We’ve moved this site over to another spot on WordPress Pinch of Prepping that will allow us a bit more room to add lots of new things and expand! Hope you’ll all join us over there to continue the conversations!
One issue we have not discussed in any depth is health. I have been silent the last few weeks while we dealt with some of those issues within our family. So now I am going to use this opportunity to admonish many of you in as gentle and loving a way possible! If indeed things conspire to bring about a SHTF situation due to any number of reasons, your health and that of your loved ones and friends will be paramount in how all of you survive – how you live! Rice and beans are survival food but in no way can they be considered perfect nutrition without a more full diet. Contrary to popular belief, starvation will come in many forms later on. Let’s consider a few of those scenarios.
If in fact the electric goes down or war happens or “merely” economic collapse, we can all rest assured we won’t be indulging all of those sugary or salty or fattening treats that keep us all on the bit overweight or challenging weight side! We will probably all conquer our personal weight loss wars at that point in obvious way. Most preppers will tell you that it will be important to “blend in”, to not stand out as robust or super healthy in a crowd of emaciated people! But there is another side to this reality.
Our bodies are going to be pushed, taxed to their limits. Even if jobs still exist as we know them, you will be forcing yourselves under more stressful lifestyles then. There will be rougher choices to make, more emotional stressors to deal with then you are used to now. That type of stress takes a physical as well as emotional and mental toll on a person. In addition there will be more physical tasks to be taken care of. There are plenty of articles written by bloggers who believe we will be forced into physical combat or at minimum, security tasks to protect family and home. I am not going to be discussing those particular issues but rather that you think in terms of what it will take to survive otherwise. For example, you may need to consider supplying wood for heat and cooking. It will not be easy to chop and split those larger amounts of logs. Working the soil and then planting and weeding a garden is a physically exhausting work. If you have not been able to store water and make a close source for water, hauling it will be difficult as well. Perhaps you will be forced to bike or even walk everywhere instead of using a car. Calories in against calories needed will be much different from now. None of this will be possible if you are not physically fit and able.
So for those of you still young enough to bring about healthy changes to your lifestyle now, please consider doing so. I am not referring to becoming a gym fanatic or going on restrictive diets that never allow for that piece of cake or extra coffee. But I am strongly advising you to pay attention to your health. The costs of seeing doctors or worse hospital treatments will continue to rise, Obamacare not withstanding. The best option is to not need to have any continuing medical needs now such as high blood pressure or heart conditions or diabetes. You should be doing everything within your power to avoid fat mass but rather to build the strongest healthiest muscle mass possible now. Try to learn to eat without added salt – sodium is not healthy in larger doses. We have been learning to eat with low to almost no sodium in order to combat certain health issues our family faces. This is in addition to already paying attention to sugar and to low fat, low cholesterol choices. One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is to avoid as many if not all convenience foods – prepackaged items usually loaded with salt and or hydrogenated fats or sugars.
One of the biggest rules most preppers will encourage others to remember is to only stock what your family likes to eat. That translates to teaching everyone in the family to learning to eat healthier now. An added bonus to all of this is to start reading those labels. Aside from the shock of those content percentages and amounts to a single serving, you will also learn just how many of our food products are not only admittedly full of chemicals but also just how many are packaged if not also grown in China! I am not sure how it is that we Americans have allowed the shipping of American grown products to China to be canned or frozen or prepared into something else but it is even more inconceivable that we accept that it is cheaper to do this than to package them here! Read the fine print and the print on the back of labels – Pacific salmon does not guarantee that it is also prepared here! The horrors of tainted food products for our pets and then the poisoned baby formula should have all of us thinking twice about how that happened! China is among those countries that allow fields to be fertilized with human excrement. Yet we know that many salad growers have in turn dealt with salmonella contamination.
Perhaps the only way to avoid this is to grow one’s own! Learning to can, dehydrate, and even freeze properly makes this an even better bet for most families. Have the children help – teach them to grow their favorites. Most children enjoy the process when involved. What better way to instill pride and self esteem than to let them be responsible for those radishes or sweet strawberries! Nothing tastes better than a fresh picked watermelon on a hot sultry summer’s day! My grandchildren get a kick out of helping to can tomatoes or make pickles. They love the jam making process too. Eating warm applesauce on a chilly afternoon is another of their fun moments! They may not think about healthy eating but grandma does!
