Sunday, August 17, 2014

Vacation and Emergency Preparedness

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For the past ten days I was on vacation with my family.  Family vacations are fun but they always have me thinking, what if?  What if our car breaks down in the middle of the desert and it's 109°?  What if one of my children becomes ill?  What if we got lost? (it could happen)  What if there is an earthquake, the roads are destroyed, and we can't get home? Some may call me paranoid but these thoughts do cross my mind.  

Our vacation this year was in California and we drove from Utah.  Along the way there is a stretch of desert and it was well over 100° for a good part of the drive.  This part of the trip always makes me nervous.  It's a real fear of mine that we will break down somewhere in the Mojave desert.  There are several things I do to calm my nerves.

  • We always have two cases of water, if not more on our trip.
  • We take enough food to last at least 3 days in our car.  
  • We always have blankets and a tarp in case our car breaks down and we need shelter, or something to lay on as we change a tire.
  • We carry small bills just in the off chance we would need to buy items in an emergency.
My husband will usually humor me and he kind of laughs that I want that much water and food with us, but he won't be laughing when/if we actually needed it all.  We use the water and snacks along the way and it actually saves us a TON of money. Have you seen the prices of food and water at gas stations in the middle of no where??

So my husband humors me by taking extra water and food, but he was not so into taking our whole car kit.  If I was driving alone with the kids it would've been in there, but we were packed to the brim with 5 kids and all their stuff.  The car kit I usually keep in our vehicle was left at home (along with our first aid kit).  We didn't break down or have any other car issues, thank goodness, but I knew if something happened we would have food and water for a little while until help arrived.

Click HERE to view my previous post on car kits

Remember the first aid kit that got left behind in the car kit.....One of the lessons I learned on this trip was to be better prepared with first aid supplies.  I do carry bandaids in my purse but the two incidents that happened required a little more than a bandaid.  First accident involved my 14 year old, a large rock in the sand, and her toe nail.  I was at the house when she came inside in tears and limping.  As she was walking across the sand she hit a rock in the sand and it ripped half her toe nail off.  Now, I always thought I didn't have any problem with blood and injuries.  Well, good to know, it was sooooo gross and I had a hard time staying calm while helping her.  We cleaned it up with water and I gave her a bandaid, but it would have been nice to have Neosporin, gauze, and small nail clippers.  I had to purchase all of those items at the store.  Even a small first aid kit (which is in my car kit that wasn't allowed on this trip ;) would have helped in this situation.  Lesson learned!!

Accident number two involved the same child, I think I see a trend now and it scares me, and a hot chaffing dish at the hotel.  As she was reaching for a pancake her inner wrist touched the chaffing dish and she got burned.  It was about 3 inches in diameter and was hurting her badly.  She did ice it but kept telling me it was really painful.  I, mother of the year, kept brushing her off and was busy packing all of our gear up.  As we were getting in the car I took a look at her arm and marched her straight to the front desk of the hotel.  They immediately pulled out a first aid kit and gave her aloe to put on it.  They had us wait while they checked with the hotel kitchen to see if they had any burn cream.  Lucky for us they did, along with a burn patch, gauze, and aloe with lidocaine in it.  I could've easily had a few of the burn patches in a first aid kit.  If we had been anywhere besides a hotel I would've had to purchase those items as well.  (and yes we got a discount on our room because of the accident.  I didn't ask, they offered)  The burn patches were similar to these sold on Amazon.

So, the big lesson learned this trip was to have a fully stocked mini first aid kit!!  Of course now I'll have all the items that I needed and some other random injury will happen that I'm not prepared for, but at least I'll have burn patches and neosporin.  Being prepared for every injury is almost impossible, but having a well stocked first aid kit will give you peace of mind in the mean time. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Feast or Famine?

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Feast or Famine?  Which are you choosing in times of distress or emergency?  I know which one I choose!  

In the LDS church we have been counseled for many, many years to have a one year supply of food and supplies on hand for rough times ahead.  But for so many, a year supply of everything we eat and use on a daily basis is pretty much impossible.  I think we often overlook the fact that the one year supply foods we are counseled to have are meant to be survival foods, foods that will keep us alive in a time of emergency.  We are not to have a year supply of every single food and non-food necessity that we use on a daily basis.  Ingredients such as wheat, oats, rice, beans, powdered milk, sugar/honey, etc. are considered long-term (25-30 years in #10 cans) supply foods. They will keep you fed but they will not fatten you up.  Think of a one year supply as survival food, not the pop tarts the kids like for breakfast. Your 3-month supply will be the normal foods that you use on a regular basis. 

What recipes could you come up with, using only the basic long-term ingredients?  It won't be fancy, but it would keep you alive!

If you read the information in the link below you'll notice that the list of foods for long-term storage come from the grain category. Remember to store the long-term grains your family will eat. But also think of alternative ways to use items that are nutritious but maybe your family doesn't care for.  If your family doesn't like cooked beans, store dried beans and grind them into a bean flour and add them into baked goods.  It will add fiber and protein to breads and other baked goods.  Take stock TODAY and see where you could add a little more.  And learn to use these ingredients, don't store them away for 30 years.  I can only beg for so long for you to get your food storage :)  

Click HERE to read through the very informative booklet put out by the Utah State University Extension services called Cooking With Food Storage Ingredients.  It's full of great information and recipes using basic long-term food storage.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

My Food Storage Week In Review: Dehydrating

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The end of summer.  It's always exciting and sad at the same time.  The late nights are coming to a close and early morning school days will begin.  The end of summer also means gardens are producing and we are able to enjoy fresh fruits and veggies.  And hopefully your garden has a surplus that must be canned, dehydrated, or frozen.  My sister has a great garden and was kind enough to share some of her apricots with me.  We ate a few and then I decided to make fruit leather with the rest.

It was really simple.  My son pulled apart the apricots, they were tiny, took out the pit, and we blended it all up in the blender.  I thought I might need to add water, but the pulp was juicy enough to easily pour.  

We poured five trays of apricot fruit leather and stacked them up on the dehydrator.

While the dehydrator was out and running, a tray of grapes were added.  I had a few bags of grapes that were close to expiration and my six year old offered to dehydrate them for me.  I didn't want to pull them all off the stems and poke holes in each one. This is where the eager six year old comes in handy.

She pulled them off the stems, poked a hole in each grape, to allow moisture to escape easier, and placed them on the dehydrator.
And a quick 3 days later she had.....
...Raisins!  They were perfect!  And she was so happy with herself.  Self-reliant it!

The last item to go in the dehydrator was an older package of mushrooms.  I wasn't sure that I should dehydrate them because of their age, but I tried them anyway.  They dried fine, actually really well, but they smelled horrible after.  I threw them away, just in case there was something wrong with them.  I couldn't handle the smell from the jar after they were dried so I definitely didn't want to eat them.  Now I know why the professionals always say to use the best fruits and veggies to dehydrate.  

Here are the mushrooms and fruit leather after drying.

The mushrooms were fail #1 and the fruit leather, although dried really well, was kind of fail #2. They were so tart, I should've added a little bit of honey to the mixture before drying.  I'm going to pulse it into a powder and add it to smoothies and yogurt. 

There were several dehydrating lessons that I learned this time around.  I'll use fresher ingredients next time and I also need to remember that I have a dehydrator and use it more often.  I could be saving a lot more produce, and money, by dehydrating the surplus instead of sending it to it's death in the bottom drawer of the fridge. 

What preps are you working on??

Monday, July 28, 2014

Using the FoodSaver to Seal Dry Goods

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Preserving and extending the life of food is important when you are planning on what food to add to your food storage .  Food is expensive and if there is a way to extend the shelf life by a couple of years, it's worth looking into.  There is a simple and relatively inexpensive way to prolong the life of food, and it's called a Foodsaver.  I'm sure a lot of you have heard of, or even use a foodsaver, but it is also a great little appliance for sealing dried foods.  I use my foodsaver and mason jars (or other food safe jars that have a metal lid, like spaghetti sauce jars) to seal up dried foods like candy, spices, chocolate chips, food from #10 cans, rice, beans, wheat...the list can go on and on. 

Freeze-dried cheese and cocoa powder sealed in mason jars.

The FoodSaver


I bought my foodsaver a few years ago on Ebay for around $50, and the tall canister I found on Amazon for about $20.  The canister is designed for sealing food inside of it, but it also works to seal mason jars. It acts like an air chamber that eliminates all air from the mason jar.  Today I am sealing candy, a must have in our food storage.  A store in my neighborhood is closing and all candy was 50% off.   I couldn't pass that deal up and ended up buying a bag to store for later chocolate cravings.  Besides cravings, it's important to have comfort foods, normal foods, in your storage.  This will give your family a sense of normalcy in an emergency.  Plus it also comes in handy when you need to make a treat last minute!!

When looking for a Foodsaver, make sure it has a port on the front of it. It is necessary to connect a hose from the base unit to the canister to suck all the air out.   I don't use my foodsaver for sealing using foodsaver bags, which most people want it for, so I bought the smallest unit I could find.

