What is the Best Way to Prepare Food in a Survival Situation

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An In-Depth Comprehensive Guide

Whether you are a hardcore prepper that is filling your brain with the knowledge to survive a disaster, or the keen camper that loves survival and bushcraft, knowing how to prepare your food in the wild is an important skill. Preparing your food properly in the wild or during a survival situation can be the difference between life and death. If you are practicing survival for recreation, it can be the difference between a bad stomach and a day in bed or a bright and energy-filled morning of productive activities.

It doesn’t matter whether you are the ambitious survivalist bush-crafter or the hardcore prepper, knowing how to prepare your food is key to your survival. You don’t want to risk your life for a simple meal if you’re are fighting for survival, just as you don’t want to risk a foul stomach on Monday morning if you are turning up to work after a weekend bushcraft excursion. In this article, we will go over the best ways to prepare store-bought meat, game meat, and vegetables when you are in a survival situation. You can use the skills that you learn in this article in times of true survival or as practice if you love getting out in the wilderness for survival, camping, or bushcraft.

Have You got Access to Fire?

Having access to a fire or a means of heat for cooking is essential to surviving in the wild long term. Humans struggle to digest raw meat, especially taken from a wild animal. Raw meat can harbor diseases and parasites that the human digestive system struggles to destroy, making the consumption of raw meat extremely dangerous in a survival situation.

If you want to survive long-term in the wild, then you will certainly have to do some hunting or fishing to keep your calories up for the energy consumption of day to day life. To be able to digest the meat that you hunt and stay clear of disease and parasites it is essential to have access to fire or a heat source to cook with. The first thing you should focus on in any survival situation is heat and shelter. The fire is essential to keeping you warm in the cold, keeping potentially dangerous animals away, and of course cooking your food.

If you don’t have access to a fire and you are prepping or practicing for a survival situation then having a fuel-burning stove that uses flammable liquid or gas could potentially get you out of trouble. If you are setting up a survival kit for an emergency situation or camping long-term then in our opinion, a stove and cook set is a necessity. There is nothing worse than being out in wet weather, or worse, a storm and not being able to get a fire lit to cook those all-important calories. If you are setting up camp or trying to survive in an emergency situation a fire should be of top priority. If for some reason you cannot get a fire lit or you run out of fuel for your cooking stove, then all hope is not lost. Having some simple non-perishable foods that do not require cooking could save your life, so if you are serious about prepping for survival then stock up on some of the essential food products in the next section…

Essential Non-Perishables

Whether you are prepping for a potential war, a huge natural disaster, or simply stocking up for a hurricane or winter storm, having some essential non-perishable foods stashed away is a good idea. Amazingly, 53% of American households do not even have three days’ worth of non-perishable foods stashed away for times of crisis. That means that over half of the population would starve in less than 7 days in an emergency survival situation! It is common sense to have a food store set up whether you believe that one day the world will go into a huge crisis or you are in the risk zone for hurricanes and other national disasters.

By the time an emergency situation arises, it will be too late to simply head to the store to get yourself food and water so the answer is to stock up now on foods with an extremely long shelf-life, or products that are “non-perishable”. In this section, we have a list of foodstuffs that are either non-perishable or extremely long-lasting. You simply need to find foods in these categories that you enjoy and that provide you with nutrition as well as a dense calorie count.

1. Canned foods

Canned foods are a great resource to stock up on. Having a variety of different canned foods in your survival pantry will make sure that if the time comes to fend for yourself, you will have a great head start. Canned meat products like Spam, chicken, corn beef, and tuna are great to stock up on but don’t forget to add some tinned corn, tomatoes, and other fruits in your pantry as well. Having a variety of canned food will make sure you are not struggling for sustenance if you need to survive.

2. Freeze-dried foods

Freeze-dried food products have an incredible shelf-life, these are essential for super-long-term storage. With a quick search on the internet, you will find companies that provide large buckets and bulk packages that contain food products with a shelf-life of over 25 years! You will find freeze-dried meat proteins, fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. Freeze-dried food isn’t going to wow your taste buds, but it will certainly save your life in a survival situation!

