Food for a month

I’m down to my last few days before starting Project 31. I’ll be going on what will likely be my last supply run on Monday. I’d originally planned on “starting” Project 31 three days before the official Day Zero, so that I have a few days during which I could still leave if I think of anything missing. But, if current weather forecasts are accurate, I may be snowed in after Monday, so whatever I get on that run might end up being all I’ll have for a month.

Fortunately, I’ve got all my gear, so I’m down to just picking up a few odds and ends at the hardware store, then going on a big grocery trip to buy a month’s worth of food. This is easier said than done, as I’ve never planned a grocery list to last me a month. In fact, I don’t really even plan a week at a time, because I know I can go to town if I need more (though, generally, I buy enough fresh provisions to last me 5-7 days, and have weeks’ worth of non-perishables as backup).

The other limitation is that I’m not using my fridge/freezer, which means I need to buy food that won’t spoil in weeks of sub-freezing temperatures (which could be tough on vegetables), or above-freezing temperatures (which could limit the shelf-life of meats). Stocking up on non-perishable foods would be easy, but I don’t want to eat out of cans everyday, and having fresh food and diverse options is pretty important to me from a quality of life perspective. So part of the exercise is anticipating the kinds of foods I might crave, and to ensure I have the ingredients to cook them, and to make sure the ingredients last me as long into my stay as possible.

Obviously, there are trade-offs there. For example, in addition to fresh meat, which may not last longer than 2 weeks, I’ll have salted and cured meats that will last a month if kept cool (and I ignore “best before” dates). Instead of my favorite leafy vegetables, I might add root vegetables that have a better chance of surviving freezing temperatures without going bad. Instead of fresh milk, I’ll have canned milk and dry milk. And so on and so forth. There are some things that simply won’t last past the first week or two, and that’s ok too. At least if I can have, say, yogurt during week two, I’d only be without it for a couple of weeks thereafter. In some cases, it’s hard to guess what the shelf life would be (as advertised shelf lives are all super conservative), so finding out how long things actually last would be an interesting experiment in itself.

So, with all that said, here’s my list so far:

10lb bag of rice, 3 loaves of bread, 80-100 tortillas, one bag of bagels

Fresh Vegetables
4lb carrots, mushrooms, 2lb zucchini, kabocha squash, 5lb onions, 5-10lb potatoes, 3 bags mixed “southern greens”, 2 heads garlic, fresh ginger, 2 heads of cabbage, 3 bags brussel sprouts, 3lb beets, 2 tomatoes, 3 avocados, 4 bell peppers, cauliflower

3-5lb pork, 1-2lb chicken, 1-2lb ground turkey, 2lb sausage, 2lb sandwich meats, 3lb salted pork or bacon, 6 cans of fish, 3 pouches of chicken meat, 36 eggs

2 boxes dry milk, 4lb cheese, tub of yogurt, cream cheese, 2lb butter (salted & unsalted)

Dry goods, non-perishables, misc
canned soup, canned chili, ready-to-eat indian food, chef boyardee, canned coconut milk, energy bars, chocolate, peanut butter, jam, honey, maple syrup, flour, sugar, baking soda & powder, yeast, dried fruits, nuts

I’m sure I’ll add more when I’m at the grocery store, so this is kind of a baseline. Ultimately, I’m also not terribly worried because this is mostly a quality of life problem, not one of survival. I’ll have plenty of calories to survive off of — it’s mostly a question of whether I’ll have a high enough quality diet to be reasonably content. I also realize that no list will ever be complete, and that by day 15 or 20, there will be something I’d want that I simply don’t have. And that’s okay too, because the whole point of Project 31 is to discover the things I’m missing. In fact, I’d be pretty happy if by day 15 or 20 what I’m missing most is sushi, and not something actually more critical.

51 thoughts on “Food for a month

  1. Take a look at Engel Australia, they make portable fridges
    and freezers that run of 12 or 24 volts.
    These things can run off car batteries, solar or wind.
    Something like this may prove useful, I have a similar piece of kit that we keep with us all the time, handy for buying our five week supply of frozen food on a baking hot day or when camping.

    • Yeah, this is something I definitely plan on experimenting with, but I’m not counting on homemade bread because I haven’t actually done it yet. I don’t have an oven (and my stove is too small to stick a bread pan into), but I can definitely made Chinese steamed buns.

  2. I agree Terry. Store bought bread does not last very long and degrades quickly. He has all the ingredients on his list to bake his own. Maybe a pan that can go into his stove and a platform of sorts to keep it off the coals.

    • My experience so far has been that store-bought bread lasts freakishly long up here. I’ve *never* had breads or tortillas go bad, and still have 2-3 months old left over bread and tortillas (some of which mice have gotten into).

  3. I agree with Terry. Bread won’t last a month, even in subfreezing temperatures. I’m not sure of the power drain from a bread machine, but it might be worth looking into.

    • Bread Machine? We don’t need no stinkin’ bread machine.

      Bread machines save time, but don’t make better bread in my opinion. If you have plenty of time, make your own. Heck, make a sour dough starter and make really good bread and pancakes. I did this back in college as a diversion from studying. It can be fun.

      Bob L

        • Rather tricky but a dutch oven on the wood stove works well enough. A bit of ingenuity and bricks will get a tolerable oven. Might be tough with the current heating arrangement though.

          Personally, bread is not important enough for me and I would probably just make pan biscuits or something if I really wanted something fresh. Good multi-grain breads last a long time in cold areas. They get a bit stale, but still good with stews or toasted in a cast iron fry pan.

          Good luck with the experiment.

          Bob L

  4. You can also make your own yogurt using dry milk… google ‘hillbilly housewife’ for instructions.
    (I add flaxseed, cinnamon, honey and cardamom to mine for great energy breakfast.)

    Fermented veggies like sauerkraut are great in soups and with meats and will keep well in winter in outdoor coolers. Pickles are a godsend for salt cravings too.

    Also a trick I learned on the boat was to slice the bottom 1/4″ off lettuce and wrap it in damp paper towel and set in in a tray of 1/4″ water in cool place, the greens will stay fresh for 2-3x longer.

    I’d also consider some fresh fruits like apples and oranges if you like them. Dried fruit gets old after a while IMHO.

  5. If you have a cooler, get a bunch of “blue ice”.

    Leave out overnight to freeze, place in cooler during the day, rotate half out each night afterwards to refreeze.

    Winter squash will easily keep a month in your cabin.

    A bag of masa and a tortilla press will keep you in fresh tortillas all month.

    Cabbage will also last a month in the cooler. Chopped with onions, a handful of peanuts, and sesame-ginger dressing makes a great salad.

      • Tortillas are pretty hard to screw up! Just follow the directions on the bag. Five minutes to mix up the dough and then a minute or so on each side in a hot frying pan.

    • But if they do freeze, don’t worry too much about it. Frozen eggs can be messy but are still edible and usable in recipes.

      If you really can’t keep your eggs from freezing, then crack them open and break the yolk before freezing. You can use an ice tray if you want.

      Bob L

  6. Why not make sprouts?

    No fruit? Dried fruit is okay for awhile, apples will keep.

    If I were to do this I would make an honest menu plan (what I really eat, not wishful thinking) for an estimate and then try to stick with it.

    • I actually don’t eat a lot of fruit… though I might get some bananas. I do have some canned fruit if I suddenly get a craving though. Making sprouts is a good idea, especially if I can keep my cabin above freezing.

  7. Interesting food list. I expected to see more dry goods but then again I totally understand why you have choosen what you have. Looking forward to how the menu works!

    Also… Good luck with the coming storm. Sounds like a frozen mess is coming our (northern California) way.