Think in terms of what your family eats now. Is it healthy? Are your children or grandchildren fussy eaters? It is possible to store treat foods and favorite comfort foods but try to teach more healthy habits now before a crisis situation occurs. Use vitamins wisely and stock them. Coupons will help bring the cost down. Make exercise a part of your lives. That doesn’t mean just gym workouts. Take the children bike riding. Take hikes. Invent contests like who can swim more laps or who can carry heavy bundles. Working in the garden will help burn some of those extra calories but nothing has to be only work. More important is to also use those times for boding relationships. Talk together and listen to each other – even those silly stories that little ones spin can mean a lot that mom or dad took the time to listen. Remember too that church and prayer time along with bible study also helps to build a stronger more united family. Share together during those times. I am not suggesting any particular dogma nor do I want you to live under such rigid religious rules that the children resent this time. Rather I want you to realize that spiritual preparedness is an important part of the emotional and mental health part of being prepared. Use whatever your religion or spiritual belief system tells you as a means to ready for whatever comes! All of this will make your stress levels go down – do not fear what may or may not happen. If your prepare now, it is like having a special insurance policy that not everyone else has considered!
We have finally accomplished one of our bigger goals and I am super happy! I missed not having a large pantry but this house did not have one. Here in Florida we cannot really do long term storage of foods in the garage as we get such temperature fluctuations – mostly hot and hotter along with humid! We had a larger bedroom 12 by 22 ft. that we had subdivided into two bedrooms via adding a door for one, and a quick wall dividing the room into two rooms. We now found ourselves not needing the two bedrooms any longer so we rearranged room configurations this weekend. So this weekend we moved our wall back several feet giving a larger bedroom on one side and a beautiful room perfect for a walk-in pantry!
Then came the choices – we made a few trips to local home stores and also researched a bit on the internet comparing prices and choices. Due to our own physical capabilities we chose not to build shelves out of wood. I also wanted a nicer cleaner appearance for inside the house in a room that will be seen by visitors much of the time even though we can close a door! We chose chrome style wire shelves – and we even did a bit of remodeling on those. We joined two smaller units via using thread-all to connect into a taller unit. All of the shelves were bolted to the wall studs to prevent tipping by accident – an important safety tip! We were able to finish all of this within two days! Electrical was in place already and we had to do no painting as we had used paneling in a light color for the wall. There is already a bookshelf unit to hold all my cookbooks and prepping notebooks I set up. That was left in place instead of taking it out of there.
One nice feature is being able to organize all my canning supplies in one convenient place that is easily accessible! The photos obviously don’t show all our storage preps but it gives you a good idea of how quickly and easily this can be accomplished. The shelves were approximately $285 for three larger units and the two smaller ones we put together. Any of these projects should be done within your budget and not create more stress! Small baskets are used to hold any small messier items such as extra canning lids and rings although they could also be used to hold small seasoning packets. One of mine contains all the smaller Food Saver attachments and bags. Eventually I am hoping to purchase some accessories such as can rotators. Fortunately we are not in an earthquake prone area but we are in a potential flood area so we wanted shelves that were a bit off the ground for the first shelf. We also chose to add an extra shelf to each unit to have more storage – because these are modular, I can go back and add additional shelves if I so choose to. It is important to set up your storage so that is organized enough that food is rotated with every purchase – use the oldest first so that you don’t end up with expired cans! We also grouped similar items together – for instance all baking goods in one section, beans and veggies in another. You want family members to easily find and use the food!
The peace of mind from this knowing we have a place to conveniently store our foods in an organized clean and safe manner gives me that happy happy feeling – a contentment of knowing I am in obedience with The Lord and taking care of family.
One of the biggest points along this journey is making this a less stressful or frustrating journey for ourselves. At times it feels overwhelming when we read and read and read so much information on the web and get lost in all of it. I don’t know about you but I must have over 500 bookmarks – many saved in nice little sub-folders. I try to remember to export those to each of the different browsers I use. (Yes, I am one of “those” who use more than one browser, not because I wear a tinfoil hat that tells me I am being tracked – it’s because some browsers just aren’t happy with certain websites I enjoy!) But what happens if for whatever reason the electric goes out? Yes, my laptop has a longer life battery and yes, I can recharge it via the car or a generator or a solar recharger. But do you really want to hope that you can access a website and find the correct information when in a stressful situation? Let’s face it – that will add to the stress as you remember that wonderful TV ad “You heard it on the Internet so it must be true!?” So what steps can be most easily undertaken to help alleviate some of this stress?
One trick I use is to make sets of notebooks. I purchased several 3 ring binders (some bought at my favorite flea market and some at garage sales). Then I splurged and bought a large box of plastic sleeves at Sam’s Club. I also bought black indelible markers and I was set to begin. I made my own topic tabs by making small slips of paper that I wrote topics on and taped to edges of a plan paper. So now let us begin.
I do a lot of reading and research, studying to find the best advice and information I can on a subject. I rely on favorite trusted sources but I double check those too, never assuming someone is an authority on everything. As a young child my dad taught me to read and research for myself. He advocated reading everything one could get their hands on, even classified ads because some day certain bits of information would fit together to fill in the gaps on any given subject. This si something I still do and enjoy doing. I may not be an authority on a subject but I can usually ferret out the needed information from someone who is! That’s what counts – knowing where to get the necessary information. In this case it is information that may save our lives or that of someone we love later.
So one of my notebooks is First Aid and Medical Information. Here I also keep a page listing each person in the family and any pertinent information such as allergies and medications they regularly take. A list is also noted of all doctors they use with contact information. One notebook is labeled Herbs and Their Uses. Then I made Gardening, another is Canning Preserving and Recipes. Those plastic sleeves are great for protecting the pages against splatters and spills while cooking or canning. Food Inventory is a constantly changing book. This notebook also contains lists of suggested storage items – such as items that will disappear from stores quickly or less thought of items that will come in handy. I tend to keep track of those items by taking a copy along with me as I shop or garage sale. Quickly glancing over it jars my memory when I am out there hunting those bargains! It’s especially helpful if you can make notes about the prices of some of those items so you can tell if a bargain is a bargain or not! A General How To book is filled with articles that are more difficult to sort. Then there is a notebook on Tips for Preparing Against Natural Disasters. One section deals with storing water, how to purify water, and even how to find water. Here again one can get as detailed as one prefers. We worry about floods and hurricanes in Florida. Maybe earthquakes are your concern, or perhaps radiation. These can each need a lot of information on how to be safe and what to do after the initial emergency.
It may seem like a lot of work but once they were set up during a pleasant afternoon relaxing in the sun on my patio, it has become easy to print and file any additional papers. I keep all of these in one convenient place – in the event we ever had to actually evacuate due to an impending brush fire or hurricane, I could easily grab these to take along. This is also a great place to keep copies (not the originals) of all important papers such as photocopies of driver’s licenses, insurance cards, passports, home owners or renters insurance policies, etc. If you are in an area that often needs to evacuate, keep these in a handy tote or basket so they can be grabbed quickly. I realize this may not be one of the more glamorous aspects of the prepping phenomena, but it sure is a helpful one. Remember we want to stick to budgets and have less stress – having the right information at your fingertips will go a long way to accomplishing this!
One of the biggest decisions you will have to make is whether or not you believe you have enough time to slowly store up enough food for your family or if you feel in your spirit that the time is running more short to need those supplies. Some of this will be because of what you feel is the impending emergency and by your available budget. My first suggestion would be that you attempt o stock yourselves a 3 week supply of food as quickly as possible. In another post I mentioned making a menu list of favorite meals. From that you can quickly choose a meal of two worth of ingredients to purchase extra each week to stock up ahead. Once you have been able to amass that food, if your budget is a tight one like mine, you can now start to more slowly amass a year’s worth of supplies for your family. Remember along with stocking your pantry you also need to be storing enough water for your family needs. You will be able to survive longer without food than you will without drinking water.
So now that you have put up the favorite meals let’s consider a year’s worth done slowly over 52 weeks For this we will assume a family of four. There is some discussion the amounts for children versus adults however I count children equal to adults if at all possible – they tend to grow quickly and under stress everyone will consume more calories anyway. To accomplish this 52 week shopping excursion, we are going to spend approximately $10 extra each week.