3. Dry grains

Dry grains are a great survival food that will store long term. If you have a freezer that is dedicated to survival items, you can even prolong your dry grains further. Storing them in the freezer will allow you to keep things like rice, oats, barley, buckwheat, bulgur, cornmeal, millet, and lentils for over 30 years. Once the time comes to cut the power from your freezer, your dry grains will last from 2 to 10 years at room temperature (depending on the grain). Dry grains do not take up much room and provide valuable carbohydrates with a high-calorie content, making them ideal to keep in your shelter or survival pantry.

4. Powdered foods

Powdered foods are an excellent long-term survival food that can be left in a cool, dry place and forgotten. Dairy products are highly perishable, but their powder counterparts will last for years. Having powdered food products like powdered milk, yogurt, and eggs will allow you to enjoy milk in your coffee and eggs or yogurt with breakfast during a survival situation without the need for shops or animals. Other powdered foods such as spices, proteins, sugars, and cocoa powder will provide extra energy and some exciting flavors for your meals, which will keep you going physically and mentally during survival.

5. Water

This one is a simple necessity that is a number one essential for your survival pantry or shelter. Humans can survive for a long time without food, but without water, you will be on a steep downhill slope to demise. Water does not go off and will store forever, however, the container it is stored in will affect the water quality over the years. If you are storing plastic bottles while prepping, then this could be detrimental to your health. Plastic breaks down over time and releases harmful chemicals and micro-plastics into the water, so if you are storing for a long period of time it is best not to go for plastic water bottles. Buying water in glass bottles or large kegs is the safest and best way to store water for survival.

Preserving Store-bought Meat

Prepping and preserving meat cuts that you have brought from the store prior to a survival situation or keeping meat fresh that you have brought into the wilderness for survival camping is a good skill to have. If the time comes where your power goes out and you have to rely on fending for your self without the ability to store or keep meats for long periods, you will need to know how to preserve it. As soon as your power goes out or as soon as you bring frozen or chilled meat out of the cooler, you are in a race to do something with it before it goes off.

Once your meat has thawed and you have no way of storing it long term you need to do something with it as soon as possible. You can cook some to eat on the day but what about the rest? You don’t want to throw out what you have left, as this is valuable food in a

 survival situation. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to preserve the meat you have left from the fridge-freezer so you can rely on it for a little bit longer than simply keeping it raw. Depending on the kind of meat you have leftover will depend on the steps you should take to preserve it. Prolonging the life of a piece of chicken will be different from the process to preserve fish, beef, or pork. The concepts are basically the same for each meat-type though, however, some will work better with beef and pork and others with fish and chicken. The safest meat to store long term is beef and if you are prepping for an eventual “apocalypse” then your freezer is best filled with beef cuts that can be easily preserved when the time comes.

1. Smoking

Humans have been smoking meat for centuries and it is one of the oldest methods of meat preservation. If you live in a high humidity area where there is too much moisture in the air to air-dry or dehydrate meat, then this is a great method. Smoked meat is not particularly healthy, however, in a survival situation you cannot be picky with what you are eating.

Smoked meat can be stored in a cool dry place for up to three months (depending on the meat) when stored in air-tight containers or vacuum packs. When storing any meat for long periods of time you will have to eat it at your own discretion, if it looks bad then it is best not to risk it!

2. Curing

Curing meat is an age-old way of meat preservation that is still commonly used today. Learning to cure meat properly is going to take some time. The whole process is a long one as well but once you master it is an extremely valuable long-term survival skill that will benefit you and your family greatly. Curing usually involves salts, sugars, and/or nitrates used to dry and “cure” the meat.

The shelf-life of cured meat will vary depending on the method and the meat you cure, but as long as you store the cured meat somewhere cool you can expect it to last for a year at least. There are a few different styles of curing and the one that is best for survival is dry curing, this will give your meat the longest shelf-life.

3. Dehydrating

Dehydrating your meat is one of the healthiest ways to preserve your meat for the long-term and it should extend you meat’s shelf-life more than other methods (if done properly). Electricity may be hard to come by in a survival situation but if you prep well now this should not be an issue.

Solar dehydrators can be purchased from plenty of online stores and owning one of these enables you to dehydrate meat in an off-grid situation. If you are prepping for long-term survival, then a large solar dehydrator will help you on your way massively. The only problem you will face with a solar dehydrator is the weather, which is why having a solar set up and some large capacity batteries will benefit you as well.

4. Fat Storage

If you have a lot of store-bought meat and have plenty of fat or lard in your pantry then storing your meat under a layer of lard or fat is an ideal meat preservation technique. This is also an extremely handy technique if you end up butchering your own animals, as the fat can be rendered and used to preserve the kill (depending on how fatty the animal is).

