The Pantry Primer: Building Your Own Protein Stockpile

One area in which many pantries are lacking is protein. Because meat is so perishable (and also expensive) it is often the most neglected frontier of the one-year pantry.

This is a vital addition to your pantry, because without proper protein, hard-working muscles cannot heal and strengthen. Particularly in a disaster situation, you may be called upon to perform much harder physical labor than you are accustomed to. It is a necessity to provide your body with the building blocks it needs to repair itself and become stronger. Tess Pennington writes:

Being well-nourished during a disaster can mean the difference between powering through the event with strength, stamina and energy or plodding through the situation barely able to put one foot in front of the other.

One often overlooked component of the prepper’s pantry is protein. This vital nutrient:

  • Helps with the repair and building of muscle tissue
  • Helps the body heal from injuries
  • Provides long-lasting stamina
  • Helps boost the immune system

Protein is stored throughout the body. It can be found in muscles, bones, hemoglobin, myoglobin, hormones, antibodies, and enzymes. In fact, protein makes up nearly 45% of the human body. Without a steady supply, body functions will cease to operate effectively. (source)

You don’t have to be relegated to those nasty cans of minced up chicken parts or tins of Fukushima-flavored fish. There are several strategies you can use to stockpile protein and still feed your family healthy food during rough times.

Go vegetarian

You don’t have to go totally vegetarian to use this strategy, but you can enjoy some meatless meals to stretch your budget and extend your meat supply. Add the following healthy vegetarian protein sources to your pantry:

  • Dried beans: When well-packed, dried beans can last up to -10 years. Beans can also be sprouted to provide a quick source of fresh veggies in a longer-term emergency.
  • Canned beans: Some emergencies mean that your normal means of cooking may not be available. If the power grid is down, canned beans (whether purchased at the store or home-canned) will provide instant protein in the blink of an eye.
  • Quinoa: The ancient Incas called quinoa the “mother of all grains” for a reason. This little grain is a nutritional powerhouse and contains 8 grams of protein per cup.
  • Nuts and nut butters: Shelf life for nut products is shorter because the fats can go rancid – plan for about a one-year shelf life.
  • Protein powder: These can be highly processed and contain toxic ingredients like artificial sweeteners. Do your research and select carefully. Unflavored protein powders can be added to savory dishes for a boost of muscle-building nutrients.
  • Texturized vegetable protein: I hesitated before including this because more than 80% of the soy sold in North America is genetically modified. Only purchase ORGANIC TVP if you wish to avoid GMOs, which can be deadly.

Selecting meats

The conventional meat industry is at the root of severe health ramifications across the country. When building your pantry, you want to focus on foods that sustain health instead of harming it. Therefore you need to keep a few things in mind when selecting the protein sources you wish to include in your stockpile.

Livestock animals that provide meat or dairy products are tainted with growth hormones, antibiotics, and GMO feed. These items pass through the food chain to the consumer. First of all, if you are taking the step to avoid GMOs in your own diet, you won’t want to consume them secondhand through the meat that you choose. Secondly, growth hormones can cause opposite sex characteristics in developing children, early puberty, the development of cancer, and infertility. And finally, the world is quickly becoming immune to the effects of antibiotics because of constant exposure through the food supply, which means that there is the potential for things that should be easily treated to become deadly due to antibiotic resistance. An added concern are the unsanitary and inhumane conditions under which many factory-farmed animals are raised. Even if you aren’t bothered by that ethically, livestock raised under those conditions will be less healthy and therefore less nourishing.

If you can’t afford grass-fed organic meat, at the very least look for options that are guaranteed to be hormone and antibiotic free. The USDA does not allow the use of growth hormones in pork, which makes it a slightly better option.

Here’s a little primer on those confusing meat labels:

  • Hormone-free: This means something with beef, but is nothing but a marketing ploy when you see it on poultry or pork, as the USDA does not allow the use of hormones with those animals. Hormone-free does not mean antibiotic-free
  • Antibiotic-free: Because of poor and stressful living conditions, factory-farmed animals are very susceptible to illness. Antibiotic-free means they were not prophylactically treated with antibiotics. This does not, however, mean that the animal is hormone-free.
  • Grass-fed: Grass-fed cows are allowed some access to the outdoors and are not fed grains or corn. This does NOT mean they are organic, because the grass they are grazing on may have been chemically fertilized and sprayed. Unless you have actually seen them roaming around the farm, keep in mind their access to the outdoors may not be the lovely rolling pastures that you have in your mind, but a crowded corral with hundreds of other cows.
  • Free-range: This label doesn’t mean diddly squat. It means that the animal is allowed a minimum of an hour a day outside. This could mean that they are crammed into an open area with a billion other chickens, still, without room to move, or that their cage is put outside, leaving them still tightly confined. Like the grass-fed cows above, unless you actually see the farm with the gallivanting chickens or pigs, take the label “free-range” with a grain of salt.

Your best options, if you can’t afford organic meats, are to go for the hormone and antibiotic free options as a supplement to vegetarian protein sources like local eggs, beans, and organic dairy products.

Purchase in quantity

When purchasing meat in quantity, you want to treat it as an investment. Take the time to locate a source that you can trust. Consider small butcher shops or local farms, and find out how the animals were farmed, keeping the above tips in mind.

One of the best ways to lessen the price of good quality meat is to purchase it in quantity. When you purchase a side or quarter of beef or pork, you can reduce the price per pound dramatically. As well, the butcher will cut it up in the way that you prefer. You can opt for stewing beef over ground beef, for example, with the lesser cuts of meat.

Making friends with your butcher or farmer could also put you at the front of the line for meats that they’d like to get rid of before they expire. I recently acquired 5 whole chickens at half price from a local farmer because I was able to take them immediately. Other ways to get in the loop on these good deals are through internet sources like Craigslist and private groups on Facebook or other social media networks.

Consider alternatives

Another way to get your protein is through alternative sources that are not your average grocery store fare. Consider some of the following options:

  • Goat
  • Mutton
  • Game (venison, moose, wild turkey, etc)
  • Rabbit
  • Duck
  • Goose
  • Farm fresh eggs

Learn how to preserve meat

Before you stash that side of beef in the deep freeze, consider the vulnerability of the electrical grid. We have recently heard many warnings telling us that our access to electrical power could disappear at the blink of an eye. You could sustain massive losses to your food supply if you are reliant on electricity to preserve such a large investment.

Consider the following ways to preserve meat for your pantry:

  • Dehydration: Learn how to dehydrate ham, poultry and ground beef crumbles. Remember that rehydration can use valuable water supplies.
  • Making Jerky: You can easily make jerky in your dehydrator for an instant protein snack that does not require rehydration. Vacuum seal it to prolong the shelf life.
  • Pemmican: A paste made from meat mixed with natural elements such as berries, roots and herbs is then dried until it is hard and brittle.
  • Curing/Smoking: These two methods are low-tech ways to preserve meat without the need for refrigeration.
  • Canning: This is my personal favorite method of preserving meat. You can make soups or stews, or you can simply preserve meat to be used in recipes in the future. Dinner can be ready as quickly as popping open a jar and heating the contents.

Make the investment

Use the strategies discussed in the Pantry Primer series to save up enough money to make a large investment in meat. Although it’s a lot of money initially, you will save substantially from the price of purchasing in small increments each week at the grocery store.

Learn more:

Daisy Luther

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