September 10, 2015

Stocking an Emergency Pantry, Part 2 in a Series on Keeping a Prepper's Pantry

When talking to people about stocking an emergency pantry, people often say they don't know where to start or how to calculate what they will need for their family. That can be a daunting process if you look at it as the big picture.; What I suggest is to break things out into smaller, more easily-handled tasks. I think that the best place to start is to look at what you cook at home right now and write it down in a notebook that you have designated for this project. Mark down what you and your family eat, breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, remember to note condiments that you used and what beverages you had.. Also make note of how often you eat out and what you eat when you do go out for a meal. Save your shopping lists and your cash register receipts, put them in an envelope that you have taped to the back inside cover of your notebook. Keep diligent notes for a month. This information will be used to help you make a plan for beginning your emergency pantry. For the present you will be focusing on building up your every day food supplies, we will call this your "Three Month Pantry". The goal for this pantry is to provide your family with foods that can be used daily, rotated and restocked frequently. But that will ultimately have a three month stockpile of foods available in the event of a short term emergency situation.

During the month that you are collecting data about what you eat, you can begin to look around for an area that you can designate to hold you pantry supplies. I know that this may actually be the hardest part of the process... Many people live in apartments with little storage, or in homes, but are up to the gills in stuff and have no where to put anything. This might be a good time to take stock of what you have and what you need, to de-clutter and pass along things you don't use or that are just taking up space. If you are an apartment dweller, does the apartment complex give you a storage locker or outdoor shed that you can store some of your possessions in to make room for your food stockpile inside the where it is climate controlled? Can you spare 6 inches of floor space and pull your couch out from the wall, so that you can store some supplies behind it? My son did this in his apartment. He made room behind the couch by pulling it out several inches,(6-8"), then used the area he made to hold some of his storage goods. He kept the end tables up against the wall to hide the gap,; I never even noticed that he had done so until he pointed it out. Consider under-used spaces like the top shelves in closets, how about that dead space at the back of a kitchen base cabinet that you have to be a contortionist to get into? Can you put your bed on risers and use the space under the beds? Do you have a closet you can retask by de-cluttering? How about a garage? Do you have a designated junk/storage room that you can organize and use part of ? At one point in our lives, we used some of our storage as furniture... instead of an end table we had a crate of stockpiled good that we topped with a piece of plywood and covered with a pretty table cloth and a lamp. No one ever noticed that it wasn't a table. The same thing could be done for a coffee table. We did away with our bed frame and used our 2 gallon long term storage buckets, covered by a dust ruffle to hold up our box spring and mattress... it worked fine and we never had to clean under the bed! How much space you can carve out will determine how much of a stockpile you can realistically put aside as a reserve.

I have already written a blog post on this subject, but I feel like more detail would be helpful, so I will elaborate and hope to not repeat myself. To read the first blog post on this subject, go here. For simplicity of illustration, lets suppose that you found adequate space for your emergency pantry goods, inside your living space, with easy access. Now it is time to take all the notes you have been compiling on your eating and shopping habits and turn them into a comprehensive list of your most often used food items. From the list of meals that you prepared during the month, write down the ingredients that you used for each of the recipes. Once you have done this for all the recipes, you should start to see some patterns emerge. Are there ingredients that were used in the majority of the recipes you prepared? Make a list of these items on a separate Item page, one food item per line. Each time an item appears in the recipe notes, make a mark next to it on the Item list. This Item List will tell you which foods you use the most. Look at your cash register receipts to see if there are repeat items on them, if there is a repeat item on the receipts that is not on your Item List, add it to the list. What you want to end up with is a list of items that you can use as a shopping list to begin your emergency pantry.

At this point you will be able to see what foods your family most commonly eats. These foods, coupled with some staple items like sweeteners, salt, oil or shortening, flour and seasonings, will be the base that you will build your pantry stock on. Now you are ready to start adding these items to your regular shopping list. Start with the foods on the Item List that are used the most. If there is an item on your regular shopping list that is also on your item list, then put a star next to it on your shopping list and purchase two of those items instead of one. In the case of fresh meats or produce, purchase your fresh items for immediate use and a shelf stable version of the same item for you stockpile. For example, if you have meat on your menu frequently, then buy whatever meat you will use for your meals this week and then add at least on can of some kind of shelf stable meat, poultry or fish to your stockpile. It may not be fiscally possible, every time you shop, to get doubles of all the things that match on your grocery shopping list and the Item List. So on each trip try to add at least a few things to your pantry stock, starting with the things that are used the most and moving down the list from there. This is a great time to plan your weekly menus by watching for sales, and clipping coupons for items that you regularly buy, to keep the costs of stocking up to a minimum.

In order to make sure that you are covering all the important bases, here is a list of items that would be important to have in an emergency. Shelf stable milk, either aseptic boxes, evaporated canned milk, or dried milk powder, shelf stable fats, like coconut oil , ghee, canned shortening, and to a lesser degree olive oil or vegetable oil. These fats need to be rotated out of stockpile and into the kitchen regularly, since they can go rancid. When you use your kitchen supply of oil up, then shop from your pantry stockpile to replace kitchen stock and replace the emergency supply on your regular grocery trip. Shelf stable meats, poultry and fish, need to be in your pantry stock, to take the place of fresh meats, etc. if there is no way to get to a store. Sweeteners, flour, grains, canned vegetables, canned soups and stocks, pasta, rice, and spices and seasonings, can help to round out a menu should you have to depend on your emergency pantry to put meals on the table. I don't stock any beverages except bottled water in my emergency pantry. Since water is very important to health, especially in stressful situations I don't want to have less healthful choices available. Also fruit juices and bottled drinks don't have a long shelf life so I don't spend money on them.

These are the beginning steps to establishing an emergency pantry. There is still much left to do, but if you start by buying shelf stable versions of the foods that you eat the most, then you will be well on your way to having a stockpile of food that you can depend on in an emergency.

In future posts on stocking an emergency pantry, I will discuss Beginning a long Term Pantry. Until next time!

Variety is the Spice of Prepping

The other day I went to one of my Prepper haunts in Charlotte, no not a gun shop, or even REI, but the Indian market across highway 51 from Carolina Place. It is called Patell Brothers. It is a great place to find a much broader variety of dried beans, lentils and grains, as well as having organic whole spices for long term storage, and premade, mylar packaged Indian meals. These are healthy,tasty, and the bag can be thrown in a pot of hot water to heat then you can eat right out of the bag, (my husband uses these on backpacking trips and swears by them). Their prices are quite good too so the prepping dollar goes farther.

Patell's is only one of many ethnic grocers I depend on for my long term food storage supplies. As a whole, ethnic grocers have an interesting variety of foods not commonly found at the grocery store, their prices are usually better than mainstream grocers and it gives you an opportunity to think out of the box. I also visit a Greek restaurant supply store for bulk dried garbanzos, cans of the best olive oil I have ever had, grape leaves, capers and oil cured calamata olives, an Asian market where I can get a variety seaweeds. nori, spring roll wrappers, pho noodles, rice wine vinegar, canned coconut milk, a variety of condiments and spices for my 3 month pantry, and their fresh vegetable section rivals the best main stream grocer in variety, quality and price, with the added plus of 10 different types of fresh, yes, fresh mushrooms! Then there is the Lebanese market that is home to my favorite Mediterranean spice blend, Zaatar. A blend of roasted thyme, sumac and sesame seeds that is to die for on top of hummus or sprinkled on olive oil brushed pita bread and broiled...yum... as well as Garam Masala, and other spices I use for variety when depending on basic staples. The Korean shop has a particular red pepper flake that I use when making Oi Sabagi, a fermented food I eat practically every day. The list could go on for awhile but I think you get my drift...

When depending on a few basic staples for an extended period of time it is advisable to have a way to add some variety. For us, these foods are incorporated into our daily diet, in part because I love ethnic foods and partly because we are vegan and these foods help to add interest to our table, but more importantly so that we are familiar with how to use them if we need to depend on them. Even if you are normally a meat and potatoes person, it is a good idea to have something in your bag of tricks to use when there is no meat in sight and rice and beans is getting old.

Here is what I bought this trip and how I plan to use them: Masoor Malka, is a kind of split red lentil. it cooks very quickly so it can be soup, salad or side dish protein in short order. Moong beans, better known as mung beans, can be sprouted for a nutritional punch when added to garden grown or foraged greens, or soaked and cooked up to make a dish similar to split pea soup. I usually sprout them since they are a veritable nutrient factory in sprouted form. Masoor Malki, the whole form of Mosoor Malka, make very tasty sprouts that don't taste as starchy as the larger lentils do when sprouted and eaten raw. Whole Urad, otherwise known as Black Gram, make good sprouts. The split version known as Urad Dal, along with cooked rice, are used to make a fermented batter for griddle cakes and dosas, a gluten free, absolutely delicious alternative to pancakes. griddle cakes also make a great vehicle for any type of foods you want to scoop up with your fingers, dips, thick soups and stews, or filled with seasoned veggies and potatoes and rolled up burrito style. They are delicious hot or cold. Toor Dal, or small dried pigeon peas, make a delicious soup. The recipe for this soup is on my other blog Here is the link directly to the blog post. Just scroll down until you see Sambar soup. By the way this post has a really good recipe for soup stock that is great canned or frozen.

