Rice and BeansRice and beans – unques­tion­ably the top two items most often cit­ed as “must-haves” in any prep­pers pantry. Even for non-prep­pers, when dis­cus­sion of hav­ing a few extra food sup­plies on hand comes up (and this comes up a lot more these days in a great many venues) almost imme­di­ate­ly some­one says some­thing like “I have a cou­ple of 20 pound bags of rice in my clos­et” or “My broth­er sug­gest­ed I keep a cou­ple of 50 pound bags or rice and beans in the base­ment just in case” and so on.

Putting aside the gross, though pre­dictable, lack of under­stand­ing food stor­age issues – not their fault; After all, most peo­ple have nev­er need­ed to store food more than a cou­ple of days before eat­ing it – a few bags of rice and beans is not long term food stor­age solu­tion. It would be a grave mis­take to thing oth­er­wise.

Not prop­er­ly stored in sealed cans or food grade con­tain­ers, bags of rice and beans are a mag­net for insects and ver­min. Also, any lit­tle bit of mois­ture can spoil the food eas­i­ly and maybe unde­tectably (no out­wards signs) thus lead­ing to eat rot­ten food and the ill­ness­es that can cause. Not a good thing in any sit­u­a­tion much less an emer­gency one.

But mov­ing beyond sim­ply food safe­ty and stor­age issues, there are oth­er fac­tors to con­tend with.

Have you ever real­ly cooked raw rice?! Not many peo­ple have. Most mod­ern Amer­i­can peo­ple, espe­cial­ly city dwellers, use instant/minute rice or prepared/seasoned rice that’s ready very quick­ly. Not so with raw rice. Cook­ing raw rice requires at least 30–45 min­utes at a rolling boil to cook. That’s a lot of time and a lot of ener­gy both of which (espe­cial­ly the ener­gy to gen­er­ate the heat) may be in short sup­ply dur­ing an emer­gency. And you have to get the mix of water/rice right. If not, you end up with rice soup or con­crete.

Beans aren’t any eas­i­er. Most peo­ple are only famil­iar with open­ing a can for pre-cooked, soft beans. Raw beans in a bag are dried. They need to either be added to a soup or stew and cooked for a long time, or, soaked for sev­er­al hours to soft­en up and then cooked. Either way it takes a lot of time and effort.

Beyond the prepa­ra­tion aspect, these foods by them­selves are not a bal­anced diet. They will keep you from starv­ing — for a brief while. But you will not be get­ting the prop­er spec­trum of vit­a­mins, min­er­als, and pro­teins the human body needs for good health.  You may feel full but you will slow­ly be los­ing ener­gy and health. In turn that will reduce your abil­i­ty to act as need­ed in the emer­gency. It will also open your body up to a greater chance of infec­tions and dis­eases that you might oth­er­wise be able to fight off but due to poor diet you can’t.

I am not try­ing to talk you out of hav­ing rice and beans as part of your sur­vival pantry. They clear­ly do have a role to play. But I fear that too many peo­ple stick a cou­ple of sacks of rice and beans in the base­ment and end up with false sense of secu­ri­ty.

If you’re going to pre­pare, take the time and do it right.

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