Posts Tagged ‘Food Storage’

In my prior two posts about food storage I addressed the basics (Food Storage Getting Started, Food Storage Beyond the Basics).  I’d recommend reading them if you haven’t already.

As a refresher…  The easiest way to get started with your food storage is to just buy a little extra of what you already eat every time you go grocery shopping.  Start with getting a weeks worth of food, then a month.  Next I would recommend getting bulk food stuffs like rice, beans, flour, and sugar.  Once you have a nice stock pile you’ll want to do a few things to make sure it lasts as long as possible.  It would be pretty sad to break into your food storage during an emergency to find it inedible or even dangerous to eat.

Lets dig a little deeper.  First, let’s discuss the threats to your food storage.

The Elements of Food Storage Destruction

Air – Oxygen is one of the main culprits here.  Oxygen causes oxidation which degrades food, causes it to go bad, and alters taste.  Oxygen also allows for the growth of microorganisms which can spoil food as well as make it dangerous to eat. Oxygen absorbers and nitrogen flushing are ways to combat this.  A vacuum sealer is specifically designed for this problem.  It removes most of the air in the bag.  I reiterate the word most because it does not remove all air.  It is therefore not quite as good as some other methods.

  • Botulinum toxin is the exception to this rule.  Anyone who has food storage should be aware of this.  This is a bacteria that grows in environments that lack oxygen, like canned foods.  The tell-tale sign is a bulging can.  Don’t even taste the food, even this miniscule amount can be lethal.

Water – Most of the time this is going to be moisture in the air (humidity) which is omnipresent.  Removing moisture and then storing food in air-tight containers helps avoid this.  Frank water intrusion is a reality as well.  If you store your flour, sugar, salt, etc in the original paper packaging it can quickly be ruined by a basement flood, fire sprinkler, or even a broken water container.  Store your food in water-proof, air-tight containers.  Dry goods like flour, salt, sugar all like to absorb water out of the air so you have to limit air exposure.

Light – Degrades food, nutrients, and vitamins.  Think about what the sun does to anything you leave outside.  It bleaches and fades everything overtime.  Your food storage is the same.  Dark is good.  Opaque storage materials like metal cans and mylar bags are good for this.

Temperature – in general cooler is going to be better.  Heat speeds up the degradation of nutrients.  Stability is important too, you want to avoid a lot of change in temperature.  Storage sheds, attics and garages are going to vary more than inside your house.  Basements are usually good choices as they are stable and cool.  A good example of this is MREs which have been extensively studied regarding temperature degradation.

MRE Shelf Life Chart

Pests – anything else that wants to eat your food!  Rats, mice, raccoons, insects, hungry teenagers… Part of this depends on where you live.  One example is weevils.  Their eggs are almost universally found in flour.  Don’t believe me.  Put some flour in a container and leave it for… a while.  At some point you will either see bugs in the flour or little trails and tracks all over the flour.  Rodents are a particular problem as they can chew through most containers.  Metal cans are effective at keeping them out.  Teenagers are very crafty, good luck keeping them out of your food.

Time – even if you manage to avoid all of the factors above time will degrade your food storage.  Under ideal conditions some things will last 30 years.  Commercially available freeze-dried foods often advertise 25-30 years.  There are a few things that can last almost indefinitely honey, sugar, and salt.  The take home here is that even under ideal circumstances your food has a “shelf-life.”  Part of this is due to the fact that you cannot completely remove or isolate your food from the above elements.  Nature abhors a vacuum for you science nerds.

Protection from the Elements of Food Storage Destruction

There are a lot of methods to protect your food.  Ziplock bags and Tupperware style containers are a couple widely available options.  These are better than nothing but will likely only add a couple of months.  Below are a few ways you can really kick things up a notch.  One thing to note is that as time goes by and food degrades it doesn’t necessarily expire or “go bad”.  Things are often still edible and nutritious but the taste and quality may not be as good.
DSC00114

Vacuum sealing – this uses a heavy-duty plastic bag and small countertop device that uses a vacuum to remove most of the air.  I have this vacuum sealer, I got it at Sam’s for cheaper with some accessories and bags.  It works fine.  I bought an accessory that allows you to seal cans.  The bag of macaroni noodles below is sealed by this method.  You can see how tight the plastic conforms to the individual noodles.  There is very little air in the bag = longer storage life.  The bag is actually quite thick and durable as well.  One draw back is that the bag is clear so this does not help much with stopping degradation from light.  Luckily this is stored in a room that is almost always dark.  I used the can accessory to vacuum seal some M&Ms in a jar.  The noodles to the right came in a box that really did very little to stop or even limit DSC00115any of the above destroyers.  The noodles would have likely lasted six months.  Vacuum sealed they will last much longer.  Food saver says two years.
You could add an oxygen absorber to either of these and help remove even more oxygen and extend the shelf-life further.

Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers –   this is a tried and true prepper food storage staple.  Mylar bags are thick, durable

DSC00113and metalized so they block light.  Think of it as an improved version of the above bag.  Oxygen absorbers are little packets that… you guessed it, absorb oxygen!  Well not exactly from a pure chemistry standpoint, but I won’t bore you with the details.  Take the mylar bag, add food, add the appropriate amount of oxygen absorbers, remove as much air as possible, seal bag (the bag melts to itself with heat, like an iron).  You’ll notice later that the bag sucks in on itself after a period of time due to the oxygen absorber doing its job.

One limitation of bags over jars or cans is that they are easier for animals to get into, rodents can chew threw them.

DSC00117

Mylar in buckets –  you can take something like the above (beans in mylar bag) and then put it in a bucket.  This should protect it even further.  I am not aware of rodents eating through plastic buckets (I am sure they can with enough time and motivation).  Many companies like Emergency Essentials will do this process for you.  To the right is a 5 gallon bucket filled with rice in a mylar bag that I did myself.  It is cheaper to do it yourself, but obviously requires the time, materials and know-how.  This picture also features the Gamma-Lid.  This product is an absolute must have!  This may be the best tip I have ever given you… seriously…  As you can see it turns your bucket into a screw top and is 1000 times easier to use that the traditional bucket lid.  Seriously, 1000x easier, scientifically tested…  Just do yourself a favor and buy some.  They also come in a variety of colors which you can use to color code your food.  Like here, white is for rice.  Red is for wheat, etc.

Canning – your grandmother’s (and yours DSC00112if you’re smart!) classic method of preservation.  It uses heat and an air-tight container to create a vacuum (incompatible for little baddies to live in).  Canning usually involves boiling the food in a jar which kills bacteria as well.  This process is pasteurization.  The discoverers of this process noticed that if you boiled beer or wine it would last a lot longer.  They were killing off the bacteria that would eventually cause spoilage.  All commercially available milk is required to go through this process.  This principle is useful for preppers to know and understand!  To the right are spiced apples that my wife canned.  Foods can last 4-5 years (and more) via this method.  The jars also keep out rodents.  They are heavier, bulkier, and more fragile compared to bags.  They are also quite a bit more expensive.  This process takes a bit of experience and equipment.  I would recommend finding a friend to mentor you.

Canning with cans – Well, there is canning and then there is… canning.  I know, confusing…  Metal cans are a great DSC00116storage option.  It requires a canning machine if you are going to do it yourself.  Or there are the really nice companies that will gladly do it for you… for a nominal fee of course.  #10 cans are very popular in the food storage world.  This is basically a mylar bag on steroids.  These are very durable and with the aid of something to remove oxygen can make your food last decades.  The picture at the left shows a #10 can of hot chocolate mix (which fyi does not store very long even under perfect conditions (couple years). This brings up the point that even under ideal conditions some things just do not store well (usually due to oil and fat content, as in the hot chocolate).  Freeze dried foods (process removes water, one of the major destroyers) are often stored in cans with an oxygen absorber.  Some companies use a process called nitrogen flushing to remove oxygen.  As you can see a can like this really hits all of the major destroyers.  This is how you hit the 30 year mark.  Some great companies are Wise, Mountain House, Thrive, Augason Farms, and Nitropak.  I have tried most of them.  I usually buy Mountain House because it is good quality and usually the best prices.  Companies like Thrive are great for odder items like blackberries, mangoes, and monterrey jack cheese.  The other companies will likely have one cheese option, cheddar.

Pickling – as we have learned bacteria don’t like heat or vacuums.  They also dislike acid and high concentrations of salt.  Pickling takes advantage of both of these concepts.  Take a cucumber, add a lot of salt and acid… and presto chango you have pickles.  Pickles will last MUCH longer than a cucumber.  You can pickle lots of things, eggs, beets, okra, and so forth.  Hey, I said you COULD pickle it; I didn’t say you would want to or for that matter that you would want to eat it.

Refrigeration and Freezing – this alone revolutionized the world.  The ability to keep things cool drastically decreased food poisoning and increased the life of foods.  We take this for granted, but it is a modern miracle.  It requires a fair amount of energy.  If you have access to it, use it!  You may not have electricity or very much of it in a disaster situation.  You can freeze things like oil (oil is really hard to store as it goes rancid via… oxidation!).  You can also freeze your heirloom seeds to drastically lengthen their lifespan.  Aside… don’t make the mistake of thinking you can just take the seeds of the apple you bought at the store, plant them and grow an apple tree.  You can’t. The vast majority of things we buy and eat nowadays are genetically modified.  This adds useful things like bug resistance but it almost always has a nasty side effect of making the plant sterile.  You must get heirloom seeds, plants with seeds that begat (getting Biblical here) like plants.  You may find this terribly bizarre and earth shattering but trust me its true.  Try it if you don’t believe me.  A lot of you already know this, but I thought I would throw it in.