What Items You Need to bulk Purchase:
80 pounds dry milk
24 – 30 pounds of salt
10 – 15 pounds of peanut butter
360-400 pounds sugar
20 pounds honey
88-100 pounds of rice
44-50 pounds dry beans/lentils
1000 pounds of grains/wheat/part in flour, part in oatmeal, part in cornmeal
150 cans of soup – part of this in chicken or beef bullion (for flavor over rice and to eat)
45 boxes macaroni and cheese
48-50 cans tuna
10-12 pounds of yeast
12 pounds shortening
10 gal. cooking oil
25 pounds pasta
Baking soda and baking powder added to this will allow you to bake cakes and cookies also.
Much of this can be purchased in bulk at Sam’s Wholesale Club, Costco, or even Wal-Mart. Aldi is another great place to shop for foods at decent prices. We aren’t able to double coupon here but for those of you who can, use those coupons! Target will allow you to stack a manufacturer coupon on top of a store coupon as does CVS. However we want to try to keep this as close to $10 weekly as possible and easily storable in your pantry area. Remember if you are thinking about using garage, attic, or basement, the temperature fluctuations will affect how long this food will last. All of this food will run about a total of a bit less than $600 although this can begin to creep higher as prices begin to increase. The list here is a suggested list. You will want to add all types of seasonings – and favorite herbs in addition to favorite comfort foods such as cake mixes and cookies. Pudding mixes and jello are also great along with popcorn kernels.
To give you some examples – this is what it costs at our local Sam’s Club for some of the items:
Pure Wesson® Vegetable Oil – 1.25 gal $8.30
Morton® Iodized Table Salt – 4lb. box $0.98
StarKist® Chunk Light Tuna in Water – 5 oz. – 10 ct. $8.46
Uncle Ben’s® Original Long Grain Rice – 12 lb. bag $8.48
Diamond Pre-Washed Pinto Beans – 50 lb. bag $34.69
Maruchan Ramen Noodle Soup – Chicken Flavor – 3 oz. – 36 pk $6.87
Daily Chef™ Spaghetti Pantry Pack – 1 lb. – 6 ct. $4.98
Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Dinner – 7.25 oz. – 12 pk. $9.37
Daily Chef™ Penne Rigate Pantry Pack – 1 lb. – 6 ct. $5.76
Natural SueBee Clover Honey, 2.3 k (5 LB) $13.30 – an all natural honey will be more expensive
Jif® Creamy Peanut Butter – 2 jars – 40 oz. each $9.98
Fleischmann’s® Instant Yeast – 2/16 oz. bags $9.36
ARGO® Baking Powder – 60oz $5.78
Arm & Hammer®Baking Soda – 13.5 lb. bag $6.64
Domino® Sugar – 10 lb. Bag $4.68
Bakers & Chefs All Purpose Flour – 25 lb. bag $8.83
Sam’s Club sells Auguson products in 25 to 35 pound buckets – these have an average shelf life of 25 – 30 years which is nice if you want to consider a very long term storage option. You will notice that a few of these items go over the $10 price but buying in a large package such as for the beans will save money if you repackage into jars or mylar bags and seal them. Make sure you date and label anything repackaged. It is also a good idea to use a marker and date everything with purchase dates and try to circle the expiration date if it is marked.
Remember we want to have fun and the goal is to achieve peace of mind so stick to your budget and don’t stress while doing this!
Whether you are preparing for SHTF or just the next big storm, there are some practical things that all of us should pay attention to. We talk about the foods that should be stored and the proper way to actually store them and many folks also discuss security and weapons at length. Yet even those of us who have been at this awhile forget the obvious. Beginners become overwhelmed by all the flashy things like how to dehydrate or can foods but no one bothers to help them with the practical. Maybe this post will help some of you!
So you have all that wonderful food stored. The next big storm hits, the power goes out. Hmmmm. Everyone is hungry – how are you going to open that can of soup or tuna to feed everyone? Not all cans come with pop tops. Sure, you can spend some energy by rubbing that can weld on the top edge along the cement curb to break the weld and open a can – but do you really want to do that in subzero weather or pouring rain and 120 mph winds? Those preps should include a couple of manual can openers! Ones with the ability to pop tops off bottles are handy. Having a generator or two and chain saws, propane stoves, or kerosene heaters are all obvious on the prepper wish list but how about we look at the need for some less glamorous items.