You can store either raw or cooked meat in lard or other forms of animal fat. All you need to do is place the cut of meat in a large crockpot and pour melted fat over the cut. Once the fat fully covers the meat you can leave the pot in a cool dry place to set. The layer of fat over the meat prevents oxygen from reaching the flesh which will restrict bacteria growth. Meat stored in lard will last for around six months as long as it is stored in a cool place where the fat stays set.

5. Brining

Brining as another traditional method of preservation that is cheap and simple to do. The brine used to preserve meats is simply a mixture of salt and water. Meat is preserved in brine by being completely submerged in the solution and left in a cool, dry place. This method is almost a mixture between curing and covering your meat in lard/ fat. The water will prevent oxygen from reaching the meat and the salt will restrict bacteria growth while “curing” the meat.

Meats should be left in the brine solution for no more than two days. Once the meat has been brined it can be sealed in a sterile airtight container or vacuum bag and left in as cool a place as possible. If you brine your meat properly and have a cool enough place to store it, you can expect the meat to last for many years. Although there is no specific shelf-life for brined meat, there have been reports of the navy eating brined meat that is over 10 years old!

6. Nature Chilling

Having a natural chiller will make day to day survival life after a natural or manmade disaster much easier. Underground storage cellars and food stores have been used for centuries to keep food fresh and cool without electricity or gas. Using a natural chiller will help prolong the life of your preserved meats, vegetables, and dry foods even longer than simply storing them at room temperature. If you are serious about prepping and want to prepare in the best possible way so you are thriving rather than surviving, then building an underground cold-store is essential.

Other forms of natural chilling can simply be dependent on the weather. During the winter you will find it much easier to store meat for longer periods of time, however, you never know when a survival situation will spring up. If you are lucky enough to be in the winter when an emergency arises, then using the natural cold outside is a great way to preserve your meat in the same way your fridge or freezer does. Of course, you can’t just throw a joint of meat in the snow, but you can build metal winter-storage bunkers to keep your meat cold or even frozen.

7. Freeze Drying

Freeze drying your meat is extremely effective in prolonging the life of the meat in your fridge or freezer. Although probably the most effective form of preservation on the list, it is not very practical for a survival situation. Freeze driers are very power hungry and use a lot of electricity, so unless you have created fail-proof source off-grid energy for your survival shelter or homestead they are useless.

If you have got the spare energy for a freeze drier it will allow you to create meat, fruit, and vegetable products that have an extremely long shelf-life at room temperature. Freeze-dried products are also exceptionally light which makes them excellent for backpacking, exploring, and long hunting expeditions.

Prepping Game Meat

Preserving game meat is just as easy as preserving store-bought meat and the same methods can be used for this, however, the difference with game meat (that you hunt) is that you will have to butcher it first. Although we are not going to go into much detail in this article about preparing a kill for the table, we will go over the basics for rabbit and deer to give you an insight into what it takes to put meat on the table.

Rabbit

Rabbit is known as the chicken of the woods and may well be a food staple in a survival situation during a crisis. The only thing you must be sure of when slaughtering, prepping, and eating rabbits is that they are not infected with myxomatosis. Myxomatosis does not directly affect humans and some people say that it is fine to eat infected rabbits, but it is best to stay safe and stay clear of eating diseased rabbits. Always thoroughly inspect your kill when preparing it for the table and if you see any lesions or growths on the meat or organs of the rabbit it is best to discard it appropriately away from your camp or homestead in order to keep predators away.

