Saturday, July 27, 2019
Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Preparing for a long term emergency, Part 4
Today's post will be more suggestions from my past experiences when I had to use the food and other items in my pantry... as they relate to a possible long term emergency. Sorry if it rambles a bit. Then I will talk about the subject of water.
The Importance of Staying Aware
I have learned through the decades that keeping alert to what is going on around me personally and on an International scale can be of vital importance. For instance, personally we can notice if there are signs of an impending lay off that would affect income. While nationally we need to be aware of food trends, possible war in the Middle East, trucker strikes, weather conditions, etc.
All of these areas affect our income and/or the availability of food and other items. From watching news reports, it seems to be human nature to wait until the last minute before heading to the store before a storm or other possibility of having to remain at home.
I'm not sure if that is true of everyone or the newscasts only show the few people who stand in line at stores or drive in bumper to bumper traffic to get away from impending danger. It is probably a little of both.
I no longer watch national news programs unless there is an emergency going on presently. However, I do get the primary headlines in my local newscasts and I subscribe to a couple news updates (headlines only) and a few analysis of the news from people I respect. I don't listen to all of the analysis but I will if it is on a timely subject.
Currently, we are hearing a lot about the war drums beating in the Middle East. On one hand, it has been happening for decades (millennia?). However, someday the situation can explode and I have a feeling when it does, it will be suddenly.
The most likely scenario for us out of that region will be quickly escalating oil prices, which... those of us who can remember from the 1970s... can make prices on everything inflate quickly. The items we use often may still be available but at a much higher cost.
An item we no longer hear much about in the national media is the condition of crops throughout the United States. I know in my Midwestern state, we are being told that has much as half of the corn crop is in very bad shape. Much of it was planted in damp conditions and very late in the season. Then the heat wave hit at the worst time in the growth cycle of corn and soybeans.
But not only are these cash crops affected, the weather conditions have been hard on a lot of produce this season. I may have mentioned that I read an article recently that shortages of some canned vegetables have been showing up in grocery stores already with signs on the shelves saying it was due to the weather.
What do these two stories tell us? On the International scene, if I were going to make any major purchases that I already have the money to purchase, I would do it sooner rather than later. Although there may be a short period of time between an occurrence in the world and inflation... it could very well first affect the availability of some items in an International market.
This would also be the time I would make sure I have sources of light in addition to candles, (they are perfect for a romantic dinner... not so much for reading), a battery operated radio, oil for an oil lamp if you have one, extra batteries, etc.
As far as food, make a list of what you consider essential and these items become the priority. Otherwise, you will forget items at the store (which I have even with a list but we won't go there...). I have provided some of my lists the past few weeks but they would include items like oil for cooking, extra virgin olive oil, butter for the freezer, and other items essential to recipes.
It wouldn't cost much to purchase extra cans of favorite veggies and extra packages of frozen vegetables when you do your grocery shopping. With a magic marker, write the date purchased (or the use by date) on the top of each can and then as usual, store the oldest in front and the newest in the back of your shelves. I don't mark most frozen items since they have an easily readable use by date but I do my best to use the oldest packages first.
It is also good to think of any food items that would be affected by problems in transit to the stores. First of all would be those foods that come in from other countries (I think first of all about coffee). It is usually easy to purchase one extra can or bag of coffee and then set it aside with your other food you are trying to stock.
Few of us can go out and buy cases of food at a time just to deepen the pantry. However, most of us can buy an extra can or two of veggies, an extra bag or two of frozen items, an extra can or bag of coffee, etc. at a time. Of course, there are other items that are important to stock up a little at a time but I am always amazed how much can be accumulated (or accomplished) a little at a time.
It is always better to start purchasing a little now than nothing at all while we wait until we can do a lot more.
Preparation as a Lifestyle
I almost called this section "When Doing is Better than Buying" for it almost means the same thing. I have written about that subject before after seeing a lot of people buying stuff for Y2k and then not knowing what to do with it. All I can say is, it was an eye opener and I'm glad that computer problem was fixed in time.
Perhaps the greatest lesson I have learned about the Pantry Lifestyle over the past few decades is that what we learn to do is just as important and arguably more important that what we buy.
For instance, I have written only recently again that having some good quality freeze dried meals like Mountain House put back is a good thing, especially for homes where there are only one or two people and for those of us who are challenged as far as fatigue. Makes sense.
However, most of the time I found that being able to cook from scratch simple foods was better for the pantry than anything else we can do. If we have become used to a diet of mostly food prepared by other people, then we can only stock a limited amount of that food.
I do have some convenience foods in the pantry and freezer, like good quality frozen pizzas for a quick dinner if I'm not feeling the best. I keep granola bars handy for preventing low blood sugar incidents. I love the General Tso's chicken nuggets from the store's deli. But my everyday meals do not center around them.
Because for many years now, I have had a small food budget, I learned that I can pretty much double it by cooking from scratch. I am so thankful for cooking classes I took when I was young and for great cookbooks and recipes handed down from friends and family. I still enjoy going out to breakfast or dinner from time to time but I also appreciate being able to make very good meals at home.
I know how to make bread, soak and simmer beans, roast vegetables, and fix cheap cuts of meat so they taste like the most expensive restaurant meals. Not all my recipes are completely from scratch. My mother-in-law was what we called "the casserole queen" and I have no guilt in starting a dish with cream of mushroom, chicken, celery, etc. soup. I also use canned beans for smaller meals and salsa made at the tomato factory.
But still this is making the final product myself and it doesn't take long at all most of the time. One of the reasons I love cold weather cooking is because so much of it is assembled in a soup or stew and then slow cooked over hours as other household duties are completed and even a chapter of a book can be read (or in a Crockpot while working outside of the home).
When we learn to do things ourselves, we do not have to pay for a middle man (or woman). My husband's father instilled in him the importance of learning to do household repairs, car maintenance, etc. himself. Although today's computerized cars need genius mechanics and require metric tools he doesn't own, there are still a lot of skills that can save homeowners and renters a great deal of money that can be spent on things like... food.
One Truth I came to realize over the years is that it takes awhile to get good at any skill. I think of this often when I see lists of items that people should store for emergencies and they include seeds and tools for a garden. That's it, that is all they are told to store to grow anything.
How much better, if you have the space, to start a small garden, prepare the soil, learn what grows and does not grow in your space, what to grow from seed and what to grow from starts, how it feels to get your hands in the plants and remove dead leaves and stuff, how to know they are ready for harvest, and over the years... which varieties of seeds and starts you like best.
These days when I don't have the physical strength it takes to garden, I still grow a lot of my own herbs which people can do with just a balcony. I think there is something about being created by One who is a Master Gardener that makes us happy even when we are just growing basil on a sunny ledge.
So anyway... this could go on forever and it is long enough already but I know you understand what I am saying. There is so much we can learn and do that is important to know. Those things our grandparents and great grandparents grew up learning.
The Bugaboo of Water Storage
Okay, it is hard for me to write about water because entire chapters of preparedness books have been written about the subject. I will share what I have learned over the years, including going weeks without running water after our house was hit by lightening and due to a pipe from the well breaking after that.
Buying water for storage is not as fun as stocking our favorite food. However, we can only live a few days without water and should you store some freeze dried meals... you would not want to chew them dry. Not to mention no coffee or tea.
I store some larger gallon and two gallon containers of water and a couple dozen of the bottles that are easy to grab and go when needed. I do not buy plastic bottles for everyday use. If you think about it and you are my age, people didn't carry plastic bottles with them full of water. They carried water in a thermos for water, coffee in a thermos for hot beverages, etc. I have both for when I am away from home.
My husband carries water when he is going to be working outside in hot weather in a canning jar with a screw top lid. I may consider getting a cute reusable water bottle someday but in the meantime, my stainless steel water thermos is fine.
I had a 50 gallon container for water but found it far from useful. It was too heavy to move when filled with water. If I had it to do over again, I would have used it to make a rain water collector. We have well water which requires electricity to bring in the house and we do not have a generator. So we have seriously considered putting together a way to catch rainwater. I'm not sure why but I have heard these are illegal in some places (maybe you know?) but not where we live. It is an option at the moment.
What I do have is a twenty year old Big Berky that I bought new filters for a couple years ago. They are available but now very expensive. I'm including a link below to what they call the Travel Berky that is slightly smaller but on the same page, you can also click on the Big Berky option if you want something larger. It has worked great for us all these years. I boxed it up when we put in the under the sink filters but it has the two new filters and is ready to go in any emergency.
I haven't tried the straw filters but from what I have read, they work great in an emergency. Especially if you are away from home. Various options are available according to where you live.
I will work this week on putting together some good links for further information regarding preparedness in general and water storage specifically.
Mentioned in this Blog Post
Travel Berky water filter... here.
Disclaimer: Most links to Amazon.com are Associate links.
Note: The best blog for learning to live a simpler life, cook from scratch, garden, etc. is Down to Earth. Rhonda has YEARS of archived information and I think both of her books are still available on Amazon. Although perhaps only on the Kindle. Her information is good even though she is in Australia. We just switch around the seasons when planning. Her blog can be found... here.
Another Note: Please forgive any typos or grammatical errors. By the time I finished this, my eyes were burning so I will be back for further proofreading!