War-time Food Preparation

When I was a kid, Grandma and Grandpa would talk about how tough times were during the war time in the 1940’s. It took a lot of time and effort to provide food for the family.

Food availability to civilians during war-time has been an issue in several previous wars. World War II led to not only food shortages but also food rationing in US, Europe, and multiple other regions. As the Ukraine war is underway, concern regarding food availability again arises. Ukraine is a major exporter of grains, such as barley, and 30% of wheat exports have already been cut off from the global market. Even before the Ukraine war started, global food prices had risen 24% from one year ago (1), and further reductions in the supply of grain, for example, will only exacerbate prices.

Whether Americans or numerous other nations are going to be drawn into another war is unknown, but the rumors are concerning. I thought I would spend a few moments brainstorming with you on how to prepare your family food-wise should prices and supply chain issues begin to affect food availability.

Since grain prices are going up, obtaining a few bags of grains would be wise. Meat, eggs, and dairy are going to become a premium due to grain and feed prices and are a bit more difficult to store long-term. So, unless you buy a cow or get some chickens, let’s leave those alone for now. Dry foods store very well and can provide plenty of calories. So that should be a top priority.

1. Buy or order bulk dry foods for long-term storage, just in case. Here is a brief list of a few bare minimums, a few examples with good shelf life. I chose a few to highlight. A number of options are available. Current costs were obtained from Azure Standard, a popular bulk food distributor (3):

A. Whole Grains
– Organic Steel Cut Oats 50 lb bag for $50
– Organic Soft White Wheat 50 lb bag for $32

B. Dried Beans
– Organic Black Beans 25 lb bag for $40
– Red Lentils 25 lb bag for $36

C. Nuts/Seeds
– Organic Almonds 5 lb bag $47
– Organic Chia Seed 5 lb bag $28

2. Once obtained, prepare the dry food for long-term storage. One of the best methods is to heat seal the dry food in mylar bags with oxygen absorbers to keep freshness, and prevent spoilage or growth of organisms (4). Once heat sealed with a hot iron or hair straightener, the bags are typically placed in a bucket and sealed with a lid. Finally, they should be stored in a cool, dry location. As an example, a 2-gallon mylar bag that has been filled with 5 pounds of dried black beans would typically require about four 300 cc oxygen absorbers and would cost less than $10. This bag of beans would be expected to keep for a decade or longer and provides 60 one-half cup servings of cooked beans!

3. Buy seeds for vegetables. If you know little to nothing about growing a garden, there are some key seeds you can obtain that take almost no expertise to grow without great difficulty. Besides, in step 1, you already have bean and wheat seeds that you could grow on a plot, if push came to shove. Consider these seeds if you are a beginner (5):

A. Onions/leeks/shallots/garlic
B. Leaf lettuce varieties
C. Bell, Jalapeno, or Habanero Peppers

4. Start a small garden. One of the easiest plants to start, that can give your family a tremendous amount of calories are, sweet potatoes. Each sweet potato is worth anywhere between 50 and 250 calories depending on the size.

A. Simply buy a bag of sweet potatoes from your local store.
B. Stick 3 toothpicks into the side of each sweet potato.
C. Prop the sweet potato halfway into a jar filled with water to be slightly submerged.
D. Place near an appropriate window for daily sun exposure.
E. Change the water weekly or whenever smelly for about 3-4 weeks.
F. Once roots and green sprouts have started, gently remove the sprouts.

The sprouts can be eaten or planted in prepared soil. Each sprout will typically produce 5 to 10 sweet potatoes, if planted.

Now let’s imagine for a moment that times do get tough and food is very hard to come by. Getting a balanced meal becomes a luxury, and most of the time you are just happy to have any food at all. Let’s see. If you bought the above four grain and bean items listed for $158 plus shipping costs, what is the shortest amount of time it could potentially be eaten. Let’s say you are trying to feed a family of four and there is little else available in the local stores. Each of the four eat 2 cups of cooked oats for breakfast with almonds or chia seeds, 2 cup of wheat as tortilla or bread for lunch, 1 cup of cooked black beans or lentils for dinner.

To supplement, you are going to grow a few vegetables in your garden and forage for a few greens you know are edible from your local forest (consider creasy greens a.k.a. early winter cress (6)). You find that this bare food program of just four foods would provide about 1293 calories per day. Depending on the daily calorie needs of each, you will find that for the four of you, the food would last for a minimum of 75 days. Wow, that’s just a little over $2 per day! If you had a few more things to eat, your bare food program could get you through a good 6 months or even a whole year of tough times.

5. Plant some fruit trees.

If you have a little land or even a large plot, a number of fruit trees grow well in the Chattanooga area. Consider planting a few. It will take some time before you harvest and you will need to tend to pests, cross-pollination and watering needs, among other things, but it could pay off well. Consider the following (7):

A. Pears
B. Apples
C. Peaches
D. Berries: blueberries, blackberries, raspberries.

This is what war-time food availability could look like. Are you ready? Maintain basic calorie needs, employ a little creativity, and tough times can be substantially improved.

To Your Best Health,

Greg Steinke, MD, MPH

1. World food prices reached record high in February with Ukraine war just starting. (2022, Mar 5). Seeking Alpha. https://seekingalpha.com/news/3809908-world-food-prices-reached-record-high-in-february-with-ukraine-war-just-starting
2. Martel, B. (2022, Feb 25). Expert Explains Impacts Russia-Ukraine War Could Have on U.S. Economy. NBC News San Diego. https://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/expert-explains-impacts-russia-ukraine-war-could-have-on-u-s-economy/2880086/
3. Azure Standard – www.azurestandard.com. Accessed March 11, 2022.
4. Vukovic, D. (2021, Oct 15). Oxygen Absorbers for Long Term Food Storage. Primal Survivor. https://www.primalsurvivor.net/oxygen-absorbers/
5. Weigel, G. (2016, Mar; Updated 2018, April). Ten vegetables with the best payback. The Tennessee Magazine. https://www.tnmagazine.org/ten-vegetables-with-the-best-payback/
6. Marengo, F, and The Mother Earth News Editors. (1984, Mar 1). Creasy Greens: Try Growing And Cooking This Edible Wild Plant. Mother Earth News. https://www.motherearthnews.com/real-food/edible-wild-plant-creasy-greens-zmaz84zloeck/
7. Best Fruit Trees to Grow in Tennessee. (2021, June 6). https://startingafarm.com/best-fruit-trees-to-grow-in-tennessee/


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