How to Skin, Gut, and Section a Rabbit

  1. Lay the rabbit that you have killed on a large chopping board. Keep a separate chopping board or large piece of wood for animal processing. Use a meat cleaver or heavy knife along with a hammer and cut off all the feet just above the knees. After this, remove the tail and head in the same way.
  2. Once you have removed the feet, head, and tail make a horizontal cut at the belly with a sharp knife and pull the skin away from the rabbit (be careful and make sure not to puncture the stomach or intestines). Insert your sharp knife upside down into the cut you have made and slowly cut the skin from belly to neck.
  3. Carefully pull away the skin from the flesh of the rabbit, if your catch is fresh this should be relatively easy. Gradually work the skin off of the flesh starting from the main body of the rabbit and finishing at the front legs. Once the skin is at the front legs you must push the stump of the legs through the skin, releasing the skin and fur from the body.
  4. Grip the shoulders of the rabbit and pull the rest of the skin down over the rear legs. This will fully release the skin from the flesh and leave you with a naked carcass that is ready for gutting.
  5. The next stage is to gut the rabbit. Make a second horizontal cut at the belly and run the knife (upside down) and carefully slice it open. Reach inside the ribs of the rabbit and pull the innards out with one smooth tug. Discard everything other than the liver (rabbit liver makes excellent eating!).
  6. The next stage is to section the rabbit and pull out the lungs and heart. Cut through the diaphragm to pull out the lungs and heart (discard these). Cut out the rectum and remove any remaining droppings that may be inside. Give the carcass a good clean under running water. At this point, the whole rabbit can be roasted, or you can continue to section it.
  7. You usually section a rabbit into five sections: two rear legs, the saddle, and the two front legs. Make a hard, fast horizontal cut with a cleaver and hammer above the rear legs and then a vertical cut between the legs. This separates your first sections. Chop at the top of the saddle (just below the rib cage) to release the saddle and front quarters. Finally, split the front legs and torso down the spine, this will give you all five sectioned cuts.

Deer

How to Skin, Gut, and Prepare a Deer

  1. Step one is to get your deer off the ground and hang it up by its rear legs. Using a gambrel and a crank will make this easier.
  2. The next step is to place a large bucket or container underneath the head. Once in place, you can make a circular incision around the neck all the way to the bone and cut the head free by pushing a stiff knife into the joint at the base of the skull. A hard twist in the right spot will release it, although this may take some practice.
  3. Cut the skin around the rear legs just above the knee in a circular motion. Use a hooked knife or hunting knife to slice the inside of the legs all the way down to the belly in a V-shape. The two cuts should meet at the belly. Do the same with the front legs, the V should meet at the chest.
  4. Remove the genitals or milk sack (depending on the sex). Next, start pulling the skin at the hind legs down toward the belly of the deer, you may have to use your knife to release the skin in some places.
  5. Cut through the tail bone with a sharp knife and continue to pull the skin down over the hips. Poking some holes in the hide can help with leverage when pulling the skin down. Continue to pull the skin down over the whole body of the deer to its front legs and remove it with a few simple cuts with a sharp knife. The valuable hide can be kept aside for processing.
  6. Cut off the front legs at the knee with a cleaver or a saw and discard. Next, pull the rest of the leg outward and cut off at the shoulder. These legs make great eating so store them somewhere clean and cool.
  7. Make a vertical cut along each side of the deer’s spine and cut the muscle away from the hip to the neck. The aim here is to remove the backstrap from the spine, once it has been removed store it in a cool clean place.
  8. Make a horizontal cut near where the genitalia or milk sack was and then slip a sharp knife under the flesh down toward the ribs. Gravity will help drop the intestines away from the carcass (make sure you do not puncture them). Small cuts along the stomach muscle and around the guts will release the innards. Leave the guts hanging from the ribs.
  9. Next, cut the neck from the deer using a saw and a cleaver and store with the other cuts.
  10. Carefully work your way into the rib cage making cuts where the heart, lungs, and guts are attached in the chest cavity. Cut the esophagus and allow all of the innards to fall into the bucket or container below. The chest cavity should now be clean.
  11. Now clean the carcass with fresh water and hang in a cool dark place that is free from flies and safe from predators. The carcass can now be further sectioned to remove the rib cage and hind legs. It is important that you have as much knowledge as possible before attempting to process a deer, as well as studying our handy guide it is worth doing further research on the topic first.

Prepping Veg and Herbs

Preparing vegetables, fruit, and herbs for a survival situation is a lot easier than preparing meat products. For one, vegetables, fruits, and herbs will last for much longer un-refrigerated compared to meat produce and they can be grown for sustainable long-term survival living. Chances are that the vegetarian produce you have in your fridge or freezer will last long enough out of the fridge to be stored and eaten in the usual way. However, if you are growing your own food and looking to preserve as much as possible in the event of an emergency, then there are a few things you can do to makes sure those fruits and vegetables make it to the table without going putrid.

You do not need to go to the same extent as preserving meats as you do when you are preserving vegetables. Sometimes vegetables get better with time as well and fermenting or pickling vegetables will give them a different flavor that almost gets better with age. Here we have 5 essential processes to getting the most out of your produce by prolonging and sustaining their production. Although we will not go into detail on the processes in this article, we will give you an overview of each and provide you with enough information to do some research and start practicing these techniques today.

1. Fermentation

Many cultures have used fermentation as a form of preservation and we still enjoy many vegetables today that have undergone lacto-fermentation. Many people enjoy the Korean fermented and seasoned vegetables (Kimchi) which is now more popular than ever across the globe. If you love Kimchi, then you will be happy to know that this is a great survival food that is packed with probiotics and keeps extremely well. With a bit of research and some extra ingredients, it is easy to turn your home-grown or store-bought produce into delicious fermented Kimchi.

2. Pickling

Pickling vegetables is also another popular way of prolonging the shelf-life of vegetables. Although pickled vegetables and fruits will only last for 6 to 8 months once jarred, it is a great way to preserve some of your harvest. Pickling vegetables that you have grown while living off-grid or in a long-term survival situation is a great way to preserve your harvest through the winter months. Not only will it prolong the fruits of your labor, but it will also give your food a different flavor and dynamic.

3. Canning

Canning vegetables is another excellent way to prolong the life of fruits and vegetables when in a long-term survival situation. Canning is the process of locking food in an environment that bacteria cannot survive in. Many different types of produce can be canned from peppers, tomatoes, berries, jams, and chutneys. Depending on the fruits and vegetables you are canning, self-canned foods can be kept for 1 to 2 years, sometimes more.

It is important that you sterilize your jars and canning tools before canning up your food. All of your jars must be checked for airtightness before storage too. An empty jar should make a sharp, ringing noise when the lid is hit with a spoon – this indicates that they are fully sealed. Once you have canned up your food make sure to write the date on the jar, so you know exactly how old the food is inside it.

4. Drying

You can also sun dry and dehydrate your produce. Herbs, vegetables, and fruit can be sun-dried and dehydrated but the drying process will change depending on the type of produce you have. Most herbs, chilies, and pepper can be hung in a cool, dry, dark place and checked every day until they have fully dried. Once all the moisture has come out of these herbs and spices, they can be stored in airtight jars for an extremely long time. Other fruits and vegetables may need to be heated, left in the sun, or put in a dehydrator to dry out without rotting or molding.

5. Preserving your seed stock

If you end up in a long-term survival situation or want to live completely off-grid without having to rely on local stores, then preserving your seed stock and maintaining a food garden is essential. Make sure that you leave a certain percentage of your crop on the plant so that your fruits and vegetables mature enough to produce viable seeds. Once the seeds have fully developed, they can be harvested and dried in a cool, dark place for long-term storage for re-sowing yearly. Make sure to replenish your seed stock yearly to make sure you always have a viable stock of seeds, in case of a bad season or a pest problem with one crop type that wipes out your harvest.

Conclusion

When preparing food for a survival situation it is important to consider long term storage spaces as well as preservation techniques to make every last bite of food go the extra mile. Using multiple different food preservation techniques for both meat and plant-based products will make sure you have enough food to not only survive on but thrive on as well. Stocking up on water, canned foods, powdered products, dry grains, and freeze-dried food will give you a head start and will ensure you and your family survive through the first weeks of survival without discomfort.

Learning how to hunt and prepare game meat has to be the best skill a prepper can learn. It is all well and good stocking up on non-perishables but one day your stock will run out. If you know how to hunt and prepare game meat you will be able to sustain yourself and your family for much, much longer. Combine hunting and meat preparation with excellent food preserving techniques and you are guaranteed to survive and thrive for many years after a disaster. Not only will hunting and preserving your own meat help you survive when food runs out, if you start hunting as soon as possible during a survival situation you will be able to hold on to those “old world” foods for longer.

If you have read through this guide you should have an excellent insight on how to prepare, preserve, and butcher your own food in an off-grid survival situation. If you are serious about prepping and want to make sure you and your family are safe if the worst does happen, then stay up to date with the prepping section on our blog. Always look to expand your knowledge and learn more about survival and off-grid living while preparing. Even if you are not a serious prepper that is getting ready for a significant world-wide disaster, it is wise to be prepared for a localized disaster like a hurricane, tornado, or flooding. Our best advice is to stock up on essential non-perishables, tools that will help you survive, and educate yourself as much as you can.

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