Prepper Pantry – A Pound of Pasta

20 Jun

Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

Editor’s Note: To answer your question, Yes! After moving this post into WordPress for publication I did have to go find some good pasta for lunch.

Pasta and noodles go way beyond spaghetti in red sauce. It’s one of the most versatile ingredients we can maintain in our storage. Happily, it’s also an inexpensive carb option for most of us. Pasta and noodles also store for years in their original packaging with just a bug and moisture barrier, requiring little or no extra steps or materials for packing.

Because pasta is viable for low-fuel methods from rocket stoves to sun-based soaking or Wonder Box or thermal cookers, it carries the ease of “weeknight” and slow-cooker and one-pot meals into every level of disaster and prepper.

We’re all kinds of people in all kinds of circumstances, with a wide variety of things that can go wrong to disrupt supply lines and personal purchasing power. Pasta and noodles as a general category can serve pretty much all of us, providing welcome diversity in meal types, but even within that category, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer.

Consider Circumstances

Pasta’s versatility extends beyond its many uses. While the bleached white flour types tend to be most affordable, there are plenty of options. Those who need or want to tailor food storage can select from whole wheat, alternative whole grains and cereals, potato, gluten-free and high-protein pea and bean flour noodles.

There’s also veggie versions – both spiraled veggies and “regular” pasta that contains a serving of vegetables with every serving of carbs.

For those stocking pantries for the early, lower-level ABC through mid-alphabet disasters, or for low-activity bunker situations, the lower calories and nutrient balancing of those veggie pastas may be a benefit.  

Once we’re past the power outage, layoff/income reduction, Venezuela-Argentina, and even Great Depression type crises we’re most likely to face and tailoring storage for long-duration mega disasters where we’re working more, we might want to stick to the full-cal or higher-cal and higher-protein options.

Size Economy

Egg noodles, spirals, shells, and others have a ton of uses and application, but aren’t as space efficient as the straight, thin noodles – soba, fettuccini, and spaghetti types – or even ramen. Depending on how much storage area we have to work with, that may influence what we want to stock.

For a handy size-estimation guide, check out this page http://fivegallonideas.com/food-fits-5-gallon-bucket/.

Orzo, ditalini, and pastina are all really small types of pasta. Stars and diti rings are also very small. There are advantages there in that they store nearly as tightly as rice without some of the space loss from some other types of pasta, and they also cook very quickly. They are, however, sometimes significantly more expensive.

The straight, thin noodles are also typically less expensive, especially spaghetti. We can also sometimes find great deals on shorter noodles like the ones we see in Knorr and Wise packets and Lipton boxes by hitting catering and school cafeteria supply shops.

While added versatility comes from the wide variety of choices in type and form, there’s a ton we can do to create variety even with just one or two types of pasta in our storage.

Making Meals

Sauced Noodles & Casseroles offer us a wide variety all on their own. From packets or jars of pesto, Alfredo, and cheese powders to options we make with canned soups or from scratch, the ability to change things over and over again using the same carb base and even some of the same veggies and proteins is an enormous boost to our emergency plans.

Hamburger Helper and other boxed noodle kits can be a great source of inspiration. So can all the many packets of seasonings around the gravy mixes, Oriental foods, and Mexican/Tex Mex sections of the supermarket.

Most can be made easily using readily available food storage items. The easiest is subbing cooked beans for meats in Mexican-style noodle dishes, but we can also snag some canned chicken, seafood, or beef, or purchase TVP or for-real meats in freeze-dried formats.

Many – such as herbed or tomato noodles served with fish and the many simple twists that keep poached or fried egg carbonara different and interesting – also lend themselves well to homesteaders who are producing at least some of their own proteins.

There are also twists on sandwiches such as Philly cheese steaks, good ol’ chili mac or tuna noodle casserole, speedy layered pastas instead of traditional lasagna noodles, and things like buffalo chicken slow-cooker recipes that apply for all levels of food storage.

Hit the internet for pasta recipes that include food storage items you already have or garden produce you grow, and that can be rounded out with inexpensive, shelf-stable, supermarket-available options such as bacon bits, powdered milk, and seasoning packets that can make meal times both varied and easy on the labor front, both in preparation and cleanup.

Oriental Noodles – Beyond the very many Italian, American, and Mediterranean sauces we can ladle over our noodles, we can also expand our menus by turning regular ol’ spaghetti, angel hair, and fettuccine noodles into a variety of Eastern dishes.

Peanut noodles, Mongolian bowls with changing ingredients based on dehydrated, canned and fresh produce, and stir fry with noodles instead of rice to create lo mein, chow fun, or chow mein all give us forkable options.

Curry sauces, Singaporean garlic noodles, Liangpi, Sichuan Dandan, and plenty of others give us a variety of flavors using some basic staples and some twists on spices – which we can readily acquire in shelf-stable jars and packets of powder, or make truly from scratch.

Ramen, ban mian, and Thai soup and seasoned noodles are other options. There are also twists where we use wonton seasonings or other dumpling or wok meals’ ingredients to create soups or brothy noodles.

Salads – Cold pasta salad goes well beyond a mayo base with pickles or relish. We can sub in all forms of pasta and noodles for any of the bulgur or wheat salads from around the world, too. Some make use of homestead proteins, windowsill and sprout “garden” produce, and storage foods particularly well.

Macaroni egg salad is one, with numerous add-ins such as canned ham or packets of bacon bits, chopped chicken, or canned shrimp that can keep it fresh, just like the ability to hit it with chili powder here, green onion or chives (or the many forage-friendly alternatives to them) another time – basically, anything we’ve seen done to twist the standard devilled egg.

Bean or pea salads with pastas come from all over, using salad dressings we can store or get packets for, or readily homemade ingredients for sauces such as pesto.

Italian and greek pasta salads can be as simple as canned, fresh, or dehydrated tomatoes with Italian dressing or a Dollar Tree shaker of Italian herbs or powdered garlic. We can jazz them up further with fresh herbs such as basil, bell peppers, banana peppers, canned olives, grilled zucchini or re-hydrated or fresh zucchini slices, and the “sawdust” type shelf-stable Parmesan cheese powders.

As with soups and casseroles, cold pasta salads can also be a really excellent way to stretch a package of shelf-stable salami, pepperoni, or summer sausage meat sticks around a large family.

Soups – One of the major advantages of storing some pasta is that it very readily provides a fork-and-knife break from spoon meals based around boiled wheat and rice. Still, there’s a reason soups have globally been so popular. They’re easy, can be made quickly or in various slow cookers, offer one-pot cleanup ease, make use of oddball bits and pieces and traditional storage foods, and stretch ingredients for filling meals.

Pasta helps keep those fresh, too, providing additional options.

Almost any casserole, salad, or sauced pasta dish can be turned into a soup. There are also longtime traditional favorites that lend themselves to any type of pasta we may have, from good ol’ chicken noodle to subbing pasta for dumplings or potatoes in a hearty chowder or something like zuppa Toscana, or the yams in African and Equatorial peanut soups.

Some, like miso, Tuscan faro-bean sub’ed with pasta, and minestrone can offer tons of flavor and nutrients without being overwhelmingly heavy during hot weather.

Other times, thickening our soups into “creamed” options with instant potatoes, gravy mixes, or flour made from our aging beans can help add to the heartiness (and calories/proteins).

We can also add to the variety of even soups by checking out other international favorites we might not have been aware of. Russian rassolnik, North African onugbu, Polish sausage and cabbage or sauerkraut, and Romanian radauti all lend themselves well to the addition of some pasta (or other carbs).

We can also create “deconstructed” versions of things like tortellini or Turkish manti dumplings for our soups.

Food Storage Variety

Very few single base ingredients can add as much versatility and diversity to our food storage as pasta. Even just selecting budget- and space-friendly spaghetti or macaroni, we can churn out all kinds of cold salads, sauced noodle meals and side dishes, casseroles, and soups – adding not just the variety, but alleviating food fatigue and boredom by providing fork-friendly meals.

In many cases, doing so requires just a few inexpensive tweaks to very similar ingredients.

Since pastas and noodles are also fairly inexpensive carb-calorie bases, are fast to cook (easy on fuels and labor), and have pretty impressive shelf lives just stuck as-is on a shelf and in a bucket, it’s an easy and very affordable way to augment the standards of rice and wheat.

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The post Prepper Pantry – A Pound of Pasta appeared first on The Prepper Journal.

DIY MRE Alternatives

1 May

Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

MRE’s enjoy unending popularity within prepper folds, although sometimes the issues – weight, waste, size, and expense – lead us to looking for alternatives. Palatability is another common kicker for many, and the lack of fiber also gets some attention. Happily, we have plenty of options for DIY alternatives.

“Ready to Eat” = Water Weight

There’s a pro-con balance to everything. MRE’s are designed to sustain highly active 18-25-year-olds, so they’re typically jam-packed with calories. They’re also designed with some points like a variety of options and pocket-snacks in mind.

They’re heavy because almost all of those options are ready to eat. Much of the weight comes from water they already contain.

Trying to dodge the weight  isn’t new. Even the U.S. military continues to address it.

Homemade alternatives commonly lean heavily on reducing the water in foods, like many backpackers.

There’s nothing wrong with that, so long as water is available.

In many disasters and some bush conditions, water resupply is an enormous challenge.

The water weight adds up, especially in a pack, but rather than spend as much time sourcing and treating water as making headway, following the trend of military rations with ready-to-eat options – versus just-add-water meals that basically compete with our hydration – has a lot of value.

Supermarket Pricing, Supermarket Quality

Whether we’re more interested in replicating an MRE or an FSR for evac kits, walkout bags, or home kits, we can find options sitting in nearly any supermarket or budget shopper’s store.

While some will match the separate-entree prices available online, they’re nowhere near as expensive as fresh, full MREs with their full shelf lives, particularly if we also have to pay shipping. Buying by the box/case can make things even less painful on the pocket.

The tradeoff is the invariably shorter shelf life compared to an MRE.

Even so, it’s easy to find 1+ years left on best-by dates, and commonly 18-24 months. Those items are also easy to rotate into our daily meals or donate, and for people who don’t like MREs due to taste, consistency, nutrition, and preservatives, supermarket options can have even greater appeal.

Heat-and-Eat Pouches

Uncle Ben’s is the most prevalent in my markets, but there are some generics and other name brands out there that can be found in Mylar pouches or small tubs. They readily heat in a pan of water or dumped into a sierra cup. Or, like MREs, they can be eaten cold instead of heated.

There are a few that contain beans, but the portion is small and doesn’t appreciably affect the proteins contained in either the cup or pouch versions.

For a more complete balance, tote some of the pouched chicken, ham, or Spam, some generic Slim Jim’s or mini summer sausages, or make sure to boost the protein in other areas of the meal packs.

The Uncle Ben’s rices are also a little bland to my tastes, so pack some Old Bay or Tabasco or spare Taco Bell packets.

Much better on both those fronts are the Prego-Pace-Campbell’s Ready Meals.

The Pace pouches are right about fifty-fifty rice to “other” with a fair portion of beans and-or meat in there with veggies. They’re typically a little more saucy than the other rice pouches I’ve had, and are borderline too spicy for me (which makes them spot on for everyone else in my life).

I abhor pretty much all canned and MRE pastas and am unimpressed with even the French RCIR pastas, so use that as a baseline when I tell you: The Prego meals aren’t too bad.

There are some others out there on the internet or by market, to include some fairly nice oriental meal versions that range from having only little specks here and there in their noodles or rice, up to 50% meat and veggies.

The Homestyle Express beef teriyaki rice meals have enough sauce and goodies to spare that I do the same as the too-spicy Ready meals, and add a little extra rice to them.

Since I have dogs, even on the trail none of the extra rice is getting wasted, even though none of the supermarket pouches have zippy-close tops.

All of these supermarket pouches are gusseted on the bottoms for easy-standing and easy eating, and have readily finger-tear tabs and respond well to pocket knives as you work your way down. (Most MRE entrees still don’t.)

I tend to find all of them for just under $2 in my stores, and typically take that route, although the Prego-Campbell’s-Pace meals will jump as high as nearly $3 sometimes and I’ve found 6-pack boxes online that break out to be $1.25-$1.50 instead.

Price it out locally.

If you can get the MRE sides and entrees on sale, with decent shelf lives left on them, depending on shipping, they may work out better, especially compared to the $1.50 versions we’ll have to add a $0.75-$1.25 pouch/tub/can/roll of proteins to.

On the other hand, if you hate the chemical seasonings and textures of MREs, either the “complete” meals or augmenting with pouched meats may be a better option all the way around.

We’ve come a long way in what’s available on that front. Very little appeals to me daily, but enough others go for the flaked chicken, Spam, and pulled barbecue and all the crazy flavors we douse tuna and salmon in now that Walmart and other grocers have their own competing lines.

Most of the pouched rice and pasta meals and sides have enough room in them for the single-serve packets to be easily mixed in.

The meats are also viable for wrapping up in tortillas or topping crackers – which are also pretty compact and have nice shelf lives, and value all on their own for the ability to not eat another soft meal with a spoon.

Tub Solutions

Plenty of entrée-replacements are also available in poly trays, cups and bowls that can help expand our meal options without adding the weight of metal cans.

I don’t find a real difference in survivability in the back of a pickup with a black camper shell that lives where we hit teens and periodically single digits in winter and 110+ with 90+ humidity in summer versus the pouches.

Nor is there a big price difference in my area for the tub options that already include proteins versus the pouches. It’s a little higher to get the tray meals, but only a little and I can regularly find case sales or coupons that leave them in the $2-2.50 range instead of up into $3+.

I tend to find them a bit better in texture and taste than tinned and MRE versions. The Hormel egg versions are head and shoulders above MRE/IMP eggs, more akin to a frozen meal. If you’ve had poly-tray “t-rats” in UGRs, that’s about what you’re looking at for the rest.

They’re viable for heating in pans of water, and they tend to heat faster and more evenly that way compared to the little microwave tubs and cans.

They’re not homemade, but the options that provide larger pieces can be a welcome change to rice and meal-replacement bars, and the plate/bowl can be easier and nicer than dealing with a pouch in some circumstances.

Some like the eggs are viable for making wraps with, which appeals on a number of levels, and the actual (sorta-actual) chunks of meat make most of my family a lot happier.

None of the prepackaged solutions are going to fill my family up. Still, it’s a fairly similar serving size to MRE entrees.

And, just like MREs, augmenting with snacks allows us to boost calories, proteins, nutrients, and belly-filling satisfaction, and to spread our consumption out through the day.

Add-Ons

Our local supermarket, Dollar Tree, Aldi’s or Walmart are loaded with calorie- and protein-boosting options for our DIY-ing our own MRE’s.

While many military rations do include a power bar and protein shakes, some of them also get their calories from snack cakes (muffin tops), for-real Pop-Tarts, snack crackers like Combos and Cheez-Its, and filled pastries.

MREs, FSRs, and the CCAR that’s due for field testing in 2020 are filled out with candies, nuts, applesauce, wet-pack and dehydrated fruits, pretzels, sandwich crackers, dry cookies, jerky, trail mixes, and shakes very similar to Carnation and Slim Fast.

Those are all options we, too, can replicate, at nearly any grocer. As with the entrees, buying by box/case even if we want individual packaging can lower the price, whether we’re Dollar Tree or Whole Foods shoppers.

We can also truly DIY similar components with homemade biscotti, ration bars, granola bars, fruit-nut-seed bites, jerky, pemmican, and dehydrated fruits.

Don’t Forget the Water Aspect

While DIY-ing MREs tends to come from trying to dodge the cost, taste, or weight, remember that the “Ready to Eat” part is a biggie. Whether we’re trying to pack a bag, a tote for evacuations, or an emergency pantry, make sure to include options that don’t require water.  

For some other ideas for MRE-like emergency meals, check out blogs and websites for ultralight and no-cook backpackers.

Many are water friendly, and by their nature, they’re as or even more compact and portable than U.S. MREs, and equally focused on fueling people who are burning lots of calories in austere environments. Some of them also include child-friendly, pet-friendly, and labor-saving tips that can be useful for preppers even at home.

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Prep to Excesses – Supplies to Over Stock

4 Apr

Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

Balanced storage is important to ensure we really can weather life’s storms, great and small, personal or widespread. However, there are some things that make sense to stockpile in excess. They’re typically going to be things that we have zero or limited expectation of producing, or producing efficiently.

That can be things that are out of reach due to climate. It can also be things that are unwieldy to process or require long growing and then processing time, or multiple space-sucking and sometimes financially draining investments to produce something that can be cheaply purchased and easily stored.

Here I’m aiming for universally applicable items or standards, and trying to stay away from the ones that are situationally dependent. Even so, there are plenty we can add to this list.

Our current storage should factor hugely in determining if and what we stock to excess, and how much excess. We also want to consider our location and existing capabilities before we go whole hog when over-balancing stockpiles.

Prime excess items are also prime for barter

I’m not a proponent of barter-only stockpiles, but these are also things we or most of us will be using as well.

Some of the examples below are somewhat limited as to crisis scenario, particularly when we’re trying to avoid tipping or showing our hands, but many apply to all types of crises, slow or sudden. Some of the examples even have barter potential now depending on our social networks.

Not everyone is ready to start hitting excesses or extras

If you’re not there yet, first cover the 3-7-10-14 days every government agency and state/territory prescribes. Then be able to function for 30 days in a relatively normal society where you pay bills and family needs to be at work/school, rested and in fairly clean clothes without smelling funny.

By all means, go out further – it’s a suggested minimum.

After that’s set up, make sure you’re right financially.

Once your food and other daily-use items and your immediate-need goals are covered, then start veering into excesses, but prioritize them. Even within this list, how much of what we can make the most use of – personally and for barter – is going to be hugely individual.

Stuff to Stockpile (or, at least consider)

Large-Scale Staple Crops – These are, in order: Grains/carbs, fats & oils, protein plants, and other proteins. Tag on hay feeds for livestock.

Those crops tend to require a fair bit of space, some equipment, and significant labor effort and hours to produce.

It can be done, absolutely, but since they represent base survival calories and macros, and are fairly inexpensive in a world of mechanized farming (in about the same order as that list) it’s worth considering having them in excess to the rest of our food storage.

Veggies and greens we can produce pretty much anywhere and stand a much greater chance of foraging. Fruits and fish are neck-and-neck for next easiest to obtain for most of us (hugely dependent on where we live and how much other competition we’ll have for them). Hunted/foraged or raised mammal and bird proteins are even more location-based for reasonable expectations of impacting our food supply.

We’ll start balanced, ideally, but because of our likelihoods of successfully producing or harvesting/capturing, once we get to whatever our comfortable level is, we can work those items in a pyramid from deepest to “be nice if”.

Climate-Specific Produce – We’ll also want to consider things we like that just aren’t practical to grow or produce in our areas, for all kinds of reasons.

(The “value” article here https://www.theprepperjournal.com/2017/07/26/selecting-crops-survival-gardens/ has a number of assessments we can apply on that front.)

Sugar – There are alternatives to sugarcane that can be produced for sweeteners, although it, too, requires sometimes significant land area and post-harvest processing. Some of them can be concentrated enough for use in water bath canning, but it’s usually not an efficient use of those items.

