The Prepared Mind Forums Food DIY SHTF Meals

This topic contains 12 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  TN Homesteader 1 year, 7 months ago.

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    TN Homesteader

    If you have a large family, it can be quite costly to prepare using commercially available “emergency” food. Even if it is just a couple of people, 3 meals per day or the necessary calories and nutrients can quickly add up. Oh sure, one can save and buy a little at a time but how much time do we have?
    So, are there other options? Well, yes there are. So, share what you may have done in the realm of DIY meals even if it is using commercial ingredients.


    TN Homesteader

    Meal Preparation Utensils
    Whether you are bugging in or out, meal preparation is a consideration that is very much commensurate with the meal components. In the nonSHTF kitchen, i.e., “normal life”, we use all kinds of utensils to prepare meals. Why not? We have pots, pans, stoves, ovens, microwaves and for cleanup dishwashers, sinks, running water, and other amenities to make our lives simpler. However, during SHTF, some or none of these may be available depending on your level of preparedness or your plan for handling SHTF, i.e., stay put or “get’in the heck out of Dodge“.

    You will note that aside from MREs, commercially available “emergency food” has three basic requirements, cooking container, water, and heat. For the Meal Preparation focus area, we will forego the water and container components as we shall assume you have those, be it in your location or BOB. Heat (a.k.a. cooking) will be our focus. However, if you need help or input relating to Water or Containers, check out Forum topics like Water and Bug in/out. As with all aspects of preparedness, we will look at this topic with a mindset of “2 is 1, 1 is none”.

    Open Flame
    Open flame, i.e., fire is the oldest from of cooking known to man. For bugging in, we can certainly start a fire but unless you have a colonial kitchen, not very effective or safe. In a bugging out scenario and unless you have your own fuel, you will need to harvest wood. Whether in/or out, you need to be aware that an open flame produces smoke potentially exposing your location.
    Rocket Stove – this is a great option for vehicle based bug out scenario. There are many options including DIY versions (search YouTube). I would generally not recommend a Rocket Stove for your BOB but there are some compact and light weight enough for that. Just remember, the convenience comes with a price tag so consider your SHTF plan. These stoves use concentrated heat, like a blacksmith’s forge, so produce very little if any smoke.
    Camping/Backpacking Stoves – there are a myriad of products available in the market place. If your plan is to bug out and have potential of being outdoors before reaching your “to” location, consider having a light weight item and don’t forget the fuel. If you are using a vehicle, many more options but do consider having a backup in your BOB. Although smoke will not be issue, do remember that perps and other unwanted intruders will follow their nose.
    Portable Stove – this can be for bugging out when a vehicle is involved but we’ll address this under assumption of “bugging in”. Of course, there are many options here as well, from single burner to fuels (propane, butane, alcohol, etc.). Whether your bug in location has SHTF power or fuel, do consider having a backup stove (2=1,1=0). The portable stove is also a great addition to the following tool in the preparedness kit.

    Solar Oven
    If you can afford to purchase, it is a great component of your preps. Yes, the commercially available ovens are not cheap, however, there are multiple videos (YouTube) on making your own. Some are portable but I would qualify them as vehicle based bug out scenario. For bug in, the solar oven is a great backup for your SHTF powered oven or as the primary should you not have “fuel”. Example, kitchen oven is electric with LPG generator power, but conditions may not allow use of generator or you have no power at all. Of course, on days were sunlight is insufficient or at night, the oven is less valuable so as with other things, what is your backup based on your SHTF plan, i.e., 2=1,1=0. The Solar Oven does have four main advantages, free fuel, no smoke, no smell (as it cooks in a sealed chamber), and multiple ways to “Cook” (bake, roast, dehydrate, and sterilize water).


    TN Homesteader

    What is a Meal?
    Let’s begin by focusing on the key word “meal”. Of course a “meal” can be a cup of rice and if that is all you have. If that is so, you might want to look at your prepping approach! ? For the purpose of our discussion, a meal will mean multiple components each may have multiple ingredients, example;

    Meal = Cuban Black Beans and Rice

    • Component-1 = Beans
      • Ingredients are:
      • Black Beans
      • Onions
      • Bell Peppers
      • Tomatoes
      • Spices
    • Component-2 = Rice
      • White Rice
      • Butter or Margerine

    Meal Packaging
    Before we begin packaging, one must ask “What am I packing for?” By this I mean intended shelf life before you consume or “left on shelf” before it would be considered expired. Food products be it protein or not, oxidizes and or spoils when exposed to air. Oxidation can be as simple as change in color or becomes stale. Of Course, spoiled food is a harbinger of all kinds of problems. So, the more opportunity for exposure to air, the shorter the shelf live. There is another consideration for packaging, the ingredients and their cooking and/or flavors. Example, anything packaged with garlic will inherit the smell and flavor of garlic.