During Hurricane Andrew I was employed at a local home center store more than 2 hours from the storm center. Yet by the day after the storm we were inundated with shoppers who were sent to the store by friends and family to purchase things they couldn’t find locally. Things like extra chains and carburetors for those chain saws and oil! Extra gas cans were also big on the list. Then came requests for another hammer so more than one person at a time could pound nails. Even screwdrivers were on those shopping lists. A wrench or drill comes in handy for repairs or rebuilding. More importantly those shoppers were not looking for electric tools but manual ones. Nails, duct tape, trash bags will all be handy for those home repairs along with tarps.
Many preppers are concerned that so many common items are imported, particularly many from China. Yet the reality is that were the SHTF scenario come to be reality, those imported items are only the tip of the iceberg for most of us. Consider that the US in divided into regions. Think locally. The reality will be that gas will not be readily available to transport items from across the country. This won’t be just the bananas making it to Wisconsin that will be a problem. Feed for livestock will be an issue if the seeds to grow it and the tools to plant and harvest it aren’t available. Cutting wood means saws and axes to chop the wood to useable sizes. Maybe you aren’t planning on wood heat but eventually you may need it to cook outside on a fire pit. So when you shop for that saw or axe, you should also think in terms of how to sharpen them later. Pieces of chain and key locks or padlocks will be useful to lock doors, generators, bikes, etc. – anything you don’t want others to steal. Bolt cutters will also come in handy in case a key is misplaced! Screen repair kits and caulking for windows are other handy items.
Consider also how many items we use on a day to day basis that we take for granted. One handy experiment is for you and family members to write down everything you use within a 24 hour period. Start with that pen or pencil you use! Then note the paper – and the ink refill for the pen – and the pencil sharpener. How about scotch tape? Go through the home or work office and think of the manual items to replace all the electric ones. As you begin to plan, remember we are considering what you will not be able to purchase later. Things like staplers, staples, paper clips probably won’t be around or rubber bands. Elmers Glue and Krazy Glue will also be appreciated more than mixing old fashioned flour and water paste! I am not suggesting to stockpile as if you were replacing Office Depot but perhaps stocking a home office to last that year or two at least. Notebooks of one type or another will be useful – many of you will want to keep a diary or journal to share with others in family later. Try to remember that dictionary too! While at it, build a home library of how-to books for the projects you will be needing to do – no Internet if no electricity!
Let’s explore the kitchen for a moment. We mentioned the can opener and bottle opener. How about an egg beater because that fancy Kitchenaid won’t work without electricity? Blenders will also be non-functional. Old fashioned grinders will become a useful item. You will be happy to have both meat grinders and grain grinders. An extra would be a manual coffee grinder. Speaking of coffee, do you own a percolator or tea kettle? A scale in the kitchen is another nice to own item. Electric carving knives won’t be too useful either so have a good set of knives and a knife sharpener or two around. Remember to also store matches. The Zippo lighters are good substitutes also but they will need flints and lighter fluid so stock those along with the lighters. So you have stored a bit of rice and beans and other interesting food items like oatmeal and cornmeal. The usual pots and pans may not be adequate for cooking. Cooking enough rice to be the main portion of a meal will mean a larger pot because rice swells as it cooks. The same for beans and oatmeal. For those of you who do not purchase cast iron, plain soap like Ivory rubbed on the sides and bottom of a stainless steel pan makes it easier to clean off the soot from using over an open flame like a wood fire. Store soap bars! Brillo won’t be easy to find so think about other forms of pot scrubbers to store also. Common household cleaners will be important to keep bacteria at bay too. Add mop, broom, dustpan to the list. One of the easiest ways to stock up is to go to some garage sales. Most folks aren’t interested in purchasing old can openers or manual egg beaters or even old kitchen knives. One good Saturday and twenty dollars is sure to add back-ups to your back-ups for those kitchen utensils.
