Tuesday, March 1, 2011

My Fat Problem

No, I'm not talking about the extra pounds I'm carrying on my thighs and around my waist. I'm talking about fats as part of my food storage plan.

You're supposed to avoid foods high in fat to control your weight and stay healthy now, but in a SHTF situation, you'll die without them! How ironic is that? Fat-rich foods like oil and peanut butter are calorie- dense and contain fatty acids that your body needs to survive.

Image from howstuffworks.com

Just how much of the fatty stuff should you have on hand?   

According to the LDS calculator, for a year's worth of storage you need:

Shortening          4 lb per adult, 2 lb per child  
Vegetable Oil      2 gal per adult, 1 gal per child
Mayonnaise        2 qt per adult, 1 qt per child
Salad Dressing    1 qt per adult, 1 qt per child
Peanut Butter      4 lb per adult, 2 lb per child

BTW, an "adult" according to this calculator is anyone age 7 and older.

Just in case you think that number is crazy, Rawles in How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It suggests that you store 96 lb total of fats per adult per year.

Read that number again. That's a whole lotta lard!

The Problem

Not only is that just a huge amount of oil that you have to budget for, buy, and store, there's an even larger problem. Oil goes rancid quickly. Stored in a cool, dark, room, you've got 1 year to 18 months of freshness, tops. Not only is rancid oil yucky, some people say that it basically amounts to poison.

Leaving aside peanut butter, salad dressing, and mayonnaise, what are your options for storing a sizeable amount of fats and oils?

Candidate #1: Shortening

Pros: Long-ish shelf life, especially if repacked into mason jars and vacuum sealed. Available in plain or butter flavors.

Cons: High on my personal yuck factor. I don't mind using it in pie crust, but no way am I going to spread it on bread or anything. It is supposedly made without trans fats these days, but no one is claiming it is a health food.

Candidate #2: Powders like shortening powder and butter powder

Pros: Very long shelf life. Just add water and you will have shortening and butter ready for use!

Cons: Am I really going to eat that? I am trying to only store foods that my family will eat and that we'll gladly rotate through. I have heard shortening powder is fairly close approximation of "fresh" shortening (an oxymoron if there ever was one), but there are a lot of bad reviews on powdered butter.

Candidate #3: Regular, Fresh Butter

Pros: Yum! When frozen, it lasts for a long time. I currently have about 12 pounds of butter in my freezer and I plan on adding more and rotating through it.

Cons: Without electricity, my butter will go bad quickly.

Candidate #4: Commercially Canned Butter 

Image from preparednesspantry.blogspot.com
 Pros: Just like the fresh stuff, only canned. Good for spreading on toast, baking, etc.

Cons: Pricey. Emergency Essentials sells a single 12 oz. can for $7.50. I can buy a lot of fresh butter for that!

Candidate #5: "Bottled Butter"

Image from preparednesspro.com . Visit this site and search for bottled butter to read her opposing take on this issue

Pros: It's shelf-stable butter on the cheap.

Cons: Possible agonizing death. I know a lot of people can their own butter, but I just don't think it is worth the risk. Botulism spores can easily live in oil-based products and home canning cannot effectively get it up to the proper temperature for long enough to ensure they are all killed.

Candidate #6: Ghee (clarified butter)

Image from pleasanthillgrain.com, a source for canned butter, cheese, ghee, etc.  

Pros: Ghee is clarified butter - butter that has had the milk solids removed, extending its shelf life and making it perfect for high-heat applications. It has a very long shelf life - probably at least 10 years in a cool, dark place.

Cons: Price. At Pleasant Hill Grain, 1-16 oz. can is $9.49

Candidate #7: Vegetable Oil, Stored in the Freezer

Pros: The same oil you use everyday, but with an extended shelf life. If you keep it in the freezer, you can expect it to last about four years.

Cons: You still have to rotate it and without electricity, you're going to have that same shelf life issue.

Candidate #8: Coconut oil

Pros: A shelf life of  anywhere between 2-5 years. You could extend this by storing it in the refrigerator or freezer. Despite what I learned back in the day about "tropical oils" being bad for you, a lot of people think that coconut oil is actually extremely healthy. Take it with a boulder of salt, but some folks claim it is a miracle cure for most anything that ails you.

