Showing posts with label food storage. Show all posts
Showing posts with label food storage. Show all posts

Monday, March 11, 2019

How Prepping Helps With Worry and Anxiety (A Personal Story)


A fair amount of preparedness sites focus on the how-tos and the reasons you should prepare and rightfully so. They actually help you to know what to do and how to do it. In fact, there are a lot of posts on this site doing the same thing. We just want the world to be prepared and to get the message out to everyone.

One of the facets of prepping I am keen on is the psychological and, to an extent, philosophical reasons people need to prepare. Most people need something to happen or just about to happen in order to be convinced to prepare. However, some people just need to be convinced to prepare. Some people know they should and don't how to start or why they should start prepping.

The "why" of prepping really gets me. Sometimes I am baffled about why people do not prepare. It is such an easy thing to do and get started doing. Prepping isn't hard. Why don't people prepare?

Then I remember. I remember what drove me to preparedness. I remember stumbling into prepping and food storage blogs written by Gaye Levy and Linda Loosli and thinking I had hit on something that could really help me. 

When I first started to prepare, I did it out of worry and anxiety. I was afraid of a lot of things. I had already been at a point twice where I didn't have enough food in the house to feed my kids (by the grace of others, they were fed). I was a single mom of four kids under 12 after I got divorced. I lived on an acreage by myself. I was anxious about the power going out for extended periods of time and random strangers coming to the door. I would worry about a lot of things that were actually out of my control.

The anxiety, fear, and worry wore me out and kept me awake at night. I never showed that side of me to a lot of people. Hardly no one knew because I knew I needed to be strong for my kids. I am also incredibly stubborn and I would be in dire straits before I would let anyone know I needed help.

When I first learned about stockpiling and food storage, I quickly understood this was a way to calm my fears about having enough food in the house and feeding my ever-growing kids. I took to it like my life depended on it. It calmed me in a way that was unexplainable at the time. I finally had some peace of mind knowing that I would not have to worry about feeding my kids if we couldn't afford groceries for a week or longer.

Oh, I got ridiculed for doing it. People would joke about getting groceries at my house when they saw the food storage (not many people did). A few people were more than confused by my stockpiling. I would cover it up a little bit by saying I like to shop in bulk due to my growing kids. I also started getting teased about my food storage because I went farther than that. Food storage was my gateway drug for the rest of my prepping.

I just felt better being prepared! I didn't need to be worried and anxious because I was prepared.

Fast forward ten years (and longer), I still feel better being prepared. Being self-sufficient gives me a sense of pride and calm. I have accomplished more things than I thought possible. I started gardening successfully after many trials and errors. I started raising laying hens for eggs. I started this blog!

Do I still have times of worry and anxiety? Yes, but I also have kids who are young adults and teenagers (that is a whole different kind of worry!). Our current social and economic atmosphere doesn't make me feel better. I worry about paying the bills and keeping up in life. However, there is a lot of things I know I don't need to worry about. I have taken care of them by constantly preparing for now and the future.

My life has changed so much in the last ten years. However, prepping has been a constant. I find that it spills into other areas of my life too. I rarely leave home without everything I need just in case I am stranded or an emergency happens. I usually know what is going to happen most days (but I am still impulsive and leave a lot of room for adventure!). I shop with an eye towards stocking up and adding to my preps.

Prepping has vastly improved my life and, in a way, my mental health. I find now if I worry about something or become anxious over a situation, I have the power to take action and solve the problem in a way that is constructive. I know I can survive a lot of what is thrown my direction. There will always be circumstances beyond our control. However, we can control how we respond to them and be prepared for everything else.

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Related posts:
Is Procrastination A Prepper's Biggest Enemy? Here Is What You Can Do About It!
Can You Really Live Without Money? 



Friday, January 18, 2019

16 Ways To Not Waste Food (and Use Up The Leftovers)


One of the biggest problems facing the world today is food. Particularly how much food is wasted when there are so many people who would be happy to eat it. Grocery stores throw out perfectly good food every day and lock it into dumpsters. Restaurants scape tons of food into the trash every day because people do not finish their meals and don't wish to take it home.

In other words, food waste is a real problem! The problem isn't limited to just businesses. The problem also happens in the home more than we care to think about. We waste a lot of food in our homes without a thought to our hard earned money to purchase/grow the food and the hours we put into the food.

This really needs to stop! Fortunately, I have some things you can do to combat food waste in your home. Unfortunately, I have learned some of these things the hard way and have done my fair share of not caring as much as I should about our food. I don't want you to make the same mistakes!

16 Ways To Not Waste Food (and Use Up The Leftovers)

1. Have some leftover raw vegetables from a veggie tray? Saute them in butter or oil to soften. You can then add them to omelets, frittatas, soups, stews, and casseroles. You can also roast them in the oven for a delicious meal or side dish.

2. Having trouble with eating up leftovers before they go to waste? Make a list on your fridge of what needs to be used up. Plan meals and snacks around the leftovers. I know a lot of people who keep a whiteboard on the side of their fridge just for this reason.

3. Freeze your leftovers. A lot of food can be frozen and will taste fine when reheated. I love to do this cooked meat especially because it makes a quick addition to casseroles. You can also do this with chili for a quick lunch for work or home.

4. Can your leftovers. Yes, you can preserve your leftovers by canning them. This works especially well with soups, stews, and chili.

5. Dehydrate your leftovers. You would be amazed at what you can dehydrate and store.

6. Leftover fruit and fruit salad can be frozen, used in desserts, topping on ice cream, or in smoothies. You can make leftover fruit into jam or jellies and can it.

7. Repurpose your leftovers. Of course, you will be bored eating the same food day in and day out while trying to use up those leftovers. You can turn them into another meal. Have leftover chicken and rice? Turn it into a casserole with vegetables, cheese, and cream soup.

8. Stick to portion sizes. If you have people in your life or you yourself are opposed to leftovers, you will want to stick to portion sizes so you do not have any extra food leftover. You will want to make exactly the amount of food you need to eat for a meal and not any more than that.