    Individualized Packaging – Here is where we break out the trusty “Vacuum Sealer”. The most commonly know is the Food Saver but which ever you have acquired for your preparations will do. Although you can individually package each item, efficiency cost guides us to maximize. Using the earlier “Cuban Black Beans”, consider the bell peppers and the onions, you can put them in a single “vacc’ed” bag separate from spices thus keeping the flavors separated. If animal protein is an ingredient or component of the meal, this must be vacc’ed individually to prevent contamination issues.

    Measurement – consider the quantity of component (or ingredient thereof) when individually packaging. Measure (to your liking) the quantities so that you have the proper proportions to cook a meal for 1 or 2 depending on your approach. A single meal is more flexible as you can put two of the same together for cooking. If you wish to optimize the packaging and you know there will be two eating, that may be how you measure out for individualized packaging.

    Organizing the Meal – continuing with the “Cuban Black Beans and Rice” meal, you now have the individual items packaged, effectively, an equal number “like” vacc’ed sacks of beans, peppers, rice, etc. Here you have the next option for packaging and where the shelf life really comes in. If you are planning to play it safe and go for the long haul combine equal number of the items into a Mylar bag, add an Oxygen Absorbent, squeeze out as much air as possible, and seal the Mylar bag. You now have a package meal (in this example a complete protein in the Beans and Rice) ready for preparation/cooking.

    We will cover the cooking under individual recipe comments which will also include preparation of ingredients for quick simmer and serve offerings.

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 9 months ago by  TN Homesteader. Reason: Enhance formatting to remove extra blank "rows"
    • This reply was modified 1 year, 9 months ago by  TN Homesteader. Reason: Typo correction

    TN Homesteader

    Cuban Black Beans and Rice
    Taste of Home - Cuban Black Beans and Rice

    Since we used this meal for “Meal Packaging”, I’ll continue the story line with a recipe that I obtained from Taste Of Home. I have prepared this very dish in 3 ways, as a side to Grilled Pork Chop dinner, pressure canned, and SHTF Packaged. The dinner approach followed the recipe as is. The canned version cooked the ingredients within the can during the 30 minute canning cycle and good for at least a year. For our purposes, we will focus on the SHTF Packaged version which is good for up to 7+ years; however, do give the others a try, it is yummy.

    Instead of repeating ingredient list, as you can print recipe from the Taste of Home site, I’ll identify specific items where preparation or alteration in necessary, like substitution for wet ingredient. Although the goal is to create a meal that can be quickly prepared, the SHTF Packaged version does take some time to get ingredients ready so be patient. Elbow grease saves the wallet.

    Beans – if you are using canned beans, drain, since and continue to dehydration step. You can certainly use Freeze Dried version and if so, go to dehydration step. If you opt to use “raw” beans; soak overnight, drain and rinse. In a commensurate sized pot, place beans and cover with water. Cook beans until almost done, should be “al dente” versus the typical soft, ready to eat. Drain, rinse, remove bad beans or husks and continue to dehydration step.

    Bell Peppers – as you see, the recipe calls for green (bell) peppers. Here, I used a combination of green, yellow, orange, and red bell peppers. I did this as I had some and thought would make the dish more colorful. When you chop the peppers, keep them to about 1/2 squares as they will shrink when dehydrated. Of course, freeze dried are perfectly fine to use.

    Onion and garlic – you can certainly chop and dehydrate your own. However, I chose to use commercially dehydrated onions as they are very inexpensive. For the garlic, same thing, commercially available granulated garlic is inexpensive and saves preparation time.

    Tomato – for this ingredient, I used mix of tomato sauce and paste to create the puree. You can certainly do your own approach including used of Tomato Bullion/Consume and freeze dried tomatoes. I personally like including Tomato bits so also included some diced Tomatoes. For the bullion, I use Knorr’s brand as it also contains some chicken within the tomato mix.

    Chicken Broth – as it is wet item, obviously not something we should be packaging. Of course, you can use canned at time of cooking but that would rather defeat the goal. So, here I substituted with Chicken Bullion and as they tend to have ample salt, I skipped the required salt. One can always add to taste later if not enough. I found Knorr’s to be a very good brand and can get in bulk powder.

    Rice – cook the rice as you would for immediate consumption. I recommend using regular (not instant) long grain rice.

    Dehydrate – if you do not have a dehydrator, you can used your oven set at ~130 degrees. Check often to ensure you do not burn items and remove when dry to touch. They should be brittle or hard where squeezing does not give. The preferred method is a dedicated dehydrator or home freeze drier (if you are so fortunate to have!). When using dehydrator, make sure you place items on screen or parchment paper. The rice and beans, in particular, will flair and crack as they dry and small bits will fall through if using a larger hole grate. I used parchment paper for peppers and plastic window screen cut to size of tray for the beans and rice, however parchment paper is perfectly acceptable. The Tomato Puree will take the longest and you need to use a “fruit leather” tray or whatever us use for high moisture content dehydration. The resulting Tomato “sheet” should be brittle and snap when folded. It will not get “powder” dry but does not have to.

    Packaging – refer to Meal Packaging post for further details.
    Meal Components – Vacuum seal beans, rice, and peppers with onions in separate bags; you should end up with 3 bags. The amount in each bag should be commensurate to planned number of servings to be cooked as a single task. In a separate vacuum bag, include the Tomato if DIY dehydrated. If using bullion/consume, then can be bagged along with garlic and other “condiments”.

    Meal – Place a bag of each meal component/ingredient into a Mylar bag along with an Oxygen Absorbent sack. Seal the bag and presto, you have a “meal in the bag” ready to cook.

    Cooking – Here is where the preparation effort pays off, yes a gratuitous redundancy to prepping! I’ll use the Solar Oven method but you will easily translate to fire/burner pot approach. Since all items are moisture free, you will need good, clean water, distilled works great since some people find it a bit odd flavor and the meal ingredients will overpower. The volume of water will depend on the number of servings but keep in mind that you are looking to reconstitute, not make a soup. You will need two containers, one for the beans and one for the rice if you wish to keep them separate. I prefer it that way so that one can mix while eating and tends to be a bit more traditional, i.e., beans over the rice. However, if you are limited in time or utensils, mixing is not an issue but rice should go in last.

    Prepare your Solar Oven to ensure you have a warm interior, between 300 and 325 degrees.

    Beans Pot – condiments and tomato in pot with sufficient water to dilute tomato. Water does not have to be hot but will expedite dilution if not cold. Add water, beans, and vegies, cover and bring to boil. Once comes to a boil, remove from oven and let stand. Check consistency and add water so that is a rue like mix (see photo in recipe). At this point, not necessary to bring back to boil unless temperature was greatly reduced with additional water.

    Rice Pot – this one is easy, put rice in pot, and water and let it heat up. Remember, the rice is cooked so all you are doing is reconstituting. If you are mixing with beans, make sure to add additional water to the beans so that rice has enough to reconstitute.

    ENJOY! This is a complete and tasty protein so you do not have to include animal protein. However, if you wish to make into a more substantial meal, add dehydrated/freeze dried ground beef, pork, or chicken . These should be added when bean pot before comes to boil. Be mindful of the water you will need if adding these ingredients.



    Beans in a hole;




    Smokin’ Ribs & Brisket;
    (With a stick smoker.)



    Our wood fired oven is nominally a “Pizza” oven. So from time to time we make pizza using many home made components; whole wheat hand ground flower, homemade sauce from garden grown tomatoes, peppers from the garden, basil from the greenhouse, etc.


    TN Homesteader

    Inexpensive Meals

    • When growing up, did mom prepare skillet meals?
    • Do you enjoy skillet meals?
    • Do you want to prepare/have SHTF meals but it is a costly (to your budget) proposition?

    How would you like to prepare an SHTF 7+ year shelf life meal for approximately $5?
    Peaked your interest? Ok, here’s how.

    At Walmart or your favorite grocery store, you will find Hamburger Helper and Chicken Helper. There are a variety of meal types and all they usually take is a pound of ground beef or chopped chicken. You can also find similar and usually less cost if you opt for the store brand.

    For our SHTF stores and shelf life, you want to use fairly lean beef, no more than 20% fat and my preference is as low as you are willing to pay since the lower the fat, the higher the price per pound. However, do remember that fat largely becomes water and “grease” you end up putting into a can and throwing away, thus, you may be paining more than lean(er) meat. Of course, for hamburgers, that is another story as you want the fat for flavor… but we ain’t preparing burgers.

