Add an Electric Slow Cooker to Your Preps, Here’s Why…

slow-cookerThe other day I talked about creating a SHTF battery recharging business. Well, one of the best reasons to do so–besides the potential business aspect–is the fact that a descent sized off-grid power setup gives you options, including the ability to run and recharge a variety of small electronics and, in this case, the ability to run an electric slow cooker. Why would you want to do that, you ask?

Well, while I certainly suggest you have a variety of methods of cooking food, including over a campfire, a wood stove, with propane and kerosene, and most definitely using the “best” source of free energy there is: in a sun oven, there may be times when your best option is to cook indoors but without using any liquid fuel (e.g., propane or kerosene) or firewood to do so. Again, it’s all about O.P.T.I.O.N.S.

In my opinion, there are really three major reasons why I suggest a slow cooker:

  1. it’s virtually hands-free cooking
  2. saves precious fuel resources for other uses
  3. you can make a slow cooker one of your more efficient cooking options with some tweaks

The Hands-Free Benefit

I would imagine that most of us have a slow cooker and use it on occasion. Ours seems to see more action during the winter because it’s a natural time for soups and stews, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be used at any other time. In fact, I’ve noticed that we’ve been using ours more and more lately which is nice because, despite the initial food prep time involved, it’s hands-free after that. You know, “set it and forget it.”

Now, just think about how useful this might be in an emergency or long-term, grid-down scenario. In particular, I’m sure you will have a wide variety of other tasks going on throughout the day and the last thing you want to do is to stand over a hot fire to ensure your dinner doesn’t end up char-broiled. Likewise, during the summer you certainly wouldn’t want to get the wood stove going (or even a campfire) just so you can cook a meal.

Using a slow cooker, on the other hand, frees you up to do any number of other tasks that would have otherwise been cared for with technology, from washing and sanitizing dishes to scrubbing the laundry, boiling water for a bath, and even gathering or treating water to consume. All of these actions that were once automatic now take away from your precious time and energy. The slow cooker eliminates this problem.

The Fuel Savings Benefit

Another benefit, in my opinion, is that by utilizing the power stored in your batteries, you can save your other fuel resources (e.g., gasoline, kerosene, propane, even firewood) for other uses, including heating and lighting. Granted, a major reason to stockpile these fuels is for cooking but if I can extend the life of these finite fuels for whatever reason I choose with a renewable one–in this case from my off-grid system–then that’s precisely what I want because I’ll have… wait for it… more options!

The Efficiency Benefit

For some reason I decided to look at the bottom of our slow cooker and noticed the wattage rating, which said 230 watts. I looked at that number and said, “hey, that’s do-able with my off-grid power setup” and then began experimenting. I should note that our slow cooker is an older 6-quart model with dial settings for “high,” “low,” and “warm.” And just so we’re clear, 230 watts (which is the high setting) at 120 volts (typical U.S. household voltage) uses approximately 1.9 amps of current per hour or a total of 7.6 amps in four hours (on the high setting) or somewhere in the range of 12 amps in eight hours (on the low setting) assuming roughly 3/4 of the total watts used on low. Did I put enough parentheses in there?

I also wanted to make sure our slow cooker wasn’t an anomaly, so I check out a few others that stated around the same wattage range, up to about 300 watts max. I looked online briefly but couldn’t find anything to to contrary so between 200-300 watts is what I’ll assume. Of course, there are other factors involved such as the size of slow cooker and I would imagine the newer slow cookers are more efficient but I haven’t tried to verify that.

The question, then, is how efficient is a slow cooker?

While I would like to report that it’s REALLY efficient and far better than even your home oven, I can’t do that. Unfortunately, a slow cooker will utilize the stated power per hour, every hour, while it’s running. Apparently, some of the newer models will automatically switch to a “keep warm” mode when it’s finished but that’s no big whoop if you ask me.

Anyway, back to a slow cooker’s efficiency, well, it’s not even more efficient than your home oven because, although your home oven does use more wattage per hour than a slow cooker (in the thousands of watts when running), your oven isn’t constantly using that power to heat the oven; instead, once it heats up the oven to the correct temperature it will kick the heating element on and off to keep the oven at the desired temperature. How much does this happen? I’m sure it depends on your oven and other factors but, by and large, it’s a fraction of the entire time you’re cooking. And, obviously, you won’t take 4-8 hours to cook a meal in your oven. Usually an hour or so and it’s done.

You can do the math yourself but if we use my slow cooker as an example we can say that it will use about 920 watts in four hours on high and let’s say about 1500 watts in eight hours on low (assuming 75% of total power on low). Compare this to a typical oven that would use approximately 4000 watts in an hour, if we assume it runs for only 15 minutes total (I haven’t tried to verify that but from what I’ve seen on the Net that seems to be a fair assumption) during the entire hour then it would use 1000 watts of power.

So, where’s the efficiency expectation, you ask?

Well, it comes from employing the wonder box technique (video). Essentially, that’s a technique where you heat food up and then enclose it in an very well insulated “box” of sorts. This idea is something I suggest everyone learn how to use and is, in fact, great for any meals where you can essentially heat it up and then let it slow cook or simmer. So, basically, you’re heating up the slow cooker for let’s say an hour and then insulating it very well inside the wonder box to retain that heat. You might want to come back every few hours and turn the slow cooker back on for a bit to ensure the heat stays at the proper level but from my few experiments this seems to work out just fine and I can get away with essentially running the slow cooker for maybe two hours total and still end up with a cooked meal. See?

One Other Reason to Consider This…

I can think of one other useful idea that I didn’t originally include in my list of three above: OPSEC. There are obvious OPSEC problems with cooking your meals outdoors–even in a sun oven–and if you can instead cook your meals low-profile, indoors, and without burning any fuel that sounds like a wonderful idea to me.

So, what do you think? Useful or not?

Could You Survive 7 Years of Drought and Famine? If Not, Seriously Re-Think Your Plans

farmer-droughtAs often happens to me, I’m surfing the web for who knows what and wind up on another survival blog, this time PrepaerdnessPro.com and began reading Kellene Bishop’s article on A Seven Year Famine. I remember having read the article which was originally published about a year ago when we were having a very significant drought going on here in much of the U.S. At the time I was intrigued in her line of reasoning–I suggest you read the article yourself–but ultimately shrugged it off because there was no way I felt that I could prepare myself and family for SEVEN years of famine!! After all, I can barely count that high. 😉

72 Hours, 3 Months, 1 Year… What’s Enough?

As you well know, the abysmal recommendations of 72 hours or even a few weeks that the authorities recommend you be prepared is simply not enough. In most cases, a few months is a more appropriate minimum recommendation–if you ask me–to be self-reliant for most calamities that may befall us in our modern society, especially if the expectation is that the services we rely upon–food distribution, water, electricity, etc–will resume.

Obviously, more (of everything) is better and most people suggest that your *ultimate* goal is be prepared for about a year. After all, a full year of self-reliance would get you to the next growing season, though a bad winter, and at least allow you options that the majority of people won’t have. As for me, a full year of self-reliance has been my personal goal. In some respects we’re there, but in other we’re honestly not that close. Sadly, 72 hours, 3 months, and even 1 year aren’t enough. Before I discuss much about why seven years is the *new* goal, let’s define what drought and famine mean…

What is Drought?

According to Wikipedia, a drought is “Drought is an extended period when a region notes a deficiency in its water supply whether surface or underground water. A drought can last for months or years, or may be declared after as few as 15 days.[1] Generally, this occurs when a region receives consistently below average precipitation. It can have a substantial impact on the ecosystem and agriculture of the affected region. Although droughts can persist for several years, even a short, intense drought can cause significant damage[2] and harm the local economy.”

When I imagine a drought, I imagine a scenario where there’s NO water; perhaps this is a result of too many movies and television shows, but the reality is that a drought is nothing more than significantly less than average rainfall (or surface water too) for an extended period of time (weeks, months, years). Certainly, this is relative to the area and, so, a drought in the Florida is different than a drought in Arizona. Regardless, less water is less water, right? Again, a drought doesn’t mean no water but I would imagine it can seem that way.

What is Famine?

Wikipedia defines famine as “A famine is a widespread scarcity of food,[1] caused by several factors including crop failure, population unbalance, or government policies. This phenomenon is usually accompanied or followed by regional malnutrition, starvation, epidemic, and increased mortality. Nearly every continent in the world has experienced a period of famine throughout history. Some countries, particularly in sub-Sahara Africa, continue to have extreme cases of famine.”

Similarly, when I imagine a famine I think of no food to be found anywhere. Sadly, this is closer to the truth. Even worse is that droughts and famines tend to go hand-in-hand because, obviously, you must have water to grow crops.

The Number’s Say it ALL

Though I’m not entirely sure where Kellene got her numbers from, she stated that there have been over 2,200 reported famines throughout history and that ONLY 5 of those lasted a single year. Stop and think about that one for a moment and re-read it a few times.

If this is true, and you can actually count the number of famines that lasted but ONE year when, in fact, there have been thousands, then preparing to be self-reliant for a year means you’re really only preparing for 0.2272% of possible famine scenarios based on historical data!

This suggests to me that you’re little better off than those people who choose to do nothing, after all, what about the other 99.772% of historical famines?

Again, don’t rely on just what Kellene states (or even what I write here) do a Google search and you’ll find plenty plenty of references that point out most famines last longer than a single year. I think it behooves you and I to pay attention to history and to use it as our guide.

But Droughts and Famines Don’t Happen HERE!

You might be tempted to think, “Oh, REAL droughts and famines ONLY occur to OTHER people, in FOREIGN countries and, besides, we haven’t had a REAL drought or famine since Biblical times!” Well, not quite. A simple Google or Wikipedia search indicates that droughts (US-specific) and famines do happen all over the world, including the United States, and continue to happen to this day.

To make matters worse is the fact that we in the Untied States continue to draw a vast majority of our water to grow crops (here in the Midwest) from underground aquifers, something that can’t go on forever. Just think about what would happen to our level of food production if we couldn’t draw water from these aquifers? It would probably plummet. Oh, and that has nothing to do with the very real devastation that insects and blight have on crops on a yearly basis… and I’m sure these types of problems tend to be worse when times are tough.

Drought is the Bigger Concern

In my opinion, drought (water) is a much bigger concern than famine (food) for the simple fact that enough food can be stored, albeit only subsistence levels of food at best, for the long term in quantities sufficient to see you through even seven years of little to no food production. Granted, there are ways you can and should supplement typical long term food storage foods, such as canning vegetables, preserving meat, freeze-dried foods, and even multi-vitamins if you believe in them… it’s water that’s the real problem.

You see, water is critical to darn near EVERYTHING, from keeping you well hydrated to growing crops, appropriate hygiene, cleaning needs, the laundry, and so on. I’m sure I’ve discussed how critical water is elsewhere but suffice it to say that water is involved in nearly everything we do and need to stay alive. And, I’m willing to be that most of us do NOT have nearly an equivalent level of water storage as we do food storage because, well, it’s just plain hard to store a lot of water.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t have water re-supply plans via rainwater catchment or underground wells, but what happens if a truly long term drought ensues? I’m not talking about a few weeks or months, but years? Sure, you’re going to figure out how to use even less water than you thought you could, you’ll work to collect water from more sources and from further away, you may even consider recycling water in a variety of ways. But, sadly, that will only get you so far. And as time rolls on water may be harder and harder to come by. What will you do then?

I’ll be honest, I don’t have a great answer for this. Perhaps the most viable option is to build a larger cistern–something that can hold tens of thousands of gallons of water. A modern day example would be an average swimming pool, but even these aren’t perfect because they can crack and lose water or become contaminated.

Conclusion

Ultimately, if you’re expecting to rely upon a fairly continuous re-supply of water (from whatever source) you may be quickly disappointed in any true, long-term drought. You may need to have enough water stored to last you for several months without any significant re-supply. Likewise, if you expect that you can grow crops each year you may be in for a shock.

Can Your Pool or Hot Tub Really be Used as a Source of Water?

pool-waterWhile I don’t have a pool a few neighbors do. I’m sure a few have hot tubs too… rough life, I know. In fact, as I write this I’m sitting pool-side watching my kids swim at a neighbor’s pool because they’re more than nice enough to allow us that privilege on such hot summer days. But, while my kids are splashing around having mindless fun, I’m thinking about the pool as a source of water should be need ever arise. After all, there are many thousands of gallons of useful water just sitting there!

The question really is whether or not this water can truly be relied upon as a source of water should the grid stop functioning for any length of time?

Well, the first problem you have is simply whether or not any large standing body of water–be it a pool or hot tub primarily–will actually be there when you need it most. That is, could the pool have been damaged and developed a crack that then allows all (or most) of the water to drain away. Major disasters like an earthquake could certainly cause this whereas smaller catastrophes such as a fallen tree from a significant windstorm could do the same.

The next problem is whether or not that pool water is actually usable as a source of clean, potable, water. Your first reaction might be “sure it is, I drink it whether I want to or not whenever I go swimming and haven’t died yet!” So, yes, the start of this answer is that it could be used as a source of potable water… sort of.

Unfortunately, a pool is still open to the environment and can be subject to anything that might float through the air, from natural contaminants such as pollens to man-made chemicals. You also have the problem of whatever rodents might drop in the pool and especially the occasional bird droppings… yuk! Of course, so long as your pool is properly chlorinated and the mechanics are actively functioning to clean the pool then these are of lesser concern, in my opinion.

A possible problem that may be of concern over the long term is that of constantly ingesting water that is always chlorinated. People with weak immune systems or perhaps pregnant women would be more at risk, or so they say. Personally, I wouldn’t want to ingest a lot of chlorinated water regardless–hence, why I don’t chlorinate my stored water but instead choose to use a quality gravity filter–but if it doesn’t bother you too much then maybe chlorination isn’t that big of a concern either. Of course, I’ve also read that the common swimming pool is less chlorinated than tap water so maybe it’s not a big deal after all.

I have heard, however, that once the active chlorination process that keeps the pool water properly chlorinated stops then that chlorine dissipates into the atmosphere rather quickly, say within a few days. This could either be a really good thing if you don’t want to ingest chlorinated water or really bad if you’re now weeks into a disaster scenario and you’re happily ingesting pool water that you THINK is well-chlorinated–and therefore safe to drink–but really is not.

Either way, so long as this water hasn’t been lost for some reason then you can surely use it for non-consumption reasons, including doing the dishes, washing clothes, maybe even bathing if you’re careful not to ingest any. I wouldn’t see much harm in using it to water the garden or for any other reason where greywater would be useful.

Ultimately, I would say that you can certainly use your pool or spa water for an emergency so long as you understand that (1) it might not be as clean as you thought and (2) it might not be there post-disaster. In my opinion, consider pools and spas as a “bonus” source of water and not something to rely upon. Instead, ensure you have plenty of water properly stored in either large water drums (e.g., 55-gallon water barrels) or 257+ gallon IBC totes. Consider a minimum of one 55-gallon drum per family member as a start. Obviously, it’s hard to have too much water so if you can store more then please do so.

CONTEST POST: Fasting for SHTF Preparedness by A.K.

Fasting for SHTF Preparedness[Editors note: Please don’t consider this to be medical advice whatsoever. Always consult a qualified medical practitioner before attempting any fast.]

Have you ever considered fasting as a means of preparing for SHTF? I didn’t until I did my first fast a few years back. It was more for health reasons although some people do so for religious reasons, and since then I’ve fasted a few more times with success.

If you didn’t know fasting is usually considered an act of not eating food but can also be not drinking, it can be a partial or complete fast, and can be any length of time from 24 hours to several days or more.

The first fast I did was for nearly a full week. Subsequent fasts have been for less time of usually three or four days, which seems to work out best for me.

I can tell you that it’s not easy. Fasting is serious business! Usually the first day of a fast isn’t too bad because you’ve recently eaten and are probably busy enough to keep your mind off of having not eaten. But as the day wears on it becomes tougher, much tougher. In fact, I distinctly remember the first night when something seemed to click on in my brain and I just HAD TO EAT!

Fortunately, I went to sleep without much trouble but the next morning I was very hungry. I wanted to eat so badly. But, I persisted. Needless to say the feelings of wanting to eat were overwhelming the rest of the week. It seemed to consume me at all times. That, in fact, was the most difficult problem: the constant feeling that I needed to eat. I actually choose to chew gum most of the time I was awake to give my mouth something to do.

There were other problems too. In particular, I remember feeling very agitated, quick to temper, confused at times, I salivated constantly at first, among other issues. This was especially true a few days in. Eventually–and perhaps unexpectedly–most of those feelings began to subside near the end of the week. I was actually mostly content the final day most probably because I knew I was going to be able to eat again.

The times I’ve fasted since then I shoot for three or four days maximum because I feel that’s an adequate amount of time to fast that my body can handle and that I feel like I get the results I’m looking for.

Now, how does this apply to prepping for a SHTF situation? The first and most important reason is because we may very well find ourselves in such a situation that food is scarce or we need to stretch reserves whether we like it or not. Needless to say we should do our best to stockpile and procure food but who knows the circumstances you may encounter that require little if any food consumption.

I can tell you that the first time I fasted even though I thought I was ready for it, I was’t mentally ready for the process. My brain went wacky. Since then I’m better at it and have learned to better deal with my brain’s constant impulse to eat. That’s not to say the feelings aren’t there but I seem to be able to control them to an extent.

I also believe it’s important to train your body to deal with the physical lack of food that it’s so accustomed to receiving each and every day, multiple times a day. Your body sends the infamous hunger signal when it’s missing food that it thinks it needs and it can be a very profound signal with lots of grumbling tummy time.

Obviously it’s best to have the food that you need stored so that you do not have to fast unless you choose to do so like me. But there may be times when you don’t have the option. Perhaps you want to increase the length of time you can rely upon your food storage or maybe you want to look like you fit in better and actually lose weight because you WILL lose weight fasting for any length of time. Or maybe you’re on a lengthy bug out and cooking isn’t an option at all times. Who knows why.