9. If you have small children eating, you can certainly have a lot of food go to waste! There are a few tricks you can use to keep food from going to waste:
  • Use small plates and bowls for young children. I especially like the ones that grip the table or high chair tray. 
  • Just give them small amounts of food at a time and only one food at a time if needed. We often like to think they can eat more than they really can, but often we give too much at a time. Just give them a little bit and when they finish that, give them more.
  • If they do not finish their meal, put it in the fridge and warm it up for the next day. Teach them early to like leftovers.
  • A lot of kids go through stages of picky eating or only wanting to eat one thing. Indulge them a little bit and serve that. You should encourage other foods, but do not waste a lot of food when they will not eat it.
10. If you like to shop in bulk, learn to store food properly. One of the biggest problems I see (and used to have) was that food would go to waste when purchased in bulk. While I encourage bulk shopping, you should have a plan to break down the bulk packages into more user-friendly packages.
  • You can freeze bulk boneless, skinless chicken breasts in portion sizes appropriate for yourself or your family. You can also do simple freezer meals with them such as freezing them in marinade or sauce. 
  • You can take a bulk bag of oats, beans, flour, sugar, and other grains/legumes/baking supplies and break them down into smaller packages. You can use canning or storage jars for grains and legumes. You can store flour and other baking items into resealable bags and freeze them for a day or two. Then you can seal them in mylar bags with oxygen absorbers to keep them fresh.
  • Bulk produce can be frozen and used in smoothies. You can also preserve bulk fruit as jam, sauce, or as is. 
11. Do you have food in your pantry that appears to be expired or needs to be used before you forget about it again? I feel your pain. By them you remember it again, you are not sure it is still good or you find out the bugs have gotten into it (good-bye cornmeal...). Been there, done that. I like to pull those foods out of my pantry and set them on the counter where I will see them. Then I make them part of the meals for the week to use it up. I have also seen where people use a basket for anything they want to use up quickly and will pull from that basket first.

12. Once a year, do a freezer clean out. Figure out what you need to use up in the freezer and make it part of your meals for the week or the month. Do you have some freezer meals that have been in there for a year? Do you have meat that has spent more time in your freezer than alive? Make a concentrated effort to eat these things up that week or that month. I usually spread my freezer clean out over a month.

13. Inventory your freezers and pantries. One of the reasons food goes to waste is because we simply have lost track of what we have on hand. Since I am a hardcore believer in food storage, this can really be the enemy of your food storage. Inventory your pantry, food storage, and freezers to have a better idea of what you have on hand and what you should be using.

14. Compost what cannot be eaten. Whether you have peels, tea leaves, coffee grounds, and more, you should really try to compost these items. Some cities are now setting up compost stations you can take your food scraps too as well as your yard waste in return for some free compost. Otherwise, you can search online for a great way to start your own compost pile or purchase a compost barrel.

15. Make your own broth and stocks from leftover bones and vegetable scraps. You can make delicious stocks and broths from many different poultry bones and vegetable scraps. You can cook them together or separate for chicken broth or vegetable broth. You can then freeze or can the broth for later use. (If you have chickens, you can feed the scraps from the broth to them!)

16. If you are constantly finding yourself making too much food and not using the leftovers up as quickly as you want, invite friends over for supper to help you eat those bigger meals. Otherwise, find a family who needs a meal and bring them one (Nice to do when there is a new baby or a death in the family. Or when the family is just in a busy season of life). You can also take a meal to an elderly person who may have trouble getting a good meal together for themselves. 

What tips or suggestions do you have for using up leftovers and not wasting food? I would love to read your tips and suggestions in the comments!

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Related Posts:
25 Crazy Simple and Easy Ways To Save Money
Small Batch Canning: Saving Time, Money, and Sanity!


Thursday, December 20, 2018

We Are Nine Meals From Anarchy


The phrase "There are only nine meals between mankind and anarchy" was stated by Alfred Henry Lewis in 1906. He was an investigative journalist, editor, and lawyer who wrote for the Chicago Times-Herald. In 1906, the supply lines for food distribution was different than today, but the sentiment is the same.

Until yesterday, I had not really thought about this phrase until I met a guy who is also a prepper and has woken up to the lies we have been fed in this country. When you meet someone who is a prepper and you have a pretty deep conversation with them, you learn new things. (Or at least I hope you do!) He brought up the fact that we are nine meals from anarchy.

In this country, grocery stores, warehouse stores, and mass-market retailers only carry enough food on the shelves for three days. They have trucks scheduled for deliveries 1-3 times a week depending on the product and the sales. They may have another two days worth of food in their warehouse or storage inside the store, but usually not any more than that.

For example, stores like Walmart have huge distribution centers all over the country that make deliveries to their stores almost every day. Those distribution centers rely on loads being delivered to them and by them using trucks multiple times a day every day. The Walmart system does not work without the trucking industry.

For everyday shopping and in normal times, this is fine. People generally shop 1-2 times a week and they don't know any better. They might be a little perturbed if the store is out of a product or if the sale items are sold out, but they know in a few days more will be coming. They know they can usually get a rain check or just come back for that item.

However...

What happens when there is a pending disaster or a chaotic event?

What is the first thing that people do when they know a snow storm is coming or they will not be able to leave home for a few days?

They run - not walk - run to the grocery store. They load up on food and they wipe the shelves clean. They don't want to go hungry.

Suddenly, the three-day cushion becomes less than a day. Stores have to reorder what they need to restock and the trucks need to be back on their way to the store. This can be at least a 1-3 day turnaround because the trucks deliver from warehouses. Warehouses need to reorder and restock for the outbound orders.

And if a disaster or chaotic event hits before the trucks can make it back, there is no food at the grocery store.

If there is no food at the grocery store, there are people going hungry.

If people are going hungry, there will be anarchy. People do not like to be hungry. That is just a standard, basic fact. If they are hungry or their babies are hungry, guess what? They will go to any means necessary to get the food they need to feed themselves and their families.

They will loot the stores. They will ask neighbors and families for food. They will just start to steal food. They will start to waylay the trucks delivering the food. They will do whatever they can to get food and water.

You don't want to be them. The most important thing you can do for preparedness, besides increasing your knowledge and skills, is to be constantly increasing your water and food storage. You want to have at least a month's worth of food in your home at all times.

However, now the Department of Homeland Security is recommending SIX MONTHS OF WATER, FOOD, AND SUPPLIES. Does it seem like I am yelling that? I am. When a government agency who usually has its head buried in the sand says something like that, pay attention. They know our power grid is not defendable. They know it is vulnerable. They know it needs to be updated and secured. However, hackers can get into computer systems now and shut it down. They know terrorists can send an EMP-like bomb and shut it down for great lengths of time.

And guess what? No electricity means no to a lot of things. Grocery stores will be set back 100+ years. Most gas stations will not be able to pump gas which means no trucks delivering food. No trucks delivering food means the grocery stores have nothing to put on their shelves. No food on the shelves means people will start to go hungry.

When people go hungry, anarchy begins.

Anarchy is not a good thing despite the number of people who thinks it needs to happen. It is scary for the people who live in the area, the people who need to defend their homes and food, and for anyone caught up in the chaos. It causes a lot of damage, unnecessary deaths, and more because people refused to prepare for this and decided to become criminals instead.

Many of you will say that you never would stoop to this. You would never be part of the anarchy. I will call you out on that right now. Unless you have a superior sense of morality and ethics, you will never know what you will do or are capable of until you are in this situation. You ran out of food and now your babies are hungry? Hmmm...you will try to get food the right way at first, but then what?

This is scary to think about. Most people will not take it as seriously as they should because they don't want to think it will happen. However, look at what happens before a hurricane. Look at what happens before a major snowstorm in an area that isn't used to snow storms. It happens in Iowa before a blizzard and people here should be used to it. They wipe the stores clean in order to have enough food at home to get by.

I realize that most people who read this article are preppers in some shape, way, and form. However, you have a duty to tell others about this. You have the ways and means to encourage others to prepare and start adding food and water storage.

I know a lot of people reading this also grows and raises their own food. Do not take comfort in that fact because if the food is not ready to eat or stored away ready to eat, you do not have that food to eat. You still need six months of food and water stored in your home, ready to eat. Yes, you can still grow food and butcher meat, but have you thought about how to do that with no power?

Recommended reading:
Nine Meals From Anarchy by Doug Casey's Internation Man
DHS Says Americans Need to Start Prepping For Up to Six Months Without Electricity!
Surviving a Catastrophic Power Outage: Strengthing the Capabilities of the Nation

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Related Posts:
10 Preparedness Items You Should Be Buying Every Month
10 More Preparedness Items You Should Be Buying Every Month
10 Non-Perishable Food Preps You Should Be Buying Every Month


Saturday, December 8, 2018

Prepper's Dehydrator Handbook Book Review


(This book was sent to me to review. I am not being paid to review this book, however, there will be affiliate links attached to this review. There is no pressure or expectation to purchase anything unless you feel like this book would be an awesome addition to your library!)

One of the major areas of food storage is dehydrated food. Dehydrated food lasts a long time stored properly. However, this area of food storage can be a little tricky. Can you dehydrate that food? For how long should it be in the dehydrator? How do you store it once it is done? How do you use it again?

Those are some good questions, but my friend Shelle Wells has the answers for you in her book, Prepper's Dehydrator Handbook: Long-Term Food Storage Techniques For Nutritious, Delicious, Lifesaving Meals. She covers all areas of dehydrating food. She tells how to dehydrate food even if you do not have a dehydrator (but you should have one!).

She covers all sorts of foods to dehydrate in this book too: herbs, vegetables, fruits, meat, frozen fruits and vegetables, and more. She covers how to make your own fruit leather. She also tells you how to make your own powdered soup that you can just add hot water too for instant soup! She also gives you great recipes to use your dehydrated deliciousness to make some great dishes and desserts.

This book will be a very important book in my cookbook collection as well as a great reference book for my food storage. I found this to be one of the most complete books on dehydrating that I have seen or owned. I think you will find this to be a very important part of your food storage books too.

In addition to this book, Shelle also offers a free three-day mini-challenge so you can master the three fears of dehydrating! I suggest you check it out!

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Thursday, October 11, 2018

Small Batch Canning: Saving Time, Money, and Sanity!


Wouldn't it be wonderful if you had time during the garden harvest to can all day, every day? When you see super awesome deals on produce at the store, you could purchase them and can them right away when you get home?

You don't have that kind of time? Me neither.

A lot of people ask how I get so much canning done when I am busy with a full-time job and kids. I have a good sized garden and we like to eat fresh produce from it. However, I plant tomatoes and cucumbers with the sole purpose of canning them. I like to take the extra garden bounty and preserve it so we aren't wasting food. However, I don't have time for marathon canning sessions. Even on the weekends, I have plenty of other things on my to-do list besides canning.

I practice the time-saving practice of small batch canning. If I can preserve something every day or night, I can get a lot of canning done. I can keep up with my garden better by small batch canning.  I am not waiting for a lot of tomatoes to be done at once. I can wait for 6-9 pounds of tomatoes to be ripe and can them according to my recipes.

When the beginning and end of the gardening season occurs, I can also use small batch canning to keep up with the garden. Did I mention I am not a fan of food waste? I don't like watching the garden to wait for enough to can when I can do a few jars here and there. I do put away some produce in the freezer to wait for enough produce to can, but I try to avoid doing that because of the quality of the product after it has been frozen.

With small batch canning, I can use a lot of shortcuts or I can spend more time on a recipe. Since I am not one for complicated canning recipes (and have a strong love for Mrs. Wage's packets), I choose to do simple canning recipes that do not take a long time to cook on the stove. I don't mind long canning times, but long cooking times and long canning times can take more time than I have on a weeknight. I also like that I can experiment with different or unusual canning recipes if I have the ingredients on hand. You might like to make the standard strawberry jam, but with small batch canning, you can make strawberry vanilla or strawberry blueberry jam. You are only making a few jars which means you have less waste if you don't like the new recipes.

How does small batch canning save money? Wasting food is wasting money which is heartbreaking to a frugal person. By small batch canning almost every day, you save money and help to prevent food waste. You might think you are spending more money on electricity and/or gas by canning every night. However, you are using the same amount of power as you would be canning all day for several days.

You can also control the amount of money you spend to can your produce. You will have a better idea of how many jars you need and if you need to buy more. You will be able to buy your extra ingredients as you need them or you can stock up at a good price knowing how you need.

Do you need any special equipment for small batch canning? As I talked about in this canning post, you will still need the basic canning equipment as well as canning jars, lids, and rings. However, instead of the big water canner, you can use a smaller stockpot. You can also use an electric pressure cooker instead of the large pressure canner depending on how many jars you are canning. My electric pressure cooker can do four pint-size jars comfortably. I use a washcloth or folded small kitchen towel on the bottom of the pot so the jars do not rattle or bang too much. I like to can broth this way. 

You can also find some great books on small batch canning. These books specialize in smaller canning recipes and allow for safe experimenting in canning. The following books are excellent resources:

The Complete Book of Small-Batch Canning: Over 300 Recipes to Use Year-Round
Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round
The Canning Kitchen: 101 Simple Small Batch Recipes

I hope you give some consideration to making canning simpler and less intimidating. So many people think they do not have time to can, but that is simply not true. Just like any other skill, you just need to break it down into smaller sections and do it simply. Small batch canning will definitely help you with that! 

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Related Posts:
What Do You Need To Start Canning Your Food?
The Prepper's Canning Guide Book Review


Monday, September 17, 2018

10 Non-Perishable Food Preps You Should Be Buying Every Month


New preppers wonder what they should be buying for their preps every month. More experienced preppers wonder what holes they should be plugging in their food storage to be better prepared. We all know we should be constantly adding and rotating our food storage every month in order to have a good supply.

Since I have written the 10 Preparedness Items You Should Be Buying Every Month and Top Ten Items You Need For Your Food Storage, I have found my preparedness mindset changing a little bit. I think they are things you should be buying every month that are perishable items and non-perishable items. This list will concentrate on the non-perishable items because those are the ones most important to your food storage.

To explain what I have included on this list, I will give you the criteria. I am making this list as basic as possible. Meaning that you can go to the grocery store and buy these items right off the shelf which means the items are shelf-stable. They will not expire or go bad easily. Most of these items will last beyond their sell-by or expired date if you wish. This list is simple and for beginning preppers. However, the more experienced preppers should take a look at this list too and see if they have holes they should fill in their food storage.

If you want to, you can purchase these items in whatever manner suits you. If you wish to can them yourself, buy them in bulk, freeze-dried, dried, or whatever, you can certainly do that. If there is an item on this list you or your family does not eat, then replace it with something they do eat.

Because the #1 rule in food storage is: Do Not Buy Food You or Your Family Will Not Eat!

I don't care if you think "If we are hungry enough, we will eat it." That may be true, but why would you do that to yourself when you can simply purchase food that you will eat ahead of time!

The quantity of each item to purchase each month is your choice also. Depending on my budget, I will only purchase 1-2 items each or I will purchase a case or flat of that item. I also have a continuous grocery list where I write down when I use up one item so I can replace it right away on the next grocery trip. For example, I use up a bottle of olive oil. I write it down on my list and purchase it on the next trip to the grocery store. If I find myself getting low on an item, I will do the same thing.

10 Non-Perishable Food Preps You Should Be Buying Every Month

1. Salt and Pepper. Food without seasoning, bleh. You need at least salt and pepper to liven up your food. You can also stock up on other seasonings too. You might have ones you think you can't live without like garlic salt at my house.

2. Honey and/or Sugar. If you can live without these things, great. However, most of us cannot live without something to sweeten our drinks with. I also use sugar and honey in canning jams. Honey is also great for sore throats.

3. Beans. Dried or canned whichever you prefer. I like to use both, but in a hurry or being lazy, I will grab a can of beans first. So I stock up on canned beans. Beans are a meal unto themselves but are better with soups, chilis, casseroles, and one pot meals. They also help to fill people up and give energy.

4. Peanut Butter. This is packed with protein and fat which will help give you energy in a crisis. Beyond that, most kids and adults like it and will eat it plain or with bread/crackers. If you are allergic to nuts, look for a substitute like a sunflower butter or coconut butter.

5. Canned meats. As much as we would like to think we can raise our own meat or hunt your own meat when a crisis or situation happens, this may not be a possibility. Again, canned meat such as tuna, salmon, chicken, turkey, and ham will provide a good source of protein which helps give you energy in a crisis.

6. Canned tomatoes, fruits, and vegetables. While the nutritional value of fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables is better than canned, eating canned fruits and vegetables is better than eating junk. You can use these in casseroles and salads too.

7. Canned soups, broths, and meals. Sometimes when you have an emergency or crisis, the easiest thing you can do is open a can and heat up the contents. Even if you are in a hurry at night and need a meal, you can save money by opening a can of soup, heating it up, and have a quick meal.

8. Crackers and cereal. Many of you will not think this is necessary, but I have teenagers. Kids like cereal and they love crackers. My kids think saltine crackers and soup go together like peanut butter and jelly. Cereal can range from cold cereal to hot cereal. I like to eat oatmeal and will make it from scratch, but when I am in a hurry or just plain tired, the little packets are awesome.

9. Pasta and rice. Let's face it. There is very little nutritional value in pasta and rice. They are just carbs even if you buy the veggie pasta. However, they help to fill up the hungry stomachs and keep the teenagers from completely taking over the kitchen. They help to keep the meals budget-friendly. They are great to have on hand to make casseroles, soups, and one pot meals. They help to feed a large crowd during a crisis.

10. Coffee and Tea. Water is great for hydration, but it is boring. Most people drink coffee or tea in some way, shape, or form. I like to have a stockpile of coffee, various kinds of teas, and even some instant packets of coffee and tea. If coffee or tea is not your thing, look at getting some drink packets and/or mixes to liven up the water.

Honorable Mention: 

1. Oil. Whether you use olive, vegetable, coconut or other oils, they are good to have on hand and keep a good stock of.
2. Protein and cereal bars. 
3. Pasta sauces.
4. Ethnic sauces and seasonings (salsa, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce,etc.)
5. Chocolate.

Like I mentioned before, you can switch out items and customize this list for your household. Some things listed may not be something you would ever eat while some people could not store enough of that item because they eat it so much. This is a general guideline I use when I go to the store. This is so I can put a meal on the table whenever I need to without completely stressing out over the meal no matter what is going on. The meal may not be very exciting, but the consumers of the meal will not walk away hungry.

Some of you will notice that I did not include such items as ramen noodles, various meals in a box, and macaroni and cheese. You can purchase these, but most of them have very little nutritional value, exceptionally high sodium levels, and feed very few adult people at one time. I don't usually include them in my food storage list for those reasons. However, if you want them in yours, you can certainly do that.

What do you like to store in your food storage?

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Related Posts:
10 Ways To Prep When Real Life Gets In The Way
What Are You Prepared To Live Without?


Saturday, August 11, 2018

The Best Way To Freeze Zucchini (And What To Do With It Afterwards!)


Zucchini is one of those rare garden plants. Almost anyone can grow it! Zucchini is also (normally) very prolific meaning that it will produce very well for weeks if not months. We love here at Living Life in Rural Iowa so I like to put it up for use in the winter.

You can use zucchini in place of cucumber in relishes and pickles to preserve and use up the bounty. We like to eat it straight from the garden on the grill. However, we eat a good deal of it in baked goods with the idea that the end result might be healthier!

In order to use it over the winter, I have learned how to freeze it. I went through many trials and errors trying to find the best way to do this. One of the things I had learned right away is that you can easily freezer burn zucchini. The second thing I learned is that the texture of the zucchini changes considerably when frozen and thawed.

With that in mind, I had to find a way to do this so that I could use it again in the winter. The best way to freeze and preserve zucchini is to shred and then freeze it.

The Best Way To Freeze Zucchini

1. Pick zucchini from the garden that is medium size. The medium size zucchini is easier to handle, to shred, and don't have a lot of seeds in them. If you do happen to find a large or extra large zucchini that you inadvertently missed, cut them in half, scoop out the seeds, and cut them into manageable pieces. They are still edible and completely usable.


2. Wash the zucchini thoroughly and cut off the ends. Most of the zucchini I find in my garden is on the ground. They always need to be washed. You can choose to cut them into more manageable pieces for shredding. I think they are easier to handle when broken down into 2-3 pieces.

3. At this point, you can decide to peel them or not. I choose not to peel them because my family doesn't care if they see green specks in their food and they all like zucchini. However, if you have young ones (or old ones) who are picky eaters, you can choose to peel them. You will be able to hide the zucchini in sauces and baked easier if they are peeled.


4. Grab a big bowl and start shredding. By using a big bowl, you will not end up with shredded zucchini everywhere. If you don't use a big bowl, I suggest using a lipped baking sheet for holding all the goodness in. As for shredding the zucchini, I prefer to use a mandoline with a shredding attachment that sits on top of the bowl. You can also use a handheld shredder, a box shredded (grater), or a food processor with the shredding blade.


5. Portion out into bags and freeze. You can use zip-top freezer bags for this. I portion the shredded zucchini into two cup portions and put into the bag. If you are using freezer bags, push as much air out as possible, and seal the bag. Flatten the contents inside the bag and label them. You can then put them in the freezer. You could use a baking sheet under the bags to ensure they stay flat until they are frozen. You can then store them how you like in the freezer.

However, I love using my Food Saver. It is a rock star in my house! I put the two cup portions on zucchini in quart-size Food Saver bags. I flatten the bags the best I can, lay them on a baking sheet, and let them freeze. Then I vacuum seal the bags. With zucchini, if you try to seal them while the zucchini is fresh, the Food Saver will try to suck up the zucchini juices and will never seal. If you freeze them first, the Food Saver can suck all the air out and seal the bags just fine. Remember to label and date them!


Now that you have all this frozen zucchini, what can you do with it?

You can add it to sauces, one pot meals, and baked good. I also know people that add it to smoothies. However, you will find out quickly that thawed zucchini is far different than fresh zucchini. You will need to drain the excess liquid off first (or use the liquid in a soup or add to a vegetable broth). The best way to do this is to line a fine mesh strainer with a double layer of paper towels or cheesecloth. You will put the thawed zucchini in the strainer and let the excess liquid pour out. The paper towels or cheesecloth will hold the zucchini in. You can then squeeze more excess liquid out if you wish. If you are using the thawed zucchini in baked goods, you will want to squeeze more liquid out or it will affect your final baked goods.

What do you like to do with zucchini?

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Related Posts:
Preserving The Bounty: How To Freeze Sweet Corn
Fajita Vegetable Packets: A Great Way To Use Up The Garden Bounty! 



Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Could We Handle Food Rationing Now?


In WWI (somewhat) and WWII definitely, food rationing was one of the few ways that governments in the United States and Britain could keep the soldiers fed as well as its citizens. Everyone was expected to do their share and stay within the guidelines of food rationing. In addition to the food rationing, citizens were heavily encouraged to "do their part" in their duty to their country by growing food and making every bit count.

Citizens were encouraged to make do. They were encouraged to start their own Victory garden and supplement their own rations. They were encouraged to forage and eat food they weren't accustomed to thinking as food. Food waste was a sin and they were encouraged to stretch their rations as far as possible.

In Britain, food rationing started in 1939 and lasted well past the war. They were under food rationing until 1954 while Britain recovered from the war. Food rationing started in 1942 and ended in the United States in August 1945 except for sugar which lasted until 1947. The Soviet Union was under food rationing from 1941 - 1947. Fruits and vegetables were not rationed but could be restricted for lack of supply unless you grew your own. For the most part, governments found out that their citizens were healthier under the food rationing system than before and after WWII.

Could we handle food rationing now if and when it should happen again? That is hard to say. Many people would have a very difficult time with the food rationing system. Processed food is much more prevalent now than it was during the 1940s. People are not as creative with food as they could be. Cooking from scratch is becoming a lost art. People are also not nearly as patriotic as they were during the first two world wars.

People are used to having food when they want it and how they want it. People, in general, are much more impatient now. Imagine being told you can only have so much food and you have to make a choice about what food you can have. Plus, people were encouraged to eat less meat during the war and choose cheaper cuts of meat to eat. Meat is a hefty part of a lot of diets now. People would have to make some severe changes to their diet that probably would not go over well.

Obesity is also a problem in the United States and Britain now.  People are used to eating a lot of food, making not so good food choices, consuming a lot of sugar, and not moving enough to deal with the excess food. Food rationing would be a tough adjustment for those people who suffer from obesity. If you struggle with your weight, now would a good time to start making changes before they are forced upon you.

Processed food is much more accessible now than 70 plus years ago. We also have a lot of manmade ingredients that were not even available back then. Processed food and these ingredients have brought about the advent of cheaper and easier to eat food. This definitely cheapens the cost of food, but depending on why we are being rationed we may not have access to the ingredients. You might also see more processed food being rationed because of the ability to make it might be restricted.

Creative cooking and cooking from scratch is almost a lost art. While many people during those two wars were well-acquainted with cooking from scratch, now many people rely on processed foods or premade meals from the grocery store. Eating out is also at an all-time high as parents find it easier to go through the drive-through or stop at a sandwich shop to feed the family. Food rationing would be a shock to those that would have to learn how to meal plan, read recipes, and cook creatively for possibly the first time in their lives.

We have many, many more people in our population now than we did then. We have more mouths to feed and more people in the inner cities who do not have access to cooking, growing, or forging food. While poverty existed in the 1930s and 1940s, we have still had a widespread and bigger problem with poverty today. Many people struggle to eat every day and rely on soup kitchens, food pantries, shelters, and the kindness of people just to get fed. What would happen to those people and those places when food rationing happens? Would the government provide for those places and for the people who need them? Would churches and charities still be able to support them? There is no clear-cut answer to this problem.

SNAP benefits would certainly be reduced to reflect rationing as money would not be as available for this program. We would need to divert money to our country's defense and military. While individual states control what SNAP benefits could be spent on, the benefit amount would certainly be reduced. With the advent of food rationing, I could also see the government controlling how they could be spent. Only certain foods would be covered and nothing that would seem like a "luxury" grocery item.

People are also not nearly as patriotic now as they were during those wars. The contempt for our government now is at an all-time high. Take away or reduce someone's SNAP benefits and you could have a riot on your hands. Tell people they need to do their "duty" for whatever situation brings on food rationing and reduce their consumption of food, not have certain products available, or be restricted on what they can buy - I cannot even imagine what would happen. We have lost our loyalty and ability to stand as Americans against the world and do what is necessary to come out on top. The reaction could be violent and intense.

But mostly, we have lost our ability to be self-reliant. I love seeing homesteading, prepping, and self-sufficiency on the rise because more people are interested in stockpiling food, growing and foraging for food, raising livestock, canning and preserving their own food. Those are the things that will help you survive food rationing. Doing what you can to supplement food rationing and stretching food as far as it can go will only serve you well. Managing food waste will be critical. Being self-reliant will be the only way to survive food rationing.

So, could we handle food rationing now? I think we can, but it will be a huge adjustment and will probably have some riots happen as some groups of people do not handle well being told what to do even if the cause is great. However, we all have adjustments we need to make, skills we need to learn and maintain, and preparations to make. We need to be ready just in case because the event that brings on food rationing here will not only affect us as a country but globally as well.

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Related links:
Nine Ways to Beat The Food Rationing System When It Happens Again
Ten Lessons Learned About Food From The Depression and Wartime



Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Nine Ways to Beat The Food Rationing System When It Happens Again


Right now, food seems to be plentiful in America. There is plenty of it in the stores and you hear stories of how much food is wasted from restaurants and grocery stores. However, there are some factors that could lead us to a rationing system in a hurry if something happened. Those things do not even have to be catastrophic for us to be rationed.

In most natural disasters such as hurricanes and flooding, Red Cross and FEMA dive right in to help. However, they will only serve meals and/or give out limited amounts of food and water. Yes, many other people donate food and money when things like this happen, but what if they couldn't?

In WWI, the Americans were not put on a rationing system but were asked to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and less meat and wheat products. In WWII, Americans were put on a rationing system that became stricter as the war went on. Even then, this country imported a lot of food and supply chains were disrupted. In addition to that, the troops needed food overseas that would ship and travel well. We were asked to give up or limit certain foods to feed our troops which we did because we were patriotic and felt it was our duty to do so. Certain foods were not available because they were not in season or able to grow in the United States.

In today's America, this seems like a foreign concept. Food is literally everywhere! However, we have situations that can happen to start having our food rationed. Most grocery stores have only three days of food on their shelves in their storage rooms. If a blizzard or some other weather storm happens, those shelves will be wiped out in hours. Our local grocery store can be very short on supplies on Sunday because a lot of people get groceries on Sundays.

Now, imagine if there is a disruption in the transportation system. No trucks bringing food to the stores means a limited supply or no food to buy.

Imagine if we went to war again. A good deal of our food or ingredients for our food is imported. Less food coming into our country means less food to buy. That will not go over well with some people.

Imagine if you could not actually get to the grocery store. Some people are accustomed to shopping every day instead of once a week or two weeks. When food is rationed, often gas and tires are rationed too when will stop someone from going to the store every day.

Food will start to be rationed. Just like when food was rationed before, there will be a learning curve. People will have to adjust and some people will not adjust well. People will have to learn how to cook again and grow their own food. Some of those skills are completely lost in our inner cities.

What can you do to the beat the rationing system?

1. Food Storage. Now, more than ever, you need to have a food stockpile. No one knows how long food would be rationed for. No one planned for WWII to last for four years. There are still people recovering from the hurricanes last season. Puerto Rico is still getting on their feet and depending on FEMA and donations to feed their people (as of this post). Having a food stockpile is critical and having a year's worth of food is not out of line.

2. Grow Your Own Food. You will have to become your own supplier. If you start gardening now, you will have the skills to grow your own food. You don't even need a garden per say, but it is better to have a plot of land to grow food. However, use containers. Grow lettuce and spinach in pots inside the house. Grow tomatoes on the balcony or the patio. There are many creative ways to grow your food.

3. Raise Your Eggs and Meat. If you can, have some laying hens for eggs. Grow a few meat chickens for your own pot and freezer. If you can, raise more than chickens. Ducks, geese, turkeys, pigs, goats, sheep, and cows can all be raised for butchering. You would be addressing one area of food that was also severely rationed by the end of WWII and probably would be again.

