Saturday, December 26, 2009

Variety is the Spice of Food Storage

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Now that Christmas is over winter could be done too in my opinion. The dark, cold days of winter can get very monotonous. I wish spring with all the vibrant colors would get here a little faster than it does. While thinking of this I also thought of food storage and how it can also become monotonous and bland.

If you were to eat from your food storage for the next month with NO trips to the store for any item, could you do it? I bet we would find some gaps in our food storage. At first we may have fresh fruit or veggies, but after 2 weeks or so they would be gone and then what? If you have canned or dried substitutes your family may not even realize you had to use them as a substitute. But most of us would be eating pretty bland food.

Some food that we use all the time is cheese, but do we have it stored for long term use. Some of the big blocks of cheese at the grocery store are vacuum sealed cheese (Tillamook is a great example) and will last months in the fridge if unopened. You can also vacuum seal your cheese after opening with a Food Saver and it will last a lot longer. Freezing shredded cheese is also a great option and cheese powder in a #10 can would work for some baking recipes. I've also read that if you wrap your cheese in aluminum foil, with no air gaps, it will last a lot longer too.

I thought of other food items that would add spice to an otherwise bland storage. We can have wheat, pasta, rice, flour, but without some added flavor we would be sick of eating it after awhile. 


Items to spice up your bland food storage: (only buy what your family uses)

-Ketchup
-Salsa 

-Spices of all kinds
-Cocoa powder (stores indefinitely)
-Chocolate chips (vacuum seal in mason jars for maximum shelf life)
-Brownie and cake mixes
-Cheese
-Eggs (powdered eggs are amazingly simple to use)
-Butter (butter powder is available)
-Drink mixes to add some variety to water
-Shortening/oil (not much baking can be done without it)
-Soy Sauce
-Candy/Chocolate (store candy in #10 cans marked as pinto beans and no one but you will know they are there, that way it will stay part of the food storage and not some late night candy raid :)

We also need to have variety in our everyday storage. Think of all the pastas that are out there. My kids will think I have made a new dinner just because there is a new pasta in the pan. Store more than just spaghetti. Sugar also has more than one form, white, brown, powdered, honey and molasses. There are many dinners that you can make starting with bullion or soup base. Don't forget to store beef, chicken, and even pork varieties. (Winco has soup base in their bulk bin area for a great price). Having just a little variety will make your storage last a lot longer with-out your family getting bored. 

A great non-food item to store would be cheesecloth. You can use it to make cheese from powdered milk and also need it to make cottage cheese. (Rennet tablets also come in handy for cottage cheese making)

One of the most important items I think to store are canned FRUITS AND VEGGIES. Your family needs to store 185lbs of EACH (on average) to have a year supply. That's a lot of produce. This summer and fall I bought fresh fruit and veggies when they were at their cheapest and we ate what we could and I dehydrated the rest. I then vacuumed sealed the dried food into mason jars and they should keep for a couple years on the shelf. I recently dried celery after having a bunch left over from Thanksgiving time and it shrunk down to nothing and I used it in soup (after reconstituting it) and it was wonderful. A dehydrator is a great investment to make and I can't believe all the things I have dried: green onions, celery, apples, white onion, cilantro, carrots, bananas, grapes (that was fun to see turn to raisins) etc. This also saves a ton of money by buying the food when they are in season and then we able to use them all winter and not having to pay high prices.

During fruit tree season ask neighbors and friends to let you have fruit that is not getting picked or is on the ground. You can cook with them, freeze them or dehydrate and save lots of money too. Canned or dried vegetables are also a must. I love to look at my canned food storage and see all the different colored labels, it means I have variety, think spring and how colorful it is. Our food storage needs to look like that as well. Here is a list of fruits and veggies to store (of course only store what you will use):

Applesauce (also great for an oil substitute in baking)
Dry fruit (raisins, coconut, apples)
Fruit cocktail
Mandarin oranges
Peaches
Pears
Pineapple 
Beets
Carrots  (dried)
Corn 
Green beans  
Green Chilies
Instant potatoes
Mixed vegetables
Mushrooms
Onions- dried minced
Peas
Pickles 
Pumpkin 
Salsa 
Spaghetti sauce
Tomato paste 
Tomato sauce 
Tomato soup 
Tomatoes 
Yams

As you can see there are many ways to store fruits and veggies. Pick a few to focus on in the next couple of weeks and add some variety to your food storage.

Here is an easy recipe using canned items.

Slow Cooker Salsa Chicken
1 can black beans drained an rinsed
1 can corn drained
1 large bottle salsa
2-3 chicken breasts
Add all to a slow cooker and cook on high 2-3 hours. Shred chicken when cooked all the way through.
We eat this on tortillas with some rice.

Self-Reliant Goals for December:

Long Term Goals:
Flour 75lbs PP
Sugar 60lbs PP

3-Month Supply Goals:
Substitute a canned version

of a fresh ingredients in one of your recipes sometime this month. Even if you love to use fresh ingredients, you will need a canned version if there was no electricity or major disaster.

72-Hour Kit Goal:
Try to find the little Hotties body warmers. The packs of body warmers will definitely be needed if we encounter a disaster in the dead of winter. They even have an adhesive product to stay where you want it. Make sure that everyone in your family has gloves or mittens. Trying to find a matching pair in the dark and in a hurry could potentially be impossible :) The body warmers should also be kept in your car kits as well. Mylar blankets are a great thing to have in a car kit and 72-hour kit. Make sure to have 1 per person

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