In spite of the advantages of storing basics like grains and beans, many people shy away from storing these foods because they are unfamiliar, and people expect them to taste blah and boring. However, grains and beans are used more commonly than people realize, and if you store a few other items, you can make these foods more interesting and delicious.

What about grains?

The category of grains includes oatmeal, long grain rice, pasta, cornmeal, flour and wheat, which has a long shelf life in comparison to flour.

Oatmeal is a common breakfast food. However, instead of using more expensive flavored oatmeal packets, why not cook regular or quick oatmeal in the microwave, and use what you have stored? You’ll want to store some sugar and powdered milk. (See past article "Food Storage Essentials: Storing milk is not that scary.")

Cooked cornmeal and whole or cracked wheat can be a fun and interesting change for breakfast.

You can actually save money to buy food storage by eating these inexpensive breakfast foods. They are fast to put together and can cook while you get ready in the morning, so they’re ready to eat when you are.

Rice and pasta are also common staple foods. Almost everyone knows how to cook them! Beans or canned meats, plain or in some sort of sauce, on top of rice or pasta make a delicious meal.

Imagine cooking these foods without salt! Salt is critical in food storage.

Flour and your own wheat, ground into flour, can make wonderful breads, pancakes, muffins, biscuits, cookies, cakes and even French toast, even in an emergency. With cornmeal, you can make cornbread. Don’t these foods sound delicious? They are foods we’re used to eating. With good recipes, and finely ground whole wheat flour, baked foods are light, moist and delicious, just like we are used to eating. To make these recipes, in addition to salt, sugar and dry milk, you would need to store some oil, yeast, baking soda, baking powder, dried whole eggs and vanilla. This simple list completely changes what you can make with these grains.

These extra foods are inexpensive, except for the powdered eggs, which are worth the investment if you want bake delicious food in an emergency. Powdered eggs produce fabulous results; you cannot tell the difference between baked foods made with fresh eggs and those made with powdered eggs. Watch for sales. There are some currently. A No. 10 can holds around 100 eggs.

Powdered eggs come in smaller cans if you want to experiment with them first. Augason Farms "everyday" size can and Walton Feed’s size 2.5 can are about the size of a cocoa mix can. Substitute 1 tablespoon powdered egg (pushed through a small sieve as it is lumpy) and 2 tablespoons of water for one fresh egg in any baked food recipe. You’ll be surprised at the result.

What about beans?

Give beans more flavor by storing bouillon and spices. Adding canned or dried vegetables to bean recipes is a simple way to boost flavor and nutrition and create some great soups and main dishes.

If you are concerned about soaking and cooking beans, I have mentioned previously that canned beans can be stored in place of dry beans, if you prefer. (In place of 5 pounds of dried beans/month, store 2.5 times that amount in canned beans which is 16 (15-ounce) cans of beans, excluding the liquid.) You can also store chili, Pork ‘N Beans, baked beans and refried beans, which are favorite foods for many people.

I have also mentioned previously that canned meats can be stored in place of dry beans, if you desire. (In place of 5 pounds of dried beans/month, store 5 pounds of canned meats instead.) Bouillon, spices and canned or dried vegetables expand one can of meat into a delicious meal for 4-6 people, making canned meat an economical option.

It really is a myth that basic food storage is unfamiliar and has to taste blah and boring. Storing a few additional food items can turn "blah and boring" grains and beans into delicious meals. You can get all the benefits of storing and eating basic food storage (saving money and space, providing top nutrition, with many basics having longer shelf life) AND enjoy lots of flavor besides.

Here are some recipes to try:

Puerto Rican Black Beans and Rice

If you don’t have dried green peppers, add some diced fresh green peppers to try this recipe. The black pepper in this recipe gives it some zip.
3½ cup soaked and cooked dry black beans, reserving a little cooking liquid, OR
2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, undrained
½ cup water
1 tablespoon dried green peppers
1 tablespoon dried onion
2 tablespoons ketchup
½ tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
hot cooked rice
Combine ingredients except rice in pan. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes. Serve over hot rice. Serves 4-5.
(© Probert, Harkness, Emergency Food in a Nutshell, 2nd Edition, Revised, 2003)

Oatmeal Muffins
Time-saving hint:
use an ice cream scoop to transfer batter to muffin pan.
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 ¼ cup white flour
1 cup quick cooking oats
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon dried whole egg, pushed through a small sieve
3½ teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
1¾ cup reconstituted dry milk
½ cup oil
In a bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Stir together milk and oil. Pour into dry ingredients, stirring just until combined (15 strokes). Allow to stand one minute for batter to thicken. Scoop into greased muffin pans. Bake at 400ºF for 20 minutes. Makes 12 cupcake-size muffins.