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

Monday, December 22, 2014


I'm doing research on dehydrating because I want to add some to my food storage.  I don't want to do everything dehydrated because of the potential for not having enough water in emergencies.  But it does save a lot of space and extends the shelf life of a lot of foods.

I had some leftover rice in the freezer from the last batch of chicken rice soup that I made in the crock pot.  I watched a YouTube video on making instant rice by dehydrating cooked rice.  That doesn't shrink up as much as some foods, but it does free up the freezer space.  So I did some in my oven, and it appears to have turned out nice -- at least it dried very well.  The proof is in the pudding, so to speak, so I'll find out when I reconstitute it and use it.  I plan to do this with some ready-to-eat soup that is excellent over rice.  I think that will be the best test of this method of oven drying, as the rice quality will be more noticeable than if I put it into a soup.

I also found a YouTube video on dehydrating commercial spaghetti sauce and condensed cream of mushroom soup.  She then powdered each of these to use in recipes.  Here's the link to that video.  She put hers in mason jars with oxygen absorbers. 

I'll add links to other YouTube videos as I find them.

Here's another one, dehydrating homemade spaghetti.  The plan for these guys is to use the dehyrdated meals while camping.  They vacuum-sealed their dehydrated spaghetti in plastic bags. 

Another one from the same guys, dehydrating homemade chili.

Linda's Pantry shows how to dehydrate frozen hashbrowns. 

Edited to Add:

I dehydrated some canned corn.  On Monday, 12-22-14, I opened the can and used one serving (1/2 cup) and then dehydrated the rest over night as an experiment.  I rehyrdrated some for supper last night.  It took longer than I expected to rehydrate.  It was good, but I used it mixed with mashed potatoes and chicken & noodles.  I don't know that it was good enough "looking" to serve as a side dish by itself. 

I'm going to restrict my dehydrating to recipe-specific items.  I am going to try dehydrating both apples and bananas to be used in my muffin recipes.  If that works well, then I'll buy more at one time, and dehydrate some to be used later, to save on trips to the store and to gradually build up a stock of deyhdrated.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Comparing costs for different methods of storing dry foods

If money were not an issue, and given that I'm a single person, I would simply rely on #10 cans from the LDS online store for most of my long-term storage needs.  However, I'm on a strict budget, so I have to get as much food storage out of my available dollars as possible.  I'm not eliminating #10 cans -- just using other alternatives as well.

Here is a cost breakdown for pinto beans to give you an idea of the difference in costs. Like I said, if money is not an issue, then it may not seem worth the effort.  But to me it is definitely worth the effort.

1 case of six #10 cans of pinto beans from the LDS online store sells for $39.75 and contains 31.2 lbs. of product.  The shipping will be $3.00, so that's $42.75, or $1.37 per lb. of beans.  Good for many, many years. 

I purchased a 20 lb. bag of pinto beans from WalMart for $17.78, no shipping costs.  I purchased a pack of 25 gallon-size Mylar bags, 5 mil, for $14.95, including shipping, or 58 cents each.  I could have gotten them cheaper per bag from LDS online store, 38 cents each, but they sell them in minimum packs of 250, way too much for me to dish out at one time.  The oxygen absorbers from LDS Online store cost $12 per 100, plus $3 shipping, or 15 cents each. It required 4 Mylar bags to pack away the beans, and I used 3 oxygen absorbers for each bag to ensure a vacuum-packed seal (more on that below). 

$17.78 for 20 #s of beans
+  2.32 for the 4 Mylar bags
+  1.80 for the oxygen absorbers
$21.90 for 20 lbs of beans = $1.10 per lb., good for storage for the same length of time as #10 cans.

I packed the 4 bags of beans in a rectangular 4-gallon plastic food grade pail that my daughter-in-law Jenny got from Sam's Club, for FREE.  I get various sizes of pails from my local Dillons Grocery store -- 2 gallon, 3.5 gallon, and 4 gallon -- all food-grade. 

If I don't have the money to buy 20 lbs at a time, I can purchase the 4-lb bags at Dollar General for $3.60 per bag, which would be the equivalent of $18 per 20 lbs.  So I can add a little bit here and there, as it works into my food budget.  On the other hand, to purchase from the LDS online store, I have to buy a whole case of six #10 cans.  That's why I'm hoping we can get some collective buying going in the Pratt Branch, so we can share cases. 