4. Foraging For Food. You should learn to identify weeds and other edibles that can be cooked or eaten in a salad. This was done during both WWI and WWII with excellent results. A great book on foraging and identifying edibles is The Forager's Harvest: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants by Samuel Thayer.  Learning how to tap trees for syrup and collecting nuts should be skills to learn now too.

5. Start Keeping Bees. Sugar was severely rationed in WWII. People are even more addicted to it now than they were then. Keeping bees and producing your own honey would easily help replace sugar or at least keep sugar for more important things. During the war, people would save their sugar for the holidays or very special occasions. They would do without sugar most of the time. We all could benefit from having less sugar in our diets too.

6. Learn To Preserve Your Own Food. Learning to can and dehydrate will become very important skills during a food rationing time. Again, this is a skill you need to learn and practice now. Start simple with jams and jellies and work your way up to making meals in a jar. Getting a good supply of canning jars and canning lids will be crucial too. Metal for those lids could be in short supply. There are non-metal lids to can with also, but they also take time to learn how to use.

7. Learn To Use Everything and Waste Nothing. We can be a very wasteful society nowadays and we really need to learn to use it all up. We need to learn to eat everything, re-purpose leftovers, compost scraps, and feed scraps to the animals.

8. Get Creative. You will have to learn to cook from scratch. You will have to learn how to use food in ways you never imagined. You will have to learn to eat more locally and seasonally. You may have to have odd food combinations at the supper table. Learn to be creative with food and keep an open mind about how to cook and use food.

9. Try New Foods Now. Never had turnips or rutabagas? They grow just about everywhere so now would be a good time to learn how to eat them. They are just examples but learn how to prepare and eat new things especially vegetables. People ate better on the rationing system when they had vegetables available to them. Learn to eat more vegetables and figure out a way for your picky eaters to eat them too.

Rationing is never an easy thing, but you can learn to use it to your advantage. If you take steps now to learn these skills and start storing food, you will have an easier time living on a food rationing system.

Some other articles of interest would be:
Food Rationing, Food Storage, and Wartime: We Have Much To Learn
Ten Lessons Learned About Food From The Depression and Wartime

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Friday, December 29, 2017

10 Prepping Goals You Should Be Setting For The New Year


The new year is coming quickly. While I think goal setting can be done any time of year and should be, this seems to be the time of year for most people to set goals. If you are a prepper, winter is a good time to get your goals figured out, written down, and a game plan set to accomplish them.

What goals should you be setting as a prepper?

1. Increase water storage and/or create a way to procure water without electricity. We often do not have enough drinking and non-drinking water in our stockpiles. While the experts say to have at least one gallon per person per day of water, most people use more than that for cooking and bathing. We also don't always remember to store water for pets and livestock. If you can, look for a way to install rain barrels or a cistern to procure and use water without electricity.

2. Increase or double your food storage. Many preppers only have a month or less of food storage. You should concentrate on doubling your food storage. If you have a month, build up a two month supply and so on. Make a meal plan with your food storage and you might realize you don't have enough food storage for a month either.

3. Sharpen your shooting skills and learn new ways to defend yourself. Take a self-defense class. Learn taekwondo or another martial art. Learn how to defend yourself in close combat. Learn how to use another weapon. Learn how to better use your own weapons. I believe in using weapons and self-defense to defend myself. I think both methods are important to your safety and should be learned.

4. Lose weight and work on physical fitness. Being in shape and being in good health is crucial to being the best prepper you can be. Being one hundred pounds overweight means you are susceptible to a host of diseases and will easily run out of energy when you need to be in the best shape possible. Even if you walk a mile every day and do fifty jumping jacks twice a day, you are doing more for your health than most people will ever do.

5. Learn new skills. Make a list of three skills you really want to learn in this next year and make a plan to learn them. Watch YouTube videos and buy some books in those areas. Gather the materials and start practicing those skills. Learning skills is never a waste of time.

6. Increase or double your emergency cash fund. If you are into gold or silver, increase that. Most of us do not have a really good emergency cash stash at home. We might have some coins and a few dollars which will not get us far when an SHTF happens.

7. Start gathering or buying non-electric items. When you have no power, you will want things that do not use electricity. Having good manual tools will just make life a lot easier in the end when an SHTF happens and most of us do not have enough manual tools on hand.

8. Read a prepping book every month. Most of prepping is the knowledge inside your head and how you apply it. Read a prepping book, apply something you have learned from it, and stick that knowledge in your head.

9. Get your affairs in order. Get your family information together and put it in a binder and on a flash drive. Get your will written. Make bug-in and bug-out plans. When SHTF happens, you have your information together and you are ready to start putting your life back together again. If you have this already, review and update the information.

10. Make an effort to make more prepping friends and expand your community. Yes, you can prep alone or have a lot of online prepping buddies, but you are better off making some prepping friends locally. You would have people locally who would be there for you and understand how you think. Better yet though, find a few people to turn on to prepping. We can't have enough preppers in the world!

Prepping is a lot easier and more focused when you have goals to commit to. You will be able to implement a plan to prep smarter and create a life free from worrying about "what if?".

What are your prepping goals for this coming year?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

What This Prepper Buys: The $36 Dollar Tree Spree

Dollar Tree is possibly one of my favorite places to purchase prepping supplies for stockpiling. Everything's a dollar or less and we usually find good generic replacements for high dollar goods. While cheap goods is not always a good thing for prepping, sometimes it is a good way to build up your stockpile. If you are conscious about what you are buying and try it out before SHTF happens, you will know if it is a good deal or not.



Everything shown in the picture was $1 each. I spent more than $36 on this trip, but some of the items were for everyday use. I didn't buy anything spectacular. I have a decent basic stockpile and I am adding to it. I am also starting to plug holes in my stockpile and shore up some weak areas.

Let me explain what I purchased this time. I will start with the food items. I bought egg noodles because they figure in my food storage meals like Tuna Noodle Casserole. Lasagna is a popular birthday meal here and I always try to keep those noodles on hand. I bought eight containers of spices and herbs because I never want to run out of seasonings. Coconut oil cooking spray is a necessity in my mind. Seasoned bread crumbs also figure into some of my food storage meals as well as my garden fresh meals. Canned chicken is also considered a necessity in my food storage.

