We need five servings of fruits and vegetables every day to meet our need for vitamins, minerals and fiber. That’s hard enough for many, even supposing you ready access to a supermarket fill with foods form around the globe b ut what if you had to eat from home storage? How could you get that many servings. For a family of 4, that’s 140 servings a week.

It is first important to remember what a serving size is. It is only 1/2 cup for an adult. That is a really small amount. A 1 cup helping is two servings. Next, you must remember what counts. The juice with breakfast, the raisins in your oatmeal, that handful of dried kale in your soup, those carmelized onions are all considered a serving. Even canned pumpkin used in bread or a pie is a vegetable.

My first choice for meeting my vege needs is to grow and preserve my own or food I have purchased locally. I do buy some dried things, notably apple rings and raisins. Other than that, In September and October, I am a preserving fool. This is not a good year for wild fruit so I am having to scrounge a bit more and buy some things I would usually get for free. Still, with diligence, I will get a lot of fruits and vegetables canned.

We have a cold cellar now so a good deal will land there. If you have a space to put in a small, insulated from the exterior heat, room in your basement, you can put away carrots, beets, potatoes, onions, garlic and apples for months. Get a good book on the subject as there are particulars to storage that you need to know. The most important points are to keep apples away from vegetables as the ethylene gas apples give off with cause spoilage of other food and check your food every day or so. One bad apple as they say.

You can purchase freeze dried fruits and vegetable. I have a good deal in storage. They can look pricey but probably not bad if you only other option is to buy food on the open market and put it up yourself. Freeze dried food is light weight and the quality is excellent.

You can always fill a freezer with what you need but that leaves you at the mercy of the grid and the utility company. I do freeze some things we just don’t eat any other way like broccoli and string beans. I hope to move into more drying and fermentation and away from freezing in the future.

This week is the case lot sale at Big Y, our locally owned market. A case of any vegetable is $7.50. I usually do a stock up this week of the few things we eat canned on occasion. Corn and peas are all we are likely to run short of in April. While I don’t like them I could eat them if I had to. I also keep a couple of cases on hand for charity. When the time comes to rotate I can hide a canned vege in a soup or stew. I will stock up on tomatoes and canned soups. I will also buy a lot of canned fruit. A lot as in five or six cases. It has a long shelf life and is so versatile. I have made brandy from canned apricots, raisins, sugar, yeast and water with good results.

Not to be overlooked is the option of growing food year round in your house, a cold frame or small green house. Get a copy of Fresh Food From Small Spaces if you are thinking of doing this. There is a dandy self-watering container I plan to build. Don’t forget sprouts and mushrooms. Both are easy to grow and provide a good amount of food for the space required.

Finally, fermentation. I did a lot more pickling this year and I love it. Pickled vegetables have a lot of vitamin c and add such a festive fell to a meal. We are getting into the habit of pickled something at every meal. A copy of Wild fermentation is a good reference book as is the Joy of Pickling.

I am off today to get the meat for my food preservation class. I have a lot of folks signed up. I hope to learn as much as I teach. I will not be posting this weekend (really) as the class will chew up Saturday and I plan to go looking for apples after church on Sunday. Perfect weather is forecast.


I know a lot of people are looking at the price of gold at it’s all time high and rushing to put in an order. I just bought more wheat. It may be a failure of imagination on my part but I don’t get the fascination with precious metals. For me, a tangible is something I can eat, wear, plant or keep warm with.

This next part of managing your personal food supply has to do with grains and legumes. Both are vital for a varied diet  but I have some caveats before suggesting anyone go purchase 700 pounds of wheat. First, know how and where you will store it. It will take up some space and grains are susceptible to infestation by bugs and spoilage due to mold if the conditions are not right. Next, know how you will prepare it. Wheat without a grain grinder does not translate into bread. Finally, get your family used to eating it. There is a huge difference between a loaf of whole wheat bread and a loaf of that cheap, fluffy white stuff from the supermarket. Kids who have never had anything but Wonder Bread are going to balk when presented with the real staff of life. When I started baking with whole wheat, I began with a 1:6 ratio of whole wheat to white flour. I am now at 1:1 unless I am using white whole wheat which is more palatable to most kids. Then I use all whole wheat.

Wheat is cheap when bought in 50 pound sacks. If you don’t live near a place that sells it in bulk you will have to order it from a co-op or bulk supplier. Even with shipping, wheat remains a bargain. It’s the accoutrements that will break the bank. A good grain grinder is expensive. Food grade plastic buckets with gamma lids are expensive. The real estate necessary for storage is expensive. It may seem easier to just buy the whole grain flour but ground whole wheat loses a good deal of the nutrients that make it a valuable food in the first 6 weeks of room temperature storage. By the time you purchase ww flour from the market it’s already deteriorated.

I think we may need to get over the idea of private ownership of some big ticket items like grinders in the coming hard times. A church group or family center could chose to buy a grinder cooperatively and purchase grain in bulk. It would save everybody money while providing better nutrition. It could also be the cohesive force in a group, offering opportunities for shared meals, trainings and the development of further shared community resources. I know someone who has fashioned a pedal powered grain grinder from an old exercise bike. I hope she will do some demonstrations and teach the wider community how it was done. Excercise bikes are available for next to nothing at tag sales every weekend.

Wheat is not the only grain to store. Oats, barley, corn and rice are also important. All require proper storage to keep them in prime condition but all are inexpensive in bulk. For the cost of a one of those exercise bikes that are generally used to hang coats on after the first few week, you can supply a small family with a year’s worth of many grains.

I have to make a confession about beans. I love them and use a lot in my everyday cooking but I am always forgetting to soak them the night before. I often end up going to my cans of beans when it’s 5:00 and everybody is hungry. I know I could save money if I just got better organized. I think the only option for me is to dedicate a day to cooking and canning beans myself. If you don’t rotate your dried beans you may well end up with insect problems. They also require longer cooking as they get older. If you end up with dried beans you aren’t eating you can grind them and add to flour for a nutritional boost or make into a soup base.

When storing grains and legumes, don’t forget the add-ons like yeast, sweetners and spices. Plain beans are about as bland as a food can be although I should add that my girls will eat a whole can of rinsed, drained garbanzo beans as a snack. Spices can be stored for longer than you might think if stored in an air-tight container and away from moisture, light and heat. I put spice mixes in vacuumed sealed mason jars and have always been satisfied with the potency.

I made a breakfast for the girls last week of 1 cups of rice simmered in 2 cups of milk. I added some raisins and honey and they loved it.

Maybe I should have called this the problem of the meat. Americans eat a lot of it. It isn’t good for our bodies or our pocketbooks.  From the standpoint of managing you personal food supply and preparedness it is also the most expensive thing to purchase and the trickiest to store. I have a huge freezer and we are raising our own pigs but what do we do if the power goes out for a length of time. We would probably manage for a couple of days but the power was out in our town for 11 days last December. That was a disaster for some people, especially if they didn’t have insurance to cover the loss of food. We have been tossing ideas back and forth for months and have finally decided to buy a generator. We heat with propane and have a large tank. If we get a second tank and get it filled in the early winter, we will have enough to power a generator for quite a while. If a real disaster happened and we could see the power not being restored for a longer period, the generator would keep things running while we processed the meat and other food from the freezer. I have two pressure canners and if I ran both at full capacity I could put up 84 quarts a day until the freezer was empty. I could also run  the dehydrator for the veges in the big freezer.

If you plan on storing canned meat for preparedness you have several options. There is quite a variety to chose from. Canned ham, chicken and seafood like crab, salmon and tuna are all good options. I store all of these. If I have one complaint it is that a lot of people store these things but then don’t eat and rotate them. Canned meat does not last forever. You need to be making the committment to learn at least two recipes for each of the canned meats you store and eat them on a regular basis.

Another tactic everyone should know is how to make complete proteins from grains and legumes, dairy and grains and seeds and legumes. This blog is not long enough to provide a set of recipes but there  are many good vegetarian cookbooks out there that will do the work for you. There are so many benefits to eating meatless meals a couple of times a week. So many of the ingredients store well and all are generally a lot less expensive than a T-bone steak. The health benefits are priceless. My husband was a real meat and potatoes guy when we got married but he has learned to love a lot of our meatless meals. Tonight I finally made the flat bread pizzas topped with carmelized onions, shiitake mushrooms and feta cheese. I sauted the vegetables in tamari and balsamic vinegar. It was a fabulous dinner, especially as I made a peach crisp for dessert. Corn chowder has become a favorite cold weather meal. I add some chopped kale and it makes a gorgeous presentation. We are fond of chowders in general. We also like soups with home made bread or rolls. I put up a tomato sauce that is filled with all kinds of vegetables. I add black beans and serve it over rice. This has also become a family favorite.

There are a lot of other protein sources that should not be overlooked. Nut butters, cheeses and eggs are all good choices. I should also add that a small amount of meat goes a long way when added to something like beans. i guess the final thing to say is that you and your family will be well served to make play a supporting role in the family diet rather than the main character.

This may turn into one week-long post as the subject is critical in my opinion and the vast majority of the developed world does not recognize the fact. We still treat the supermarkets as an unending supply of both wants and needs and many have not come to grips with just how fragile the system is. Suppose we do have a flu epidemic this winter? What if 80% of the workforce calls in sick? What if you drive to the market and find it is closed do lack of employees? I know I am mostly preaching to the choir here as readers of blogs like this are generally among the better prepared but what happens when your sister or your next-door neighbor calls and asks for enough groceries to see them through? Do yo still have enough? It is better to know sooner rather than later what your response is going to be.

I have been looking at my supplies in terms of categories and meals. Today I will begin with fluids. Fluids include everything you will drink, milk, juice, coffee, tea, water and any other beverage that matters to you. I went to look over my stored water and found that, after less than six months in storage, two of my gallons of water had leaked.  They must have been small leaks because there was never an obvious puddle of water. The jugs are just empty and the wood shelf they were sitting on is discolored. Purchased water in plastic jugs should not be used for long term storage. If you plan to store water get a bunch of 2 liter soda bottles or heavy juice bottles, clean them very well, fill with tap water, add a couple of drops of bleach and store them in a dark place. Cheap and efficient. I am taking the plunge this month and buying a good quality water filter. I keep saying I am going to but I put it off because i live in such a water rich location. Even so, surface water needs to be treated and boiling it, while efficient, uses up a lot of fuel just when fuel may be in short supply.

After water, milk is often what families with pregnant women or children look at. I get my milk in #10 cans from Provident Pantry. The milk is tasty and my kids actually like it. I do not recommend buying milk in cardboard boxes for storage. It tastes terrible and there is no way be sure of its age. I have tried to make yogurt and cheese from store bought powdered milk with no success. Go for the good stuff or do without. I do not buy shelf-stable milk either. It too tastes terrible and it has been irradiated and I just have a hard time thinking of it as real food. I do buy some canned milk. It has its uses, especially in cooking if diluted 1:1 with water and substituted for whole milk.

We probably drink a lot more juice than we should but juice too has its uses in the emergency diet. It supplies necessary calories and can disguise the flat taste of stored water. It also supplies vitamin C which is an important vitamin to have, especially if one is ill. I store several kinds of juice. I but 1/2 gallon or gallon jugs when they are on sale. The drawback is that they are bulky and heavy. The plastic jugs are also an environmental disaster.  I rarely throw one out as I can use them to store water. I am at a place where I am doing everything I can to avoid using plastics so I may have to refrain from buying any more jug juice regardless of the price. I do buy cans of juice concentrate. These take up much less space in storage but they do require enough water to reconstitute properly.  i generally add one more can of water than is called for. My kids don’t notice and I am saving calories and money. When I was a kid, oranges were a treat. We drank Tang, just like the astronauts did. I found some at the market and brought it home to try. It was just as sweet and disgusting as I remembered. Surprisingly, my kids did not mind it. They are dreadful little food snobs and will rarely consume something so clearly artificial. I now keep a couple of jars on hand but it is something I would only drink if I really needed the vitamin C. I keep some lemonade mix around too. It is more of a moral builder than anything else. it would take a better marketer than I to convince anyone the stuff was food.

I like coffee but as I drink it with cream and sugar I know I should stop. I keep a couple of pounds of good coffee in storage along with some freeze dried stuff. I have enough on hand to provide a coffee addict with a cup a day for two years. It takes up less space than you might think and again, it is a moral booster only. I store a lot of tea, both herbal, black and green. In a vacuum sealed jar it holds up well. I grow mint and lemon balm, dry it and store it for my winter drink. I bought some little muslin reusable tea bags but it was a silly spend. I could have made them from scraps in about a minute.

I make wine and brandy but I also buy wine when I find a good sale. It stores well, is a good barter item and can go a long way towards making a dinner a bit more festive. Even if I did not drink I would consider keeping a bottle of whiskey on hand for medicinal purposes

A week from Saturday, I am doing a food preservation class for the Northeast Organic Farmer’s Association. I hope people show up. I have had a lot of interest but people are waiting until the last minute to sign up. Ten is a good number to work with. It is enough to get some good energy but not so  many that anyone gets left out. I am going to be waiting until Saturday morning to decide what I will be preserving as I want to use produce from my garden. I know I will have beets to pickle, carrots to pressure can, blueberries to make into jam to water bath can and kale to dry. That will be enough although I am thinking about canning some chicken. I think people will be surprised at how easy it is and how handy to have canned meat at your fingertips. I am going to concentrate on the fundamentals of preservation; sanitation, produce selection, safety and organization. I want to show a lot of equipment and resources and get participants comfortable with the processes. I am toying with the idea showing off my new cold cellar but I don’t know about marching a bunch of strangers past my food storage. Everyone who knows me know I prepare but the reality of my basement is something else. I am thinking I will keep my house off limits.

The cold cellar looks great. Bruce and I are going to put in the ceiling and work on the ventilation today. We have to drop a vent pipe from the window to the floor to ensure a chilled air flow. Bruce is getting fancy on me. I had though we would just put the produce in baskets but he is building dedicated bins so nothing will be in layers. It will make keeping track of spoilage a lot easier. One bad apple will spoil the whole bunch.

It is certainly possible to prepare without preserving your own food but it would be a lot more expensive and nowhere near as much fun. I was thinking about my peppers. I use a lot of peppers. I had 12 plants that I started from seed. The seed cost $2.49. The potting soil was probably under a dollar for the amount I used. I reuse plastic pots every year. So for about $3.50 cents I have a year’s worth of organic peppers. I froze 2 gallons, one gallon of plain diced peppers and one gallon of a pepper/onion mix. I have another gallon of dried peppers and I still have another 20 or so peppers big enough to mature before a frost. I used a lot in the sauce I put up too. If I was to buy peppers as I needed them in January they would come from Chili and cost a fortune. If I bought organic one would cost as much as I spent on all I have preserved. The other reality is that I might not use an entire pepper in a meal and the rest could rot before we ate it. Bad household economy all around. I can hear the criticism on my numbers because I don’t include the energy costs of preservation or prorate the cost of equipment. I consider the energy cost to be negligible and as the equipment will be in use for decades I discount that as well. I hope my kids will use the equipment after I am gone.

My Phoebe have some minor surgery on an ingrown toenail yesterday. The bandage fell off in the night and I had to rebandage it this morning. I was so pleased to go to my first aid box and pull out the gauze, surgical tape and antibiotic ointment. I will bet that a lot of people would have to run to the pharmacy to get that king of thing. I did realize that I made a mistake. I removed tubes of ointments from their original boxes and didn’t note the expiration dates on the tubes. I will have to check the usual shelf life and figure out how long this stuff has been stored. There is no way to rotate this stuff in a planned way. Fortunately, this is a fairly inexpensive item to replace.

I went to the market yesterday and only spent $50.00 which is pretty good. I was hoping to do a yearly chart that would track my spending on food ( I wanted to see where we ranked on the USDA table of food expenditures) but you can’t compare apples to oranges. For instance, if I look at my food budget I would have to include seeds but what about the freezer and the rototiller? How do I charge off a box of donated tomatoes or the gift of a crate of cucumbers? Where do vitamins fall? I don’t generally buy toiletries in the market but I do sometimes. They don’t count for the food tally but I don’t have time to go over each receipt and redo the math. I finally decided to forget the whole idea. We eat like kings some of the time, get by on some pretty pedestrian soups other times and I know I spend less than most people.

Last night we had tiny pork chops with boiled potatoes, applesauce, cucumbers in sour cream, beets and home made bread and butter. The only things we could not get locally were the salt, cinnamon, olive oil and sugar. I store all of the above and next year will use a lot more honey than sugar. It is a lovely thing to eat a meal that came mostly from one’s back yard.

I have been trying to catch up on the comments. I hope I have not neglected to welcome any newcomers. I try to comment when I can but on busy days it is all I can do to get them approved. Please know that I read and appreciate every one. I get really excited when they come into my inbox. Reading them is my reward when I come inside for a break.

My Excalibur is going full tilt. I have a bunch of mushrooms and celery drying nicely. Today I am drying corn. Bruce is working hard on the cold cellar. We need to do some rearranging to make better use of the basement space but it means emptying out this huge pantry cabinet full of home canned food. What a chore that will be! I think Bruce was surprised by how much food I put up.

We visited friends last night who are selling their house. We were checking out the basement and I was a bit taken aback by how much food they have. Moving my one pantry will be a breeze compared to moving that basement full of food. I have been in markets that were not as well stocked. I have gotten a few emails recently asking my about what I think will happen and how long I prepare for. As for the first question-I have no idea. I am no economist. I do look at what is happening on the economic front and I know it can’t be good. Common sense tells me this but as to inflation, deflation, stagflation, I think it’s anybody’s guess. I just don’t see how printing money on a whim is a good idea and I know my home could not run on debt. On the flu front, again, who really knows. This whole flu season could turn out to be a lot of sore throats and fevers and pass into Y2K history. On the other hand, a totally new virus could emerge tomorrow. Terrorism and nuclear accidents, grid collapse or EMP attack, maybe today, maybe never. I don’t spend too much time worrying about any of them. I prefer to take the example of my grandparents. They were too busy working to worry about what could happen and with a full panty and a wood stove, it didn’t really matter anyway. As for how long, it depends. My goal is to be prepared for a year but I know that in March, my selection of food would be pretty limited. We would eat but not the way we do in September.

I had a question from Andrea about using rice. I do think a lot of us have things stored that we are unsure about using. The last thing you want to be doing in a crisis is experimenting  with food so now might be the time to begin a weekly night of eating out of storage and concentrating on the things you think might be preparing if the lights go out, especially those things you don’t eat now.

I have always thought of rice as a an exotic. I store it but assumed I could never get it locally. Then, last night, at our sustainability meeting, I was hearing from several people who grew it this year right here in Massachusetts. I know nothing about it but they said it was relatively easy. They are even putting in actual paddies and increasing their planting next year as it did so well. What a boon for us if this works out!

We used to eat a lot of rice when I was little but it was that awful Minute Rice. We also ate Rice-A-Roni which could be called Salt-A-Roni as it is pretty much sodium. Real rice is cheap, healthy and versatile. It stores for a long time unless it is the brown rice. Now I have read that brown rice can be vacuum packed and that it will then store for years but I have no personal experience with it. I keep brown rice in the refrigerator and white rice in six gallon buckets. My kids love rice for breakfast. I cook it in half water/half milk, add some raisins and top it with a bit of butter and maple syrup or brown sugar. Leftover rice is a lunch staple. I usually make twice what we need so I can stir fry some with vegetables and leftover chicken, pork or beef and some soy sauce or tamari. For dinner, one of our favorite meals is cooked rice topped with a chunky tomato sauce and chicken and seasoned with curry. We also like it with beans instead of chicken and red pepper flakes instead of the curry. I can a sauce with a lot of vegetables like summer squash, peppers, onions and garlic just for this dish. It is so easy the girls can put it together with no help. I cook the chicken in the sauce (the crock pot works for this) for a long time so it is really tender. I usually use boneless, skinless thighs so this is a cheap meal too. I like to saute my rice in a bit of olive oil then add chicken, beef or vegetable stock. The grains stay fluffy that way.

Adding rice is a good way to thicken up a watery soup. If I have just a bit leftover I will sometimes add it to a bread dough.  Do you remember porcupine balls? We had them a lot when I was little. It was cooked rice with ground beef and peppers and onions, cooked in tomato sauce. the first time I made it on my own I didn’t cook the rice first. It was pretty bad. The rice just stayed hard. It was like eating gravel. A baby cereal can be made from rice that is well cooked and blended until smooth. I really like a rice custard, thick with eggs and rich milk and baked until the top is browning just a bit.

Rice is prone to getting bugs. The best way to avoid this is to put every bag of rice you buy in the freezer for a couple of days before you put it in your storage buckets. I have no trouble since I started doing this.

Short post today. My Phoebe is still sick and I need to go tend to her as I hear her stirring. I want to extend a warm welcome to all of our new readers. Please jump in with your own recipes and ideas for using the food we grow and store. I read all of the comments and post back when I can.