Cons: Price (again). On Amazon.com, a two pack of 15 oz. tubs of Nutiva Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil is $11.75 if you select the "Subscribe and Save" option. Some brands will make your food taste like coconut while others are neutral in flavor. Coconut oil is solid when stored below 76 degrees and is liquid at or above 76 degrees.


If that didn't make your head spin, you're smarter than I am. It took me a while to wade through all the information out there and distill it down. Regardless of whether you use the LDS or Rawles' calculations, our family falls far short in this area.

My solution? We're going to build a store of a little bit of everything, with the exception of powdered shortening/butter and "bottled butter". What I've done so far:
  1. I bought a little bit of shortening and vacuum sealed it in mason jars for maximum freshness.
  2. I buy extra virgin olive oil and vegetable oil in bulk from Sam's Club. As I build up my store, I'll have to put new bottles in the freezer of our extra refrigerator. That's going to fill up quickly, so I'll have to devise another solution. (Feel like buying me a chest freezer, Hubby Dear?)
  3. Some point soon, I'll start buying both ghee and regular bottled butter by the case. 
  4. I have some coconut oil making its way to me from Amazon.com as I type this.  
I'm suspicious of this whole "coconut oil miracle" business, but I'm willing to give the product a shot. Maybe in the quest for a perfect food storage oil, I'll end up find something that we really like using.

What's your oil storage status? How are you dealing with the shelf life issue? 


  1. I was just thinking about this LAST NIGHT! As I was planning today's CostCo run, I read the figures aloud to my DH. We only use Crisco when making biscuits -- so we barely eat it before expiration. Like you, I don't want to invest in something for food storage that I wouldn't use on a regular basis.

    We always have olive oil on hand -- but not much.

    I did see a bunch of ghee at Costco today. I'm intrigued by the long shelf life ... but I'm curious about how I would use it.

  2. We already use coconut oil on occasion, so I'm stocking up a bit at a time. I bought a large jug of canola oil at Costco and will keep it in the freezer. I have a regular olive oil and canola oil out and in use. I bought one extra olive oil and stored it in the freezer. I also have a freezer full of butter. So, I'm highly dependent on my freezers. I couldn't stomach the powdered or canned stuff, and we don't do shortening. Perhaps I can claim that if we lose electricity, I will render deer tallow on the fire pit outside? Deer fat pie crust, anyone?

  3. I have been storing Crisco but you are right, not on my toast. Maybe I will just by a couple of goats to get fresh butter :-) So much to think about for a girl who just got started!!

  4. I agree, this is a tricky topic. I've basically been keeping about 6 months - 1 year of cooking/dressing oil (canola, olive) that I rotate into my regular meals. I store it in the basement where it's cool to extend life.

    My other solution is to add more fatty foods to my regular stockpile, such as canned tuna and peanut butter.

    And finally, I've been looking into options of owning chickens, which would provide us with fatty eggs.

  5. Olive oil and coconut oil. Great shelf life. I haven't noticed a coconutty flavor with that oil either. I get both at my local grocery store. I don't have 100# but I have a lot when I measure how long it takes us to go through it. I need to get more mayo, but you can make that if you need to. I wish I could find a good powdered butter. I have a lot in the fridge, but that would only last us a few months. Getting my chickens last year was a great, wonderful thing. Hopefully when we move in a few months I can get goats and not worry about butter anymore!

  6. According to my research, commercial extra virgin olive oil in optimal storage conditions should last for about 1 year unopened, and organic olive oil for up to 2 years.

    I think that the best way to estimate how much to store of an item is to keep track of how long an item lasts from the time you open it until its gone, and then multiple be correct modifier to estimate how much you would use in 1 year.

    For example, 1 lb of peanut butter lasts about 1 month at my house, so 2 lbs for a year just wouldn't be enough. My usual lunch at work is a peanut butter and something sandwich, fruit of some kind, and whatever baked item I had made that week.

  7. Grapeseed oil? Expensive, but we love it as it can be used at higher temps and has no flavor issues. I can bake with it, make homemade popcorn, etc. Very beneficial health wise. Costco is where I get mine.

  8. Learn something new every day, I didn't even know that butter came in canned form. Thanks for all the helpful info.

  9. Coincidence, I just finished canning 12lbs of butter today! I hadn't read about it online, just came across the recipe for it in my canning book (Jackie Clay's Growing & Canning your own Food) & thought it sounded like a great way to store some fats long term. Hmmmmm. Perhaps some more research is in order. I did boil it for 60 mins in a water bath canner, per the recipe.

  10. Fat is not your enemy, I assure you. Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Dr. Mary Enig offers many wonderful recipes and pointers on lacto-fermentation, among other traditional food prep methods. I'd also direct you to part two of "Fat Head," a fantastic follow up to "Supersize Me." It's available for streaming on Netflix.

  11. consider Tropical Traditions a source of coconut oil, expeller pressed still a good coconut oil and it doesn't have the smell & taste of coconut oil...which some in my family don't like the taste so, I have to use the expeller pressed IF I want them to get some coconut goodness.

    If you decide to order from them & it is your 1st time ordering, please let them know I referred you, with my User ID: 6560483
    That way they will credit me for referring you and you'll get a FREE book with info. about coconut & benefits/etc. plus it includes 85 recipes for coconut products.

    View additional Weekly Sales on the website plus see other coupon codes.

    I order coconut oil from this source. Check out the Palm Oil, packed with goodness. I've been pleased with the customer service.

  12. My 2-cents' worth:

    First, my experience with olive oil is that it stores unopened much longer than a year in my basement, where temperatures are usually around 55 degrees, up to 70 briefly in the hottest part of the summer.

    Contact with air causes the rancidity, so buy it in smaller sized containers; once you open it, the shelf-life plummets. I also suspect that it stores unopened better in the metal tins than in plastic bottles; maybe the plastic is not completely impervious to air?

    Second, on canning butter:

    Water boils at 212 degrees.

    The spores that cause botulism toxin to grow in low-acid foods like butter, in anerobic (no air/vacuum sealed) conditions, are only killed at temperatures over 240 (or maybe it's 250, don't remember exactly) degrees.

    That temperature can only be attained under pressure.

    All the methods I've seen for canning butter use water bath canning, not pressure canning.

    Therefore none of those methods are safe.

    Just as you can drive in a car without wearing a seatbelt many times without dying, you can eat water-bath-canned low acid foods many times without dying, until one time your luck runs out and you do. Die, that is. And kill your family.

    I know there are bloggers who claim they (or their grandmothers) have home-canned butter for years without ill effect, but that is the same as saying there are people who drove for years without seatbelts with no ill effect. All it means is that they were lucky. Prepping is the opposite philosophy to relying on luck, isn't it?

    Botulism has a high mortality rate even with the most intensive, advanced medical care. It would likely be almost 100% fatal in more primitive circumstances.

    I love butter, but until I find a tested, approved pressure-canning method to preserve it, only frozen butter will be part of my food storage.

    Third, about quantities needed.

    It's probably a mistake to calculate what amount of stored fats/oils you would need in a true long-term emergency based on what you use now, because now a good part of the fats you get come from meat, dairy and processed foods, which could all be in short supply. You'd need more than you use now. Fats are essential for the absorption of certain vitamins, and also to supplement the low-calorie diets that most food storage offers.

  13. For quite a while I had issues with the quantities and timely use of the large amount of fats in my food storage. We just didn't use the recommended amounts. I didn't want them to go to waste, but I did Not want to get caught without them either. My solution has been to rotate the excesses we weren't consuming by making soap from them. You have your oils, rotate them, and learn an additional skill while your at it. Lard(or shortening), olive oil, and coconut oil are good oils to have on hand for cooking and can make fabulous soap as well. I make soap and rotate new oils in every three months or so. Just a thought.

  14. I second the coconut oil, not only does it taste good (melted on fresh baked bread... yum!) but it is VERY good for you. You want to avoid soy based oils as much as possible (esp for growing boys and men) as they contain phytoestrogens which act as estrogen in the body. Coconut oil is high in your medium chain fatty acids and can be heated to high (frying) temps without smoking. You can sub it out for butter in most things without it coming out too bad. :) Not to mention the fact that you can buy it ALREADY in a 5 gallon bucket! :) Hope that clears a few things up for you... plus in the end of days, how "fresh and summery" is coconut going to taste. :) Hope for new times.