Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Pantry: Water and Other Supplies

People can live for days without food, but not without water.  It is essential to maintain life, so water storage should be one of your highest priorities when establishing a pantry.

Plan on at least a gallon a day per person to provide drinking and washing needs.  I am talking about dampening your face and brushing your teeth; not real bathing.

First things first, let's talk about containers.  They must be food grade, preferably opaque and not biodegradable.  Milk jugs and bottled water from the store are in containers that will begin to break down after a few months.  If I do purchase water before storm season I store it in an extra shower that we have, not near my food supplies.  I  found white, opaque, five gallon, food grade water containers at my hardware store.  Considering that a gallon of water weighs about 8 pounds, it would be difficult for me to maneuver anything larger.  There are also specialized containers available online, it depends on your individual needs and your budget.

When storing tap water it is important to treat it with household bleach.  Just plain bleach, not lemon scented or soapy.  Add 1/8 of a teaspoon per gallon of water.  Tap water is not sterile by any means, so be sure not to skip this step.  Your water should last for several years if treated this way.

Water that is stored for a long period of time can go "flat".  This means that it is no longer oxygenated, but it is still safe to drink.

It is always a good idea to stock up on toiletries and other essentials (to your family) that you cannot make for yourself.  Just figure out what your usage is per month, multiply by 12 and start shopping wisely.

When preparing your pantry for an emergency situation (eg. hurricane season)  it is always advisable to keep two extra weeks of medication on hand.  The emergency management departments suggest this every year, but good luck convincing your doctor and insurance company.  I always manage to stockpile a small amount of my medication by ordering two days early each month.  This way I am acquiring two extra pills each month and after seven months I have my emergency supply.

The subject of what to store in your pantry is endless.  Your supplies should be based on your personal preferences and needs.  Keeping your pantry supplies up to date is a constant process and should be a part of your weekly/monthly shopping trips.

God bless,

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Pantry: Food

The pantry locations have been chosen and shelves built; now it is time to start stocking it with food.  First you need to think about a few things to help you with your choices:  How long do I want this food to last?  How many people do I need to feed?  What do they eat?

In my county our Emergency Management Dept. suggests that we keep a supply of food that will last several days.  This is in case of a hurricane, but after seeing the slow response to hurricane Katrina I think that several months supply is more prudent.  But what if dear husband were laid off or one of us became seriously ill and our money supply dried up?  In this case, a year of food in storage sounds much more reassuring to me.

Now you need to decide how many people you will be feeding.  What are their ages?  Will it just be immediate family or will some long lost relatives come knocking on your door?  How about the elderly neighbor across the street?  Look at this hard and fast.  Are you willing to turn people away?

The best way for me to figure out my family's year long food storage needs is to use a food calculator.  This takes away the guess work, but you may need to tweak the list to meet your individual needs.  If your family never eats rice, but loves noodles, make a substitution.  Does an elderly relative drink a nutritional supplement drink every day?  Add it.  You get the picture.

If you are one of those people that wants to spend thousands of dollars buying a years worth of dehydrated foods in #10 cans, then go for it.  Most of us will be building our pantry supplies slowly, but surely, buying extra during sales and canning what we can grow and hunt.  With steady, economical purchasing you will have a pantry grandma would have been proud of.

God bless,

Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday

I choose to not participate in the Black Friday feeding frenzy. Several people that I know love getting up at 3:oo in the morning to wait in line for their favorite big box store to open. Every year they tell their tale of woe about missing out on the "big" sales items.

Most stores list some big ticket items at half price, but they have a very limited number of them. Unless you are willing to camp out in front of the store all night, then race to the electronics department and physically grapple with other shoppers you aren't going to get in on the big deal.

I would rather research item ratings and compare prices on line, check the web site to see if it is available at my local store and print out coupons before I start shopping. Better yet, because so many merchants are offering free shipping and coupon code discounts most of my shopping is done sitting in front of my computer.

If you enjoy the Black Friday camaraderie of shopping with friends and it has become a fun tradition for you, then have at it. But excuse me while I spend my day with a good book and a cup of tea.

God bless,

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Countdown: The Day Before

We have one day left for preparations.  The first thing I want you to do is check that turkey defrosting in the refrigerator.  Is it still rock solid?  I am going to recommend something that all the official "turkey" sites will say is anathema:  Take the turkey out of the refrigerator today for a few hours.  Don't completely defrost it, but it should be almost there before you put it back in the refrigerator.  If you do this make sure you roast your turkey until it is 165 degrees fahrenheit in the thickest part of the thigh.  If it is still partially frozen tomorrow put it to soak in a sink of cold water until defrosted.

Today I will make the cornbread stuffing/dressing using the cornbread I baked yesterday.  I will fry chopped onions and celery in butter and pour over diced cornbread.  Then I'll add some salt and poultry seasoning to taste.  Moisten it all with broth until very moist, but not soaking wet.  If you have excess milk from dairy animals you can substitute milk for the broth.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 1/2 hour.  You will want a light brown crust on top.

