Food Storage Staples: How to Use Rice to Feed a Whole Family

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If an apocalypse hits tomorrow, I want to be able to effortlessly feed my family out of our storage pantry. Don’t we all? What I do not want is to be faced with a 50 lb bag of rice and only a few of the same recipes to use it.

image: bowl of white rice, jasmine rice, indian food with rice, cooking rice

Rice is a food storage staple that I need to be able to consistently use without constant repetition. This is a hurdle for me because I am not a creative cook! I tend to make the same things over and over and rarely step outside my comfort zone.

In an emergency situation, however, we will probably be dependent on whatever we have in our food storage. I need a plan in place to prepare my shelf-stable food in interesting ways for my family’s sake! Food fatigue is a very real problem that can come up when eating repeated, bland foods.

This was an exercise that benefited me when I assembled a mini food cache that revolved around rice. Click here to read more about what that is and how I assembled it.

The Search

Fortunately, rice is easy to work with. In fact, nothing beats it as the perfect long-term storage food. White rice is tasty, can be stored for decades, is super space-efficient (it triples in size when cooked), and is cheap. Rice is also useful for stretching meals if you need to feed extra people.

My self-challenge was this: if ALL I have is rice and shelf-stable foods, what interesting things can I cook up? I compiled this list of recipes that use ingredients that are easily convertible from fresh to canned, freeze-dried, or dehydrated forms. I also looked for meal ideas that are versatile enough to easily substitute ingredients if something isn’t available. That’s one reason why it’s important to know how to cook from scratch.

Rice for Breakfast

North Americans rarely think of rice as a breakfast food, but apparently, it’s quite common in Asian countries! Here are a few easy methods I found for cooking rice for breakfast.

Breakfast Rice Porridge  This simple dish of leftover rice cooked in milk uses spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, or pumpkin spice for different flavors. You can also use any milk including, cow’s, coconut, nut, or plant-based. And, of course, you can use fresh, canned, or powdered milk. Maybe even chocolate milk would work?

Overnight Breakfast Rice Pudding  This is similar to the porridge, except you use uncooked rice and, as the name suggests, let it sit overnight.

Rice with Fried Egg and Bacon in a Bowl  This isn’t a recipe so much as a nontraditional breakfast idea. Why not use rice instead of potatoes with eggs? You can add any veggie or meat to make a hearty breakfast bowl.

White Rice Flour Crepes  If you don’t have (or can’t eat) wheat, it turns out you can make crepes with rice flour. It’s not entirely shelf-stable as you must grind the rice into flour and you probably need fresh and not freeze-dried eggs. I haven’t tried them with freeze-dried eggs so I don’t know. I included the recipe because it’s a little different and would be a tasty treat. Fill them with sweets like jam or peanut butter and roll them up for a treat. Use savory filling like ham and cheese for a fun meal.

Beans and Rice

Dried beans and rice are two of the easiest and cheapest foods to store long-term. They also combine to make a perfect protein. You might not want to, but you could live on just beans and rice for a long time. Flavor combinations for beans and rice are literally endless! Just change up spices, add a protein and/or vegetables, and it’s a whole new meal. The relative blandness of beans and rice will showcase whatever you add. Beans and rice dishes are easy and forgiving, so feel free to use dried, fresh, freeze-dried, or canned ingredients.

Check out my article here for a list of my favorite, super versatile spices I always keep stocked in my pantry to spice up plain meals and add variety.

Fried Rice

This is another time-honored rice dish that can incorporate an enormous variety of ingredients. The secret to authentic fried rice is to cool down the rice first, making it perfect for using leftover rice. You will need eggs (can be freeze-dried) and oil, but other than that, you can pretty much throw in anything you want.

Protein options are varied: tofu, beef, chicken, pork, sausage, shrimp, or fish. Vegetable options are practically unlimited, and even some fruits like pineapple, mango, or raisins can be added for different flavor combinations. Again, the eggs, meat, and vegetables can be fresh or storage versions. Finally, fried rice can be prepared in a pan or on a griddle over a stove or fire. This recipe for Easy Fried Rice is ideal for feeding a family cheaply!

Foil Packets

Foil packets are a method for cooking rice rather than a specific recipe, but this idea is a good addition to your arsenal if you are cooking rice meals. A foil packet is just an aluminum foil pouch filled with a single-size serving of practically any combination of meat, rice or potatoes, vegetables, and seasonings. Pretty much anything goes in one of these babies. For our purposes, it is worth noting that the food in a foil packet is cooked using steam, making it ideal for rice.

You can also cook foil packets over a campfire, in hot coals, on a barbecue, in the oven, or on a stovetop. What could be more versatile? They work equally well with instant, long-grain, wild, arborio, or any kind of rice. Make sure to adjust the amount of liquid in the packet according to which rice you use.

(Note: you can also eat the food right out of the foil packet, so you don’t have clean up.)

Simple Dinner Recipes with Rice

Chicken and Rice  This tried and true one-pot meal uses just chicken, rice, cream of anything soup, and water. Conventionally this goes in an oven, but it could also be cooked in a Dutch Oven, a solar oven, or a mini portable oven like this one, which is perfect for cooking food anywhere, including your vehicle.

Rice and Ground Beef Skillet This traditional “one skillet” meal uses ground beef, rice, tomatoes, onions, and garlic. However, those ingredients could be substituted or expanded to include ingredients like ground lamb, ground turkey, vegetables, herbs, and spices. Other tasty Ground Beef One Skillet examples are Bacon Cheeseburger Skillet Meal or Mexican Beef Skillet.

Hearty Rice Bowls  Yet another way of cooking rice that incorporates literally endless combinations of ingredients to make something hearty and delicious. You use already-cooked ingredients to build a rice, meat, and vegetable meal. In good times, this meal uses fresh ingredients like avocado and cilantro. You may need to be a little more creative with spices or use foraged garnishes in hard times. Use these recipes as a guide, but truly, you can throw nearly any meat and vegetable into a bowl of rice with soy or hot sauce, and it’s going to be edible. Use what you have on hand and be creative!

Spanish Rice This is a flavorful basic dish using basic ingredients like tomato sauce (or salsa in this case), onion, and garlic. Throw in chicken, beef, sausage, or shrimp and it’s a fiesta. Throw in any number of vegetables, and it’s a healthy fiesta.

Creative Uses for Rice

Rice in Soup  What’s unconventional about cooking rice in soup, you ask? Nothing, if it’s a broth-based soup. Chicken and Rice or Beef and Rice soups with vegetables are basic and easy to make. Be slightly more unconventional by throwing rice into any canned soup to stretch it. Even soups like Chicken Tortilla, Lentil, or French Onion can handle some rice if you add more liquid. You can also bulk up creamy soups with rice, but the rice must be precooked.

Chile or Sloppy Joe’s Over Rice I call this unconventional but may be a good way to stretch cans of storage food into a heartier dish. Plus, it’s pretty much effortless.

Coconut Rice Cooking rice in coconut milk or adding coconut oil to your rice is great for adding flavor and calories.

Spam and Pineapple Fried Rice  Most mainland Americans don’t eat a lot of spam so this dish isn’t on our radar. Hawaiians, however, are familiar with this dish that uses spam (or canned ham). Coconut rice would make it even more exotic.

Buffalo Chicken and Rice  Frank’s Hot Sauce is a staple at our house so a meal of canned chicken and rice with Frank’s is considered comfort food. Add a vegetable into the mix or on the side.

Rice Pudding  This dessert can be a treat for a special occasion or a gentle food to help recover from an illness. It requires milk, sugar, eggs, and vanilla so it might take some experimentation to make a shelf-stable version.

P.S. Pasta is another food storage staple that can stretch your budget and help feed many people inexpensively. For more on how to do this, check out this Survival Mom article.

What other ways of cooking rice can you think of?

7 thoughts on “Food Storage Staples: How to Use Rice to Feed a Whole Family”

  1. Lauralee Hensley

    People really should use the juice in the canned meats they buy at the store in place of part of the water it calls for in the dry gravy mixes. I like the Walmart Great Value brand of canned roast beef, I use strain and save the juice out of the can. I use it in place of some of the water called for in a dry gravy package mix. I like to serve that over some egg noodles. You can get non-expensive dry egg noodles and cook them up with water. Then as a side buy a cheaper canned vegetable, or if you home canned or home froze some of your own veggies use that as a side. If you got some people with big appetites there is nothing wrong about serving a roll or bread too with the meal. I mean people can learn to eat on the cheap if they have too. I like chili over macaroni noodles and we call it chili-mac. If you’re lucky to have cheese to put on top, go for it, but if not sometimes a squirt of yellow mustard tastes good on chili-mac. I like rice a lot, but my husband doesn’t care for it. So if I make plain rice I’ll have to put something over the top of it, which makes it more expensive. So I’ve found my husband doesn’t mind flavored rice, so I stock up when Rice A Roni goes on sale 10 for $10. One box of Rice A Roni depending upon the flavor makes 2 servings, 2.5 servings, or 3.5 servings. Most you only need to add water too, or water/margarine, or milk/margarine, water. The Rice A Roni Spanish Rice (which I like, you have to add a can of tomatoes to, but if you have some of your own you could use them). So we often add a 15 ounce can of some type of bean with the Rice A Roni to get our protein for the night and skip on meat that night. With the chicken flavor we usually add a white navy bean, with the Spanish flavor we add Pinto or Red Beans. With the Herb and Butter we often add peas and diced carrots. Peas are a source of protein so we can omit meat that night too when money is tight. Of course we have another vegetable on the side and usually homemade biscuits or rolls. Now I of course could just eat plain rice with a dab of margarine or butter on top and be happy, but I have to make hubs happy too. The reason I don’t mind paying for the Rice A Roni when it is on sale is I don’t have to make a gravy or buy seasonings to get them tasting just right so my family will eat the rice. My husband grew up a bit more spoiled than I did growing up. In my family growing up we ate what my Mom made or we went hungry, wasn’t quite that way in his family.

    1. I’m intrigued by this. Is it cooked rice basically “smashed” together with tuna? Or are there other ingredients involved?

  2. South Africa, rice with milk and sugar as breakfast, although most children will have maize meal porridge. Rice and bean or curries are stapels in SA. We store rice in 2 liter or 5 liter bottles. Rice are tax free in SA

  3. my husband former Marine Corp cook makes the best hamburger or sausage gravy. We serve with rice or hash browns for our gluten sensitive kids. I’m trying to talk him into doing a video and also working on sourdough biscuits as they can eat those as well.

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