On the other hand, whatever we think about it and its origins, white sugar is fairly cheap at the store. It requires nothing more than a moisture and pest barrier to store for decades.

Salt – Like sugar, salt is fairly inexpensive, requires nothing but a good container for decades of storage, and is vital in several types of preservation above its seasoning capabilities.

Distilled Vinegar – This one is also very doable at home. It does, however, require multiple pieces of equipment and the know-how to basically make wine or beer or strong cider, then clarify and distill it.

Not bad skills and materials to have, but also not always reasonable, particularly if we don’t already produce or have the ability to harvest fruits and-or grains … and harvest them in enough excess over our food needs to watch barrels and crates become buckets, and then those buckets become quart jars.  

Conversely, vinegar for cleaning and preservation is relatively inexpensive in stores, has a long shelf life, and is more compact to store than its ingredients and supplies.

* There are two general ways to make non-distilled vinegars that are totally worth it as seasoning, health boosts and a way to use tart fruits that are totally worth the much more minimal investments that take up less space and that are way, way easier.

On the non-food front…

Fire Prevention, Detection & Control

This is one that everybody, everywhere, should buy into, and then go to excesses. They’re too prevalent right now and too common in any disruption in services or extreme weather to ignore.  

Some aren’t going to be able to manage prevention’s and safeties to avoid having fires reaching us. However, we can all buy into smoke detectors and masks, make escape and rally plans, and backup batteries and supplies for controlling small fires and evacuating even in the worst of times.

Cooking & Heating Fuels

There are all kinds of fuels that fit all kinds of lifestyles. With any luck, we’re availing ourselves of multiple types, with backup methods planned for both cooking and varied ways to generate and maximize heating.

We want our stockpiles of fuels to expand past our stockpiles of foods in case it is possible to harvest more, and in case we end up expending more than anticipated.

If we rely on wood, it’s even more important that we stockpile to excess. If our primary tools – or our bodies – go down, our harvest rate will, too.

There are also all kinds of scenarios that also make it impossible or undesirable to leave home or generate noise.

If all we have is the bare minimum to get through, any delay in harvesting more can lead to burning raw woods, which hugely increases our risk of fires along with a few other undesirable conditions, or going cold. Deep stockpiles of fuel wood are a must if we rely on it.

Ammo

I can manufacture many things. If I live in the right place, I can even manufacture black powder and cast bullets. However, manufactured ammo (or components) tends to be more efficient, particularly if we’re talking about a world where we’re crazy busy.

That said, and acknowledging that I’m saying it’s totally okay to exceed our basic total-coverage storage, we do not want to go too crazy on this one at the expense of being able to easily weather everyday minor and major disruptions like outages, medical costs, decreased income, unemployment, replacing a fridge-freezer right after shelling the deductible for both home and auto, etc.

Remember, even the super-duper high-speed military elitists don’t always come home from combat. We don’t want to rely on being the better guy in a gunfight to eat, so we don’t want to bottom out the scale with imbalance on this one.

Tools & Equipment

The hardware each of us can and will make use of is even more solidly dependent on our storage space, location, and skills than ammo, fuels, and ability to source animal proteins. The tools that make sense for us to stock, and to overstock with excesses, revolves around the efficiency of manufacturing and the efficiency of making do with alternatives. That, too, is specific to each individual.

We do want backups of tools we use and can expect to use more if we’re unemployed, trying to stretch budgets further, or in any significant collapse scenario.

That’s tools we use, and that we expect to use more if our usual revenue and supply streams dry up.

If we have never felled a tree, live in an apartment/condo, have never located deer/pig/rodent sign and harvested that wildlife, live somewhere with about 6 trees per house, have never gone backpacking or multi-day paddling, live somewhere with tight fish and game limits, and-or have never gardened much, there are whole worlds worth of “must have” hardware we might as well not bother with, let alone spend resources on backups and excesses.

We’re better served extending our balanced storage and financial readiness while we gain the skills.

(For those who are still waiting for them, stick canning jar lids, water filters, lights, construction/repair kits, and fire-making supplies in this category – they’re situationally dependent and aren’t getting separate listings.)

Soap & Cleaners

Body to kitchen, clothing to gear, most soaps and cleaning products can be had fairly inexpensively and in compact forms with decent shelf life. There are many that multi-purpose across genres.

Homemade may appeal, especially if the perennial supplies and oils are already present. Most of us assume we’ll be working harder than ever if we end up living off our supplies, though. Go ahead and have extras stocked to lessen the workloads.

Balancing Excesses

While there are things that absolutely rate being stocked to excess of our balanced storage, and many have value for barter both in everyday life and definitely emergencies, we still want to apply some thought to how over we stock and balance within reason of our present situation.

Sometimes we’re better served extending our everyday-emergency and self-reliance capabilities than having an extra 18 months of soap and six seasons worth of canning ingredients.  

Stocking to excess applies to financial readiness as well. Many preps won’t actually save us while the rest of the world is spinning as usual. They can help, but it’s limited aid.

Prep for the most-likely events first, and cover them well. Build up rainy day caches and savings, and then, when we’re at a level we’re comfortable with, we can start intentionally and deliberately unbalancing our preps with excesses.

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Canning Jars – Versatility Via Variety

30 Jan

Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

Editors Note: Another guest contribution from R. Ann Parris to The Prepper Journal. Size ultimately does matter. If you have information for Preppers that you would like to share then enter into the Prepper Writing Contest with a chance to win one of three Amazon Gift Cards with the top prize being a $300 card to purchase your own prepping supplies!

Canning jars come in a wide variety of sizes, and two common lid sizes. It’s not a bad idea to go ahead and snag at least some of that variety, because it can give us a lot of versatility. Factoring in our uses, the composition of people we’re feeding, likely situations, and costs can help decide what spread of sizes is most efficient and effective.

Lid sizes can sometimes make or break canning costs.

In some locations, the difference in price between regular and wide mouth lids isn’t significant, as little as $0.03-$0.05 USD per lid. Other times, though, inside the U.S. and around the world, wide mouth lids are as much as 2-3x a regular mouth lid.

Those lid costs can add up fast if we’re doing a lot of canning every year.

Bear in mind the total real costs of canning, including those lids, while contemplating jar investments.

The costs can influence some to dehydrate more foods – not only creating a more compact storage, but also one where it doesn’t matter if something won’t all be consumed quickly. It allows them to use larger jars and fewer lids.

Account for water availability if that’s the plan.

Other homesteaders skip half- and quarter-pint jars – and the extra lids required to can the same amounts of food using those smaller jars – sticking instead mostly to quarts and pints.

That’s fine now, when we have fridges and freezers that make leftovers easy and convenient. In a disaster, however, widespread or personal, our power sources or our appliances can go down. We need to consider if we have persistent snow cover and deep-cold periods, or double-backup power sources, and how many leftovers we’d be looking at dealing with without them.

Balancing the cost (and canning time) of preserving foods in reasonable, readily consumable portion sizes versus bigger jars takes a bit of experience, because “consumable” is situationally dependent. It’s not one size fits all.

Go Big or Go Home

(Personally, I like my home. Just saying.)

It can be tempting to snag half-gallon and gallon jars sometimes, especially if we’re storing dry goods in our jars until we want them for “real” canning.

Resist that temptation. If you can’t resist, go only up to half-gallon jars, and don’t sink the bank into getting a lot of them.

The max size most of us need is quarts.

Exceptions would be if we’re getting bigger jars for free and it’s just another storage container, or if we’re already fermenting and producing significant juice/booze/vinegar.

Many home canners just don’t safely preserve foods in larger jars, especially denser foods. Some won’t even hold more than a quart’s height.

We also usually don’t need bigger jars, even if we’re feeding 12-20 people or more.

Too, they’re fairly expensive. It’s a long-term investment (usually) but “saving” the cost of buying 2-6 lids for pints and quarts to hold the same amount will take several years to pay off.

Another consideration: The more sizes of jars we have to account for, the more “funtastic” our storage area planning will be.

Shelving may not seem like a major factor, but remember: just canning two cups a day per person requires 180+ quarts.

Winging it may be an option for 30 cases of pints so we can eat or share only those two cups a day. Aiming to can two-each of fruits, veggies, and proteins per day – still no carbs, syrups/honey, etc. – bumps that to nearly 550 quarts.

That’s 46 flats of quarts or 92 flats of pints we’re accounting for on our shelves, per person.

And THAT makes the spacing involved with storing those jars something worth actual thought.

Pints, both “slims”, and quarts work well on the same shelving. If there’s room to wiggle quart jars past each other, there’s also usually room to stack half-pints or half- and quarter-pints, in flats or as “loose” jars.

Once shelving is accounting for half-gallons and gallons, too, your choices are to break away from modular shelving, be stacking a lot more combinations, or waste 4+ inches on every shelf that won’t quite fit another layer.

Shorty Jars

Preserving small portions in quarter-pints and mini/sample jars lets us open useable amounts of foods. That can both limit leftovers/scraps and let us dole out specialty items instead of having to consume them all at once. It increases total space used, though, and takes 2-8x the lids versus pints and quarts.

Even so, we might want at least some small jars for spreads, herbs, reduced stock bases, juice concentrates, sauces, and high-value “treats” like low-yielding berries or meats.

Depending on family composition and tastes, they’re also handy for consumable portions of spicing onions, pickled beets, or even regular ol’ salsa and chutney.

Picking Sizes by Situation

Remember: How we can (and cook) now may very well change if we’re removed from or limiting our power draws and refrigeration. Some of us have 3-6 months or more when we could pack old-school ice chests and buckets, sink a bucket/cooler in a cold spring, or let an outdoor cooler be our fridge. For some of us, though, that’s impossible or unreliable.

