Food is one of the most essential ingredients to sustain human life.
It took spending six-plus years as a culinary specialist, a fancy term for a military cook in the United States military, to understand why food preparation was perhaps the most overlooked and yet important element driving the success of the United States military. Simply put, an underfed army cannot complete its mission.
I’m also a firm believer that this same concept applies to outlasting any type of severe disaster situations that come our way as well.
Every person needs to eat not only to stay alive but also to ensure that they can function properly, both physically and psychologically, in a time where you will be pushed to your physical limits and where stress, shock, and adrenaline could overtake you and others in your group.
In a true disaster scenario when food becomes in short supply, it will be of the utmost importance to ensure that every person in your survival group is fed.
Your goal essentially must be twofold: to ensure that everyone is properly fed and for the longest time possible for as long as your food stores last.
I believe that the food preparation skills I learned during my service in the military (in which the goal of extending the supply of food to ensure that literally everyone in the mess hall received their filling was the exact same) can help you do exactly what after a major cataclysmic disaster has struck.
Here are the most important food prepping skills that I learned in the military and how they can be applied for you in a disaster scenario:
Be Strict About Sanitation
Most of my initial training came from taking the eight week entry-level culinary specialist course after enlisting in the US Army.
Thousands of culinary specialists take the same course every year. This course provided me with very valuable hands-on experience.
The most important thing that we learned early on was not about actual cooking or food preparation, but rather about sanitation.
We were made clear that sanitation is very serious for every meal we made to ensure that soldiers stayed healthy and to reduce the risk of food-borne illness. Since troops regularly share dishes and utensils, it wouldn’t take long for illness to spread if those dishes and utensils were not properly cleaned.
In a disaster scenario, you cannot ignore the importance of preparing your food in a clean setting and thoroughly washing all dishes, utensils, and other cooking equipment. In the event of a serious enough disaster scenario, you may not have access to professional medical help either.
Be extremely strict about the way you handle and cook food in regards to cleanliness, and make sure that everyone else who prepares food in your group follows the same protocols. This is precisely why stockpiling plenty of dishwashing soap, sponges, and cleaning rags is an absolute must.
Make the Most Out of What You Have
Chili-mac, spaghetti, hamburgers, hot dogs, Mexican casseroles, pastas, and salads were commonly on the menu. Why? Because each of those meals were easy to make and could feed the large volume of troops who entered the mess halls.
Specialized or intricate dishes are not a thing in the military, and for good reason.
We routinely made meals that could be prepared so they could feed a large volume of people. We were taught how to efficiently cut a turkey or a chicken into eight different pieces and how to use literally all of the meat from the carcass.
I’m a firm believer that you should adopt a similar approach when feeding people in your survival group. To that end, I would stockpile ingredients that are not only long lasting in safe storage conditions but that also could be used to make a multitude of meals, while ensuring a balanced diet.
For example, there are a multitude of meals you could make out of nothing more than meat (such as ground beef or chicken), rice, beans, pastas, flour, and canned vegetables.
That’s why I’d recommend stockpiling as much as you can of each of the above items. Learn more here about how to build a food stockpile that never spoils. That way you can prepare something at least slightly different each night and feed plenty of people while ensuring their nutritional needs are being met.
Learn How To Cook While on the Move
It wasn’t always that we had access to a full kitchen in a mess hall to feed the troops either. Part of being a culinary specialist in the military means learning how to prepare meals quickly while out in the field.
Depending on the disaster you face, you may have to prepare food while on the move. For example, what if you have to bug out on foot?
At the bare minimum, I recommend including an eating utensil, some sort of a foldable cooking mess kit, and a small container of soap.
In regards to the food, I’d recommend bringing the ready-to-eat dried food packets that contain full meals in each packet and only require water to make ready to eat (and maybe a little bit of heat from a fire).
We had more than that in the military while we were in the field, but the basic principles remain the same. We had to ensure that soldiers’ nutritional needs were being met while maintaining It was a challenge, but one that we had to meet if we wanted to succeed in our roles.
Speaking of which, do not let your sanitation standards slip while cooking out in the field as well. Filter the water that you collect from a lake or stream before cleaning with it. You can learn here how to build a water filter in less than 30 minutes.
Preparing meals every day for my fellow men and women in uniform was a great honor because I knew that I was helping to ensure that the soldiers (almost all of whom I didn’t even know personally) in my unit were well-fed and received the proper nutrition they needed while on deployment.
I’ll be the first to say from experience that serving in the military can be very taxing both physically and mentally, and attempting to ensure the survival of yourself and your loved ones in the midst of a major disaster scenario will be no less challenging.
You have to keep everyone’s physical strength up and ensure that everyone can think clearly, and the only way you can do this is by making sure that everyone is getting all the nutrition and hydration they need.
Just remember three core principles: keep your food and cooking items clean no matter what, stockpile foods that can be used to prepare multiple kinds of meals while covering your nutritional bases, and include a small mess kit and ready-to-eat meals in your bug out bag so you can cook while on the move.
You may also like: