Sunday, June 12, 2011

3 Month Supply of Food

A 3 month supply of foods you normally eat gives you a good supply in case of strikes, pandemic, bad weather emergencies, job loss, and many other emergencies. It is a convenient way to cook, having to run to your food storage room for an ingredient rather than running to the store. It is also economical, since you can stock up when something is on sale, then eat at that sale price for some time, hopefully until it is on sale again. For example, my mother-in-law used to buy one can of tuna every week. I would buy a case when it was on sale, and save over half the cost that she paid. The trick is coming up with enough money for the first case. But if you start doing more cooking from scratch, and eating out less, you can save enough money in a short amount of time to pay for a case or two, and then it will just snowball.

So how do you decide what to buy? My favorite way is to work out a menu of meals your family likes, which can be made with shelf-stable foods. That doesn't mean you always have to make those meals with shelf-stable foods, just that you can, and you use those shelf stable foods in that menu or another recipe often enough to keep your foods rotated. For example, when I make spaghetti with meat sauce, I normally use hamburger from the freezer, but I have some home-bottled hamburger I could use if I need to. To rotate the jars of hamburger, I could use it in spaghetti, or any other recipe, on a day when time is short. Oh, and when you buy them (or can them), label your cans with the date, so you are always using the oldest food first.

For a 3 month supply, it is easy math-wise to make a menu for 10 days. Multiply the items needed for each meal by 10, and that tells you how much you need to buy to have a 3 month supply of food. Of course, this is a very individual thing, because each family has their favorite meals, or different dietary needs, etc. That is exactly why you won't find a list telling you exactly what to buy for your 3 month supply.

Once you have planned your menu, go through each meal, and tabulate how much you need of each ingredient. For example, for spaghetti with meat sauce, I would need spaghetti noodles, spaghetti sauce, and a pint of hamburger. I would add a pint of green beans for a vegetable. So for this menu for 3 month, I would need 10 packages of spaghetti noodles, 10 cans of spaghetti sauce, 10 pints of hamburger, and 10 pints of green beans. Do that for every meal you are planning. That will give you a shopping list of what you need for a 3 month supply of food. To make it easy to calculate, I just figure that the recommended amounts for the 1 year supply of long term storage will basically give me a loaf of bread a day, if I add yeast, baking soda, and baking powder to my list. That saves adding up lots of teaspoons of things, even though it isn't as precise. I figure I will do easy, I may or may not do complicated. lol I also don't plan a lot of variety for breakfasts and lunches, which also simplifies planning.

Of course, there are other ways to come up with your list. Some people just like to buy extras of what they buy every week. If you buy a fairly standard list each week, that should work for you. Others like to put a date on when they open something like catsup, and note when it is used up. If you use a bottle of catsup in 2 weeks, then you would want 6 or 7 bottles for your 3 month supply.

I don't include frozen foods in my food storage inventory, because it is so easy for a power outage to occur and ruin all those frozen foods. Some people prefer to include their frozen foods, it is a personal choice. Anything you add to your food storage will give you that much more security. I have enough food storage that now I mainly buy fresh stuff, stock up on things I have used that are on sale, and maybe get a few treats. When DH lost his job, we cut our food budget about in half, and after 16 1/2 months, we are still eating like normal. It is worth the small amount of work required to develop the supplies to enable you to go for a time on limited access to the grocery store, or even to skip the store altogether. Best wishes.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Water Storage

We can survive for quite a while without food, but only a few days without water, therefore water is one of the most important things we can store. It is not practical to store enough water to last for several months or a year, so the recommended amount to store is 14 gallons of water per person, which should be a minimum amount for 2 weeks. If you can store more, you will be more comfortable. Besides your storage containers, water contained in water heaters, and toilet tanks can be used. Water should not be stored near gasoline, kerosene, pesticides, etc.

-Glass is good for storage, but is easily broken and heavier than plastic. Water may be canned in a boiling water bath if desired. To process, fill clean canning jars with water, leaving one inch headspace. Top with new lids and bands; process in a boiling water bath, 20 minutes for quarts.

-Plastic is sturdy and lightweight. Containers should be food grade, and never have held anything other than food. Look for PET or PETE in the recycling symbol, that indicates a plastic that is good for storing water. Soda bottles and juice bottles are usually PETE containers, and can be an inexpensive source of containers. Use the clear plastic bottles, rather than the colored. The lids should have a plastic liner, not cardboard, which might disintegrate. Wash the containers well, using a solution of 1 Tbsp. liquid chlorine bleach to a gallon of water, and rinse well. Don't use bleach bottles, they have an anti-static agent added to prevent dust accumulation. Milk-type jugs also should not be used. Not only is it difficult to get them clean enough, they are not sturdy, and you are likely to find leaking containers, which can cause damage to your home. There are many larger containers available, designed to store water in the home. An internet search will give you many options if you are willing to pay for them.

-Some metals such as stainless steel are acceptable for water storage. Make sure it is resistant to rust. Do not treat water to be stored in metal with chlorine.

It is better not to store your water containers directly on concrete. Wood slats or pallets, carpet, or cardboard all make good surfaces to store your containers on.

Treating water to store:
If you have a chlorinated water supply, and are using clean containers, further disinfecting treatment is not necessary. If your water is not chlorinated, you can treat it for storing by one of these methods:
-Processing in a boiling water bath as described above.
-Add 1/4 tsp. unscented liquid chlorine bleach to each gallon of water. If water becomes cloudy, replace it and re-treat it.

Emergency Disinfection of Water
Sometimes, the only water available is contaminated or of unknown quality. Water can be sanitized or disinfected in several ways. If it is cloudy, it is helpful to drain it through something like a coffee filter, good quality paper towels, or several layers of tightly woven cloth, to remove as much debris as possible. Then treat.

-Boil water vigorously for 10 minutes. Since this removes air from the water, pouring the water back and forth between 2 containers will add air and improve taste.

-Chlorine can be added. If water is clear, 1/4 tsp. unscented liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water can be added. Mix well and let stand for 30 minutes. A slight chlorine odor should be detectable (similar to the chlorine scent of treated tap water); if not, repeat the treatment and allow to stand an additional 15 minutes. Be aware that liquid chlorine bleach has a shelf-life of one year from date of manufacture. For best results, use chlorine bleach within 6 months of purchase.

-Commercial Water Purification tablets are available. Follow directions on the bottle.

-There are many commercial water treatment devices. Be aware they may not solve all issues.

-Solar water disinfection (SODIS). The World Health Organization says water may be disinfected by using a clear PET container (do not use glass). Fill containers 3/4 full of water, and shake for 20 seconds to aerate water, which aids the pasteurization, then fill to the top. Place bottle of water on a black background (perhaps a black trash bag) or corrugated metal roofing in the direct sunlight for 6 hours or 2 days of partial sunlight. For best results, surface should be slanted toward the sun. Devices which measure the point at which water is pasturized are available where solar ovens are sold. If PET bottles become heavily scratched, replace them.

-Granular Calcium Hypochlorite. This is available at pool supply stores as pool shock. Make sure to get one that has at least 78% calcium hypochlorite. To disinfect water, it takes a 2-step process. Dissolve 1 heaping teaspoon granular calcium hypochlorite in 2 gallons of water. Use this solution to disinfect your water, 1 pint will disinfect 12 1/2 gallons of water (1 part chlorine solution to 100 parts water). Don't mix up too much of the chlorine solution in advance, as it degrades over time. Let disinfected water sit for 30 minutes, then check for slight chlorine odor. If the chlorine odor/taste is objectionable, you can let the container sit uncovered for a few hours, or aerate by pouring water from one container to another a few times.

Most of this information came from USU Extension, and US Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine.

I hope this is helpful as you store water for your family's needs.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

We're back!

My husband has had his follow-up surgery, and all went well. He is recovering well, so well that I have to get after him for doing too much. He goes out and does yardwork, then wonders why he is in pain and tired. Hopefully now that we are through with the hospital for a while (knock on wood!) I will be able to post a little more frequently.

My mind has been on emergency preparedness lately. With the earthquake/tsunami in Japan, tornadoes in the south, threatened flooding in Utah (yes, we live in a desert. But there is a LOT of snow up in the mountains this year, and it keeps raining! All that water has to go somewhere. In 1983 they made a major street into a river to handle the mountain run-off. They say conditions are even worse this year, so we shall see.) Add in our recent medical emergencies, and it is no wonder I have been thinking about emergency preparedness. I would like to do a series of posts, and include various aspects of being prepared. Think about it, if you were not able to go to the store, or if the power was out for a prolonged period of time, or you lost your job and money was limited, what would you do? Hopefully I can get you thinking, and maybe provide a few ideas to help you prepare.

Let's start by talking about attitude. That may be the biggest advantage you could have, is having a positive, "We can do this!" attitude. Without that, you are likely to just curl up in a ball and do nothing, which isn't going to be very helpful. When my husband first lost his job, I was in a total panic for about a month. It wasn't until we actually sat down and worked out on paper how we were going to survive, that I began to calm down. I had never expected my husband to lose his job, I thought it was extremely secure. After all, he worked for a public entity as an auditor, they had to have someone to watch out for the public's money, didn't they? Evidently, his boss thought otherwise, and decided to eliminate his position. Since I had never entertained job loss as a possibility, I was rather discombobulated by it. When we sat down and worked out how to handle it, I immediately calmed down. I think we can do a lot for our attitude in an emergency if we have thought through solutions to problems in advance. When I see news stories about natural disasters, I think through how I might handle such a situation. I read stories about people who survive huricanes or ice storms, and what they did to keep more comfortable, and what they wish they had done. Imagining what you might do if that had happened to you helps prepare you for the next disaster that you might face. It helps you stay calm, and realize that there is a way to survive, and even be more comfortable. I have heard of studies that say the brain doesn't distinguish between a real experience and an imagined one. I am sure there is a difference, but I think imagined experiences can prepare us mentally for the real thing, and there is a lot of value in that.

Meanwhile, I hope everyone has had a happy Mother's Day! Mine was awesome.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Spring Cleaning Time

At least, it would be spring cleaning time if we would just get rid of this snow! LOL We woke to 2" of snow again this morning. Fortunately, April snow quickly melts off. Unfortunately, it snowed nearly non-stop most of the last week, with another storm predicted in a couple of days. I was able to take advantage of a relatively warm spell and clean out my front flower beds, taking out the dried, brown stems of perennials to expose the green of the new growth emerging from the ground. I still need to trim the bushes by my front door, the ones that grow so quickly that I soon can't see my driveway from my living room window.

In the gardens, there are some weeds to pull (mostly grass that has gotten into the garden beds) and carrots that overwintered to be dug up before it gets too warm. I also want a new asparagus bed in a spot that gets more sun than the current bed. There are plenty of perennials to trim up in the back yard, as well. And there are strawberries that need to be thinned out so they will produce better. If I get my way, we will also create a raised bed where the raspberries are. The raspberries have not been doing well there, with our heavy clay soil, and I am thinking a raised bed with lighter soil may give us a better crop.

In the garage, I need to clean out the garbage can that holds our winter supply of potatoes, the bucket of sand that holds carrots, and the pantyhose legs that hold onions thru the winter. It will soon be too warm for any of those to keep in the garage. We have more extras than usual this year, due to the month+ that my husband spent in the hospital, when I was not home cooking meals. I will likely dehydrate many of the extras, and may can some also. I am half thinking I may even freeze a few of the onions, chopped into snack-size bags, perfect for a recipe.

There is plenty to do to get the yard and garage ready for spring. Oh, and if I get time, there is lots of housework to do inside as well. LOL

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Case Lot Shopping

In the "olden days", when I was a child, my family lived in Utah. In those days, there were yearly sales where if you bought a whole case of something, they gave you a discounted price per can. When we moved to Illinois, I remember Dad going into one of the local stores and asking if they had case lot sales. They had never heard of such a thing. Dad was so disappointed!

Now I am living in Utah again, and there are still case lot sales. They may be a bit different now days. Some stores you have to buy a whole case to get the sale price, but other stores you can buy a can or a case and pay the same price per can. This is a very popular time to stock up on pantry staples. Now they come twice a year, and I look forward to them, even saving money to be able to stock my pantry. I am finding more and more , though, that I have to be careful to be sure the "sale" price really is a bargain.

The spring case lot sale season has started here, and I have been able to get some great bargains. But you have to know what a good price is, because not all the case lot prices are any cheaper than normal everyday sale prices. For example, a recent case lot sale had cans of spaghetti sauce for 99 cents a can. Not a bad price, but not a super bargain. In fact, just the week before, I got the exact same brand of spaghetti sauce for 79 cents a can, just on a regular sale. The best thing to do, is to know your prices. You may want to make a price book, or at least know what normal sale prices are for your area. Don't just assume that because it is a case lot sale that it is the best of the year. Then study your weekly sales flyers, and stock up on whatever the best bargains are every week.

Having said that, do take advantage of those items that are truly bargains, and stock your pantry. If you buy enough to last you until the next great sale, you can eat all year for those bargain prices. My mother-in-law used to buy a can of tuna every week. At the time, she usually paid 79 cents a can for it. But it often went on sale for 50 cents a can. By buying a case when it was on sale, she could have saved $15 a year. That may not sound like a lot of money (of course, this was 20 years ago, too), but using that principle with many items could save a substantial amount of money each year. With the economy the way it is, and food prices rising, we need to take whatever savings we can find.

Happy shopping!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sticker Shock

A few weeks ago, much of the nation was in the deep freeze. That cold weather extended down into Mexico, where much of the produce we buy in the winter is grown. The crops froze. Guess what that does to prices? Yup, they skyrocket! After hearing of the problem on the news, I was in the store to pick up a few essentials, so I checked out the lettuce prices. Yikes! The head of iceburg lettuce that I paid $1 for last week, was nearly $3 this week! I also checked the celery, and it was in the $3 range as well. A single piece of celery was a bit cheaper, only $2. Wow!

So, what do you do when faced with such price increases? Is there any way to insulate yourself from the sticker shock? It is definitely a painful situation, but I have a few ideas that may help.

1. Cut back. This is something we see a lot when gasoline prices rise. We start to watch how often we drive, we consolidate trips or just stay home more. Maybe that pot of soup could get by with one piece of celery rather than 2. We can serve green salads twice a week rather than 4 times. It's a little painful, but better than paying the full price for our previous levels of excess. Unless it wasn't excess, and then it is just painful.

2. Price shop. Anytime I go into a grocery store now, I check the price of lettuce and celery. The store to the north of me had lettuce and celery both for alnost $3 a head/bunch on Sat. Today I was in the store just south of me. Their lettuce was only $1.59 a head, although the celery was nearly $3 still. I picked up a head of lettuce.

3. Buy in bulk/stock up. Admittedly, this is hard to do with lettuce because of the short shelflife, but it works for other things. I expect sugar prices to rise soon, also. So when I go into a store, I check their sugar prices. When I find a reasonable price, I buy some, usually in a larger size package. For example, a local store has 5 lb. bags of sugar for $2.59. That same store has 25 lb. bags of sugar for $11.78. Sugar in the smaller 5 lb. bags would cost 12.95 for 25 lbs., or $1.17 more than the 25 lb. bag. Sometimes there are reasons to buy the smaller bag and spend a few cents more per pound, such as if you don't use much sugar, or if it wouldn't keep long enough to use it up (more a problem with lettuce than sugar), or if it is difficult for you to physically handle a larger bag. I like to keep some smaller bags around so that when my kids come "shop" in my basement, there are smaller bags for them to take home. But I usually buy the larger bags because I use a lot of sugar when I am canning, and it usually saves me a few cents per pound. Do the math though--sometimes a special sale will put sugar in the smaller bags at a better per pound price than the larger bags; don't just assume. Buying a 2 pack of whole chickens can save 10 cents a pound over buying them singly. Warehouse stores often sell large sizes or multi-packs, and they can be real bargains. Sometimes. Again, do the math. Whe you find a real bargain, you may want to stock up with as much as you can afford or as much as you can use before the expiration date. Then everytime you use that item, you have paid that bargain price for it.

4.Substitute. If you can't have a lettuce salad, maybe cole slaw would be a good substitute. Or a fruit salad, or jello. Try other vegetables. Maybe try growing your own sprouts. They are easy to grow, and add a similar crunch and flavor to lettuce. One shape of pasta can be exchanged for another. If beef roasts are expensive, maybe a pork roast would work. Ground turkey or chicken is often cheaper than ground beef. Many store brands are as good as the name brands. Substitutions are very subjective, though. What one person finds acceptable, another person might not. Be open minded and try the substitution, and if it doesn't work for you, you know it is worth it to you to pay extra for the real thing. I have yet to find a salad dressing that we like as well as the name brand Miracle Whip, so I just watch for a good price for the name brand.

5. Buy simpler. A head of lettuce is often cheaper than a pre-made salad. You can marinate and season your own meat much cheaper than buying the pre-seasoned cuts. Peel and cut your own carrots rather than paying the premium for pre-cut versions. Again, do the math, but usually, the more processed something is, the more cost is added to it.

6. Produce your own. I can't grow oranges here in Utah. And I am not going to produce my own gasoline. But I can grow lettuce. I meant to grow some in pots in my house this winter, but didn't get any started. Oh, well. I started some seeds yesterday, and in a month or so, I will have some lettuce to harvest, and then the price the store wants for lettuce will no longer matter to me. That money will be able to go toward some other essential on my list, and we will be that much better off.

Anyone else have any ideas of what to do when essentials skyrocket in price? Your comments are welcome.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

How did you fare through the storms?

I hope everyone is safe and sound after the wild winter storms that have been happening. We were lucky here, and although the weather got very cold, we had little snow. I saw plenty of news reports, though, with pictures of cars half buried in snow, and sliding around on the roads. Brrr! It makes me cold to think of it. When I hear about such things, I like to think about what I would do in such a situation. I go through it in my mind, and imagine what I would need to get through it the most comfortably.

For example, when I saw pictures of cars half buried in snow on Chicago's Lake Shore Drive, I thought about what I would have needed in my car to survive buried in snow much of the night. Blankets, water, food, light, warm clothing, charged cell phone. A shovel might not have done them much good, but in other winter situations, it would be helpful. And coarse salt or kitty litter for if you get stuck on icy roads. And wouldn't that be a horrible time to run out of gas? It is easy enough to always keep the gas tank at least half full, once you develop the habit.

How about those plagued by power outages? If it were you, would you have had food, water, a way to keep warm, light? A way to cook the food? A way to entertain yourself and the rest of the family that doesn't involve power? This is a good time to evaluate your preparedness, while the recent winter storms are fresh on our minds. Don't think that if a storm is forecast you can just run to the store and pick up what you need, because everyone else will beat you there. A family friend posted pictures on Facebook of his local grocery store 2 days before a snowstorm was predicted to hit his Atlanta neighborhood with an inch or two of snow. The shelves were literally empty. Do you know how to bake bread? Do you have powdered milk to top your cereal with? Do you even have an extra box of cereal (or whatever you eat for breakfast)? Remember, when the power is out at your house, it is likely to be out at McDonald's, too, so you may not be able to rely on breakfast out, even if you wanted to brave the weather.

Another consideration is, what if you or a family member is sick when the storm hits? Would you have enough medications to get you through the crisis? Probably the only thing worse than having to go out in the storm, is having to go out in the storm while sick. Or having a sick child you can't comfort because you are out of infant Tylenol.

It is easy enough to learn from experience, but it is much more comfortable to learn from someone else's experience, and not have to go through the discomfort yourself.

We recently got an early morning phone call from our son. His car had died on the freeway a few miles from our house. We went to help him tow his car to the local repair shop. Fortunately we had tow straps in DH's car, but the thing we didn't have was a flashlight. At least, there wasn't a flashlight in DH's glove box. Or in DS's car. (I still say there was a wind-up flashlight in DH's 72 hour kit, but he wasn't willing to dig through it to find it.) So there we were in the early morning dark, trying to connect a tow strap by feel. We managed, just barely. By the time we got to the repair shop, the tow strap had come un-hooked, and was just wedged in place. DH learned from that experience, and immediately made sure that everyone in the family had a flashlight for their glove compartment. Do you have a flashlight in your car? Tow straps? Basic tools? A little mental exercise now could save a lot of discomfort in the future.

Stay warm and safe.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Life Happens

I appologize for being missing in action. I was very caught up in canning season, and getting ready for Thanksgiving. We had a nice family celebration, and as I prepared for Christmas, I was planning a post I wanted to write. But life took a turn for us, which has changed things a lot. Early in Dec. my husband had an emergency medical situation. He ended up in the hospital, having surgery, and staying for a week. We thought he was doing well, and he came home. Unfortunately, the longer he was home, the worse he did. We ended up back in the hospital with a complication which made him seriously ill. He spent 12 days in intensive care, and 26 days in the hospital all together for the second round. We spent Christmas in intensive care, with him sedated and on a ventilator. We are home now, but he will have a long, slow recovery, with another follow-up surgery probably around the end of April.

This has been a very difficult time for us, but everyone has trials of one kind of another, and many people have harder trials than this. I believe that we can learn from our trials. One of the things I have learned is the value of preparation. We have been paying a substantial amount in order to keep our health insurance--what a blessing! We met our out of pocket cap the first week in the hospital. Our food storage was also extremely valuable, since there wasn't much time or energy left for shopping after spending 10-12 hours a day at the hospital. Our sweet neighbors were so wonderful to us. Someone always showed up to shovel snow off our driveway. Several neighbors showed up at the hospital to bring me lunch. What a great break that was, to sit and visit with a friend and eat something other than fast food or hospital food. I'm sure I should have taken a lunch with me, and a couple of times I did, but I just wasn't up to doing it. It was hard enough to eat something already prepared.

I also found some areas where we weren't as prepared as we should have been. Early into the second hospitalization, I realized there were probably bills that should be paid soon. I dug through some of my husband's papers to find the bills. Now, I know how to pay bills, but trying to figure out what was due when was a challenge. I found his checkbook, which was helpful, but only for the bills that recurred monthly. We had a few coming due that only occur every 6 months. I didn't know my husband's passwords, etc., to pay the bills on-line like he does, but I could write out checks. The problem came when I realized I would need to transfer money from one account to our checking account to pay the rest of the bills. And my name wasn't on that account. Oh, dear! Fortunately, we had done some trust documents earlier in the year, and the bank let me use the power of attorney documents to access that account. But it brought home to me that we hadn't finished the work on the trust. The lawyer put the house in the trust, and left the rest for us to do. We still need to list all our accounts in the name of the trust, so that if one of us should die, the other doesn't have to go to court to access any of the accounts. It is high on our priority list to get the accounts listed properly, as soon as hubby feels up to it. He has already taught me how he pays bills on-line. We are determined to learn from the lessons of this challenge.