Monthly Archives: May 2013

Emergency Prepareness II

I hope you have at least scanned through the previous post, as we are discussing being prepared for any emergency, but especially power outages. You never know when they can strike, but with a little pre-thinking, they can be much less stressful.
And we’ll talk about finding room for these even in a small apartment next time. I promise that you have more room than you know. We are certainly not talking ‘fall-out’ shelter here! Besides, if you put good, useful items aside, you can be equally as ready for a ‘guest emergency’.
I stress that I am not trying to be an alarmist, nor encourage you to be a food hoarder. Many people listen to those who would play on their fears and be pressured into making unnecessary and expensive purchases; don’t do it. Buy only a few extras at a time that you will use anyway and rotate them by using them before they have stayed untouched beyond their usefulness. Sure, you can buy MRE’s,(military ‘meals-ready-to-eat’), that will last for years, but, are you ever really going to eat them? I doubt that straits will ever get that dire for you,(let’s hope not.) If you buy food that you would never ordinarily use, (thinking that, if things were bad enough, you will use them), then you will end up throwing them away. It is terrible to waste not only money but food,(I find it particularly so with meat and animal products.)

Anyone on any budget can put away a few things at a time and be ready for trouble.
Buy what you and your family like; that is essential. If things are stressful, choking down unfamiliar and unliked food only makes matters worse. (In other words, if your kids like Spaghettios, put several cans away.)

Remember to keep all foods in as cool and dry an area as possible; no attics or garages. They must not freeze or be exposed to excessive heat.

Try to keep a number of protein-based cans or packages, plus fruits and vegetables. Ready-to-eat soups are good, and a good choice for vegans, as they will have their protein ready in them. Nuts and peanuts, shelled, roasted or in butters, are also good protein choices for anyone. I will caution you to keep them in their original containers and original seals and as with all the foods, keep an eye on the expiration dates and enjoy them before they get too old. You want to buy replacements and eat what is close to expiring, which is another good reason to stagger your purchases. You won’t find all of your stored foods needing to be eaten or replaced all at one time; that is inconvenient and can be expensive.

Processed meat products should be kept only if the people in your household like them.(Don’t load up on Spam if no one has ever tried it or can’t stand it.) Watch out for fat content in them, too. My choices lean toward canned chicken and tuna, although I have corned beef as well as deviled ham and roast beef spread.(OK, so it’s a little on the fatty side; they are only a couple of cans, honest!)

As for fruit and vegetables, unlike most of my shopping advice, I will tell you to buy small or even individual serving-sizes. They are usually more expensive, but in a power outage, you will have no way of preserving ‘left-overs’. Even if the weather is cold enough to put unused potions outside, you will want to conserve the warmth you have indoors by not opening doors and windows more than you need to.( More of heating options in an upcoming post.) Pick up a couple of boxes of zipper-close bags, small and larger, and put them aside; you’ll need them.(More upcoming on such necessities.) Raisins and dried fruit are some of my favorites and kids usually like them. They are good and they keep, unopened, for years.

The hardest part of preparing is trying to find a good source of carbohydrates; nearly all will become stale if kept for any time, so your best bet is to use what is in your cabinet to supplement your emergency rations and to rely on canned corn and beans.
(If your kids like cereal, look for a small box with a late expiration date.) DO NOT try to rely on dried beans, rice or legumes! I know people who did just that and found themselves unable to use them for two reasons:

1.Even though beans seem to store almost forever, they don’t. They continue to dry and become nearly impossible to cook, even in a slow-cooker.[See my post: “You Know Beans” in the August 2012 archives.]

2.And even if the beans or legumes are split, or the rice is ‘instant’, it will take boiling water and a heat source, both of which may be scarce.[Do not try to store par-boiled or “converted” rice; it spoils easily and is prone to become ‘buggy’.]