Without refrigeration…

People anticipating infants/toddlers might stock more quarter-pints (4-5 oz.; 100-125-150 ml) and mini/sampler jars (1.5-3 oz.; 50-75 ml) so they can easily preserve baby food.

(Plan on ordering the teensy-tiny jars, and almost 100% the extra lids for them – they’re rarely in stores. Also, be sitting and try to avoid drinking/lollipops when you do the price check. It’s “eek” worthy.)

Singles and couples will probably lean more heavily on half-pints and pints, especially for meats and proteins, and use quarts mostly for canning heat-and-eat soups or stews, bulky items like potatoes, and some fruits.

For families and groups of 3-8, a mix of mostly quarts and pints is typically going to be most efficient, with some select half-pint jars for things like condiments and portable meals.

Larger families and groups in the 10-20+ person range would focus even more on quarts, although conditions might lend themselves to having some smaller jars available for individuals or pairs.

Totable Portions

Even with families and larger groups that can readily consume pints and quarts of each ingredient at a meal, we may want to snag a few flats of smaller jars. Those half-pints and quarter-pints can facilitate pack-able lunches and overnight-trip meals.

Remember: Modern humanity has been walking away from home and munching a midday meal for centuries, farm hands to loggers. We’ve been taking overnight trips – and eating prepared foods on them – for millennia.

Also remember: Not all disasters are equal.

We could very well have had life as we know it end within a family and be leaning on our food storage and preservation while the world continues around us. In Great Depression or Venezuela conditions, some work is available and we’ll still need to fuel that work.

Even being glass, canning jars are plenty tough enough for a rucksack or daily-carry bag.

They’re heavier than the MRE’s, tins, and pouches of just-add-water foods we commonly use now, but if we’re only carrying 1-2, it’s not an enormous weight suck, especially for “just” a daily lunch.

Right now, Ziploc-type bags and plastic storage containers are inexpensive and prevalent enough to make them more common for multi-day packers and daily lunches. That wasn’t always so, though, and canning jars do still see use for the latter.

In a personal or widespread disaster that limits our disposable income or disrupts normal supply chains either through pricing or availability, jars can easily return to being the more common container for daily and multi-day travel foods.

We can set them up a couple ways for our lunches and haversacks.

One, we can water-bath and pressure can small portions, providing a cup of soup, applesauce or fruit, a tub of fish or meat that can be consumed with some crackers or bread, or a bean dish to go with tortillas or bannock.

Two, we can set up simple mixes that we’ll add water to. That can be anything from bannock bread to instant potatoes, rice, couscous, or other small pastas.

Cooking options vary by what we packed and any given day. We can add water early and let them sit in the sun, use water we’re boiling fresh, or use a small pan or large mug as a double boiler to heat foods inside the jars.

Versatility Adds Resilience

Being able to adapt to situations increases our self-reliance. A variety of canning jar sizes can provide that in many ways.

Even so, start with the most economical and most common sizes. For many of us, that’s going to be pints and quarts, with only the odd smaller or larger jars mixed in.

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Short On Prepping Space

25 Jan

Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

I think most of us, regardless of our situation, periodically wish we had a little more elbow room. For some, though, available space is even tighter.

That doesn’t mean prepping is impossible, even for super-tight residences such as apartments or trailers on small lots. Nor does it mean prepping should get shelved until bigger space is available. All kinds of things go wrong, every single day. A lot of progress can be made even with very limited space.

Most of the suggestions here also apply to folks who are short on disposable income.

Prep By Priority

One of the first things small-space and cash-strapped preppers need to do is focus on the things that are most likely.

That definitely includes short-term outages and hunker-in situations, and house fires.

It also includes income reduction/loss, both directly and due to large payouts (everything from medical bills to covering insurance deductibles, as well as things like increased fuel, property, and grocery costs).

Getting right financially is never going to be a sexy prepper topic, but it has huge impact when something happens. From being able to absorb some of life’s hits to being able to evacuate by renting a moving van if necessary, having some disposable income available is important.

Personal defense is also always up for grabs as a top priority.

Anyone looking at a gun, particularly, should give serious thought to what they’re shooting and whether or not it’s going to go through walls, windows, and bystanders. Common construction and typical living situations make it even more vital anywhere with densely packed humanity.

Maximize Space

Every inch is precious in limited storage situations. Sometimes we can “steal” some space, which can help, but we still want to fill those areas as tightly as possible. Organization makes that easier and more efficient.

Going right back to “prioritize”, maximizing the space also means being realistic about where we are and what our current capabilities are.

That may mean we skip some of the sexy prepper goodies, because right now they’re only going to eat up space (and budget). That goes for everything from the woodsman hatchets and conibears to books focusing on homesteading, SAS survival tactics, and back country medicine.

*I’m saying avoid purchasing those books, and those topics, in a set of specific conditions. Libraries, the internet, and downloads take up less space/income until we’re in a position to need and use those particular subjects and able to survive a situation that truly removes the use of electronics.

That also applies to the more pedestrian prepper backups.

If I have 6 weeks/months of savings and 6 weeks/months of food storage (+/- growing space and preservation methods), how many toothbrushes, socks, gloves, and bottles of bartering booze do I really need?

Keep storage balanced by time and likelihood of need/use to maximize limited space.

Make More Space

There’s several ways to do this. One, we use dead space. Two, we add some elevation. Three, we switch out “normal” furniture for hollow options and stacked supplies.

Dead space would include bricking in the back of a bookcase with supplies that hide behind books, or putting a picnic basket or trunk behind a recliner and long, skinny luggage or shelving behind a couch.

Rolling carts can maximize the dead space between appliances/furniture and walls. Less long-legged people also regularly have some space on the undersides of desks and tables.

We can also go really wild and make shallow storage drawers under bookcases and cabinets, or shallow cabinets between struts in the walls (but only if we own that property or want to repair the “damage” before we move out).

Adding elevation would be things like taller bed frames to increase under-the-bed storage, and overhead shelving around a room and above closets (which gets our cute/normal stuff or candle collection, making room inside closets and under beds for brow-raising supplies).

Replacing things means instead of a coffee table, maybe we have a trunk. It can also be replacing a side table with a small bookcase or filing cabinet, or stacking up some cases of canned goods or water, adding a small board for a nice, flat surface, and covering everything with a tablecloth (or sheet/curtain).

*This site http://www.calamityjanet.com/one-year-supply-easy–cheap.html has some good tips for stashing supplies, whatever we think about *that* show.

Double Dip

As often as possible, we’ll want to go with things that multipurpose. From our pantries to our everyday household goods, the fewer things we “need” and the more compact they are, the more we can fit into our space.

One of the super easy examples is stocking pine cleaner concentrate that can be used for laundry, floors, counters, and carpets. Another would be Crisco that can be used in cooking, for lubricants and sealants, and turned into candles or cookers.

Pack It Tight

I’d like to say right off the bat that I’m not a fan of the big space-saver bags for bedding and clothing. I have spent a fortune on good ones and tried less-expensive generics, and within a few months, they always lose seals and fill back out to regular size. That’s particularly “funtastic” if they were stacked in boxes, under a bed, or in dresser drawers or a packed closet.

However, using fairly inexpensive 1- and 2.5-gallon zip-close storage bags, we can still press or lung-suck a lot of air out of gear, be it clothing, gauze, sanitary pads or spare curtains.

Packing things tight also applies to our food storage.

Removing foods from boxes limits our ability to donate them if it’s not something we consume, but that alone can make a big difference in wasted air space even if we use something bulky like a jar for storage.

When we pack for long-term storage, settling will also occur in our dry goods.

For things like oatmeal or dehydrated potatoes in canning jars or washed pasta/jelly jars, we can pop them open and top them off. Working one at a time, even if we used oxygen-absorb-er packets to seal them, they won’t be open long enough for significant loss.

Likewise, check the totes and buckets that hold our self-packed Ziploc and mylar bags. Those, too, will settle over time and we can add another layer.

Pop open pre-packed kits in totes, too. I’ve yet to see one stuffed to the gills, and they’re usually prime for augmenting with our own supplies.

*Pre-packed buckets are an end-user call. Mostly it’s safe to break the seals so long as we’re not puncturing the contents, and most of them also have ample space for personal additions.

Condense Pantry Goods

One of the fastest ways we can compress our storage is by leaning on dehydrated foods. They significantly reduce the storage space versus freeze-dried and wet-pack canned goods.

I would still suggest at least a few days’ worth of foods that don’t require water (or cooking) and a minimum of week of water storage. However, most crises don’t remove all modern conveniences. Even if our stored water supply is limited, dehydrated and dry foods are still reasonable options for mid-duration and personal-scale disasters.

We also want to assess what types of foods we keep in, in both our everyday and deep pantries.

Whatever food storage format we choose – canned, dehydrated, or freeze-dried – if we’re tight on space, staples take priority.

Having calories, fats, and proteins available is more important than the lower-cal fruits and veggies, especially as we move past an initial few days.

While fruits and veggies are necessary, we can go without them the longest, they’re the easiest foods to source without infrastructure, and there are condensed sources for the minerals, vitamins and fibers they offer.

As mentioned above, we might want to give some thought to food packaging, too.

Repacking those supermarket foods isn’t a big deal. In many cases, they’ll gain shelf life being in canning jars and bottles even if we don’t use oxygen absorbers. However, there’s a usually a trade off if we opened something like those #10 cans.

On the other hand, a lot of #10 cans contain a lot of air space. A couple inches at a time adds up even with a single case of those cans.

Rather than lose the investment of long shelf life, we might find it more economical both financially and for space savings to skip that packaging format and create our own off grocers’ shelves, from the basics to just-add-water meals.

Limited Space Shouldn’t Preclude Prepping

While it might lead us to skip over common categories of prepper/survivalist skills and supplies, especially if we’re in an apartment that doesn’t have a decent window for even solar battery chargers or a mini tower of salad greens, being in a small space shouldn’t stop us.

Nor should we focus solely on research and savings, waiting “until” for tangible preps. There’s still plenty of upsets that can occur – and do,  daily and annually – that we can mitigate with preparedness.

With mindful storage choices and creative storage practices, we can account for those personal and regional disasters and be prepared when they strike.

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No-Buy & Pantry-Only Challenges

17 Jan

Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

Editors Note: Another guest contribution from R. Ann Parris to The Prepper Journal. A timely subject with so many of those who serve us daily having to forgo a paycheck this week because of the children we elect (repeatedly) to represent us.

No-buy and pantry-only challenges can make great assessment tools for preppers. Go ahead and do one – any month, although there’s some added value to certain seasons. It’ll take a little prep work to avoid unnecessary expenses and allow accurate tracking, but the data gathered can be invaluable for identifying gaps in our supplies and challenges we’ll face.

Apply Ratios

When you trial what it’s like to live and eat off of your storage, make sure you maintain whatever duration and pacing or proportion is stocked. That means if I only have enough coffee and tea for a daily cup in my six months of storage, that’s all I get during my test run.

That in-stock equivalency ratio applies to everything.

What are your cooking options? How much fuel do you actually have for cooking, for heating, for light? How much water does it take to wash dishes and laundry, and keep clean? Brush teeth? Water gardens and pets and livestock? How much time and effort would you spend collecting that water if nothing came out of your faucet tomorrow?

Be honest with yourself, and test it, whatever “it” is. Otherwise, you’re guessing and gambling. We spend an awful lot of money and time on preparedness to let it be riding on pulling the right card.

Hiccups & Hitches

Daily modern life has requirements we can’t wedge into our no-buy, pantry-only challenges. Things like school projects, repairs, and travel can all interfere with our test.

That’s okay. After all, the most common disasters we’ll face are personal and local, many of which will still require work, appointments, educated children, and good/decent hygiene.

Please don’t go under a 2-4 week supply, in case something does happen. (You’ll have savings from not spending for replacements, but we’re trying to avoid empty pantries if a snowstorm, flood, etc. limits travel and resources in your area.)

Please keep your tanks topped off, again, in case something does happen.

Please see a doctor/veterinarian immediately, don’t wait just to try and get to the end of the challenge month.

Track any hiccups and hitches. They’re exactly what we want for formulating good plans.

Non-Grocery Preps

Skip new movies, TV, books and magazines, and find an alternative for entertainment. Depending on your situation, there’s liable to be a household riot if you unplug the internet for even a week or two, but track the hours spent there.

Yes, we’re likely to have busier lives. Everything will take longer to accomplish if we’re limiting or eliminating powered assistance like gas/electric stoves and tools, and if we’re using books for how-to instead of popping up 3,000 results on the internet in 0.015 seconds.

Part of what is normally our down-time reading and surfing and game playing will end up replaced by tasks. That doesn’t mean our need for entertainment and distraction goes away.

Throughout history we have had entertainments.

Some of the games we play and recreations we enjoy started with knights and peasants in castle eras, or got handed down to us from various native peoples. Colonists of all phases still had time for their varied gatherings, homestead games, and reading.

We may take longer to accomplish things than Medieval Europeans, Iroquois, and Incas. We’re not used to doing some of the tasks, or doing them by hand, and we lack the community and infrastructure that made their lifestyles work.

Even so, it’s unlikely we’ll never have some time to kill, or always sleep when the sun is down or it’s pouring rain.

And, again, there are a lot of things that can go big-time wrong – like job loss, fuel shortages or price skyrocketing, big bills – where our households or even the whole country is affected to one degree or another, but we still have expectations of a fairly “normal” existence.

Things like small crafts even for older kids and adults, new/different games and books, small “finger-diddle” gadgets and puzzles, tabletop and carpet versions of some of our sports, jigsaw puzzles, board games, and other distractions can help alleviate some of the “loss” from our impacted lives, lift moods, and combat stress.

Knowing what we gravitate to in our free time will let us better choose those alternative preps.

Biggies on the “non-grocery” side of the house are our electricity, heating/cooling, indoor plumbing, and waste disposal. A lot of our health, safety, and abilities revolve around them.

How many times do we flush? Do we actually have enough kitty litter or waste processing built into our plan? One way to find out is to cut the water to it and line it, or put one of those geriatric toilets with buckets and liners between it and the door to make sure it’s actually getting tracked.

How many degrees of warmth do we add to our homes autumn, winter, and spring? What’s the burn time and heat output of our alternatives? Can we create much smaller spaces to heat?

Most of us can track meters for energy use. Many already have them available for water, too. Some will have to install them or work out of tubs/tanks they can track instead.

Right now most of us have garbage men coming through or drive to a dump. Various pests are going to become a problem when trash builds up. Is there a plan for those?

Let the trash build up an extra week or two. Yes, some of what we throw away will go away or be reused in a disaster, but it’s going to be dependent on storage types and emergency systems. It’s also going to be an adjustment, not automatic.

Don’t forget that women, babies, and regularly seniors have additional daily and monthly needs that also generate laundry or waste.

Over-the-counter meds, cooking fuels, and animal feed needs – without normal scraps and treats – are others that seem to regularly escape our notice, both in budgeting and anticipating needs.

Replacements for Food Storage

I’m not talking about busting through actual storage foods – unless it’s time to rotate. We can pretty easily find facsimiles, or skip the extra packaging steps.

Instead of MREs, hit the various nuke-‘em pouches, tubs and canned stews, pasta, and rice meals and add commercial sweets and crackers.

There are all kinds of boxed and bagged noodle and rice meals that can help avoid busting into any expensive bucket and can kits. Many are nearly as fast and easy to heat. They make a decent one-to-one exchange on the Wise and Augason Farms meals for the most part.

To replicate a Mountain House meal instead, snag some of those just-add-water or frozen dinner kits that includes the meats. I’m inclined  to say stick to cans, because it’ll be closer to storage foods than pre-cooking and freezing them will be.

A lot of kits have soups. Bear Creek makes a whole line that’s actually pretty good, and regularly goes on sale two for $3-$5 in our areas, so they’re already a common storage item for us. There are other options in any supermarket.

Match any “flavored” oatmeal in your storage with packets from Walmart. Same for granola and for fruits – canned for freeze-dried or if you can’t find the dehydrated versions at Dollar Tree, Ollie’s, or Walmart.

For a good test, if you don’t have extra seasonings, sweeteners, cream, etc., in your storage, make sure you’re not adding any to the challenge week/month.

Supermarket Coolers

If you’re not harvesting meat, produce, eggs, and milk products from home, make sure to switch for shelf-stable, wet-pack canned, and dried equivalents for them, too. If you can’t or you’re on your own within a household of non-preppers, make extra sure you keep track. That way, the right amount of shelf-stable alternates can be stocked.

Be aware that many of the dry and dehydrated versions, or substitutions like TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein) and beans are far lower in calories and especially fats.

Supermarket Snacks

One of the biggies to keep track of, are the treats. That’s stuff like the soda, beer, candy, bakery rolls, cakes and frosting, nummy crackers, pudding, chips, popcorn, trail mix, nuts – even the non-local fruits. Don’t forget coffee and tea, cocoa, flavored milk, and soft drinks.

You’ll need to stock equivalents or alternatives to account for the calories they contribute to your diet, and you might consider some for a pick-me-up here and there or to ease transitions from “normal” to long-term disaster eating.

Keep track of sugar consumed, too. For storage planning, sit down to make a list of how much sugar a lot of the goodies we munch require to make at home or from scratch. (That goes for water bath canning jams and fruits, too.)

Non-Grocery Goodies

That “goody” might also be non-food items – my silly routine of certain music while I do my physical therapy and Pilates or before bed, tennis balls for my dog, or my father adding to his Lego collection every 2-4 weeks and taking half the day for his weekly shopping instead of 2-3 hours because he’s chatty and likes to look (at everything).

Many of us are accustomed to – if not hooked on – news and information, connectivity, gaming, and social media. “Goodies” can also be time spent on sports, reading, watching TV and movies, or outings that would no longer be safe or affordable in a crisis.

Our bodies and our minds are adapted to having certain things. Many people will react just like an addict in withdrawal if their goodies are eliminated, regardless of their form. If we can ease that, we can ease the stresses.

Some of those activities, outings, and routines are also already the ways we de-stress. Eliminating that relief while adding other stressors is a recipe for problems.

The basics take precedence, but prepping to retain and replace some “goodies” is worth consideration.

Track the Results

“Track it” keeps getting repeated. And by track it, I mean, track it. Write it down. Write down your feelings and your observations of others’ ongoing personalities and opinions as well.

It’s important.

A trial of a week or two will open some eyes. A trial of a month will give you a lot more information. We can use the data we gather to better plan for all aspects, from transition phases from “normal” to “okay, this is going to be longer than expected” all the way out to disasters we know from the outset are going to be huge and life-altering.

We only have that data to apply if we try it – and if we adequately track it. Otherwise, we’re making our plans based on guesses and somebody else’s say so. Those kinds of preparations are better than nothing, but do we really want to gamble health, safety, and survival on them?

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Prepper Pantry – Finger Foods

20 Dec

Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

Editors Note: Another guest contribution from R. Ann Parris to The Prepper Journal. If you have information for Preppers that you would like to share then enter into the Prepper Writing Contest with a chance to win one of three Amazon Gift Cards with the top prize being a $300 card to purchase your own prepping supplies!