Those battery operated items like clocks will be difficult to keep going so it would be nice to have a manual wind-up clock. Dryers and washers won’t be functioning without electricity or water power (that runs on electric too, remember) so pack away some clothespins and clothesline! If you want to use oil lamps (which can use even rancid cooking oil to burn) don’t forget extra lamp wicks for them. Candles are also handy to stock but you can use solar lights to avoid fires. Have small fire extinguishers and plenty of baking soda to help put out small fires! Will you use a bike? Then remember bike repair tools like tubes and air pump. Patch kits will be handy too. Have some rain gear handy including boots and umbrellas.
Realize that you and any children will get bored with day to day monotony of surviving. Take time out to relax and to play. Find ways to make any chores fun. Sit with a cup of tea and watch your chickens frolic – or watch your little ones play outside for a bit. Everyone will need their Vitamin D replenished so get some sunshine! Stock board games and playing cards along with some simple toys like jacks, balls, jump ropes. Those Game Boys will die out pretty quick! Have a library of fun books to read as well as survival and how-to books. Again lots of folks sell cheap books at garage sales!
One of the most important items to have on hand will be a bible or other spiritual book. Ahead of time make sure you are living your faith daily – simply talking it and not practicing it will not help in times of stress. Prayer will be a great help in those dark times. Having a group who prays with you and reads the bible with you will be invaluable. Make time every day to study and pray – no matter how busy you are with the chores necessary for surviving, those few moments of prayer and reading The Word will do more to boost your morale than anything else will. Some of you are not necessarily Christians or Jewish – so follow your own faith – or for those who are not religious, find a way to meditate or use yoga to de-stress often.
Remember we want to not break the budget and not create more stress in all of this!
It’s may very well seem overwhelming at times as you begin this new step to an exciting journey in your life. Yes, exciting! There is a wonderful feeling that comes over you when you know that what you embark on is to improve your life, not detract. The feeling of empowerment, knowing you are caring in a deeper way for your family is a feeling that strikes all of us when we begin to realize we are making headway on this journey. All we have to do is approach the task at hand logically and calmly to begin! For those of us who are Christians we want to do this not only to protect our families but to be obedient. “In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has.” (Proverbs 21:20) Yet many are not driven solely by this alone but by the desire to provide and protect our families. So let’s help one another on this journey to being self-sustaining and responsible. Remember anyone can do this – even on food stamps it will become a possibility that will surprise you!
Our first rule is to stock what your family eats. We’re beginning with stocking between a 72 hour pantry up to a 3 month supply. Don’t try to rush out there and buy 25 years worth of storage foods in #10 cans or 5 gallon buckets. We aren’t going to worry about food lasting 25 years. Who lives with you now and the food or caloric needs of those people will change drastically over 25 years! Let’s begin with the people in your home now – and then slowly also consider others who may be dependent on you if the trouble looks to be of a more permanent nature. We almost all have those few people we care about enough to want to help – maybe extended family such as elderly parents or grandparents, perhaps neighbors or close friends. For a few of us, we just want to have extras to help when we see a need arise for others. Some will want extras for bartering later on. We can accomplish all of this in time but it means a bit of research and work on our part. But I am going to help you make this journey possible over time!
So here we are at the first step. It’s one of the less glamorous ones but an important easy one. Write down all the meals you have served the family including any restaurant meals for the last week. Then slowly try to rebuild the last month’s worth of menus. Are there any overlaps – meals eaten more than once? Does a particular meal stand out as a favorite of favorites for your gang. Then slowly try to rebuild the last month’s worth of menus. Put a star there so that you pay attention to it. These then are the food items you will want to focus on. We have talked before about buying an extra bag or two of rice to throw in the shopping cart or extra bags of dry beans. But here we are starting to actually build a food pantry of foods your family likes to eat. From this menu plan start to purchase an extra meal fixings once a week is possible as you grocery shop. Pay close attention to those items that might be on sale by checking sale flyers ahead of shopping. Studies have shown that shopping with a preplanned menu for the week or month, and using a shopping list will save you money. For those on food stamps, this is a biggie!
