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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Incorporating: Dairy

  As you've figured out by my previous posts, I'm big on food storage.  Having a full larder has proven invaluable to me, through lay-offs, winter weather and even routine, non-emergency tight spots in our budget.   Food should be tops on all our To-Do lists for the coming year and with that in mind, I thought it would be fun to do a series of posts on incorporating different types of foods into our storage programs, both for long-term storage and for everyday use.  And as always, I welcome your feedback.

 I'm sure you're well aware by now that I'm a mama to 2 little ones, so dairy is high on our list of necessities.  My children love milk, especially the chocolate varieties and consume several servings each day.  As my daughter was unable to talk my husband into a backyard cow, I've done a good deal of research on how to store milk, what varieties to store and what we can do with it once we've stored it.  I'll touch on a couple ways we store dairy products and then I'd love to hear your methods.

First, the dreaded powdered milk.  There's a couple of different types of powdered milk (non-instant, instant) and dozens of different brands but for the most part, powdered milks are essentially the same: milk that's been freeze-dried in order to remove the water content without cooking the milk.  Instant powdered milk dissolves quickly and easily in cold water, non-instant/regular needs warm water to dissolve.  Both varieties are fat-free to create a longer shelf-life and for the most part, they have similar flavors.  I've tried several different brands and by far my favorite is the Provident Pantry Instant Fat Free Powdered Milk from Emergency Essentials; it's in the blue can!  It's not a cheap purchase, but per serving, it's fairly comparable to buying fresh milk by the gallon.  And the plus side is that, unopened and stored sensibly, PP powdered milk has approximately a 20 year shelf life. 

So what can you do with powdered milk?  Drink it of course.  I can't really tell a difference between Provident Pantry instant milk and regular old skim milk, but that's just my opinion.  It's also great for adding an extra boost of calcium and protein to breads, yogurt and kefir.  You can stir a bit into your morning bowl of oatmeal, or use it to add body to soups and sauces.  And it's invaluable when the roads are closed due to a winter storm and the kids are out of milk.  Add a bit of Hershey's syrup and an ice cube and they'll be happy enough.

Next, on to canned milks.  Evaporated and condensed milk were among my first provisions when I started prepping.  Both products have a decent shelf life of up to 2-3 years and are useful in so many ways.  I use evaporated milk in homemade cheese sauces, cream soups, casseroles and desserts.  Condensed milk, with all it's sugary goodness, is excellent for baking, candy-making and even in your cup of morning coffee.  I enjoy both products and feel like both of these products have their place in a well-stocked pantry.  That said, don't expect a fresh milk flavor.  It's cooked milk, and it tastes like cooked milk so don't expect to reconstitute a can of evaporated milk and end up with a product that tastes like fresh milk.  It won't happen.  Both products are extremely useful as long as you know their limitations.

Finally, powdered milk products (just-add-water cheese sauces, gravies, flavored milk substitutes and hot cocoa mixes)  can be an invaluable addition to your larder.  I'll admit that nutritionally, they're not top shelf, but in an emergency situation powdered cheese sauce could go a long way towards improving the taste of rice, pasta or beans.  When it comes down to surviving on our food stores, appetite fatigue could be a real problem, especially for the very young and the very old.  If adding a package of powdered cheese to a grain, bean or pasta dish stokes the appetite, well then yay for powdered cheese!

And in my humble opinion, hot cocoa mixes (and flavored milk substitutes) shouldn't be relegated to being a luxury and unnecessary.  You hear that a lot in prepping circles: instant cocoa mixes are nice but not a necessity.   My thinking is that hot cocoa mixes are a great source of calcium that pretty much everyone will consume without complaining.  Kids love it, most adults love it and it offers at least a bit of nutrition (calcium).   It's a wonderful comfort food during times of stress, whets the appetite and soothes the body during sickness, and warms you against cold weather.  And maybe the best argument for hot cocoa mix: it covers the flat flavor of bottled/boiled/stored water.   How can we afford NOT to include hot cocoa mixes in our food storage???  Hot cocoa is practically a miracle food!

There are literally dozens of other methods of incorporating dairy into our food storage; canned butter, powdered butter, canned cheese sauce, home-canned milk, just to name a few.  Now is a great time to stock up on the products you enjoy and learn how to prepare them to suit your needs.  And if you're lucky enough to have access to fresh milk, now is also a great time to learn how to preserve that milk through home-canning, culturing and cheesemaking!

Onward Preppers!


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Gen-IL Homesteader said...

My milk replacement pantry items consist mainly of instant dry milk (Aldi version) and evaporated and sweetend condensed milk. I prefer the evaporated milk to dry milk if I'm going to drink it plain. I also have canned goat milk. For cheeses, I also add a few bars of velveeta. It's not very healthy, but it'll do in a pinch and it makes for yummy mac 'n cheese!

Andrea said...

I started out with Aldi's dry milk too...mainly for upping the protein in yogurt, but the flavor was, well, yuck. I've found the PP milk so much better tasting and definitely worth the expense.

You've got me wondering what the shelf-life is for Velveeta now. That's something I should add to my stores too.

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