Whether we’re buying kits or building our emergency pantry one bag and can of rice and beans at a time, chances are pretty good our food supply is heavy on “spoon meals”. Soups, boiled grains, stews, instant potatoes, mac-n-cheese, and even a lot of casseroles and scrambled eggs offer a lot of repetition in texture and eating utensils.

That repetition will get wearying, unless we’re already eating that way. Especially if we’re experiencing a personal or localized crisis rather than watching the whole world fall apart, some relief to spoon meals will be more than welcome.

Happily, there are some easy fixes that can help. Finger foods are one.

Most of the ingredients are inexpensive enough – or inexpensive enough as a weekly/monthly treat. In fact, many of us probably already have the ingredients in our kitchens or storage.

Some of them require extra time and effort. Others, however, are ideal for even vehicle evacs, packing trips, and power-outage SIP kits, offering no-cook and less-mess meals that don’t require much wash-up for dishes.

Breads

Having some crackers or bread can help right off the bat. One, they are finger foods. Two, they can help us turn other storage foods into sandwiches, stackers, and wraps.

Pretty much any baked good can be turned into a griddle cake. Thin it out more, and from brownie batters to cake and muffin mixes to Bisquick, we have crepes and tortillas. Those can be combined with counter top microgreens, canned beans or meats, or fruits or pie fillings for a tasty treat.

We can use tin cans, muffin tins, small Pyrex bowls and custard cups to quickly and efficiently bake biscuit, bannock, and for-real breads, then slice them for sandwiches, burgers, and crostinis to further increase variety.

Looking for an easier-yet option?

Tortillas are pretty inexpensive from supermarkets and Dollar Tree, and have decent shelf lives. I’m not much fan of the B&M breads, but they’re there. Green-sign Dollar Tree also sometimes has shelf-stable rolls and skinny Italian loaves with months of shelf life (longer stacked in a fridge and freezer).

Bread Toppings & Fillers

The Dollar Tree can also offer a lot of options for jazzing up those breads, as can supermarkets. Supermarkets will sometimes be less expensive by weight/serving, but there’s sometimes benefit to the smaller serving sizes we can move through as individuals, pairs, and small families, without leftovers.

I’ll skip the Vienna sausages turned into corn dogs and hot dogs, personally, but it’s an option. I’m also not wild about canned herring or sardines (fresh is fantastic), but there’s good ol’ tuna, salmon, and baby cocktail shrimp that can go on a wrap or crostini as-is or mixed into a salad with herbs, fresh veggies, and mayo or an alternative.

All over the U.S., Dollar Tree has been the least-expensive option for me for shelf-stable pepperoni in a couple of formats, and regularly carries 1-3 types of salami. (Not the fridge stuff – ick.)

Add the skinny dollar-store jar of the pickled veggies and can of olives, and even without a bread option, we can roll those lunch meat slices into tubes for a Saturday finger-food or toothpick snack my family will enjoy right now – after, during a big time crunch, that $3-$6 investment would be a full-on holiday treat.

Generic Walmart-brand summer sausages can also provide us with a finger-food meat to stash for months/years, or we can smoke our own.

It’s more hit-and-miss now, but the dollar stores also rotate through canned beef and chicken with and without gravy (okay), canned bologna (meh to eek), and canned pulled barbecue, teriyaki, and buffalo chicken and pork (no blech-ier than way-expensive supermarket versions).

Burgers

Canned at home or purchased, we can turn all sorts of shelf-stable goodies into burgers. Fish cakes and bean burgers are versatile enough for a bun or open-faced sandwiches topped with salsa or chutneys or some of the canned and jarred cheese and pasta sauces available.

We can also turn the same “burger” recipes into little meatballs that we bake, “dry fry” or skillet fry, and present to eat like protein-laden hush puppies with other finger foods, or use them in wraps akin to falafel.

Some of the simplest bean burgers just call for retaining the juices from chili beans and mashing the whole kaboodle together. We can pre-season and buy other types to accomplish the same. Other recipes call for things like breadcrumbs that we can repackage and store pretty compactly, whether we buy them or make them at home.

Crostini

We can turn almost anything into a finger food to serve atop homemade tortilla chips, toast points, the split and sliced and flat-cooked breads from our varied mixes, or native fry/stone breads. Various holiday cracker toppers can be a great place to look. So can open-faced sandwiches and appetizers that we can control the liquids for or deconstruct to create finger foods.

Most of us would have to specifically pre-stock ingredients like shrimp to serve with herbs and Parmesan cheese sauce or an Alfredo sauce (from packets or homemade), or olives to turn into tapenade or creamy spreads.

Beans are pretty ubiquitous in most prepper pantries, though. We can turn any of them into a creamy hummus for a base. We can also augment chutney and brochette made from garden veggies with our white beans, chick peas, black beans, or kidney beans.

Any meat products can be whipped into mouse or rilletes, and even windowsill gardens and foraging can provide herbs for pseudo-pesto, as well as sunflower seeds, elm samas, etc. instead of pine nuts.

We can also seriously reduce liquids for packaged creamed soups for a base or seasoning (they will be salty, and carry the seasoning for all the rest of the ingredients), stock canned and jarred cheese dips, or use thick gravy recipes to create dips and spreads for topping.

Muffin Tin Meals

These have a couple of distinct benefits to preppers as well as the average households. One, their primary purpose here, it’s a finger food for mood boosts.

However, that also means it’s fast and convenient. It works for us – now and “later” – because I can pre-make a bunch, and people can grab when they’re ready, and they easily pack them for snacks/lunch/tea. There’s also portion control, lowered cleanup, and fast-serving aspects that can benefit preppers.

For preppers, especially, the tins cook faster than a pie or bread pan. That saves fuels as well as time.

You can also do a variety of things in a single load or baking session, easily, versus a bread loaf or stove top pot. That means whatever $0.38-$1.00 Jiffy mix didn’t run away fast enough gets turned bannock buns/muffins in half, and the other half gets faux-fried eggs or omelet-filler with scrambled eggs.

Or, make Cable Guy “ash cakes” (or the scones/rolls mix from the food-storage genius who thinks I’m making yeast bread in a disaster) to combine with meatballs, burgers, and other fillers above, and baked pancake poppers to hold for another meal.

Rolled oats/wheat/barley readily become muffins and pseudo-granola bars using a wide variety of fruits, nuts, seeds, and morsels or M&Ms.

We can convert pre-cooked grits, cream of wheat/farina, and even risotto-style rice and barley into the same finger-food or fork-able just-eat “muffins”. We can also bake them in thin layers or split them to serve as our sandwich buns or crostini. (Also check out the many wonders of “fried grits” – yum.)

Any of the hot-cereal buns can have the ingredients mixed in, or we can “frost” them and top them, further increasing the “different” meals from the same ingredients.

Another option is pressing them into cups to fill – which we do with any stiff dough. Tortillas can make convenient cups as well, as can shredded hash browns or veggie-latke mixes.

There’s no limit, whatever “breading” we make in muffin tins instead of “just” making a finger food quiche, muffin or mashed-potato popper.

Oatmeal, farina, pancake batter, or cake mix, we can go with instant Dream Whip and fruits, homemade or supermarket icing, peanut butter or Nutella, and the ice cream and milk syrups.

For savory cereals and cornbread or roll mixes, there’s spicy shrimp, oriental or taco/fajita blends, hummus, nacho cheese sauce and peppers, or Dak ham sandwiches.

Try to line the muffin tins as often as possible – sprays, flour, lard, Crisco, something. Some recipes and situations will also lend themselves to a slice of onion or pepper, sandwich meat, or spinach leaves at the bottom.

If we have them, glass and silicone muffin “tins” are fantastic. If not, try some Pyrex bowls or mini custard dishes.

Pizza For Preppers

Green-sign Dollar Tree stores also carry everything we need for a pizza night. If we can get a hold of some canned Bega cheese, all the better, but deep into a financial upset or national/worldwide disaster (or a packing trip) even that powdered-cardboard cheese can be a real treat.

No-Bake Sweets

There’s always cake-mix crepes, but from chow mien noodle haystacks and oatmeal no-bake cookies to rice cereal treats, we have a whole range of stove top/grill options to up our finger-food treats, some with as few as 2-5 ingredients.

With dollar-store packages of drink powders, Reese Pieces, M&Ms, jelly beans, and other candies, we can up our game all over again for seasonal and holiday specific pick-me-ups.

Other quickie and alternative-cooking friendly treats include dipped pretzels, spiced nuts, popcorn balls, and even simple candle-roasted marshmallows.

Boosting Variety

Using ingredients many of us already have, or that are inexpensive to lay on, we can greatly increase the meal possibilities from our food storage. Planning for finger foods can help stave off food fatigue and improve our moods, at regular intervals or specifically for treats.

Some of them also make excellent ways to reduce prep and cook time and especially dishes we’ll have to wash, making them ideal for any power-outage or water-shortage situation.

Poke around. The options are nigh-on endless and can make a real difference anytime we have to rely on our food storage, or when it’s time to rotate all those supplies.

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Tips to Prepare Your House for Future Disasters

26 Nov

Written by Guest Contributor on The Prepper Journal.

Editors Note: An article from Dennis to The Prepper Journal. A sponsored post promoting choices in home warranties. I am posting this because it serves two purposes – it contains some good prepping tips and my being saddled with a poor choice in a home warranty, my own fault, I hope to help others avoid the same mistake.

As always, if you have information for Preppers that you would like to share then enter into the Prepper Writing Contest with a chance to win one of three Amazon Gift Cards with the top prize being a $300 card to purchase your own prepping supplies!