I will also make the pumpkin pie.  Super easy; just follow the directions on the can of pumpkin.  You can make your own crust, but the Pillsbury crusts are very good.  The pie will be served with cream whipped just before serving.  I don't use artificial whipped toppings and I don't sweeten the cream.  Let the pie provide the sweetness and the cream richness.

Dear daughter and I will finish cleaning floors, iron the turkey patterned tablecloth (delightfully tacky), set the table and wipe down the bathroom.  Provide fresh towels for your guests and put out a new bar of soap.  They will notice these considerate, hygienic touches.  Sweep the front porch and walk for a good first impression.

Let's talk about roasting the turkey.  If you've roasted a chicken you can roast a turkey.  Remove the giblets, rinse the bird in cold water, push softened butter under the skin and massage around, place cut up onions and citrus in the cavity, salt and roast according to the directions given by the processor or your favorite cookbook.  It is done when it registers 165 F in the thickest part of the thigh.  Make sure the thermometer is not touching bone when you take the temperature.  If it starts to get too brown before it is done cover with aluminum foil.  When done take the turkey out of the oven, cover with a tent of foil and let rest for 15 minutes before carving.

My confession:  Because I will have so few meat eaters at my table this year I have decided not to cook a whole turkey.  I am roasting a half a breast and two thighs.  We will have turkey aplenty to eat and for leftovers.

Friday I will be at the grocery store bright and early to find those post Thanksgiving sales.  I hope I get a couple of fresh turkeys for canning and broth.  Cranberries to can as preserves and already canned pumpkin for the pantry.

Happy Thanksgiving and God bless,

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving Countdown: Cooking In Advance

I have a small oven and I need to make as many of our Thanksgiving dishes in advance.  Between my tiny oven and the microwave I manage to cook turkey, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, dressing and cranberry relish.

Last night I made the cranberry relish.  Homemade is so much better than the canned relish and, please, don't serve that stuff that comes out shaped like the can.  In a sauce pan put the juice of one orange and two bags of fresh cranberries.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes.  When the berries have burst their skins add a cup of white sugar and the zest of one orange.  Simmer for a few more minutes, stirring frequently until thickened.  Store in the refrigerator.

Today I am making green bean casserole (all fresh ingredients), sweet potato casserole and cornbread for the dressing.  I am cleaning between bouts of cooking and getting my table ready.  We can eat in the Florida room for a couple of days.

Unfortunately, dear daughter is sick with a cold and I can feel one coming on.  The house won't be immaculate this holiday and we won't use the good silver, but I learned long ago that our expectations for celebrations in our home are much greater than those of our guests.  Most guests are just happy to be in your home with family and friends.  They don't care if the house and table are perfect.

Go easy on yourself.

God bless,

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving Countdown: The List

We are skipping over pantries for a few days to start preparing for Thanksgiving. The first step is to make lists. Lists about needed groceries, house cleaning and decorating. If you are one of those super organized people that made your lists a month ago, God love you, take these five minutes to relax and have some tea. I am not so organized so here I go!

House cleaning list: all the basics, with the addition of cleaning and pressing the turkey tablecloth (yes it has turkeys all over it) and napkins, washing the serving pieces (that haven't seen the light of day since last Christmas), polishing the silver (ditto) and crystal.

Decorating: Cleaning and displaying Fall decorations. Thank goodness I haven't added any turkey statues to the mix, but I do have some lovely gourds and I always use new beeswax candles for the holidays. Don't forget dried flowers which are wonderful for Fall and wonderfully economical since they can be reused.

Groceries: You must make this list and shop today. Why? Because your turkey needs to be in the refrigerator defrosting ASAP. Make a list of ALL ingredients you need for your recipes, check your supplies, then make a shopping list. Make sure your spices and baking powder are fresh. Organize your coupons and head out the door. This isn't a good time to have your spouse or children do the shopping for you; believe me, you will end up running back to the store if you do.

Put your kids to work cleaning. They will grumble, but let them. We are developing their character through meaningful work. Reward them by letting them enjoy doing some of the fun cooking activities (that involve sugar).

Let's get moving!

God bless,

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Pantry: Shelves

We've located our pantry spaces and now we need to construct shelving.  Don't be tempted to buy some inexpensive, steel shelves; they won't hold up.  Canned goods are extremely heavy.  Even the most sturdy metal shelves will begin to bow in the middle under the weight.  Thick wood shelves with plenty of extra support are the way to go.

In a perfect world you have a handy, woodworking spouse that would be thrilled to build you custom shelves for your pantry.  Most of us live in an imperfect world with little time or money for those custom made shelves.  My BFF's husband Lloyd came up with a shelving system that is sturdy, inexpensive, portable and easy for anyone to put together.

First measure your space.  Now measure again.  Yep, it's that old saying, "Measure twice, cut once".  Measure the jars and boxes you will be storing for height and add an inch.  Now it's off to the hardware store to buy solid wood interior doors (unfinished) and four inch pvc pipes.  That's it.  The doors should be less expensive than wood of similar width.

Hopefully, we can construct  the shelves without cutting the wood, but if you've taken good measurements, have them cut them for you at the hardware store.  Make sure you have a hacksaw or a jig saw with a hacksaw blade at home (for the pipe).

