of hassle-free, comforting foods on hand.
The most common, ready-to-eat items that line bunker pantry shelves are canned foods--everything from corn and green beans to SpaghettiO's and Dinty Moore beef stew. In addition to filling your gut, canned veggies also have the added benefit of coming packed in water--a hot commodity when your taps sputter dry. Just be sure to snag the low-sodium varieties so that refreshing glass of bean water doesn't make you more parched.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service, canned meat and poultry are shelf stable in the pantry for two to five years after purchase, while the National Center for Home Food Preservation notes that home-canned goods that are "stored in a cool, dry place will retain optimum eating quality for at least one year."
Prepper websites recommend stocking up on canned goods that you regularly consume so you can rotate through your supply while patiently waiting for the rise of the robots.
For those who prefer their final meals in freeze-dried form, a number of companies manufacture light-weight emergency preparedness kits. Mountain House makes a 72-hour kit for one adult that comes with things like granola, scrambled eggs, beef stroganoff and chicken teriyaki for $50.60. Wise Food Storage, on the other hand, offers a one-year supply that feeds four adults, or two adults and four children, three meals a day for $6,650. Wise Food meals come in pouches stored in stackable plastic tubs and include entrees like creamy pasta and vegetable rotini, cheesy lasagna and hearty tortilla soup. Just dump the powdery dust into a few cups of boiling water and voila, instant food-flavored mush. An instructional video at wisefoodstorage.com notes that the empty tubs can also "serve several other purposes, such as digging, carrying of water or disposing of waste."
Most prepper pantries are also piled high with mounds of dried foods like grains and beans. Though beans require a bit of planning--it's recommended that you soak them in three times their volume of cold water for six hours before cooking--they are a much cheaper alternative. Grains like wheat berries, couscous and rice are also good to have on hand, but don't forget to stash a sturdy hand-grinder in your bunker if you plan to make flour.
What about fresh veggies?
After a month of forking down mushy beans and cold Chef Boyardee ravioli from a can, you'll probably be ready for a fresh salad. But if the world outside your bunker went up in a fiery ball of radiation, you'll be SOL in the garden department. While you could potentially run grow lights off a generator, that might not be the best use of your limited power supply. Enter: seed sprouting, which doesn't require sunlight.
According to survivetheapocalypse.net, "If you can rinse your mini crop twice daily, and the temperature is human habitable, you can have fresh, nutrient-dense sprouts in as little as three to five days."
You can grow mung, lentil, barley, pea, garbanzo and tons of other sprouts, using only a hemp cloth bag. Simply fill the bag half full with seeds and rinse with cool water for approximately 30 seconds then close the drawstring and hang the bag to drain.
"Most seeds will only need to be rinsed twice daily, but depending on the temperature, the weave of the hemp bag used, and the environmental humidity of your area, you may have to rinse more," writes survivetheapocalypse.net.
Once the sprouts are 1-inch or so long, you can start eating them.
If you have access to a window, but can't leave your house due to the roving gangs of shit-talking bears wearing jetpacks, there is another option for fresh veggies: window gardens.
According to an article on npr.org: "The simplest window farm system is a column of upside-down water bottles connected to one another. Plants grow out of holes cut into the sides. An air pump is used to circulate liquid nutrients that trickle down from the top of the column and make their way to the plant roots."
Window farms can grow things like strawberries, cherry tomatoes, herbs, lettuces and peppers, but not root vegetables like carrots.
What nutrients do you need to survive?
So, now that you have a stockpile of grub crammed in your basement--and a secret stash hidden under the floorboards just in case your bunker is pillaged by unprepped pirates--here are a few food-related ailments to look out for:
Scurvy: As seafaring rascals of yore will warn you, scurvy comes from a vitamin C deficiency. Symptoms include lethargy, depression, spot formation on the skin, gum disease, jaundice, fever, neuropathy and, ultimately, death. Vitamin C can be found in citrus fruits, tomatoes, potatoes, strawberries and broccoli.
Osteomalacia/rickets: A calcium or vitamin D deficiency can cause osteomalacia in adults and rickets in children. Calcium helps build strong bones and vitamin D helps to absorb calcium. Rickets causes bowed legs, while osteomalacia causes softened bones. Calcium is abundant in dairy products, dark green veggies, seeds, nuts and soy. Vitamin D can be found in fortified milk and fish liver oils or synthesized from the sun.
Anemia: Anemia is caused by iron deficiency, which decreases the amount of red blood cells that provide oxygen to body tissues. Anemia leads to weakness, tiredness, pallor, shortness of breath and jaundice. Iron can be readily found in meat, seafood, dark greens, broccoli, eggs, enriched flour products and dried beans.
Beriberi: Beriberi is caused by a thiamine, or vitamin B1 deficiency. Wet beriberi affects the cardiovascular system, whereas dry beriberi affects the nervous system. Symptoms include severe lethargy and fatigue, along with cardiovascular, nervous, muscular and gastrointestinal complications. Thiamine can be found in yeast, pork, dried beans, oatmeal, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, brown rice and whole grain rye.
Pellagra: Pellagra is caused by a niacin, or vitamin B3 deficiency. Symptoms include diarrhea, dermatitis and dementia. Niacin can be readily found in chicken, halibut, beef and shitake mushrooms.