The port holds the hose that will attach to the Foodsaver canister, which sucks all of the air out of the glass jars. 

Now the fun begins.  Decide what you want to seal and put it into mason jars.  Every jar size will work.  I have sealed every size, from tiny jelly jars to half gallon jars.  And it is quite simple to do, unlike the teenage girl in the photo.  She's in a dramatic phase!  My 6 year old had no problem stuffing candy into the jars.  And don't worry about empty space in the jars, this isn't like canning, it will still seal with air pockets.

Some candy will already be in packages and filled with air.  I make a small cut in the bags to enable air to escape while sealing. Otherwise the bag will fill up with air, like a balloon, and take up too much space in the mason jar.  Yes, you could just pour the candy into the jar, but I think it stays fresher when they are in the original packaging. 

After filling the mason jar, add a lid and band.  This is really important...Don't tighten the lid too tight!!  Twist the ring on until just tightened, not any tighter.

Place the jar into the canister and attach the hose. 

On my machine there are stars on the corners and that is where you press, with both hands, to start the machine.  My 6 year old is the one using the machine in the photo.  She loves to help!

The machine does all the work for you.  It will make a loud humming noise while working but just let it do its thing.  It will almost be over when a green light goes on.  Wait for the green light to blink, then hit cancel, and take the hose off of the canister, not the machine end.

After taking off the hose, press the grey button on top of the canister and hold it down until all the air has escaped.  You'll be able to tell by sound when the air is done.  It sounds like a balloon losing air.

Your mason jar is now sealed!  Check the lid on your jar to see if it clicks when you press on it.  If it still moves up and down you will have to re-seal it. 

 Problem Solving When a Jar Doesn't Seal
  •  Check the rim of the jar and make sure it is clean,  check the underside of the lid too. You don't want any food particles or dirt/dust to be on a jar or lid. 
  • Always check glass jars for nicks or scratches especially along the rim of the jar.  Jars with defects shouldn't be used for food any longer. 
  • Old or used lids may not seal very well.  Use new lids for best results.
  • It you still can't get a seal, place a lid upside down on the original lid and try sealing again.  This usually solves the problem.
  • Your ring may be screwed on too tightly.  Check how tightly you turned the ring on the lid.  Finger tight, not screwed on all the way.
  • If you are sealing powdered items, such as spices, flour, baking soda, cake mixes, etc. place a muffin liner, or cut-to-fit paper towel, in the top of the jar before putting the lid and ring on.  This will create a barrier between the powdered item and the foodsaver.  You don't want fine food particles getting into your foodsaver hose.  It WILL ruin your foodsaver.  
  • When using pickle jars, spaghetti sauce jars, and other food safe jars, clean them well!  If the lids aren't clean it may not seal.  I like the smaller pickle relish and jam jars for sealing extra spices in. 

It only took about 10 minutes to finish all the jars in the picture.  I take the rings off and store the jars on a shelf in my storage room.  And I have been know to hide the candy jars where they aren't easily accessible.  That helps the kids forget that we have them.  Ok, it helps ME forget we have them :)  Once on the shelf the jars should have a life of 2-5 years.  I have read varying time frames for the shelf life of sealed food in mason jars.  I always go with my own intuition and my sight, smell, and taste of something before eating it.  If it passes those tests, we eat it.  Most of the time food will lose nutrients, but won't be bad and make you sick. 

A simple and affordable way to preserve food and extend the shelf-life.  All in one little machine! Check your local thrift stores and garage sales for these amazing little contraptions.  People love to try the latest craze and the foodsaver was one of those crazes a few years ago.  I found a large canister, brand new in the original wrapping, at a second hand store for $2.  Just make sure the foodsaver unit has a port on the front and you'll be ready to start sealing!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Preparedness Reading: 77 Days of September

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Reading is one of my favorite hobbies.  I could read all day and night if I was allowed to, but the kids need to eat I guess.  Reading for enjoyment is mostly why I read, but reading to learn and improve is a close second. There are many preparedness books available and I would recommend having first aid/medical books, essential oil books, wild plant/gardening books in your home, but there are also a few fictional stories that have scenarios that we can learn from.

I recently read a book called "77 Days of September".  It's a fictional read all about an EMP terrorist attack on the United States. The following is from the review on Amazon.

An EMP (Electro-Magnetic Pulse) is a magnetic pulse that overwhelms, and thus destroys, all electronic devices exposed to it. It is the most serious threat faced by a technologically advanced society. An EMP can be human caused, through the detonation of a nuclear bomb high above the atmosphere, or natural, through a severe geo-magnetic storm. In multiple reports prepared for Congress, scientists predict the complete destruction of modern American society and question our ability to ever recover if we are the target of an EMP attack. Further, some predict the death toll in America in the aftermath of such an event to be in excess of 200 million.

