Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Keeping Track

I thought a lot about how I could keep track of my food storage contents. There are labels on the boxes, yes, but since I didn't buy many things by the case, the kinds are spread all over the place. How do I know what I have? I'm talking about the long term storage. The three month supplies sit on the shelf and I use and replace (rotate), but rarely really keep track. If you want to keep track of that 3 months' supply, or even what's in the cabinet, you might try the inventory sheet here.

For the long term, though, I knew a glance at the shelf wouldn't be enough. In addition, I knew if I let it get too far ahead of me, I'd never catch up. About the third week I brought home a mixed box of six cans, I started a spread sheet in Excel. On the first page, I typed in all the foods available in #10 cans from the Home Storage Centers. Don't let it confuse you that it says, "For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints - anyone can go there and buy what's on the shelf, or order what is needed on canning day and work for a couple of hours. Call your closest one for the days they are open. There are even three international locations.

I entered those items available, the shelf life expectancy (kept at 75 degrees), then made a columns for how many I have, how many I need, and the date I acquire them - that turns out to be several columns. On page two, I entered other things I bought like a gallon can of peaches at Kroger or the foods from Thrive/Shelf Reliance. Each time I acquire more, I enter the additions the same day. It's a habit. Now, I really can tell at a glance what I have. It's all stored in one place, or I would add a column for location, too.

If you don't know how to make a spreadsheet, most word processing programs, like Word or Neo, have the ability to make tables in documents. That works just as well. Buy and use a book of green ledger pages. Get a spiral notebook. Make something fancy with your scrapping supplies. Doesn't matter how you do it, make sure you're keeping track so you know what you have. Variety is important, and you'll want to know when you meet your goals!

Right now, I'm 100% on oats, cornmeal, and rice. I don't have to buy any more for storage for years. That makes me feel good!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Things I Learned By Stacking Boxes

Today was the day - finally! The day I tackled my food storage closet under the stairs. The movers had stacked the boxes somewhat willy-nilly, but I guess I was lucky they even put them in the closet, right?

First, I took everything out. I can't believe I hauled all those boxes up three floors to my apartment! One box at a time. It's much nicer to have it on the first floor with the garage in my house. Make a note. Food storage is heavy! Apple slices, not so much, but boy those boxes of wheat or beans - wow! You can't see much of the water, but I realized - I don't have enough! 14 gallons for three days, and I have 5 gallons.

Here are some other things I learned.

  • Put all the labels on the side which is going to show when you stack them. (Sounds obvious, doesn't it?) But I had some on the ends, because the sides were full. If you have things together in a case, not much of a problem, but if you have 6 different cans, labels either overlap, or you have to write on the side of the box.
  • Be sure I write at least the year on at least one label!
  • Thrive boxes are not quite as sturdy as the ones from the Home Storage Center. (But they've also traveled with UPS, and survived, so they will do fine.)
  • Don't stack the boxes too high. I stopped at eight, because nine was just too high for me to lift.
  • Take a moment to stand back and feel some satisfaction that I have what I have, and are trying to follow the prophet's direction to accumulate food storage. I need more, but this is progress from the first of April, when I only had a couple of boxes stockpiled from the grocery store.
  • Oh, yes. I need a wider door under there. Plenty of room for it. I don't know why they put such a skinny door in!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Back to Budgeting

"The revelation to produce and store food may be as essential to our temporal welfare today as boarding the ark was to the people in the days of Noah." ~ Pres. Ezra Taft Benson

The idea of coming up with a year's food supply, as recommended by the prophet, is a little daunting. It reminds me of the old joke. Q: How do you eat an elephant? A: One bite at a time.

That's exactly the same idea I have about food storage. Even focusing on 3 months might be a little overwhelming. So my rule is the motto of the old fable of the tortoise and the hare. Slow but steady wins the race.

Having decided to tithe my food budget for storage, I determined that I spend $100 most weeks, some weeks less. Remember, I'm a widow living alone, so that seems high to me, but probably low to you if you're feeding a family of four. In the years when I never went to the grocery store, because Paul was the cook and he did the shopping, prices went way high. Every time I leave the store, I look at what I bought and try to figure out how that could possibly be $100 worth of groceries!

This means I have $10/week allotted to food storage. Not much, right? Not so! It makes a big difference in slowly acquiring that storage. What can I get for my ten dollars? If I choose to spend it as ten, as opposed to saving a few weeks, here are some ideas.

  • Four #10 cans of oatmeal from a Home Storage Center.
  • 10 small cans of fruit or vegetables or beans (only things your family will eat!) from the local grocery. Check the sales. Last week, I could get 10 cans of pineapple, a national brand, for $10
  • 9 double rolls of toilet paper and one #10 can of white rice or hard red wheat.
  • Makings for a meal your family likes - something that doesn't contain perishables. Or something you can use freeze-dried foods to complete.
I'm sure you can think of lots more. If you save your budget for 4 weeks, you have $40 and can buy a starter kit ($22 at the storage center, $34.50 including tax and shipping from The LDS Online Store) and still have some left over for other items. A starter kit contains #10 cans of wheat, rice, beans and oats. I think it's 2 cans of wheat and 2 cans of beans, but I could be wrong. If you can go to a Home Storage Center, you could get the starter kit, a case of oatmeal, and a can of something else.

Or you could use that $40 online with Shelf Reliance/Thrive Foods, buying either #10 cans (costlier) or pantry cans (more variety for the $40). What I'm trying to do is buy both - store the #10, use the pantry cans in my recipes. It's working pretty well. The other night, I fixed the Taco TVP according to directions, then added salsa and put it on a hamburger bun. Quick and easy, and with a side salad, very nutritious. Oh, and it tasted good, too!

Don't forget, if you're going to store these things, you need to *use* these things. Your body needs to physically be accustomed to the foods, and you need to be familiar with how to use them. Have you tried one of the wheat recipes I've posted? I'm going to add another one in a few minutes.

Do you have this booklet? It's a guide with suggestions for gardening and producing items at home and for storing a year’s supply of food and other necessities - available here for only $1.50.

Monday, October 3, 2011

It's Harvest Time!

Most of us don't live on farms, but we might live where we can find fruits and vegetables cheaper than at the store, or we may have a store which sells cases of fruit more cheaply this time of year. One friend of mine in Oregon raises enough tomatoes to can all her family's ketchup and salsa and tomato needs for the next year.

Some may think that canning is too expensive a proposition to bother, but it's like anything else. You start slowly and accumulate as you go. Fruits and jams can be canned in a water bath canner, and that is much less expensive than a pressure canner. You need that and a good pair of tongs, then jars. If you have jars (and you might find some at the thrift store, though last time I looked, I thought it was cheaper to buy new ones!), you just need new lids and possibly screw bands. You want them clean and tight, no rust or peeling spots. Always use new lids (the flat part), no matter what, or you won't get a good sealing.

If you are making jams, you can forego the canner and the jars if you seal your collected jars of any kind the last one-quarter inch with beeswax, available in the grocery store. Don't skimp on the wax!

It may be that you have a Dollar General around which has decent prices on the jars. I saw stacks of them on the sidewalk at one near my post office. It may be that you will wait until the end of the season and find a canner at a reduced price, or one with a dent. The dent doesn't hurt things a bit! It must have the basket inside, though, or you've just bought a huge soup pot.

Is it worth the trouble? Yes! I have never felt such satisfaction after a job as looking at my counter and seeing lines of jars of fruit and jam. It's one thing we can do for our families which is tangible, which has a result we can see. The taste and the quality are so much better than store bought, and if you re-use your jars each year, and amortize the cost of your equipment over the years you use it, then the cost is also much less than the store.

Give it a try. You can do it!