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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Guest Post: What are the Gaps in Your Stockpile?

Today we're in for a treat! I met Brandy from The Prudent Homemaker when she commented on one of my posts. I visited her website and was absolutely captivated by her story. This is one amazing woman! And today she is here to share a guest post that I know we can all learn from.

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What are the Gaps in Your Stockpile?

Perhaps you’ve been working on building a good stockpile for a while, combining coupons and sales. Your pantry is looking full and so is your freezer. You wonder how long you could go without shopping if you couldn’t.

What if you couldn’t go shopping?

What if you knew your family would be living off of your food storage for 6 months or more? What would you make sure that YOU had on hand?

If you’re going to the store every week for milk, bread, and fruits and vegetables (which most people are), then these are the most noticeable gaps that you have. These are the things that are going to be difficult to do without. Being without an income or on a reduced income is stressful enough for a family; worrying about what you are going to feed your family shouldn’t be. A few additions to your stockpile will help things to be less stressful, more delicious, and more nutritious.


Milk

Sure, you can freeze milk, but you only have so much freezer space, and once you open a gallon of milk, it needs to be used before it goes bad. It would be impossible to store six months or more of milk in your freezer.

The solution to this is to buy powdered milk and evaporated milk.
Perhaps you don’t like the taste of powdered milk and can’t see why you should store it. That’s okay. Use the milk in cooking, and drink water with your meals.

Powdered milk has a great convenience factor to it. If you need ¼ cup of milk for a recipe and are out of milk, you don’t have to go to the store. Simply pull out your powdered milk and mix up what you need. Nothing is wasted, and you’ve just rotated your powdered milk.

While powdered milk is skim milk (it stores better longer without fat in it, which can cause it to go rancid quickly), sometimes you need something more creamy. Perhaps you have toddlers and want to get that important milk fat in their diets. Maybe you want to make a dessert and have no cream. Evaporated milk is whole milk with half the water removed. You can add equal amounts of water to make whole milk, or you can leave it undiluted and it is equal to light cream. Evaporated milk can be expensive, but will start going on sale in the fall and continue through the holidays. When our local grocery store has a case-lot sale twice a year, I buy evaporated milk at .69 a can.

I use powdered milk in oatmeal (added while cooking), to make crepes, in pancakes, etc. I use evaporated milk in creamy chicken enchiladas, in creamy pasta sauces, and in desserts.


Bread

Whether you like whole wheat, white, a mixture, bagels, biscuits, English muffins, flatbreads, or an artisan loaf of bread, having the ingredients on hand to make bread are important. Bread flour, wheat berries and a wheat grinder for grinding fresh whole wheat flour, yeast, baking soda, salt, oil, honey, and anything else that you use in your bread recipes are important to have on hand. I buy most of these items in bulk from Sam’s Club (except for wheat berries).
Another thing that you need to have more of, when you’re making bread and other things from scratch, is that you’re going to use a lot more hand washing dish soap for all of the bowls and pans that you’ll be washing. I didn’t plan for this, and I quickly ran out of soap! Don’t think you can have too much dish soap!

Along with dish soap, more baking creates another need—more oil. Have oil for baking (it can be used in place of margarine and butter in many recipes) and non-stick spray for the waffle iron and your bread pans. You may not use a lot of oil now, and think that you don’t need this. Having lived on our storage for 2 years, I have seen how necessary it is to have more oil on hand than I ever used before.


Fruits and Vegetables

A good way to see what fruits and vegetables you need to have on hand is to try shopping every other week for produce. Buy fresh for the first week, and eat frozen and canned the second week. Some things can last you a few weeks in the fridge, such as apples.

When it comes to living on your storage for a couple of months or more, having a variety of fruits and vegetables is really important. The first year we were living on our food storage, I had canned corn, green beans, black olives, mandarin oranges, home canned peaches and pears, applesauce, canned tomatoes and sauce, and dried apricots, raisins, cranberries, carrots, potatoes, onions, and celery. We quickly tired of the lack of variety and I wished I had stored even more fruits and vegetables. We gave the applesauce to our baby after I ran out of baby food (we also broke up peaches and pears after I ran out of home-canned baby food). If you have a baby or are expecting a baby, don’t forget to store food for the baby!

Another thing we had on hand was beans. We sprouted lentils and mung beans. We ate pinto beans, black beans, cannellini beans and kidney beans.

When we were able to work on building back up our food storage, I added canned pineapple, dried apples, applesauce, canned mushrooms, and more varieties of dried beans to our pantry shelves. I added more home-canned baby food. I also worked even harder in our garden (which had done poorly the first year). Having a garden really helped give us some variety. Our second year was a little better, and this year (our third) has been the best so far. We harvested over 100 artichokes! We ate asparagus, lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, Swiss chard, blackberries, grapes, apples, peaches, plums, pears, figs, apricots, tomatoes, zucchini, green onion, fresh herbs, and more. We are looking forward to our fall garden and our first pomegranates, as well as our citrus fruits.

Meats

Perhaps you have a freezer full of meat right now. Should the time come that you have eaten it all and have no money to replenish it, you may find that you really, really wish you had some canned chicken and beef on your shelves. Whether you can it yourself or buy it pre-canned, canned meat can be a great blessing to your menus. In an extended power outage, canned meat can be eaten straight from the can, or warmed up with an alternate cooking source for a quick meal.

What if you’re a vegetarian? If you weren’t able to go to the store (in the middle of winter, perhaps) what would you store so that you could have fresh food? If you like tofu, consider storing dried soy beans and investing in a soy milk maker (this is also important for those who drink soy milk, and can save you a lot of money over store-bought soy milk). Have beans for sprouting, but also consider what else would work best to keep some variety in your diet so that you can avoid appetite fatigue.

One of the most important things you can do is to plan your breakfasts, lunches, dinner and snacks now while you are not under the stress of living off food storage completely. By making sure your family has balanced meals, you will be healthier and happier should unexpected financial difficulties arise.

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Brandy has graciously offered to stop by and answer our questions for us. If you have questions for her, feel free to leave them in the comments section here. Just click the word "Comments" below this post.

34 comments:

schwadette said...

THANK you for all this INCREDIBLE advice! I'm wondering what you store all your grains/sugars in? Also - do you have a source for the best place to purchase canning jars? We're just starting to can in our house (LOVE IT) and I have found the jars/replacement lids to be kind of pricey.....

The Prudent Homemaker said...

Schwadette,

I store my grains (wheat, popcorn, rice, oats,) and beans and sugar in food-grade buckets. For the ones I get into the most, I use gamma lids for easy opening. I have several links on my grains page for sources where you can buy buckets, as well as grains already packaged in buckets. (Make sure you buy a bucket opener so that you can get your buckets open).

I buy my canning lids at Walmart. I have bought jars at thrift stores and garage sales, and I have been given more jars from older women who are no longer canning. When I needed more jars, I bought more at Walmart. They're a seasonal item, and I have heard different things about when they are stocked in various parts of the country, but here they are only available in summer. I get extra lids in summer for any canning I might do during the fall/winter/spring, and I also try to have some to can more the next summer in case our finances don't allow us to buy lids.

Anonymous said...

Last year I bought a lot of muffin mix to use for waffles. We had more than enough mix but I ran out of syrup to eat with them. Most recently I ran out of trash bags. It can be hard to see ahead of time what you will run out of. Thank you for sharing!!!!

Tracey said...

Wow - what a great in-depth post! I hope to take these ideas to heart and better "fill in the gaps" in my stockpile!

Anisa said...

Brandy, I love that your advice comes from living. And to answer the syrup question, I always make sure that I have plenty of sugar & maple flavoring on hand. After living on storage many many times, my kids won't even touch store bought syrup. And running out of storage is a great way to rotate canned fruits ;-)

Angela said...

Great advice! I've never tried evaporated or powdered milk (except for pumpkin pie). I'll have to look into it. :) Angela

Lucky said...

Thank you for this. Your story and website are great. I hear you on the dish soap!

teeniebeenie6 said...

Wow this is a GREAT post. We are slowly trying to implement a stockpile. It is tough because we are a family of five living in a one bedroom apartment. But we are trying. I am having trouble finding exactly what buckets are recommended on the grain page. Can anyone help? We have bought rice but have not opened it yet because I have no storage container for it. Thansk for such a great post!

Anonymous said...

teeniebeenie6
The buckets are 5 or 6 gallon food grade buckets. Here is a picture:

http://beprepared.com/product.asp_Q_pn_E_MS%20C201_A_name_E_6-Gallon%20Bucket%20with%20Lid

The gama seal lid is easier to remove than a regular lid. If a regular lid is closed tight enough you will need a lid lifter to open it:
http://beprepared.com/product.asp_Q_pn_E_MS%20L150_A_name_E_Plastic%20Bucket%20Opener
gamma seal:
http://beprepared.com/product.asp_Q_pn_E_MS%20L700_A_name_E_GAMMA%20SEAL™%20Lid%20-%20White

Try going to a bakery and see if they will sell you a used ones for $1or $2 with a lid.

(If you are going to store it long term you want to use a mylar bag and oxygen absorber inside the bucket to kill any critters. :) Youtube has videos demostrating how to do this with an iron to seal the mylar bag.
If you bought buckets and lids from a bakery you could just order mylar bags, o2 absorpers, a lid lifter and if you wanted to try it a gamma seal.)

FYI I don't have any grain for long term storage so I just put mine alone in a regular bucket. :) My only problem is the cats like to perch on them. :D

The Prudent Homemaker said...

teeniebeenie6,

Here is the link to empty buckets (they also sell filled ones), bucket openers, gamma lids, and water storage barrels from Walton Feed: http://www.waltonfeed.com/category/56

That is where I bought mine. They sell several different sizes.

amanda said...

I've had a passing interest in food storage and stockpiling for many years now. My biggest hangup has always been wanting it all at once. Like, if I get 6 months' worth of x, y, and z, by the time I can get that amount of a, b, and c I've used a couple of months' worth of the first, and so on. The inventory and tracking of everything to see how much I want to have of everything has been baffling. Your two years of living on storage story is truly inspiring, and shows me how buying large amounts of one or a few things at a time can build up without necessarily turning it into a tracking nightmare. Thank you so much for sharing - and I wish I'd found someone like you 8 years ago. :)

The Prudent Homemaker said...

teeniebeenie6,

It might also help you to know that you can take out the box under the mattress of a twin bed and replace it with 16 storage buckets and a plywood board on top. When you put a dust ruffle on, it helps cover it. That can help you with space. If you don't want it too high, consider using shorter buckets (like the 4.25 gallon buckets).

Abby said...

Brandy - I just love your website!! I've spent hours reading everything on it and was very excited to see this guest post from you. You are an inspiration to women everywhere and a great example of how serving your family is a blessing from God.

I'm curious, how much freezer space do you have for stockpiling? What types of foods would you recommend freezing that might surprise a stockpiling newbie?

Life is Good said...

I've always heard that even powdered milk doesn't have a very long shelf life. How long do you think it can last before it goes bad?
Do you mark dates on your food or track them in another way?
And what did you do with 100 artichokes. I love eating artichokes, but I can't imagine what I could do with that many.

I'm So Pretty said...

This article is wonderful!!! Got some great ideas from reading it - thank you for posting! One other possibility for milk are the boxes of shelf-stable milk. They last a long time and don't need to be refrigerated until after opening. Since they're a nice compact rectangle shape, they can store well on shelves in a pantry.

The Prudent Homemaker said...

Up until 5 days ago (when we bought a used freezer), we only had our freezer above the fridge. I used it mainly for meat and cheese (and sometimes frozen berries). Because my space was limited, I used it for the most important things for me. Now that we have a new freezer, I can have more meat, and freeze more things from the garden (like zucchini). I try to keep everything else canned or dried. I don't freze milk or bread, because I would rather use the room for meat.

One thing I have done is to get a lot of turkeys when they go on sale at Thanksgiving. Uncooked, they last a year in the freezer. We would get several and cook the meat from 4 in 2 weeks, eating some and putting the rest in the freezer (at .33 a pound, it's a great way to get more meat, and we use it anywhere we would use chicken in a recipe). Usually you have to spend a minimum of $25 to get the turkey this cheap, and you are limited to one at a time--per trip. I have asked other family members who were going shopping that week (of the turkey sales) to get me a turkey (I pay for the turkey) when they're getting the minimum of $25 worth of food (I spend my $25 on potatoes at .10 a pound, and I'll do that twice). My grandmother has bought me a few turkeys just by asking the person in line in front of her if they would add her turkey on, and she'd pay them for it (I'm talking about tom turkeys, around 20lbs each, for $6-$8 per turkey). With a second freezer, I'm hoping to get more turkeys this year (I normally get 7).

Cooked turkey last 3-4 months in the freezer.


I do know one woman who had 4 freezers, and kept one JUST for holiday chocolate bought at 90% off after holidays from CVS and Walgreen's.

The Prudent Homemaker said...

Life is Good,

Powdered milk has a shelf life of 20 years. Here is a chart for the shelf life of several items that can be stored for longer: http://providentliving.org/content/display/0,11666,7798-1-4224-1,00.html This is newer, more updated chart that reflects the results of a recent study by Brigham Young University on the shelf-life of long-term storage items. (I have a link to this and also one for canned goods on my pantry page).

I'm So Pretty,

Shelf-stable milk (UHT milk) has a shelf-life of 6 months--however, I suspect that you could keep it a bit longer as you can with evaporated milk. When I lived in Europe, this was the ONLY way to buy milk. I know Walmart carries this and I have some in an emergency box. It is pretty expensive here in the U.S. (though so is evaporated milk). You can definitely store this as well!

FishMama said...

Great suggestions! Especially pertinent for me as I don't have an emergency box {Gasp}, though I've been meaning to.

Anonymous said...

I would love to read more about your homemade grains but I cannot find the grains page you are referring to. Would you please post a link?

thanks so much!

The Prudent Homemaker said...

Here is the link to the grains page:
http://theprudenthomemaker.com/grains.aspx

These companies sell lots of other things in bulk besides wheat--powdered milk, cheese powder, bulk oats, barley, instant pudding mix (add water) freeze-dried fruits and vegetables, powdered eggs, etc.

maygan said...

I love all the storage ideas here, especially the tips on milk storage. The only thing I would suggest is skipping the non-stick spray- I bought something from pampered chef that I can fill with oil and then pump and spray. It works just as well as non-stick and besides the initial $20 has saved me a ton.

Jendeis said...

Fascinating post!

The Prudent Homemaker said...

Maygan,

I have read mixed reviews about the Pampered Chef sprayer. Some people said it leaked and others said it didn't work right most of the time. I would love to know if anyone can recommend a sprayer like that which is cheaper than that one (and that perhaps I could get at a nearby store--maybe even with a coupon?). Non-stick spray went up a lot earlier this year. If I run out, I can use shortening in bread pans, but not in the waffle iron. When I'm making crepes, it's faster to spray the pan instead of melting butter in between every few crepes.

I'm down to the last of my non-stick spray now, so I'm all ears!

(I do have silicone baking mats for cookies, which is another way to go for some items).

marybeth at www.babygoodbuys.com said...

I have a Misto oil sprayer and it works great! My biggest problem is remembering to use it :)

Thanks for all the great information here!

The Prudent Homemaker said...

Marybeth,

Where did you buy it?

tenthingsfarm said...

I'm not MaryBeth, but I got a Misto sprayer at Sears a few years ago for about $10....and of course, 2 weeks later I found one in Goodwill, new in the box, for 59 cents.

We use a milk powder called Morning Moo - it tastes much better than the stuff I remember from my childhood!

I keep several grains on hand too, and I've found that a little oat flour in my bread keeps it from molding quickly, which is great since we are a small family. We garden as well, and we have a wee orchard, and a few hens. I never really worry about what we'll eat.

www.tenthingsfarm.blogspot.com

The Prudent Homemaker said...

Ten things farm,
I've been to your site before; in fact, I have a link to your site on my gardening for less page.

I don't use Morning Moo. My husband says it tastes like milk with malt powder. The important thing to remember about Morning Moo is that it is a milk DRINK (like Sunny Delight is an orange juice DRINK). I know plenty of people who like to have it for drinking, though.

Thanks for the info about Sears. I believe The Great Indoors is owned by Sears, and I have that $10 off $10 coupon I can use.

And good to know about the oat powder!

The Prudent Homemaker said...

Oh, I should have said--my husband thinks Morning Moo is yummy!

I didn't try it at the preparedness fair that day.

marybeth at www.babygoodbuys.com said...

Hello again! I bought my Misto sprayer at TJ Maxx a few years ago for about $10. it's been a good investment :)

Preparedness Pro said...

Excellent article! I'm quite surprised at how far powdered milk has come. I find it helps to refrigerate it -- drinking it cool helps it to taste more like milk. Another great way to infuse vegetables into one's food storage is sprouting wheat. Sprouts have more nutritional value than just about any produce these days. As you eluded to in your blog, you can easily sprout any whole grain, nut, legume, or seed. http://bit.ly/i1m1u

homebaker said...

Some tips for getting used to powdered milk:

Add just a few drops of vanilla to the powdered milk- try just a few drops in a gallon. A little goes a long way in disguising the powdered flavor. Seriously, this helps a lot!!!

Try getting used to the milk gradually- Mix it half and half with purchased milk of your choice: if you have 1 gallon of 2% milk and mix it with 1 gallon of reconstituted powdered milk(follow directions on container), this makes 1% milk.

For the kids, try kool-aid powder. 1 packet kool-aid(such as strawberry) and 1/4 c. sugar for 1 gallon reconstituted powdered milk.

Finally- attitude is a lot of getting used to powdered milk! When I was in college, my mom offered to share her powdered milk with me, as she had a large bag of it. I decided to give it a chance in order to save money. Where there's a will there's a way! In a few months time, I had grown used to drinking powdered milk, not just on cereal, but alongside my meal. I was more used to powdered milk than the milk from the store! Give yourself a chance, have a positive attitude, and you can get used to it!

Of course, you can't force your husband or children to have a good attitude about trying powdered milk. But if you personally have an open mind and positive attitude, you have a chance at being able to gradually incorporate powdered milk into your family's diet.

The Prudent Homemaker said...

Homebaker,

I know a lot of people mix their powdered milk with fresh on a regualr basis. When you can't afford to do that anymore because you're unable to afford to go to the store, then you can drink it as is, or add things to it. I know that my children were willing to drink it with chocolate syrup about 4 months into our time of living on our food storage. My husband and I, who both love milk, really do not care for it that way, but we still eat plenty of things that I have cooked with it.

I bought my fridge because it can hold 4-6 gallons of milk on the door. I used to buy 16 gallons of milk every two weeks (and run out by day 10) and that's before my children were old enough to drink any :) )I have a favorite brand even in pasteurized milk :) I never really got used to UHT milk while in Europe; there is a different taste to it as well. My husband says that if I ever get to taste raw milk I'll love milk even more.

But, powdered milk is not my favorite to drink, and we don't eat cold cereal anymore, so I use it in lots of other ways.

There's a joke about a man who is concerned that he shouldn't have to store powdered milk. He's told he should store what his family uses. He replies, well, good, because I just don't think I should have to store powdered milk. I have SEVEN COWS :)

Anonymous said...

A Nun I met once told me that freezing milk helps it last longer, and when you use the unfrozen milk or powdered milk, you should mix air into it to make it taste better, it worked the one time I tried it. I just poured it from container to container until it was kind of frothy on top. Has anyone else done this?

Anonymous said...

Different brands of powdered milk taste different. Try several until you find the least objectionable. Make it with hot water and chill completely for best taste. Morning Moo is made from whey (the left-over fluid from cheese making). With additives (sugars,flavorings, ets.) it is very close to milk in nutrition.