Once we're back home it's time to cut the pipe into sections to match your shelf height measurements.  If your shelves are very long you will need to cut extra pieces to use as center braces.

Let's put it all together:  Put sections of pipe (vertically) at each end and one in the center if necessary.  Lay a section of door on the pipes.  Put more pipe sections on ends and center, then another piece of wood door.  Keep building until your shelves are the height you desire.

Now you have sturdy, portable shelves for your pantry spaces and are ready to begin storing food and other essentials.

God bless,

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Pantry

Pantries used to be common in American homes. The shelves were filled with baking staples and home canned foods. Families were ready for hard times or being snowed in for weeks; they could survive because of their well stocked pantry.

Well, what if you or your spouse lose their jobs, bad weather strikes or "fill in this space with the disaster of your choice"? Could your family live on the food in your house? A pantry can be just as important for us as it was for our grandparents.

So, let's find a location for our pantry. It needs to be cool and dark. Light, heat and freezing will cause foods to degrade quickly.

Most of us don't have unique spaces for a pantry, but let's get creative. How about under the beds, under a staircase, in a closet behind the coats, in a corner of the basement. Any little space will do. Think of having many mini pantries instead of one large space.

Start searching now. It's never too early to start preparing for the worst.

God bless,

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Turkey Sale Time

Some people shop on Black Friday to save money on Christmas gifts. The day after Thanksgiving I rush to the grocery store to save money.

Look for baking goods, stuffing, broths, cranberries and turkeys. Last year fresh turkeys were marked down to 29 cents a pound. Oh happy day! I filled my cart with turkeys and rushed home to cook and can them.

My family got to enjoy our favorite turkey casseroles for a long time and I saved on our grocery budget.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Heavy Metal Poisoning (not talking about music)

Now that the words "alzheimers", "autism" and "Aspbergers" have become common words in our society I think it's time for us all to look at the causal factors in these diseases/conditions.  I think everyone has a friend, family member or acquaintance affected by one of these neurological conditions.

Several years ago I began reading heavily about heavy metal poisoning after my father was diagnosed with lead poisoning.  No one could tell where he came into contact with this metal, but he was treated by the Veterans' Administration (VA) and I believe he contracted it during his military career.

One of the main effects of heavy metal poisoning are neurological problems.  Aluminum has been associated with alzheimers and mercury with autism.  The number of people with alzheimers and autism has been skyrocketing since WWII.

During WWII aluminum and other metals were being used by the military and weren't available for everyday use.  Farmers were using manure to fertilize their fields.  Industrialization was limited to the large cities.

After WWII aluminum began to be used for cookware, became a component in fertilizer and is found in many topical cosmetic applications (antiperspirant).  Mercury began to be used as a preservative in medications and vaccines.  Lead affected drinking water far from the cities as industry ramped up with very few environmental considerations.

How can we protect ourselves?  In many ways we can't, but we can do the following:  Filter your water and have your well tested.  Use cast iron, granite ware or enamel covered cast iron for cooking.  Read labels and avoid personal products with metal based contents (look on line for all of the names used for these metals).  Buy as many organic products as you can afford and garden organically.  Educate yourself about this subject.  Take statements denying this heavy metal - neurological connection with a grain of salt.  The corporations producing these toxic products will certainly try to protect their bottom line and the government seems to be happily backing them up.  Make your own decisions.

Bless you,

Friday, November 5, 2010

Lifestyle Choices

Thirteen years ago I became ill with a systemic infection, then three years ago I went through treatments for breast cancer and last, but not least, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.  When faced with severe illness and possible death I was forced to slow down.  When my life was less hurried I began to reevaluate the life choices I had made.  Was I happy as a childless, middle aged career woman?  The answer was that I knew that I was missing some very important elements in my life.

I had wanted children, but put it off because I worked in public safety and I didn't want my children to be raised by someone else.  Age had also become a factor.

My work was all encompassing.  Even when I began working part time the weird hours and job stress put a strain on my home life.  When I was honest with myself, I felt most alive when I was at home caring for my house, garden and family.

Faith.  Gee, who had time for faith.  Religion had been pushed to a back burner.

So, what were my choices?  I chose to adopt my daughter when I was 43 (almost 44) years old.  I became a stay at home wife and mother.  Three years ago, after closely examining my religious beliefs and researching the philosophies of different religious groups, I became Mennonite.

Here I am, having penuried myself to live this lifestyle, and I am truly thankful that God led me to make these hard, but satisfying choices.  Not everyone is able to or wishes to live my lifestyle.  But we all need to take the time for self examination.  Let's make sure we are living the life we were meant to live.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Save Money On Toiletries

I love to find web sites that help me save money. For toiletries, vitamins, homeopathic remedies, cleaning supplies and much more I go to Vitacost.com. Deep discounts and a shipping cost of $4.99 no matter how large your order have made me a happy customer.

Now that I've looked at the above paragraph I feel the need to say that I am not paid to endorse this company. I just really like them.

God bless,