Alaskans deal with some of the most extreme temperatures and weather on the planet. The vastness of the state also contains several different climates. Within the state, you will find everything from oceanic climates in the southeastern part of the state to a true Arctic climate in the northern interior. With the range of temperatures and climates, not to mention the utter remoteness, most Alaskans learn early on that there are certain things you just always have on hand in the pantry. Growing up in Ketchikan, our Alaska pantry essentials would be slightly different than those in Fairbanks but the idea is exactly the same: being ready for those freak snow squalls, or gusts of sideways rain at 80-90 miles per hour that knocks down trees and creates landslides. No matter what part of the state you live in, it is a good idea to have the following things on hand.
10 Alaska Pantry Essentials!
Water – Even in the rain-forests of Southeast Alaska, having water stored is a must. Water is life and the most important thing other than air and shelter to your survival. Make sure you have some for the pets, too! The rule of thumb is one gallon per person, per day and FEMA recommends enough for three days for each person.
Sugar – No matter what time of year, we Alaskans can burn some serious calories with all the outdoor activities. Of course, just the day to day survival requires a fair amount of effort but even more so for those who live in the bush. Honey is another great option that many prefer due to the incredibly long shelf life.
Flour – Honestly, who hasn’t eaten some wild game cooked up with a flour/salt/pepper breading on it? Growing wheat in the 49th state can be challenging so most people buy it. Making sure you have some extra to get you through being stuck inside due to weather or other natural disaster is just smart.
Rice – Rice is a universal food that stores well for very long term periods. A friend of mine called rice the “plate for the food you really want to eat to sit on” and in many ways, she was right. Rice will take on the flavor of anything whether it is sweet or spicy and can fill a lot of bellies while not taking much room to store a few extra pounds in the pantry.
Pasta – Just like rice, pasta is another long lasting food so long as it is stored right. Dry, cool, and dark helps to extend the shelf life of just about any food overall. Pasta is packed with carbs to fuel you through shoveling your way out of a snow berm or pulling pots.
Beans – Another universal food, beans provide protein needed to repair and build muscle tissue. They also give you a nice shot of the good fats that keep you fueled up and going. In a disaster situation, you will burn more calories than you ever thought possible and Alaska is known for her mood swings when it comes to weather.
Salt (and other spices) – The only rock we eat, salt has shaped countries, financed wars, and was even used as currency. Its food preservation aspects, not to mention flavoring food, makes having extra salt on hand a no brainer. It is easy to get in bulk and very inexpensive. For long term storage, get pickling or kosher salt, not iodized salt. It lasts longer and the iodine will make it taste funny after a while.
Canned/Jarred Meat – Many Alaskans can or jar their own meat they get from hunting as a normal way to preserve it for the long winter months. Plus, the meat is already cooked! The jar is ready to heat and eat or, if really hungry, just open and eat as-is. Packed with protein and perhaps some onion or garlic for flavoring, every Alaskan pantry should have some of this on the shelves.
Canned or Dried Fruits & Vegetables – Having a stock of vegetables is more important for Alaskans that most any other location on the planet. I don’t claim to be an expert but it is well known that people in northern locations suffer from vitamin d deficiencies. Not only that, there are also a lot of borderline anemic and vitamin b deficiencies due to a lack of sufficient fruits and vegetables. Adding to that, going long periods of time without taking in some citric acid from fruits and vegetables will lead to getting scurvy, a particularly nasty – but curable! – condition.
Cooking Oil – Many people have Crisco or vegetable cooking oil on hand. Some render their own fat for various purposes. My grandmother always had a tin container on the counter next to the stove of bacon grease. She would use it for all sorts of stuff and only used vegetable oil for baking. I know now that neither is very good for you but if you regularly burn a lot of calories in a day, it might be ok to have a little more than usual.
Other Honorable Mentions for your Alaska Pantry Essentials
While these may not be edible and in a ‘pantry,’ these are must have due to their multiple uses.
Chlorine Bleach – It is always good to have unscented, chlorine bleach on hand. It provides the means to really clean and sanitize an area, especially important for cooking areas. It can also purify water.
Tin Foil, Cling Wrap, Storage Bags – Tin foil is good for cooking in the coals of a fire, cling wrap is good for covering or storing food for the short term, and storage bags keep things neat and tidy plus, they can also be put into the freezer. Make sure you have freezer bags handy as they tend to cut down on how quickly freezer burn can set in.
Keep these Alaska pantry essentials in your home as a ‘bare minimum’ even if just preparing for the worst. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
LeAnn Edmondson lives in beautiful Southeast Alaska with her husband and fur babies. She dreams of the day when they can buy property and homestead it. Her blog is found at www.homesteaddreamer.com and focuses on working toward a more self-sufficient lifestyle while trying to be prepared for the unknown.