Indeed, precaution is better than cure. This cannot be more practical in our everyday life. No matter what we are doing, we should expect the best but at the same time, be prepared for the worst things that can happen.

You know why it is called home sweet home? Because it is your only personal space in this vast world.  It is the place where your children took their first steps, it’s the place where you take a rest when tired and a place where you sleep peacefully. You would never want anything bad to happen to your home, right?

While hurricanes and floods and even a tsunami come with warnings, sometimes days before the event, sometimes with precious few hours, things like tornadoes and wildfires can come with little warning, a simple shift in winds, and earthquakes come with no warnings at all. We always need to be prepared for the worst.

I lost everything when my house was wrecked by a hurricane that hit my city, so trust me I know how much I regret not doing anything before it happened.

Do not repeat the same mistakes I did and prepare your house for future disaster. Here are some tips for you.

Tips to Prepare your House for Future Disasters:

Keep a Bag prepared:  In the event of a disaster, you might need to leave your house in a rush so what would you take? Prudence demands you keep some essential supplies packed and ready so you can rush out with them.

As per FEMA (Federal Management Agency), here is a list of essentials you must keep in the bag:

  1. Store at least 3 days’ worth of water and food
  2. Batteries
  3. First Aid Kit
  4. Flashlight and a radio
  5. Whistle
  6. Can opener for food
  7. Trash bag, dust mask, and a duct tape
  8. Maps
  9. Cellphone with charger
  10.  Towelettes

Preppers know that there is so much more that should be packed. Apart from these items, you should also keep items like snacks, a means of self defense, walking shoes, some extra cash; you just don’t know what infrastructure will survive. Make sure to keep these things stored and re-check the bag every 6-months to remove the expired foods, medications etc.

A Home Warranty: If you have ever bought a home, then you should know about insurance. Homeowner insurance covers any external damage to your house like fire, theft, storms, etc. It can also protect the contents and usually for a set amount. BUT, unless you have specifically insured, and paid for, coverage for expensive items such as art, jewelry, collections of value (guns, stamps, musical instruments, etc.) you are at financial risk.   Has your home owners policy been updated to reflect such things? 

However your home owners insurance is very limited in any coverage of equipment failure due to the normal use of items. For this a home warranty policy will cover all your appliances from microwaves to refrigerators to fans and everything, depending on the specific coverage purchased. They can also cover pools and pool equipment as well as your roof. KNOW what you are getting when you seek this type of insurance as there are lots of home warranties to choose from. This article has listed some of the best companies that offer home warranty insurance, as always, do your due diligence.

Fill up the gas containers: Get a 5500-watt generator, or equivalent and it will run about 8 hours on 5 gallons of gasoline, a necessary back up if you plan to shelter in place. Of course gas management is extremely critical here.

You never know when there can be a power outage, so just be prepared for it. Have full gas containers, and a generator can get you by until the electricity returns.

Prepare for power cuts: Whenever you get a power cut, the first thing to do is unplug all the appliances and electronics in your house. By unplugging all the appliance, you will be able to save them from electricity surges.  Of course you can mitigate this by installing surge protectors. Just leave a light plunged in a normal outlet, surge protector in place, as an indicator as to when grid power is restored.

Prepare for Hurricanes: You can prepare for hurricanes by boarding windows and securing potential flying debris. It will provide some measure of protection for your home and family and minimize some damage.

Prepare ahead of time and cut the plywood in proper dimensions so that you can use them immediately. Mark each with where they should go and mark them on the side that will face inward. Of course, installed storm shutters are a better solution, but they are a significant expense.

Keep an extra can of gas for your car at home and run with your vehicle always at half full instead of waiting for the “fuel low” indicator telling you to fuel up, you never know when you might need to evacuate the area and fighting for fuel should NOT be your first destination when you need leave.

Also, remove all the dirt and debris from the neighborhood. By getting rid of the dead trees and woods you can avoid the high storms from picking up the debris and making deadly projectiles out of it. If only California had done this on a planned, routine basis.

Put the Refrigerator in Coldest settings: In the time of any disaster, put the refrigerator on the coldest settings, so when the power goes out, you can keep the foods cold as long as possible. And keep the doors closed! If you need something from it get in and get out quickly. What child hasn’t heard their parent say “…so are you waiting for something to grow in there?” as they open the door and casually search for food items?

Also, unplug your refrigerator right after the power goes out to prevent it from malfunctioning when the power is back, unless, of course, you have installed the surge protectors.

Keep the insurance Papers: You should keep insurance papers close and safe all the time. It is recommended to keep all the insurance papers (including your home warranty and renter’s warranty) in your storm kit so that you do not lose them after things are back to normal.

As soon as things start to get back to normal, you will need those papers in order to get financial help and fix your house. Thus, keeping them in your storm kit is the best thing to do.

Think about your Pets: When bad weather is about to hit, you need to think about what to do with your pets. If you are forced to shelter them because you are forced to leave and the shelter in your area doesn’t have the facility or staff to manage them then you need to already know about shelters that allow pets, or facilities set up to care for them and plan to get them there safely. A basic pet owners responsibility.  Also, keep a picture of your pet in case they gets lost. Many states provide some great means for this, do your homework.

Conclusion:

There you go, the 8 tips to prepare your house for future disasters. We hope you have enjoyed reading this article, keep them in mind and surely, they will help you out.

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Using Fish to Create Organic Fertilizer

13 Nov

Written by Guest Contributor on The Prepper Journal.

In this article we’re going to discuss how you can grow plants using fish in an aquaponics system.

Aquaponics is the combination of hydroponics (a method of growing food without soil) and aquaculture (fish farming).

The two things work in unison with each other, the fish provide waste which creates a fertilizer for the plants, and the plants clean the water which cycles back to the fish.

This method is perfect for preppers who don’t want to rely on shops or farms and want to become self-sufficient and find a productive and easy way to grow your own food.

This system requires very little intervention once it is set up and running, and pretty much runs itself. Not only will in provide you with an abundance of vegetables, but you can also breed and harvest the fish so you have a never ending supply of fish and plant based foods.

The Process Behind Aquaponics

So how does aquaponics actually work?

The main job for you as a prepper is to keep the fish fed. The rest of the system really does look after itself.

Once they’ve been fed (ideally with organic fish food) the fish will eat the food and produce waste. Some of their waste will be ammonia (urine) and the rest will be fecal matter.

The essential bacteria which will have built up in the fish tank will help to convert the ammonia into nitrites, and then into nitrates.

These nitrates are then passed onto the plants as food, so not only do they thrive, but the fish tank doesn’t need to have water changes carried out as a regular fish tank would. (The main reason for water changes is to remove the build-up of nitrates).

The bacteria in the system play just as big a part as the fish and the plants, without it, the cycle wouldn’t work.

What does an Aquaponics System look like?

Most systems are built in vertically, one on top of the other. The fish tank sits underneath, and the tray or growing bed which the plants grow in sits on top.

There will be a gap between the two which allows you access to the fish at all times.

Some aquaponics systems are set up with the fish and plant components sitting side by side.

What Do you Need to Set Up An Aquaponics System?

Equipment

You’ll need a tank or some type of container to keep your fish in, the size of your system is driven by how much food you want to grow which is determine by the type and size of fish tank you use. As a good indication, you can achieve 1 – 2 square feet of growth area for every 10 gallons of water in your fish tank.

You might want to set up a small indoor system to grow herbs; in this case you can use something as small as a 10 gallon fish tank. If you want a larger outdoor system, you can use a much larger tank, there is no limit. You can either use a glass or acrylic tank; some people choose to use a plastic tub or barrel.

You’ll need gravel for the bottom of the tank, this will act as a bed for the bacteria to grow on which is vital to break down ammonia and nitrites.

You’ll also need a water pump and around 3 feet of tubing to connect the tank to the grow bed where you’ll be growing the plants.

You should also have an air pump to help oxygenate the water, and a pH kit to test the water every couple of weeks.

For the grow bed, you can use a wooden crate, a plastic tub or a plexi-glass container. The depth needs to be at least 3 foot. You’ll need a growing medium, because aquaponics systems do not use soil. Most people choose to use clay pebbles, pea gravel or perlite.

If you choose to house tropical fish in the tank, you’ll also need an aquarium heater, although most people choose fish which thrive in cold water tanks.

Fish

There are a whole range of fish which you can use in an aquaponics system. The species you’ll choose will depend on whether or not you are growing the fish to harvest.

I’d imagine, being a prepper and wanting to be as self-sufficient as non-wasteful as possible, that you’ll most likely want to choose species which you can also grow to eat.

These include larger species such as:

  • Tilapia; these are the most common and popular fish used in aquaponics. They are quick growing, breed well, taste good, and can be fed using the food you grow.
  • Silver Perch; they are omnivores, but a large percentage of their diet is plant based so you’ll be able to grow the vast majority of their food.
  • Barramundi; these fish require warmer water so you’ll probably need a heater depending on where you live. You’ll also need a lid as they’re jumpers.
  • Trout; these fish are fast growing, but they like to jump so you’ll need a lid on the tank

If you are vegetarian or just don’t want to eat the fish in the system, some people choose to have ornamental fish. A few examples of these are:

  • Goldfish; they come in a wide variety of colors and shapes and can tolerate a wide variety of water conditions.
  • Any smaller species such as guppies, mollies and tetras.

Plants

There a lots of different plant you can grow in an aquaponics system, again, this will depend on the size of your setup and what you want to achieve from it.

If you’re having a small indoor system you’ll probably only have space to grow small plants such as basil, mint and watercress.

