About The Feast & Famine Lifestyle
This section is a combination of all of my frugal food storage recipes, menus and ideas, including both the gluten-free, dairy-free variety and the ones made with both gluten and dairy. You’ll find many options that do not require any fresh foods, making them appropriate for camping, boating and emergency situations. If you are already a prepper, you’ll find some new ideas to keep your food storage meals appetizing. Even if you’re not into food storage, you’ll find plenty of quick, convenient, easy meals that please the family and the budget.
For 25 years, almost all of my married life, my husband and I lived what we called The Feast & Famine Lifestyle. For my family that meant that we had extra money some of the time, and barely enough money the rest of the time. Our pay checks varied by as much as 35 to 40%. On very lean weeks it could be as much as a 50% difference. Sometimes we had more money. Other times we had a lot less. I learned to stock up on extra food when we had the cash and that brought us comfortably through the lean times when groceries were a luxury.
Now that we live on a fixed income we still have a type of feast and famine existence. We get paid monthly. At the beginning of the month we can afford plenty of fresh produce. Towards the end of the month we eat from our pantry and freezer for the most part. Since I’ve lived this way for so many years, it’s become second nature to me.
Most of the recipes and meals in this section make heavy use of canned goods because they are very easy to store, affordable to buy and keep for a very long time. Some of the canned goods cost more than their fresh or frozen counterparts. Sometimes the trade-off of convenience and long-term keeping qualities is worth the extra cost. Sometimes it isn’t. I recommend each family weigh the pros and cons and make their own choices regarding more expensive products. If you camp, boats, spend much time without electricity during storm seasons, or live far away from town and convenient shopping, then slightly higher priced canned goods may be worth the expense for the variety they lend to your diet.
I’ve tried to focus on whole foods as much as is possible with canned goods. Sauces and baked goods are made from scratch instead of relying upon jars, packets and boxed mixes. The mixes I do use, such as pudding mix, are widely available and easy to find. Canned soups are used to some degree, but do not make up the bulk of the dishes. Gluten free and dairy-free dishes use no canned soups.
A few fresh items are used in some recipes, specifically onions and cabbage. These are both extremely affordable, even when there is little money for groceries, as well as nutritious. When there is no electricity, such as when the power is out, both cabbage and onions are good keepers. Onions keep very well without refrigeration–for well over a month. Cabbage will keep for several days without refrigeration. To perk up wilted cabbage leaves simply soak them in a bowl of clean, fresh water for a few hours. This allows you to save cooler space for necessities such as milk and eggs.
Fresh homegrown sprouts are a great option when you don’t have other access to fresh vegetables. Alfalfa sprouts make a good substitute for lettuce, while sprouted lentils are super in salads. Most beans and grains can be sprouted so don’t be afraid to experiment with your own kitchen garden. When you are living on a diet of canned and dried foods exclusively, you begin to crave fresh vegetables something fierce. If you must subsist on stored foods for more than a week, I recommend that you make and eat sprouts daily. They really satisfy your craving for fresh produce.
Almost all of the recipes that call for eggs were tested with both fresh eggs and Ova Easy dried eggs. Individual recipes will give specifics so you can choose which type of egg is most convenient for your circumstances.
Ova Easy dried eggs are very expensive at the time of writing (Fall 2015). I still have quite a few bags that I bought a year ago, when they were more affordable. I recommend waiting until late spring to buy Ova Easy eggs, because around Easter dried eggs are usually more affordable. Other dried egg products may work as well, but I have not used them in these recipes.
Recipes calling for milk can be prepared with unsweetened soymilk or reconstituted dairy milk. Nonfat dry milk is the most affordable. Soymilk is available in tetra-packs which keep for several months without refrigerating. Once opened soymilk and reconstituted dairy milk should be kept in a cool spot or used up quickly. If you have a refrigerator or a cooler with ice, keep them there. If you don’t, then look for the coolest spot in your home and don’t plan to keep them much longer than 24 hours.
Many of the recipes call for Butter or the Alternative of Your Choice. Margarine, which keeps for some time without refrigeration, is what I’ve used most often in these recipes. Canned butter is available online, but is a bit too expensive for my budget. Dairy-free margarine is widely available under the Smart Balance brand. Butter flavored shortening, which is dairy-free and vegan, is a good alternative when you don’t have margarine or butter available for baking. It cannot be used as a spread for bread, but it works well in baking, seasoning vegetables and for frying. If you have a cooler or refrigerator available, then fresh butter is a fine choice.
Velveeta-type cheese keeps well in the pantry before opening. After opening it should be refrigerated if possible. It will keep for a couple of weeks without refrigeration, but will eventually develop mold–especially in warm weather. If you do not have refrigeration, consider buying several small boxes of velveeta instead of one large box. Velveeta is available in both orange and white varieties. I like to have both. Grated parmesan, the kind in the green shaker jar, does not require refrigeration. Think about seeing it at the table in pizzerias. After opening it keeps for several months at room temperature.
Sour cream or yogurt is called for in a few recipes. Dehydrated sour cream can be purchased online. It keeps well and is easy to prepare. Simply use 3-tablespoons of water or milk to 1/3-cup of powdered sour cream. The favor is a bit more tangy or sour than store-bought sour cream, but it still tastes pretty good. Another alternative is to use canned table cream and sour it yourself with lemon juice. The only type I can find is Nestle brand canned Table Cream or medium cream, in 7-ounce cans. Shake the can vigorously before opening it. After opening gently stir in 1 to 2-tablespoos of lemon juice or 2-packets of True Lemon (dehydrated lemon juice). I use a chop stick to stir so I don’t make a mess. Allow the cream to sit for a few minutes. It will sour and thicken nicely. Makes the equivalent of 3/4-cup to 1-cup of fresh sour cream.
Mayonnaise is a whole nother kettle of fish. When you don’t have refrigeration mayonnaise is one of the items requiring special attention. Common wisdom states that mayonnaise spoils quickly and is the cause of many summer picnic tummy upsets. This isn’t exactly true. Mayonnaise is a highly acidic condiment. It’s high acid content, along with the plethora of preservatives with which modern manufacturers infuse their products makes mayonnaise a lot safer than most folks assume.
People who sail without refrigeration have long rejected conventional wisdom and kept their mayonnaise at room temperature. The women I’ve spoken with say there are a few tips to consider. First, buy small bottles of mayonnaise, preferably 8 or 16-ounce jars. Only use scrupulously clean utensils to dip mayonnaise out of the jar. Any dirty utensils will contaminate the rest of the mayonnaise in the jar. The women I’ve spoken with reassure me they’ve kept mayonnaise for several weeks, even at room temperature in warm weather. I consider this an option worth exploring should circumstances require it.
It occurs to me that squeeze-bottles of mayonnaise would eliminate the need to scoop it out with a spoon. This would make it easier to keep the mayonnaise in the bottle clean until it’s all used up.
If the idea or room temperature mayonnaise leaves you fearful of food borne illness, then there is an alternative. Restaurant sized packets of mayonnaise are available at Warehouse Stores like Sam’s. Each packet holds 2-teaspoons of mayonnaise. The packets keep very well at room temperature until the expiration date. You only open them as you need them, so there isn’t any waste. They cost more than mayonnaise purchased in jars, but there is no waste at all. My husband can’t quite believe that mayonnaise is safe at room temperature, so this is the method he prefers. The only problem I’ve had over the years is that they don’t keep at all past the expiration date. I’ve even had them explode in the pantry on very hot days.
After trying to manage the mayonnaise situation for many years, my choice is to buy small 8-ounce jars of mayonnaise and use them all up as soon as I open them. Potato salad, macaroni salad, tuna or chicken salad, I just make enough at once time to use up most, or all, of the small jar of mayo. If you do have a refrigerator or ice chest, this isn’t a problem. Dukes mayonnaise sells small jars on their website.
Since this collection of recipes is an amalgam, you may have to hunt a little bit to find those which best suit your circumstances. Many do not require any fresh foods. A few may call for fresh onions or cabbage. Fresh eggs are called for in some recipes, but reconstituted dried eggs will do just as well in most circumstances. While I’ve tried to keep the recipes as economical as possible, there are times when canned or dried ingredients cost more than their fresh or frozen counterparts. In the interest of variety I have included recipes that call for higher priced items because they are easily stored. Crab Newburg, for instance, is not an especially economical dish, but it still has a place in this section. Many of the recipes can be prepared without electricity, on a propane camp stove. Some require the use of an oven. Some of the oven dishes fit inside a collapsible camp oven. Some need a kitchen oven at home or at least a propane oven that can hold a 9 by 13-inch pan. I’ve tried to include enough information in each of the recipes to allow for the most circumstances, but it’s impossible to cover them all. I’ve done the best I can with limitations of time and space.
Finally, some of these recipes are gluten and dairy free, some are not. Ones which are gluten free, or which can be made so with a few alterations are marked (GF). Ones which are dairy free, or which can be made so are marked (DF). Those which are both gluten free and dairy free are marked (GFDF).