Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Putting Together a Bag Meal

I'm a bit peeved right now, seeing as I just finished a beautifully detailed and illustrated post on how to put together and use a bag meal, and somehow using a combination of ctrl+z and the back button I managed to delete it all. Argh. Well, here's hoping that this frustrating experience leads to a better post somehow.

Ok, so I thought we'd dive in to some specifics today and talk about how exactly to make and use bag meals. First off, just to reiterate, the concept behind a bag meal is that you gather everything you would need to prepare an entire meal and you store it in a bag. This means, of course that you need to find non-perishable versions of your recipe items. This is not as hard as it might sound - canned meats, canned vegetables, dehydrated vegetables, and even canned or powdered dairy products are all available.

image courtesy of Michelle Snow

An easy bag meal would be a spaghetti dinner: one bag of spaghetti, a can of spaghetti sauce, enough bottled water for boiling the spaghetti, and maybe a baggie of spices to jazz up the sauce. You could round out your meal with a bottle of juice, a can of fruit, and even a just-add-water bread mix.

image and mix found here

On the front of your bag, you make a little recipe card - a sheet of paper, really - and list all of the contents of the bag, as well as the instructions for how to prepare the meal. Slip this little paper inside a cd sleeve with a window (or I have used a plastic baggie) to protect it. This recipe card comes in handy when Mom (or whoever usually prepares the meals) is not around, and someone else has to step in. They can follow the simple instructions and have a meal ready in 20 minutes or less. Also, once you've used your bag meal, all you have to do is look at the recipe card to see exactly what you need to buy to replenish your bag.

image courtesy of Michelle Snow

So, what kind of bags do you use, and where do you find them? Michelle Snow recommends using 8 x 5 x 10" shopping bags, like the one in the image above. You might be tempted to use paper, but that's probably not a good idea, since paper is less durable. Another option would be to use cloth bags, but that could get pretty expensive. I found my bags at Store Supply Warehouse online. I had to buy them in bulk, so 250 for 32$ plus 14$ shipping, which works out to 18 cents a bag. It may seem a little intimidating to drop 46$ on bags when you're just getting started, so you might consider finding a friend or group of friends who are interested in trying bag meals and go in together.

So, another question you might have is how exactly to use bag meals. Well, these are super versatile. A great way to use them is just to eat them, frequently, as part of your regular meal planning. This means you are constantly rotating your food storage, and nothing will get spoiled or wasted. You could make Fridays "food storage days," or even eat them more frequently than that. Since the food is all stuff you would normally eat anyway, it isn't one of those "Ugh do I have to eat it?" kind of things. This isn't MREs here! (That's what I grew up with, but hey, we were military!)

image found here

Another use for your bag meals is as a quick meal in a pinch. Since much of the food has already been cooked in the canning process, most of these types of meals can be put together in 20 minutes or less. So, if you are running late, or even just not feeling up to throwing a big meal together, you have an easy, quick solution. And seriously, yum:

image courtesy of Michelle Snow

Bag meals could come in handy if you've gone over your budget for the month, or in the case of a sudden loss of income. They could be used for longer term needs, say if that sudden loss of income becomes temporary unemployment, or if the world suddenly collapses when the robot army arrives. You know, they're very versatile. They are also great to have on hand when you hear a neighbor or friend is sick or in need. You never have to rush out to buy ingredients to make someone a meal, since you have your delicious bag meals on hand. You can even give them as very practical gifts at a bridal shower or graduation party. Wouldn't you love it if you got this as a gift?

image courtesy of Michelle Snow

So, I hope that gives you a better idea of how to start your own bag meal collection. If you have any questions or want me to elaborate on anything, let me know in the comments! Tune in tomorrow, we'll be talking about where to keep all these crazy bags. Friday I'll share some of my recipes and we'll announce the giveaway winner! Don't forget to enter!


Martha said...

I am really looking forward to your future posts. I have purchased both of Michelle's books. I, too, am looking for bags to buy. I would also like to find some good tuna fish recipes besides the usual tuna noodle casserole. Michelle doesn't like tuna so there are no recipes in her book.

Evan and Holly said...

what about cheese when it comes to food storage??? Like if you wanted a grilled cheese tomato soup dinner--or something to that affect? Just curious. Do you know?

Evan and Holly said...

Or pasta salads with vegetables? The recipes I use usually either call for cheese or fresh vegetables. I don't used canned goods like that and if I use things they are frozen....doesn't really fit in a bag. Any suggestions? Does she address this?

PitterPatHeart said...

Holly, I do know that there is canned cheese - I don't know how good it would taste in a grilled cheese sandwich. There's a lot of experimenting I have to do. There are definitely some adjustments you have to make - you can't have everything fresh, but one thing to think about is, if you're using this as part of your regular meal rotation, you can have your long-term storage version (canned cheese, dried veggies, etc.)then, if you are using it on a regular basis rather than in an emergency, you just use regular cheese or fresh veggies and put the non-perishable stuff aside for the next bag meal. When it's getting close to its expiration date, then you go ahead and eat it and replace it.
If you really like fresh vegetables and want to have them around for much of the year, consider gardening. Also, in the book, they talk about growing sprouts indoors so you will always have fresh greens to eat.
There are definitely a lot of my regular recipes that just don't work for a bag meal (or any kind of food storage), but you can still get a lot of really yummy things into a bag, and just make it work for you.
Does that make sense?
If you use a lot of frozen vegetables and have the option, you should definitely stock up - I personally think frozen food is a great way to store food for the more financial variety of an emergency. I have a ton of meats and veggies in our freezer - when I see a good sale I just stock up. That way I always have something, and I got it for a good price.

MT said...

Cool idea! Can't wait to see some of your recipes!


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