Conclusion – You are now armed with the knowledge of the elements of food storage destruction.  Go forth and make your food impervious to these elements of destruction.  In future posts I may get more into the specifics of the actual step-by-step process if there is a demand for it.  Luckily, there is no shortage if information and some really nice videos via a quick Google search.  Keep working on getting your food storage.  Then do everything you can to maximize its shelf life.

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IMG_3792Having a well constructed bug out bag (BOB) is a great addition to your preparedness strategy.  Really, it is one of the cornerstones of preparedness.  These are called many things; 72 kit, Go Bag, Get out of Dodge Bag (GOOD), and so forth.  “A rose by another other name…”  Essentially it is a kit that provides you with your basic needs for 72 hours.  If you have to get away quick, aka “bug out” you grab this on the way out the door.  Disasters like hurricanes, fires, floods, civil unrest, etc can happen suddenly.  You want this kit ready to go at a moments notice.

I highly recommend this book Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag by Creek Stewart.  It is easy to read and more thorough than this post.

Rules of thumb:

  1. Pre-prepared: have this packed and ready, ideally by the door
  2. Portable: Easy to carry.  You may be walking with this thing.  A good packpack works great.  I use an internal frame backpack.
  3. Light-weight: Again you may be carrying this thing for miles, lighter is better.  Try and keep your pack below 25% of your bodyweight.  This is still pretty heavy.  For me this is a 45-50 pound pack.  I wouldn’t want to carry this for 15 miles a day and I have quite a bit of backpacking experience.  If in doubt go with less weight.
  4. Extensive: You want to be prepared for a lot of circumstances and scenarios.  Works against #3.  I would personally rather have a little more weight if it means being more prepared.
  5. Custom: Don’t buy a premade pack.  Buy the right pack for you and fill it up with your needs.  It is a project.  It takes times and effort.  It is not cheap, but your life may depend on it.  Get the best quality you can afford.
  6. Evolve: Your BOB (I shall name you BOB and henceforth you will be known as BOB, and BOB will be your name) should change and evolve as you try new things.  It isn’t just a bag you make, set aside and forget.  Get it out at least once a year and review the contents.  Replace items that expire.  Be one with BOB and he will be one with you.
  7. Everyone: Every adult and teenager needs their own pack.  Children will need to be accounted for in the adult packs.