    • The list is also light on dry goods because I have a ton in my stockpile already, and I should go through those before adding a whole lot more. But, yeah, I plan on documenting what I eat everyday, so we’ll see how that goes.

      Yep, looking forward to the storm. It’s been way too nice these past several weeks 🙂

  8. Just some suggestions and comments:

    Every poster is right about the bread – 3 loaves in a week or two before it goes bad may be a bit much to eat.

    Rice (especially white rice, due to the lack of oils unlike brown rice) will store (if stored properly) for over 25 years – so no worries there.

    Meat looks fine, but if you’re worried about spoiling, go to all canned meat (offered at Costco – beef & chicken, quality is OK but needs seasonings), or go freeze dried (note – there is a shortage going on, so you may not be able to find any).

    If you want some “fast food”, I highly recommend picking up some Mountain House backpacker’s meals. They’re not cheap ($5-6 per meal), but they last 7 years and all you have to do is add hot water. Think about staring at what you’re going to cook and then deciding on having Beef Stroganoff (or Chili Mac, or Beef Teriyaki, or Lasagna – good selection available) – it offers a good way to increase your variety without buying all of the necessary items to make it.

    Dried pasta will store well. That and some canned sauce may help.

    Oats will store well.

    You can get canned or freeze dried veggies that will help you out, but as with almost everything freeze dried, there’s usually a more than good amount of sodium involved.

    Spices spices spices – get more than you think you need, can make things like rice become multi-dish meals (spanish rice, plain, fried rice, etc.).

    Freeze dried banana chips may help – as a snack or something on oatmeal. Same with any dehydrated fruit.

    Otherwise, you have it pretty well down.

    • All good tips.

      As I commented elsewhere, I’m not worried about bread, because I’ve consistently seen bread and tortillas last for months out here. But I’ll also have ingredients to make my own doughy-stuff if needed…

      I already have some canned vegetables in my stockpile that I can fall back on, but I may increase the proportion of canned meats. On the other hand, I’m not too worried because I can get my protein elsewhere (e.g. peanut butter, beans or canned chilli) if I run low on meats towards the end.

      Pasta – I don’t eat much pasta because I haven’t found a good use for the remnant water, and it’d be a waste to dump it (though, with this storm coming, I may have enough water to waste…). Having said that, I think I already have an assortment of pasta in my stockpile that I haven’t touched.

      Spices – yep. Already have a decent collection 🙂

  9. Best pasta for zero water waste is fideo/vermicelli. Dirt cheap and very filling. It’s basically short spaghetti. Lipton/Knorr instant pasta side dishes cost about $1 per bag and also zero water wasters. I’d add soy sauce, cans of Rotel(diced tomatoes w/chiles) . If it’s not hard to dig in your area, I’d construct a root cellar, under the cabin when warmer weather arrives. Apples will last a very long time if you wrap them individual in paper. You should also add some cans of sardines/herrings/salmon. Fish oils are very important for good health. Once per week should do you just fine.

  10. Oops, read your canned meats a little closer and see you have fish. I hope they are oily fish. You should also get a book on local edible wild plants. I’d make a food map of your area. It should show where the edible plants are growing and what time of year they are ripe for harvest. You should also start a vegetable garden with non-hybrid seeds.

    This is my controversial comment. You need to find the game trails in your area as well. If you don’t have an air rifle, get one and mount a scope on it. If you get stuck in your outpost for an extended period of time, you’ll need to resupply your meat stock. Air rifles extremely effective subsistence hunting arms. Hunting for meat is an essential part of backwoods living. Not pretty but but necessary.

    Here’s the 2nd part of my controversial comment. From an earlier blog post, I noted you had an animal intruder. Get a cat and a dog(2 dogs preferably). The cat is for mice and large insects like crickets and grasshoppers. They are pretty efficient squirrel hunters as well. The dog(s) will keep larger critters like raccoons away. They’ll also warn you bear or cougar are around. I say 2 dogs because they are very social animals and the cat might not get along with a single dog but for some darn reason they do just fine when 2 dogs are around.

