Obviously, the best approach to learning about cooking “wholesome” meals during times of distress is to turn back the hands of fast-moving time to destination yesteryear. These poor man’s recipes stood the taste of time and are being used even today. You may find that some of these recipes will help you make a decent, tasty meal with just a few ingredients.
The winter season is the best season to kick back in the old office chair… and work on your survival notebook. Unless, of course, it is already too late, S-has-HTF and you are not really reading this…
Getting serious, it is important to have a handy little notebook with sections filled with tidbits of much-needed information. Among those sections, you may want to seriously think about jotting down some “simple living” type recipes. You know, for when times get hard, so to speak.
From the Great Depression to the pioneers of the beginnings of this country as we know it, we can gather great knowledge on how to survive in terms of food on the most basic levels. Survival, being the base level of Maslow’s pyramid, has been humankind’s numero uno objective since literally day one. This many years later, we can get a pretty damn good idea of how to successfully do it.
It is a matter of learning to fend for yourself. If the grocery stores and food processing factories begin to shut down, and they have been raided for anything of value, and chaos runs amuck in the streets, and you have no idea how to survive without your daily dose of Chick-fil-a and Chinese takeout, you are going to be in deep shit.
Now, being the good preppers that we are, surely we have thought this through in fairly thorough detail. We understand we must obtain the necessary skills needed in order to eat and, therefore live. This includes knowing how to cook, and which foods will be most beneficial to you and anyone who relies on you during the crisis.
Cooking over open fires can certainly be a lot different than cooking on an electric stove or microwave. Even if you aren’t some bachelor living off of fast food carbs and other seemingly edible materials, you still may need to do a bit of tweaking to what you know about cooking.
Looking back in history to times of distress such as the Great Depression or to the methods of early pioneers, we see that the main key is that their recipes were quite simple. They obviously didn’t have a grocer right around the corner cutting fresh beef tips and stocking square miles of edibles.
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They had bare-minimum pantry items that kept well and prepared everything from scratch. If they were lucky, they might have had a chicken or three producing eggs, and if they were really lucky, they might have had some milk. Otherwise, they stuck with the bare minimum necessities.
In a survival-like scenario, your best bet is also going to be to keep it as basic as possible. There are several factors you will need to focus on, such as: figuring out how to prepare a meal, how to find what to eat, and how to make just a little more appealing that it would be. As the pioneers of yesteryear taught us, we need very little by way of “kitchen tools” in order to cook a survival meal for you and your family.
Knowing how to procure meat is an important skill, and must be well thought through and practiced prior to actually needing it. Tracking skills, trap and snare setting, and fishing techniques may come in extremely handy when one is looking to cook meals during a SHTF situation.
Once you have gathered some of the ingredients, you can jump right into some of these rather easy, simplified recipes for your families survival meals:
You may want to jot some of these (or other simple-time recipes that you find) in your survival notebook. You must keep in mind, the staples in a pioneer diet are a bit different than they are for us today. But, again, we are talking about survival here.
Poor man’s recipes
This was an extremely simple to make, a staple food for Native Americans. The best thing about it is how well it stores. It contains enough nutrients that one can actually survive off of it for quite a spell. It doesn’t require refrigeration, making it such a staple for nomadic tribes or hunters of the past.
Conventional pemmican has simply three primary ingredients: fat, lean dried meat, and dried fruit. You can add flavor and a bit of nutrition to the mixture by adding honey and nuts. You are best to steer clear of pork or bear meat due to their high-fat content. You should use a leaner meat.
- 2 cups dried crushed meat
- 2 cups dried crushed berries or dates
- 1 cup melted fat
- 1/2 cup crushed nuts
- 1/4 cup honey
Trim all of the fat off the meat, then dry in a dehydrator until it cracks and breaks. If it bends, there’s still too much moisture in it. Do the same thing with the berries. Render the fat into a liquid form and crush your nuts. You can grind them if you want, or leave them a bit chunky to add texture.
Crush the meat and berries into a fine powder. Using your blender or food processor, for now, will work better but if you’re making it without power, just grind them with a pestle. If the meat is a challenge, use the pestle or a hammer, or even your fingers to get the meat as finely ground as you can.
Add enough fat to the meat and berries (and the nuts if you’re using them) to make it stick together; no more. Add enough honey that it’s sweetened but not overly sticky.
Roll it out and cut it into bars, or do it as the Native Americans did and roll it into balls — store in a bag in a cool, dry place.
Traditional hardtack is essentially a cracker that will last (almost) forever as long as it stays dry. It’s not as nutritious as pemmican, but it will do in a pinch to fill the emptiness in your belly and provide you with carbs that you need in order to keep burning.
Hardtack is extremely simple to make and consists of only three ingredients. You can cook it on the trail, too. While some recipes may call for milk, sugar, and butter, those ingredients actually significantly reduce the shelf life (and therefore are best steered clear from).
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp. salt
- 1 cup of water
If you have the option of using an oven, preheat it to 375. Combine salt and flour, then add water a bit at a time, making sure the dough doesn’t get too sticky.
