When we first began storing food for emergencies and building up our food storage pantry, my wife would buy things like cake mixes and pancake mix. Over time, as they sat on our pantry shelves, we encountered a couple of problems with them that made us re-think this particular strategy, one we thought would save us time in food prep in a crisis.
So, bottom line, my advice is to not store either of these for several reasons. Now, first, I am talking about the cake or pancake mixes, you purchase at your local grocery store and come in cardboard boxes, not the canned products produced by reputable long-term food companies.
One reason for my caution is that you have no control over what goes into the mixes. Many of them contain oils of different types, dairy, and who knows what else. The labels on the packages often don’t give you enough information for you to make an intelligent decision about storing these products. Because it is a mixture, the shelf life is determined by the ingredient with the shortest shelf life. In the case of added oils it can be as short as a few months with the entire mix becoming rancid and unusable.
Even packed in Mylar packs with oxygen absorbers, the shelf life may not be the best. I prefer to store the ingredients to make cake or pancake mixes separately and make my pancakes from scratch. If something goes wrong with one of the ingredients, you can still make something from the remaining ingredients that are still fresh.
Making pancakes from food storage ingredients
If there is one “survival skill” you should master, it’s making everything you eat from scratch. This allows you to stock up on individual ingredients that can be used to create hundreds and hundreds of different foods. I’ll have to write a separate article on that topic one of these days!
In the meantime, I wanted to give you an example of how you can always have fresh ingredients on hand when you get a hankering for something like pancakes. Let’s take a look at this copycat recipe for Denney’s famous buttermilk pancakes and how I would go about having these ingredients stored for long-term use.
1 1/2 cups buttermilk — Use dried milk powder to mix this up and then add a tablespoon of either white vinegar or lemon juice and allow to sit for 10-15 minutes to curdle.
3 tablespoons cooking oil — We stock up on coconut oil as it’s healthier* and has a longer shelf life than other oils.
1/2 teaspoon baking soda — Easy to stock up on and store.
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour — Flour has a shelf-life of at least a couple of years, but you can always grind wheat to make fresh flour.
1/4 teaspoon salt — Super cheap and easy to stock up on.
1 egg, slightly beaten — Use egg powder like OvaEasy and don’t worry about having fresh eggs on hand.
2 tablespoon granulated sugar — Another ingredient you can easily stock up on and store for long-term use
2 teaspoons baking powder — Make a DIY batch of this or just stock up and store.
In case you’re wondering how to put all this together, you’ll mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl and then whip together the egg, oil, and buttermilk. Stir this together until it creates a lumpy batter and then pour about 1/4 cup onto a griddle. Cook for a minute or so on each side.
Find cake and brownie recipes that you love and then begin stocking up on the individual ingredients just as we did here with our copycat Denney’s pancake recipe. You’ll find that many ingredients overlap, so as you stock up, you’ll be able to make pancakes, sweet breads, brownies, cookies, and many other delicious, favorite foods.
Other issues with long-term storage
I have read articles about people getting sick from these products being used well after their expiration date. Now I have not been able to find any hard facts on this, but suspect it was from improper storage that allowed mold to form.
Another problem that I have read about is people saying that the baking powder loses its strength over time. I have not been able to verify this, but have found information that baking powder stored by itself will store for many years. Here is a link to a post that I wrote a couple of years ago that reference a study done by BYU on the shelf life of baking powder. The shelf life may be shorter when it is mixed with other products.
My advice is if you want cakes and pancakes as part of your food storage pantry, store the ingredients separately, and make sure they are each packaged for long-term storage. Besides, homemade baked goods taste better than store-bought cake or pancake mixes any day of the week!
* Most all oils will become rancid over time, but coconut oil is one of the healthiest you can use and stays fresh much, much longer. Reading the book The Big Fat Surprise opened my eyes to how our public health organizations have used flawed data to promote the worst possible fats, such as vegetable oils. If you haven’t read the book, you need to!