When you are feeling a cold coming on or are just having one of those days, do you find yourself longing for a certain food? For many of us, it is a familiar dish from our childhood — maybe a homemade soup or a casserole. For others, it could be a grilled cheese sandwich, a warm brownie or a hot biscuit.
By definition, comfort foods are foods prepared in a traditional way that remind you of somewhere you feel safe, and, well, comfortable. If you have a survival pantry or are planning to start one, yes, you need to focus on storing rice, beans, powdered milk, wheat, oatmeal and other bulk foods. And, yes, you need to have a garden for your fresh fruits and vegetables. However, as you plan those basics, don’t forget the comfort foods.
In the midst of a disruptive natural or made-made disaster, you and your family will experience a high level of stress. You will be able to bring some much-needed smiles to the table if you have some favorite foods stored amidst all the other staples.
A study published in the journal of Psychological Science in 2011 showed that consuming foods that are associated with good memories improves our sense of well-being and can decrease loneliness.
At a 2012 meeting of the American Chemical Society, researcher Karina Martinez-Mayorga, Ph.D., presented her research on the effect of certain food flavors on mood. She reported that molecules in chocolate, a variety of dark berries and foods containing omega-3 fatty acids positively affect mood. Interestingly, these chemical components are structurally similar to Valproic acid, the primary ingredient in several pharmaceutical mood stabilizers, such as Depakene and Depakote.
Most comfort foods have less to do with health and nutrition than they have to do with feeling good. Certainly, you want to concentrate as much as you can on natural foods, preferably fresh, organic foods, for your family. Comfort foods will serve as a break from your regular diet, with their aim of bringing a sense of normalcy during a highly stressful time.
What comfort foods will fit your long-term storage needs? Well, every family has their different favorites, but here is our list of 10 comfort foods you should consider for your survival pantry. Please note that many of these choices have a shelf life of only about a year or two, so rotation is important.
1. Macaroni and Cheese. Maybe you can’t do without your fix of Kraft Mac and Cheese, but you can also consider Annie’s organic products. Unfortunately, the Annie’s shelf life is not quite as long as the good ol’ blue box kind.
2. Popcorn. When stored properly, popcorn can last indefinitely. Plus, it’s whole grain, low in fat, and high in fiber.
3. Chocolate pudding mix. Get your chocolate fix. Instant pudding mix will store for up to 10 years in a sealed #10 can in a cool, dry place. Once opened, the mix can last one to two years.
4. Hot chocolate mix. Sipping on this “cup of comfort” can instantly change your mood. Most hot cocoa mixes have a shelf life of about a year or so. The cocoa does not really “go bad,” but its flavor decreases over time.
5. Dried fruits. Dried fruits last much longer than fresh fruits because they have had the water removed from them. You can achieve the drying process naturally with sunlight, with a dehydrator or with a slow oven. Shelf life depends on the drying method and on storage, but most dried fruits can last six to 12 months in a pantry.
6. Dried nuts. Nuts can be great comfort snack, and they offer healthy protein. Shelf life depends on the type of nut and how it is stored. Almonds generally store well for about a year.
7. Peanut butter. A nutrient-dense food that stores well, peanut butter also evokes childhood memories. When properly stored, the shelf life of most commercial brands of peanut butter is about a year. Homemade peanut butter will last for two to three months.
8. Granola bars. As long as the packaging is intact and they are stored in a cool dry place, these bars, which many kids find comforting, will keep long past their expiration date.
9. Pasta and jarred pasta sauce. When properly stored, most dry pastas will keep for two years. Jarred tomato-based sauces will keep fresh for about a year.
10. Tea and coffee. For many of us, just holding a steaming mug of coffee or tea can provide comfort. Instant coffee can last for up to 20 years, but who’s counting? Whole bean coffees can last for up to nine months, and ground coffee for about five months. Packaged tea stays fresh for about a year.
Was your favorite comfort food on our list? Potato chips topped the list of favorites in a poll of 1,004 Americans on comfort foods that was published in 2003 in the journal Physiology and Behavior. Other favorites included steak, pasta, salad and soup.
The study also revealed that men and women are different in what they consider comfort foods. Female respondents said their top three comfort foods are ice cream, chocolate and cookies. On the other hand, men chose ice cream, soup and pizza/pasta.
What would you add to this list? Share your thoughts in the section below: