Emergency Preparedness

[Please run through the subsequent posts in this series for many  easy tips that you may find helpful.]

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:

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 .


29 thoughts on “Emergency Preparedness

  1. jeff7salter

    Lots of terrific info here, Tonette. And I’m glad you mentioned survivalists or “off the grid” folks, because too many folks lump together anybody who “thinks ahead.” I was in Scouts for a while, long enough to know the motto is “Be Prepared.” Having on hand a week or two worth of edibles (& water & paper products) is just good common sense — it doesn’t mean you’re a “nut” or whatever. [And I’m NOT saying the survivalists are nuts … just saying that at times they are CHARACTERIZED that way]. And to have the media and politicians laugh at people trying to be prepared is counter-productive to our citizenry being braced for the next earthquake, tornado, hurricane, ice storm, fire, or whatever.
    This subject came home to me, not too long ago, when somebody in my Sun. Sch. class said, “today’s generation thinks food comes from grocery stores. So where will they go when the store’s shelves are empty?” Good question, indeed.

    1. Tonette Joyce Post author

      Yes,Jeff, Be Prepared! That is what I have been trying to teach here, anyway.A little preparedness and you can handle almost anything. One can go over-board,(we certainly saw it during the Y2K scare), but one never knows, and it could be a personal emergency; illness, accident, car failure.
      Thanks for coming by and giving me more to go on!

    1. Tonette Joyce Post author

      Thank you,Tamara,It’s good to be back and I hope it stays that way.I have many of your posts to look in to;I’m sure I missed a lot!
      And thank you for your sympathy. Pets are a branch of the family. The doggie had a good, long life.

  2. Patricia Kiyono

    Great information here, Tonette! Thank you. In Michigan, we’re getting into tornado season, and we always try to have our pantry full. But sometimes it’s hard to know what to keep and how long it’s safe. Generally if we haven’t used it in a year I give it away to a shelter or food bank so someone else can hopefully get some use from it.

    1. Tonette Joyce Post author

      Thank you for coming in, Patricia. That is wonderful of you to donate foods that can be used.Many people,( like the recipients of your generosity) can’t afford to do so. I will be going into buying what people can use and rotating it. Thank you for your help in informing others and for more ideas!
      I was afraid of not getting feedback; thank you, really.

    1. Tonette Joyce Post author

      Thank you,Ashley; he was a sweet doh. We had a mature female who was even smaller than he was when we got him, (at about 5 1/2 months old). She had been a mom and she recognized him as a puppy.She was very protective of him and he never truly grew up.He had no idea that he weighed over 100 lbs his last few years.
      I am trying to catch up on other people’s blogs.It was good to visit yours.

    1. Tonette Joyce Post author

      Thank you , Sharmishtha, that is an Azalea bush and we referred to it as “Mark’s Bush” because he liked to sleep under it.Can you see where the branches did not grow right behind him and the cedar chips are pushed away? That was his favorite spot outside.

      1. Sharmishtha Basu

        he sounds like a lover of beauty! that bush is fabulous! is it the only colour or there are other colours too? how long do these plants live?

        at the end, I wish I had a garden where I could plant one and make it bloom like yours!

      2. Tonette Joyce Post author

        Sharmishtha, Azaleas are very popular in much of the U.S. They are quite long-lived bushes.I don’t know how long, but the one in the picture is at least 20 years old.They come in many colors, mostly variations of red, pink, purple and white.Some have double blossoms and are very fancy.I’m so glad you like the picture.

  3. snati001

    Sorry to hear about your dog. One of my dogs recently passed too. I miss all of my dogs that have gone. They stay in your heart forever. Great information on preparedness. I should sort out my pantry and make a kit of things.

    1. Tonette Joyce Post author

      Thank you,Sinead; that is very kind of you.I will get to you soon,I promise.
      And I guess Ireland is pretty safe, weather-wise, but you never know when some other type of power outage can occur.

      1. thisismeandfood

        Plenty of flooding and high winds but not on the scale of the USA! We had snow 3 years ago that brought the country to a standstill haha – not used to it! Take care x

      2. Tonette Joyce Post author

        See Sinead, you never know.(I saw the pictures of you big snow; at least kids got to make snowmen! We don’t get much where I live now.)

    1. Tonette Joyce Post author

      Oh, Lucky you ,Cass! But you never know when you can have some other type of emergency power outage. Thanks for coming by.Enjoy your Autumn; we finally have Spring after more cold and wet than we had all Winter!
      I appreciate the sympathy; Mark was a dear dog. Our pets are part of the family.

  4. Bam's Kitchen

    Tonette, I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your family dog and I hope your other unplanned issues are resolving on the homefront. Great question and answer session. Lots of great information. (I have to send you a photos of common problems in HK, China. I am not kidding you but there were several badly dented canned goods and they just put a sign on them “reduced” and sold them anyways. Safety first , don’t you know, on the other side of the world. This is why your education is really important. Keep it coming… Take care, BAM

    1. Tonette Joyce Post author

      Oh, Bobbi, where I live in Kentucky they do the same with dented cans,I kid you not.
      Thank you. I had a LOT of feedback and this turned into a series of posts; if you have time, check them out. The main idea of this blog is to give practical help, as I have put my vanity on hold, my fancy-work aside to let people know that cooking and entertaining need not be uncomfortable…and I am all for making things less uncomfortable in every situation.
      And thank you for your sympathy.My sons spent many years with Mark and the grandkids always had him around.He never so much as growled at them and put up with their shenanigans,(he wore a lot of hats!) It’s been a couple of months and we still stop to think if he needs to go out before we go somewhere.
      I hope you are feeling better and stay that way,Bobbi Ann!

    1. Tonette Joyce Post author

      I’m so sorry.I have had a couple here for at least four years,(I keep forgetting to rotate them), and not one leak. Perhaps it was a flawed batch?Perhaps heat broke them down. How terrible for you!

  5. Pingback: Bound to be Snow | Four Foxes, One Hound

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