Essentials: 20 Things to get your started

  1. Pack – I have an REI internal frame backpack.  It holds 65L.  It is my older backpacking rig.  This is a place to spend a bit more money.  Make sure you try them on and get what fits.  They make packs designed for a woman’s body shape as well.  One size does not fit all.  You can easily spend $200-$300 on a pack.  Make sure it has a hip belt.  You want most of the weight on the hips, not the shoulders.  You can use other things to make your BOB but I think a backpack is ideal.
  2. Food – you need 72 hours of food.  Remember that you can survive 3 weeks without food so you don’t need a ton of food.  The longer you go without food your energy levels start to drop.  Mental and physical fatigue set in.  This can be very dangerous in a survival situation and this is why food is essential for your BOB.  You must be awake, alert, and at your best.  I would get one MRE with heater, Survival rations, a freeze dried entree, and assorted snack bars.  This gives you some quick and ready foods.  At least one hot meal (MRE) with no fire.  The survival rations and snack bars are easy and can be eaten on the move.  The FD meal requires fire to heat the water.  Man are these good when you are cold and hungry.
  3. Stove – you need a way to heat water.  You may need this to sterilize water or for cooking.  A backpacking stove works well like the MSR Micro Rocket.  They are dependent on the canisters which is their major drawback.  I like them because they are so simple and reliable.  They don’t work well in very cold temps.  Another more versatile option is a stove that burns liquid fuels like white gas or kerosene, MSR Whisperlite.  I have been using these for years.  They are slightly more complicated and less reliable than the canister stoves but offer added flexibility.  The Esbit Emergency Stove is another great option.  Just light the little fuel cubes and you have a nice little stove.  The military has used these for years.  I like to have one of these in one of the other packs in the family as a backup.
  4. Water – You need 3 liters of water per person, minimum.  More if it is hot and you are working hard.  This is mostly just to drink and prepare food (FD meal).  I like to carry my water in a Nalgene bottle (has measurements), a metal canteen (army canteen works great as well), and a soft collapsable pouch.  They should all be full of water in the pack.
  5. Water purification – I have a Sawyer water filter, Life Straw and Micropur tablets as a back up.
  6. Shelter – a lightweight backpacking tent works well here.  Again, these are pretty pricey.  This shouldn’t weight more than 2-3 pounds per person using it.  Tarps can work as well.  You need one above you and one for ground cover.  You should get backpacking tarps.  Regular old blue tarps from the hardware store are very heavy and bulky, not ideal.  You also need skill and practice with making shelter of a tarps.  Requires cordage, planning, knots, stakes, etc.
  7. Fire – you need multiple ways to make fire.  Water-proof matches, lighter and a striking flint are what I carry.  A cheap Bic lighter will work great.  Using a striking flint is much harder than it looks.  It takes practice.  Practice making fire at home or camping with all of these.  There is an art to making fire and it takes knowledge and practice.  I would also recommend packing some fire starter.  My preferred method is to take cotton balls and soak them with vaseline.  Rub it in really good and smash them down.  Carry a few in ziplock bag.  When needed pull the cotton ball apart and fluff it up again.  The vaseline will cause it to burn for quite a while.  These are cheap, lightweight and reliable fire starters.
  8. Clothes – Hypothermia is the number one outdoor killer.  You need appropriate clothes.  I like at least a long sleeve shirt (wicking – NO COTTON), a fleece for warmth, fleece cap, gloves for all occasions.  It can get cold at night even in the summer.  In the winter you need more clothes.  Layers are always better than a huge bulky jacket.  Layers are actually warmer and more versatile.  You may want to add a heavy fleece or wool sweater.  Wool and synthetic fibers are the best outdoor materials.  Don’t use cotton anything including blue jeans!
  9. Sleeping system – a sleeping bag is probably the simplest option.  They are either synthetic or down.  Down is warmer for the weight, but more expensive.  Synthetics are supposedly a bit warmer if wet.  I can’t say from experience as I try really hard not to get my sleeping bag wet (good shelter).  You need some sort of ground pad, a cheap closed cell foam pad works great.  Inflatable ones work too.  Some experts recommend a heavy wool blanket instead of the sleeping pad as it still works when wet.
  10. Knife – a good knife is an essential part of your bug out bag.  Every bag should have one.  I have tried different configurations.  Currently, I have a Morakniv in each bag.  They are light, cheap and a fixed blade.  I also have at least a folding knife on my person.  A bigger fixed blade knife, like the Becker BK2, would not be a bad idea if you can handle the weight.  A good multi-tool is also hard to deny including.  Check out the multi-tool all-stars post for suggestions.
  11. First Aid Kit – Keep this fairly small and in a waterproof container.  Make your own or customize a premade one.  Adventure Medical Kits make some decent options.
  12. Light – check out the flashlight post for ideas.  I prefer a headlight  (currently this Energizer headlight) and usually have a small back up light.  Carry extra batteries.  Lithium or alkaline, not rechargeable for this application.
  13. Rain gear – A good waterproof, breathable rain jacket is a must.  These can get pricey but are worth it.  At least get a Frogg Toggs poncho if nothing else.  It needs to breath.  Plastic is not a great option, you will get soaked underneath from perspiration.
  14. Gloves – work gloves.  You need gloves to protect your hands from all of the abuse you are going to heap upon them.  Protect your hands and feet!  I like these Mechanix Wear gloves.
  15. Trash bag – get the thickest heaviest-duty trash bags you can.  Typically they are called contractor bags or drum liners.  You can line your pack with this and put everything inside to keep it dry.  This is a great all-purpose item.  It can serve as a ground cloth, shelter, poncho, rain catch, etc.
  16. Duct tape – get good quality tape like Gorilla tape.  The uses are endless.  Wrap it around a pencil, plastic card, or around your Nalgene bottle.
  17. Cordage – I usually carry 550 paracord.  There are other options, just have something.  Again the uses are endless, but it is very helpful for making shelter.  Required if you have a tarp.
  18. Cup – metal so that you can cook and heat water in it.  I have this Toaks titanium cup, super light.  If you are in a group a larger pot is very useful rather than heating things one cup at a time.  Toaks pot and pan would work well.  Make sure to pack things inside the pot and pan which will help protect and keep whatever is inside dry.
  19. Medications – make sure to have a couple weeks of any essential medications (anti-seizure, heart meds, etc) in your bag.
  20. Shoes – You want a good pair of shoes or boots for walking long distances.  You must protect your feet.  These need to be broken in beforehand.  I would just set these beside or tie them to the bag.  Throw them on before you bug out.

