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Cooking from Our Prepper Pantry
If the Covid-19 pandemic taught Husbando and me anything, it’s that we have to be prepared. Not for the end of the world, but for our grocery store to be out of everything we usually purchase. It changed the game for us. I hadn’t intended to grow a garden this year because we have been getting ready to move, and I was scheduled to have major surgery. Husbando doesn’t have the greenest thumb and didn’t want the stress of trying to keep my plants going in the summer heat. He’s a bit of an English Rose (accent included) and wilts in our 100+ degree heat.
But, when we were suddenly faced with food shortages, we knew we would have to make some changes. Some tomatoes went in, almost too late, as well as cucumbers. It wasn’t much, but it was most of what we needed vegetable-wise. Then we looked at the cost of meat and realized our family needed another household adjustment – this year, we would need to plan on buying meat in bulk when it reached a price we were comfortable paying. Between Grammie, Pops, and our home, we don’t have enough freezer space to freeze it all. It was time to get real about our prepper pantry, and worse…
It was time to create an authentic, working prepper pantry.
Preparing to Make a Prepper Pantry
August and September are canning months in our household. In the Pacific Northwest, the summer is already starting to turn to fall. In a few short weeks, we know that often by the start of October, our days will be short and rainy. Nothing will grow till spring. For the last few years, I’ve worked on improving my recipe rotation – moving past strawberry jam and pickles into tomato products: sauce, diced, and paste.
Food shortage and inflation fears, however, meant shaking that up even more. I had to sit and take stock of what I usually bought from the store and see if it was truly feasible to can it all myself.
In a typical shopping trip I would order:
- Canned Diced Tomatoes
- Canned Tomato Sauce
- Chicken (usually boneless, skinless thighs)
- Beef Brisket OR Pork Loin
- Chicken Broth
- In-Season Fresh Fruit
- Pre-packaged Freezer Meals for Husbando at work
Our freezer space meant that to stock up on meat I had to be willing to can it myself. I also saw no reason why I couldn’t do my regular tomato canning, however, I had to up the quantity. I just had to figure out celery and root vegetables. After some careful analysis and consideration I came to the conclusion that yes, I could can it all and I WOULD can it all.
Building the Prepper Pantry
The first step, I have learned, of building any food storage system is to stock up only on things you’ll eat. Canning up a prepper pantry is no different. If your family won’t eat beans and rice, or can’t stomach lentil soup, then your cans of carefully prepared food will just waste away on a shelf; all your time and money with them. You’ve got to put together a list of prepper pantry recipes that are based on what your family will eat and like!
By knowing what we normally eat I was able to carefully pick and choose recipes that I knew would be eaten. These prepper pantry recipes would be key to building up a working prepper pantry that we could eat from all winter long. For Grammie and Pop, it was more important to set aside fresh produce and work on creating gluten-free freezer meal options. Husbando and I, however, tend to eat a lot of soups and stews for dinners.
I grabbed my handy dandy canning book, the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. This book is hands down my favorite canning resource. It is updated on a yearly basis with new recipes and changes to make things easier and even safer. You can pick one up HERE from Lehman Bros.
Looking over the recipes, however, I learned that most of what I wanted to can would need to be pressure canned. I had done some pressure canning the previous year, but it was all tomato-based and I had few worries that something would, or could, go wrong with such a high acid food.
Meat, however, was going to be a totally different story. I realized that I honestly was not very comfortable with the idea of canning up meat and then opening it later to put it into food for us to eat.
What if it spoiled?
Would I be able to tell if it was rotten?
How would I recover the lost money if I canned it wrong and had to throw it out?
Coming to Terms with Canning Fears
If you’re new to canning, pressure canning, or food preservation in general I’m sure these same questions have crossed your mind. After all, it’s one thing to play around with the idea of canning. It’s one thing to make a jar of beautiful pickle spears. It’s wonderful to cut into a ruby-red jar of homemade strawberry jam.
But I was talking about taking a few hundred pounds of food and canning it for us to eat all winter. We were considering a serious financial investment upfront in order to save money in the future as grocery prices continued to rise! If something went wrong and this food spoiled because I canned it incorrectly we were going to be in serious trouble. Worse, what if I didn’t catch it and Husbando or Grammie or Pop got sick with Botulism?
It took some serious prayer and real conversations with Husbando to convince myself to go forward. In the end, I had to remind myself of one very important food preservation truth:
Families have been preserving food using methods, like canning, for centuries.
They lived through it.
My recipes are tried and true. They were safe. Unless something went seriously wrong and I somehow didn’t notice, there was no reason to believe that my food would be somehow unsafe and deadly. Thankfully, I did not have Grammie’s fear of the pressure canner… I think the idea that my kitchen could accidentally become a warzone would have stopped me in my tracks permanently.
A Working Prepper Pantry
I cannot overstate the sense of accomplishment as I wrapped up my first day of canning.
What a sense of joy and fulfillment! For the first time in a while, I had taken a solid step towards independence for Husbando and me! I had tackled pressure canning and had prepper pantry recipes in place that I knew we would enjoy!
Plus, I had discovered something very freeing about tackling the canning with our pressure canner – I could make small adjustments to what I put in the jars because pressure canning is a whole different process than hot water canning. So far, the best decision was to add a couple of tablespoons of tomato-flavored chicken bouillon to our cans of carrots, celery, and onions.
If you are looking at the price of groceries, watching the backlog of cargo ships off the West coast, or just looking for a first step to take on your road to independence, creating a working prepper pantry is a great place to start. The steps are pretty simple:
Quick Steps to Get Ready
- Create your list of prepper pantry recipes that your family loves to eat.
- Get a high quality canning book like the Ball Complete Book of Canning and all your other supplies.
- Take a deep breath and remember canning is a food preservation method more than 200 years old.
- Start canning
- Sit down and start making meals out of your pantry.
You will be amazed at the sense of pride and accomplishment you feel when you cook from your prepper pantry. We’ve made chicken soup. We’ve canned pork chile verde. With my electric pressure canner making small batches is easy and perfect for small batches. You CAN prepare your prepper pantry and eat from it. You can protect your home from rising grocery costs and dependence on outside sources for your survival.