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.
 
WHAT IS AN EMP?

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 either....click 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!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Back-To-Basics Money Part 2: Frugal Food Storage

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Stocking up on life's essentials, plus food storage, can cost quite a bit. Being frugal is something I take pride in (my email is jrfrugalmom@gmail.com) and it's also how I am able to feed a family of 7 and still stock up on food storage and emergency preparedness supplies. For the most part I watch grocery sales and ONLY buy things on sale.  We don't eat out very often and hardly ever go to a movie, but we do rent movies and have cookouts in the backyard for family fun.  It's all about priorities and realizing that even if you miss the latest movie, life goes on, and most likely that movie you missed will be online or tv later.



I have written a few posts on frugal food storage because I feel no one should go into debt to acquire food storage.  Here are some of the ways that I save money while still stocking up.
 
 Click HERE to view a post on Frugal Preparedness.  It's all about shopping for preparedness items in the least likely places. 

Click HERE to view a post on inexpensive First Aid Supplies.

Click HERE to read all about making your own cleaning suppliesThe granite cleaner is my FAVORITE!!!!!!

Make your own crackers and save a ton of money!  Click HERE to see my favorite recipe.

Save money by making bulk mixes.  Click HERE to see that post.

Extend the life of your fresh produce by using these tricks.  Click HERE to see how!!

And click HERE to see how one blogger friend of mine affords her food storage....for only $10 a week.  






Excuses, Excuses, Excuses............
One of the excuses that people have for not having their food storage is that they can't afford it. I am here to tell you that you CAN afford it.

  • Eat out less
  • Take advantage of sales
  • No impulse buying
  • Cook from scratch (anything a manufacturer can make, so can you)
  • Plan menus!!
  • Entertainment: stay home, use the library, buy second hand
  • Keep your car longer
  • Have a money jar for spare change (cash in the change and use for your 72-hour kit or to buy food storage items)
  • Be Thankful: if you are constantly thinking of things you have to have you won't appreciate what you are blessed with.
Most of us DO have money we could channel into food storage but without focus it is all too easy for the money to slip through our fingers. Keep this in mind: (all the cans are #10 cans size)
  • magazine subscriptions for a year can be around $40=1 year supply of canned spaghetti
  • Wii games are $49.99=6 cans of sugar, 6 cans of pinto beans & 3 cans of oats
  • Movie tickets for 1 child and 1 adult (no snacks) $17.50= 6 cans of potato flakes
  • DVD's cost $19.99=7 cans of white rice
  • E-books cost $14.99 (average)=8 cans Hard Red Wheat
  • Red Lobster dinner for 2 $50= 9 cans of apple slices
  • New hardcover books $17-$25= 6 cans macaroni
Just keep in mind where the money spent is going and think of some alternative ways to find the items that you feel you have to have. Renting dvd's and borrowing movies and cd's from the library are some options. If you make your food storage a priority you will find ways to finance it. I love this quote:

 "The money slips through our fingers as we munch our way through life's countless Burger-McWendy's or avert our attention from the fact that PayPal really isn't always our pal". 

All we have to do is to decide, commit to it, and then keep that commitment. Blessings and miracles will happen!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Back-To-Basics Financial Reserve

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The last focus for the big three of the Back-To-Basics series (1. Water, 2. Food click on the back-to-basics tab above for all the back-to-basics posts)  is Money.  Not necessarily the easiest topic, but here we go.


We all use money, everyday.  Our lives depend on how much is coming in and going out.  Why do we need it in our food storage?
  • money is needed to buy your storage
  • money is needed in times of stress such as: job loss, extended sickness, bread earner in college, economic distress
  • small amounts of bills will be needed if there is ever an emergency that knocks out power.  No ATMs will work and neither will credit card machines.  
Today we live in a society of thinking that we can just go buy a new one, of almost anything.  We need to retrain the way we think, and hold onto what we have for a little longer.  Sew clothes instead of getting new ones, hold onto our cars for a few years longer, learn to cook from scratch and not buy convenience foods, make do with what we have.  So many of us are not prepared for "a rainy day".  We haven't saved up a reserve of money to help us through a tough time. And the rainy days that I am talking about are not zombie apocalypses.  The fridge, washer, dryer, car, house, they all seem to have a problem, and at the most inconvenient time!  Kids need money for school, soccer, football, tennis, new shoes, birthday presents for friends, doctor/hospital visits.  The list could go on forever.  A serious illness or extended hospital stay can devastate a family financially. Having money set aside for these events will give you peace of mind because you won't go into financial ruin to pay for them.

I know it's difficult to just get by every month, but lets look at a few ways to start saving money:



  • Pay yourself first every month.  No matter how little it may be, take out money for yourself and put it in a savings account.  It may seem difficult at first, but it will become habit.  
  • Don't use credit cards, unless you pay them off every month.  
  • Don't try to get out of debt while still going into debt.  You can't get out it if you are still buying the latest and greatest thing.  Hold off on those impulse purchases!
  • Save a few dollars every month and put it in your 72-hour kits.  If you only have large bills, a bottle of water may cost you $20 in an emergency when there isn't any electricity for credit/debit cards.
  •  Live within your means.  Don't watch your friends and neighbors and try to keep up.  This one is really hard, but you have to remember the long-term goal of having money set aside.  And most of those people with fun toys are probably in debt to pay for them.  Don't get caught up in the hype!
  • Having food storage will always pay off in a situation where  money is tight.  Cutting the food budget is the first thing you can do.  If you have food storage you can do that!  Learn to cook from scratch and always have basic food ingredients on hand. 
  • Discipline! You have to exercise control when spending!
  • Make and stick to a budget.  Writing things down makes a huge difference rather than thinking you know how much you spent.  There are a TON of apps you can have on a phone or tablet to keep track of your budget.  I find it really convenient and it's so easy to pull up and look at what I have spent.
  • Speaking of phones....is it a necessity?  Think about a cheaper phone, or phone plan.  Do all of your children need a phone?  This goes for tv's, satellite plans, insurance plans, there always seems to be a better deal, and switching companies can save you money.  There are also so many ways to watch tv and movies, whether it's online, or renting, there are ways to cut back the costs. 
  • Wants vs. Needs....be realistic on what your wants are.
  • Become financially independent over time, gradually.  Just as with food storage, this is a process and not a one time event.  Be patient with yourself and save a little at a time.  It will add up.

These are just a few ideas of what you can do to save money for a rainy day fund.  It takes time and patience to accomplish. Get your whole family involved in saving money.  Teach your children about money, working, and budgets.  Keeping the communication open about money will alleviate the stress level for children.  They know when we are stressed, talking about it will help them feel safe.  It is really difficult, and expensive,  to raise children, but communicating with your children will teach them valuable life lessons when it comes to money and hard work.  Dealing with money is HARD, and we ALL stress about it, but make saving money a goal and commit to that goal.  Be ready for that rainy day!

Here is a link to view the pamphlet from the LDS church on having a financial reserve.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Back-To-Basics: 3-Month Supply Part 3- Storage

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Click HERE for part 1 and HERE for part 2 of the 3-month supply posts.  Today's post will be....



Storing food has two rules:
  1. Store food properly to maintain the nutrients, keep it edible, and save you money.
  2. Use the containers, jars, buckets, #10 cans, etc. that work FOR YOU!
Although I said to store food in containers that work for you please only store food in containers that were manufactured to store food.  Plastics will absorb what's in them.  If a bucket had some kind of chemical in it, don't use it for food.  Same goes for used buckets that had food with vinegar, garlic or other strong flavors.  It will be almost impossible to get those smells out of the buckets.  Vinegar flavored oats does not sound appetizing.

Most foods that will be in your 3-month storage will be smaller and can be stored in their original packaging.  But there are ingredients that I use in my daily cooking that I buy in bulk and need to be stored properly.  Wheat, flour, oats, millet, sugar, brown sugar, rice, are all bulk items that I use regularly.  I am going to show you what works for me and how I store my food, both short and long term.  It may or may not work for you.  Hopefully I have convinced you that #10 cans of "just in case" food aren't the best plan.  Your stored food needs to be foods you use daily, and they will need to be accessible, or you won't want to bother getting it out and using it. 