 On a Friday afternoon before Labor Day, Americans are getting ready for the holiday weekend, completely unaware of a long-planned terrorist plot about to be launched against the country. Kyle Tait is settling in for his flight home to Montana when a single nuclear bomb is detonated 300 miles above the heart of America. The blast, an Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP), destroys every electrical device in the country, and results in the crippling of the power grid, the shutting down of modern communications, and bringing to a halt most forms of transportation.

Kyle narrowly escapes when his airplane crashes on take-off, only to find himself stranded 2,000 miles from home in a country that has been forced, from a technological standpoint, back to the 19th Century. Confused, hurt, scared, and alone, Kyle must make his way across a hostile continent to a family he’s not even sure has survived the effects of the attack. As Kyle forges his way home, his frightened family faces their own struggles for survival in a community trying to halt its slow spiral into chaos and anarchy.

77 Days in September follows Kyle and his wife, Jennifer, as they are stretched past their breaking point, but find in their devotion to each other the strength to persevere.

I found it an interesting read and that the scenarios in the book were very possible.  Motivation to have more preps on hand led to a complete inventory of what I have.  It's a quick read and had a realistic view of what would happen if an EMP hit America.  

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Prepare Today: What I'm Buying

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Stocking up on preparedness supplies is an on going process.  It's a cycle of buying and using, and using and buying.  I find myself continually filling in the gaps in my storage room.  I made a trip into the big city the other day and bought a few items that I had on my shopping list.

My first stop was Honeyville Grain in Salt Lake City.  I needed a few baking staples but while I was there these two cans caught my attention.

They are sealed cans of non-hybrid seeds, on sale for $10.00!!!  I almost wish I had purchased more than just the two cans.  They are shelf-stable for about 15 years. These cans sound like an amazing idea, but don't put them on the shelf and hope you'll never need them.  Plan a garden and learn all you can now, before you have to use seeds to survive.  Seeds in your storage are also perfect for people who are on specific diets and can't live off of starches and high carbs, such as pasta and rice.  

I've always been an advocate for chocolate in my storage room.  It is one of the main food groups in my house :), but did you ever want to be able to store ice cream long-term?  

Freeze-dried chocolate chocolate chip ice cream!  Just like the astronauts!  I couldn't resist, and it is actually pretty good.  It melts in your mouth and takes just like chocolate, with chocolate chips in it.  Win, win in my book!  The #10 can cost $16.99 on sale.  

After Honeyville I headed to Walmart.  I have been looking for a flashlight and this Energizer rechargeable plug-in is perfect for blackouts.  If the power goes out the light automatically comes on.  Just leave it plugged in and it will be ready to go in time of need. And at around $8 it's a great price point. I have seen these also online. 

Towards the end of summer I like to stock up on seasonal items like pool shock and solar garden lights.  

Pool shock is an essential item to have in your storage.  A 1lb. bag of pool shock can purify 10,000 gallons of water.  It doesn't expire like bleach and has a long shelf life.  Check out my post on water purification HERE for more information.  The box above was around $13.00 at Walmart.

Outdoor solar lights are a great addition to my preparedness supplies.  These were only .97 at Walmart.  Leave them outside to soak up the sun and bring them in at night for cheap emergency lights.  I collect a few every year and add them to my storage supplies.  They are inexpensive and easy to use! 

These are the items that I added to my storage room this week. What have you done this week to fill in your storage gaps?  Remember that smalls steps lead to big things!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Back-To-Basics Frugal Food Storage Part 3: Bread Recipes

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One of the ways that I am able to save money is to make my own breads at home.  The ingredients used for making bread are dirt cheap, have you noticed how much they charge you in the grocery store for artisan breads, even french bread.  It's outrageous to pay that much for flour and water. 

Here are a few of my favorite bread recipes.  Don't be scared of yeast, some people think it's tricky, but after using it a few times you'll get the hang of it.

Don't spend money on bagels HERE for a bagel recipe that works for me.

If you try a new recipe give yourself time to learn it.  I remember trying to make bread the first time without a Bosch mixer and hand kneading.  It.took.forever.!!  And the final result was less than appetizing.  It took me almost 2 years, I'm a slow learner, to get my bread to a point of looking and tasting the way we like it.  Don't get frustrated and give up if it doesn't work the first time. Make a goal of trying a new bread recipe this week!
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