If you set up a larger outdoor system, the options are endless. In a new system these are some of the foods you can grow:

  • Lettuce
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Cucumbers
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • Squash
  • Peas
  • Rocket
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Swiss Chard

Once your system is more established, you can grow other crops such as:

  • Sweetcorn
  • Carrots
  • Radishes
  • Onions
  • Edible flowers
  • Blueberries

It’s likely that you’ll probably have a good store of food for when SHTF, but have you thought about a more long term solution to growing your own food without access to ongoing supplies such as soil and fertilizers?

An aquaponics system will provide you with a self-sustaining system which will provide you with an abundance of food.

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Prepper Must-Haves: Drink Mixes

30 Oct

Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

Editors Note: Another article from R. Ann Parris to The Prepper JournalAs always, if you have information for Preppers that you would like to share then enter into the Prepper Writing Contest with a chance to win one of three Amazon Gift Cards with the top prize being a$300 card to purchase your own prepping supplies!

Drink mixes can check a lot boxes for us in both prepper pantries and bug-out/evac situations. Electrolyte drinks, vitamin and protein boosters, and meal replacement mixes would get top billing as a prepper supply, but instant mixes span far and wide. We have nearly endless options when it comes to stocking drink mixes, right on local supermarket shelves.

*I expect some “bah” with any article, especially the must-have’s and “frilly” subjects. If we go “bah” at every other concept in this article, please read and consider the sections on fiber and supportive care.

Caffeine

Related to fiber, remember: Caffeine isn’t just a night-watch or feel-good luxury. If we’re accustomed to caffeine and suddenly limit or eliminate it, our guts are likely to stop up.

Fiber

Many Americans are already lacking fiber in their diets. Eating heavily off gardens and buckets of beans will alleviate it, but if we’re heavily stocked in MREs and just-add-water camping meals – especially for bug-out bags – fiber is a huge issue.

Some tubs and packets of a high-fiber drink mix (NOT a “cleanse) can alleviate those problems, regularly with added benefits.

Gut-health drinks like Culturelle and others can also be a gentle way to ease stomachs during major changes in diet. They can be especially helpful for kids, seniors, and people who already have food sensitivities.

Condensed Calories

Almost all of the examples have a big benefit for preppers, whether we’re working out of pantries or a bag: They boost calories.

Whether we’ve invested in pre-packaged just-add-water food systems or slowly stacking up beans, rice, and wheat, food storage is regularly deficient in calories (and fats).

We have to have energy to get things done.

While many of us have some weight we could lose now, should we ever find ourselves doing more by hand, we’re going to shed some pounds. The gardens many plan to start and the wilds many plan to forage through, short-term on a bug-out or for weeks/months on end, tend to provide mostly lean diet foods. Very few preppers are growing calorie or fat staples.

When you see “diet” and “light” options and weight-loss drinks here, for the most part, they’re being presented as an add-on to our planned food storage meals, and a way to boost BOB supplies and caches without too much space and weight.

Some of the sugar-free and “light” options won’t boost them much, but most boost at least a little.

Feel Goods

Feel-good food supplies aren’t just about feeling “good”. It’s also about health. Personal reactions differ, but sudden changes create stress. Whether we recognize or acknowledge it, that stress affects our bodies and brains.

Pick-me-ups – both on a schedule we and ours can be looking forward to and periodic pop-up surprises – can ease transitions with goodies that would normally be “treats” and by maintaining some normal for households accustomed to a daily non-water drink.

K-Cups have taken over the supermarket aisles where powdered cappuccino types used to live, but those tins and small packets are still out there. Hot cocoa mixes are still prevalent, as are the mostly-just-flavor types that range from things like Nesquik to powdered “iced” tea and lemonade (well … sorta-lemonade and tea).

Electrolytes

There’s a reason the Gators developed their wonder blend. We have to have certain types of salts to function. Labor and heat require replacing those salts more frequently.

Most of us will find ourselves drinking more water and fewer soft drinks if we ever have to rely on our food storage. Even if we’re already mostly drinking water, the foods we’ll have access to will usually shift. That will change the minerals available to our bodies.

If we’re laboring, we’ll push water even more heavily, but “push water” can be a double-edged sword.

When we “dropped” Marines in support fields on exercises and forewarned marches, it wasn’t always from dehydration. Regularly, it was actually that they’d push water, push it enough with little balance, that they flushed the required electrolytes from their systems.

It doesn’t have to be a pricey brand and there are plenty of at-home mixes with ingredients that can be stored for people whose bodies are pure temples. This one is too important to ignore, along with…

Bedside Bottles

In many disasters, supportive care is all we’re going to be able to offer. It’s already sometimes all hospitals can offer, here and now. Sports drinks and alternatives like Pedialyte – or any reasonably balanced drink – can play a major role in that care. We already apply it combating and recovering from illnesses in everyday life with short-term stomach and head flues for both children and adults (and pets).

If for no other reason, snag some tubs of semi-decent drink mixes to stash with the medical supplies.

Protein

As with calories, a lot of food storage is seriously low in protein. Like whey as a protein source, there’s a lot of back and forth on just how much protein we need. Do some balanced research, but if you’re snagging some drink mixes, consider including the higher-protein version or a protein alternative, especially if the price difference isn’t significant.

Many protein shakes are pretty high cal. That adds to their value for sickbed support, jaw injuries, and injuries that prevent us from our usual hunting, livestock and garden and crop care, fishing, or even “just” cooking.

They can also help keep somebody drifting from food fatigue or depression “fed” enough to get them over their slumps and prevent the energy-loss that leads to a spiralling cycle (don’t eat, less energy, less activity, decreased appetite, less energy yet, further decreased activity and appetite, downward and downward).

When comparing options, hit the senior-citizen and diabetic sections of food supplements as well as muscle-building, athletic, and fad-diet aisles. It varies label-by-label, but general meal-replacement, weight-loss, and snack shakes can also regularly be good ways to boost protein, as well as calories and daily-need vitamins.

The calorie and protein energy provided makes those shakes and drink mixes something to also seriously think about for evac kits and bug-out bags, replacing or augmenting things like MREs, camping food, and ration bars that are common go-to’s.

Vitamin Deficiency

Further poking at common food storage, both MRE-type and just-add-water-kit preppers and the beans-and-rice preppers are skirting some vitamin deficiencies. A daily multivitamin can allay many of the factors and stores compactly, but if we can kill two birds with one stone…

Our changing society means there’s a whole wide world of drink supplements. We can go as crazy as we like with green and red juicing alternatives, happy-fad grains, coconut water, and super-foods.

Or, we can scale back and check out some of the old standby’s with a new eye. Many of those quickie drinks, from Hi-C to Hawaiian Punch, Wyler’s at the green-sign dollar stores to Crystal Light, have some valuable vitamins and minerals in them. Options like Slimfast, Boost, and Carnation also tend to check the box for vitamins.

Vitamin C is a big general health boost all on its own and especially in winter and spring, if we face lowered sanitation, and cold and flu seasons. Research where the term “Limeys” came from if you want an idea of just how important Vitamin C is when you’re on a repetitive diet low in fresh foods.

B-Vitamins also have widespread effects. Vitamin D, especially, is one to check for as it affects absorption of calcium and greatly influences brain health.

Buying Considerations

Some drink mixes are only available in single-serve packets. They’re convenient, but there’s a trash/waste aspect. There’s also space efficiency loss with many of the boxed packets. We can absolutely bust them out of boxes to repack more densely, but doing so decreases our ability to donate them later if they’re not something we’ll be rotating through in daily life.

Big-tub sizes tend to be friendlier on the wallet. Depending on family/group size, they can be very reasonable to consume once opened, and we can always repackage in bottle-sized portions for travel bags, and mix single-serve bottles (or jars) to help with portion control when we’re leaning on food storage in a permanent-home setting.

Food storage companies haven’t ignored the expanding interests in drink mixes. Pretty much all labels sell flavored milk substitutes, and most sell some version of a Tang or Kool-Aid level orange drink and apple drink. Some offer expanded options that vary in sugar content and actual vitamins.

When pricing those, make sure to weigh how “worth it” they are and our priorities.

The difference of storage in a steel can or Mylar bag really isn’t all that different from what we’ll get with plastic tubs and packets. #10 and #2.5 cans are a little more moisture and pest resistant, but those aspects are pretty easily mitigated by storing them in Rubbermaid totes or repacking in canning jars.

Supermarket options allow us to sample a smaller size for less outlay, even if the price per serving is much higher. That’s not just about “taste” and personal preferences. Some anti-caking components and certain types of sweeteners, especially, can lead to dry mouth, stomach upset, shaky hands, and headaches for some of us.

We also want to get the most bang for our buck.

Check mixes – especially for shakes – to see what the nutritional content is on its own. Many call for milk. Using water, milk substitutes, and non-fat whey milk can affect what we’re actually consuming.

On the dairy front, also compare apples to apples the common milk and milk-substitute options. Each has pro-con’s we’ll have to weigh, especially when it comes to calories, shelf life, number of same-sized servings per dollar and by can, and ease in mixing.

Protein-supplemented drink mixes and instant juices with actual vitamins tend to be more expensive, but have a great deal to offer. Even the inexpensive options we can snag incrementally from a green-sign dollar stare can make a big difference in health and mentality, though. Instant broth and creamed soups are a whole realm all their own, with their own range of benefits for preppers.

Drink Mixes

Priorities will always differ, as will our individual capabilities. That applies to stocking drink mixes, but they’re worth some consideration. Some rate a place in our pantries just to help maintain norms or transition to a new normal. Some fall into general nutrition and diet. Some offer the ability to soothe a really bad day. Some really shine in a bug-out or high-labor situations. Others have actual medical applications.

Drink mixes might not be an obvious must-have, but they’re too inexpensive, compact, and accessible to ignore.

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