Roll the dough out into a rectangle until it’s no more than 1/2 inch thick.
Place each square onto a cookie sheet or (if you are “camp cooking”), wrap each piece in its own aluminum bed using foil and then place each piece near the hottest charcoals at the base of your fire (if you’re in the wilderness). Bake for 30 minutes on each side. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Store in an airtight container.
Hardtack stores well since it has little to no moisture after cooking. To eat it, you can add it to soup or stew, or simply soak it in some water. You can even fry it as it is soaking.
Beans and Rice
Though this recipe is extremely simple, it’s packed with nutrients and is a complete meal. If you’d like, throw in some bacon or some cayenne to taste to spice it up.
- Equal parts beans and rice (not instant or quick-cook). Any type of beans will work, but pintos, great northerns, or black beans are exceptionally good.
- Salt and pepper to taste – start with a teaspoon per cup and add until it suits your taste.
- Three times as much water as you have beans and rice
Rinse the beans and let them sit overnight. The next day, bring to a simmer and let them cook until the beans are still slightly crunchy, but starting to get tender – about 2 hours. Add rice and cook for another 30 minutes.
If you’d like, throw in some bacon when you start cooking the beans. Add spices such as cayenne pepper, onion (fresh or powdered) or garlic to suit your tastes.
You can make biscuits in your oven or in your Dutch oven or a skillet on the trail. Though ingredients such as buttermilk make them fluffier and more delicious, you can make biscuits with much simpler ingredients. These are heavier, but still soft and go great with gravy. There are many recipes for trail biscuits which contain wild berries, but this is the classical one.
This is a stick-to-your-ribs food that will help stretch rations or fill bellies. The egg and lard is optional, but if you’re not using lard, substitute the baking powder for a couple of teaspoons of baking soda.
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 egg (optional if available)
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp. baking powder
- 1/2 cup butter or lard
- 1 – 11/2 cups milk
Preheat oven to 370 degrees F. or stoke your coals so that they’re hot enough to cook in.
Combine flour, salt, and baking powder in a bowl, then cut the cold butter or lard (bacon grease actually makes them delicious, but heavy) into the flour mixture until you have pea-sized pieces. Add milk until dough is barely sticky. Don’t overmix or your biscuits will be tough.
Drop about 1/4 cup at a time into a greased pan or Dutch oven.
Cook for 20 minutes or so until biscuits are brown. If using a Dutch oven, put the biscuits in, then put the lid on the oven and bury in the coals for 15-20 minutes.
This recipe can be modified to use bacon, hamburger, or just about any other meat, but you will need a fat source. This means you will want to stay away from low-fat meats.
Though this recipe calls for milk, water can do the trick. It’s not nearly as good, but it’s edible. It’s better to carry some dried milk than to skip the milk altogether.
- 1 pound sausage
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 cup milk
- 1 1/2 cups water
Fry the sausage, crumbling it up with the spatula as you cook it.
Sprinkle flour, salt, and pepper over the sausage and allow to brown, stirring as you go. Smash it to keep it from clumping.
Add the water a 1/2 cup at a time, stirring and smashing to prevent it lumps. Once you have it smooth and it’s turning from a thick paste into a thin paste, pour the milk in, stirring vigorously.
Quick and easy and can be eaten alone or dipped in a little grease for flavor. Dipping the biscuits in syrup is also a way to add a little sweetness to a breakfast meal.
- 3 1/3 cups of flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
Pour the flour in a bowl and slowly add one tablespoon of milk at a time to form a stiff dough. In a small dish, dissolve the baking soda in about a tablespoon of milk.
Mix it into the dough. Add salt and mix again. Roll out the dough until it is nice and thin. Cut circles out of the dough.
Cook in a Dutch oven or standard oven until the sides are brown and the biscuits are no longer doughy.
These are essentially round bits of cornbread that can be eaten on the move or served with stew or chili.
- 2 cups cornmeal
- 2 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 cups of milk
- 1 tsp baking powder
Get your Dutch oven nice and hot, and use a saucepan to cook cornmeal, butter, salt, sugar, and milk. Remove from heat and let sit about five minutes. Mix in the baking powder. Use a tablespoon to drop spoonfuls of the mix into the Dutch oven.
Cook for about 10 to 15 minutes or until the edges are brown.
A take on the standard pancake, but made with cornmeal for a fluffy, filling addition to a soup or stew. This is one of my favorites and I’ve used this recipe during my camping trips. I’ve made a lot of johnnycakes over the years.
- 2 cups cornmeal
- ½ cup flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tablespoon molasses
- 2 eggs (optional)
Mix dry ingredients and then add in the milk and molasses. Eggs can be added to make the Johnnycake a little fluffier. Pour batter into a greased 9” pan and cook over high heat for about 20 minutes.
This isn’t something you cook, but without refrigeration, salting meat was the only way to really preserve it. The corned beef can then be used in a variety of recipes.
- 10 pounds of beef
- 2 cups salt
- 2 cup molasses
- 1 tablespoon pepper
- 2 tablespoon saltpeter
- 1 tablespoon of cloves
Combine the salt and remaining ingredients in a small bowl. Rub the mixture into the beef. Allow the meat to sit for 10 days, making sure to turn the meat daily.
