Friday, May 31, 2013

Essential Tools & Accessories Wish List

Sometimes we get so focused on the food items we would want our family to have in an emergency situation, we fail to think about how we would use any of it without electricity, refrigeration or other of the modern conveniences we so take for granted everyday. Other times, we're not getting the most bang for our (for most of us) limited budget, because we don't have the equipment necessary to properly preserve or store the foods we would like to. In this light, I've put together a list of some of the items that I would consider essential, (or very helpful) in addressing these issues. Since we've been married, we have an ever-changing wish list of items we would like to have "someday."

Wish lists can be powerful things. Just as they say that a goal is only a wish until you write it down, a wish list, once written down, can become a roadmap towards reaching your goals. This especially applies to Family Home Storage and Preparedness. Writing down all your "wish list" items, then prioritizing them in order of importance and usefulness, then setting specific, realistic and attainable goals as to how and when you plan to acquire each item, can go a long way to making these things possible.

For us, it was as simple as creating the list, in priority, and then committing to purchase one item from the list every year. Sometimes this has been a mutual Christmas gift to each other; other times when we've had some extra or unexpected cash, we've known where we wanted to spend it. Sometimes you'll be lucky enough to "inherit" some of the items on the list. I'm always searching the local thrift stores, and once in awhile garage sales for these items. We've also been able to find deals on the internet, (an invaluable tool for pricing and researching this stuff,) on sites like, and through various search engines.

Following are some of the "tools" that I think could be important to any family's FHS plan. This includes stuff for home production, preservation, storage and emergency preparedness items. This should at least get you thinking. Many of these are big ticket items, but a few of them cost next to nothing and can even be made at home. I've included pictures and ballpark prices of what you can expect to pay, (from the cheapest available to top-of-the-line) as well as basic info and what each is used for. The prices would be for new, or like new items...garage sales & thrift stores are wonderful for finding amazing deals on these items, so don't forget to look there!

A Wheat Grinder/Grain Mill: $180-$300 & up

This is perhaps one of the most overlooked items that is essential to food storage. If you are LDS, you should know that in a survey done by the church, 90% of people that actually store wheat in their homes DO NOT OWN a wheat grinder. If you're storing wheat and don't have a grinder, should you find it necessary to use your food storage, you'll still be able to eat it, you'll just be limited in your options: boiled or sprouted wheat. With a wheat grinder, you'll be able to make FLOUR. And obviously, flour gives you a whole lotta options. NOTE: many are not aware that wheat has a 30+ year shelf life. When it's ground down into flour the shelf life becomes 10 years. This is the reason for storing wheat over flour, although there are practical reasons for storing both.

Most wheat grinders can also double as grain mills and can grind corn meal, rice flour, baby cereal, etc. This is an item that you will want to go for quality on. The higher end, more versatile models can grind dry grains, spices, and beans. If you're wondering what you can grind, WonderMill has set up an interesting blog called Will It Grind? that gives an extensive list as well as demonstrations for both their electric and hand models. Look into WonderMill, BlendTec and NutriMill among other brands. The WonderMill Electric Grain Mill is on my wish list for many reasons. Here is a comparison review between the two that I thought was helpful.

A Hand Wheat Grinder/Grain Mill: $70-$300 & up

A hand grinder is essential to an emergency plan in the event that there is no power. The WonderMill Junior Deluxe is on my wish list because it has no plastic parts (that will melt or break with regular, extended use) and it will grind dry grains, beans, legumes, spices, oily grains, (like flax seed or coffee) and even makes various nut butters. This hand mill also comes with a pulley that can be attached to a stationary bike...nothing like getting a good workout in while you grind your wheat!

A Pressure Canner - $70-$300 & up

This piece of canning equipment is necessary to safely process low acid foods such as meats, vegetables and seafood. A pressure canner uses heat and pressure to bring the internal temperature of foods to 250 degrees or more for a specified period of time. Being able to can our own meat has saved us a lot of money, allowing us to take advantage of sales, and has greatly increased the variety of meals we can make exclusively from our food storage.

On the lower end, pressure canners have gaskets, which will need to be replaced over time. On the higher end, pressure canners have metal on metal seals. I've opted for a higher end All American Pressure Canner, since I had borrowed one for awhile and was using it frequently. We knew that we would be getting lots of use out of ours, so it was worth the investment to us. Either will do the job for you, so research and decide what makes the most sense.

A Water Bath Canner: $20-$50

A Water Bath Canner is what most people think about when they talk about "canning." It's a really large pot, with a rack inside, allowing you to lower your jars into and out of, a boiling water bath. This canning process is acceptable for fruits and tomatoes, because of their high acid content. NEVER can vegetables or meats in a water bath canner, since the temperature will not get hot enough to kill bacteria, which can lead to botulism, which can be deadly. These guidelines were changed in 1988, so recipes for meat or veggies from prior to 1988 calling for water bath canning should always be processed in a pressure canner for the appropriate amount of time. Time tables are readily available online. In my experience most water bath canners are very similar, so go for the best deal you can find. Be sure to check out garage sales and thrift shops, since there are many people who get these and then never use them. Don't worry...with your self-sufficiency mindset, you'll be getting plenty of use out of it!

A Vacuum Sealer w/port, tubing & jar sealer attachments: $40-$175

 A vacuum sealer is a great appliance for helping to effectively store all your dry foodstuffs. With the tube and jar sealer attachments, (both regular and wide mouth) you can vacuum seal mason jars, extending the life of your dry goods by up to five times. Nuts, raisins, chocolate chips, chow mein noodles, dehydrated fruits and veggies, brown rice and other items particularly sensitive to spoilage in your short-term pantry supplies are perfect for this. NOTE: a vacuum sealer does not replace heat canning or refrigeration for preserving food. It is a suitable means of extending the shelf-life of already shelf-stable dry goods, ONLY.  The model pictured is quite a slick, stainless steel, newer model. An older model in white or ecru will also work just as well. Be sure to check garage sales and thrift stores. I've found two food savers in the last month at our local DI thrift store for $5 a piece.

The main thing you're looking for in a food saver is that it has an accessories port, which you can hook a tube into. This is because you'll want to also get the tubing and mason jar sealers, pictured here (I would recommend getting both the regular and wide-mouth sizes) so you have the capability of sealing your jars. The jar sealer attachments can be found on or for about $6-$10 each. I wouldn't pay over $10.

A Food Dehydrator: $90-$350

Be careful in selecting one of these, as the old adage really applies here: you get what you pay for! Make sure you find one that has a fan, not just a heating element, and preferably a temperature gauge. Drying your foods at temps no less than 100*F and no more than 125*F will ensure you maintain the highest content of vitamins, nutrients and enzymes. A quality mandolin, or electric meat slicer will assist you in slicing fruits and veggies more quickly (which is always nice,) but more importantly more evenly, ensuring a more even drying time, (your entire batch should be done around the same time) and also a prettier finished product. Who doesn't like pretty things? I aspire to an Excalibur, by most accounts to be the Cadillac of the dehydrating world. For right now, we found an eight tray GardenMaster by Nesco on Amazon for $93 including shipping. It is working wonderfully well for all my projects, and was much more in our price range for this stage in our lives. The Excalibur will do more, a bit more conveniently and quickly, so eventually I would like to get one. The GardenMaster has a fan and a temperature control, and we've been very happy with it.

A Solar Oven: $229 - $400

We just took our Solar Oven out for it's maiden voyage at a week-long camping trip, and we FELL. IN. LOVE. It works AMAZINGLY well, and heated to 350* all on the simple power provided by the sun. We baked fresh, warm, lovely brownies, coffee cake, and blueberry shortcake out in the middle of the forest. The solar oven will also bake bread, cook a turkey, pasteurize water and bake, cook, steam or boil anything else you would cook in your oven at home. We have a Global Sun Oven, because they got the best reviews of the ones we researched. The company now has a newer model, released in March 2013, called the All American Sun Oven, which has a few more bells-and-whistles and is supposed to be able to get even hotter, (between 360*-400*F.) If we were buying one now, this would be the model we would get. It is a big ticket item at $345, but keep your eyes peeled for a aware that there will be a price for having the newest model. We got our oven with the "Preparedness & Dehydrating" package, which includes all the racks, pots and pans at Christmastime for less than $250. It's also the older model, but if you're willing to put up with a dinosaur to save $100 bucks, the Global Sun Oven gets high reviews from us and lots of others!

We have small children as well as dogs, so I was nervous about how hot it would get. The actual outside surface of the box and the wood edge (on the outside of the reflectors) never even got warm to the touch. The glass door (inside the reflectors) and the inside of the oven got very hot...350 degrees IS a real oven, so you'll want to be sure to also pack your oven mitts! My husband learned this the hard way, and as we both laughed, he quipped about it being hard to take a little box seriously as a real oven, until you touch it. :) The external surface of the box is fully insulated so it removed any worry I had of the kids accidentally bumping up against it. The oven door latches completely closed, and is sealed by a rubber gasket, so while the dogs loved their warm naps right next to it, (it was always in the sunniest spot in our camp) they never tried to disturb it in anyway.

A Wonder Box Cooker: DIY for around $20 - $30

The Wonder Box Cooker is an amazing little contraption that utilizes insulation as a means for conserving fuel, and cooking food by maintaining the heat for an extended period of time. The general method is to use your fuel to bring your food to a boil, then transfer it into the cooker, where it maintains it's temperature and continues to finish cooking using no fuel at all! It takes a few yards of fabric, access to a sewing machine, minimal sewing skills and stuffing. You can find a tutorial, additional information and recipes here.

A Rocket Stove: DIY for FREE!

This is another amazing invention that utilizes proper airflow and ventilation to cook foods with minimal fuel at maximum efficiency. You can make one yourself using a #10 can, (like a large coffee can or LDS cannery can) and four other smaller soup cans, along with some sand. You'll need tin snips and a sturdy pair of gloves. This stove will cook HOT on only a handful of very small twigs at a time. You can find tutorials online and on YouTube, and I found this video, along with the follow-up videos extremely helpful: Build a Rocket Stove, Step-by-Step.

A Double Burner Propane Camp Stove: $85 - $150

This is a must for canning in the summer time, in my opinion. Then all that lovely heat can stay outside and doesn't have to congregate inside my home! Also great for avid campers, (like us,) and for obvious reasons, this would be handy to have in the event of an emergency.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Camping Essentials in a Bin

Today's post is going to be off the beaten path, just a bit. I LOVE camping, and I have my whole life. I love getting out into nature, away from the noise, hustle and bustle of life in our modern world. We just completed our first camping trip of the season...and I was reminded again how much I absolutely love camping! I know not everyone shares my enthusiasm for the great outdoors. That makes me sad, because I feel like there are so many wonderful benefits of "getting out there." In my opinion, many of the difficulties or reasons that people that love the outdoors don't also love camping are caused by one of two things: 1) lack of proper equipment & supplies or 2) lack of proper preparation, both before and during a camping trip. Not having what you need when you need it can make anything miserable.

One way that has made it extremely easy for my husband and I to go camping, is to keep our gear organized and together all in one place. We have a large, heavy duty set of deep shelves (as deep as a plastic bin is long) that we got from Home Depot for about $40, where we keep everything together in our garage. The bottom shelf holds our 72 hour kits, which we never get into. All our other camping gear is on the top four shelves, and the beauty of camping gear is that it would all double as emergency prep stuff. We have a "Camping Essentials" bin on one of the shelves, which holds all of our basic stuff. Everything that needs to go into the car is all in one place and ready to go. The only things we need to pack for a camping trip are our clothes, and our food. That can still be quite a job, especially if you have kids, but having everything else together and accessible will go a long way to shortening the process. I'm including a list of what we've got in our bin, and it looks like a long list, but most of it really will fit into just one bin. If it doesn't, just label a second bin. If you're going to be taking it and needing to use it, it's better to have it packed and ready anyway.

Here our little bin is all packed and waiting for its next adventure!

Camping Essentials:
matches in ziplock or other water proof container
lighter fluid
fire starters
long handled bic lighter or two
Flashlights w/ extra batteries
Camp Hatchet (for firewood, etc.)
Good quality outdoor knife (for whittling wood, etc.)
Whet Stone for sharpening knife
Camp shovel (for burying things, digging up rocks, etc.)
Rope w/ Clothespins for drying clothes, dishcloths, towels, etc.
Bungee Cords (3-4 in different sizes)
Sunscreen SPF 30+
Playing cards/card game or two
Spool of Twine
Pen & Small Notebook or Pad of Paper
Duct Tape
Small Bottle of Tylenol, Advil, Benadryl (I mix them, but you're not supposed to do this)
Small First Aid Kit or at least Box of BandAids
Insect Repellant
Insect Repellant for Gear (I spray around base of our tent once it's set up)

Cooking/Eating Essentials:
Heavy duty vinyl tablecloth w/ clips (for picnic table)
Dishes (sturdy plastic plates, bowls, cups, etc.)
Long Handled Tongs
Metal Spatula
Rubber Scraping Spatula
Wooden Spoon
Good, Sharp Kitchen Knife or two
Heavy Frying Pan
Kettle for boiling water
Sauce Pan w/ lid
Can Opener
Bottle Opener w/punch feature
Cutting Board or two
Hot Pads
Silicone Oven Mitts
Kitchen Timer
Measuring Cups
Measuring Spoons
Plastic Mixing Bowl
Roasting Sticks for marshmallows
Small Bottle of cooking oil
Disposable Salt & Pepper Shakers
roll of Aluminum Foil
roll of Saran Wrap
zip lock bags in quart/gallon sizes (for leftovers, etc.)

dish pan
dish drainer
dunk bag (for sanitizing dishes)
dish soap
dish brush
extra sponges
dish cloths
dish/hand towels
small ziplock of SOS pads
hand soap
hand sanitizer
paper towels
package of baby wipes
tub of lysol wipes for wiping table, camp stove, etc.
extra roll of TP
a few large black trash bags
roll of kitchen trash bags

Paper/Disposable Products: (optional, but easier than washing dishes)

The bins can double as little tables while you're camping, and are also great because you can just pack everything up at night, put the lid on and slide under the picnic or camp keeps everything dry from morning dew and away from insects & all but the most determined critters. NOTE: I never keep food of any kind in my bins, since I don't want to attract critters, now or in the future. Smells created by food can be obvious to animals much longer than they are to humans. We keep all food and food items in boxes in our car while not in use when we are car camping. These rules apply especially when you are camping more remotely, or in areas with large game animals such as elk, deer or moose, and especially in areas known as bear country. Obviously, in any camping situation, you should NEVER have cooked food or food/snack items in your tent, and NEVER sleep in the same clothes you cooked meals in. Store all cooking utensils and other supplies away from your tents/sleeping areas and keep all trash and food items in your car or other bear-proof designated containers. Ok. Bear safety minute is over.

I also LOVE the big blue reusable IKEA bags (that are like .50 cents each at the IKEA check out counters) for holding things like tents, tarps, sleeping bags and other large stuff. Keeps it really organized and easy to grab, pack, etc.

Other Standard & Not-So-Standard Camping Gear:
Sleeping bags
Ground Insulation Pads
2-3 tarps (one for underneath tent, misc. sizes for other uses)
Camp Stove & bottle of propane (our stove is a little one-burner so it fits in our bin)
Camp Lantern, propane, extra mantles
Case for lantern, if desired
Large stock pot (for heating/boiling water)
folding 4' table
folding camp chairs
water container w/spigot (like a Gott) for drinking, hand washing
large cooler
dutch oven
solar oven (which I use to store some of our camp kitchen stuff)

*Comfort items for Sleeping:
4" foam pad, air mattress or other pad for comfort
down feather bed & comforter (I get cold easily)
set of sheets w/pillow cases
set of pillows

*We keep all of these items in a large space bag. They are exclusively devoted to camping, so they also stay on our shelf in the garage.

Having "exclusively-devoted-to-camping" items will also help simplify your life. Instead of having to remember to pack all your kitchen needs along with all your food, having a can opener & cutting board whose sole responsibility is to sit in your camping bin at your beck and call, will totally simplify your life, trust me! Also, you won't have to worry about partially melting the handle of your favorite spatula on the gas stove, or blacking the bottom of your nicest kitchen pot if you've got one just for camping. In addition to having a bin, having designated camping items is one of my most important rules for simplifying the pre-camping-prep process.

Of course, don't forget to bring firewood, charcoal briquettes and water or a water filter (if you're camping in an area without running water.) Also, don't forget the makings for S'mores, your family's favorite campfire treats, and maybe a thing of Jiffy Pop to pop over the campfire also!

We had a wonderful week of primitive camping where we ate amazing food, practiced with all our camping/outdoor/emergency prep gadgets, and got away from all the craziness of everyday life. If you've ever wondered how your family would do in the event of an emergency, primitive camping is a great way to see. It's a great way to test your preparedness skills and supplies. Our campground was supposed to have running water via pump spigots & pit toilets. Not much in the way of frills or comforts to begin with. But when we arrived, because we were the first campers of the season, the forest service had not yet been there, the water was not yet on, and the outhouses were locked. Good thing that we had our little backpacking water filter, a creek that ran right through our campsite and an extra roll of TP. It was fun to see that we could be totally self-sufficient and comfortable at the same time. I'll post more about the solar oven later, since it was A-Mazing...and we totally fell in love with it.

For now, I hope this list helps and gets your mind working on how you can organize your camping gear and supplies to make things more comfortable, easier to grab-and-go, and as an efficient double for your family's emergency supplies.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Vacuum Sealing Foods

I'd like to spend a few minutes writing about my obsession with my FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer. Unless you live under a rock, you've no doubt heard about these things for a long time. But there were lots of reasons why I thought that it was just another gadget that I didn't need cluttering up our very limited counter space. I mean, we're not in the stage in life where we eat a ton of steaks, (at least not enough for them to get freezer burnt sitting around in our freezer.) When we do actually buy steaks, it's usually for a special occasion like a birthday or something, and they get grilled after marinating over night in our fridge. So, the ability to vacuum seal meats didn't seem that important or pertinent to me. And that's what I primarily thought the Food Saver was designed for...vacuum sealing meats. Well, I have officially educated myself, seen the light and am mending my ways. This little gadget has found its way into my heart and onto my very limited and precious counter space!

And before I pontificate on what I believe are the many virtues of this kitchen gadget, I'd like to point out that you needn't spend a fortune to own one. YES. You can buy the brand-new, beautiful set up at Costco for around $150. It's stainless steel and will add class to any kitchen it's sitting in. But I got my first one, an older, smaller model, for $35 plus shipping on ebay. The most important thing you want to look for is the little "port" where you attach the tubing and your jar sealers. You can easily email the seller and ask about this specifically. This past week, I was fortunate enough to find an upgraded model at a local thrift store for $5. A like-minded friend was the lucky recipient of the first one I purchased. If you're on a tight budget, keep your eyes open for deals like this. They are out there!

These days, I'm using my FoodSaver to vacuum seal all sorts of things into mylar bags or mason jars. the simple effort it takes to repackage dry goods once I purchase them can bring big dividends. Repackaging your food into glass or mylar (which are non-permeable and can protect your foods from exposure to oxygen and insects,) can extend the shelf life by up to five times what it would be in the original packaging. When you're trying to establish and maintain a family home storage, not to mention stretch your grocery dollars, this can be extremely helpful!

I'm not intending my sealed jars for long-term storage. Rather, I'm attempting to extend the shelf life of dry foods that I use on a regular basis, (that would otherwise be unsuitable for dry-pack canning because of their moisture or oil content,) to avoid spoilage and loss in my pantry. This means that items that are normally in my short-term, 3-month "pantry" storage can now be stored up to 3-5 years in some cases, with fabulous results! Some of the items I have vacuumed sealed include brown rice, walnuts, almonds, raisins, chow mein noodles, French's fried onions, croutons, bread crumbs, dried fruits and veggies, (especially the ones I'm drying myself!) and chocolate chips. :) It's important to note that you should not try to vacuum seal powders or fine crumbs, as they will get sucked up the tubing and clog up your machine. You can either pack them very tightly into sandwich baggies, first, then stuff the jar, then vacuum seal; OR use an oxygen absorber in the jar instead. This is my personal preference for packaging fine powdery stuff, and brings me to my next thought.

Oxygen Absorbers
While I am loving my FoodSaver -- and in my opinion, it is worth every penny -- you don't need a vacuum sealer to do this. You can seal your mason jars with oxygen absorbers. Oxygen absorbers are those little packets you use in your long term food storage buckets and #10 cans. They are available from the LDS Cannery for .10 cents a piece. They come pre-packaged in packages of 100, and can be ordered long in advance, because they will store for a long, long time in the original packaging. NOTE: Once you open the package of 100 you either need to reseal it with your vacuum sealer or use the airtight clip that the cannery also sells for $1. If your left-over oxygen packets are exposed to air, they will be no good.

You can purchase the oxygen absorbers online from the LDS distribution center here. Simply fill your mason jar with your dry goods, leaving a little room in the top, and set an oxygen absorber in the top. Close the jar with a lid (you can even re-use disposable heat canning lids, unsuitable for re-use in heat canning, for vacuum sealing your jars over and over) and screw-on ring, and wait a few hours. You will eventually hear a little "ping" as the lid sucks down and the jar is sealed. You may remove the ring or leave it on for storage. Your jar is sealed. Oxygen Absorbers are even more effective than vacuum sealing alone because they remove any remaining oxygen in the jar or bag, and they should always be included in anything meant for long-term storage. The exception would be with any whole grain (like wheat or lentils) that you might want to sprout. The oxygen absorber will "kill" your whole grains.

Mylar bags can be effectively sealed if you have a flat-iron straightener for your hair, or a clothes iron. If you're using an iron, you'll need a flat metal ruler or yard stick, to lay your mylar bag on while you iron it shut. Fill your mylar bag with your dry foodstuffs, leaving several inches on top so you can effectively seal the bag. Place an oxygen absorber in the bag and then heat seal it shut. That's it. Be sure to thoroughly inspect your seal to make sure that it is even and completely sealed before putting it in storage. Store your mylar bags in food grade buckets or plastic storage totes, for additional protection against rodents. Mylar bags (also available for .30 cents each at LDS Canneries or online from LDS distribution centers) are 7 mil thick, and hold one gallon of dry food.

Here's a video from, one of my favorite resources. It's a two-part series on vacuum sealing in mylar bags.

Additional Information about oxygen absorbers:

Some important things to know about Vacuum Sealing:
  • Vacuum sealing is not a substitute for refrigeration. If it requires refrigeration before you put it in the bag, or jar, it requires refrigeration once it's in there.
  • Vacuum sealing is NOT a substitute for heat canning.
  • It is important to understand dry pack canning, and which foods can be safely dry packed because of low moisture or oil content. Dry packing foods containing more than 10% moisture or oil my result in botulism poisoning!
  • Do not vacuum package soft cheese, mushrooms or garlic.
For more information on vacuum sealing, preserving your foods and how you can save money with a FoodSaver, these are excellent articles by, (one of my favorite resources): and

The Wendy DeWitt Food Storage Seminar

A few years ago, while perusing the internet, I stumbled onto this video, which I watched in it's entirely, and have watched several times since then. I've also shared it as much as possible, since I believe it's one of the most clear and concise seminars on Food Storage I've ever heard.

As you create a plan for your family, you're going to have to tweak things based on your budget, family size, storage arrangements, what you're comfortable storing, etc. There are many things in this seminar that might not be for you. But I believe it's a great beginning to get you thinking about possibilities and how you can start today to get your family prepared.

After watching this video, I began working on a specific "plan" for our family. We have always tried to set some extras aside, and have done a pretty good job of it. But as far as having a specific plan, or any rhyme or reason for what we were storing, well...that was an area that could use some improvement. We began to think more specifically about what we wanted to do. This is when things really got fun, and when we were really able to incorporate preparedness as a way of life. Family home storage, food storage, production and preservation isn't something we do. It's how we live. This makes life a lot more simple, organized and less financially stressful. It does take planning, organization and the desire to do well as a healthy dose of adventure - being willing to be a bit flexible with learning new skills, and in some cases changing a lot about your family's shopping, cooking & eating habits.
By formulating an outline for your family, you'll have specific, measurable goals...and suddenly the whole thing doesn't seem so overwhelming. In any area of life, careful planning allows you to use your time, effort and resources more efficiently, thus getting more out of anything you're doing. Getting more "bang" for your buck! Family home storage is no different. Watch this video and then sit down for a few minutes and create an outline of the various areas of preparedness that she talks about. By planning your work, and then working your plan, you will be able to attain steady, measurable progress towards the preparedness and peace of mind that you so obviously want for your family. You know you want to...otherwise you wouldn't be taking precious moments out of your crazy day to read blogs like go do it!

The booklets discussed in this class are offered free of charge in both English and Spanish. Email Wendy DeWitt at and put "booklet" in your subject line. She will email you a pdf copy. Her blog is also available with other information at

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

My Favorite Food Storage Calclulator

I finally found my favorite food storage calculator! The gals over at have put together a fabulous calculator, complete with an instructional video if needed. You can find both of these goodies at the following link, about a 3/4 of the way down the page:

The calculator is an excel spreadsheet, and is perfect for creating a plan, working your plan and tracking your progress. I wish I would have had this thing five years ago! Customize it to your family's needs, (if you're not familiar with Excel, the helpful video walks you through everything) and you're on your way!

An Emergency Water Option

Because my husband is in graduate school, we are in a very transient stage of life. We are currently renting a very small home, with no yard. This has put a bit of a cramp in our emergency preparedness style. We've been able to work around most of the challenges, since preparedness is a priority to us. But the one thing that has been extremely difficult for us right now is water storage.

The primary method for storing emergency water is the large, blue 55-gallon drums or barrels which can be purchased almost anywhere, including even WalMart these days. Eventually, we'll invest in the big blue barrels - we also have other ideas we'd like to try. But with renting a home, it makes it a little scary to have huge containers of water sitting around. If they happened to spring a leak, we'd be responsible for the damage. Additionally, with two major moves in the same amount of years, 55-gallon drums are pretty big, and even when they're empty, would take up a lot of our truck space. I don't know that we want to deal with all that just yet. However, water storage is essential to any family's emergency preparedness plan. For now, we have about three week's worth of drinking water stored for our family. This is one area of our plan where I think we're abysmally weak. And it's something I worry about.

In some of my preparedness travels, I came across an item called a Water BOB and I thought it could go a long ways to solving part of our problem. It's a bladder that you can fill up in your bathtub in the event of an impending storm or other problem. This would be perfect in an area prone to hurricanes, or other frequent storms. The major drawback of course, is that in order to successfully use this, you would require some advance warning of a problem. There are so many emergencies that could arise where you wouldn't have that notice. Still, for the many situations where you would have notice, these things would come in handy. Here's a video review I found on YouTube:

I liked this video because it's the whole process from beginning to end. The plastic is food grade, and will hold the drinking water for up to four weeks. I haven't yet been able to find information on how long I can store it (on the shelf) and still have it be pliable (since most plastics become brittle over time) when I eventually pulled it out to use it. I'll update if I can find that info. Even with it's limitations, I think the WaterBob is a worth-while investment for any family's preparedness shelves.

The Jedi Master of Dehydrating

I've done a lot of research on dehydrating, including watching lots of videos on YouTube. But by far my favorite thing that I've found is a series of videos by a lady named Tammy. Other than watching her videos online, I don't know her, have never met her and she would have no clue who I am! But she has become my mentor when it comes to dehydrating, and I'm so grateful that she chose to unselfishly take the time to make those videos, then post them for all the world to see, freely sharing her talents and expertise. I liked them so much that I put them all on a playlist so I could watch them all the way through on my TV. I know, I'm a big geek! But I love to learn and this lady has put together videos that are chock full of great information!

In addition to the videos on dehydrating, she also has a website,, where there are more videos, tips, information and recipes. It's a wealth of information. I had greatly underestimated the usefulness of a dehydrator in my family food storage efforts, but watching these videos has changed my mind. I hope you'll take the time to watch a few of the videos and see if this method of food preservation will work for you!