Rice 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.