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!

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Boogie Monsters of Home Canning

Over that last several years I've been learning more and more about canning and other forms of home preserving, and feeling more confident about it. My Mom did it all the time, growing up, and it was just part of the way we lived. Peaches, plums, applesauce, even venison, were all items in our basement pantry. Back then I wasn't all that interested in learning about canning. I helped with various steps in the process, but never pitched in from beginning to end. How I wish I had paid attention! My Mother has been in Heaven now for almost a decade. It's amazing how much we take for granted while we've got it. Still, I know my Mom would be proud of all the new skills I've been acquiring over that last five years. And I'm pretty proud of myself, too.

Learning how to preserve your own food is pretty empowering, and there's a real sense of accomplishment that comes from spending the day working on a project that can help insure your family's security. There are so many great things about it. It's been a really great learning experience, and has become one of my favorite hobbies. But in spite of all the great things about it, I confess that since I started on all of this, I've had this little, nagging fear in the back of my head that somehow I could open a jar of fruit or other canned item, that looks, smells and in all other respects seems normal, and inadvertently kill my whole family by serving it up to them. I'm here to tell you that this MYTH is simply NOT true.

That's not to say that it's never happened - people do die from food poisoning, and particularly from botulism - but it's an extremely rare occurrence. There are many safeguards in place to help avoid food poisoning, both with commercially and home canned foods. As I've read and researched more on the subject, I've gained confidence in my ability to preserve my own food, and do it safely. It's important to educate yourself about safe practices with commercially canned items, too, since many incidences of food poisoning in this country come from foods people have purchased from the grocery store. Educate yourself about safe practices, and follow them meticulously, and you'll be fine. I've collected a few videos from YouTube that help me to illustrate my point, and also compiled a "peace of mind" list to help those of you that want to can, but are still nervous about it, feel a little better about the process.

Case in point: If your jars are stored with the rings on them, and you have trouble getting the lid off, or if the lid (also in the case of commercially canned items) is bulging at all, THIS IS A SIGN THAT SOMETHING IS GROWING IN YOUR FOOD. THROW IT AWAY. The following video is a good, albeit extreme, example:

I wouldn't recommend setting it all over the place, as they did in the video. I would have worn gloves and dumped it down the disposal, followed by giving my sink a good scrubbing with bleach. I'm too cheap to throw away our precious canning jars. If you want some fun, read through the comments on this video...some people got really freaked out by this. We were trying to figure out what they might have possibly done wrong in this process to create this situation. They state in the video description that it's some kind of vegetable spread. We think they may have water bath canned it instead of pressure canning it. But that's just our theory. Anyway, moving on...

Another example is this video, where the lady belabors the point for quite awhile, and doesn't seem sure what to do as she notices problems with canned mandarin oranges that she's had stored in her garage. DO NOT FOLLOW HER EXAMPLE, but DO look at the cans that she's displaying. They show all the signs of canned food gone bad. If you EVER see ANYTHING like this in your pantry. THROW IT AWAY.

One more video, by one of my favorite YouTube canners:
Following is a list of precautions you can take to ensure your family's safety with both home and commercially canned items. Follow these guidelines impeccably, and you can have the peace of mind to can your own food, and to eat and store commercially canned foods without worry.
  • Follow accepted USDA canning guidelines as published, meticulously and to the letter. The Ball Blue Book of Preserving is considered the gold standard in accepted practices. Additional information is available from the USDA and County Extension Services in every state. A quick internet search will give you loads of resources. Just be sure that you are getting your information from reputable sources.
  • Always sterilize (by boiling in water) all implements and tools used in your canning process. Also sterilize jars, lids, and rings prior to canning. Sterilize counter tops and any other surfaces you will be using to prepare your food.
  • ALWAYS use a pressure canner to can low-acid foods, which include vegetables, meats, and seafood. Pressure canning is the ONLY safe method for canning low-acid foods.
  • Water Bath (traditional "canning" using boiling water) is ONLY safe for fruits and tomatoes. These items have a high enough acid content to kill the bacteria on their own, using only boiling water.
  • Store your home and commercially canned items inside your home, (not in your garage) and preferably in a cool, dark place. NEVER store any food items in direct sunlight, such as in front of a window.
  • Store home canned items without the rings. If there is a problem with botulism, the pressure that builds up in the jar will be able to undo the seal on its own. This might make a mess, but it helps you to avoid any guesswork.
  • Take inventory of your stores periodically and inspect your cans and jars for damage. Dented, rusted, weeping, leaking or bulging cans should be thrown away. These are all signs that the seal or can is no longer intact.
  • Home canned items should still be sealed tightly, (so that the lid can not be "popped" up or down when you press on it. If the lid moves up or down and makes noise when pressed, the seal is no longer good, and the food needs to be thrown away.
  • If you observe mold or other questionable appearance of your food, err on the side of caution by disposing of it. Your family's health is not worth a couple of dollars worth of possibly spoiled food.
  • When opening home or commercially canned food items, beware of any can or jar that "spurts" food or liquid when it is opened. Also beware of jars that are difficult to open, suggesting inside pressure - which is created when botulism grows. This is another reason that bulging is a bad sign.
  • Always rinse the tops of your cans prior to opening them. During storage, (including storage prior to your purchasing commercially canned items) cans could have come into contact with rodents - including their waste - which could introduce things like hanta virus and other nastiness you don't want to expose your family to. This includes soda cans as well.
  • Do not store pineapple or mandarin oranges in cans for longer than a year. The high acid/enzyme content in these fruits will corrode your cans over time, leading to food waste. These items should be rotated frequently.
  • Do not use "pop-top" cans for long term storage. These are convenient, and we've got them in our pantry, but they should be rotated frequently to avoid spoilage.
  • Be particularly careful with Asparagus, Green Beans, Beets & Corn. These foods are particularly susceptible to botulism. Follow accepted guidelines meticulously.
  • As an added precaution if you're still feeling uneasy, don't eat foods directly from the can or jars. Cook them prior to eating. If you're particularly concerned about botulism, boil the food for 15 minutes prior to eating.
If you follow all of these steps meticulously, you can rest easy knowing that your family is well taken care of. And, at the end of the day, you should always pray over your food before eating it. ;)

Sunday, May 5, 2013

How To Do Food Storage on $50 a Month

This is a basic guide mainly to show that it is possible to make significant progress towards your family home storage goals on a minimal budget. The items listed are suggestions and should help to get you thinking of items that would make the most sense for your family. The three sources I use in this example are Costco, the LDS Canning Center and Emergency Essentials, but you will know better than I where to get the best deals locally. Most of the time, buying in bulk will get you the best price. Please note that I made this list two years ago for a class I was teaching, so these prices are not current. I feel it's still a good illustration of making a plan, and what you can do with a small amount, consistently over time.

**If you are starting from scratch on a limited budget, I highly recommend focusing on the basics: Wheat, Rice, Oats, Pasta & Other Grains. This basic food could keep you and your family alive if necessary. Once you have these basic staples, you can begin to have fun with all the other wonderful options out there!

Month #1:
50lbs. Blue Ribbon White Rice @ Costco, 2 @ $17.99 each $35.98
25lbs. Diamond Crystal Salt @ Costco, 1 @ $3.25 each $3.25
25lbs. All Purpose Flour @ Costco, 1 @ $6.99 each $6.99
Month #1 Total: $46.22

Month #2:
50lbs. Blue Ribbon White Rice @ Costco, 1 @ $17.99 each $17.99
25lbs. All Purpose Flour @ Costco, 1 @ $6.99 each $6.99
20lbs. Bulk Elbow Macaroni @ LDSCC, 1 @ $20.25 each $20.25
#10 can Quick Oats @ LDSCC, 2 @ $2.50 each $5.00
Month #2 Total: $50.23

Month #3:
50lbs. Blue Ribbon White Rice @ Costco, 1 @ $17.99 each $17.99
25lbs. All Purpose Flour @ Costco, 1 @ $6.99 each $6.99
6lbs. Busy Bee Honey @ Costco, 1 @ $13.99 each $13.99
#10 can Quick Oats @ LDSCC, 4 @ $2.50 each $10.00
Month #3 Total: $48.97

Month #4:
20lbs. Bulk Elbow Macaroni @ LDSCC, 2 @ $20.25 each $40.50
#10 can Dry Chopped Carrots @ LDSCC, 1 @ $8.30 each $8.30
Month #4 Total: $48.80

Month #5:
25lbs. Bulk Spaghetti @ LDSCC, 2 @ $23.85 each $47.70
Month #5 Total: $47.70

Month #6:
25lbs. Bulk Hard White Wheat @ LDSCC, 4 @ $11.45 each $45.80
#10can Apple Slices @ LDSCC, 1 @ $5.70 each $5.70
Month #6 Total: $51.50

Month #7:
25lbs. Bulk Hard White Wheat @ LDSCC, 4 @ $11.45 each $45.80
#10can Apple Slices @ LDSCC, 1 @ $5.70 each $5.70
Month #7 Total: $51.50

Month #8:
25lbs. Bulk Spaghetti @ LDSCC, 2 @ $23.85 each $47.70
Month #8 Total: $47.70

Month #9:
50lbs. Blue Ribbon White Rice @ Costco, 2 @ $17.99 each $35.98
25lbs. All Purpose Flour @ Costco, 1 @ $6.99 each $6.99
Month #9 Total: $46.22

Month #10:
20lbs. Bulk Elbow Macaroni @ LDSCC, 2 @ $20.25 each $40.50
#10 can Dry Chopped Carrots @ LDSCC, 1 @ $8.30 each $8.30
Month #10 Total: $48.80

Month #11:
25lbs. Bulk White Sugar@ LDSCC, 2 @ $21.15 each $42.30
#10 can Dry Chopped Onion @ LDSCC, 1 @ $6.90 each $6.90
Month #11 Total: $49.20

Month #12:
20lbs. Bulk Elbow Macaroni @ LDSCC, 1 @ $20.25 each $20.25
#10 can Dry Chopped Onion @ LDSCC, 1 @ $6.90 each $6.90
6lbs. Busy Bee Honey @ Costco 2 @ $13.99 each $27.98
Month #12 Total: $55.13

Month #13:
25lbs. Bulk Hard White Wheat @ LDSCC, 4 @ $11.45 each $45.80
#10can Apple Slices @ LDSCC, 1 @ $5.70 each $5.70
Month #13 Total: $51.50

Month #14:
25lbs. Bulk Hard White Wheat @ LDSCC, 4 @ $11.45 each $45.80
#10can Apple Slices @ LDSCC, 1 @ $5.70 each $5.70
Month #14 Total: $51.50

Month #15:
This month you invest in a basic wheat grinder!
Victorio Hand Grain Mill @ Emergency Essentials 1 @ $64.95 $64.95
Month #15 Total: $64.95

Month #16:
25lbs. Bulk Hard White Wheat @ LDSCC, 4 @ $11.45 each $45.80
#10can Apple Slices @ LDSCC, 1 @ $5.70 each $5.70
Month #16 Total: $51.50

Month #17:
25lbs. Bulk Hard White Wheat @ LDSCC, 4 @ $11.45 each $45.80
#10can Apple Slices @ LDSCC, 1 @ $5.70 each $5.70
Month #17 Total: $51.50

Month #18:
25lbs. Bulk White Sugar@ LDSCC, 2 @ $21.15 each $42.30
#10 can Dry Chopped Onion @ LDSCC, 1 @ $6.90 each $6.90
Month #18 Total: $49.20

Month #19:
50lbs. Bulk Powdered Sugar @ Costco, 1 @ 34.25 each $34.25
23oz. Hershey’s Cocoa @ Costco, 3 @ $5.99 each $17.97
Month #19 Total: $52.22

Month #20:
25lbs. Bulk Black Beans @ LDSCC, 3 @ $16.80 each $50.40
Month #20 Total: $50.40

Month #21:
25lbs. Bulk Pinto Beans @ LDSCC, 2 @ $18.55 each $37.10
#10 can Dry Chopped Onion @ LDSCC, 2 @ $6.90 each $13.80
Month #21 Total: $50.90

Month #22:
25lbs. Bulk White Beans @ LDSCC, 3 @ $16.00 each $48.00
Month #22 Total: $48.00

Month #23:
25lbs. Bulk Pinto Beans @ LDSCC, 2 @ $18.55 each $37.10
#10 can Dry Chopped Onion @ LDSCC, 2 @ $6.90 each $13.80
Month #23 Total: $50.90

Month #24:
25lbs. Bulk Non-fat Dry Milk @ LDSCC, 1 @ $47.20 each $47.20
Month #24 Total: $47.20

Family of Four Recommended Monthly Basic Minimums:
100lbs. Wheat, Rice, Oats, Pasta & Other Grains
20lbs. Beans, Split Peas, Lentils & other Legumes

Take a look at what your family could have stored if you followed this plan for 24 months:

600lbs. Hard White Wheat – Storage life 30+ years
300lbs. White Rice – Storage life 30+ years
100lbs. All Purpose Flour – Storage life 10 years
100lbs. Spaghetti – Storage life 30 years
100lbs. Elbow Macaroni – Storage life 30 years
16lbs. Quick Oats – Storage life 30 years

100lbs. Pinto Beans – Storage life 30 years
75lbs. Black Beans – Storage life 30 years
75lbs. White Beans – Storage life 30 years

25lbs. Non-fat Dry Milk – Storage life 30 years

100lbs. White Sugar – Storage life 30 years
50lbs. Powdered Sugar – Storage life 30 years
18lbs. Honey – Storage life 30 year

25lbs. Salt – Storage life 30 years
4.5lbs. Hershey’s Cocoa Powder
7 cans Chopped Onion – Storage life 30 years
2 cans Chopped Carrots – Storage life 25 years
6 cans Apple Slices – Storage life 30 years

Some Helpful Resources: (Emergency Essentials) (Food Storage with cheap shipping) (LDS Temporal Preparedness website)

Three Month's Storage: Getting Started!

I made a conscious decision several years ago that I was going to make preparedness a priority. I began by simply buying one “storage item” each time I went to the store. Sometimes all I could afford was a few extra cans of fruit or veggies. If I had a little extra one week, I would buy a $20 bag of rice or flour. Sometimes I would buy two packages of toilet paper, or two bottles of hand soap, rather than just one. But I was consistently thinking about my short-term storage item on each shopping trip. In a short period of time, I began to accumulate a decent stock that has continued to grow over time.

There are many reasons for having a short-term storage. For me, the biggest reason is simply the peace of mind of knowing that if anything were to happen beyond our control, we’ll still have what we need to survive and be comfortable for at least the foreseeable future. As a practical matter, we have literally saved hundreds of dollars on groceries over a year, since we are not dependent on trips to the grocery store every week. We shop once a month, and make a list of what we need to restock or add to our storage, and as we have accumulated a decent “pantry stock” we usually only purchase items that are on sale, since we rarely run out of things and have to make “emergency” trips to the store.

Getting Started: Start small, and work up. As you are building your short-term storage, you should buy what you currently eat and will use. Shop the ads, and clip coupons for storage items and fresh meats and produce. This will allow you to stock up when things are on sale. This puts you in the driver’s seat as to what you are paying for groceries, rather than being at the mercy of the market price for what you need. By maintaining a short-term storage, you should be able to completely avoid ever paying full price for most items that you use on a regular basis.

Short-term food items include canned soups, fruits, vegetables, beans & meats; boxed crackers, pasta mixes, baking mixes, etc.; pasta, rice, lentils, seeds, nuts, and other dry goods. While you’ll want to include your refrigerator/freezer in your short term storage plan, most short-term food items should be non-perishable and not require refrigeration, in the event that you lose power for an extended period of time.

What To Get: Imagine that because of a storm, you couldn’t get to a grocery store for several weeks, or that food shortages, trucking strikes or unexpected price increases create a situation where you are suddenly limited in your choices at the grocery store. What would you want to have on hand? The more you think about this question, the more creative you can get. I have been working on experimenting with storage items that I don’t normally use in recipes, (ie., switching 2% milk out for powdered or canned milk, or using chopped up SPAM in split pea soup in place of a ham bone.)

Rotate Your Supply: Keep a Sharpie permanent marker in your kitchen drawer. When you come home from the grocery store, before putting any groceries away, mark them with the month & year they were purchased. Mark cans on the top and boxes on the side for quick & easy reference. This will help you remember when they were purchased and how quickly they need to be used.

When you put your groceries into the cupboard or pantry, be sure to put the newest items behind the older ones. This assures that the next time you go to grab a can of tomato sauce, you’ll be grabbing the one that needs to be used up first. Generally speaking, commercially canned items have a 2-plus-year shelf life, so be sure to rotate accordingly so that you will use the oldest items before the newer one. Obviously, boxed items have a much shorter shelf-life than canned goods. Most commercially packaged food items list a “best if used by” date, which can be used if necessary.

NOTE: Canned Pineapple & Mandarin Oranges are an exception to the 2+ year rule. Because of the enzymes and acidity, they can actually corrode and rust through the cans. This corrosion could lead to loss of your investment on the minimal side, or possibly botulism or food poisoning on the other extreme. Because of this, I try not to let mine sit for more than a year. NEVER eat food from cans that are dented, rusted, or bulging in any way. Dents, rust or other corrosion can mean that the seal has been broken, and your food could be spoiled. Don't risk it. Toss any cans that have become damaged. 

We don’t have much cupboard space or a kitchen pantry. Instead, we bought three 4-shelf plastic storage shelves at WalMart for about $20 each. We have organized them so that each shelf has a specific category: baking, fruits, vegetables, proteins. We have them set up in our basement (it’s not a finished basement, so we only keep canned food items that will not attract critters downstairs.) We also bought an inexpensive cabinet at Lowe’s Hardware (about $100) that sits in our dining room and this is where we keep boxed or packaged items that would be inappropriate for storing in the basement. Basically anything that rodents or insects could get into stays in the cabinet upstairs.

Be creative when thinking about storage space. You want to keep your food items in cool, clean, dark places in order to provide ideal storage conditions and extend the life of your supply. Extra closets, under beds and even inside furniture (wardrobes or chests.) If the time comes when it’s necessary to live off your storage, you won’t mind the clutter or crowded space. You can maximize your storage space by using different packaging options and storage containers, but more on that later.

Keep in mind that the idea of “short-term” storage is that you become self-sufficient based on items you have in your home to sustain yourself for up to three months. These items will be different for each family, but staples should be the same, and you should be careful to keep your stock well-rounded enough to supply both nutrition and variety.

Some of Your short-term pantry items could include:

Oats, (regular or instant oatmeal, rolled oats, etc.)
Wheat, (white, red, etc.)
Rice, (brown, white, etc.)
Pasta (spaghetti, macaroni, lasagna, egg noodles, etc.)
Farina, grits, other cereals

Protein Sources
Beans, (dry or canned: black/kidney/garbonzo/pinto/refried/lentils/etc.)
Clams, (chopped/whole/smoked)
Chicken, Turkey, Beef chunks
Tuna, (or other canned fish)
Chili, Pork-n-Beans, canned soups

Fruits, dried or canned
Apple Sauce
Fruit Cocktail
Pineapple (slices/chunks/crushed)
Mandarin Oranges
Dried fruits, (apricots/prunes/berries/fruit leather/etc.)
Pie fillings, (cherry/blueberry/blackberry, apple, etc.)
Veggies, dried or canned
Green Beans, (fancy & regular cut)
Corn, regular & creamed
Green Peas
Black Olives
Green Chiles
Tomato Sauce/Paste
Tomatoes, stewed/whole/diced
Split green peas (dry)
Spaghetti Sauces
Dried onions, carrots, mushrooms, other cooking essentials

Baking Supplies
Cooking Oil, (vegetable, canola, olive, etc.)
Salt, Pepper, spices & seasonings
Sugar, (granulated, brown, powdered)
Baking Powder
Baking Soda
Cocoa Powder
Yeast (bulk packaged or in packets)
Lemon juice
Corn Syrup
Any other items needed for the things you bake regularly

Dry Mixes
Jello/pudding mixes
Cake/muffin/brownie mixes
Stovetop Stuffing mixes
Soup mixes
Gravy, sauce, taco seasoning mix

Bottled Water
Apple/Cranberry/Orange/misc. bottled juices (use empty bottles for water storage)
Box sealed soy or rice milk (no refrigeration before opening, 1 year shelf life)
Powerade of Gatorade (great when someone has the flu)
Hot chocolate drink mixes
Lemonade/KoolAid mixes
Herbal Teas
Soda, (orange, root beer, sprite, etc. adds variety or is great for a special treat)
Ginger Ale (I drink lots of ginger ale to help my nausea, so we have a stock of that)
V-8, other canned fruit juices

Supplies for Your 72 Hour Kits

Where Do I Get Supplies for Our Emergency Kits? It's a great question, and one that many people ask as they start on the road to self reliance and emergency preparedness. Spend a little time researching, but remember that in today's world of online shopping, we literally have the world at our finger tips. Because we are a young family and on a limited budget, I have found that shopping around and being selective, prioritizing our needs and then making the best purchases possible, are all things that have really helped us stretch our emergency preparedness budget.

You can get most of the supplies at WalMart, K-Mart, Target, Home Depot or other type store. Outdoor and Sporting Goods stores are also a great resource, but watch the prices. A lot of the smaller supplies are even available at the dollar store. If you’re preparing kits for several people and don’t have unlimited amounts of cash, it will save you a lot of money to do a little shopping around.

For specialty emergency items that you can’t find other places, Emergency Essentials has many supplies for this specific purpose. They can be found online at or you can call them at 1-800-999-1863. Doing a quick internet search for emergency supplies will also produce many results and allow you to shop and compare prices as well.

I am an admitted cheap skate, and my husband is even worse. The following supplies are examples of the ones we found at our local Dollar Tree store:

Box of 10 Earloop Masks
Box of 100 assorted bandaids
Roll of 2” Gauze
Roll of 3” Gauze
Roll of 4” Gauze
Second Skin
Instant Ice Pack
Tube of antibiotic ointment
Package of 2 emergency ponchos
Set of Phillips & flathead screwdrivers
Roll of (420ft.) cotton twine
Box of 12 particulate masks
Super Glue

We have gotten many more items at the dollar store, but be careful to be selective. There is a delicate balance between which items can be “disposable” or limited-use quality, and which items need to be very durable and high quality. Keep in mind that your 72-hour kit is designed for a three day period where you might have to leave your home, but where you’ll eventually (with any luck) be able to go back. Many items can be temporary. The items that I would not cut corners on would include a good knife/pocket knife/multipurpose tool, batteries, a sturdy pair of shoes, a P-38 can opener or any other item that will be used constantly if you ever have to pull out your packs.

A lot of the small items are for different contingencies and scenarios, and may never actually be needed. The screwdrivers that we found at the dollar store are sturdy enough to be used in a pinch, but they’re not what my husband would want to use all the time. One last word to the wise: I love the dollar store, but some of the items are totally worthless. Before “stocking up” on something, I always make sure to open one up and make sure it will actually work for what I need.

Also, we have stocked our family first aid kit at the dollar store. Gauze, band aids & ice packs are all items that are more than three times the cost at other stores, and they are the same product! There are plenty of first aid items you’ll want in your kit that will be expensive. Save your pennies where you can.

Are You Prepared?

Some Scenarios to Think About and Reasons to DO IT NOW:

1. Your next-door neighbors are adding on to their house. A sudden explosion caused by the new gas lines sets the house on fire. The fire department arrives and within minutes you are told that you have to gather what you need and leave your home, as there is a chance it may catch fire. You have 3-5 minutes.

2. A major earthquake has either leveled or severely damaged most of the homes in your neighborhood & surrounding community. There are many injuries, and what is left of people’s homes is unfit for shelter.

