Sunday, June 30, 2013

Emergency Preparedness: Week 4, Medicine

Pretty much every source I've read recommends keeping two to three weeks worth of prescription medication on hand for emergencies.  I have to tell you that I find this to be pretty ironic.  In this day and age of exaggerated concern over prescription medication abuse it is almost impossible to get a doctor to write a script for extra medication.  Or to get a pharmacy to fill it, and last but not least, to get your insurance company to pay for it.  I have managed to build up a small extra supply by refilling my medication the three days before it runs out that my pharmacy and insurance company allows.  This means three extra pills a month.  The medicine supply does build up slowly this way.

Next I would recommend a comprehensive first aid kit.  Not one that is just for cuts and scrapes, but a kit that has splints, suture materials, blood pressure cuff, etc.  There are many good prepacked kits available online, but I would encourage you to personalize it to meet your family's needs.  Consider throwing in some super glue (replaces sutures), anti diarrheal medicine and a ton of sunscreen.  Research what is recommended for your geographical area.

First aid and First Responder training is available through the Red Cross and some schools.  I also received my certification in Advanced Survival Swimming because I live on the Florida Gulf Coast.  Think about the type of medical training that would apply to your family and area.

Oh, and don't forget your pets.  Ask your veterinarian what they recommend you keep on hand for emergencies.

God bless,

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Frugal Kitchen: Bibb, Beet and Feta Salad

Here's another salad I concocted the other day and it was a big hit with the hubby.  The beets should be prepared in advance, so they can be cool when you add them to the salad.


4 beets
1/4 cup pine nuts
bibb lettuce (butter lettuce)
feta cheese, crumbled
6 tsp. olive oil
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
1 small garlic clove, finely diced
1 tsp. fresh oregano, diced (substitute 1/4 tsp. dried)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. white sugar


Cut the tops and root end off of four medium sized beets.  Place in a pan lined with foil.  Bake uncovered in a 350 Fahrenheit oven for one hour.  Remove and let cool.  Remove the skin with your fingers; it will pull right off.  Cut into slices.  The beets will have shrunken considerably.  By cooking them this way you have concentrated the sugars and beet flavor.  They almost taste like candied beets.


Add a handful of pine nuts to a dry cast iron pan.  Roast over medium heat until they begin to lightly brown.  Remove from pan immediately and allow to cool.


On cutting board sprinkle salt over diced garlic; use the side of your knife or the back of the spoon to macerate the garlic into a paste.  Add to bowl, then add oil, vinegar, oregano, pepper and sugar.  Whisk until combined.

In a bowl combine other ingredients with the dressing and toss.  I garnished each salad with a pepperoncini (greek pepper), but it is optional.  Enjoy!

God bless,

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Emergency Preparedness: Week 3, Shelter

This is such a geographically specific subject that it is impossible for me to write a comprehensive post on shelter.  What I can say is that it is imperative that you research the hazards for the area you live in.  Is it tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding, earthquakes or a combination?

Hopefully, you checked with your local Emergency Management Office before you bought your property.  They can tell you if a certain area floods regularly or is vulnerable to other problems.  In more rural areas the local fire department and police departments can fill you in.  The federal government and local universities may be collecting data for your area.  Take the time to do your research before committing to a location.

Once you've found the safest place to live in your area it is time to look at emergency shelters or construction techniques that can keep your family safe during emergencies.

In tornado prone areas a storm shelter should be a priority for you.  Some shelters are pre made and delivered to your home ready to be sunk into the ground.  Others are built in place.  It is important that they be water proof, well ventilated and able to comfortably seat the correct number of people for your household.

A safe room within the home is appropriate for many problems.  It can be used to protect your family from tornadoes, hurricane force winds, and intruders.  These can be specially built into your house or you can choose a strongly built, windowless room in your house.  I have two internal, concrete block, windowless, walk in closets in my house.  What they need to be entirely secure is a strong door that can be locked from inside the closet.

When waiting out a long duration storm such as a tropical storm or hurricane it is imperative that your roof remain on the house.  There are two main ways to ensure this:  hurricane straps and storm shutters. The shutters protect the windows to prevent wind from blowing into the house, creating an updraft that weakens the roof.  The straps physically hold the roof to the wall structure.

