Archive for October, 2008

Make Mine To Go

Food Storage Quick Tip #9 – 72 Hour Kits

I’m back from a weekend with the family with observations, of course.  My girls, (the three-pack), take half the household when we go on an overnight trip by car.  They bring their pillow and a couple of bags each.  We have electronics and quilts.  I pack some extra shoes, even boots if it will be chilly.  I can’t decide what the weather will be, so I gather up both coat and jacket for myself.  And each one of us, excepting my mister, lug our own blow dryers, curling irons, shampoos, etc.

In contrast, if we travel by plane, sensibility kicks in.  Each of us pares down to take only basic items onto the aircraft.  One blow dryer is selected.  A medium weight jacket for all occasions.  Small condiments to fit in a quart-sized Ziploc bag.  And, we all desire that the whole shebang be small enough to fit in an overhead bin.  It is what we call, carry-on luggage. 

A 72 hour kit is like the carry-on.

I did confess last time that I didn’t have a 72 hour kit.  But I did watch a documentary on Katrina in the meantime.  It opened my eyes a little, and I realized that many of those people who hadn’t eaten for 2 days, could have ridden out the storm with just a little sustenance.  (Even a stick of gum would be better than nothing!)

To be honest, I think that my big problem with the 72 hour kit is the actual presence of the thing.  Here are some of my innermost (guilty) thoughts that move on a looping tract in my head:  Where do I store this stuff?  It is just one more thing to take up space under the stairs.  How can I be expected to have everything on the list and still be able to carry it?  It seems impossible.  With small children, if they each have a small backpack, who is really going to carry it?  Me!  What if my husband is out of town when the disaster hits?  How much time, then, would it take me to simply get everyone in the car?  I’d say more than a couple of minutes.  That’s discouraging.  So personally, it is more of an “Obedience” 72 hour kit.  Maybe it is the same for you.

We know a 72 hour (4 day) kit is a critical component for your emergency plan.  You will need food, water, and warmth.  I like the idea of making your own, as it is more cost effective and you can use real food (aka: food that will fly with your family tastes).  Still, there are complete kits that you may purchase online or at emergency supply stores.  Regardless, how about we start today.

Putting it together should be practical.  A backpack works well.  A duffel or drawstring bag is fine.  A bucket with a lid is also fine (easy to move and may be used as a potty if necessary).  It remains unknown whether you are leaving on foot or by automobile, so consider both.  Don’t stress yourself.  The point is, have SOMETHING ready.  And in one place.

Water is the heaviest item, and most vital, so let’s start with that.  Small bottles of water are easy for kids to handle.  However, a liter bottle or gallon  provides more volume of water for a sharing situation (wipe the lip between the sip).  While you are at it, fruit juice boxes may also be added for a pick me up.  There are also milk products in different flavors that don’t need refrigeration that may provide nutrition, expecially for a small child.  Both of these items have a relatively long shelf life so rotation is not a major deal.  Dehydration may be your main obstacle if you have to migrate.  It is recommended that each person is allowed 1 gallon/4 liters.  If you have an itsy bitsy baby, it is essential that you allow extra water for formula or yourself if you are breastfeeding.

Here’s a link with very basic suggestions for a 72 hour kit.

Assignment A:  Find a transportable bag, box, bucket or container that will accommodate your family’s needs for your obedience 72 hour kit.  B:  Start with water, adding some boxed drinks for variety and nutritional content.  C:  Time to check and fill your gas cans if you have stopped mowing for the year.  A few gallons may save the day if asked to vacate your property.


October 27, 2008 at 3:30 pm 1 comment

Shelf Confidence

Food Storage Quick Tip #8 – Shelf Life

I had an experience the other week after buying the Albertsons 20 for 10 soups by the case.  In interest of rotation, I tidied my whole supply.  As I got looking at the cans, I noticed that many of them, quite a lot of them, expired in 2007.  Time flies when you are thinking food storage, huh.  Of course, bulging cans should be discarded regardless of the date.  I fully understand the decline in quality and nutrition over the shelf life of the item, but honestly, that won’t matter a fig if my children are walking around with empty bellies.  My belief that wasting perfectly good food is a sin, goes deep.  So what should I do about it?  Do I use it, or do I pitch it?

Now, I have a friend, who, for the sake of anonymity, we shall call Angela :).  When we left Washington, I left two 20 lb buckets of honey with her, because they were heavy and we didn’t want to move them.  Angela was delighted to have the honey, and held onto it for years, feeling well prepared and toasty warm inside.  In 2007, she was organizing her attic and noticed the date on the honey was 1999.  Feeling it was a matter of safety and relying on my hand written date on the bucket, SHE TOSSED THE HONEY!! In a matter of weeks, the honey long gone via Jim’s Sanitation, she learned that honey keeps indefinitely, and to replace 40 lbs of honey was over the top of food storage allowance.  Today, Angela is riddled with guilt and can’t sleep nights.  Unfavorable dreams.  Impairment of self esteem.  The whole deal.  Poor Angela.

What is up with the expiration date anyway?  Keep in mind, once again, that there in conflicting informaton on the Internet.  Only in America are we regulated so that paranoia visits us every day.  The truth is, the dates mean different things, depending on the product.  The FDA only requires date stamps on canned food, meats and produce, and those dates are more indicative of quality rather than safety.  One source even mentions that the dates are more of a guideline than a command.  So basically you get to decide.


– Sell by
date tells the store how long to display the product for sale.  It is a basic guide to the retailer so the store knows when to pull the item.  As in the case of my soup, it can last up to 3 years after the sell by date.  Eggs, for example, will keep up to 5 weeks beyond their date stamp.
Best if used by (or before) date refers strictly to quality, not sfety.  It is the date for best flavor or quality.  Sour cream is already sour, but the has the best flavor when freshly sour (oxymoron).
Guaranteed fresh until date refers to bakery items and is not required. Items are still edible after that date, but not be at their peak.  Freezing the item prolongs it for even a longer period.
– Use by date tells you the date is at peak quality as determined by the manufacturer.  These dates are used to preserve the label reputation of the company who produces it.  These items can also be used at a later time, but don’t expect your Cheese Whiz to be creamy and elegant after 7 years (that happened to me once).
– Pack Date is tricky.  It may simply be a code used by the manufacturer and may be reverted to the Julian calendar (whatever the heck that is).  For example, January is 0001-0031, December is 334-645 and gets wierder and complicated.  So generally, it is not a favorable indication to the consumer, as it is simply the date when the can left the cannery.

What about dry foods like wheat, rice, sugar, flour, or beans?  The guidelines at Provident Living show that shelf life is much longer than previously thought.  These items may last 30 years or more when kept in a cool, dry place.  Did I mention that HONEY will last indefinitely?

What did I do with my 50 cans of outdated soup?  Should I tell you about it?  What should I do?  Well, what would you do if your mother asked you?

Assignment A: Go to your pantry and bulk storage with the oldest dates in the front.  Then to the freezer and do the same. B: Make a couple of meals this week with items that need to be used.  Resolve to rotate all food storage as you go.  C: Spend $10 this week replacing seriously outdated food or adding to your pantry and bulk supply.

Link: Here is a link to a slide show more specific to items you want to store.  It is informative and short.:
Here is a link to a slide show more specific to items stored. It is very informative and short.

October 20, 2008 at 10:47 am 1 comment

Use Your Bean and Rice to the Occasion

Food Storage Quick Tip #7- Beans and Rice

Over the last several months, I have made observations about food storage every where I can.  One thing that I’ve noticed is that rice shelves in store are never fully stocked.  Also never fully stocked are beans, specifically canned beans.  I find that interesting.

Rice and beans together are considered by many as a perfect food.  Rice is the staple food for two thirds of the world’s population, and in many countries, it is illegal to store food (we are blessed!)  As a storage item, they are relatively nonperishable, and can be modified to any cuisine.  In the event there is little availability of meat, beans can replace protein and vitamins needed.  And they are LOW FAT!  Beans and rice served together for a perfect union of nutrition and taste.  We eat refried beans with Spanish rice.  We have soups and other dishes.  Even salads can include rice or beans.  Traditionally, humanity has been serving beans over rice for centuries.

One of the big, hUgE, GIANT hinderances with rice and (dry) beans is how the heck do you cook the stuff?  I admit that I have not been successful cooking rice until sometime in the last decade.  My mom used minute rice, so I never had a “real” home cooked bowl of rice until I was out of college.  Of course, it took me years to humble myself and figure out I needed some guidance.  Then Voila!  It is almost as second nature as making popcorn!  Knowlege has made all the difference.  There are as many methods to cooking rice and beans as there are varieites of the staple.  You probably have your favorite, but for those who want the basics, here are a couple of easy recipes that have worked for me.

RICE – Just like your husband’s mother used to make 🙂
3 cups water
1 cup rice
bring water to a boil in saucepan.  When rolling boil is achieved, add rice and stir.  Put on the lid and reduce heat to low (some peple reduce to off).  DO NO REMOVE THE LID.  DO NOT STIR.  Set the timer for 25 minutes, remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes.  Done.

DRY BEANS – (Not to be attempted when you have only 10 minutes before your husband arrives home)
Soak 2 cups of dry beans for several hours in plenty of water (some people do this overnight).  Drain.  Add 6 cups water to beans and heat to boiling.  Boil gently, stirring frequently until tender.  This will take between 30 minutes to 3 hours depending on variety.  Dry beans expand (boy, do they expand!) and absorb water as they cook, so more water should be added as you go to prevent schoching.  Test often and come to your own decision when beans are tender and taste done.  Salt and spices can be added anytime during the last stages of preparation.  Hint:  Do not go to the library and leave the beans on the stove simmering!  Burned beans are BAD NEWS!

Assignment A:  Go to your pantry again.  Using the food storage calculator, calculate what quantities of beans and rice you need for 3 months.  Set and begin to carry out a goal based on your family tastes, needs, and affordability.  Or B: Make rice and beans for one meal this week.  Recipes on the internet are plentiful if you don’t know one you like.

A common term referring to rice and beans is used to describe any pairing that works together well.  “They are like rice and beans”.
– A well-known term when referring to beans is, “the magical fruit”.

October 13, 2008 at 12:19 pm 4 comments

A Penny for Your Thoughts

Food Storage Quick Tip #6 – Saving some money

This week’s tip is about saving some money.  There is no right or wrong way to achieve this, even if only a few coins a week.  We just need to start!  Of course it is not a good thing to have a lot of cash in the house; but it would be good to have a little on hand.  If the ATMS are not working in an emergency, it might hold you over until things get turned around.

Here are a few examples of saving some coins:

  • Coin tray in your car.  Save your change from drive-through transactions.  It has saved my life a few times when I forgot my purse.
  • What’s your favorite coin?  Some people like pennies.  Dimes are kind of cute.  Check out the links at the bottom for coin savers that made the news.
  • Find change in the washer?  My vote:  It’s unclaimed property
  • Clip coupons and pledge that amount saved to your emergency account.  You’ll want to put your receipt in your scrapbook.  What a good wife!
  • Save a quarter a day.  Or a dollar a week.
  • Start a swear jar.  Caution:  Don’t swear more just to add up the quarters.

The Internet has given us opportunity to at any time manage our bank accounts.  One way to save a little bit each month is to use their automatic transfer system.  You can set it to transfer $1.00 a week, or whatever, on a prearranged day.  Even if it doesn’t seem like a lot, it adds up.  Another suggested way is to look at it by percentage.  If you faithfully pay 10% every month back to the good Lord, think about putting away 1% every month for yourself.  Decide with your own family’s needs in mind.

Assignment:  Start saving some money.  Even if it is only a few coins a week in a jar.

Article about a man who buys car with coins.
Article about a man who makes a record exchange of pennies at a Coinstar machine.

TRIVIA QUESTION: Where do you see people in the movies put their emergency cash?
In a boot (Maverick)
In  a shoe
In a shirt (The Dollmaker)
Hidden in a hat lining (Paper Moon)
In a milk jug
In a cold stove (Unsinkable Molly Brown)
In a Mason jar buried in the back yard
Sewn into the lining of an orphan child’s jacket
Saved in a piggy bank (to be opened by a giant cartoon hammer)
A safe is good for large quantities counted often and nicely stacked.
In a sugar bowl, cookie jar, or ice box
A cigar box
A baking powder can (Where The Red Fern Grows)
Stuffed in a mattress (When banks are not to be trusted)
Between pages of a secret book
Inside a rag doll (Night of the Hunter)
In the brazier (Next to the Kleenex :))

October 6, 2008 at 11:41 pm 3 comments

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