It doesn’t have to be a fast for days on end. Even a single day once each week will extend a years worth of food storage for almost two months. Or if you prefer you might skip just one meal a day a few days a week or whatever works for you. I’m sure most of us can afford to do that without much problem.

Ultimately we don’t need nearly as much food as we consume as Americans. On the other hand there is no magic bullet that will allow you to skip your caloric needs so don’t believe that fasting is a cure all or even a great idea over long periods but it can be a viable strategy to include in your long term survival philosophy.

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To enter your own article please email me at rethinksurvival (at) gmail (dot) com with your submission and review the rules here.

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The Incredible, Edible Egg – Why Eggs MUST Be Part of Your Preps

incredible-eggEven before I challenged myself to store eggs without refrigeration I’ve been a huge fan of eggs as a part of my preparedness plan. In fact, eggs are nothing short of INCREDIBLE and quite possibly the most important single food storage item you can include in your preps… seriously.

Sure, we should store a wide array of food, from long term storage foods such as beans and rice to canned meats and vegetables, but if there’s ONE food that is a must, in my opinion, it’s the lowly egg.

NUTRITIONAL FACTS

Eggs are so VERY nutritious. Chicken eggs, in particular, provide a huge source of protein and are a complete source of essential amino acids, as well as several vitamins and minerals. Consider the following nutrition label (click to enlarge):

source:incredibleegg.org
source:incredibleegg.org

… or this nutritional chart if you prefer. I can’t think of any single food that is as nutritious as an egg, can you? If so, I would love to hear about it. I should mention that the above stats depend a lot on the size of the egg as well as the diet of the hen (or whatever bird laid the egg).

As I mentioned above, you’ll notice quite an assortment of vitamins, minerals, protein, and even fats that you must have to function properly and be healthy over the long term. In fact, eggs are one of the only foods that contain vitamin D naturally. Even more so, when I did an assessment of the recommended long term food storage foods (as recommended by the LDS church) there is nothing that could compare to these stats.

PRESERVATION

Unfortunately, eggs won’t store for years or decades. My own testing showed that they can easily store for a handful of months (I ran out of eggs to test) using mineral oil, while others have shown they can be stored for up to a year without refrigeration using the same method. You can choose to purchase and store powdered eggs that should store for quite a bit longer (let’s say a handful of years) but even that isn’t a long time and, sadly, powdered eggs are a tad expensive.

There are other ways to store eggs, including salt, pickling, lard, and sodium silicate (liquid glass). I’ve even heard you can do things like using clay and wood ash (along with other ingredients) to make them store even longer, but I’m not so sure about those ideas as I’ve never tried them.

So, what’s the “best” way to store eggs? Well, just like any fresh food… in this case still in the hen. I am ashamed to say that I’ve yet tried to raise my own chickens but the day of reckoning is coming, I just need to pull the trigger, so-to-speak and get some! Of course, chickens aren’t the only source of fresh eggs, ducks are also a common source of homesteading eggs.

As for how to tell if the egg is still good to eat, the easiest way is to float the egg in water and if it sinks then it’s still good… if it floats then it’s best to toss out the egg but in some cases may be used for baking.

DRAWBACKS

About the only major drawbacks to eggs are that (1) they only contain roughly 70 calories per egg–in a survival situation more calories are better–and (2) they’re quite high in cholesterol, though, I have heart that cholesterol from eggs isn’t that bad for you. Other than these concerns, eggs are all good.

CONCLUSION

Ultimately, eggs are very nutritious for you, providing a wide assortment of vitamins, minerals, and protein. They can store quite well as both powdered eggs and in the shell for a long time. Raising chickens or ducks is (I hear) not too difficult and even beneficial for a variety of reason beyond eggs.

If you don’t currently include eggs in your preparations then I strongly encourage you to do so. Work towards storing several months of eggs (properly preserved) and rotate using the FIFO method. Include some powdered eggs for longer term scenarios and even consider raising your own hens for an “indefinite” shelf life.

Hope that encourages you to store more eggs!

Dutch Oven Cooking While Camping

dutch-ovenBelieve it or not, these past few days was the first time we managed to get away and do a bit of camping with the kids this year. Of course, we had a lot of fun, played plenty of games (my arm about fell off playing catch), and we got to break in a new Dutch oven by Lodge Logic.

As much as I’m a fan of using my Sun Oven, there are obviously plenty of times where it won’t work worth a darn. In fact, the first day we camped it wouldn’t have worked much due to overcast conditions… enter the Dutch oven.

The Dutch oven is a great addition to any survival preps, perhaps even more so than a Sun Oven. Why? For the simple reason that it CAN be used when overcast and even when raining if you keep the rain off your fire. In fact, it’s a tried and true method of cooking food outdoors for (probably) many hundreds of years, or for however long cast iron has been around.

If you’ve never used a traditional cast iron Dutch oven, you could be in for a surprise as they’re REALLY heavy! Yes, you will get a workout in just moving it around. 😉 On the plus side that means they’re incredibly durable, likely to outlast you if you take proper care of it. Heck, as long as it doesn’t crack or warp you’re in good shape.

The best part is that you can cook nearly anything in one… “if it fits it ships”… oh, wait that a USPS slogan… “if it fits it cooks” might be more appropriate. Because it has a lid you can do many things, including traditional stews and anything that might cook in a oven, from baking bread and even a cake (though I’ve never tried that one) and whatever else you can think of. To use one is remarkably easy. Get a good set of coals going and typically place twice as many coals on the top as underneath the oven–it does depend on the recipe–because heat rises you don’t need as many coals underneath the Dutch oven as atop to get proper heat distribution.

I should note that it does take some fiddling with and experimentation. While I’ve used Dutch ovens before, it’s been a while and it showed. The meals we cooked (shown below) turned out just fine but cooked MUCH faster than we anticipated because we inevitably used more coals than were needed. This was in large part due to the charcoal we used (I hastily grabbed a bag of mesquite charcoal that was not the typical charcoal briquettes we’re accustomed to using) so we had to improvise a bit. Regardless, it worked out quite well and everything tasted wonderful despite my best efforts otherwise. So long as you watch what you’re doing–my other failure point–it’s hard to burn your food or get things terribly wrong.

We cooked a few things on our Dutch oven while camping. The first meal we cooked was a simple recipe, chicken and rice…

chicken-rice

We also made a hash brown and egg mixture (with cheese) for breakfast the next morning…

hashbrown-eggs

We also started to make a pizza but I ended up using our Sun Oven–because the sun was out and I wanted to try it–so I can’t show that here (I will post a Sun Oven Sunday post, however). The point is that a simple Dutch oven or two is great for your family’s preparedness. They are so incredibly versatile and can be used with both charcoal and firewood, your preparations wouldn’t be complete without one. And, if you get a good Dutch oven cookbook you’ll be ready to cook in no time!

Certainly, there are a few other additions you should have, including a lid lifter (for removing the lid to check the contents and for moving the Dutch oven around) and possibly a tripod (for suspending directly over a campfire). I would also suggest a pair of heat-resistant gloves (a Dutch oven can get REALLY hot and fast) as well as a Dutch oven cookbook, tongs (to move coals, etc) and other BBQ-related utensils. Honestly, you don’t need much… and that’s yet another beauty of a Dutch oven.

Why Seasonings Are Necessary Preps to Stockpile

seasoningsI don’t know about you but I would be hard-pressed to think of any meal that didn’t make use of some form of seasoning to enhance the often bland flavor of a base meal. Think about everything you eat and I’m willing to bet the vast majority of it has been seasoned, from soups and stews to your grilled steak and even eggs.

Obviously, nearly any meal you make can be eaten without seasonings and I’m willing to bet that if you had to you would–well, maybe not–but if you don’t have to eat a bland meal, why?

The question is, why does it matter?

I for one will eat darn near anything, from obviously bland to overly-salted, I don’t care. My family, on the other hand, won’t. They like taste and who can blame them. We’re all accustomed to flavors in our foods… yes, we’re spoiled! That said, they don’t like things spicy but definitely not bland. I can understand and I’m sure you can too.

But, the reason why I think spices and seasonings are very necessary is the simple fact that our diets will likely contract quite a bit in any true long term grid-down situation. Granted, we’ll want to add variety to meals but eating the same meal over and over again (often including much more of bulk foods like rice and beans) gets old, even for me. We NEED a way to mix things up and seasonings do precisely that. We know this instinctively and must plan for it logically.

In fact, there’s something called “appetite fatigue” where a person simply won’t eat food because they don’t like the taste, eat it over and over again, or it could be a result of medications too. It can be so much of a problem that a person may actually starve themselves to death as a result. I think that’s crazy talk but what do I know? Regardless, if I can help prevent this potential problem I’m going to.

What seasonings am I talking about?

Typically, when we think of seasonings we think of the stuff that sits in the cupboard next to the stove (or wherever you keep yours) and include both spices and herbs, such as garlic powder, cinnamon, chili powder, onion powder, nutmeg, cloves, cumin, ginger, and, of course, salt and pepper. There are also plenty of blended seasonings too, such as nature’s seasoning and Cajun seasoning to name a few. Likewise, there are seasonings meant for specific purposes or foods, including poultry seasoning, Mexican seasoning, and creole seasoning as examples, and which are also blended. Last, are an assortment of seasoning packets for specific purposes too (such as taco or fajita seasoning). Basically, anything that is in dried form is a likely candidate.

Generally, however, the vast majority of seasonings mentioned above (as well as many other herbs and spices) are meant for dinner meals. What about breakfast foods? Well, these are usually much easier to prepare for. Honey would be one great prep to stock that can be used as a sweetener for so many meals and foods.

What I’m not talking about

Things like marinades and sauces for meats would be prime examples as I doubt they keep very well for the long term. That said, I know there are plenty of good rub recipes out there that can be fashioned from an assortment of herbs and spices. In this case, print out a few of your favorites and ensure you have plenty of those seasonings on hand. Other “seasonings” such as ketchup, mustard, and other condiments are best made from scratch when needed.

How to keep seasonings long term

In my opinion, most herbs and spices last for a long time just letting them sit out, but I ‘m sure that depends on your climate too (with humidity being the biggest problem). As for how to store them, do it like any other long term prep: mylar and oxygen absorbers. I’ve done this with success but have recently switched to using my trusty foodsaver instead and without an oxygen absorber. If I expected to keep them for 30+ years then it would be mylar and o2 absorbers. Anyway, I use the foodsaver because I can see through the clear bags but that’s just a personal preference. In fact, you could store a whole array of spices in a five gallon mylar bag if you wanted.

Remember…

There’s a reason why Roman soldiers were paid a wage in salt… not only was it necessary for life but made things tasty too.

What Would You Do With 3 Cups of This Stuff in a Grid-Down Situation?

Can you guess what this is?…

can-juices

I’ll give you a hint, it’s edible and normally thrown out.

Give up or already know?

Ok, it’s simply leftover juices from an assortment of canned foods–such as beans and corn–when I made a meal a few weeks back. Though I’m not sure why, instead of draining the juice right down the sink like I always do I decided to capture instead. I thought to myself, “I wonder how much juice I’m throwing out here?” And, to my surprise, it was three cups… all from just several cans (I think it was eight but can’t honestly remember now).

Then I thought, “hmmm, if this were a grid-down scenario, maybe I shouldn’t be literally pouring good liquids down the drain?” So, what would you do if this were a grid-down situation? Toss it like normal, include it in your meal, strain and drink it, feed it to the dog, put loads of tabasco sauce in it and dare each other to drink it… what?

Why Vitamin and Mineral Supplements Are Important to Long Term Food Storage

 

sites.psu.edu
sites.psu.edu

Many people, me included, recommend vitamin supplements in your long term preps. Then, as I often do, I got to wondering how important they really were and if they’re possibly not needed at all. So, I figured the easiest way to decide this is to compare the numbers. Therefore, I looked for an easy to reference chart that listed the major vitamins and minerals as well as the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA). According to the chart, the following major vitamins and minerals are needed (in alphabetical order, and ignoring dosages for now): boron, calcium, chloride, chlorine, copper, fluoride, folic acid (folate), iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, phosphorus, selenium, sodium, vanadium, vitamin A, vitamin B3 (niacin), vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, and zinc.

Rather than making my life remarkable difficult, I figured I would focus on the major long term food storage foods that can be purcahsed at–and are recommended by–the LDS Home Storage Center (you can view the PDF order form here). According to the order form, the following long term food storage foods are to be included in your pantry: beans (black, pinto, white), white rice, sugar, wheat (white and red), dry milk, oats (regular and rolled), dried onions, potato flakes, spaghetti, macaroni, apple slices, carrots, refried beans, cocoa mix, white flour, and fruit drink mix.

Obviously, there are plenty of other supplementary foods that can and should be included in your long term preps that will dramatically affect your vitamin and mineral intake but, again, we’re focusing on the aforementioned long term storage foods to keep things simpler. I’ve taken the liberty of listing the major vitamin and mineral contents for each long term food below as noted on the accompanying nutritional label. I should also point out that I’m ignoring a few other important aspects of your diet, such as fats, fiber, proteins, and even sugar and sodium:

  • black beans – calcium 6%, iron 15%
  • pinto beans – vitamin C 4%, calcium 6%, iron 15%
  • white beans – calcium 8%, iron 25%
  • white rice – iron 10%, thiamin 15%, niacin 10%, folate 25%
  • white sugar – NONE
  • white wheat – calcium 2%, iron 15%
  • red wheat – iron 8%
  • dry milk – vitamin A 15%, vitamin C 4%, calcium 35%, vitamin D 40%
  • oats – iron 6%
  • dry onions – vitamin C 4%
  • potato flakes – vitamin C 6%
  • spaghetti – iron 15%, thiamin 30%, riboflavin 20%, niacin 15%, folate 25%
  • macaroni – iron 15%, thiamin 30%, riboflavin 20%, niacin 15%, folate 25%
  • apple slices – NONE
  • carrots – vitamin A 610%, vitamin C 15%, calcium 6%, iron 6%
  • refried beans – vitamin C 4%, calcium 4%, iron 15%
  • cocoa mix – calcium 15%, iron 4%
  • white flour – iron 8%, thiamin 20%, riboflavin 10%, niacin 10%, folate 15%
  • fruit drink mix – vitamin A 10%, vitamin C 100%, calcium 10%, vitamin D 10%, vitamin E 10%, vitamin D 10%, vitamin E 10%, thiamin 10%, riboflavin 10%, niacin 10%, vitamin B6 10%, folate 10%, vitamin B12 10%, biotin 10%, pantothenic acid 10%

I was quite surprised that the fruit drink mix came in as perhaps the most well-rounded long term storage product in the above list. I’m also surprised that the apple slices don’t seem to include and vitamins and that the vitamin A content in carrots is 610%. I should also mention that I would imagine the aforementioned foods include additional vitamins and minerals not listed but are not in sufficient quantity to list on the label.

Now, here’s where we stand for each vitamin and mineral. Note that any item listed below with an asterik (*) was not originally listed in the aforementioned RDA chart but on the long term food storage label instead:

  • boron – NONE
  • calcium – black beans, pinto beans, white beans, white wheat, dry milk, carrots, refried beans, cocoa mix, fruit drink mix
  • chloride – NONE
  • chlorine – NONE
  • copper – NONE
  • fluoride – NONE
  • folic acid (folate) – white rice, spaghetti, macaroni, white flour, fruit drink mix
  • iodine – NONE
  • iron – black beans, pinto beans, white beans, white rice, white wheat, red wheat, oats, spaghetti, macaroni, carrots, refried beans, cocoa mix, white flour
  • magnesium – NONE
  • manganese – NONE
  • molybdenum – NONE
  • nickel – NONE
  • phosphorus – NONE
  • selenium – NONE
  • sodium – NONE
  • vanadium – NONE
  • vitamin A – dry milk, carrots, fruit drink mix
  • *vitamin B1 (thiamin) – white rice, spaghetti, macaroni, white flour, fruit drink mix
  • *vitamin B2 (riboflavin) – spaghetti, macaroni, white flour, fruit drink mix
  • vitamin B3 (niacin) – white rice, spaghetti, macaroni, white flour, fruit drink mix
  • *vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) – fruit drink mix
  • vitamin B6 – fruit drink mix
  • *vitamin B7 or H (biotin) – fruit drink mix
  • *vitamin B12 – fruit drink mix
  • vitamin C – pinto beans, white rice, dry onions, potato flakes, carrots, refried beans, fruit drink mix
  • vitamin D – dry milk, fruit drink mix
  • vitamin E – fruit drink mix
  • zinc – NONE

Obviously, there are quite a few needs shown above that don’t have any associated long term food storage food, the vast majority of which are minerals… that’s not good! Moreover, there are also vitamins that only have one or two associated long term foods, which doesn’t lend for much variety. On the other hand, there are a few very specific needs–folate, iron, a few B vitamins, and vitamin C–that seem fairly well covered.

So, where do we stand?

Like I mentioned previously, I’m sure you’ll be adding a variety of additional store-bought canned goods and other foods to supplement your long term foods. Perhaps you even have a variety of canned meats, dehydrated vegetables, and some eggs stored, all of which are HIGHLY recommended for other reasons besides vitamins and mineral content, including protein, fats, etc. In fact, it’s specifically foods like meats, dairy, vegetables, and fruits that contain many of the missing minerals.

All that said, looking from just a vitamin and mineral standpoint and focusing on long term foods storage foods only, the data looks fairly clear: include a vitamin supplement in your long term preps. Or, at the very least, a mineral supplement and maybe a vitamin B complex.

Have You Seen This L’EQUIP Nutrimill Grain Mill?

I came across this post on a Grain Grinder (includes a video) from FiveGallonIdeas.com and thought that’s a really neat way to grind wheat directly into a five gallon bucket. The post is about the L’EQUIP Nutrimill Grain Mill. Of course, it needs electricity to operate and may not always be the best way to grind grain but it sure looks like the easist way to grind wheat in everyday life.