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Emergency Kitchen
The Story
by Sally Strackbein

What do we do with canned food?

"They have 18 cans of Spam and two jumbo slabs of Velveeta," Washington Post said about us on the front page. I never eat Velveeta and Spam is only good for carving contests at science fiction conventions. But I really did buy the Spam and Velveeta. Why? Because I'm scared. Emergencies and disasters happen and might cause disruptions in our food supply.

Why Emergency Kitchen?

This website is my answer to the question "what food do I buy and what do I do with it?" There are numerous sites dedicated to basic food storage, where you can learn how to store whole wheat and rice and pack them so they will last for 10 years. I'm not going to store 300 pounds of wheat. I don't have a manual grinder and I won't have an oven that works if the power goes off, so I won't be baking bread. I doubt the average family shopper will buy wheat either. We ordinary folks need to prepare for emergencies by adding to our normal shopping lists. It can't be too hard or it won't get done.

I normally cook fresh or frozen food and so do most other people, if the shopping carts I see in the store are any indication. I don't see too many cans going by. So what do I do with the canned stuff? I've been practicing recipes made with canned and dry food on my family and they are still alive. It is actually possible to make tasty food from cans.

We had a real live emergency test.

We had an ice storm in January of 1999 and lost electricity for almost two days. It was a real emergency test. We were warm because of our wood stove. We had water thanks to our barrels in the basement. (We have our own well and need electricity to pump the water.) We had light from the oil lamps I bought in October.

I thought my emergency food storage program was almost complete until the ice storm took our electricity away for two days. It became a real emergency test.

I went to the pantry to get food to serve the family and gagged. I saw cans of beans, Spam, chili, turkey, vegetables and fruits. None of it looked appealing enough to turn into a meal. The thought of surviving for an extended period of time on what was in my pantry was depressing.

We believe in the American Way of Life

Let me tell you what my husband and I are doing and why. We don't want to live in isolation. We believe in the American spirit of cooperation and neighborliness. We tried to convince our neighbors and we've had some luck with a few. Most think we are crazy. We'll keep on gently trying. FEMA and the Red Cross suggest stocking up on 3-7 days food and water. I think that is a very conservative amount.

We bought a wood stove because we know that our power can be disrupted in the winter time. A few years ago, some friends of ours who live in Canada lost power during an ice storm. They went to her father's house because his house still had power. If we lose power in the winter, everyone else probably will too. We will have nowhere to go. No one else will have power either. The wood stove will keep us warm and will provide us with a cooking surface.

I tried out the wood stove, and found that I didn't know what I was doing. I needed practice. We had planned to turn off the power when it was cold to see how much of the house stayed warm. (Actually - the ice storm turned it off for us.) We needed the newspapers we usually recycled to start fires. We needed matches. I needed to collect the twigs in the yard that I used to throw away. I cooked some Spam and beans and found what I needed to do make it edible. (We actually heated our house totally with wood last year. Our heat pump broke and we didn't get it fixed 'til spring.)

I needed a plan.

I've spent a massive amount of time researching emergency preparedness on the Internet and felt overwhelmed. I read about people buying special grains and prepared, dried meals and foods preserved to last ten years. I had enough to do just to buy the stuff without worrying about going to extravagant measures to preserve it. I bought lots of food at the grocery store that will last long enough. That is all I need. If problems and disruptions don't happen, I just won't have to buy canned food for a while.

I realized that I needed a plan for how to eat what was in my cans. I've always loved to throw food together and come up with new recipes so I decided to create recipes for Emergency Kitchen.

Copyright ©  Sally Strackbein
Permission is granted to reprint a few
documents from
in your magazine, website (with a clickable link)
or newsletter with the byline:

"Sally Strackbein is a speaker and author.
She can be reached at 703-262-0361
or www.EmergencyKitchen.com"

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Wate rFilter

Clean drinking water is easy to get when you can run dirty water through this filter to get the cleanest drinking water.

Emergency Kit

Personally, I make up my own emergency kits. But if you feel pressed for time, you can order this one from Amazon.


Ray and I have flashlights like these in every room of our house, in our cars and in my purse.


We bought a woodstove in 1998 thinking it would heat our family room. It heats our whole house and saved me when our power failed this winter and Ray was out of town and I was snow/iced in. I was toasty and warm.