17 January 2011
Recently, financial considerations had me looking to eat at the absolute minimum cost possible. To do this, I started out by plotting out the absolute minimum cost complete meal, and bought a bunch of that.
What becomes rapidly apparent is that you can't actually live just eating one meal. Your body evolved (or was designed, if you prefer) for a setting wherein getting all of your nutrients required a steady variety. One day you might have meat, another vegetables, etc. If the food you're eating each day is too similar to the food you ate the day before that (and the day before that, and the day before that), you will rapidly find that you just can't bring yourself to eat it. Your body will reject it in order to get you out searching for more variety in your diet. If you continue to try, you will find that your body would rather that you ate nothing than to eat that same meal again. You won't be able to choke it down.
With a bit of experimentation, it became clear to me that the minimal meal rotation was about three different dinner/lunches, with an additional different meal for breakfast. The breakfast didn't need to rotate so long as the dinners/lunches did. When I say 'rotate' here, I don't mean a strict rotation, just some variation. Some days I'd eat the same thing for lunch and dinner. You just have the stuff on hand for each, and make whichever you feel like. This also presumes a certain number of 'treats' available, probably something like two/week. These treats don't need to be a lot - I used a bag of candy, or a package of instant soup, or a package of ramen, or swapping out my usual meat (chicken) for something else (ground beef, perhaps). You should include treats like this in your preps as well, as otherwise you will need a greater variety of food.
The relevance to preparing is obvious. Rice and beans do form a complete meal, but you can't just sock away a few giant bags of rice and a few giant bags of beans and enough water to keep you going and expect that to work. You might not starve to death, but forcing the food into your mouth after the first week will be an onerous task, morale will be awful, and you will probably find yourself willing to risk going out of your secured home to hunt for other foods. That's a bad thing, both because you probably won't have a lot of success, and it puts you at needless risk.
My meal rotation was:
Now, if you're well-stocked and you have a year's supply put away of all the things you normally eat, this probably isn't a major concern for you. It's probably something you've already got covered. But if you're setting aside preps and planning ahead, you should consider variety as an essential part of what you put away.
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