Trout in foil
Yummo! Fresh caught trout! Keep the fish alive as long as possible after catching; this will keep the flesh tender and good. Be sure to keep the fish away from direct sunlight. As soon as the fish is dead, clean it. As you clean it, remove all the insides and wash it well, removing any bacteria and impurities.
Wrap each fish you caught in aluminum foil. Salt, pepper, and lemon or lime juice will be good over the fish. Finally, put a little butter or sprinkle the inside with oil. Wrap the fish in foil, closing and sealing it off so that nothing can spill. Place them in the hot coals of the fire. It should take no more than ten minutes for it to cook and be ready for your gullet.
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Peanut butter energy bars
This recipe requires that you prepare it at home before you go camping/hiking or if you want to have some homemade food in your emergency survival kit. You need three simple and it’s a piece of cake to make it.
- 1 Cup Peanut butter
- ¾ cup Honey
- 3 cups Instant oatmeal
Take the peanut butter and honey and mix them in a saucepan. You need to heat it a bit on low heat, just to make them slightly more liquid and easy to manage. Stir them until you have a homogeneous mixture.
Pour the oatmeal contents in a pan and add the mixture you just made. Mix them together and then start pressing the whole thing, so it’s nicely flat and even on all sides. You don’t have to refrigerate, so simply cut with a sharp knife into separate bars.
You can add dried fruits, green powders, protein powders, and other such things which come to your mind. When you’re finished, place each bar in a plastic bag and push the air from the bag as well as you can.
This will preserve them for longer. Otherwise, it’s good to consume within several months. Optionally you can keep them in the fridge to prolong their shelf-life.
If you’re not really the kind of person who makes their own energy bars, you should check out our reviews for best energy bars to buy.
- 2 cups of chickpeas (total 24 ounces)
- 2 tbsp olive/sesame/sunflower oil
- 6 tbsp tahini (sesame paste)
- 4 garlic pieces (or powdered garlic)
- 3 lemons’ juice
To make the hummus, you can either use a fork to mash or use a blender to puree the chickpeas; whichever you prefer.
If you do it manually, first mash them and when they are nicely pureed add the remaining ingredients and mix to have a nice consistency. You can also add water until it’s slightly liquid, but not too much. Two tablespoons would be enough.
If you have a blender, put everything in the blender, plus some water and mix it for a minute or two, depending on your blender’s power. You can place the mixture in a plastic box, or even a plastic bag with a zip lock.
Tomato Macaroni With Cheese
This recipe is very simple and takes little time to prepare. It’s very suitable for quick cooking during a disaster, or in a critical survival situation.
- Macaroni, 2 cups
- Cheese powder soup, 1 package
- Canned tomatoes, diced
First, you need to cook the macaroni in boiling water. When the macaroni are cooked (no more than 10 minutes), remove them from the pan and drain them from the remaining water. Keep half of the water as you will need it. Now take the macaroni back into the pan and add the cheese soup and tomatoes.
You don’t have to set it to boil, but keep it simmering on low heat for about 5 or more minutes. The cheese pieces should have melted by then. You can add a bit more water if you think it’s necessary. Otherwise, this is a nice simple recipe and cooks fairly quickly.
Indian bread recipe
- 2 ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp baking soda
- ½ tsp salt
- Cooking oil or shortening
- ¾ cup of water
Mix the flour, soda and salt in one bowl. When you’re done, add the oil/shortening, and next you have to massage with your hands. After a few minutes add the water and keep massaging until you finally have a nice, soft dough (it shouldn’t be sticking to your hands).
Next, you have to make small balls from the dough, no bigger than a golf ball. Roll them nicely between your palms and then flatten them on a table or a flat surface. Don’t make them too thin though – the thickness should be less than an inch.
Use a skillet/frying pan and put cooking oil and preheat it. After a few minutes add each bread cake in the skillet and fry them on both sides.
Recommended reading: Dutch Oven Cooking – Mastering the Basics
A last word on the poorer man recipes:
All the above recipes can vary depending on what foods (canned, freeze-dried, caught game, etc.) you have at hand. Don’t be afraid to experiment. However, as you already noticed, many recipes contain vegetables. If you’re lucky enough to have some on you then great, but in a survival situation, you should know about the wild plants you can safely eat.
Pioneers relied a great deal on Dutch ovens to cook their meals on the trail. Recipes didn’t involve specific temperatures. Rather, it was just a matter of putting ingredients into the Dutch oven and letting it cook over a fire.
There are many different easy recipes that you should learn so that you can make them off the top of your head. Remember that in all recipes, dried milk, dried eggs, and dried butter are all perfect substitutes for fresh ingredients and will make your recipe better than if you don’t have it at all.
Eventually, you’ll have to make it up as you go along with whatever you have on hand, just like our ancestors did in times of need. Remember to write down your favorite, most simple recipes in your survival notebook so that they will be at hand and ready for you and your family when it counts.
This article has been written by Jonathan Blaylock for Prepper’s Will.
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