Keep at least a couple of bottles of, (or a number of boxed), fruit juice, fruit/vegetable juice and milk products. Milk, either dairy, rice, soy or almond, come in aseptic cardboard boxes that will last well over a year, (maybe more), on your shelf. Powdered milk goes stale and will use your water reserves. Water is a must and the only bottled water I have found whose containers do not degrade is Deer Park; I keep their ‘pods’. If you try to bottle your own water, you will find,(as I did), that it may very well grow mold inside the cap, making it unusable and unsafe. Even if your water remains on, it may have been shortly interrupted by the power outage and when this happens, it may be unsafe for a while or it can pull up rust and sediment that has collected at the bottom of the water mains,(mainlines), to where ‘boil water’ advisories may be in effect. (If sediment and rust are in your water, you may not even be able to use your “Pur”,”Britta” or other filters. Strain though cheesecloth or even a laundered, bleached white cotton cloth, such as a thin towel, a white sheet, pillow case or white tee shirt; a cloth diaper is perfect.) If you keep an extra bottle of chlorine bleach, (regular, unscented), you can follow direction on the bottle to kill nearly ever germ and bacteria that may have collected in the water. Read the labels; some of the ‘bargain brands’ are diluted to one-quarter strength or less. Many of the ‘name brands’ and some ‘store brands’ are now highly concentrated and available in much smaller containers which are more easily put away. Chlorine in the bleach dissipates leaving a bit of salt behind when exposed to air, so if you treat your water with it,(as you municipality does in your water supply), and let it sit open to the air, the water will be safe to drink. You may want to store away a favorite powdered drink mix to make it taste better, such as fruit-flavored, lemonade or instant tea.

If you foresee a storm, or other emergency, you might want to do what many used to do; fill your bathtub. If nothing else, if your water supply gets interrupted you can have some cleaning water and water to flush the toilet, as most work on gravity.(You’ll thank me later.)
If you have your own, learn to turn the water intake to your water heater. You will have that water to work with, but if whatever supplies your heat remains,(such as propane or natural gas), or comes back on,(electricity), and your tank is empty, it will break or perhaps explode or cause a fire. If you can’t turn the water supply to it off, simply do not empty your water heater. Tape or cover the hot water taps in every sink or tub as a reminder.

Any questions?

Next time we will talk about other necessities and, importantly, finding room to store them.

Emergency Preparedness

I know I have been negligent of this blog and those of my fellow bloggers.I am very sorry and have missed you,(you will be hearing from me). I had a few family ‘fires’ to put out, some health testing and our beloved dog, Mark, failed rapidly .We catered to him for a while but when he could no longer function, we put him to rest. He is missed.

One reason I have been away is caring for Mark in his last days.

One reason I have been away is caring for Mark in his last days.

Some of you may not know this, but I also post on blog shared with four other writers, “Four Foxes, One Hound”( http://fourfoxesonehound.wordpress.com/); four women, one man. I am the Friday Fox. We usually do theme weeks, we have open discussion and sometimes we have in guests to introduce readers to other writers.
“The Hound” sent an email to me a short time ago; he had questions on keeping food on-hand for emergencies and suggested that I make it a topic for this blog. With the severe weather-system season stepping in in most of the United States, now is a good time for that series, but any kind of problem can happen at any time, and people should be prepared.
I am not here to tell you to hoard food or become a survivalist, nor am I going to use scare tactics. But keep in mind that twenty years ago the Mississippi river flooded seven miles out of its banks and an ice storm that never affected my sister,( who lives near me), knocked mine out for four days and others in my area lost power for two weeks. Several years ago the remnants of a hurricane jumped over me and landed square on Louisville, Kentucky, knocking out some of their power for over a week; who would have known? You never know when something as simple as someone digging can disrupt your power source.
Any type of power-outage can be made a lot less stressful with a little planning, and that is what we will discuss.
What does this have to do with food and hosting? Well, it certainly has to do with food and you never know when an emergency, even a small one, can hit; it might just be when you have guests. And keeping extra supplies on-hand for either and emergency or for unexpected guests,(which should never constitute an emergency if you are prepared), is just common sense.

Here are the questions and answers that Jeff Salter and I exchanged:

Tonette,
I have several legitimate questions (& I want straightforward answers) … but it also occurred to me that this Q&A might make a good use of your food blog.
If you want to conduct it on your blog, that’s fine with me. Might get some helpful add’l input.

Questions about can goods shelf life

I’ve read / heard that standard, grocery-store canned goods (such as beans, peas, carrots, taters, corn, fruit, etc.) can last for MANY years … provided there are no bulges in the can. But I’d like to narrow that down since I’m setting aside some food for use during bad storms.
Absolutely avoid dented cans at all costs, as well as check for bulging regularly. When in doubt, throw it out! .Tomatoes/ tomato products have the shortest shelf-lives, with green beans a close second, along with canned milk products. Other beans do not have the shelf-lives that most other vegetables have. Creamed soups have shorter shelf-lives than broth-based. Still, ALL of the canned goods have several years; many far beyond their expiration dates, if they are not banged around. I keep mine in boxes in the back of shelves.