    • Cook the beef until evenly and medium to well done. Intent here is to render as much fat as possible. So, depending on the ground beef you used, how done depends how lean.
    • Drain all liquid and fat so that cooked beef is as dry as possible
    • Dehydrate in oven or dedicated dehydrator until you end up with “beef pebbles”, basically when pressing a crumble, it should not be springy/spongy.

    Use white meat as it is naturally lower in fat. You can use thigh meat if you remove all the extra fat. Of course, skin and bones are completely removed.

    • Boil Chicken until cooked. Here you have option of adding vegetables, garlic, and other condiments for flavor the Chicken. Depending on the meal you are preparing, it may not be necessary. Of course, if you plan ahead, you can prepare chicken for general, non-meal, availability. You can also grill the Chicken and again, consider the meal you are preparing.
    • Once Chicken is cooked, set aside and let cool until able to cut into pieces or shred if that is your preference. As we will be dehydrating, cut into even sized cubes works best to obtain consistent pieces.
    • Dehydrate in oven at 160° until cube is completely dry “as a rock”, it should not be springy/spongy at all.

    Now, follow the packaging concepts outlined in previous posts. Don’t forget to include the preparation instructions on the box of “helper” meal.
    You have created a meal ready to be cook at a relatively low cost. Just reconstitute the protein (Beef or Chicken) before following the instructions of the “Helper” package.

    One more point – you can make extra beef and/or chicken and dry can in jar or Mylar bag and now you have respective protein for future use. Remember the Oxygen Absorbent and removing the extra air before sealing.

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 9 months ago by  TN Homesteader.
    • This reply was modified 1 year, 9 months ago by  TN Homesteader. Reason: typos, formatting

    TN Homesteader

    Chef Tess’ Stroganoff Skillet Meal
    (yields 7 mixes (with 1/3 cup gravy/seasoning mix))
    <strong&>Gravy Mix

    • Dry Ingredients
    • 1/2 cup powdered buttermilk
    • 1/2 cup powdered sour cream
    • 1 cup flour
    • 1/2 cup Dehydrated Sliced Onion
    • Condiments
    • 1T onion powder
    • 1T granulated garlic (or garlic powder)
    • 1T dry parsley
    • 1 tsp dry thyme
    • 2 tsp black pepper
    • 2T salt
    • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

    Combine all dry ingredients well.
    Package: In a quart Jar/Mylar Bag:

    • 2 cups egg noodles
    • 1/3 cup gravy mix
    • 1/2 cup Freeze Dried Mushroom Slices
    • In a separate bag in the jar, 1½ cup Dehydrated, Freeze Dried Ground Beef, or TVP Beef

    To prepare Beef Stroganoff Skillet Meal:

    • 1 cup water
    • 2 cups milk (powdered is okay if you reconstitute it)
    • salt and pepper to taste


    • In a bowl reconstitute hamburger in 1½ cup hot water
    • Drain
    • Place in a skillet
    • Cook over high adding gravy mix, noodles, water and milk
    • Simmer 8-10 minutes, stirring once or twice, but covering each time
    • When noodles are tender season with additional salt and pepper if needed


    Cuban Black Beans and Rice! I’m going to try this recipe over the weekend.I grew up on cornbread and beans. Throw in some “fried taters” and you’ve got my favorite meal. I don’t usually add a ton of spices to my beans but this one sounds very good!Thank you for all the great information, TN!



    I make plenty of “meals in a jar” to use on nights that I’m running behind, one of my favorites is stroganoff! I put it all in the jar together and put in extra sour cream powder. YUM!



    That is a beautiful pizza oven!


    TN Homesteader

    PreparedMother – If you were to itemize our medium and long term preps(Tier2 & 3), the one dish you will find most often is Beef Stroganoff with noodles. Ever since my high school camping with friends or later back country backpacking outings with my wife, Stroganoff and Noodles has been our favorite. Having this tasty hot dish when rustic camping above the tree line is an absolute comfort meal.

    I remember one season we went to May Lake and Mt. Hoffman (geographic center of Yosemite), the lake was 80% frozen, our tent was on the only patch of ground without snow and we were the only ones at the High Sierra Camp (it was closed). However, our fire was boiling the water for the Stroganoff we were having after a rather long day hike!

    So, needless to say, we have a few month’s worth of this dish alone!!

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