I always pick up those four packs of emergency candles when I can. Candles are not a great source of light, but they will light up a room enough to see and provide comfort.

I am also adding to my first aid stock too from Dollar Tree. I like the smaller packages because they are easier to pack for vehicles and bags. This time I got a couple of bandage wraps for sprains and other injuries. I also got 2x2 gauze pads after using some when I had nose surgery. By the way, they are a perfect size for drip pads under your nose! I also got a pack of 8 mini-size facial tissues for bags and bug-out bags. They are the perfect size in my opinion and light to carry.

I have started buying more of the hand soap refills rather than hand soap dispensers. I got two this time. I have plenty of hand soap dispensers already and I think refilling them is a better answer than keep buying them.

I also bought a fair amount of cleaning supplies this time. I needed more dusting spray and glass cleaner. I try to keep plenty of bathroom cleaner to keep the bathrooms sanitized. I wanted to buy more spray cleaners, but I didn't like their selection today. I have also started to keep more air freshening items on hand too so the house doesn't stink when things are starting too.

I also bought more Krazy glue because I also needed more of it. And really, can you have too much Krazy glue? It can fix and hold together a lot of stuff!

You can build up your stockpile cheaply. You don't have to spend $36 like I did, but $5-10 a week would be doing more than doing nothing. Look at what you need and start stockpiling!

By the way, you can check out my "What This Prepper Buys" here and here

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Saturday, October 7, 2017

Five Prepping Things To Accomplish In October


October is here and so is fall. This is a great time to work outside, take care of any projects you wanted to get done during the summer, and wrap up any loose ends before winter arrives. October is usually pretty mild in Iowa with an occasional snow storm thrown in the last part of the month. I try to get as much done as I can in October because November is fairly unpredictable here.

Five Prepping Things To Accomplish In October

1. Get the outside of the house, garage, and other outbuildings winterized. Home maintenance is an important part of prepping. Trim bushes away from the buildings. Compost and mulch any garden areas that need it. Seal up any cracks or holes. Get plastic over the windows that leak. Take care of any loose boards. Make sure the doors and windows seal up tight. You know what you need to do. October is a good time to get these things taken care of.

2. Stock up on pasta, rice, and potatoes. I know these are carbs, but they also provide calories and energy when you need it. I like to keep all forms of pasta on hand. I generally only keep brown rice on hand, but white rice does store longer if stored properly. I keep instant mashed potatoes and canned potatoes on hand as well as fresh potatoes. I also keep freeze dried potatoes on hand as well. Just store pasta, rice, and potatoes that yourself and your family will eat. I would like to remind you to keep extra water or broth on hand for cooking pasta and rice.

3. In light of recent events, I urge to add at least three more gallons of water per person in your household this month. If you have pets, add at least three more gallons of water for dogs, one more gallon of water for cats, and one more gallon of water for any other creatures besides livestock. One thing I have read from the recent natural disasters is that people did not have enough water and other liquids stored. Please add to your water storage this month!

4. Time to clean out your vehicles and switch over your emergency kits to winter supplies. Time to take out the sunscreen, insect repellent, and anything that can freeze. Time to add gloves, hats, scarves, and extra coats and blankets. There are several good lists about what to keep in your car during the winter, but this list is probably my favorite by The Homesteading Hippy.

5. Take stock of your own home winter emergency supplies and fill in the holes. We don't always realize how much stuff gets used throughout the year and what may need to be replaced. How is your unscented long lasting candle situation? I would check them to make sure you have enough and they didn't melt last summer. How are your C and D cell batteries? Most radios and heavy duty flashlights take them. How is your ready to eat food situation? Can you make it a week on just that food alone? How is your water storage? Do you have enough to drink, flush the toilets, and do any emergency washing?  There is a lot more things to think about, but these things would be at the top of my list in an emergency!

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Related Posts:
Five Prepping Things To Accomplish in July
Five Prepping Things To Accomplish in August
Five Prepping Things To Accomplish in September


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Preserving The Bounty: How To Freeze Sweet Corn


One of my favorite ways to deal with my garden bounty is to can it. I love canning! However, when I am putting up sweet corn, I like to freeze it. Freezing sweet corn is so easy. Let me walk you through it!

How To Freeze Sweet Corn:




1.Pick and husk your sweet corn. Make sure you have as much of the silks cleaned up as possible.

I tend towards picking and freezing mine in smaller batches because of my time constraints. If you want to do a lot all at once, go for it!

2. Fill your stockpot about 2/3s full with water and set it to boil.


3. In the meantime, fill your sink or a big bowl with really cold water and add a significant amount of ice to it.


4. Once the water is boiling, you will be blanching your sweet corn. I do this with the cob still on the cob because I find it easier to deal with that way. Boil the sweet corn for three minutes and immediately put the sweet corn in the ice water to cool quickly. I leave the corn in the ice water for 1-2 minutes. You will have to do the corn in batches. Doing the corn all at once will result in unevenly cooked corn.


5. Remove the corn from the ice water and let drain on a pan or towel.

6. After you have all the sweet corn blanched, you can start cutting it off the cob. I use my biggest baking sheet pan with sides to do this. Starting at the top of the cob, I slice down the cob using a slightly serrated knife.

The aftermath plus some seedy summer squash. The chicken were grateful!

7. After I get through all the sweet corn or have the pan full, I start filling freezer bags. Sometimes I just use zippered freezer bags and sometimes I use my Food Saver. Just depends on what I have for bags. I like to put 2-3 cups in each quart size bag because that is perfect for my family. If you have a large family, you might want to put more in a quart size bag or use a gallon size bag!


8. You should label each bag with "Sweet Corn 2017" or whatever year it is when you read this! Trust me on the labeling. I used to be a lazy labeler, but that hasn't worked out so well for me!

9. Put the bagged and sealed sweet corn in the freezer. This will be delicious in the winter!

I know some people put sugar or salt in their water when they cook sweet corn. That is a personal preference and I don't personally do it. If you want to, do it. It will not negatively affect the flavor of the sweet corn.

That's it. Easy peasy! Have fun and let me know if you have tricks or tips to freezing sweet corn!

Thanks for reading,
Erica


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