Sunday, May 22, 2011

I Really Need A Drink!!!

Water is necessary for life. The human body can tolerate lack of food for much longer than it can go without water . . . therefore, this post is to help you understand how much and how to store drinking water for emergency use.

Not everyone is as fortunate as we are to have a well on our property (and a hand pump to use if the electricity is off) but even with a well, you need to have a minimal amount of clean, safe drinking water available.

It is highly recommended that you store 14 gallons per person minimum. This would be sufficient to last for two full weeks or one gallon per person per day. Careful rationing would allot ½ gallon for drinking and ½ gallon for hygiene and/or cooking. If you live in a hot and humid climate, like I do, you may wish to store a bit more. Remember too, that if you have prepared a 72 Hour Emergency Kit, you should already have enough water for your family for the first three days!

Where are you going to store this water? Think about that a bit. If you can fruits and vegetables, you likely have empty canning jars sitting around. Fill them with water!! They take up no more room to store filled than they do empty. 

Empty two liter soda pop bottles work well too; as do purchased bottled water. These should be used and rotated however because the plastic bottles eventually break down and the water can leak out, causing a big mess as well as depleting your emergency supply.

*DO NOT USE milk jugs, or other food grade plastic jugs as they cannot be cleaned well enough to prevent bacterial growth!

Water can be stored in a 55 gallon (food safe) drum and can be pumped out using a small hand operated pump.  You may store it in smaller containers but remember that water is heavy and you may not be able to pour it out when needed.

Your hot water heater may be your last resort; however, if you are without power for a few days, you may drain the water from it. There is usually a spigot near the bottom of the tank. Be aware that there may be a lot of sediment in it as well but it can be filtered and is safe to drink.

Below you will find FEMA recommendations for water storage. Please note that they suggest only a three day supply, however, I strongly urge you to store enough for two full weeks. You won’t regret if you ever find yourself in need.

Additionally, in determining adequate quantities, take the following into account:
  • Individual needs vary, depending on age, physical condition, activity, diet, and climate.
  • Children, nursing mothers, and ill people need more water.
  • Very hot temperatures can double the amount of water needed.
  • A medical emergency might require additional water.
How Should I Store Water?

To prepare safest and most reliable emergency supply of water, it is recommended you purchase commercially bottled water. Keep bottled water in its original container and do not open it until you need to use it. Observe the expiration or “use by” date.

If You are Preparing Your Own Containers of Water

It is recommended you purchase food-grade water storage containers from surplus or camping supplies stores to use for water storage. Before filling with water, thoroughly clean the containers with dishwashing soap and water, and rinse completely so there is no residual soap. Follow directions below on filling the container with water.

If you choose to use your own storage containers, choose two-liter plastic soft drink bottles – not plastic jugs or cardboard containers that have had milk or fruit juice in them. Milk protein and fruit sugars cannot be adequately removed from these containers and provide an environment for bacterial growth when water is stored in them. Cardboard containers also leak easily and are not designed for long-term storage of liquids. Also, do not use glass containers, because they can break and are heavy. *The exception here is to use empty canning jars which are an ideal solution since they require no more space to store full than empty.

If storing water in plastic soda bottles, follow these steps:
Thoroughly clean the bottles with dishwashing soap and water, and rinse completely so there is no residual soap. Sanitize the bottles by adding a solution of 1 teaspoon of non-scented liquid household chlorine bleach to a quart of water. Swish the sanitizing solution in the bottle so that it touches all surfaces. After sanitizing the bottle, thoroughly rinse out the sanitizing solution with clean water.

Filling Water Containers

Fill the bottle to the top with regular tap water. If the tap water has been commercially treated from a water utility with chlorine, you do not need to add anything else to the water to keep it clean. If the water you are using comes from a well or water source that is not treated with chlorine, add two drops of non-scented liquid household chlorine bleach to the water. Tightly close the container using the original cap. Be careful not to contaminate the cap by touching the inside of it with your finger. Place a date on the outside of the container so that you know when you filled it. Store it in a cool, dark place. Replace the water every six months if not using commercially bottled water.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Freezing Vegetables Preview

Most you don't have fresh produce from your gardens just yet, but for the past week, I have been busy picking and putting up snowpeas or sugar snap peas as they are sometimes called. The same friend who encouraged me to start this blog, suggested that I post how to freeze vegetables properly so here goes:

First of all, use produce that is not over or under ripe. The fresher the vegetable is, the better. I generally put mine up within a few hours of the time I pick or purchase them. If you cannot get to them within that time frame, refrigerate them but allow them to warm up to room temperature if you can before processing them. Do not soak them in water though they should be washed and well drained.

Prepare your vegetables as if you were going to cook and eat them right away. Vegetable must be blanched (a process of quick short time cooking and cooling very quickly to stop the cooking process). I will describe how to do snowpeas but check the chart below for other blanching times.

