Monday, February 6, 2017

Practical Food Storage, Part II, How to Avoid Common Mistakes

On a normal day
An integral part of creating a sensible, affordable water and food storage plan is learning from the mistakes of others. “Mistakes are the usual bridge between in- experience and wisdom” - I love this quote by Phyllis Theroux. Mistakes are only bad when we fail to learn from them; so, we are going to use the mistakes made by others venturing into water and food storage as aid in developing a water and food storage plans to meet our goals, whether it be to take advantage of a bountiful harvest or to prepare for an unexpected disaster.

Procrastination is one of the biggest stumbling blocks - and mistakes – people make in developing and maintaining a water and food storage plan. There are many reasons why people procrastinate instead of doing something they need to do, whether it is at work or at home. Sometimes, it is fear of failure, lack of a necessary skill, or a lack of funds to begin or sustain the endeavor. Sometimes the benefits of tackling a task are not clear or the task can seem so large, so complicated, it is just daunting and so people shy away from it.

The simplest solution to overcoming procrastination is to break large projects into smaller more manageable pieces and then to prioritize those pieces, especially if there is a learning curve involved, budgetary limitations exist, or there are logical sequences in which steps must be taken to accomplish the entire project.
After the disaster?
Water and food storage are two very different challenges – both take thought, preparation and funding, but especially large scale water harvesting and storage. So, I suggest breaking your water and food storage project into two pieces and tackling the food piece first while initially storing small to moderate amounts of water; leave large-scale water harvesting and storage plans for later, if desired.

Food storage can be as simple as an extension of everyday food buying and preparation; therefore it is easier to implement food storage initially without large-scale water storage. Getting some “wins” under the belt is encouraging and makes it easier to move forward in any project, no matter how large!

There are many benefits to be had from developing and maintaining a food storage plan – first and foremost is the knowledge you and your family have a buffer in case of unexpected emergencies or disasters, from job loss, to storms, to social unrest, and beyond. Some situations may prevent you from leaving home or present a situation in which it is unsafe to do so. Additionally, a well-thought out plan can yield significant food cost savings over the long term.

Here are the basic things to consider in any food storage plan:

1. What to store,
2. How much to store,
3. How to store it,
4. How to use it, and,
5. Cost.

Let’s take a look at some things you can do in your plan to avoid the mistakes others have made -

1. What to store – Don’t store foods you have never eaten or know how to prepare, for example, if you don’t know how to bake, don’t store hundreds of pounds of flour! Store a variety of foods that your family enjoys and eats regularly, including some comfort foods and snacks, like nuts, popcorn, or chocolate. What is life without chocolate?!

Store the things necessary to make a complete meal, like water and broth, to reconstitute dehydrated foods and “extended staples” such as salt, pepper, sugar, yeast, syrup, etc. Store some quick and easy preparation foods, for example, canned soups and crackers. If your food storage is expensive dehydrated or freeze-dried foods, purchase and store some individual pouches of meals that can be reconstituted and feed the family for a day or so to give you time to assess the situation at hand without compromising large containers of expensive dehydrated or freeze-dried food.

Consider the quality of all food that goes into your storage in terms of providing a variety of vitamins and minerals – stressful situations, in particular, require nutritious food to help maintain good health. Additionally, carefully read the labels on everything going into your food storage to avoid already out-of-date foods, as well as foods containing undesirable additives or country or origin.

Avoid damaged containers such as dented cans, bulging cans, or broken seals which can compromise the quality and safety of the food.

If you have a “picky eater” or a family member with special dietary needs, such as babies, the elderly, or someone with health issues – take this into account when planning and maintaining your food storage. A child upset over food can make a stressful situation much more so, both for the child and everyone else!
In addition to water required for reconstituting food and cooking, you will need to store drinking water; the federal government recommends storing at a minimum 1 gallon of potable water per person per day for drinking and sanitation.

2. How much to store – in food storage there is no one plan that fits all! Each plan is different based on how many people the plan must serve, the length of time to be served, the amount of storage space available and the foods desired. The length of time to be served is the time frame the stored water and food is expected to serve the family during a given situation.