The above items should get you started.  These are just suggestions.  Customization is important.  For starters if you just have an old backpack that you put some food, water, a light, a knife, and some extra clothes in you would be better than the majority of the population.  You could probably get this bag together in a day or two.  Then start working on the other things.  Good luck and have fun.  Get to know BOB, he is your friend!

What do you think?  What do you like to have in your bag?

There is a saying in medicine, “When you hear hoofbeats think horses, not zebras.”  In medicine we refer to odd, rare, horsesor interesting diseases as zebras.  They are exotic, rare and a bit funny looking.  We like to talk about these, but rarely actually see them.  This adage reminds us to think of common things first.  Preppers are also guilty of this and often like to prep for zebras.  Zombie Apocalypse anyone?  I mean seriously, that is what you are prepping for?  You would be better focusing on prepping for horses.  What are prepping horses?  Well let me tell you!

*Disclaimer: if the fear of the roving dead gets you jazzed for prepping then I am totally cool with that.  Prepared is prepared.  Its usefulness will translate regardless of the disaster.  I do however think it behooves you to consider the more common pitfalls.

Prepping Horses:

  1. Personal disaster: 
    1. Job loss – most everyone has been affected by this in some way.  This is one of the most likely disasters you will face.  The rule of thumb is it takes 1 month of searching per $10k of yearly salary.  So at $60k you are talking a 6 month job search.  Things could get really tight and difficult during this time.  Oh, that year’s supply of food you have stored away… it’ll come in really handy about now.  I know multiple people who have been in this exact situation.  My parents for one have lived through this scenario and benefited greatly from their food storage.  This is also a great reason to have an emergency fund.  3 months worth of expenses (mortgage, cars, food, utilities, etc) is a good goal.
    2. Death – any loss of a family member is going to have far-reaching implications.  It is going to be disruptive and likely have financial ramifications.  If the bread-winner dies it will morph into the above as well.
    3. Disability – A work related accident, car accident, bike crash, etc, can all lead to long-term disabilities.  Injuries to the back, brain, and limbs can have devastating repercussions.  What if you can’t work anymore?
    4. Health problems – this one can be really pernicious.  One day you may be fine and the next you may get a cancer diagnosis.  Diabetes, stroke, and heart attacks are all very common and have far-reaching effects.  Health problems can affect the young and old.  As you get older these tend to pile up a bit more.  This will affect us all at some point.  You may have to take in and care for an elderly family member or parent.  These things can be financially taxing.
    5. House fire – according to the U.S. Fire Admin there were almost 1.4 million house fires in 2011 with 3,000 deaths.  Fire safety, evacuation plans and drills are all prudent.  A bug out bag by the door is a great idea (obviously, don’t go back for anything!)  Having some food and water stored in other places would also avoid a complete loss of your preps.
  2. Natural disaster:  These are going to be somewhat specific to where you live.  If you live on the coast you will have different disasters to prepare for than if you live in Kansas.  Think critically about your unique situation and how you can prepare for and mitigate these disasters.  They are too broad to cover in detail here.  I have seen a few of these in my life.  Chances are you have too.  Have a plan, evacuation may be necessary.  Being ready to quicklyevacuate may save your life.  Again, a well thought out bug out bag by the door is a prudent idea.
    1. Tornado
    2. Hurricane
    3. Flood
    4. Tsunami
    5. Earthquake
    6. Wild fire
    7. Blizzard
    8. Drought
    9. Heat wave
    10. Thunderstorms/Lightning

The point of this post is to illustrate some of the more common disasters that you might face in your life.  Being prepared will mitigate the effects of these things.  Food/water storage, emergency funds, and bug out bags are all great ways to get prepared for these prepper horses!

As a side note check out the page links at the top of the homepage.  The Gear List and Books pages are full of great items for your consideration.  Also check out the links section to the left for other great websites with useful information.

In my introductory post on food storage I recommended getting extra of the foods you already eat.  If you are completely new to food storage I still recommend starting there.  Once you have a bit extra stored away it is time to go “beyond the basics.”  What do you do next?  Below is a list of tried and true prepper food storage staples.  Let’s make a run to Sam’s Club and load up a cart (imagine whatever warehouse store you want here if Sam’s offends you – it’s just and example…)sams club

  1. Peanut butter – packed with calories and protein.  Plus it tastes great.  Sam’s has 2 packs of large 40 oz Jif.  Grab a couple of these.  They have a 6 pound Peter Pan container as well.  Both are just under $10.  PB is shelf stable for years.  I like to try to rotate it as we use it.  You can also buy PB powder in #10 cans from companies like Emergency Essentials = much longer shelf life.
  2. Pancake mix – grab a 10 pound bag or two for $7.  Nothing beats just add water (this is a simplicity thing, you can obviously just make it as well).  Make sure to grab some syrup as well.  Syrup can also make other things more edible (like oatmeal) as well.  Just picture the movie Elf.
  3. Oats – speaking of oatmeal.  Get quick oats or regular oats, or both!  Good for cooking and breakfast.  Large bags or individual packets.  Both are good.
  4. Flour – grab a 25 pound bag of flour for about $7 as well.  Great for bread, biscuits, tortillas etc.
  5. Sugar – grab a 25 pound bag of sugar as well.  Sugar is nice because it is very shelf stable.  Just keep it from getting wet or absorbing water.  (FYI no oxygen absorbers for this or salt, more on this later)
  6. Salt – get 4 large boxes of food service salt, regular old iodinated stuff.  They are about a buck each so get more if you want.  Too much salt will never be an issue.  (Except in your current american diet, but I digress.)
  7. Baking soda – get the large orange bag, super cheap and already stored very nicely for you $7 for 14 pounds..  Essential for baking.  Good for cleaning as well.
  8. Baking powder – 60 oz for $6.  Essential for baking.
  9. Yeast – get a brick of the instant stuff and toss it in the freezer.  Essential for bread.
  10. Beans – get the biggest bags of whatever beans you like.  Get some variety.
  11. Rice – you want white rice.  Brown rice although more nutritious goes bad much more quickly.  25 pounds – $9.50.
  12. Canned meat – lots of options.  Get all of them.  Canned beef, chicken, tuna, Spam.  Don’t forget the spam!  It is just ham and a bit of pork shoulder all mashed up.  This will serve as your bacon in a pinch.  Drop the loaf of meat out (man that is so wrong…) and cut it real thin like.  Then fry it up until crispy.  We did this last weekend as a family test and guess what?  Everyone ate it!  Even my picky kids and wife.  Try it if you don’t believe me.  The canned meats are quite a bit more expensive than the above stuff but you will be glad you got them.
  13. Oil – the cheapest and easiest route is to get the huge jug of fry oil.  This is essential for baking.  35 pounds for $20.  It comes as a big jug in a box.  Set it aside in a dark corner of your basement.  I am not going to argue with you about how unhealthy this is!  We are talking about survival and starving to death!  You will love it and eat in that situation!  Survival is about calories not so much nutrition.  If you can’t bring yourself to get this then get peanut oil (for much more) or other oil that does not offend you so deeply.  Smaller jugs can be placed in the freezer.  This has the added perk of keeping your meats and stuff colder longer during a power outage (think of it is a cold battery, or block of ice, which it is…)
  14. Soup – nothing like just add heat right?  Or for that matter don’t add heat and pretend it is gazpacho.  Lots of options and varieties here.  Just get what you like and can afford.  Get variety.
  15. Spices – Sam’s is great for this stuff.  Get lots of different spices.  You’ll need this to make things edible and add variety.  Black pepper, red pepper, garlic, etc
  16. Canned fruit – you can get huge #10 cans but I would probably get the packs of smaller cans.  You may not want to eat 60 oz of peaches all in a few days.  Get what you like.  Get some variety.
  17. Canned vegetables – same as above.
  18. Drink mix – you will drink more water if it is flavored, this is science.  May also help get your kids to drink.  We also want the Vitamin C which may become scare (fresh fruit).  If you are working hard surviving the sugar is helpful as well.  Tang is good choice.
  19. Pasta – I prefer macaroni noodles but anything works.  1 pound x 6 packs for $4.
  20. Spaghetti sauce – need something to go on all of those noodles.  You can also get cans of cheese sauce.
  21. Honey – obvious uses.  Interestingly this is one of very few things that has an indefinite shelf life.  It never goes bad.  Makes sense to store it.  Expensive though.
  22. Powdered milk – can make milk or cook with it.  Lots of protein.  4.4 pounds for $15.
  23. Candy – M&Ms, hard candies, etc.  This stuff is very important as a moral booster.  Also good for kids.

Now run over to Home Depot or Lowes.  Get some 5 gallon food grade buckets.  NOT the orange Homer buckets, they are not food grade and can leach chemicals into your food = bad.  Ask if you are not sure.  They are usually labeled as food grade.  Get the appropriate lids.  While you are there grab a rubber mallet for securing the lids.  They also make these handy wrenches for prying the lids off the buckets.

Even better order these Gamma Lids.  They are worth their weight in gold.  They are wonderful for things you get into frequently.  I like to get different colored lids to easily identify the contents.  White for four, yellow for noodles, etc.

In a later post we will get into the specifics of how to store the food to make it last longer.  There are lots of fancy techniques like nitrogen flushing, freeze drying, dehydrating, vacuum sealing, canning, pickling, and oxygen absorbers.  For now I would put the flour, sugar, oats, rice, beans, salt into buckets with lids.  This protects the products from water and a bit from air.  Most of the other stuff is fine in the container it came in.  Next we will get into mylar bags and oxygen absorbers which will make this stuff last even longer.  Use the stuff in the buckets and refill them as needed.

Food Storage – Getting Started

Posted: November 29, 2014 in Food Storage
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Yesterday I talked about the tale of the grasshopper and the ant.  The ant was a perfect example of being prepared by storing food.  So how do you get started with food storage?  It would be great to have a year’s supply of food on hand, but this is quite a large undertaking.  Where should you start?  What should you buy?  Ponder the old adage, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”  You aren’t going to just get a year’s worth of food in one day.  Start with getting 3 days worth of food, then a week, then a month, then 3 months and then a year.  How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time!  How do you store a year’s worth of food?  One day at a time!

The inevitable next question is… what do I store?  Wheat, MREs, freeze dried meals?  While all of these are well and good; I would not recommend starting with them.  They may ultimately play a role in your food storage plan, but let’s forget them for now.  Start simple.  Remember KISS?  Keep it simple stupid.  Just start by buying a little extra of what you already eat.  Next time you are at the grocery store get an extra couple jars of spaghetti sauce and an extra couple bags of spaghetti noodles and set them aside.  (Again, assuming this is what your family eats).  Buy the same brands and everything.  This familiarity will be very welcome in an emergency which is bound to be tense and stressful.

If money is tight (and when isn’t it?) just set aside and extra $5 or $10 a week for food storage.  Do what you can.  Do something, do anything!  Grab a few extra cans of soup, vegetables, and fruit.  Canned goods are a great place to start and are usually pretty cheap.  Canned tuna is a great source of protein if you eat it.  Get canned chicken if that is better.  You get the idea.  Aldi can be a great source for stretching your food storage dollars

The next step is to get some things in buik.  Buying in bulk is cheaper and makes your food storage dollars go futher.  Costco and Sam’s Club are great for this but Walmart will do as well.  Rice is a great prepper staple.  Pair it with beans and you have all of the essential amino acids (protein!).  Again, I would only get this if you already eat it or are at least amenable to eating it.  Make sure you know how to cook rice and beans the old fashioned way.  It isn’t quite as easy as you might think.  Beans take a lot of lead time to cook (days!).  Grab a 20 pound bag of rice and a 20 pound bag of beans (pinto, black, navy, etc).  20 pounds of each of these is a lot of food!

At first start with things that don’t require much to eat.  Things that only have to be heated or cooked with water are ideal.  Rice, beans, noodles, canned soups and vegetables, etc.  Again, keep it simple.

At this point I wouldn’t worry too much about how you store these things, but I would like to mention a couple things.  Light, oxygen, and moisture are the enemy of your stored food.  You want to store things in a cool, dark, dry place.  They will last longer.  We will get into this more later.  Canned food addresses all of these issues with the exception of temperature.

To reiterate.  Just start buying a little extra of what you already eat.  Start by getting a few days of food stored up.  You are on your way!  Don’t forget your water as we discussed previously (water storage).

Thanksgiving

Posted: November 28, 2014 in Philosophy
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I like many of you have a lot to be thankful for.  I have a beautiful family, nice home and a couple cars.  I have plenty of food to eat and a warm bed to sleep in.  Compared to a lot of people in the world I/we live in great prosperity.  We are truly blessed to live at this time of great technological wonders (like blogs and the internet that make sharing information so easy).  I would like to make two suggestions on this day of Thanksgiving.  There is a good possibility that things may change for this worse.  The national debt is approaching 18 trillion dollars.  We may experience a depression or even economic collapse.  Our lives could change dramatically any day.  I hope this never happens but think we should be prepared for the possibility.

1.  Start now by thinking about and acknowledging all the things you have to be thankful for.  What in your life truly matters?  Take time each day to be thankful.  It shouldn’t be too hard to identify A LOT of things you have to be thankful for.  Ingratitude is a cancer and a real shame.  You don’t realize what you have until it is gone.  Don’t let this happen to you.  Don’t live with the regret that you didn’t appreciate what you had.

2.  Take this time of relative of wealth to get prepared.  Store up extra food, water, and supplies when they are abundant.  Today the grocery store shelves are full.  They may not be tomorrow.  Everyone is familiar with Aesop’s fable “The Ant and the Grasshopper.”  In summary, the grasshopper spends the warm summer months singing.  He sees the ant working hard to haul an ear of corn home.  He asks the ant what he is doing.  The ant replies that he is storing food for winter and suggests the grasshopper do the same.  The grasshopper scoffs at the idea.  He says “Why bother about winter, we have plenty of food at present.”  Winter comes and the grasshopper is starving to death.  He sees that the ants are surviving comfortably on their stored food.  He realizes it is best to prepare now for times of need.  This fable has never been more applicable.  People have an odd disconnect with this fable.  Everyone understands and agrees with the moral but very few people actually apply it.  Most people are the grasshopper and look at the ant as odd or weird.  They can’t accept that winter will eventually come.

Let us all be more grateful for what we have.  Let’s strive for better perspective and focus on the things that really matter.  Let’s take advantage of the warm summer months that we currently enjoy and get better prepared.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Let’s talk about storing water.  I think this is an often overlooked part of food storage.  Even if people think to store water they tend not to store enough.  People just expect clean water to keep coming from the tap.  Water is crucial for most meal preparation.  All those beans and rice you have stored are pretty worthless without water to cook them in.  Remember you need about 1 liter of water per person per day just to drink.  You need about a gallon a day for drinking, cooking, and washing.

The best, safest, and easiest way to get started is to store some water for emergencies.  Lets talk containers.  You need clean containers that will stand up to storage life.  The cheapest thing to use is 2L soda bottles (other sizes work fine as well).  Soda bottles are “over engineered” for water because they are designed to hold pressurized soda.  This is a good thing.  Just take your recently emptied bottle of Pepsi (cause Coke is nasty) and rinse it out thoroughly.  Then fill it up with clean tap water.  Put the cap back on and store it away.  The tap water has plenty of chlorine, no need to add anything to it.  Don’t clean the bottle with soap or chemicals.  You can use a dilute bleach solution to sterilize the bottle – 1 tsp of bleach per liter of water.  This is good practice but if you are too lazy to do it and the result is less or no water stored; then just forget it and get water in bottles!  There is a great saying in prepping and survival.  Keep it simple stupid or KISS.  This definitely applies to storing water.  Just do it.  You can never have too much.

Do not store water in milk jugs.  There are two main reasons.  Number one, they are designed to degrade (lots of them in landfills) and they will get holes in them over time.  Secondly, they aren’t safe to store water.  The milk gets imbedded in the pores of the plastic and will eventually act as a growth medium for bacteria.  You cannot sterilize them.  Don’t do it.

There are a lot of myths about storing the water directly on concrete.  Don’t worry about this.  If all you have is bare concrete floor space the bottles will be fine on there.  There does not appear to be any truth to the myth that chemicals can leak into your water.  If you are worried place them on a piece of wood or cardboard.

I really like these containers (Aqua-Tainer).  You can find them at Wally world or Amazon.  They hold 7 gallons.  Water weighs 8.34 pounds per gallon.  Therefore these weigh 58.4 pounds.  I find this amount to be about the most I want to be moving around.  They are sturdy and have a nice spigot already attached to the inside of the cap.  Water bricks are great for compact storage and organization.  They are a bit pricey for the amount they store but for you space freaks and obsessive compulsives out there they may do the trick.  They fit together like legos.

There are a lot of good options for storing larger amounts.  50 gallon barrels are a classic.  Just remember that they weigh well over 400 pounds when full and really cannot be moved.  The problem with anything large like this is the shipping cost.  You have to find these locally.  Also make sure to have something on hand to get the water out of the larger containers.  Also remember when filling large containers that you have to use special hoses.  They are the white ones designed for RVs  (Neverkink 50 ft.)  You can’t use a regular old garden hose, they have lead in them.

Lastly, I would recommend you have some way to purify or filter water.  There are only two ways to completely sterilize water.  Boiling and iodine.  Rule of thumb is to boil for 10 mins.  This is overkill but remember KISS.  The major drawback to boiling water is that it is energy intensive.  I am not going to get into iodine in this post.

I like Berkey water filters.  You may need to filter a lot of water for your family.  These are pretty simple.  Fill the upper chamber and let gravity pull the water through the filter element into the lower chamber.  It is a bit slow but it frees you up to do other things.  These are also very high quality filters.  As always get back-up filters.  The old saying 2 is 1 and 1 is none always applies.  There are a lot of other filter options.  I have used MSR and Katadyn backpacking filters.  They work great but are A LOT of work as any backpacker knows.  I have been using Sawyer filters on all of my most recent backpacking trips and they are awesome (and very reasonably priced!).  I think these are perfect for bug out bags (BOB) and as back-up filters.

You can buy purification tablets as well.  There are a lot of options but Katadyn Micropur tablets are the best out there.  These are also great for a bug out bag and as a back-up to the above options.

Bottom line.  Just start storing water in soda bottles.  Grab an aqua-tainer next time you are at Walmart.  When money allows grab a Sawyer filter.  Having a few gallons stored away is exponentially better than nothing.  Start with baby steps and build your comprehensive water storage plan a bit at a time.  Good luck!