First fill a large pot with hot water and bring to a rapid boil. Add the vegetables and once it resumes boiling, cook for about 1 ½ minutes. Immediately drain in a colander and rinse with cold tap water. (If you have a wire basket, that works very well instead) Then plunge them into cold water (ice cubes are preferred) and gently stir them to make sure they cool evenly. It usually takes the same amount of time to cool them as it does for the cooking. This stops the cooking process and will aid in retaining nutrition as well as color.


Drain them well and pack into freezer bags (or other freezer containers) squeezing out any excess air and leaving some head space for them to expand as they freeze. Label with the date you process them. Spread them out as flat as you can so that you can stack and freeze them using as little freezer space as necessary.

Most fruits and vegetables should be used within 8 to 10 months for optimum results. Now wasn’t that easy?

Asparagus                  Blanch small spears 2 min. medium 3 min. and large for 4 min.

Beans; butter, lima    Blanch small beans for 2 min. medium 3 min. & large for 4 min.
Or pinto                     

Beans; green, Italian      Blanch for 3 minutes
Wax or snap

Beets                           Beets should be fully cooked, then peeled and cut into desired
                                    Shapes or pieces.

Broccoli                      Cut into pieces no thicker than 1 ½ inches – blanch 3 min.

Brussels sprouts         Sort according to size and blanch 4 minutes

Carrots                       Blanch tiny whole carrots for 5 minutes; cut carrots for 2 min.

Cauliflower                Cut into 1 inch thick pieces – blanch 3 minutes

Corn, cream style      Boil whole ears for 4 minutes. Cool quickly; use a sharp knife to cut
                                    Off the kernels then scrape corn with a dull knife. Fill containers
                                    And leave ½ inch head space

Corn, whole kernel   Cook ears for 4 minutes, then cut off kernels. Do not scrape ears.

Greens                        Wash thoroughly, cut and discard large stems
            Beet/Chard    2 minutes
            Kale                2 minutes
            Mustard/Turnip  2 minutes
            Spinach          2 minutes
            Collards          3 minutes

Mixed vegetables       Prepare and blanch separately according to the right times, then
                                    Mix together after blanching

Peas, edible pods       See above

Peas, English or         Blanch 1 ½ minutes

Peppers, hot               Simply package in freezer containers – no blanching is needed

Peppers, sweet           Spread prepared peppers on a baking sheet and freeze firmly, then
                                    Quickly fill containers and freeze

Potatoes, sweet           Cook until tender with skins on . . . peel and cut as desired, dip in a
                                    Solution of ½ c. lemon juice per quart of water OR
                                    Mash with 2 T. lemon juice per quart of sweet potatoes – this is to
                                    Prevent darkening

Squash, summer        Cut into ¼ inch slices – blanch 3 minutes
            , winter           Cook until tender, mash and cool (about 15 minutes to cook)

Tomatoes                    (Personally I do not care for frozen tomatoes)
                                    Prepare and fill containers.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Foraging for Family Fun and Delicious Food!

This old lady is a country girl. My early years in the hollow in Appalachia bring back fond memories of foraging for food. Springtime is as good as any to add this often overlooked yet fun hobby to transform fantastic finds into a feast fit for a king.

Some of my earliest memories in the hollow are of me traipsing along behind my dad. He had a paper grocery sack tucked under one arm and his pocket knife on the ready in the other hand. He could identify dozens of varieties of wild greens. Sadly I have forgotten more than I remember but my favorite is still plantain—that old week that we seek to eradicate with RoundUp or Weedn’Feed.

I loved picking a mess of wild greens which we would tote back home for their multiple washings before sorting them and cooking them in a little bacon grease for supper. One of the ones I remember most is Poke Sallet. Though I moved away from the hollow on my fifth birthday, about 30 years later, I recognized some in southeastern Michigan. It was growing in the woods behind our little country home. I hastily picked it and called my mother to remind me how best to cook it. Yes, the berries will make you sick so be sure to only eat the leaves.

This was not the first adventure my husband and children had. We stalked the wild asparagus just like the title of Ewell Gibbons’ book which I promptly searched for at the library. It is like a bible for foragers. Stalking the Wild Asparagus should be required reading for all elementary age students. It is a plethora of information on foraging, but back to the asparagus. We knew where it grew locally and would start watching for it in the spring . . . most years we ate our fill over and over and still had plenty to put up in the freezer for the coming winter.

When I was about nine or ten, I remember Daddy having me help him cut milkweed. That’s right – milkweed. We would strip the leaves from the stems and put them into our paper sack. When we got home, we washed them and cut them into about one inch pieces. Daddy would cook them with a batch of white navy beans and they both looked and tasted like green beans except that they were hollow.

When I was a teenager, I discovered the most delectable thing on the planet—morel mushrooms. Daddy called these ‘dry land fish’ and they come in a couple of varieties. These are truly a delicacy and grow virtually everywhere in the US in the springtime. Following a thorough washing, we dredge them in flour and fry them in butter. Add a sprinkle of salt and you’re in hog heaven.
From wild strawberries, blackberries, black raspberries, huckleberries, blueberries, crab apples, pecans, walnuts, hickory nuts and more, we have tasted these delicacies and they have left a lasting impression on both our memories and our taste buds.

It’s actually quite amazing just how much food grows around us that we are not at all aware of. I challenge each of you to find a good book at your local library on the topic and take a family outing in search of an amazing side dish for your next meal. It is also prudent to know how to forage because the day may come, sooner than we may think, that it becomes as necessary to us for survival as it did to so many Americans during the Great Depression. It's also just good family fun!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Why Store Food for Emergencies?

The real intent of this blog is to inspire and help you begin a food storage system for you and your family. I will continue to add frugal helps along the way like the homemade laundry detergent but I feel extremely impressed to emphasize the need for everyone to store some basic food items.
In an earlier post I mentioned that my church teaches it’s members to store food. Why? Because it is simply good, common sense. 

Too many in our world today expect the government or other agencies to provide all they need. This is a very wrong concept that will cause you much heartache. It is not a biblical principle at all. It is our responsibility to take care of ourselves and our families . . .
We ALL have to eat. Any number of things can crop up to cut into our food supply. Here I will attempt to list but a few:

     Unemployment – when our income is cut or even lost, through unemployment or being unemployable due to health reasons, we still need to eat. If you have some food stored, you can stretch your income to cover other necessities . . .

    Unavailability of food – this happened last week in all of North Alabama following the tornadoes. . . stores couldn’t get food and they couldn’t keep what they had. Many were unable to get to the store because so many roads were closed. They couldn’t purchase gas because gas pumps don’t work without electricity. Unless they had cash, they couldn’t buy anything because without electricity neither credit nor debit cards work. There are many other scenarios including a trucker’s strike, a quarantine and other reasons that you may not be able to go elsewhere to purchase food.

    Another reason that food may be unavailable is the very real possibility of food shortages. I am talking about worldwide food shortages due to a variety of reasons including lost crops due to drought or other natural disasters, the high cost of fuel both to those who produce the food and those who deliver it, and the use of food (grain) to produce ethanol rather than food. These also contribute greatly to the rapid rise in food prices.

    Not only are food shortages expected but also the prices continue to rise at alarming rates. Many are predicted to rise up to 50% by June of this year! What will happen during the second half of 2011 is anybody’s guess.

   A few basic rules apply in storing food.
1 – Store what you and your family will eat. There is no point in storing food that you dislike.
2 – Store basic foods with a long shelf life first.
3 – Begin by calculating how much of a particular item you use during a week and then begin to build toward creating a 3 MONTH supply.
4 – Rotate your foods so that you are using the oldest items first
5 - Make sure they are sealed properly to prevent moisture and infestation.
6 – Take advantage of sales and ‘Buy one – get one free’ promotions
7 – Do NOT go into debt to build your food supply
8 – Sit down and figure out a plan to reach your goal
9 – Include other basic commodities that you use on a regular basis: soap, toilet paper, etc.
10 – Do not panic but rather work systematically to build your supply
11 – Look for ways to fit this into your financial budget
12 – Store enough fresh water for two weeks

In the future each of these will be expanded on in detail including WHERE to store it.
·         Please begin right away (unless you already know) how much of basic foods you need.

Some good basic foods to begin with include:
Whole grains such as rice (brown rice though more nutritious does not store well for long times), oatmeal, popcorn, cornmeal, wheat and/or wheat flour, etc.
Dried beans and legumes (If you have beans that have become too old and hard to cook, DO NOT discard them- there are still ways that you can make them palatable and usable.)
Peanuts and peanut butter
Crackers, cereals, vanilla wafers, animal crackers, granola, etc.
Oils and fats (these are very necessary)
Milk, nonfat dry, evaporated and other forms
Meats/Protein including tuna, chicken, salmon and others
Sweeteners including sugar, honey, jams, jellies, etc.
Canned/frozen/dehydrated fruits and vegetables
Juice mixes, cocoa, etc.

This is just a basic list to get your started. Later we will add items such as condiments, spices, seasonings, etc.

My challenge to anyone reading this today is: if you don’t already see the wisdom in this plan, then pray about it and ask for guidance because it is important not only for you, but for others who may need you to donate it to them. Many in Alabama this past week have taken from their food storage and shared with so many who literally lost EVERYTHING. We have been able over the years to help other family members going through a lean time or total strangers in need by having a good supply of foods on hand.

It is my sincerest wish that everyone store enough food to take care of themselves and have a bit to share when needed.