With these things in mind, you may decide to start small, for example, store enough water and food to give you a few days to a two week buffer in case of emergencies; as you become more knowledgeable, if desired, increase the amount of storage to a few months or even a year’s worth – the decision is yours based on personal goals! Along with the number of people, consider the ages of the people to be served by the plan - the amount of food required to satisfy a teenage boy, may be vastly different from that of a mature adult or a young child.

If you live in an apartment or townhome, the amount of storage you can accommodate may be significantly less than someone who lives in a large home. People have stored boxed containers of foods under the bed, the floor of closets, behind the couch, even used stacked boxes or crates covered by decorative cloths as end tables. Think beyond kitchen cupboards when considering food storage.

One tool to assist in determining how much food to store is a “food storage calculator” - a computer program designed to allow entry of the number and ages of individuals to be served by the plan. Based on the information entered, the program calculates the amount of food storage recommended for a specific amount of time (generally one year, but some allow a time variable to be entered) and breaks the storage into categories, for example, grains, oils/fats, legumes, etc. and further into subcategories – under grains, might be wheat, rice, oats, corn meal, etc. The result serves as a guideline; customize your storage based on your family’s needs and likes, the length of time the plan should serve, i.e., 1 week, 1 month, or 1 year, and decide upon the approach to building your food storage.

Keep in mind storing food without considering the need for water during emergencies will render your plan ineffective. You can survive much longer without food than clean drinking water. The federal government recommends storing at a minimum 1 gallon of potable water per person per day for drinking and sanitation. The total amount of water to be stored, as in food storage, is based on how many people must be served, the length of time to be served, and the amount of storage space available.

If you have pets, don’t forget to store supplies for them as well – food, water, and any required medications for the same period of time as your food storage plans for the human members of the household!

3. How to store it – think logistically about food storage; the longevity and nutritional value of your food storage will be affected by the temperature, moisture, and sunlight around your food storage, as well as how efficiently you employ rotation in your plan. Food should be stored away from direct sunlight and excess moisture, protected from drastically fluctuating temperatures and inaccessible by pests and contaminants.

Keep an easily accessible inventory of your food storage showing the items in storage, amount in storage, and its storage location, i.e., basement, under the bed, etc., and keep the inventory up-to-date! Keep a “shopping list”; if you use something from storage and replace it timely.

Store food in containers capable of keeping dust, bacteria and mold out of the food and prevents access by insects, rodents, and other pests. Clearly label containers with name of contents and date of expiration to aid in food rotation. Care in handling packaged, stored food is needed – glass can break, metal can be dented and seals on plastic buckets can be broken by stacking too many heavy buckets on top of each other.

Some of the more popular containers for food storage are 3- 5 gallon food grade plastic buckets; the food inside the bucket may be contained in a vacuum-sealed Mylar bag to exclude air and contaminants. The overall weight of the bucket, which can exceed 40 lbs., is dependent on its contents. Once the seal on both the bucket and the Mylar bag have been broken the longevity of the food from that point becomes an issue.

Number 10 size (#10) metal cans are often used by commercial manufacturers of “emergency” foods. Sometimes community-based organizations or churches, for example, the Church of the Latter Day Saints (LDS) operate cannery centers, located around the U. S. and Canada, and have the equipment necessary to can food using a #10 can; if you are a member or for a small fee you may be able to use these facilities and equipment.

Quart-size glass canning jars (Mason or Kerr) with secure lids and bands are an ideal choice for storing small amounts of food for a meal or two for a single person or a couple; either in single item form, such as rice or you can combine individual ingredients in a jar to facilitate quick preparation for soups, chili, bread and pancakes mixes, etc. Canning jars can also be used to repackage larger amounts of food, say flour and legumes, after the seals are broken on Mylar bags, into smaller more manageable packages.

Your food items can be stored on regular shelving either singularly or in boxes or crates. There are companies that offer specially designed storage racks for regular sized cans and #10 cans to help organize and rotate your food storage.  Or you can design and build some custom shelving or racks. Just keep in mind the weight of the items to be stored and most of all – the food must be accessible in order to facilitate rotation. I can’t say this often enough – for longevity and viability of your storage, you must rotate, rotate, rotate!

While freezing food is common practice in everyday life; if one of your emergency food storage methods is freezing, I do not recommend using a “frost-free” freezer. Frost-free freezers are designed for convenience of maintenance not for the longevity of the food stored in them. Of course, the downside of freezing is loss of electricity; if you store large amounts of frozen food, have a plan as to how you will deal with the loss of electricity.

Many fresh foods, such as onions, carrots, potatoes and other vegetables, some fruit, and melons, and fermented foods can be stored in root cellars successfully - dependent on temperature and moisture levels in the cellar - for a few weeks to several months without complex packaging. If you are fortunate enough to live in an area that makes root cellars or basements an option, give some serious thought to this method of storage, especially if you grow your own fruits and vegetables.

Where you choose to store your food can be an issue, for example, if you are using a basement for food storage and there is any possibility the basement has or can flood decide if you want to risk storing all your food in that location. There is redundancy and security to be had in breaking up your food storage into multiple locations, if feasible. Again, keep an up-to-date inventory of your food storage so you can easily find items when you need them.

If you live in an area that may require evacuation due to flooding or fires – store a few days of emergency supplies - water, food and personal items in small, easy to transport packs, boxes or crates. If possible take them with you when you evacuate as a buffer both during and after the evacuation; this is especially important support for the very young or medically-challenged members of your family, as well as your pets!

Water, for drinking and cooking, should be stored in clean food-grade containers with secure lids to prevent the entry of foreign matter, germs, and pests and in most cases out of direct sunlight. If you have the choice, do not store water in clear plastic containers unless you can store them out of direct sunlight. Small to moderate amounts of water can be stored in individual serving bottles; food grade 55-gallon drums may be a good option for moderate amounts of water storage. Keep in mind water, like food, bottled water should be rotated, or water stored in drums may need to be treated or filtered as used to maintain its viability. Your water storage can be compromised by freezing temperatures causing the containers to burst or leak. Never, never, never store water for drinking, cooking, cleaning cooking utensils or for personal hygiene, in containers that previously contained toxic fluids, like gasoline, or chemicals!

How much water you store is based on the same criteria as that of food with one caveat thrown in; do you have access to a nearby water source that can be “tapped”, such as a water well with a hand pump, a river, pond or lake, during a protracted disaster? If you have the knowledge and necessary equipment on hand to purify water, this access may limit the amount of water you have to store in-house. Just don’t make the mistake of not storing any water in-house, as you may not be able to leave your home for several days dependent on the nature of the disaster.

4. How to use it – Do not store food you have never prepared or eaten before; especially food that will be purchased in closed packaging such as pouches; dehydrated or freeze-dried foods, etc. The time to find out you can’t stand the taste, don’t know how to cook it, or don’t have all the ingredients to prepare something is not during emergency situations. Neither is finding out you don’t have the means to cook the food.

If planning to cook over a pit, you will need either wood or charcoal. A propane cook stove, stored for emergency situations is no good without propane and neither of these methods will work unless you have some means to light the fire! If depending on a small generator to supply power for cooking, make sure you have the fuel the generator requires on hand.

Opening packaging may require a tool; be sure to include the necessary tool(s) with your storage. Consider how you will serve the food, especially if the emergency lasts for several days to weeks; do you have the means to wash dishes, if not what is the plan?

Emergency situations is also not the time to find out a meal takes two peoples’ ration of water that day to prepare; neither is finding some or all of your storage is 6 months or a year out of date! A regular rotation schedule will aid in avoiding this, as well as alerting you to problems, such as water, rodent or insect damage to stored items. Practice preparing the meals you plan for emergencies, especially if you will be cooking over a campfire or on a propane stove and have never done either before! Practice allows you to work out the “kinks” before the emergency hits you in the face!