You can look into your attic to see if your home has hurricane straps.  They are available for purchase at every home improvement store and are nailed into place.  Super simple and effective.

There are many different types of storm shutters.  I chose to have steel rails permanently attached to my masonry house.  When a storm is approaching I use thumb screws to hold corrugated steel panels to the rails.  I have a few panels that are a clear polycarbonate material to allow light into certain rooms.  I can install these shutters onto the entire house, by myself, in half a day.

There are many other ways to provide safe shelter for your family.  Take the time to do your research, prioritize, save the money and install these safety features.  It can become more economical if you make them multifunctional.  How about a safe room that is also a pantry?

God bless,

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Emergency Preparedness: Week 2, Food

There are so many foods out there that are available to purchase in case of emergencies.  The one thing I will tell you is to make sure that you are storing food that your family wants and likes to eat.  People will often lose their appetites during emergencies and will be more likely to eat foods that are familiar to them.

You can search online for information on how much food to store per person.  Most often I see advice that says we should store a weeks worth of food per person.  I tend to think we should store more than that amount.  The Mormons believe in storing a years worth of food for their families in case of job loss, or other life emergencies.

Already prepared meals are available that are very convenient, but these are the most expensive foods to store.

MRE - Meal Ready To Eat

There are quite a few places (including Costco) that sell dried foods that are packaged for storage.  This is also an expensive, but convenient option.  I like to dry my own fruits and vegetables and store them in jars or other heavy duty containers (think rodents).  Remember to store extra water if you plan on reconstituting dried foods, plus you will need a way to cook them.

I prefer food that can be eaten straight out of the package without cooking.  It takes less energy to eat food straight from a jar or just lightly heated.  Some of the store bought items I can recommended are nut butters, crackers, canned meats, and canned vegetables.  Watch for sales for the BOGOs (buy on get one) and don't forget the condiments.  Some ketchup or mustard can take a meal from unappetizing to decent.

The most economical way to store food is to home can or dry food you have raised yourself or purchased on sale.  Canning jars are reusable; you just need to buy new lids.  I find that home canned meat and vegetables taste very good and, in a pinch, can be eaten without heating.

Once you have your food supply built up make sure that you rotate it out.  This means that you use some of the food each year and replace it with new food.  That way your food supply will always be fresh.  Check your stored food several times a year (once a month is best) for insects, rodent damage and other damage.  Better to catch it early than find out that your hard earned food has been ruined when you need it the most.

God bless,

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Frugal Kitchen: Penne With Mushroom Sauce

This recipe serves three easily with extra left over for lunches the next day.


1 pkg. penne pasta
6 - 8 large shitake mushrooms (you can substitute)
6 - 8 ounces ricotta, whole milk
4 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. butter
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup reserved pasta cooking water

While the pasta is cooking start your sauce.  Heat oil and butter over medium heat.  Saute mushrooms in oil until partially done, then add salt and pepper (just a pinch to start).  Add a large mixing spoon of pasta water, cover and simmer on low.  Before you drain your pasta remove a cup of the pasta water.  Now add the ricotta and cup of pasta water to the mushrooms and oil.  On medium heat stir until the ricotta has dissolved in the water, allow to thicken for a few minutes, adjust seasoning.  Pour cooked pasta into the sauce and mix until all the pasta is well covered with the sauce.  Serve with a grating of parmesan cheese if you wish.

This is a nice way to serve a creamy sauce without all of the fat of Alfredo sauce.  I did not add any garlic because I didn't want to cover the delicate flavor of the shitake mushrooms.  If I was using just a white button mushroom I would probably add a finely chopped clove of garlic.


God bless,

The Frugal Kitchen: Bibb and Blue Cheese Salad

We recently ate at Macaroni Grill and I had the Bibb and Blue salad.  It was so good I decided to recreate it as a vegetarian meal at home.

Bibb lettuce is one of my favorite lettuces for salads.  It has an almost meaty texture that gives it a very satisfying tooth feel.

First pickle some onions a few hours before serving the salad:

1 red or sweet (Vidalia) onion
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsps. white sugar
2 tsps. red wine vinegar

Finely slice onion into rings.  Mix all ingredients in a bowl, cover and refrigerate.  Make extra to use as a condiment on sandwiches.  Really good!

The salad:

1 head bibb lettuce
blue cheese, crumbled
walnuts, fair sized pieces
pickled onions
ranch or buttermilk salad dressing

Rip the salad into easy to eat pieces.  Add blue cheese, walnut pieces and salad dressing.  Toss ingredients until the lettuce is covered with the dressing.  Serve with a garnish of pickled onions.

This salad is more of a meal than a side salad.  Delicious!

God bless,

The Frugal Kitchen: Brighten Up Your Chicken Soup

Here is a super quick tip:  If you want your chicken soup to have a more appealing color just add one yellow onion with the skin intact.  Fish it out before serving your soup.  Onion skins are frequently used as a natural dye, resulting in a gold color.

God bless,

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Emergency Preparedness: Week 1, Water and List Making

On June 1st the hurricane season began and we have already had our first tropical storm here in sunny, hot Florida.  In the last two weeks we have seen massive tornados strike in Oklahoma that wiped out entire neighborhoods and almost an entire city.  Global weather change has been causing warmer summers, colder winters and much larger storms.

Every year I go through a gradual checklist to be sure we are ready for storm season.   It is gradual because preparing a little at a time is easier on us both mentally and financially.  To go out and buy everything at once would break the bank and I prefer to avoid going into debt.  I do, however, keep an eye out for great sales and used preparedness items throughout the year.

During Week 1 I am going to go through all of my stores and supplies to see what I am getting low on and I am checking expiration dates.  Also, be aware that some items tend to break down over time, especially plastic items.  That means that tarps, water bottles, etc. can become useless while sitting in their original packaging.  Check everything over and make a detailed list.

Once I have my list I am going to start watching for sales and comparing prices while I am in stores.  I need to keep a mental list also, so when I am out and about I know whether to buy that low priced, unexpected sale item.

"Water, water, everywhere and not a drop to drink."  This saying epitomizes tropical storms in Florida. Water is a must have and should be the first item on your preparedness list.  You need at least three gallons per person a day for drinking and hygiene (1 gallon just for drinking and don't forget your pets).  I go about gathering water in several different ways.

I do watch the sales for inexpensive bottled drinking water.  Store brands can be very inexpensive and they go on sale regularly.  I wouldn't pay more than $3 for 24 small bottles.

Large water storage containers come in many different styles and sizes.  My rule of thumb is:  can we lift the container after it is filled or do we have a small pump that will allow us to access the water in the container?  We purchased several five gallon white plastic water containers at Lowes one year.  We fill these when a storm is coming and empty them when storm season is over.

There are also collapsable containers that take up very little space when not being used.  There is even one that is made to be placed in your bathtub prior to filling.

When storing water the best way to keep it wholesome and potable is to treat each gallon of water with eight drops of unscented, plain clorox.  If treating collected water let it sit for thirty minutes after treating with clorox before drinking.  We also have a small amount of water treatment tablets on hand, which I purchased at Walmart in their camping section.

Sometimes all we think of is drinking water, but being able to wash is necessary for health over a longer period of time.  For washing water I have a 55 gallon drum that I use to collect water off of the roof during rainstorms.  Mine has a brass spigot that I added at the bottom to make it easy to access the water.  In a pinch, this water could also be filtered and sterilized for drinking.  Make sure that your drum was used to store food materials in it's earlier life.  I believe mine was used for apple juice; it definitely had a fermented apple smell when I got it.

Time to get started!

God bless,

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Tropical Scam

Tropical Scam (Kristen Maroney Mysterie, #4)Tropical Scam by Susan LaDue
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is the second book I have read in this series and I find that my review for this book is going to be very similar to the first. The author has presented well researched information on real estate fraud in Central and South America. The heroine is drawn into conducting an investigation when friends of hers are about to be evicted from their rental home.

The mystery proceeds logically throughout the book, but there is never a sense of urgency, even after the h is physically beaten because of her investigation. It reads almost like a police report rather than a novel.

There is a romance taking place between the heroine and her boyfriend, but once again, they don't seem to be truly attracted to each other. They seem like an old married couple.

I would love to see this author inject some emotion into her writing.

ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley.