Preparedness

Our item this week is vegetables (canned and frozen). This is where a lot of your vitamins and minerals will be coming from so stock up as much as you can.
A lot of young children may not care for veggies by themselves, but remember that canned tomatoes make great salsa and pasta sauce, canned carrots or peas, although mushy and gross on their own, taste fine in a casserole or pot pie and nearly everyone likes corn with a big dollop of butter.  Think outside the box too; we eat a ton of green chiles in various dishes, so I’ll be sure to buy a bunch of those.

A few people have asked me if it’s OK to buy all frozen veggies because canned don’t taste as good. I generally prefer frozen but it’s incredibly important to have a shelf-stable supply of vegetables. You know how easy it is for the power to go out? Just imagine what’s going to happen to all those frozen veggies if the power stays out for more than a couple of days. Goodbye freezer!

Buy at least five cans of vegetables per person (I’ll leave quantities of frozen items up to you. It really depends on how much room you’ve got in your freezer).  For my family of eight people, that’s at least 40 cans. It’s going to seem like a whole bunch when you load up your cart, but it really isn’t that many.

 

 

Hey everyone! How did it go with the peanut butter? (If you don’t know what I’m talking about you can read my original post here.) Here we go with this week’s assignment!

Fat is your friend.

At least in cooking it is. It’s pretty hard to cook without using oil, butter or shortening. Those are one of the Big Four must-have items in anyone’s food storage. No matter whether you are trying to stockpile for a year or are just hoping to get a couple of week’s worth of food, you need fat.

This week we’re going to concentrate on oil and shortening. Get whatever oil you prefer. Make sure you don’t get just olive, though, because that tastes awful in baked goods. I like to split my oil up between olive (my preference for cooking), coconut and peanut.

Also get some shortening. I rarely use shortening because, well, it doesn’t taste that great (although it does add volume and a nice texture to some baked goods when it’s combined with butter. Like in snickerdoodles. My recipe here is excellent.) But it’s very smart to have on hand as a substitute for butter. It stays good for over a year, whereas butter must refrigerated and it lasts for only a couple of months.

The problem with all items that are high in fat is that fat becomes rancid with 18 months. Sometimes earlier. So nuts, chocolate, oil, peanut butter and anything else that’s fatty will need to be rotated regularly. Fortunately these are the best-tasting items so using them up is not a big problem. We just need to be aware.

I recommend half a botttle of oil per person, and half a can of shortening per person. So if you’ve got four people in your family, you’ll get two bottles of oil and two cans of shortening. If you have enough room in your freezer I’d recommend getting some extra butter, too. It freezes beautifully.

Remember to Get it done! It’s not about looking for deals or comparison shopping; It’s about buying a few extra items every time you go to the grocery store.

Stockpile

It’s time to get started with the grand kick-off of the 2014 Get Prepared-a-thon! In case you’re new to my blog, here’s what’s going on: as a Mormon I have been raised with the idea that I Must Be Prepared. For what, I’m not sure. But since most bad things involve food shortages, that’s what we anticipate.  Flu Pandemic? Trucking strike? Polar Vortex? Armageddon? It doesn’t really matter what it is; food will be the first thing to disappear.  You might be cool watching your kids starve to death because you spent all your money on cute Halloween decorations or a fabulous purse, but I like to make sure we’ve got some extra food in the cupboard. This isn’t just for Mormons or moms or any group in particular. This is for everyone who eats food. Does that include you? Ok, then. Time to get prepared!  Remember it wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark. If you’re waiting for some reason to get prepared, when that reason happens it will be too late.

 

In the olden days Mormons were supposed to have a year supply of wheat and dried beans and stuff like that. But that’s overwhelming and who even has room for a year’s supply of food? Now we are encouraged to have a three month supply of everyday food. Stuff you eat on a regular basis. But a three-month supply is overwhelming once you sit down and start making lists. So here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to make this easy on you. This isn’t about doing this “the right way”; it’s about doing something, anything. We get so caught up in having the right plan that we get burned out before we even start.

 I don’t want to overwhelm you with talk of wheat grinders or dry-pack canning. I want you to get your three month supply of food and water. We’re going to do it through baby steps. Just one item per week. You can decide how much you want to get. It probably depends on your budget, your family size and your physical storage capabilities (those in a tiny apartment won’t be able to store as much as those who have a sprawling basement. If you have one of those I’m terribly jealous.)  Again, I don’t want to hear excuses. You can find a spot somewhere to stick some extra cans of food.

I don’t want this to turn into some sort of mania to buy your items at the lowest price. Price comparisons are not what we’re about. I want this to be easy and I want this to be do-able. That means buying a little extra whenever you go to the grocery store. I know you go to the grocery store every week. If you’re like me you go every other day because you’re too forgetful and disorganized to get everything in one trip.

This is the most important thing: Don’t save up items to buy during your monthly Costco trip or put things off for another time. Just buy what you need now. Get it done. That’s the name of the game. Yes, the lady at the grocery store is going to give you a weird look when you unload a mountain of canned soup at the checkout. Just tell her you’re stockpiling for the apocalypse and see if she laughs.

Every week I’ll give a little explanation about the item we’re going to stock up on and the quantities I recommend. (Again, it’s your decision. Every little bit helps, though. Something is better than nothing.) Then I’ll list the items over to the right on the sidebar, just in case you’re behind and need to catch up.

I’d love to hear your success stories! Even if you just want to post a comment saying that you’ve gotten your items for the week. It’s so great to encourage each other.

This week’s item is

Peanut Butter

Peanut butter is such a great food. Just about everybody likes it (apologies if you’re allergic. Feel free to substitute almond butter or sunflower butter) and it’s very filling. It doesn’t require heating or refrigeration which makes it particularly great in an emergency situation. My family eats a ton of peanut butter and we go through about 1 large jar every two weeks. That would mean we need 6 or 7 jars for three months. That’s just about one jar per person. So use that as your guideline. Get one jar per person in your family.

One of my favorite things to obsess about is the end of the world/flu pandemic/EMP*. I love, love, love preparedness! But I have been letting my food storage and preparedness dwindle lately. I’m so ashamed! I have people ask me all the time to start up my “item of the week” blog posts again. And for my own good–and yours too, I hope–I’m going to start up my whole item of the week thing again, starting on Monday! So get in the mindset of preparedness, folks! We’re going to stock up our pantries one item at a time. It’s the easiest, no-brainer way to get our houses in order.

See you on Monday!

 

*An EMP, in case you don’t know, is an ElectroMagnetic Pulse. It occurs when a nuclear bomb is detonated high in the atmosphere (or really big solar flare). It knocks out everything elecronic/computery within a several-hundred mile radius, effectively sending people back to an early 1800s lifestyle. Here’s a really detailed article about what it is. There’s a bunch of scientific stuff so you might want to scroll down to the section “What would happen after the attack”. Chilling, to be sure.

Last Friday I was on my weekly Costco trip getting our usual six gallons of milk and a jillion eggs. As I sat and tried to decide whether to buy some canned chicken I had the oddest feeling come over me; it was a feeling that food would be getting very expensive and I would regret not buying that chicken. This is not my usual imaginings that I experienced. It was from someplace else. Inspiration? I’m not sure. Only that it made me panic a little.

Obviously it’s not a stretch to see how food prices could go up. Gas is a fortune right now, half of the midwest is flooded, and the South is trying to pick up the pieces from a tornado infestation. Locally we are experiencing the driest and hottest spring that Texas has ever seen. Strange, considering just three months ago we had record-setting cold temperatures. What else does Mother Nature have up her sleeve for this summer?

I don’t want to get all Preparedness-Freak on you but I was talking to a pregnant Prepper friend of mine a while ago. She suggested all the turmoil in the world is like Braxton-Hicks contractions to a pregnant lady. Just like Braxton-Hicks are not the real thing, not actual labor, just the body’s way of getting ready for real labor, we keep having incidents that should make us pause and think, “Am I ready? Could I take care of my family if something terrible happened?” Usually these wildfires/toradoes/earthquakes end up not turning into anything serious nearby us, but do we take any action? At some point the time to prepare will be over.

In the last General Conference Jeffrey R. Holland said,
“One way or another God will have His voice heard. “I sent you out to testify and warn the people,” the Lord has said to His prophets. [And] after your testimony cometh the testimony of earthquakes, … of thunderings, … lightnings, and … tempests, and the voice of the waves of the sea heaving themselves beyond their bounds.” . . . Every sermon given is always, by definition, both a testimony of love and a warning, even as nature herself will testify with love and a warning in the last days.”




Since we’re on the subject, today we have a new preparedness item. It’s beans. Yes, beans, the magical fruit. Get some canned, get some dried. Just get some. Beans are cheap so this isn’t going to break the bank for you.

I recommend at least one bag of dried beans per person and 3-5 cans of beans per person in your family. They can be green beans, refried, black, lentils, whatever. This might be a great opportunity to try out some new recipes. If you have a fantastic bean-centric recipe, let me know about it and I’ll link to your blog or publish it here.

That’s a fun little phrase we “preppers” like to use to get our lazy friends and relatives motivated about preparedness. In other words, when you really need food, water and supplies it will be too late.

I’ve been giving you, my lovely and brilliant readers, an item per week to stock up on. It doesn’t matter if you’re Mormon, or have a cold storage room, or have very much money or space. The idea is to get something. The earthquake in Japan has reminded all of us how quickly our lives can go from normal to chaos. Most of us don’t live on the Ring of Fire, but there doesn’t have to be a big, fat catastrophe to rock or world (or cause us to rely on what we have stored). Most people in the country experienced major snowstorms this winter. Power outages are common. Or what about a trucking strike? Most grocery stores only have two days worth of food in storage. Shops would empty out fast. Or how about a really bad flu epidemic? It might be that we simply don’t want to go out in public for fear of infection.

What I’m trying to say is that everybody needs some spare water bottles and some extra cans of food. It doesn’t have to be some big thing where you buy one ton of wheat and powdered milk. Everybody goes to the store at least once a week. When you’re there just buy a little extra. Or a lot extra. You decide what’s best for you.

This week our item is canned fruit. What kid doesn’t like fruit cocktail or pineapple? (um, Arabella. But nevermind.) So get what you can next time you’re at the store.

This is an outstanding video that I played as a “commercial” at our last Enrichment activity where we played The Price is Right. Pretty Please watch it, OK?

It’s Monday, the day when I tell you this week’s item. Which will be THE most important thing in your entire food storage. And it’s not even food, it’s WATER! Fortunately you don’t need to have a three month supply of this on hand; although it would be nice. We’re going to take baby steps and get a few days worth at a time.

I don’t know about you but we had some scary weather last week. It really brought to light all of the holes in my preparedness preparations. Water is the thing you really, really don’t want to be without. (And heat. But we’re not going to worry about that this week.) We’re going to store up water by baby steps. So this week you water assignment is:

10 water bottles per person.

Just the regular size of water bottles. Round up if you need to–if you have 3 people in your family you’ll need 30 bottles of water. But there might be a flat of water bottles at the store that has 36 bottles–get it! Understand? Water is not expensive. And it’s the item you really do need to find space for. Clean out some stuff under you bed and stash some water bottles there instead.

You can do it!

First of all, the preparedness item this week is Spaghetti Sauce. It’s a pasta topping! It’s a pizza Sauce! It’s multi-talented! If you are aiming on spaghetti/pizza/etc. once a week, that’s going to be 12 jars. Think you can handle that? If that’s too much for your pantry (or your budget) to handle, then get what you can.

If you happen to be the kid of person who makes their own tomato sauce from scratch, then you are probably sneering at my jarred sauce suggestion. Fine. Just buy as many canned ingredients as you need to make your own. This is not the time to get on your high horse about fresh tomatoes and basil, OK? This is about feeding your family from food in your pantry. So get yourself to the grocery store and stock up. If you want to throw in a few jars of Alfredo sauce or something similar, be my guest. I’m just trying to give you some ideas, here.

Secondly, to completely change the subject, having six little kids was very hard when they were all 10 and under. Even 12 and under was difficult. All those sippy cups! And teeth I had to brush! And shoes I had to put on! And car seats I had to buckle!

But this! Older kids. Egads. This is making me long for the ease of bedwetting. I remember my friends with older kids telling me it was still hard being a mom even though their kids were old enough to wipe their own bums. I simply did not believe them. I thought older kids would just be like having a cross between fun roommates and servants.

This is my newsflash: They are still children. Even when they are taller than you and wear bigger shoes. They still don’t have a firm grip on responsibility. They don’t make the best choices many times. They still don’t even seem to grasp the importance of two very basic concepts: hanging up their clothes and throwing things away.

Over this weekend I had the choice opportunity to try to find two pairs of tights for the girls that were lost somewhere in the house. After searching high and low (and eventually finding them) I realized that my girl’s have been cleaning their room by stuffing things in every drawer and cupboard they can find. And the last two weeks worth of clean laundry? In a giant heap behind their closet door. Even India, my super responisble child, had her old tatty t-shirts shoved into drawers with brand new church dresses.

The boy’s had the great room switcheroo. Scary is the word that comes to mind.

I realized that they are unable to throw anything away. Every chintzy toy ever “won” at Chuck E. Cheese? It’s in their room somewhere. Their Legos have all had babies and the population has grown to epic numbers. And most of them are living on the floor in their bedroom. And that rule about no eating outside of the kitchen? All I have to do is look at all the Gogurt packages, chip bags and string cheese wrappers to know that they have been ignoring me for quite some time.

Please don’t get me started on the assignments, projects and permission slips that were forgotten until 10:00 last night.

Enough.

I have been gritting my teeth all weekend, chanting “Monday” under my breath. Today is the day that my reign of terror begins. Enough of consequences and trying to teach responsibility. It is not working. This is the beginning of Jennie’s Gulag. There will be no laughter or cheer eminating from my house anymore. If the children are smiling, I’m not doing my job.

OK, so maybe it won’t be that bad. But my gosh! I don’t know what else to do.

Let me turn into the woman I’ve always hated: the one who tells parents of young children, “just you wait”. Because I promise you will look back on those days of no sleep and watching PBS Kids nonstop and wish you could go back. You don’t believe me. But it will happen.

How did everybody do with peanut butter last week? I ended up getting nine jars which should last us for a few months.

This week our item is Cereal.

(Dry cereal, not oatmeal.) Is there any food more beloved to people than cereal? I mean, who doesn’t like it? It can be healthy or utter crap (yes, Honey Smacks, I’m talking to you.)

My favorites are:

Apple Jacks (which I never buy because it’s too sugary)

Quaker Natural Granola with Raisins (I also never buy this because it has 6 grams of fat in 1/2 cup. Yikes. But that’s why it’s so good. I eat about eight bowls of the stuff, which makes it even worse. Sometimes I’ll get the lowfat version. Not quite as tasty.)
Peanut Butter Cap’n Crunch–This is surprisingly low in sugar. And it’s just so dang good.
Cinnamon Toast Crunch–Every time I eat this I’m like, “wow, I forgot how good this is.”

This week is going to be all about cereal. Yes, I realize it’s a major cash outlay. But be comforted by the fact that it will all get eaten (unlike, say, canned peas). I also realize how idiotic you’re going to feel at the check-out stand with sixteen boxes of cereal in your cart. I’m going to be right there with you, OK? (This also means I might have to swallow my pride and go to [gulp] Wal-Mart which has the excellent cereal prices. I will have to take Mister’s car which doesn’t sport an anti-Walmart bumper sticker.)

I’m going to leave it up to you as far as quantities go. Cereal takes up a lot of space so it might not be feasible to have too much. It’s up to you. I will be getting 2-3 boxes per person. That’s about 20 boxes. You may want to check the internet or dig out the newspaper in your recycling bin first to see if you can find some coupons.

Remember to just Get It Done!

P.S. My reader Jen brings up a good point: what if your family doesn’t eat this stuff (it never entered my mind that somebody wouldn’t eat cereal!) At church I have a theme for each month so if you don’t want to do a certain item you can easily pick something else within that theme. January is “Family Favorites”. So if you are allergic to peanuts or your family just doesn’t eat what I’ve recommended, then by all means pick something else! If you guys don’t like peanut butter, get some jelly. Or pick something else that your family really likes for lunch. Prepackaged tuna or chicken salad maybe. Just try to get something that is a “sure thing” for your family. Preferably something shelf-friendly (i.e. not hot dogs or cold cuts).

Yes ma’am, we’re bringing back the Food Storage Item of the Week. Wherefore, you might ask. I wrote this for Segullah on Thursday and thought I might post it here to explain my thinking a little. It’s more of a spiritual nature since it has to do with my job at church. If you haven’t already, please read the post that follows this one.

“We need a real firecracker for this calling,” My bishop said as I sat across the desk from him. “You’d be perfect. We’d like to call you as Ward Preparedness Specialist.” Huh? Since when does Ward Preparedness Specialist requires firecrackerish skills? I could only guess that the Bishop thinks of preparedness differently than I do.

That was last year.

After about 385 days of having this calling I now understand; nobody wants to hear from the Food Storage Lady. (Except for people who already love food storage.) I feel like I’ve had to turn my monthly preparedness spiel into a vaudeville act to get people to listen.

Yes, I could be dour and pious and guilt people into preparedness with quotes like these:

“Too often we bask in our comfortable complacency and rationalize that the ravages of war, economic disaster, famine, and earthquake … cannot happen here. Those who believe this are either not acquainted with the revelations of the Lord, or they do not believe them. Those who smugly think these calamities will not happen, that they will somehow be set aside because of the righteousness of the Saints, are deceived and will rue the day they harbored such a delusion. The Lord has warned and forewarned us against a day of great tribulation and given us counsel through His servants, on how we can be prepared for these difficult times. Have we heeded His counsel?” –Ezra Taft Benson (Gen. conf. 1980)

“Noah heeded God’s command to build an ark…that they might be saved from the floodwaters. Yet there was no evidence of rain and flood. His actions were considered irrational. The sun was shining and life moved forward as usual. But time ran out. The floods came, the disobedient were drowned. When God speaks and we obey, we will always be right.” –Thomas S. Monson (Ensign , Oct.2002)

Scaring people only seems to backfire, though. It’s overwhelming and most ward members would rather rationalize that somehow they’ll be OK. When afraid, many people stick their heads in the sand and try not worry about anything. Especially not amassing food and sticking to a budget.

I’ve used threats over the past year. I very pointedly told everyone in Relief Society that I will not be sharing my food storage. Especially with them, the people who knew better and still did nothing. After all, the five Wise Virgins were not asked to share with the five Foolish Virgins. The Virgins who did not choose to prepare were left with empty lamps, an “I told you so”, and a door slammed in their faces. Which, dear Relief Society sisters, is what you’ll get from me too. So prepare! But that’s a bit harsh, isn’t it?

My strategy now is that of a cheerleader. Did you know that the church isn’t really even pushing a one-year food supply anymore? That’s something to cheer about right there! They want everyone to get a three-month supply of regularly-eaten food, and a two week supply of water. (Once you’ve gotten that, then you can worry about dry pack canning and all that fun stuff.) So now food storage is about going to the grocery store, which you do anyway. You just have to buy a little extra every time you go. Isn’t that so easy? I give my ward a specific item every week to stock up on and a little pep talk about why it’s an important thing to buy. It’s a no-brainer.

Preparedness is much more than just storing food. I know that. Saving money, getting an education and learning to be self-sufficient are vitally important (Why does no one know how to sew anymore? It’s a travesty!) I just want to make sure that no sisters in my ward are in a situation where they have to watch their children starve to death because they chose to spend their money on fancy Halloween decorations or getting their nails done every week.

I guess it takes a firecracker to stand up and say that out loud.