If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome. Anne Bradstreet

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them. Ether 12:27

Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season therof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart; Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul. And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion. D&C 59:18-20

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Prepping on a very limited budget.

My heavens, where does time go.  I decided I need to get this blog going again so I can collect (and preserve) my ideas and experiences with long-term food storage.  I've learned through sad experience that Facebook is NOT a reliable storage site.

I've moved a couple of times, and each time I've found it necessary to revise the way I store food.  For those not familiar with my beliefs, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints fosters self-reliance, which in our day and age includes being prepared for unexpected situations that cause financial stress -- whether it be from a downturn in the general economy or a personal financial crisis.  This preparedness includes:  A 2 week supply of water, a 3-month supply of everything you normally use that is storable for 3 months, a year's supply of long-term foods, and a financial reserve in ready cash.

For water, the recommendation is 1 gallon per day per individual for 2 weeks -- that's 14 gallons per person.  I use 2-liter soda bottles and fruit juice bottles to do the water storage.  I'm short, so I fill all my upper cabinets that I can't reach with these bottles.  I have plenty of room for 14 gallons in my kitchen.  To supplement my water storage, I also fill used liquid soap and detergent bottles and shampoo bottles.  No need to use good drinking water for personal hygiene and cleaning activities.

The biggest challenge with the 3-month supply is getting started.  Literally, it's a lot easier than people think if you just determine to do it and start buying extra to build up your supply.  The magic point is when you have enough stored that you only buy on sale -- you'll find that your dollars go much, much further and you'll get to that point much sooner than you expect. 

Storage space is the next biggest challenge.  You have to think out of the box to be sure.  You may have to get rid of stuff you don't really use or don't really need.  You may have to put up some shelves or empty out a closet.  You don't have to invest a lot of money, though.  Believe me, you don't need those commercial storage systems.  Spend your money on food, instead.

The long-term storage is a matter of costs simply because of the packaging required for long-term storage.  And as with anything, there are products sold that are unnecessarily expensive, you can DIY much cheaper.  I'll be posting some cost comparisons and different methods for storing long-term. 

Financial reserve is harder for me, because I compulsively want to buy food storage.  I need to work on that.

Within the last few months I've had the opportunity to put my food storage to the test -- did I have enough of what I really need? 

In September I knew I was moving in October.  I had 2 situations at work:  I had to come up with the truckload (an exaggeration, of course, but it feels that way) of cash to make all the deposits, etc related to the cost of moving (and before you get your deposits back from where you are leaving).  I also didn't want to box up any more food storage than necessary.  So, I didn't buy anything in September except $12 worth of food, and that was early in the month. 

Then this month Social Security took out 3 months of the premium for Part B insurance (long, boring story), so I had only $35 left over for groceries and any other necessities to buy.  I had a freezer already stocked with individual portions of pre-cooked homemade meals, plenty of peanut butter/jelly for sandwiches, cheese for grilled cheese, all the ingredients I needed to make plenty of bread, cookies, and muffins, and I still have raw foods in the chest freezer to make more meals plus all the canned goods I have for side dishes and even main courses. 

That is really what the LDS food storage program is all about.  2 months in close succession presented a financial difficulty, and because of what I had stored, I was able to easily meet the challenges. A 3-month supply of most if not all of the things we normally use will get us through most crises. 

Now, back to the long-term storage.  Since I'm a single person, the ideal is to buy my products from a reputable distributor in #10 cans.  These are sealed for storage for 20+ years.  But that can be very expensive.  So, my plan is to do some #10 cans and some in other storage methods.

The 2nd best alternative seems to be the mylar bags.  They have a moisture and oxygen barrier and will protect the foods for 20+ years if properly sealed.  They are not rodent resistant though, so they should be placed inside some other container. 

PETE bottles, such as 2-liter soda bottles and 1/2 gallon fruit juice bottles, are excellent for long-term storage, and since you are buying the product anyway, they are free (or get your framily to save them for you).  All you have to buy is the oxygen absorbers and the food product.  The reason they are suitable for long-term storage is because the PETE plastic provides an oxygen barrier, and insects need oxygen to hatch and live.  The bottles are also good protection against moisture and, let's not forget, rodents.  Not absolute, but very good.  And we should be keeping an eye on our storage area for rodent infestation.

Other plastic food-safe containers, such as the HDPE containers commonly used for canisters and foods sold in gallon-sized jars, do have very good moisture barriers, but do not have an adequate oxygen barrier.  That includes the 5 and 6-gallon pails that are commonly used for long-term storage.  BYU did a study and found that even with gamma seals, the HDPE containers did not guarantee a good enough seal against oxygen for the 12 days necessary to ensure insect disinfestation. 

However, I believe the problem is only if there is insect infestation.  If your product is insect free, including all eggs and larvae, I don't see why the HDPE containers, if tightly sealed, won't prevent a new insect infestation.  In other words, I don't know what other harms oxygen can do to long-term storage, but I'm trying to find out.  USU says "It is not necessary to store wheat in the absence of oxygen unless insects are present."  But is that also true with beans, rice, pasta, flour, oats, etc.?  A prepping blogger says that "Oxygen oxidizes many of the compounds in food and reduces it’s shelf life over time." 

The BYU report also said that freezing adequately disinfests grains and other dry products.  The source for that claim is here, but is very technical.  But I am satisfied that freezing is indeed a good way to disinfest dry products before preparing them for long-term storage.  The other source for freezing says to freeze at 0 degrees for at least four days. 

There still remains the problem of other harm caused by oxygen over the long-term.  However, some products, like sugar, salt, and baking soda do not need protection against oxygen -- only against moisture and sugar needs protection against rodents.

So the moral of the lesson is to choose the container to fit the product being stored.  I have a couple of gallon jugs that I got from a restaurant that are HDPE, and also some gallon-sized canisters I purchased from Dollar General.  I'll use these to store my sugar, salt, and baking soda for long-term.  I'll also use them to store wheat for the short-term when I buy it in bulk.  I do use enough wheat to buy in bulk.  I'll get to pricing comparisons in another blog.

That's all for now.  But I need to include another link that has very useful information on various kinds of storage containers and how to use oxygen absorbers -- Oxygen Absorbers and Long-Term Food Storage . . .

No comments: