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.

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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

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.

My mother was a gentle southern Babtist school teacher from Texas who would not have cussed if her hair was on fire. She never gossiped or shirked her duty. She was a sterling character in every way. Her one vice, her curse was her propensity for what we children called her Webb Fits, Webb being her maiden name. They could overtake her at any time, day or night, pulling us all into a cleaning frenzy. She could decide it was her bathroom that was a veritable laboratory of filth and desease or maybe a closet that was in need of a complete reorganization but it was generally the kitchen that bore the brunt of her ocd need to clean and clean now. I wish I could say that the curse died with her but alas, it did not. I too carry the Webb gene and it pops up at the oddest times, fueled by who knows what and clean I must. I got taken by a Webb Fit last night at 8:00. I had to rearrange my upstairs bulkfood storage and, not satified with that, was compelled to hit the kitchen and clean the cabinets there as well.

Now I know you will find this hard to believe but there are people in the world who, after getting groceries, do not remove everything from the original packaging and repackage all of it in mason jars or labeled, food storage containiers. I know, I know, you have probably heard rumors but did dot believe such things really happened but I have acually seen with my own eyes, people pour cereal FROM THE ORIGINAL BOX into their bowl. Ah well. To each their own.

If you have ever been infested with grain moths, mealy worms, mice or (double, triple YUK) rats, you will understand my compulsion to keep them out of my kitchen. If you store food, this matters in a major way as one box of infested rice can lead to a kitchen full of food headed to the compost in very short order. It pays to take the time after each and every buying trip to take the steps to keep your food vermin free. (Isn’t vermin a great word? It’s so disgusting.)

I do remove all food packed in cardboard from it’s original box and repack in glass or plastic. If you have a mouse or rat problem, go with the glass. I have seen rats chew right through heavy plastic. Any food that comes in contact with rodents must be tossed.  If a rodent has been in a food space, wash the area fully with hot soapy water as rodents carry Hanta Virus as well as the fleas the cause plague. It is not enough to pick the droppings up with a damp cloth. You need to remove everything from the space and clean it. If you find an entry hole, plug it with steel wool which rodents will not chew through. I store mouse and rat traps in my preparedness supplies. The old fashioned kind are best for the my money. We got a multi-mouse trap for a garage once. We had stored our dog food out there and it was like fast food for critters. We were catching a 1/2 dozen mice a night with thing.

I like to use Mason jars for stoing most of my food. It keeps plastic out of the food chain, it’s impervious to moisture and pests and it looks neat. It also is one more way to reuse jar lids. I can now vacuum  seal the jars and food stays fresh a lot longer.

I know that some people would just heat food in an oven if they find a weevil infestation and use it anyway but I can’t. I get rid of it ASAP. This is my first year with pigs but I used to feed infested food to my chickens. They love the little buggys. You can use the dry ice method of treating, just as you would for long term storage but the little creatures are still there. I know there are probably lots of nasty things in my food. Please, PLEASE!!!! Do not post and tell me about them. I am my mother’s child and I would have to clean again today. The fair starts today and I just don’t have time.

I am sitting here with store flyers and my food inventory trying to determine exactly where to put my long term storage food dollars. After cleaning the cellar and rearranging my stored food it is clear I need to shop today. We have gone through an amazing amount of food. If I am having this much trouble with many years of experience under my belt, I can imagine how someone new to the idea feels. Overwhelmed I’ll bet. I started gradually, as the fragility of our systems, economic, environment, biological and food based became more and more clear to me but many today are feeling as though they don’t have time to go slowly and I tend to agree.

I like the idea of having a meal plan for a few weeks worth of food that can be prepared with the fuel source you will have available to you. After that, you can look longer term. I would start with grains. They are cheap, easy to store, easy to prepare and familiar. You will need a grain grinder if you store wheat and you can’t go from a diet where you never use it to whole wheat several times a day without serious digestive issues so begin eating it now. Otherwise, just store flour. It is far less nutritious and more expensive but there is no point in buying 500 pounds of wheat that you can’t prepare. Rice and oats are good first choices. Corn will need to be ground into meal too.

Sugar and salt are basics and you will need more than you think. The same with vinegar and oils. make sure to rotate the oils. I store several cans of shortening although I can’t remember the last time I used it. That is one of those non foods that will do in an emergency but otherwise, YUK! Soon I will have real lard. It’s still pure fat but at least it’s real food.

Fruits and vegetables are next. I love the dried stuff. I can a lot and I also freeze a lot. I store a ton of extra canning jars and if the power went out, I would fire up the cooker and can around the clock to reuse what I could. The quality would be impacted and I would only do this in a true emergency. If you have no other option look  for the best sales you can find and stock up on canned supplies. Canned tomato sauce is a versatile food. If you don’t can it then by all means buy a lot when it goes on sale. I can get a national brand right now for $.99 a jar and I have bunch of $.20 cent off coupons. I am going to get a couple of cases. If I don’t eat it. it makes a good charity item for food pantry collections. Powdered milk and instant potatoes have a place in food storage. I like the good quality milk in the #10 cans.

You probably have a lot of baking supplies in your pantry. Make a list of the ones you use most often and stok up today. They are fairly cheap and have a long shelf life. Baking powder, baking soda, spices and flavorings are good places to start.

This is a jumping off place for beginners. I wrote this post in part for my daughters who are just getting serious about preparedness. I know most of you are further than this but it doesn’t hurt to have a post you can send on to others who are not yet on the path. Maybe you will encourage someone to take action today that will serve them well down the road.

I got up early yesterday, planted some seeds for the fall garden, then got busy pulling all my onions and preparing the bed for next year. Bruce and I took a look at the corn and it hit  us at the same time. We need to get the new freezer! Right now as in we should have done this weeks ago.

I don’t care for canning corn. It takes a really long time and the result are only acceptable. Without electricity, I would but I have electricity so I don’t. I dry some and it actually tastes a lot better that way but again, it takes a lot of time and space and the corn all seems to be ready at once. Well, three at onces. We plant three varieties and have it over a long season but we have a lot in each season. The pigs will be ready soon too. I got on line and did the research to find the model I want and made some calls to find out who had one and would deliver within the next day or two.

We settled on the 24 cubic foot Kenmore. It’s huge and expensive but it has some features I wanted. It’s Energy Star and actually uses less power than some of the smaller models, has a quick freeze option so I can freeze large amounts at once and has a pop out lock and lighted interior.

This will give me three freezers. The one on the top of the refrigerator, the small upright in the mud room and now the huge chest in the basement. Bruce and I rearranged the food storage and he built a small freezer room yesterday. He framed in three walls and a floor and painted them up. The walls and flooring are insulated now and they will protect the freezer from some of the basement moisture. Eventually, the whole basement will be sealed from moisture and insulated but we won’t get to that until winter.

This whole project, as tough as it was on back, served the very useful purpose of making me take stock of my inventory. I went through a lot of food last year! I need to do a big shop this week and fill in around the edges. I have very little left in the way of canned juices and nearly no pineapple, the only canned fruit I purchase other than mandarin oranges when the are on sale. I got rid of some canned food that we are not going to eat like outdated green beans. The reason they were outdated is because nobody here can stand canned green beans. The pigs got those.

The other thing I did since I was down there and cleaning anyway was to rearrange my canning supplies. I had way more rings than I will ever need as I remove them as soon as the jars cool. A lot were rusty too. I took a rubber band and a paper clip and made a kind of bungee cord that I slipped through canning rings in groups of seven (a full canner load). I did this for 6 sets of large and small rings. I put these and all of my canning equipment like jar lifters and funnels in one 6 gallon bucket with a gamma seal and twist off lid. Now I have everything I need in one place and none of it is cluttering up my kitchen drawers. It will stay clean in the bucket and I can stop searching for a good lid in a bag with hundreds of  lids. I love getting organized. Systems are our friends.

I will do a whole post on this later this week but Bruce questioned the number of jars I have. I see his point as there are many extra but here is my reasoning. I pick up jars at tag sales and occasionally when I get to the market. They don’t deteriorate, I have the space and they are one thing I would really need if the grid ever collapsed. I could set up an outdoor kitchen and can all of the meat and frozen vegetables. We would have to work round the clock and use both pressure canners and it would take days but we could do it. If I ended up with some of kids at home, we would have to enlarge the gardens and can a lot more produce as a matter of course. Jars are alos a great barter item. I keep a couple of new boxes on hand and donate one to the occasional raffle along with a copy of my book. I am also trying to rid myself of most of the plastic in my house. Now that I have the space, I will be freezing many vegetables and fruit in jars. I will be able to reuse the lids and extract the air with my my food saver. This will save the money I would have spent on plastic bags and keep those bags out of the landfill. Win, win.