On this trip I also purchased candy coated fennel, which is great for that full feeling after eating a big meal, or for indigestion or upset tummy. It is more effective than Tums and doesn't have all the chemicals, (although it does have sugar...). I will put a bag of this in each variety bucket I make up and one in each medical supply bucket I put together.

I purchased whole organic spices, (Patell's price on organic spices is the best I have found anywhere), for long term storage. I will put each spice in a small mylar bag with an o2 absorber and seal it up. These will go in the variety buckets with the Indian foods, so that the spices required for the foods that I make will be with the staples used to make them. I also enclose a few of my tried and true recipes, in case something happens to me, (or my memory :) so that my family will still know how to prepare the dishes. And just as an FYI, you can buy pure sunflower seed oil from the Indian market, for about 1/3 of the cost of the grocery store price, (normally only found at high end gourmet markets and whole food stores not on the main stream grocery store shelves.)

I also bought a copper bottomed, stainless steel wok, with handles and a chapati rolling pin that makes perfectly formed chapati or tortillas. These will go in our emergency/camping cooking equipment. The wok was very affordable, $14.00 and will work as a pot for every occasion, that can be placed on a cook stove or on a rack over coals. The copper bottom will ensure even heat distribution to help control scorching on unpredictable heat sources.

In the future I will be posting more on how to add variety to your basic food storage. I will also post some of my favorite recipes for you to try out. The only thing I ask is that you credit me and my blogs if you pin or repost my recipes.

So for today I hope that you will think outside the box on what foods and seasonings to store in your emergency pantry. If you have any thoughts you would like to share on the subject, please, leave a comment. I would love to hear your ideas!

September 4, 2015

Lunch from a Prepper's Pantry

  It occurred to me today as I was making lunch for my husband and I that our lunch was a good base for a blog post. It is my way of thinking that being "prepared" is not just for an event that may or may not happen in the future, but to be prepared to put food on the table and live out my chosen style of life every day.
  Here at Heart's Ease Cottage, we spend a large portion of our time and energy making our life as self sufficient, and safe from outside influences as possible. That of course starts with an eye to what a body must have to survive: water, food, protection from the elements, are a few in a long list of things we work to provide for ourselves. Today though I am going to talk about one of my husbands favorite subjects, lunch!
  Today our lunch consisted of a sandwich and some sauerkraut and 16 oz. of good well water.. So? What is so blog worthy about that? Well, the sandwich was made with bread that was baked from Bronze Chief wheat berries, raw sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and millet from our long term storage supplies. The wheat was ground in a Whisper Mills grain mill, (but we have a Country Living hand cranked grain mill attached to our counter that can be used if there is no power), and is baked in our gas oven, or in a non electric scenario, in a Dutch oven outdoors. The ingredients of the sandwich were hummus, home made from garbanzo beans that I can from our long term storage supplies, and keep on hand in the 3 month pantry for daily use. There was also yummy fresh tomatoes, Swiss chard, bell peppers, pesto basil, home made bread and butter pickles that I put up last year, romaine lettuce and red onion slices. Everything but the romaine and the red onions came from the garden this morning. The sauerkraut was made from cabbages that I harvested from our garden late in the spring and made into a naturally fermented, raw sauerkraut. Since this is a raw kraut, it is kept in the fridge instead of being canned, but will keep for months on end in the fridge, (if we don't eat it all first...), or in the event of no electricity will last a week or so out on the counter. Raw fermented foods are vital to digestive tract health, providing your body much needed enzymes and good bacteria to keep your digestive system working properly. It is an important food that is often neglected in the American diet, as is evidenced by all the gastric/intestinal problems and overall ill health that Americans suffer with. So especially for crisis mode food preps, it is a key element to staying well and at our physical best.
 Today's lunch is just a simple example of the way we use our prepping efforts not only for the future, but for today.
  What are you doing today to be prepared? Leave a comment and let me know what you are up to! Have a great weekend!

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