As I have started my basic food stash, I have noticed that many plans do not have any options for vegetarians or vegans. I have been vegetarian for over 23 years, and while, in a true long-term emergency I would have to eat meat, it would require me to start slow, as to not make myself ill. It’s pretty difficult to go from eating no animal products to eating meat overnight. My body would need time to get used to it and develop the enzymes I have lost over the years to digest the meat protein well. With this in mind I have compiled a list of good storage items geared toward a vegetarian diet. Having this food in storage would give one time to acclimate the body to eating meat, and would keep one well nourished as well. I have omitted from this list the obvious (peanut butter, rice and beans, vitamins etc.) in the interest of keeping it concise. Everything on this list stores very well.
I have focused this article on whole grains, rather than canned foods, but there are many options out there for canned supplies. (See the list of links below) A walk down your local health food stores aisles will give you a lot of ideas. Many freeze dried food companies have vegetarian options available as well. I tend to eat whole grains in my daily living, so this is what I have focused on for storage. I believe that even if you do eat meat, exploring some vegetarian options is not always a bad thing. In case of Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP), for instance, it can really stretch a pound of ground meat.
All prices are from my bulk food ordering catalog as of February 2012. Shop around and you may find better prices. I also encourage anyone to try these first, and experiment, to make sure you like them before you buy a massive amount. I am not a nutritionist, but have eaten these foods for as long as I have been vegetarian, and know they are good protein sources. These are things I enjoy eating often. I do recommend reading up on vegetarian nutrition if you haven’t already, I can’t stress this enough.
I have added a small selection of resources and links, including information on a few cookbooks that I think are must-haves. On the subject of books and recipes I definitely recommend finding recipes, cookbooks, and blog information about traditional meals of less developed countries. Many recipes from parts of Africa and India are, if not outright vegetarian, easy to make vegetarian. Less developed countries don’t always have the luxuries of refrigerators, etc. that we do, and the food is made with whole grains and vegetables. The recipes are often easy to prepare and cook, and are a nice way to experiment with foods you have stored.
Textured Vegetable Protein
Stored as bought it will keep for up to one year, if oxygen absorbers are used it can keep for 15-20 years. When hydrated 1 cup of dry equals 2+ cups of rehydrated. Textured Vegetable Protein is great for making taco filling, adding to soups, making veggie burgers. The omnivores in your life can use it to stretch ground meat (use 1 part TVP to 2 parts meat.) A little goes a long way, and it takes on the flavors of whatever you put it in. I have seen it for as little as $1.65 a pound.
Vital Wheat Gluten Flour
This has a shelf life about two years and can be used to make seitan [for those than tolerate gluten in their diet.] 2 cups will make 1+ pounds of seitan. Seitan is a fantastic vegetarian protein source, and is absolutely delicious. It is very easy to make. This can also be added to whole grain breads to make them rise better. I buy this for about $3.60 a pound, which seems like a lot at first, but it makes an enormous amount of seitan. The downside to making seitan is that it takes about a half hour of simmering time, but it is very versatile, can be made to taste a lot of different ways, and is packed with nutrients.
Quinoa is wonderful and very nutritious whole grain that stores far longer than most whole grains without going rancid, and is very versatile. It cooks quickly, has a ton of great vitamins, and can be used to make flour as well. It is currently at about $4 a pound.
Nutritional Yeast stores well for at least one year, possibly longer as long if it stays dry. It has a lot of B vitamins, which are often difficult to get in a vegan diet. Some people hate it; I absolutely love it and use it on everything.
Beans/Seeds for sprouts- Garbanzo, Pea, Adzuki and Mung
Sprouts (especially the ones above) are high in protein, easy to digest, very easy to grow, and contain a host of vitamins that could be difficult to get in the dead of winter. Plus you can sprout anywhere. On longer camping trips I have even been able to grow them on the go, you don’t need fancy equipment at all. You can find places that sell mixes online for about $3 a pound.
I buy my garbanzo beans for about $1 a pound from my buying club. You can also make hummus with cooked garbanzos. It’s a good source of protein and if made with sesame seeds, is a complete protein. (Plus, it’s delicious and easy to make!)
Rich in proteins, delicious as a spice, and versatile to work with, sesame seeds are one of my favorite. If you get the un-husked, darker colored kind they stay good for several months. The hulled kind can turn rancid. When toasted they add a great flavor to stir-fried foods and bread. Use a paste made from them in hummus and make sesame seed butter out of them. They are about $5 a pound, but a pound is a lot of sesame seeds and will go a very long way.
Soybeans are inexpensive (about $1 a pound in bulk) and can be made to make your own tofu, tempeh, soy milk, soy flour. You need a certain set of skills and equipment to make your own soy products, but boy is it delicious when it is homemade. See The New Farm Cookbook listed in the resource section for information on making your own soy products.
These are legumes that are inexpensive, cook quickly, and are delicious. They are a great change from pinto beans, and are very easy to prepare. They are iron rich, and full of other vitamins and minerals. Did I mention they’re delicious? They have lots of flavor and easy to combine with other foods for a quick meal. They are about $2 a pound.
Spices and Dried Herbs
Nothing can jazz up a simple meal of rice and beans better than herbs and spices. Trust me, as a single mom, I have eaten a lot of rice and beans, and I quickly found that having a large variety of spices makes everything better. I grow and dry a lot of my own herbs, and buy in bulk or at Indian grocers what I do not or can not grow. They store well, in general, and can be used to spice up everything. While some may seem expensive, most are not. Many herbs grow wild or almost wild and can be foraged and dried.
If you live near an Indian grocery store, by all means check out their spice selection. I have found that I can get familiar and not-so-familiar species far less expensively than at my local chain supermarket. Any “ethnic” food stores often have a surprising selection of inexpensive supplies that really can change a whole meal.
Resources and Links:
The More-With-Less Cookbook is one of my favorite day-to-day cookbooks. While not strictly vegan, it has some fantastic recipes that use whole grains. This is a great way to experiment with your grains before you need to have that knowledge in your head!
PrepareWise.com. Good info on using TVP.
The Vegan Unplugged Pantry Cuisine Cookbook. I do not have this book yet, but it is next on my “to get” list! Their blog is great and has some good recipes.
Worthington and Loma Linda foods. These canned foods have been around forever, and the ones that I have tried I have really enjoyed. While processed, they are a great alternative to cans of tuna, canned meats, etc.
McDougall’s foods are vegan, and store well. The soup cups are very light, I use them on camping trips. They are very filling.
The New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook
by Louise Hagler.
ISBN-10: 0913990604. This is a fantastic resource for making your own soy milk, tofu, and other vegetarian staples from scratch. It’s very helpful for beginners in vegetarian cooking, and has fantastic recipes for using TVP, tempeh, etc.
The TVP Cookbook: Using the Quick-Cooking Meat Substitute
by Dorothy Bates
ISBN-10: 0913990795. This is a very in-depth cook book on using TVP.
Diet for a Small Planet
by Frances Moore Lappe
ISBN-10: 0345321200. This is a essential book about vegetarian nutrition and how to effectively use the proteins available in whole grains. I recommend this book to everyone, not just vegetarians, as it is full of sound nutritional advice.
JWR Adds: I discourage assembling a food storage program that is heavy in TVP. Some studies show that it is not healthy, especially for men.
As with all storage foods, it pays to buy grains and legumes in bulk. Even with the additional cost of shipping it is less expensive to buy from storage food vendors than from local health food stores.