Monday, September 29, 2014

Storing Complete Meals

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Here's a question:  Do you have cans of food in your storage that you don't use? Do you have a case of pasta sauce, but no pasta to go with it?  

The answers to these questions will matter one day when you are hungry for a spaghetti dinner but you only have pasta sauce. If you buy a case of spaghetti sauce you will need to store pasta and maybe grated Parmesan cheese and a vegetable, or fruit, to round out the meal.  Every time you purchase a food item, make sure you are storing all the other items that round out that meal. 




I don't like to have food in my pantry that will only partly make dinner.  I like to have all the ingredients on hand to make a complete meal.  I have found a system that works to have complete meals in my storage. I started out by writing down all the dinners that my family enjoys, then I listed every ingredient needed to make those meals. Now I have created a shopping list, and I know exactly what to buy, and have on hand in my pantry at all times. The list is what works in my food storage plan....I always know what ingredients I need to have in my storage.  This also works for building my 3-month supply of food. I have 5 weeks worth of dinners planned, and if I multiply each item by 3 I then have enough for 3 months worth of meals.  It keeps my meal plan organized in a way that I'll have all the ingredients on hand to make many different meals, without having to go to the store for last minute items. (click here to see my recipe binder)

My ingredient list that becomes my shopping list.

Example:
  1. I have 5 weeks worth of different dinners planned out with side dishes.
  2. I wrote every ingredient on a piece of paper to make each meal, including the side dishes.
  3. The ingredient list now becomes my shopping list.
  4. Multiplied by 3 (to equal 3 months worth) and I now have enough food to make a meal every night for 3 months!
  5. I know how many cans of chicken broth I need to make those meals and also how many cases to buy at the case lot sales.  
  6. COMPLETE MEALS!  I am now storing all the ingredients to make complete meals. Including the side dishes, which include muffins, quick breads, veggies, and fruits.  

It doesn't matter how many meals you have planned out.  I just happened to have 5 weeks worth of recipes that we really like to eat.  Start with one week's worth of meals it that is easier for you.  Multiply your 7 meals by 13 to have 3 months of food storage. There are roughly 13 weeks in 3 months, so if your plan only has 7 different meals in it you'll multiply by 13. Then begin shopping for those ingredients. 

 What If I Want To Eat Fresh Produce....

While I love to have fresh ingredients on hand you'll need to think of a back-up for those fresh items.  For longer term storage of fresh produce, think of dehydrated, freeze-dried, or canned items to fill in for fresh ingredients.  Give freeze-dried foods a taste.  There aren't many that I wouldn't eat.  Fresh dairy is also an area that we don't want to be without.  Freeze-dried cheese, powdered butter, canned butter, and powdered milk are also an important item to have in your storage. 

Back to complete meals....

Once you have your ingredients in your storage you can make many meals with them.  But even with careful planning like my example above there may be times that you''ll have to know how to cook something you would normally buy at the store.

Let's take a look at a breakfast example: 



If you make pancakes, french toast, or waffles, do you have the ingredients to make syrup?  Or have freeze-dried or bottled fruit as a topping?  Do you know how to make the bread to have the french toast?  Do you have all the ingredients to make bread?  

Meals need to be broken down this way. Yes, you may have bread in the freezer as part of your 3-month storage, but if you were in a situation where the grocery store wasn't an option anymore, you'll need to know how to make bread.  Think of all the items that you buy at the grocery store.  Do you know how to make a homemade version of them?  Go through your menu plan and see if there are items that you buy that could also be made at home. Even if you plan on buying them as your 3-month supply, there may be a time when that isn't an option anymore. Here are a few of the things that I know how to make at home instead of buying at the store.
Of course there are many things that you can be bottled.  Grow a garden and save more money by making your own spaghetti sauce, canned fruit, applesauce, salsa, pickles, etc.  Think of how self-reliant you could be! No more running to the store for something for dinner. It's my goal to be that way someday.  As you're shopping, and adding to your storage, always think of what you are purchasing and how you're going to eat it.  It does no good to have 50 cans of tuna, but no mayo, pickle relish, and a bread recipe with all the ingredients on hand to make it. Plain tuna from the can would get old really fast, I promise :)

Friday, September 26, 2014

When The Lights Go Out

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There have been several times when the power has gone out at my house, but never longer than a few hours.  And most of those times were in the middle of the night while we were sleeping and we didn't need an alternate source of lighting.  I took note the other day of how often we used the lights in my house, and the switches are flipped without a second thought. The habit of turning on a light switch when we walk into a dark room is engrained into all of us.  We take for granted that with the flip of a switch we have light.  

What Do You Use For Light When The Power Goes Out?

I live in earthquake territory and I have a feeling that with my luck we will have an earthquake in the middle of the night and flashlights will be a prized possession.  (that is totally my own opinion and I have no idea when the earthquake will hit, but with my track record of bad things happening at the worst times, it will :)

Flashlights
It is recommended to have flashlights by every bed in your home to be used during a power outage.  With kids it may be harder to keep those flashlights by the bed, but I took a few photos of the flashlights/emergency lighting in my home.  This will show you what types we use, and also give you some ideas on what types of lighting are out there.  It is by no means the only way to have lighting in an emergency, but maybe you'll find a new gadget that will work for you.  I am always finding new gadgets to add to our flashlight collection.  

  
Under the Bed-  Keeping a flashlight under your bed, inside a pair of sturdy shoes, allows you to grab and go in a disaster.  I need to take this one step further and put my shoes and flashlight in a bag that ties to the bed post.  If there was an earthquake, objects would be falling all over the place, and hunting for my shoes and flashlight in the middle of chaos would prove difficult.  

LED flashlight
 Flashlights in the Children's Room-  Each of my children have a flashlight that hangs on their beds.  Yes, I know what you are all saying and it's true.  They play with them, and lose them, and to be honest 5 out my 5 kids didn't have a flashlight hanging on their bed when I went to take a picture today.  I had a challenge to see who could find one first so I could take a photo.  I need to stay on top of things like that and make sure they keep the flashlight within reach.  It's one more thing to have to remind the kiddos to do, but it's necessary in an emergency.


Shake flashlight
 My son keeps his shake flashlight on his window sill.  (And yes his bed is next to the window and under a large shelf,  and that is probably breaking every earthquake safety rule out there.  I'm not perfect and this proves there is always room for improvement.:)  The flashlight in his room is a shake flashlight.  I don't recommend this kind of flashlight because it takes so much physical power to light the darn thing that it's frustrating.  But my son is 9 and loves things that work and so he chose that one.  My girls have regular LED click on flashlights and also the squeeze flashlights.  Those are similar to the shake variety but you squeeze the handle until you have enough energy for the light to work.  Still not my favorite, but a little easier than the shake kind.  Also note that I don't have a picture of the squeeze flashlight, none of the kids could find theirs :)


 UV Paqlite-  
These reusable glow sticks are one of my favorite gadgets on the market.  I found these at the Self Reliance Expo last year and I was sold on the idea.  The stuff (real technical I know) in side of the tubes and the plastic case glow after being held up to a light source.  They can be used over and over again and any light source will work to give them their lighting ability.  Hold them up to a car light, the sun, indoor light, campfire, etc and they glow for a very long time. I hang mine in our central closet so they don't get played with or lost.  They aren't bright enough to use like a flashlight but in a tent or small room they would give off enough light to see what was going on.  Think of a nightlight in your kids room, that kind of illumination.  Click here to see my previous post on the UV Paqlite. And click here to visit their website and view all of their products.


Solar Lighting-  
I really like having a solar version of a battery operated flashlight.  I leave the one above hanging on my refrigerator to keep it ready to go.  It is also a radio.  Having batteries on hand for flashlights is a great idea, but you do need quite a few batteries for any extended power outages.  It's a great idea to have a back up plan. (Remember having a plan B for your plan B.)   Solar flashlights come in all sizes. 

I keep a small solar flashlight on my nightstand, and it's a great option when the lights go out.  Solar powered garden lights are an inexpensive, easy way to have light without power.  Group them together in a #10 can or mason jar to light a kitchen or family area at night.  Set them outside, or in front of a sunny window to soak up the sun during the day, and light your home at night.  

Solar powered garden lights

 Another option on the market are products from the Goal Zero company.  The generators charge using the power of the sun (they can also be plugged in an electrical outlet). I own a smaller unit that charges phones and has power for smaller devices like computers dvd players.

Goal Zero generator and camping light
Goal Zero also carries a variety of solar lighting.  I own the lantern accessory and I highly recommend having it to go along with a Goal Zero solar generator.  Click HERE to view all of their products.  



Battery Powered Lanterns and Oil Lamps- 
I bought these lanterns at Walmart for around $10.  I do have to store extra bulbs and batteries, but they are one more way to have light in an emergency.  The Emergency Essentials 100-hour candle is also a great resource for light and they are inexpensive. Another option that uses regular cooking oil is called the Safer Emergency Candles.  Click the link to read about I tested out the Safer Emergency Candles, READ HERE.

Candles- 
 Candles are inexpensive, easy to use, and are a great item to have on hand. They give off a great amount of light and are probably the most common item people have for lighting in an emergency.  Use caution with candles, especially around children and pets. To keep my candles from rolling all over the place I made a candle holder out of an old mason jar.  It holds a burning candle on top, set in a PVC cup,  and the extra candles and matches are stored inside. After you are done using the candle, all the supplies store neatly inside the jar.
All the items needed can be found around your house and at the hardware store. The mason jar is from my storage room, and the candles and matches were both from the dollar store. A small piece of pvc pipe is needed to hold the candle in place, but it was under one dollar at the hardware store.  I placed the matches inside a small bag, and in another bag I placed the striking strip from the match box.

You Will Need:
quart size mason jar
canning lid and ring
candles that fit in mason jar
matches and strike strip
small PVC cup (from sprinkler section of the hardware store)
E6000 glue, or other permanent bonding glue

Glue the PVC sprinkler piece (from the sprinkle section of the hardware store), onto the underside of a canning lid, this will become the candle holder, and let dry.  (When not in use the lid is turned over and the PVC piece is stored inside the jar.)  Once dry, store the candles, matches, strike strip in the mason jar.  Close the canning lid with the PVC piece inside the jar, and your emergency candle is now ready.  When you need to light a candle, flip over the mason jar lid so the PVC piece is facing upwards,  tighten the ring around it, place a candle in the PVC holder and light it.  So easy, but so useful too!!  I love that my candles aren't all over the place and I have a safer, steady holder for them. Just a note- take your candle with you to the hardware store to save a ton of time from having to drive back for a different size that fits :)
PVC sprinkler piece glued to the canning lid.

There are many options for lighting in an emergency.  Find what works for you! Having multiple sources of lighting will only make your life less complicated when you need to use them.  It doesn't necessarily have to be a natural disaster to need a flashlight.  The other day I needed to look under the stove for a my kids bouncy ball and I knew right where to find a flashlight.  (obviously not from my kids' room :)  Take stock of your flashlights and batteries and make sure you know where they are. Being organized and ready NOW will pay off when you need to use your lighting for an emergency!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Prepare Today Homemade- Dry Ranch Dressing Mix

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A great way to save money and to eat healthier is to make your own mixes at home.  Many premade mixes and boxed food at the grocery store are filled with chemicals. Making the same mixes at  home is healthier but it also helps to use some of those food storage ingredients.  


My kids love ranch flavored wheat thin crackers, but they are pricey and seem to disappear so fast.  I decided to try and recreate ranch wheat thins and it worked.  I had the cracker recipe, but now I needed a ranch dressing mix that tasted good. I have tried to make ranch dressing mixes before but they seemed to be missing something.  I searched online and the recipe that I found uses dried mushrooms, of all things, as added flavor, in place of the MSG found in the commercially packaged ranch dressing mixes.  I thought I would try it out, and I'm glad I did.  It tastes great!  But the true test was going to be if the crackers tasted like ranch flavored wheat thins, and I am pretty sure they passed the test!  They were by far my kids favorite cracker that I have made. 

 {click HERE to view my wheat thin cracker recipe} I added 2 T of the ranch dressing mix to my cracker dough and continued baking according to the recipe. 



For the ranch mix, I used Honeyville's freeze-dried mushrooms.  You'll only need a tiny amount for the recipe,  but I find them useful in so many other recipes. Soups, quiches, and casseroles are easy to throw together with freeze-dried mushrooms on hand. They look just like mushrooms and reconstitute so easily.  I highly recommend them!




The other main ingredient that you'll need for this recipe is buttermilk powder.  I bought mine at Honeyville, but it is also sold in most grocery stores in the baking aisle.  I have used the grocery store brand and it is also a great product.  Stored in the fridge, the buttermilk powder lasts a long time.



Dry Ranch Dressing Mix
1/2 C buttermilk powder
1 T dried parsley
1/2 t dry dill weed
1 t onion powder
1t dehydrated onion
1 t salt
1/4 t pepper
1 t garlic powder & 1 t garlic salt
2 T finely chopped freeze-dried mushrooms 
(dehydrated will also work)
 1/2 t sugar

Pulse the mushrooms in a blender once or twice, just to break the bigger pieces up.  Add in the remaining ingredients and pulse until smooth and blended. It should only take a few seconds. Pour the mix into a mason jar and stir in 1 t parsley and 1/2 t dill.  This will add a little color to your final product. Cover and store in mason jar in the pantry for 2-3 months, or in the freezer for up to 6 months. 2 T of mix = 1 envelope of store bought ranch dressing mix.

This mix can be used for dips, salad dressings, and any other recipe that a dry ranch dressing mix is called for.  This would be delicious in mashed potatoes.  

To make ranch dip:
2 T of ranch mix + 1 C sour cream (mix and chill)

To make ranch salad dressing:
3 T mix + 1 C mayo + 2/3 C buttermilk (mix all and shake well)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

What Would You Do? -The County Preparedness Fair

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What Would You Do?



This was the title of the preparedness fair in my town last Monday.  And they were able to answer this question with all the booths and info available at the fair.  

Outside of the building there were all sorts of the emergency vehicles, an earthquake simulator from the Great Utah Shake OutBe Ready Utah, fire trucks, and rescue vehicles, and free hot dogs and drinks.  Inside there were various retailers, the Red Cross, the gas company, the electric company, and CERT representatives.  There was a lot of information all in one place, but it was exactly what the general public needs to know about for any emergency.  

In Utah we live in an earthquake zone and it was fun to try out the earthquake simulator, provided by the Great Utah Shake Out program, to teach people what to do in an earthquake.  Every year my youngest and I participate in the Great Utah Shake at home, and my kids participate at their schools, so she knows what to do during an earthquake.  The man running the simulator was very impressed with my 6 year old, and that she could answer all his questions.  It was quite entertaining on my part.  He said that in the 3 years that he has run the simulator she was the first child to know what to do in an earthquake.  Proud prepper-mom moment :)

Blood, free backpacks, and stickers is what we found in the kid-zone.  It was set up for kids and they were able to make 72-hour kits and were given a backpack and supplies to assemble into a kit.  We got there 30 minutes after it started and missed getting a backpack....so no picture :(  But I was impressed with the supplies and extras available for free for the kids.  There was also a moulage station.  What is a moulage station you might ask?
This is all make up....NOT REAL!!

Fake wounds!!!  The above picture is from a disaster simulation day at a hospital that my kids were able to participate in.  It was set up for firefighters and other medical crews to practice for the real disaster.  It was pretty realistic.  But at the preparedness fair my youngest was too squeamish to try it.  So I borrowed this picture from a few years ago to share.  I hope it isn't too gross. But I noticed that there was a Boy Scout troop in attendance at the fair and they were LOVING the moulage station!