Once an emergency has passed; do a review of what went right and what went wrong, so you will be better prepared for the next emergency situation. And replace any and all foods you used from your food storage during the emergency!

5. Cost – there are different approaches to acquiring food for storage, 1) raising and/or growing all or part of it, 2) buying bulk products, 3) buying pre-packaged food from a commercial emergency food sellers, or 4) making extra purchases during regular grocery shopping. A combination of all four approaches provides the most flexibility and cost savings.

If you are working with raw materials, such as produce from your garden, it may be stored in root cellars as is, or it may have to be processed first (canned, frozen, smoked, or fermented)   and packaged for storage.  You must be knowledgeable enough to decide the best method of storage, have the necessary tools for processing, necessary packaging – and last but not least the skill to do it. This stuff is not “rocket science”, but there are standards for processing and storing that must be met to ensure the food is safe for consumption and to prolong viability. There are classes available to help you learn the correct way to process your home-grown products for storage; contacting your local agriculture extension office is a good starting place to locate classes. Long term, with the skill, there is considerable savings to be had from growing or raising some or the majority of the food to be placed in storage, particularly for large families.

Any tools or packaging that can be safely reused, at least in part, will glean cost savings in the long run – such as vacuum sealers, pressure and water-bath canners, glass canning jars, food grade buckets and drums, crocks for fermenting, crates, etc. With care, many of these will last for years. Sometimes glass canning jars and fermenting crocks can be had through flea markets or estate sales for a fraction of the cost new; examine them carefully before purchase for nicks and/or cracks.

It is not uncommon for individuals to purchase several months or even a year’s worth of food from commercial manufacturers of dehydrated and/or freeze-dried emergency foods. The food may come in a variety of packaging, i.e., small pouches, #10 cans, buckets, or a combination of these. In some cases the food can be purchased in seller-determined “lots” (a variety of food, such as meats, dairy, vegetables, and fruits in various packaging sold as a group).  Items included in “lots” should be examined for desirability, specific ingredients and longevity as there may be items in the “lot” the purchaser would not normally eat or drink. Manufacturers of emergency pre-packaged foods tout their products longevity – anywhere from a few years to as much as 30 years - be aware not all the products in the “lot” have the same longevity and longevity of all items is based on storing the food at optimum temperatures and moisture levels and away from direct sunlight. So, even with this approach to acquisition, the foods in storage should be rotated. And you must have the experience to cook with dehydrated or freeze-dried foods to fully gain the potential benefits of the stored food. While this approach to food storage is the quickest and easiest for those that can afford a lump sum purchase, this approach is expensive. For example, many food items can be purchased directly from a regular grocer’s shelf for a fraction of the cost and many will have an expiration period of anywhere from 3 months to a year in the future.

However, buying foods from commercial emergency food sellers can make sense, if you want to add foods you cannot easily grow or process yourself, or find the same quality in packaging or content on grocery shelves. An example might be meat or dairy items or small ‘lots” of items such as dehydrated fruits and vegetables with minimal additives. Buying “lots” can also make sense if this is only way your food storage plan will become a reality!

Dependent on the size of your family and the goals of your storage plan, buying bulk items such as large bags (20 – 50 lbs.) of flour, sugar, beans, rice, etc. through retailers and re-packaging them for safe, long term storage can provide cost savings, especially if you can find these items on sale. Packaging them in reusable packaging such as glass canning jars or food-grade buckets will add to the cost savings.

You can build your food storage through purchases made during regular shopping at your neighborhood market. There are advantages to this approach – variety of foods available, re-packaging may not be necessary for many items, stores regularly offer sales on various foods, and you can set the speed at which you build storage to fit your personal needs and funds available.

There are savings to be had for storing water in containers that can be sanitized for reuse.

Each approach to acquiring and storing water and food has its pros and cons.