1. For a can with NO dates or codes: if I purchase it in Jan. 2013, how long is it predictably safe for consumption?

I would say at least the very minimum is two-three years for tomatoes and the short-lived ones. Other canned goods for five years or more, perhaps with some degradation of quality.[But not safety]

2. for a can with codes but no way to decipher the code: would the answer be the same as above?
Yes, but make sure you purchase them at stores that do big turn-over. Don’t pick them up from a country store, a ‘quick-stop’ or a generally non-food store,(such as a drug store), where they may have been sitting for a long time to start with.
[If you live in an area with slow-turn over in your local grocery store, consider making a trip to a larger city to stock up on staples].

3. For items marked with a date — what does the date mean? Does it mean it should be SOLD by that date? Eaten by that date? Or does the date have some other meaning?
It depends . Some actually say ‘Sell by:”; Some say “Best used by”, otherwise, it is a ‘use by’ date. It isn’t a magic number. There is lee-way there.

4. A few items indicate “Best when used by ____[date]___”. How many years after that date would they still be “good” (i.e., safe)?

No hard and fast rule, Jeff. Some products just don’t keep their full taste, texture and flavor as well as others. Eagle Brand turns dark, but is edible. Canned beets will be perfect for years afterward. Canned potatoes can get pretty soft after a number of years, but corn is usually fine. Tuna packets are a God-send, but nonfat dry milk goes stale, as do instant mashed potatoes.

5. What other tips do you have about storage & usage of typical grocery shelf canned goods?
If you have a dry basement or cellar, it is a good idea to put them there, but off the ground. Any place that is out of direct sunlight and dampness and kept from getting too hot or too cold.( never allow them to freeze). Don’t keep them where it isn’t usually climate-controlled, like a garage or barn.
Try not to move them around; the less they are bumped or shaken , the better , the longer the life. Try to keep them in boxes and mark them as to content and dates.(Which I had forgotten to do: dates).I am about to re-check my stash and see if I need to rotate, or use and replace with new stock.
That is the best and most realistic way to keep a supply of emergency foods; buy what you like and generally use and then you can go ahead and use it when it has been around for a while then replace it with newer ones.
The last time I tucked boxes away I made variety boxes, instead of all-one type of vegetable or food .For instance, I put different types of vegetables and fruits with canned milk and tuna, sardines &/or canned meat products. I also keep sugar and honey and some jellies, plus we keep peanut butter and canned and jarred nuts,(and we rotate that stock often). I also keep dried fruits on hand. If worse comes to worse ,(our reservoir pumping station went down once), we keep a couple of gallons of regular bleach, ( and rotate it, as it breaks down). You can purify water with it…so I keep lemonade mix and instant tea to make it palatable if we do need to drink it.
I do have some Deer Park water ‘pods’ on hand, as regular ‘milk-gallon’-type water containers do not last; they break down and leak; I have no idea why.
I don’t know if we come across as ‘survivalists’ or paranoid, but, you never know, right? I could be taken ill, as I have been and not been able to shop like I’d like or Joe might be out of work and we just might need to live off of these without an national or regional emergency. I have taken to cooking most of the food that I put in our freezer. That way, if we lose electricity, we could more easily eat or share the food and lose less, plus have less fear of not getting it cooked properly. Although we do have a generator which we used mostly to keep the freezer going when we lost power for several day with an ice storm s few years ago.

I also try to keep extra basic first aid and hygiene supplies ,(heavy on the hand sanitizer) as well as extra cleaning supplies and paper products, (i.e.: paper towels, toilet paper, paper plates and cups, plus plastic cutlery.

Was I clear? Do you have any more questions or did I skip something? Let me know.

Yes, the rest of you, too, please let me know if you have any questions. I will be expounding further on what types of foods and supplies are good and finding room to store them, which can be a challenge. (You have more storage in your place than you probably know.) I also want to go into practical safety features such as heating and lighting options.
I hope to hear from you, my Friends .