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.

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 spent the whole day yesterday preserving food. I made 24 pints of bread and butter pickles, started some sauerkraut and froze what I think will be the end of the broccoli. I gave some jars of the things I have put up to friends; Heather and Tom got some applesauce, pickles and tomato sauce and so did Sheri and Barbara. I love swapping preservedfood. You never know when you are going to receive a treasure from someone that will turn into a family favorite. Sheri gave me some Bulgarian yogurt starter so I know what I am doing today. I want to make cheese too as I am anxious to try some lacto fermentation with the whey.

Today looks to be another winner weather wise and it is time to pull out more spuds and get the cured ones in the basement. This is time of the year we eat potatoes and onions every day. Our favorite way to cook them is together. I saute a lot of onion and some minced garlic in olive oil then add cut up potatoes. If the are taking a while to soften, something that often happens with new spuds, I may add a bit of water. My girls are big fans of caramelized onions. They can hardly believe it when they hear other kids say they don’t care for them. I will sometimes put a bunched of slivered onions in the crock pot with some butter and olive oil, start on high until it gets simmering, switch to low and leave it overnight. The onions are beautifully caramelized the next day and make the most remarkable onion soup, especially if you use three or four different varieties of onions. This is another good pantry meal as all of the ingredients are just sitting there. I use a beef consume base and pour the soup over slices of toasted French bread and top with whatever cheese I have around. Gruyere is our favorite. I have some leftover potatoes from dinner so breakfast is going to be potatoes and eggs.

I am hoping to get more corn picked today. One of the wonderful things about eating in season is that I get to feast on something until I am sick of it. You know fall is here when the idea of corn on the cob is no longer exciting. I am craving salad again just as the new plants for the green house are poking up. All of the green house starts look good. I am anxious to get them planted but I have one lone cantelope taking up space in there like the mean, rich uncle no one likes. You hate to kick him out because the rewards are so immense but one has to question weather it’s worth the bother.

I just got a new book (I’m generally frugal but books are my weak spot). Fresh Food From Small Spaces is so much fun! I have large spaces but there is so much information about indoor gardening that it is still useful.

My grandson is being baptised in Pennsylvania at the end of the month. We are thinking we should take the girls out of school for a few days and visit the Dutch country while we are there. These are the times I miss home schooling. I will need to ask permission to take my children out of school and it could be denied. It won’t be but I find it hard to believe that I could be fined for not sending my kids to school for a few days for a family trip that will be educational as well as fun. I occasionally make noises about home schooling again but I must confess that being home with no kids for the first time in 34 years is really fun. I can get an amazing amount accomplished and I do enjoy getting to be a grown up for these 6 hours a day. When my kids are home I always have an ear cocked and an eye peeled. My mind can never be fully engaged elsewhere.

For all who have asked about Phoebe Jean-she is much better. She had no fever last night and didn’t cough much. I am keeping her home today as I know there is a tummy bug going around too and I don’t want her exposed to anything else while still recovering. With the Monday holiday, she will have a change to recoup before going back to school. My Phoebe is a sleeper. She can go to bed at 8:00 and sleep until 9:00 the next morning. I am glad not to have to rouse her today. I just checked her and she looks like an angel. I sometimes sit next to her bed and watch her sleep. In the quiet of her room, the sight of her flushed cheeks and the steady rythym of her breath are like a meditation. I can sometimes not believe my luck, that I should have been given the opportunity to parent these particular children at just the time they needed families. I does make one question fate and what is meant to be. I know there are many who would question our decision to adopt a child with special needs, especially at this stage of our lives. I will never forget what Bruce said the first time he saw Phoebe. She was a funny looking little thing, not even able to hold up head at 7 months old. She was wheezing and smelly and clearly atypical but she smiled up at Bruce and he melted. “I do believe the God has dropped and angel on our doorstep”  We have cared for dozens of healthy, beautiful, bright babies over our years as foster parents but we were able to say goodby to most and feel good about what we had given them and where they were going but Phoebe was different. Phoebe was ours.

The Wicked Witch of the West could not have been more evil than the forces that are out to get our gardens this year. I went to get some potatoes yesterday and a good many did not hold up to storage. Then Bruce went to check the Delcata Squash and found that some #%^@#*(%rodent, rabbit or woodchuck probably, had taken one bite of each. One bite! We think they will heal but today I have to go out and get some thigh high panty hose to protect the rest. Here’s the question. Does it make sense to spend more money on the hose than the squash is worth? Of course not. Am I still going to do it anyway? Naturally. I can keep the panty hose about indefinitely and I will learn whether or not an injured squash will recover.  Next year we will protect them as soon as they emerge. I had saved some tomatoes that looked okay and set them to ripen on the window sill. Every one developed blight and hit the garbage pail yesterday.

I stopped in the market yesterday to refill my canned pumpkin supplies. We eat a lot of canned pumpkin and, as we are not going to have any pumpkins this year (the kids are going to have to paint faces on old soccer balls for Halloween I guess) I thought I should have lots of Libbys on hand. Wrong. Seems like I am not the only one with a failed crop. There were six cans on the shelves and the grocery manager said he had heard they might not get any more for a while because of the crop failure. Yikes! I guess I will have to work on a recipe for carrot bread.

I did have some good news about my canner. I called Lehman’s and they are sending out a new one right away, along with a shipping label so I can return the damaged one. Their service is so good. There prices are a bit higher but you can count on the quality.

Have any of you found your state’s prepper network. You can google it. I am anxious to hook up with mine. I would really like to find a group that meets a couple of times a year for a day of skill building and connection. I am supposed to meet up with some folks from the Massachusetts Preppers Network soon. I am looking forward to it as long as I have the time to pull from garden work.

Now that I have a good idea about what to expect to put up from my garden (great, heaving sigh) I am working on my updated inventory and shopping list. I also put together a list for my un-prepped sister about how to begin a food storage program. I am getting the distinct impression that she did not read a certain book that one would have assumed she has sitting on her bookshelf.

Okay. I know it’s silly but I do like to come up with clever names for my blog titles but some days it’s a challenge. Yesterday was one of those good days, bad days in my preparedness life. First the good news.

The good news. I put up 7 jars of pickles. The bad news. I had one and they are sour. They are supposed to be bread and butter but these were just not sweet. Not such a tragedy. They will still taste great on a burger.

The good news. I put up 14 jars of spaghetti sauce. The bad news. My canner top is warped! I can’t get it to close properly. I still have my old canner but I need this one for the canning workshop I am teaching on the 17th of September.

The good news. My friend, the peak shrink came over to pick up the jars for my milk.  The bad news. I had to feed a gallon of regular, store bought milk to the pigs because my kids like the raw stuff so much that they left the store stuff and it was going bad. My DH bought it without knowing I had a milk delivery scheduled. I can buy farm direct milk for $2.50 a gallon. The store sells processed milk for well over $5.00 a gallon. It is a sin what is happening to our milk farmers. In the coming hard times, that sill be something that changes.

The good news. After dinner, I was hot and cranky. I had literally stood over a hot stove all day so Bruce suggested we go hiking at a forest preserve not far fro our home. We came home with a gallon of blueberries and a sack of mushrooms. The bad news. There is no bad news. I am munching a blueberry muffin right now and the rest are in the freezer and tomorrow night we will have my kid’s favorite meal-homemade pasta with mushroom wine sauce.

It is supposed to be really hot this week. I do so hope that some of my garden will come along. As it stands now, the melons aren’t happening, with the exception of the delecata, the winter squash is worse and I have little hope for pumpkins. Lat year we harvested 30 pumpkins, this year, I think we will lucky to get one. This has made me look at my cellar with a very critical eye, especially with so many looming crisis ahead. I developed a shopping list to fill in the cracks that are usually supplied by my garden. Canned pumpkin is a terrific food for storage. It is loaded with important vitamin A and makes a wonderful bread that is a meal in itself with added raisins and walnuts.

I have some wonderful friends. We have a bunch of plans for the coming months. We are planning a cheese fest a couple of times a month. We all use raw milk and are busy learning all we can about turning it into cheese. I happen to live a couple of miles fro the Cheese Queen, Ricki Carroll, the author of Home Cheese Making. I asked Bruce if he would make me a cheese press as this is necessary for making hard cheeses. A good hard cheese will last just about forever, especially when waxed. We also plan to get into wine making in a very big way. We will do some foraging as long as the weather holds and do as much cooperatively as we can.

When it comes to being prepared, goodfriends are worth everything. I mentioned in a post that I was looking for stewing hens that I can afford. My friend, Kathy, called and said she was getting some chicks delivered and would raise 10 for me at cost. How to you count the value of friends like that? You can’t. You can only be grateful. The good news.