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The Five Staples – Old Time Bug Out Food

March 6, 2016

There are a lot of options about what kind of food to include in a bug-out-bag, or 72 hour pack as some call it. The kind of food you have in your pack is going to be a reflection of what your pack is intended for. Is it to get you through a hurricane? Is it to get you from your home in the city to a survival retreat somewhere? Is it just the beginning rations for a long term survival situation? Or maybe, like most of us, you don’t really know what it will end up being used for.

So, most people end up going with freeze dried back-packing meals, MRE’s, or dried and canned goods from the grocery store. These are a safe bet, but it’s hard to carry more than a few days worth of food this way, and what if you end up needing to live off of the land for a couple of weeks or more. Well, this is where the five staples come in.

And what, you ask, are the five staples? Well, the five staples are a little trick that was taught to me years ago by my wilderness mentor. We used to go on canoe trips in order to practice survival and wilderness living skills and we took very minimal supplies. My mentor called it Daniel Boone camping. In the food procurement and preparation department we usually took our fish spears, a frying pan, and the “five staples.” The five staples were; (1) self-rising flour, (2) corn meal, (3) salt, (4) sugar, and (5) lard or shortening.

The main purpose of the five staples was to enhance the preparation of wild foods that we procured; but, in a pinch, the five staples could be used to prepare a couple of very basic foods that would keep us going until nature saw fit to provide us with more.

For meat we speared gar, snakes, turtles, and on one occasion a nutria. Now all of these things can be prepared by spitting them on sticks and roasting them over a fire; but they taste about 1000% better if they’re salted, breaded with a little flour or corn meal, and fried in lard. It takes just a miniscule amount of salt, just a couple of table spoons of cornmeal, and maybe a quarter cup of lard (save what’s left to reuse) to turn a survival situation into a picnic. Things like wild greens and briar shoots are good, but they taste so much better with a little dash of salt on them.

Now what about the times when we weren’t so lucky at finding food? Well how do pancakes for breakfast sound? Take about a quarter cup of self rising flour and put about a teaspoon of sugar in it. Add enough water to make a nice batter. Fry it up in your skillet and you have some very good pancakes. For syrup you can dissolve a little sugar in hot water and pour it on. I remember on one trip we found some wild blackberries growing near the river. I picked about a quart of berries, and while Glen was cooking pancakes, I mashed up some of the berries with sugar and a little water and we had blackberry syrup on our pancakes. Later that evening we had a little blackberry cobbler made with nothing but berries, sugar, and a little crust of self rising flour mixed with sugar and water.

Another breakfast treat that Glen would sometimes make were his famous survival donuts. He would mix up batter just like for pancakes, but he would cook it in little globs, about a tablespoon of batter dropped in the grease. While the globs of fried batter were still hot, he would drop them in the sugar bag and shake them around a bit. These little “donuts” with their crunchy sugar coating were mighty tasty.

We usually managed to come up with something to eat by dinner time, but if not we would make some hot water cornbread. These corn cakes are really easy to make. Just mix a little salt into about a quarter cup of cornmeal. Pour some boiling water into the mixture until it is a thick paste, about like playdough. Pat the dough out into a cake and fry it until golden brown. You must use boiling water to make these or you will end up with a mess. The boiling water causes the cornmeal to release its gluten and the resulting dough will stick together. You can use this same recipe to make little cornbread dumplings to add to a pot of wild greens. Just drop the little balls of dough into the greens for about the last tens minutes that they are on the fire.

Can you see the value of the five staples? A pot of wild greens boiled in creek water is edible. A pot of wild greens boiled in creek water with a little salt, a little bit of lard, and some cornbread dumplings is a real honest to goodness meal.

If you think that you may end up needing to provide for yourself for more than 72 hours, and if you are in a position to live off of the land, you might want to think about the five staples and whether or not they might have a place in your bug out plans.

  1. Don Sanders permalink

    I really enjoy your writing. I have just finished the archives. The five staples is a good article, some stuff I had not considered. Have you ever tried pemmican? Easy to make and many different things to add to it. Many recipes on the net. Thanks again for some great reading and really good ideas. Don

  2. Seymour Mills permalink

    You have a very good plan, but I will try very hard to convince you that Sourdough can very easily take the place of the “Self Rising” in the flour. Take regular flour, preferably Whole Wheat also. People have survived on Sourdough for making everything from bread to dessert and was much preferred. Read “Alaska Sourdough” which was written by Ruth Allman an Alaska trappers wife, and “Tales, Trails and Trials” by Judge Wikersham. A Judge in Alaska during the 1898 Gold Rush. They were both friends of each other.

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