    • I have a decent idea of where the game trails are… they’re especially noticeable when it snows. And I have a .22, which might make mincemeat out of squirrels, but should work well on rabbits. Thing is, if I take game, you won’t hear about it on my blog because, at least in California, it’d be illegal (I don’t have a hunting license yet).

      As for pets, yes, I’d love to have a cat, and maybe a dog or two. The reality, though, is that it’s a responsibility I’m not ready to commit to yet, because I’m not sure how long I’ll be living the way I live. I wouldn’t want to get a couple of dogs, get them used to being able to run around in the woods, then have to take them to the city where they might be cooped up all the time.

  11. When I read you are stocking canned chili, I thought to suggest you store dried beans, lentils etc. No wasted water! It becomes soup! Soak beans and legumes, too, if you want. No harm in letting them sit. The cooking time is *not as long as a recipe says (in my experience, anyway), but the energy consumption is a consideration. Wheat and alfalfa grains can be sprouted. If some of mine I’ve stored for decades had not spilled and sprouted before I noticed them, I probably wouldnt have started cooking and sprouting them.. Oat groats are good, too. If I ate like this, I’d be in withdrawal from junk/over-processed food and I’d probably have to bar myself from town to accomplish it. The withdrawal would take me about 5-10days.. but I ramble.. I’d probably store sugar or honey which would effectively keep me from withdrawal and defeat part of my purpose :).. I didnt notice if you have that on your list, I am really just getting hungry reading your list! Beans! A cowgirl’s contribution.

    • Yep, I forgot to put beans in my post, but they’re on my actual shopping list. I already have some canned beans, but I’ll be getting a bag or two of dried beans too.

  12. PS: I wouldnt want to be accused of having low or no quality of life, but I dont know if it can be measured in foodstuffs. I somehow dont think you would move to a tinyhouse and generate your own electricity if you expect others to question your quality of life. Ten years down the road will you just say you didnt treat yourself right? Wasnt your job making tons of money considered “quality of life?” What I’m trying to get at (and defend myself) is: sushi is fine. Honestly, you can put that on your “critical” list. Its fresh fish (to me), a basic, no? I just don’t understand a lot of hype/worldly stuff, so I am sometimes regretful of how many followers you have on this blog, etc. But I would not isolate myself or look back and say I deprived myself, and I am glad you dont mind your followers. I havent been driven to buy your calendar, yet, or donate. You’re way up on me with quality of life in those terms… I pondered something you said in a previous blog about the long-term satisfaction in grabbing onto a “purchase.” The next time my eye caught on something cute (a pair of slippers) I bought them. But you know? I dont wear them. I mailed them back home.. I’m trying to “live” a little more, maybe I need a bit more practice. But I have been told anything above and beyond the necessities of life will *not make a person “happy.” Memories, experiences, comradery shared. This is a life well-spent.

    • I think, when it comes to food and quality of life, it’s highly subjective. Some people will be perfectly happy eating rice and beans all day, while some people will feel unsatisfied if they don’t have more options. But as long as you’re getting the nutrition you need (and not too much of crap you don’t need), I think it’s all good, as long as you’re happy with whatever you’re eating.

      As for buying things, I try to only spend money on necessities, tools and experiences. Tools allow me to do things that enrich my life somehow (e.g. I need tools to build a cabin), and I find that interesting and new experiences enrich my life too, and are therefore worth spending money on. Pair of slippers? Yeah, you can probably do just fine without ’em.

  13. PPS: It has occurred to me, also, one of the worst parts of being alone/solitary. What if something happens to you? Something normally (in this day and age) that can be helped? Your dog will probably stay with you til you die, and then he will go off to bring help back to find your dead body. What if something like a tree falls on your arm -and it isnt fatal- but you simply cannot get loose? I mean– what do you do? I am not a doomsday person. Maybe your neighbor a mile away can hear you if you shout etc.. What if you just cant shout and I mean –seriously– you just have to survive –not just 31 days– but til your backup gets word from you. I dont have an answer -til you find one human companion at least- but just to let you know I am sure you will think of your safety, somehow.

  14. You should be able to supplement your supplies by foraging the area for edible plants. I’m up on the Olympic Peninsula & there are plenty of things growing here already so you should be good to go since you are a thousand miles further south. Get a good book on edible wild plants & have a smorgasbord. Will also add to the challenge – –

    Click to access Useful_Wild_Plants-1.PDF

    This will supply you with a few nights entertainment and a little useful education besides.

    • I’ll check out the links, but there’s really not much that grows out here. I’m farther south, but I’m also much farther inland where it’s drier… think Nevada more than coastal California.

  15. Another thing to add to your future list is a ‘good’ air rifle. A ‘break barrel’ single cock. 1000fps+. I have a dual caliber one. Change barrels to go from .177 pellet to .22 pellet. Just as lethal for hunting small game, a lot cheaper for ammo & also much quieter. I would recommend a ‘good’ slingshot too.

  16. I’d keep an eye out on your salt intake. A lot of what has been mentioned like Hountain House meals and canned meat, etc. are loaded with salt. If you are hiking it might not be as much of a concern but for around your cabin I would look to moderate my salt intake.

  17. rice and beans make a complete protein so really you do not need meats. (learned that in a Vegetarian nutrition class)

    I think that people who make this a life style would be eating mainly root veggies at this point since they do not go bad as quickly if maintained in a cool dry place. Personally when I finally get my place I will be building a small green house packed with global buckets ( for fresher greens and spices. I will also be working on a chicken coop for eggs and meat chickens.

    • Thanks for the link to global buckets — those look really neat, and might work well here during the summer. As for greenhouses, I wonder how well they work in places where it gets as cold as it gets here (occasionally goes down to 0F). That’d be another interesting experiment sometime…

      • I remember reading somewhere someone was using bricks and another person was using buckets of water to absorb heat during the day so during the night it would radiate enough heat to keep things from freezing. Not sure how well that works, but it is worth a try.

      • I live a bit west of you, but at a lower elevation I suspect (1000ft). It never gets as low as 0F here — mid 20’s is the lowest I’ve ever seen it go.

        I’ve got an 8 x 10 greenhouse and have several 5 gallon water cubes to absorb daytime heat. Even so I need supplemental heat on those rare occasions when the temp stays below freezing for a couple of days.

        But it is nice to get fresh tomatoes and peppers during the winter. Lettuce, onions, cabbage family crops, and some herbs like cilantro, oregano, sage, rosemary and bay can be grown year round outdoors where I live.

        • Yeah, I’m at 4200ft, so it gets a little colder up here. I saw a design where the garden bed was a few feet underground (below the frost line, I assume), which seemed like might work up here. Having said that, if I wanted to be able to grow year around, I just might be in the wrong place…

  18. Wow, lots ofinterest in the project 31!!!! We are all excited!

    Depending on your “bread needs” you could also make camp bread (local native term here is Skon). Flour, water a little baking powder and a pinch of salt. Adjust recipe to taste. My roomate in college would always complain if i didn’t make it every Sunday with our bacon (fried dough in bacon gease!). But the recipe was adapted to. Ake all sorts of stuff… Not te greatest, but it covers you if you want something “bread-ey” and little supplies.

  19. Dunno about bears (they are not a nuance where I am) … but if I have often used coolers outside to keep things cold but it also keeps them from freezing … it would be worth an experiment (it does not get as cold here as it does there)

  20. a friend who lives in a cabin off-grid in Alaska, taught me that root veggies can freeze and you can use them as you need them … but if they are allowed to unfreeze then they start to spoil. don’t know if this is applicable to your situation

  21. Pingback: Update on Food « Laptop and a Rifle

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