Now, here's the least expensive way to store those beans long-term, and this is totally 100% approved by the Church, based on a study done at BYU which I referenced in an earlier blog.  That is to recycle PETE bottles.  Fruit juice bottles which come in 2 qt., 3 qt. and gallon sizes, and 2-liter soda bottles are PETE bottles and they have the types of lids that give an air tight seal.  Think about it, soda has to have an air tight seal or it would lose all its fizz. 

So, now I can buy my beans and put them into PETE bottles with oxygen absorbers and I've eliminated another couple of dollars from the cost of 20# of beans.  And, saved some landfill space by recycling. 

Sealing with Oxygen Absorbers
Oxygen absorbers do not remove air, like vacuum sealing does.  They remove oxygen from the air.  If you press out most of the air from a filled Mylar bag and use the right number of oxygen absorbers, you will get a good hard vacuum-packed seal.  If you don't, that doesn't mean you don't have a good seal.  However, if the bag of food is puffy, it may burst if pressure is applied and the bags won't pack as well in the plastic buckets.  That's why I like to have a good vacuum seal, and I'd rather throw in 1 or 2 more oxygen absorbers.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Another fantastic use for oatmeal

One of the keys to surviving a difficult financial situation is cutting down or replacing the meat in our food budgets.  Here's one way to do that -- use oatmeal to make sausages.  1 cup of oatmeal, 2 eggs, and some spices makes 5 sausage patties.

This is the link to the recipe

In this YouTube video, perbain made a few changes -- she used powdered eggs instead of fresh and made some other substitutions.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Recycling plastic containers to keep food storage costs down . . .

Long-Term prepping is much less costly if plastic containers that contain foods or drinks can be recycled.  This is a brief rundown on the "food-grade" appropriate containers. 

The symbol may have PETE instead of PET.  Very good moisture barrier and very good oxygen barrier, which makes them very suited to long-term storage with an oxygen-absorber.  The soda bottles and fruit juice bottles have the kind of screw-on cap that gives a very good, airtight seal.  They do not have a good light-barrier, though, so must be kept in dark places.  Very good for grains, flour, pasta, rice, etc.  Not necessary for sugar, salt, and baking soda as these products do not have to be oxygen free, just moisture proof.  In fact, DO NOT use an oxygen absorber with sugar. 

One solution to the poor light barrier is to store the containers in a box. For example, collect the boxes that the 1/2 gallon juice containers come in from your grocer. Put the filled bottles back into their box -- voila, excellent protection against the light and product storage that is much easier to move around and organize. 

Very good moisture barrier, but poor oxygen barrier.  Not suited for storage with an oxygen absorber (it simply won't do any good as the plastic will begin to leak in oxygen).*  If you use these for short-term storage of wheat, etc, just don't bother putting in the oxygen absorber.  Very suitable for long-term storage of sugar, salt, and baking soda.  Very poor light barrier, so store in dark places. 

Very good moisture barrier, but poor oxygen barrier.  Very poor light barrier.  Not suitable for use with oxygen absorbers.  Very suitable for long-term storage of sugar, salt, and baking soda. 
Freeze First
You can still use the 2 HDPE and 5 PP food-safe plastic containers for long-term storage if you freeze the product first.  To use Freezing to disinfest your grains or flour, freeze at 0 degrees F for at least 4 days.  This will kill the insects at all stages.  Take out of freezer and keep at room temperature for 24 hours before packing in containers that have good screw-on lids to prevent any new infestation.  For documentation on that, see the BYU report in my previous post.  Just don't bother with the oxygen absorbers because they aren't going to work for very long anyway. 
So, what I am doing is using the PETE containers for long-term storage, and the
HDPE and PP containers for sugar, salt, and baking soda.  Any extra HDPE and PP ones will be used for intermediate storage of other dry products that have been frozen first, which I will use up first.
1st -- HDPE and PP containers with "frozen first" product
2nd -- PETE containers with oxygen absorbers & Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers
3rd -- #10 cans
*Many commercial sites sell their products in 5-gallon or 6-gallon buckets that are 2 HDPE and market them as long-term storage.  The BYU report from my last post says this is not 100% reliable -- the plastic buckets, even with gamma seals, do not consistently maintain an oxygen-free environment for the 12 days necessary to ensure the product is disinfested.  Buckets that have the product in mylar bags, however, are excellent for long-term storage.  The mylar bags provide the oxygen-free environment and the bucket provides protection from rodents. 
In future posts, I compare some ways to purchase various products for long-term storage.  In the meantime, start saving those PETE, HDPE, and PP plastic containers.  You can often get gallon-size HDPE or PP containers from restaurants.  FREE. 

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 . . .