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Whether we’re buying kits or building our emergency pantry one bag and can of rice and beans at a time, chances are pretty good our food supply is heavy on “spoon meals”. Soups, boiled grains, stews, instant potatoes, mac-n-cheese, and even a lot of casseroles and scrambled eggs offer a lot of repetition in texture and eating utensils.
That repetition will get wearying, unless we’re already eating that way. Especially if we’re experiencing a personal or localized crisis rather than watching the whole world fall apart, some relief to spoon meals will be more than welcome.
Happily, there are some easy fixes that can help. Finger foods are one.
Most of the ingredients are inexpensive enough – or inexpensive enough as a weekly/monthly treat. In fact, many of us probably already have the ingredients in our kitchens or storage.
Some of them require extra time and effort. Others, however, are ideal for even vehicle evacs, packing trips, and power-outage SIP kits, offering no-cook and less-mess meals that don’t require much wash-up for dishes.
Having some crackers or bread can help right off the bat. One, they are finger foods. Two, they can help us turn other storage foods into sandwiches, stackers, and wraps.
Pretty much any baked good can be turned into a griddle cake. Thin it out more, and from brownie batters to cake and muffin mixes to Bisquick, we have crepes and tortillas. Those can be combined with counter top microgreens, canned beans or meats, or fruits or pie fillings for a tasty treat.
We can use tin cans, muffin tins, small Pyrex bowls and custard cups to quickly and efficiently bake biscuit, bannock, and for-real breads, then slice them for sandwiches, burgers, and crostinis to further increase variety.
Looking for an easier-yet option?
Tortillas are pretty inexpensive from supermarkets and Dollar Tree, and have decent shelf lives. I’m not much fan of the B&M breads, but they’re there. Green-sign Dollar Tree also sometimes has shelf-stable rolls and skinny Italian loaves with months of shelf life (longer stacked in a fridge and freezer).
Bread Toppings & Fillers
The Dollar Tree can also offer a lot of options for jazzing up those breads, as can supermarkets. Supermarkets will sometimes be less expensive by weight/serving, but there’s sometimes benefit to the smaller serving sizes we can move through as individuals, pairs, and small families, without leftovers.
I’ll skip the Vienna sausages turned into corn dogs and hot dogs, personally, but it’s an option. I’m also not wild about canned herring or sardines (fresh is fantastic), but there’s good ol’ tuna, salmon, and baby cocktail shrimp that can go on a wrap or crostini as-is or mixed into a salad with herbs, fresh veggies, and mayo or an alternative.
All over the U.S., Dollar Tree has been the least-expensive option for me for shelf-stable pepperoni in a couple of formats, and regularly carries 1-3 types of salami. (Not the fridge stuff – ick.)
Add the skinny dollar-store jar of the pickled veggies and can of olives, and even without a bread option, we can roll those lunch meat slices into tubes for a Saturday finger-food or toothpick snack my family will enjoy right now – after, during a big time crunch, that $3-$6 investment would be a full-on holiday treat.
Generic Walmart-brand summer sausages can also provide us with a finger-food meat to stash for months/years, or we can smoke our own.
It’s more hit-and-miss now, but the dollar stores also rotate through canned beef and chicken with and without gravy (okay), canned bologna (meh to eek), and canned pulled barbecue, teriyaki, and buffalo chicken and pork (no blech-ier than way-expensive supermarket versions).
Canned at home or purchased, we can turn all sorts of shelf-stable goodies into burgers. Fish cakes and bean burgers are versatile enough for a bun or open-faced sandwiches topped with salsa or chutneys or some of the canned and jarred cheese and pasta sauces available.
We can also turn the same “burger” recipes into little meatballs that we bake, “dry fry” or skillet fry, and present to eat like protein-laden hush puppies with other finger foods, or use them in wraps akin to falafel.
Some of the simplest bean burgers just call for retaining the juices from chili beans and mashing the whole kaboodle together. We can pre-season and buy other types to accomplish the same. Other recipes call for things like breadcrumbs that we can repackage and store pretty compactly, whether we buy them or make them at home.
We can turn almost anything into a finger food to serve atop homemade tortilla chips, toast points, the split and sliced and flat-cooked breads from our varied mixes, or native fry/stone breads. Various holiday cracker toppers can be a great place to look. So can open-faced sandwiches and appetizers that we can control the liquids for or deconstruct to create finger foods.
Most of us would have to specifically pre-stock ingredients like shrimp to serve with herbs and Parmesan cheese sauce or an Alfredo sauce (from packets or homemade), or olives to turn into tapenade or creamy spreads.
Beans are pretty ubiquitous in most prepper pantries, though. We can turn any of them into a creamy hummus for a base. We can also augment chutney and brochette made from garden veggies with our white beans, chick peas, black beans, or kidney beans.
Any meat products can be whipped into mouse or rilletes, and even windowsill gardens and foraging can provide herbs for pseudo-pesto, as well as sunflower seeds, elm samas, etc. instead of pine nuts.
We can also seriously reduce liquids for packaged creamed soups for a base or seasoning (they will be salty, and carry the seasoning for all the rest of the ingredients), stock canned and jarred cheese dips, or use thick gravy recipes to create dips and spreads for topping.
Muffin Tin Meals
These have a couple of distinct benefits to preppers as well as the average households. One, their primary purpose here, it’s a finger food for mood boosts.
However, that also means it’s fast and convenient. It works for us – now and “later” – because I can pre-make a bunch, and people can grab when they’re ready, and they easily pack them for snacks/lunch/tea. There’s also portion control, lowered cleanup, and fast-serving aspects that can benefit preppers.
For preppers, especially, the tins cook faster than a pie or bread pan. That saves fuels as well as time.
You can also do a variety of things in a single load or baking session, easily, versus a bread loaf or stove top pot. That means whatever $0.38-$1.00 Jiffy mix didn’t run away fast enough gets turned bannock buns/muffins in half, and the other half gets faux-fried eggs or omelet-filler with scrambled eggs.
Or, make Cable Guy “ash cakes” (or the scones/rolls mix from the food-storage genius who thinks I’m making yeast bread in a disaster) to combine with meatballs, burgers, and other fillers above, and baked pancake poppers to hold for another meal.
Rolled oats/wheat/barley readily become muffins and pseudo-granola bars using a wide variety of fruits, nuts, seeds, and morsels or M&Ms.
We can convert pre-cooked grits, cream of wheat/farina, and even risotto-style rice and barley into the same finger-food or fork-able just-eat “muffins”. We can also bake them in thin layers or split them to serve as our sandwich buns or crostini. (Also check out the many wonders of “fried grits” – yum.)
Any of the hot-cereal buns can have the ingredients mixed in, or we can “frost” them and top them, further increasing the “different” meals from the same ingredients.
Another option is pressing them into cups to fill – which we do with any stiff dough. Tortillas can make convenient cups as well, as can shredded hash browns or veggie-latke mixes.
There’s no limit, whatever “breading” we make in muffin tins instead of “just” making a finger food quiche, muffin or mashed-potato popper.
Oatmeal, farina, pancake batter, or cake mix, we can go with instant Dream Whip and fruits, homemade or supermarket icing, peanut butter or Nutella, and the ice cream and milk syrups.
For savory cereals and cornbread or roll mixes, there’s spicy shrimp, oriental or taco/fajita blends, hummus, nacho cheese sauce and peppers, or Dak ham sandwiches.
Try to line the muffin tins as often as possible – sprays, flour, lard, Crisco, something. Some recipes and situations will also lend themselves to a slice of onion or pepper, sandwich meat, or spinach leaves at the bottom.
If we have them, glass and silicone muffin “tins” are fantastic. If not, try some Pyrex bowls or mini custard dishes.
Pizza For Preppers
Green-sign Dollar Tree stores also carry everything we need for a pizza night. If we can get a hold of some canned Bega cheese, all the better, but deep into a financial upset or national/worldwide disaster (or a packing trip) even that powdered-cardboard cheese can be a real treat.
There’s always cake-mix crepes, but from chow mien noodle haystacks and oatmeal no-bake cookies to rice cereal treats, we have a whole range of stove top/grill options to up our finger-food treats, some with as few as 2-5 ingredients.
With dollar-store packages of drink powders, Reese Pieces, M&Ms, jelly beans, and other candies, we can up our game all over again for seasonal and holiday specific pick-me-ups.
Other quickie and alternative-cooking friendly treats include dipped pretzels, spiced nuts, popcorn balls, and even simple candle-roasted marshmallows.
Using ingredients many of us already have, or that are inexpensive to lay on, we can greatly increase the meal possibilities from our food storage. Planning for finger foods can help stave off food fatigue and improve our moods, at regular intervals or specifically for treats.
Some of them also make excellent ways to reduce prep and cook time and especially dishes we’ll have to wash, making them ideal for any power-outage or water-shortage situation.
Poke around. The options are nigh-on endless and can make a real difference anytime we have to rely on our food storage, or when it’s time to rotate all those supplies.
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