I am on a very limited budget and I did use food stamps once upon a time when my children were small. I had a disabled husband and four sons to feed. I didn’t get a huge allotment of stamps and they didn’t cover anything but basic food items – no personal hygiene and no extras. Yet I was able to feed my family by using menu plans, counting out my food items as I shopped and only shopping off a shopping list that was pre-written before I got to the store. With this method I was able to buy not only enough food to feed the family 3 meals a day, I was able to purchase enough to have extra food put up each month towards the next month. We were not eating sirloin steaks but my family also did not like tuna casserole! We ate nourishing good tasting foods but rarely ate prepackaged convenience foods. Even though I worked a full time job, I cooked from scratch and baked for the week on my weekends. I couldn’t afford sodas or luxury items but we ate well and my children liked the food they were offered! This lesson is a good one to learn whether on food stamps or well to do! Remember too that the more money you can save here allows for more expendable money for other parts of your budget. This will be especially nice if you want to begin to work on other items for prepping too.
As you work on those menu plans and shopping lists I want you to make a note of the favorite comfort foods – the snacks and desserts your family enjoys the most. After all if it becomes truly necessary to utilize the food storage for long term, you will want to be able to give your family some of those special items like cakes or brownies that they enjoy. For now because you are aiming for shorter term storage, these products will be fine. As we get to longer term storage we will embark on learning to repackage foods a bit differently to preserve them or to make certain foods from scratch. For now though it is fine to at least save some of those favorite cake mixes or prepackaged puddings and jello mixes. Even chips and crackers will keep for 6 months or so. Most canned foods you buy will have a fairly good expiration date on them good enough to last 6 months to a year if not more. Try to remember to use an indelible marker to note the purchase date somewhere on the cans. Rotation is your best friend here as it should be with all foods you store in the pantry.
If you use a freezer, it is fairly easy to store some extra meats that your family prefers. As you build a deeper pantry, you will begin to focus slightly less on the freezer foods to protect your food supply from power outages. But for right now, it is not a bad thing to stock up the freezer. If you begin to build a deeper pantry, you will probably want to consider canning many meats for yourself as a safer alternative to the pantry than freezer meats. These canned foods will be healthier than most canned meats you purchase. Tuna, salmon, chicken breasts, and certain hams can all be bought commercially canned of course and are great sources of protein for the family. Other great sources of proteins include eggs and cheeses. Not everyone can raise chickens for fresh eggs but a little known fact is how easy it is to store eggs. If you have a basement that stays a constant cooler temperature of a root cellar, you’re really in luck. Some folks also have extra refrigerators in the garage or basement that will also be great for storing extra eggs. Take those eggs and coat them with food grade mineral oil. Use some plastic gloves and just totally coat the eggs – presto! They will store safely up to 9 months in the refrig or cool room! Cheese can also be treated to last almost forever. Any hard cheese can be coated with cheese wax bought specifically to coat them. Use a double boiler system to melt the wax and dip first one end and then the other end as it hardens. Use a pastry brush to fill any air gaps that show as the wax hardens and dries. Another method of storing hard cheese is to store in olive oil completely covered by the oil. Italians always store cheese this way – from a goats cheese to a hard parmesan for grating.
Let’s also remember to store extra sugar, flour, salt, and seasonings. Any foods you make will taste better by adding some seasonings. Also your family will be more likely to eat what they like. Offering too many new foods at one time is never an easy task in any event. When under stress they will be even less likely to settle easily for strange unfamiliar foods. If in fact you are planning on eventually going to the longer term storage of freeze dried or dehydrated foods, please begin to learn to use them in your every day meals. There is a learning curve to actually cooking with many of these items. In addition this will also give your family time to adjust to the taste of these foods. In talking to many service veterans you may find that MREs are not as wonderful a product as you are under the impression they are – although admittedly the newer versions are better than those from WWII. Sugar kept in an air tight container (not in Food Saver packaging though) will keep almost forever as will salt. Moisture is your enemy with these foods. Think in terms of what other baking supplies you use regularly. Do you bake cookies? You will need to store baking soda and baking powder in your pantry. Cocoa and molasses as well as vanilla extract and solid shortening as well as vegetable oils will be needed. Oil should be protected from direct sunlight.
As we continue our journey of preparing the family pantry for longer term storage we will investigate the use of safe means of repackaging foods for longer term storage. I will also take you through how to determine basic amounts of food to store for each person as well as methods of tracking the inventory of what you have on hand so that as you add to your stores you don’t find one day that you have 300 pounds of dry beans and no canned tomatoes as an example! Remember this is to eliminate stress so in all of this stick to your budget and have fun with it!