I was reading about the ice storms in the Midwest and the article said that many people were short of supplies…even those who had ‘stocked up’ before the storm. The article said that people who went to the grocery and stocked up on food found themselves in a bad way when the power went off and their refrigerators/freezers went dead and the food started to spoil.
First off, if you know theres an event coming that is so bad that you need to run to the grocery and stock up doesn’t it seem logical to infer that event will also knock out your power? So doesn’t it follow that buying foods that require refrigeration/freezing may be counterproductive?
Secondly, the event in question is an ice storm. An ice storm. ICE. Take the meat out of the freezer and stick it out on the porch where the ice is. Even if it isn’t enough to keep it frozen it’ll sure as hell keep it from spoiling for a few more days. Heck, theres days here in Montana where the temperature in my freezer is actually warmer than the temperature outside.
The girlfriend, who grew up in North Carolina, jokes about how if theres a hurricane the response is to immediately stock up on bread and milk. Now Im starting to wonder what the point of stocking up on milk is when you know bloody well your refrigerator is going to very likely lose power. And, really, bread? For what? I have never seen footage of refugees and survivors huddleds around campfires eating toast. The lesson here, I think, is that if you’re going to stock up before a big event use your head and don’t buy something that needs refrigeration.
Speaking of not requiring a fridge, I finally found Parmalat whole milk at my local WallyWorld. If you’re not familiar with it, Parmalat is what I generically call ‘shelf milk’. It is regular whole milk packaged in such a manner that the unopened package requires no refrigeration. It comes in a ‘juice box’ container like chicken stock and you just put it away in your cupboard shelf until you need it. Once opened you’ll need to refrigerate it but until then…nope. Date on the package puts the shelf life at four to six weeks. However, we all know those ‘use by’ dates can be a bit conservative.
Expensive? Not hugely but it does cost about twice as much as an equal amount of ‘regular’ milk. The advantage, however, is tremendous. You buy it a few days before the hurricane and if power is still out in four weeks you can still have milk with your breakfast cereal. I like to keep the stuff onhand for cooking purposes. I normally don’t drink enough milk to finish a quart before it goes bad, so its nice to have some in the cabinets for when I need it.
How do they make the stuff? UHT processing. Read about it here. Fairly common overseas, Im told. Its interesting to note that more and more stuff in the market is being packaged using these ‘no refrigeration required’ methods. Very convenient for those of us who want to keep extra food on hand. I want to say it’s a trickle-down benefit from the development and manufacture of MRE’s but in actuality its probably a lot less glamorous. Economy of storage and shipping is probably the bigger motivator.
Powdered milk is always an option but the most common is lowfat milk which makes sense from a preservation standard (keeps longer than whole) but, to me, tastes horrible. There is powdered whole milk (Nestle’s Nido springs to mind…usually found in either the baking section or the ‘ethnic/Mexican’ section of the supermarket) which has a shorter shelf life but does a more palatable job (to me) in passing for milk.
The powdered milk has an advantage for storage since it can be had in #10 cans from various retailers. The UHT packaged milk is, as far as I know, only (commonly) available in the foil ‘juice box’ containers which may or may not hold up well in terms of longer-term storage. It would be interesting to see if freezing the UHT milk would negate the shelf life requirements. By this I mean could you keep it in your freezer for six months and then when the power goes out, have it thaw and still be safe for room temperature storage. I would imagine that the freezing process would cause the fat to separate out and the resultant thawing wouldn’t allow you to ‘recombine’ the whole thing. Im curious, but not enough to bother experimenting with it.
Several ‘survival’ oriented food storage books (Making The Best of Basics, for example) tell how to make yogurts and cheeses from stored milk so, to paraphrase Anita Bryant “Its not just for breakfast anymore”.
In addition to mixing it with your corn flakes, powdered milk can be mixed with various fruit ‘flours’ (taking dehydrated or FD fruit and running it through a blender to make a powder of ‘flour’ out of it) or beverage mixes to create nutritionally rich smoothies and drinks. I recall reading somewhere about mixing powdered milk and Tang to create an ‘orange creamsicle’ kind of drink. Haven’t tried it (‘cause I hate that lowfat powdered milk) but I might have to give it a shot with some Nido.
So, if you imagine a circumstance where you just gotta have milk theres a couple options for you. I would imagine this is more important to people with kids than to most adults, but there you have it. You don’t necessarily have to have a cow in order to have milk after the power goes out, although in the very long term it would probably prove handy.
This reminds me, I received Mountain House’s 2008 product info and theres a couple additions – #10 cans of FD strawberries, and #10 cans of FD banana slices. If theres enough interest I may put together a #10 can group buy in a few months…depends on the interest.