As a practically-minded “prepper”, I found myself thinking about survival needs this morning after responding to a question on a Facebook discussion group. A gentleman wanted to put some long-term food stores in his bug out trailer, and he was looking for suggestions that’d fall in line with a ketogenic way of eating. I had some thoughts that I shared with him, but it occurred to me that I haven’t written about this topic in a LONG time, so we’re overdue.
This question is a common one in the survival/food storage space. “How do I build a food storage and rotation plan without resorting to carbs?” While the answer can be complicated, I’ve never thought that answering by saying, “If it’s a true emergency, you’re not going to care what you eat,”, handles the dilemma. The fact is, “emergencies” can take many forms, and for those of us who depend on a ketogenic way of eating for our health and well being, that answer is dismissive and unproductive.
As most of my readers know, I have reversed diabetes and kidney disease with a ketogenic diet. Other folks I know are managing conditions like type 1 diabetes, arthritis, autoimmune disorders, and mental illness with keto. A disruption to that eating pattern, especially during a time of extreme stress, is something that we have to plan to avoid, so here are some thoughts I have about keto and emergency food stores.
First, let’s talk about the actual foods that one can store to stay on track with a ketogenic way of eating. Then, we’ll discuss strategies to make that food last.
The majority of my keto food is stored in my freezers and my refrigerator. Part of my emergency plan for food if I were sheltering in place involves keeping those freezers running. It also involves an ability to cook said food. We have a small generator and stored fuel so that we can keep the freezers cold. We also have the ability to power appliances with our cars if necessary.
The problem with this strategy though is that it relies on us sheltering in place with the resources we have at our house. If we had to leave our home for some reason, it wouldn’t exactly be practical to haul coolers full of frozen meat to some place off site. So how do we reframe our thinking for those times when we don’t have the resources of the homestead? How do we shift our food choices from refrigerated and frozen foods to shelf-stable foods? I have a few thoughts.
Before I share those ideas though, it’s worth mentioning that we have several “diets” happening in our house at the moment. I follow a version of keto that’s almost carnivore. My 12-year-old son does as well. My daughter eats a more veg-heavy version of keto, and my husband just follows a low-carb diet. Lastly, my 14-year-old son eats the standard American diet (for now).
For the purposes of this article, I’ll share strategies that can work everything from liberal low-carb all the way to strict carnivore. I’m not saying I have all the answers, but submitting some food for thought might help others come up with ideas that’ll fit their personal needs.
Personally, I don’t use a lot of canned foods in my day-to-day eating plan. I do, however, have a huge selection of canned foods in my long-term food stores that get used, albeit slowly, in meal prep. Some of my personal favorites include canned proteins like seafood, chicken, beef, Vienna sausages, a Spam knock-off that we buy at Aldi, and canned bacon. I also have home-canned meat and stock which are rotated more quickly than store-bought foods.
Also, don’t forget about canned vegetables that can be used to add some variety. Artichoke hearts, asparagus, spinach, green beans, mushrooms, chiles, and tomato products can be used to stretch protein and fat stores, and it can make meals more interesting.
Lastly, don’t forget about things like coconut milk and canned cream. While these items are a little more expensive, you can get them at any grocery store, and they provide you with that all-important fat that’ll help with satiety.
When folks think about this category, they typically think about things like jerky, trail mixes, and nuts. While these foods are nice to have, I don’t think they should be the primary basis of your food storage plan. The carbs in nuts add up quickly, and they’re also somewhat fragile. I keep nuts in my freezer so the oils don’t go rancid, but if you’re keeping these kinds of foods in your car, storage unit, or trailer, you’ll have to use a very consistent rotation plan to keep these foods from going rancid or moldy.
Dry goods that I include in my preps (other than nuts and dried meat) include things like a protein powder meal replacer, sea salt, other dried herbs and spices, tea, coffee, and chocolate. I also keep some keto and whole-food bars on hand.
Like the nuts and dried meat, these items require careful consideration for rotation, and here, that’s less of a problem for us because the items I listed above are used here with more frequency than some of the canned goods I mentioned earlier.
And last in this section, I’d like to give credit where credit is due. A gal in the Facebook group I mentioned at the beginning of this article suggested adding seeds to your preps. I thought that was pretty genius, actually, but not for the reasons that some might think.
More than likely, if you have to leave the safety and comfort of your home, you’re not going to find a place to grow some lettuce or kale, nor are you guaranteed to have that as an option because of circumstances or climate. One could, however, pack sprouting seeds. They’re quite easy to manage, and you could theoretically be eating sprouts within 5-7 days. Having access to something fresh could be a complete game-changer for morale. I can’t believe I didn’t think of it!
You may have noticed that I didn’t include any “designer” dry goods like freeze-dried meats, eggs, or vegetables. While I do have these items in my preps, I wanted to limit the scope of this article to foods that are easily accessible and not prohibitively expensive. Adding these foods to your preps can add some variety, but they aren’t necessary.
For most of us who’re keto, this is usually the part that we really worry about. If you’re like me, you use a LOT of butter, and while you could take butter with you, it doesn’t last indefinitely at room temperature. And canned butter, while it exists, is expensive and impractical.
All that being said, here are some of my thoughts on practical fats that are shelf-stable. I have MCT oil, coconut oil, ghee, lard, avocado oil, and olive oil that I use in rotation along with my butter. The avocado oil and the olive oil are more fragile, so their rotation has to be managed, but the other oils hold up almost indefinitely. I have some coconut oil here that I’ve had for 8 or 9 years and it’s still fine. Also, I have some MCT oil that I’ve had for 6 to 7 years, and again, it’s fine. Let your nose be your guide though.
Other fat sources can include things like nut butter and condiments. I have some avocado oil mayo and dressings that I really enjoy, but frankly, if the choice was soybean oil mayo in tuna or a meal of carbs, I’d rather have some soybean oil mayo in my tuna. My situation would likely be short-term, and I can totally live with that choice.
Supplements and Medications
While it’s not directly related to food, I feel it’s important to remind folks about medications and supplements, particularly electrolytes, that can support a person through a physically and emotionally stressful situation. Plan to thrive!
I’ll be the first to admit that I wouldn’t be terribly happy eating meals based only on the foods I mentioned above. While my macronutrients would be well managed, I’m simply not used to eating out of bags and packages. For that reason, some planned fasting would likely be a tool that I would implement. The fasting will help my body deal with any physical or emotional stress to which I’d be subjected, and it would eliminate boredom and dissatisfaction with limited food choices.
And lastly, don’t forget that falling off the wagon, especially in a time of extreme stress, will just make your situation more unmanageable. If you plan for situations like this before they happen, you’re supporting your health and you’re doing the absolute best that you can do given tough circumstances. We’ve all heard the saying before, right? If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. For that reason, we have to get a dialog going now before we find ourselves in situations where we have to rely on shelf-stable preps. It’s the only way we can thrive in spite of bad circumstances. What we do matters!
And don’t forget to watch the blog for a follow-up article where I’ll share meal ideas using the kinds of food stores that I mentioned above. Knowing what to store is one thing. Applying that knowledge in meal prep can be an entirely different challenge.