3. A sudden windstorm causes wide-spread power outages. You listen to the radio in your car, and hear that because of the number of people without power, it may take crews up to three days to restore power to your area.

4. Because of heavy rains and flooding over the past week, officials have been keeping a close eye on the dam just up river from your community. There is an announcement on the emergency broadcasting system that the dam has broken and certain areas have to be evacuated immediately. You are in an area requiring immediate evacuation. You have 1-2 minutes to get out.

5. On the way home from a weekend trip, you get a speeding ticket for over $300, more than next month’s grocery and spending money allotment, combined. If you pay your ticket, you won’t have any money for groceries or other supplies.

6. You live in an ocean side community in the south. A tropical storm has just been recently upgraded to a hurricane. You have been out shopping most of the day, and have only just returned home. You suddenly hear a loud speaker outside and go out to see a police car driving down your street announcing that you must leave your home in the next 15 minutes. The evacuation is for an indefinite period of time.

7. A particularly bad snow storm leaves you home-bound and without power, heat or running water for over a week.

8. Because of local civil unrest, extreme riots have broken out in various areas of the city in which you live. You are uneasy about your family staying in your home during this time.

9. An unexpected illness causes you to miss two weeks of work, unpaid.

10. A national trucker’s union goes on strike, causing shortages on basic necessities at most major grocery stores.

72 Hour Kits for Infants

As a parent, it is your first and foremost obligation to take care of your child. Can you imagine being in a situation where you are not able to do that? Can you imagine how you would feel arriving at that moment and knowing that with a bit of foresight and planning you could have helped your child avoid this situation? Take a few minutes to provide your baby with a bit of insurance against that situation. As you put your kit together, keep in mind that this is a general list- You know your child & their needs. Tailor this list to what you know YOUR baby would need during an emergency situation.

Experts suggest checking and updating your packs every six months. I packed our baby pack for up to one year a head of time. Clothes that are too big can be made to work...clothes that are too small are worthless. I packed 12mo. sizes for our brand new baby. The same goes for diapers. In an emergency, duct tape could work miracles with a diaper that is too big. You don't want to deal with diapers that are too small. If you breastfeed, realize that your milk may dry up during stressful situations. Keep formula & bottles on hand for this contingency. Include baby foods - even if your baby isn't eating them yet. Try to include a variety so your baby will have a well-rounded diet in the event of a problem.

Along with our baby's backpack, I purchased a cloth baby carrier at a garage sale...if we needed to leave our home on foot, our plan is that I will carry the baby in the front pack, with his backpack on my back. My kit is in a rolling bag, so I can pull it. Put some time into thinking about how you would transport your baby & their kit if you are on foot. 72 hour kits MUST BE PORTABLE. You don't need to spend a lot of money to do this. Check garage sales, thrift stores and resale shops for deals on bags & baby carriers. Chances are you've got an extra bag or two that would work just fine for now. Begin today. Don't wait!

Water, Drinking & Other
Water, 2-liter bottle
Drinking Water Pouches, 4oz.

Food Pack
Powdered Baby Formula
Liquid Baby Formula
Rice or other Cereal
Dry Cereal, Snack (cheerios)
3-6 packs of fruit/veggie/meat baby food
Baby Bowl w/lid
Baby Spoon
Anti-bac Wipes
3 8 oz. Bottles w/caps (filled with purified water)
8 oz. Bottle Liners (enough for 3 days)
3 Extra Bottle Nipples

Small Folding Stove
Stove Fuel, 1 can
Waterproof Matches
Anti-bac Wipes
Hand Sanitizer
Bottle Brush
Dish Soap
zip-lock bags
2-3 small garbage bags

1 Small, Heavy, Warm Blanket
2 Dbl Sided Receiving Blankets
Snow Suit
Onesies (T-shirt)
Sun Hat
Stocking Cap
6 pr. Socks
3-4 Cloth Bibs
Snap-up Pajamas

24 Disposable Diapers
3-4 Cloth Diapers & Rubber Pants
Baby Wipes
Diaper Pins
Baby Shampoo
Baby Lotion
Baby Powder
Hand Soap

Comfort Items
Comfort Blankie
Small Stuffed Toy
Pacifier Clip
Teething Ring
Small Toys

First Aid
Sunscreen SPF 30
Insect Repellent
Band Aids
Baby Aspirin
Baby Motrin
Teething Gel
Baby Benedryl
Baby Thermometer
Safety Pins
Nose Bulb
Emergency Supplies
Emergency Blanket, Mylar
Hand Warmers
Small flashlight
Batteries, AA

Important Documents
Copy of Birth Certificate
Copies of Parent's ID (driver's license, etc.) 
Copy of Immunization Record
Copy of Insurance Cards
Insurance Contact & Policy Info

Creating An Evacuation Grab List

Sit down for a minute and imagine a horrible scenario. You have 10 minutes to leave your house, and you aren’t sure if it is going to be there when you come back. You can take your kids, your emergency kits and anything else you can fit in your car. What would you grab? What items do you consider absolutely irreplaceable? The Family Bible, Priceless Photographs, your great-grandmother’s lace tablecloth? It’s something that most of us never want to think about, but a few minutes of preparation will help you to avoid possibly losing irreplaceable items that are portable enough to take with you in the event of an evacuation.

As you think about what you would grab, sit down and list all of those items. While it may be difficult, try to list them according to priority, so that if time is limited, you can grab the most important first. Keep a copy of this list in your 72-Hour kit where you can easily look at it in the event of an evacuation. In a stressful situation, it may be difficult to think clearly about what you want, so the list will help you identify your priceless essentials.
Be sure to include the location of each item in your home, (ie., the bookshelf in the guest bedroom,) so that you won't have to trust your memory in an extremely stressful situation, and also so that others would be able to help you if they were around to do so.
Once you've created your list, print it out and put a copy in your preparedness binder, and include one in your 72 Hour Kit. You could also hang a copy in the closet or other area where you store your 72 Hour Kits and other emergency supplies so that's it's there at a glance in an emergency situation.
Happy Homemaking!

An Emergency Contact & Evacuation Plan

Here is a basic outline of the information that should be included in your family's Emergency Contact and Evacuation Plan. You can copy and paste the outline directly into a Word document, fill in the info and print it out for your preparedness binder and for each of your family member's 72 Hour Kits!

Our Out-of-State Emergency Contact:
Phone Number:

Our Family’s Pre-Arranged Evacuation Destination:
Phone Number:
Direct Route Driving Directions to our Evacuation Destination:
Alternate Route Driving Directions to our Evacuation Destination:

Our Family’s Pre-Arranged Alternate Evacuation Destination:
Phone Number:
Direct Route Driving Directions to our Alternate Evacuation Destination:
Alternate Route Driving Directions to our Alternate Evacuation Destination:

Happy Homemaking!

Evacuation Checklist

Be prepared and proactive when it comes to possible disasters or emergencies in your area. DO NOT EXPECT CITY, COUNTY OR OTHER EMERGENCY SERVICES TO BE AVAILABLE IN THE EVENT OF A MAJOR DISASTER. Have an evacuation route in mind before something happens, and take into account possible congested routes and other back roads that may be more accessible. Keep in mind, however, that you need to listen to all instructions given by local authorities in the event of an impending emergency, such as a hurricane. If you receive the order to evacuate, or are in an area of “voluntary evacuation,” LEAVE. Don’t stick around to be involved in or add to the chaos that could result. Also, before an emergency happens, establish an out-of-state emergency contact and make sure the contact information is in each of your family’s emergency kits. Long-distance phone service is generally back up before local phone service after a disaster, AND CELL SERVICE CANNOT BE RELIED ON, so if your family is separated for any reason, instruct them to call the out-of-state contact to report in. As each family member reports in, your contact can convey that information to you.
While it’s not fun to think about having to leave your home for an extended period of time, it is prudent to have a pre-arranged destination in mind before you get on the road,  (a friend or family member that is far enough away to provide a safe place to stay until things calm down.) Again, set this up now. Have a plan. Shelters and emergency services are instantly overwhelmed in the face of major disasters, so don’t rely on the local shelter if it is at all possible. Remember, there are people who have nowhere else to go. With a little planning, you can be much more comfortable and better taken care of, while leaving those community services available to those who truly have nowhere else, and who truly need them. If you are reading this, you have the opportunity to prepare yourself and your family so that you are not adding to the overwhelming problems that automatically result following major disasters.
These are generic lists, but should help get you thinking about what you would want to do at your house, and gather to take with you in the event of an evacuation. As always, each list should be tailored to your individual needs and circumstances.
Shut main gas line off outside
Shut off all water lines to appliances (water heater, washer, toilets)
Shut off all light switches, unplug appliances & lamps
Shut off all power switches in fuse box
If you are able, shut off water main (the city may have to do this)
Items to Grab in Evacuation (as time allows):
Your Family’s 72-Hour kit
Individual 72-Hour kits
Your Pet’s 72-Hour Kits
Emergency/Preparedness supplies as applicable
Camping Gear, Tent & Tarp, Sleeping Bags, Sleeping Pads
Laptop Computer, cell phones & chargers, external hard-drive back up
Financial, Medical & Family Historical Records
Photo Albums, small family heirlooms, priceless photographs or other irreplaceable items
Photos in frames from around house

72 Hour Kits for Family Pets

Regardless of what you think about Crazy Cat Ladies, if you own a pet, (even if it's just an outdoor cat that occasionally comes home for a meal,) in order to be a responsible pet owner, you need to make provisions for your pets in the event of an emergency where you may have to leave your home.

Just as your kit should include essential items that would sustain and keep you comfortable for 72 hours, or three days, so too, your pets need this. And they can’t do it for themselves! I prepared emergency kits for both my dogs using guidelines created by the ASPCA after Hurricane Katrina. You may remember after the hurricane hit, many pets were either abandoned or had to be left at animal shelters because most of the time, public shelters will not allow pets. Animal shelters, however, will not take pets that do not have clear record of vaccination and most of us do not have these readily on hand.

The following items and information are recommended by the ASPCA as essential items to include in your pet’s emergency kit. This list is specific for a dog. As always, tailor this list to your individual pet and circumstance.

72 Hour Kit for a Family Pet
  • Animal Transport Crate
  • 1-Gallon Drinking Water
  • 9 cups dry dog food (1 cup/3x a day)
  • 1 or 2 cans wet dog food
  • Small bag of treats
  • Extra Collar
  • Extra Leash
  • Cloth Muzzle
  • Tie-out and cable or long chain
  • Dish for food/water
  • Favorite toy or chew
  • Paper towels or Lysol wipes
  • 10-12 extra plastic bags for cleaning up
  • Small hand trowel for cleaning up
  • Copies of license, shots, vet records
I created the following document which I laminated and included in the dog’s kit. I made one for both my dogs. I also shrank it down and laminated it, and have included zip ties in order to attach it to their crates. Those two copies are in the dog’s kits. I have black & white copies of both in my emergency kit. In the event that we could be separated in an emergency, they are clearly marked as being owned by me, and when I go to pick them up, I have documentation that I own them. Again, this was recommended by the ASPCA.

Happy Homemaking!

The Wonder Box Cooker

I wish I could take credit for this whole thing, but I'm just not that smart. Whoever came up with the Wonder Box Cooker, is in my opinion, pure genius. The basic idea behind a Wonder Box Cooker is to make the most efficient use of limited fuel resources. They were originally designed for use in third world countries, specifically Africa, where fuel is limited as are most other resources. The Wonder Box Cooker essentially works like a vacuum flask, keeping food at the required temperature for cooking, using very little fuel. It takes about 10-15 minutes of fuel to bring food to a boil, and then the insulated Wonder Box Cooker will maintain that temperature while the food is thoroughly cooked. On the other hand, it will keep ice cream cold for about 4 hours.
I Also wish I could give specific credit for the following items, but it's been so long since I gathered them, that I'm not aware who should be thanked. I am italicizing the information that has been passed along to me, and the additional instructions that I found online several years ago:

"The Wonder Box Cooker recipes and instructions originated from a booklet published by Compassion of South Africa in 1978,1979 and 1980. Compassion registered the name Wonder Box. This information may be freely quoted, acknowledgments being made to Compassion."

Brief Instructions:
Boil your food on the stove for 10 – 15 minutes until the food is heated right through. (In practice this is too long.)

Use any cooking pot, provided it does not have a long handle, but do not use a large pot for a small amount of food. The W'box does not work well if there is a large air space. Remember that the more food or liquid that you have in the pot, the longer and better it will cook.

Put the lid on the pot before you remove the pot from the stove so the lid can also get hot. Make sure the nest in the bottom cushion is ready to take the pot and that it is nearby so you do not lose heat carrying the pot around. Place pot into the nest of the W’box, making sure that the sides are snug against the pot, so there are no air pockets. Quickly cover the pot with the top cushion, making sure there are no gaps or air pockets. Make sure that no one peeks inside. If this happens, heat will escape, and the food will not cook properly.

Do not leave the Wonder Box Cooker on a metal surface while it is being used. Metal is a good conductor of heat and may draw off some heat through the bottom.

When cooking anything like a roast or a whole chicken, the liquid around it can boil before the meat has reached the same temperature. Make sure the liquid covers the meat and it has come to a boil. Meat must be covered with liquid! The cooking time seems to be 3-4 hours, or all day. It is sure to never burn.

Note: We had a chicken that was put in at 9:30 in the morning before church. This single dad prepared the chicken by placing it into an oven-cooking bag. He added spices to the chicken closed the bag completely (no added moisture was added to the bag) then brought the pot of water with the chicken in, to a boil and put it all in to the W’box. We ate with him at 4:00pm and as he tried to carve the chicken that was well cooked; the steam was ‘rolling’ off the chicken. It was still so hot he worked with forks to carve it. Nb: the opening to the bag was left protruding from under the lid.

The Wonder Box Cooker was designed for cooking meals, but it can also be used for keeping food hot, cold or frozen for 3-6 hours depending on what it is For example, frozen meat will stay frozen longer than a tub of ice cream.

The cushions filled with polystyrene can be washed with hot water and soap and hung on the line to dry.
For obvious reasons, the Wonder Box Cooker can be an integral part of your family preparedness plan, since it would help stretch a limited fuel/energy supply in any kind of emergency situation. If you would like to incorporate this little gem into your family's preparedness plan, see my other posts, The Wonder Box Cooker Tutorial and Wonder Box Cooker Recipes.