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Be Prepared to Survive


MILK is the second food to store. If your supply is canned, the containers should be kept at a temperature of 40° F and turned over every month or so to avoid or minimize fat separation. The product will keep a year this way, but may darken in color as the storage period lengthens. If the fat does separate in a can, shake the container vigorously for a few minutes before opening—or place the contents in a jar and shake—to restore the milk to a smooth-pouring, creamy consistency.

Powdered milk is somewhat easier to deal with for long-term storage. It seems, though, that just the mention of the stuff brings shouts and groans of protest from any group of people. Of course the dried beverage doesn't compare with fresh cows' or goats' milk, and I myself used to avoid it like castor oil. But remember, we're talking about survival ... and we don't all have cows or goats, especially any that are fresh year round. And milk, even if you don't drink it, is essential to cooking and baking.

There are two kinds of powdered milk. The first is fat-free and—unless fortified—lacks the fat-soluble vitamins A and D. When the product is kept dry and cool, you can estimate its storage life at three to five years.

The other type is powdered whole milk with all the fat and vitamins left in (important if you have a baby). The only brand I've found in this category is Milkman. I was given a sip by a fellow backpacker somewhere in the wilds of the San Gabriel Mountains and thought the good taste was perhaps due to fresh-air appetite, but when I sampled the same thing at home, the flavor and low price convinced me to use this brand exclusively. If you want to try my favorite, it's available by mail order from several outdoor outfitters.

Whole dried milk must be kept cool and used within one year. If you drink milk anyway, however, it's no problem to rotate your supply while keeping 12 months ahead. One good plan is to use the dried product half and half with whole milk. This ensures turnover and also stretches your budget. Or the powder alone can be used in cooking, with very good results. The trap to avoid is using your stock when you're a little short of money and then failing to replace it.

Stored dried milk picks up odors very easily (no eucalyptus leaves for this item!) and must at all costs be protected from infiltration by moisture, which will alter or destroy its flavor over a period of time. A practical amount of milk to set aside is 100 pounds per person per year.

SALT—not a true food, but a mineral essential to well being—is third on the list of items to be stored. About five pounds per person per year in temperate climates, and as much as ten pounds in hot climates, will do for table use in a survival situation.

Iodized or sea salt—depending on your budget—is the preferred choice for personal use. An uniodized version, however, is available in five-pound bags at one-quarter the cost of regular salt. This product is very coarse and suitable for pickling, salting, and canning, but may also be used as seasoning if you have another access to iodine in your diet.

Packed in an airtight container and stored in a cool, dry place, salt will keep for many years. (A slight yellowish discoloration due to free iodine may take place in the iodized product, but this is harmless.) A good technique is to pour your stock into plastic gallon jugs, which will usually hold about 12 pounds. Don't forget, though, that little beasties will gnaw plastic to get the goodies inside, and salt is certainly a goody.

HONEY is the last absolutely essential survival food. It's the most desirable of the sweetening agents: the most versatile and the best for you. Besides natural sugars and beneficial enzymes, honey contains trace quantities of vitamin C, protein, and iron. It keeps indefinitely, contains about 400 less calories per pound than sugar, tastes twice as sweet, goes one-third farther ... and, unfortunately, is more expensive.

Bacteria cannot survive in pure crystalline honey, which is the only kind worth storing. Don't throw away your money on a processed, pasteurized or altered product, or one to which water has been added. If your source is a supermarket, read the labels carefully and remember that grades refer to degrees of filtering. "Grade A Fancy" indicates that the jar's contents have been filtered through the finest screen. "Choice" is the least tampered with.

If the temperature of your stored honey reaches or exceeds 75° F, the sweetening will lose some of its flavor and color. Also, all pure, unprocessed honey will crystallize no matter how it's kept. Some folks enjoy using it in that form (it spreads like butter), but if you want to return crystallized honey to a liquid consistency you can set the container of the sweetening in a pan of water and heat it to 150°-180° F. It takes a long time to liquefy a five-pound batch. Just write a letter or weed the garden and stir the mess a bit now and then.

Honey is most conveniently kept in half-gallon or in five-pound cans. (It's a good idea to minimize the use of glass in your food program lest breakage rob you of your provisions and make an incredible mess.) If you choose to store this sweetening in five-gallon containers—which hold 60 pounds each—keep in mind that you'll probably have to liquefy the whole canful every time you want to use some of the contents. The average amount needed by an adult is 60 to 100 pounds a year.

A Place to Go

In closing, I'd like to mention a possibility for city dwellers: to establish a hideaway in a remote area at least 250 miles from a large center such as Los Angeles, New York, Dallas, Atlanta, New Orleans, etc, or to arrange a means of getting that far away should need arise. The retreat may be anything from a car, van, or microbus with cardboard boxes of food, camping stove, water, clothes and radio ... to a well-stocked camper and a set of road maps ... to a rustic desert or woodland cabin ... to a full-time working homestead.

Whatever you want or can afford, make sure that it's as comfortable as possible, that it's a solution you can live with, and that you can get there when times are rough. (Try not to select a place you couldn't reach with your own, average, on-hand supply of gas, for instance.) Take your vacations at your hide-out, live with it, work the bugs out of the system, make friends with the people, drive a well, plant fruit trees. Perhaps you'd rather just move to a small town. Do whatever makes you feel most secure.

Meanwhile, the survival program I've outlined will ensure food and water for any likely crisis or disaster in a form that's compact to store and nutritionally adequate and at a minimum cost of $50 to $150 per person. If you follow the suggestions given here in the proper sequence, you'll find yourself better prepared and more confident about the future than you ever thought possible.


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