Now, hard core preppers may think I'm crazy to show you what I have and how I store it, but I am comfortable in showing my storage room.  It's to help you, I hope ;)  I am lucky, very lucky, to have a storage room just off of my garage. It is just steps away from my kitchen and it holds A LOT!  The bottom row all around the room are 5-gallon buckets.  Around 70 of them.  I know this because I carried them into the moving truck and back out again.  I keep wheat, rice, sugar, oats, millet, and flour in them.  Most, if not all of them have gamma lids for ease.  I use these buckets to fill my smaller kitchen pantry containers.  It's soooo much easier to have a gamma lid when I need to refill a smaller container. 





I tried using different colors for different items, but it turned into just using what I had when I needed a bucket.  I am kind of OCD when it comes to organizing and I really want the lids to all match....some day.  

Buckets are great for long-term storage.  I do have #10 cans of long-term wheat and milk that will last 25-30 years, but I like buckets for most of my storage. Mylar bags inside of the buckets will give you another barrier against air, light, and rodents.  I live in a very dry climate and so far, no rodents.  I'm OK with no Mylar bags, see rule 2 above.


 Pastas and other grains....



For my pastas I use these bins that I found at a local discount store.  We use this food in a year or less, so I feel a #10 can would be overdoing it.  I take the pasta out of these bins and put them in my kitchen pantry in vertical storage containers. 

I can pour directly from these containers, also found at the same local discount store, into a pan of boiling water.  Plus I love the way they line up and have labels. 

 
I also have a variety of these containers for mixes and larger amounts of food like rice and wheat.  The brown nuggets are actually beef tvp, not dog food, like my kids call it.

There are a few items that I store in mason jars.  I am a big fan of the foodsaver! I love to seal up dehydrated foods that I have dehydrated at home, and also food from #10 cans that I won't be using in a timely matter before they go bad. (click HERE to view all my posts on using the foodsaver)




Oh, and I like to seal chocolate too.  Click HERE to see that post :)


I opened my #10 can of freeze dried cheese to use it one night, but needed to make sure the remaining cheese stayed freeze dried.  I sealed the remaining cheese in mason jars.  We use a lot of cocoa powder at my house and I make sure it stays fresh by sealing it in jars with the foodsaver. 


Storage Re-Cap


-BUCKETS:  Decide how often you are going to use certain foods, long-term or short-term, in your storage and use containers that are appropriate for that use.  Don't buy sealed buckets, or #10 cans,  if you are going to need to use an item often, this is where gamma lids come in handy!  Decide if buckets, #10 cans, or a little of both work for you.

-#10 CANS:  #10 cans are perfect for long-term storage and for items that you aren't going to use on a daily basis.  I have powdered milk, freeze-dried fruits and veggies, freeze-dried cheese, rice, oats, and wheat stored in #10 cans.  If they were canned properly, all of those items are good for 25+ years in a #10 can.  Sugars, pastas, and other grains I prefer to keep in buckets. I use them more frequently and feel having them canned would waste money.

-ORGANIZATION:  Having shelves organized and labeled will allow you to rotate through your food before it's expiration.  I have buckets, #10 cans, plastic bins, smaller canned food, mason jars, a little of everything, stored on shelves, in buckets in my storage room, and smaller containers in my pantry,  and I rotate bulk items from the larger containers to the smaller containers.  This is what works for me and allows me to find what I need quickly.  There are many can rotater shelving units on the market and even a few homemade versions on pinterest.  I store my smaller cans in a Can Organizer.  Click HERE to view a post on how I put them togetherIt's another area you need to research to find what works for you.  *Remember rule #2 :)

-STORE PROPERLY:  When I purchase food I immediately put it away.  This is a not a time for procrastination!!  Get the buckets out and fill them. Put cans away.  Don't let food sit out.  Label cans with dates, if that helps you to remember when to rotate it. Remember FIFO- first in first out- older cans go up front and newer cans go behind.  Don't assume you'll remember when you bought things.  (that's from experience too :)

-EAT IT:  Most importantly....eat what you store!!! Don't store foods just because a website or book says you are suppose to have x amount of something.  I detest most canned veggies, I'm sorry, but I can't eat them, so I have dehydrated and freeze dried versions, and extra water stored instead.  I do have #10 cans of milk and buckets of wheat that I don't use everyday, but almost everything else in my food storage gets used, almost daily!  That is how it has to work for rotation.  Store what you eat....eat what you store!!
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