In reality there may be situations arise during an emergency for which you have not or cannot plan…

Here is a couple of examples –  During the mass, chaotic exodus from Houston as Hurricane Rita was bearing down on the Texas coast, one friend had seven six family members whom she had not seen or heard from in years just show up – totally unexpected - at her home asking for food, water, and shelter from the storm until such time as they could return home assuming there was a home to return to after the storm. Her home just happened to be on their exit route from the city!

In another case, one individual was driving from one family member’s home to the next to determine which home had sufficient resources to sustain him in comfort during the storm!

Don’t expect just because you prepare for emergencies that other family members or friends will do so as well. The other side of the coin is – don’t expect just because someone has prepared, they will be willing to or even have enough to share! Take responsibility for your family - and your pets!

Here are some resources you may find interesting or helpful with respect to food storage. I am not connected in any way with the companies or authors nor do I receive any benefits if you decide to purchase of any of these products. There are many, many resources available beyond these I have listed and in various media forms to help with food storage planning, and/or disaster preparedness in general. Do your research!

Resources –
Food Storage Calculators – using “Google” query “food storage calculators”, there are several available on-line, for example, ; but view several different sites to determine if one fits your particular needs.

Websites – companies that sell a variety of products, including commercially prepared, pre-packaged foods, water barrels, emergency kits, food storage racks, etc. One way to find more companies – “Google” – “emergency food”, “emergency survival food”, “emergency food storage solutions”…
Here is just a couple of sites, you will find doing this type query: – lots of different products on this site.  – check out their foods and “pantry organizers” ideas, too!
Berkey Water Filter Systems for the Home
By taking an organized approach to water and food storage, you can avoid confusion about what to store, how much to store, and how to use it, while ensuring sensible, affordable food and water storage.
Look for my upcoming posting, “Practical Food Storage, Part III – A Sensible, Affordable Approach to Food Storage”. J

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Practical Food Storage - It's Not An Option, It's An Essential Part of Living

Nearby Forest Fires - 2011
When we decided to leave the city for country living, there was no doubt we were in for some big changes. Our home is located in a county with less than 30,000 people; it is possible to drive from our home into town, several miles, without seeing another car on the roadway. I often joke a traffic jam here is a couple pickup trucks stopped in the roadway while a cattle herd is being moved from a pasture on one side of the roadway to the other.
The county road to our home is unpaved and during periods of heavy rainfall and/or high winds, it is common place to find the road washed out to the point it is impassable or to find huge downed trees blocking the roadway. So, making a trip into town for supplies is not always an available option; even evacuation under extreme circumstances may be impossible. The electrical lines do not run alongside the public roadways; instead they run across private property and oftentimes through heavily forested areas. When storms come through,  especially those that cause ice to form and break tree limbs or storms with particularly high winds, it is not uncommon for the electricity to go out anywhere from a few hours to several days. A side effect of lost electricity is loss of easy access to fresh water since as with most rural properties’ our drinking water source is a water well powered by an electrical pump.
I grew up on the Texas Gulf Coast; I have lived through many storms, including Hurricane Carla, which wreaked more than $325 million in damages - 43 people died in that storm. Anyone living in or near southeast Texas on September 24, 2005, should remember Hurricane Rita; I know I won’t forget it.  My husband was stationed overseas at the time; I was on the ranch watching the chaos on TV of the mass exodus from Houston in anticipation of Rita’s landfall. Entire families were either ordered to evacuate from areas in and around Houston or they had panicked and decided to self-evacuate. People were stranded on roadways for days with no food, water, diapers or formula for their children; people died not from the storm but from the evacuation! Post-storm there were families in East Texas without electricity – and well water – for many weeks!
Natural disasters make themselves known regularly, both in our country and around the World – hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, fires, blizzards, epidemics, and droughts. Then there are the “man-made” disasters – domestic and foreign terrorism, civil unrest, failing infrastructure, and the ever present threat of war as more and more countries have acquired weapons of mass destruction.
They say history repeats itself - the influenza pandemic of 1918 infected more than 500 million people world-wide; it is estimated 675,000 people died in the U.S. alone before coming to an end in 1919. In more modern times, we have seen the rise of many infectious diseases, for example, H1N1 and SARS; scientists predict it is just a matter of time before another world-wide pandemic occurs.
Our country has a population now of over 356 million people. It has been estimated U. S. grocery store shelves hold about a 3-day supply of food and bottled water; the population far surpasses the supply. The U.S. has cities with
A City in Recovery
populations in the millions. Ever been through a grocery store – anywhere - after a hurricane has passed through the area, or the threat of a blizzard? I have and I can only compare the scene to what fields of crops must look like after a plague of locusts finish with it. I have listened to people  relating tales of trying to buy food immediately prior to a hurricane making landfall lamenting they were lucky to find a can of peanut butter and a box of crackers to sustain them for several days! Seriously??? This from someone who grew up in “hurricane alley”?!
People living on farms and ranches can, and are, as strongly affected by natural or man-made disaster-related events as people residing in the cities, maybe more so in some respects.

Power outages, communications disruptions, flooded roads and highways, fencing destroyed by falling trees and storm surges, burned by fires, or buried under snow drifts. Livestock scattered or injured by flying debris or stranded with limited or no access to food or safe drinking water for days to weeks. Crops failing and pastures made useless by 
The Face of Drought
drought. Folks, I have witnessed all these things happen  – these are not times to be worrying about whether or not you have enough food and water to sustain you and your family until things can return to some semblance of normality. Due to location and geography, it can be much more difficult and more protracted in terms of time to restore power, communications, and transportation pathways to and from rural areas.
The reality is all these things I have mentioned are part of life; I don’t dwell on them, I just recognize they exist and may influence the health and well-being of myself and my family at some point; common sense tells me to be prepared to “weather these storms”. There are many things in this World we cannot control, but we can prepare to mitigate the extent of personal damage many of these natural or man-made disasters can visit upon us, if we choose to do so.
Even websites for government agencies involved in emergency management encourage Americans to assess their personal risk during various types of emergencies and take responsibility for having a plan in place to deal with these emergencies. I recall during the Cold War’s Cuban Crisis our government was urging people to be prepared for a nuclear disaster by stockpiling food, water, medicine and constructing fall-out shelters. The message is loud and clear, be prepared to care for yourself and your family!!!
For centuries people in every country raised and/or grew their own food; they stored part of this food in preparation for hard times, whether it was to prepare for the long, cold months of winter or as a buffer against loss of income due to failing crops and famine in years to come. They recognized the value of “food storage” and practiced it as an essential part of life.
Modern society sometimes labels people who think like this as – Preppers, Survivalists, Alarmists, nut jobs, whatever, because the idea of doing things that our ancestors considered part and parcel of everyday life is foreign to many in our country today, especially those living in the big cities.   After all they don’t need to learn to hunt or fish - to grow, can or dry food - to store water - everything they need is available via the nearest Walmart or a twist of a faucet handle. And in a pinch, the government will save them! Right?!
Webster’s Dictionary defines a “disaster” as:
1)  A sudden calamitous event bringing great damage, loss, or destruction; or,
2)  A sudden or great misfortune or failure.
It is does not take a hurricane, a blizzard, or a foreign country detonating an electromagnetic weapon in the atmosphere over the United States to create a disaster. The word “disaster” can have different meanings to different people at different times in their lives – a disaster might be a single Mother with a couple of children who was just informed her car’s transmission needs replacement and it will cost a significant portion of her paycheck for the next month to repair it. A disaster might be someone who becomes house-bound for several weeks due to illness. Or how about going to the ATM for some cash and discovering some identify thief drained your bank account?
In my mind, personal disaster planning and preparation is not an option, it is not a joke - it is a requirement to ensure the safety and well-being of you, your family – and your animals - in an ever changing and unpredictable World.
Having a well thought out disaster plan, which includes water and food storage, can be empowering; it can reduce both emotional and financial stress when practiced regularly. It can act as a buffer in times of emergencies or disasters, of all shapes and sizes, allowing you to focus on those anomalies for which you cannot prepare!
Practicing food storage is not rocket science, it just takes some thought, organization – most of all commitment to do it! With any new process or skill, mistakes can be made; mistakes that slow or hinder reaching your goals and/or waste funds. In my next article, “Practical Food Storage, Part 2 – Common Mistakes”, I will review common errors to assist in reducing your learning curve with respect to food storage.
If you have been considering food storage, folks, it is past time to get busy!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Superfoods - the Ultimate List

Hippocrates, an ancient Greek physician, often called the “father of medicine” stated “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”  This has become one of my favorite quotes; as Hippocrates believed, so do I; diet is the foundation of good health and therefore, I cannot delegate to others the duties required to identify beneficial aspects of my diet and that of my family, nor depend totally on others to provide access to quality foods in support of good health.

Recent studies have brought certain dietary guidelines recommended by the federal government into question. A prime example, Americans were told for decades to pursue a “low fat diet” combined with a diet high in whole grains to promote good health. As a result, many Americans avoided eating meat, dairy, and natural oils that contained fat, such as coconut oil, etc. Now, studies are being published arguing the opposite - the human body requires a certain level of “good” fats in order to stay healthy, so the pursuit of a “low fat” diet in combination with a diet high in grains, according to these studies, has not benefited our health.

Combine this with new diet plans from private industry – seems like a new one pops up regularly to add to the confusion - the Mediterranean Diet, the Paleo Diet, and the Adkins Diet, just to name a few. And let’s not forget Veganism – the avoidance of eating any animal products.

Additionally, how can one give serious thought to diet without considering the politics surrounding our food system? From the foreign trade deals that have resulted in massive amounts of foods from other countries being imported into the U.S., often from countries that have questionable agricultural and processing practices, to our own agricultural, medical and pharmaceutical industries and their drive for monetary gain, the best interests of the American consumer, in my opinion, often gets thrown under the bus.

The matter of diet in pursuit of good health can be confusing and in some instances just down right daunting. While wading through the miasma between truth and marketing hype to identify foods capable of contributing to good health, I began noticing the term “superfoods” splashed across the Internet and in books. Article after article stated we need to be eating “superfoods” to support good health.

I was curious - what are “superfoods”? As I read the articles, I realized not everyone is on the same page about what is and is not a “superfood”, in fact, some people believe “superfoods” are nothing but a made-up name for a new marketing scheme; while others believe they represent certain nutrient-packed foods very beneficial to human health.

Okay, on a personal level, I can agree nutrient-dense foods could be considered “superfoods” – now, which foods are “superfoods”?

Trying to get an answer to that question is when it became obvious to me there is no definitive “superfoods” list. After searching through 20 different sources (Internet and books) ranging from those provided by doctors, health and exercise gurus, well-known chefs, etc., I realized in many cases it appeared each list was more or less the individual author’s opinion as to which foods fell into the “superfoods” category.
Among the sources there were some commonalities as to which individual foods could be considered “superfoods”, many commonalities among food categories, and then there were some – hmmm, what is this stuff?
At this point, I am asking myself how I can apply this information to get the most return for my time. Ultimately, I decided I wanted the information to become a tool to, 1) help identify a broad list of “superfoods”, 2) to aid in focusing on the most nutrient-dense foods, 3) to identify which “superfoods” could be raised on the ranch, and 4) to help in future planning.
I needed to organize the 20 different lists to allow for analysis, so I created a spreadsheet to input each food designated as a “superfood” from each source and then separated the foods into categories.
Once this was done, I assigned a number (a point) to each individual food; every time a particular food was mentioned from one of the sources, it received 1 point. For example, in the “berries” category, 8 different types of berries were mentioned with blueberries being mentioned a total of six times in the sources polled. Blueberries received 6 points, this was the most points received by any one berry. So, blueberries became the “superfood” within the “berries” category. I followed this same plan with each of the foods listed in each category. This took some time to work through; but, when finished this is how the foods ranked:


Foods Listed

Ultimate Superfood





Acai, Blackberries, Blueberries, Cranberries, Goji Berries, Lingonberries, Raspberries, Strawberries



Mackerel, Oysters, Wild Salmon, Sardines, Scallops



Barley, Bran Flakes, Brown rice, Buckwheat, Oats. Wheat germ



Alfalfa Sprouts, Beans, Lentils, Red Beans, Sprouts



Apples, Apricots, Avocado, Bananas, Cherries, Dried Plums (Prunes), Dried tart cherries, Grapes, Kiwifruit, Noni, Papayas, Pears

Apples, Avocadoes

Citrus Fruit

Grapefruit, Lemon, Lime, Oranges



Alliums, Asparagus, Potatoes, Beets, Cantaloupe, Carrots, Endive, Kelp, Leek, Olives, Pumpkin, Red Bell Peppers, Hot Peppers, Scallion, Squash, Sweet Potatoes, Tomato

Sweet Potatoes

Cruciferous Vegetables

Arugula, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cauliflower, Horseradish, Kohlrabi, Maca, Radish, Rutabaga, Turnip  


Dark, Leafy Greens

Bok Choy, Cabbage, Collard Greens, Dandelion greens, Iceberg Lettuce, Kale,

Mustard Greens, Romaine lettuce, Sauerkraut, Spinach, Swiss chard, Turnip Greens, Watercress, Chinese Cabbage


Seeds & Nuts

Almonds, Chia seeds, Flaxseed, Pistachio Nuts, Sunflower Seeds, Walnuts, Quinoa



Eggs, Fat-free milk and yogurt, Ghee, Grass-fed organic yogurt & kefir, Greek Yogurt,

Raw, organic, grass-fed butter, Whey Protein Concentrate, Yogurt Spinach



Chicken Bones (Broth), Chicory, Coconuts & Coconut Oil, Dark Chocolate & Cocoa, Oregano, Parsley, Peanut Butter, Popcorn, Red Wine, Sugar (blackstrap molasses), Tea (green or black), Turkey, Turmeric, Watermelon

Dark Chocolate


Bean sprouts (soy), Black Soybean, Edamame, Natto, Soy milk, Soy nuts, Tofu

Soy Milk, Edamame

The foods listed as “ultimate superfoods” were the ones most identified in the sources as “superfoods” – but, and there is always a “but” – as I noted earlier some of this appears to be the opinion of the individual authors. Example: from previous research, I consider blackberries more nutrient-dense than blueberries; blackberries are higher in fat, higher in vitamins and minerals, etc. The one thing blueberries have going for them that blackberries do not – no seeds! In reviewing the “Berries” category as a whole, I identified several berries the authors considered “superfoods” that can be grown on the ranch. So, I will include them in future gardening plans for variety and to extend the growing season, especially blueberries.
With the exception of soy, which I avoid whenever possible, I enjoy all the foods identified as “ultimate superfoods” along with many of the other foods in their respective categories.   I feel very comfortable with the results as a whole. Being a “chocoholic”, the dark chocolate was definitely a winner! J
While there are things I cannot produce on the ranch, there are many that can be done so easily. It presents a challenge to try and incorporate as many as possible of the different foods in my future plans, particularly those that have value as herbal remedies, such as horseradish and oregano. For example, oregano is a great companion plant in the garden as it deters many garden pests.
The foods listed as “ultimate superfoods” are definitely something to consider including in one’s diet; however, I encourage readers to remember - moderation in all things – too much of a good thing, may not, in the end, be a good thing; include these foods as part of a varied diet for the best results.
Another of my favorite quotes –
“If one oversteps the bonds of moderation, the greatest pleasures cease to please.”
Epictetus (AD 55 – 135)

Many of the foods identified lend themselves to being grown in containers, so even those with limited space can take more control over their diet by growing “superfoods” organically!

I hope others gain value from this information and use it as a tool to improve their own diet and that of their families. May we all be blessed with good health!