I also learned a few important things as I walked around to the different booths.
  • Signing up for a reverse 911 phone call system is important to know what is going on in my area.  If there was a disaster or other emergency I would get an alert on my phone. I need to sign up!
  • I can dial 211 on my phone and get information about all kinds of county programs.  Counseling, law enforcement info, library, government services, etc.  The United Way provides this service in Utah.  
  • There is a CERT community where I live.  It was great to chat with them and sign up to be a part of their group. 
 There was plenty of information on earthquakes and I was again impressed by the county that I live in.  They take preparedness seriously and are ready for an emergency. But it also requires the help of the general public to take charge of their families and prepare for a disaster.  I can't put all my eggs in one basket and hope that someone will be there to take care of my family after an earthquake.  So I prepare for emergencies and have supplies and food on hand to keep us safe until help can arrive.  That is the purpose of a preparedness fair like this one, to share the information, and hopefully people will take action for themselves and not just assume that the emergency crews will be there to help them in an emergency.  Because it isn't "if" it happens.....it's "when" it happens....what will you do??

Sunday, September 14, 2014

My Food Storge Week In Review- Yogurt, Cottage Cheese, & Bulk Spices

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This week I was able to bake a little and add a little to my food storage.  Having basic baking ingredients on hand, like powdered milk, keeps me from running to the store for that one ingredient I need for dinner.  And buying spices and other basic ingredients in bulk really does save money, especially when I can save the bulk of it in mason jars with my foodsaver. 

Here's what I did this week that related to my food storage.

My kids have been begging for lasagna for dinner so we finally got around to having it.  I started the noodles cooking and then realized that I didn't have enough cottage cheese for the filling.  I only had about 1/4 C left and I needed a whole cup.  Not to worry....making a quick batch of cottage cheese is easy.  Plus, it uses powdered milk!


Easy Homemade Cottage Cheese
I followed this recipe in the link from Tactical Intelligence

I warmed the milk, added 1 T vinegar, let it sit to create curds, and then drained the curds in cold water.  You are left with basic cottage cheese type curds.  When I added them to the store bought cottage cheese you couldn't tell the homemade from the store bought.  It only took a couple of minutes for the whole process!

I must have had powdered milk on my mind because I made yogurt too this week.  I haven't used acidophilus as a starter for awhile, so I wanted to make sure that this process would still work for me. Usually a small amount of yogurt is used as a starter for a batch of yogurt, but I have found that acidiphilus tablets also work because they have the live active cultures in them.  I followed the recipe HERE from my previous post on yogurt, except I used my yogurt maker and not my thermal cooker.   I blended the powdered milk and water in my blender, added sugar, vanilla flavor, and three crushed acidophilus tablets.(using powdered milk also eliminates the need to heat up the milk and cool it back down because it is already pasteurized) Then let it incubate in my yogurt maker.


It took about 12 hours for the yogurt to set up in my Yogourmet yogurt maker and then I cooled it in the fridge overnight.  

 This picture is after I scooped out a little bit to make yogurt cheese.  The finished yogurt is smooth and creamy, perfect!


The yogurt that I scooped out is now draining over my sink in a cheese bag that came with my yogurt maker.  Cheesecloth or a clean t-shirt would also work over a sieve.  I only tried a little of the yogurt to see if we really liked it as yogurt cheese.  This cheese will be soft like a cream cheese, hopefully. We're going to eat it on bagels...yum!

Update on the cream cheese, aka yogurt cheese.  As I was putting the yogurt into the cheese bag I remembered that I had flavored the yogurt with sugar and vanilla.  So the yogurt cheese came out a little sweeter then I would like on crackers.  And I am also thinking that making yogurt cheese will take some practice.  I let it drain too long and was kind of dry.  It was still spreadable, but not as moist as cream cheese from the store is.  Next time I will check the yogurt cheese sooner.  But it was edible and kind of cool to know it works!  Especially knowing that it started out as powdered milk, water, and acidophilus tablets!


Spices in your food storage are almost as important as the basic ingredients.  Have you ever had to eat plain rice, or potatoes, every night without any flavoring.  It would be beyond bland and the family would probably rebel!  I like to keep many spices on hand for a variety in our cooking.  I finally made it to Winco this week to stock up on spices, and a few bulk items that I was running low on.  I bought basil, cinnamon, cumin, cocoa powder, and garlic powder. After refilling my smaller spice containers I sealed up the extra with the foodsaver to keep them fresh for much longer then sitting in my spice drawer.

Transferring from bag to bottle. 




Notice that I use more than just mason jars.  Old spaghetti sauce jars and any other glass jar with a metal lid will work with the foodsaver. 

It may not seem like a huge deal, but these small things make my food storage usable and manageable.  It takes a little organizing and some time to get used to a food storage system, but when you find what works for you, food storage becomes part of your every day life. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Are We Prepared?

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This month in the Ensign Magazine (LDS monthly magazine) President Monson's message was very timely.  It is titled "Are We Prepared?"  (click HERE to read the entire article)

Image from lds.org Ensign magazine Sept. 2014




There haven't been too many talks or articles on food storage in the past few years.  But recently I've noticed more and more people are talking about being prepared.  Our leaders don't proclaim to know the future, but they do warn us and help us to be ready for whatever may come our way.  We would be very smart to listen to their advice.

President Monson-  "We live in turbulent times. Often the future is unknown; therefore, it behooves us to prepare for uncertainties. When the time for decision arrives, the time for preparation is past.

Are we prepared for the emergencies in our lives? Are our skills perfected? Do we live providently? Do we have our reserve supply on hand? Are we obedient to the commandments of God? Are we responsive to the teachings of prophets? Are we prepared to give of our substance to the poor, the needy? Are we square with the Lord?"

Monday, September 8, 2014

Emergencies and Sanitation

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After a natural disaster, or any other emergency, clean up will begin and people will try to get their lives back to normal.  But there will be one area of concern.....sanitation.   The after effects of a disaster will be more deadly then the actual event because of the sanitation situation.  Contaminated water equals disease! Be prepared with a portable toilet, cleansers, sanitizers, toilet paper, manual washing machine, soaps, towels of all sizes, and of course water!


 September is National Emergency Preparedness Month and it would be a great time to gather sanitation essentials and add them to your storage.  



Cleaning your clothes without electricity will be more time consuming, but see how we did our laundry at our house when the washer was broken.  Click HERE to read that post




picture from preparednessnibblesandbits.blogspot.com

Have you thought about the aftermath of no public utilities?  No working toilets?  I don't want to thing too much about that, but we do need to be ready to deal with human waste.  Portable potties, or luggable loos, are a must-have item in everyone's storage.  They are cheap and simple to put together.  Tough garbage bags, kitty litter (to absorb the waste), and a snap on toilet seat are a must in your kit!!  Click HERE to view my post on the portable potty.




One thought I have when my kids are ill is how I am going to help them feel better if there were no modern conveniences, or even modern medicine.  Many people in this day in age still die from diarrhea.  Third world countries are where this is still happening, but in a situation where our sanitation is compromised we will see an increase of people with diarrhea.  Keeping a person, especially a child, hydrated will become very necessary.  Click HERE to see how to make an electrolyte drink from items you probably already have in your storage.    



When sickness does hit, be prepared with all the essentials.  Click HERE to read my post on being prepared for the flu (or any sickness). 



AND THE MOST IMPORTANT ITEM THAT YOU NEED IN YOUR STORAGE, FOR SANITATION, AND IN GENERAL......IS WATER!!!  You will need more water when someone becomes ill and for cleaning in general after a disaster.  Stocking up on Clorox wipes and other cleaning supplies will help tremendously in a situation where there isn't indoor plumbing.  Washcloths and extra towels would also be great to have on hand.

There are many non-food essentials to have in your storage, but hand sanitizers and other cleaners are very important.  You don't want to survive a disaster to then succumb to sickness because of contaminated water.  
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