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2009-10 Winter Prediction

As you know, I live in Colorado with my little family. The weather here has been very very weird for the last couple of years, and this Summer was quite unusual. Compared to 2008 with scorching heat and very little rain, this 2009 Summer has been actually cool, with periods of intense rain and no days thus far over 100 degrees.

By watching the signs, studying animals and plants, intuition, and reading everything I can... I'll give the following prediction for this area:

The Winter of 2009/2010 will come early, be hard, and stay long.

I'm quite sure I don't even need to discuss how the H1N1 flu virus will affect our Winter. This all being said, we are very stocked up on not only food and water, but also medical supplies, quilts, mittens, ski masks, and more.

Are YOU prepared for this Winter?

Staple Storing in Groups

My post from yesterday got me thinking.... I might not have written yet about how I store certain staples, like beans, peas and rice. Thought I'd do that today.

As you know, we're pretty picky eaters, with dietary allergies and other problems. I have to pick what we buy to eat and store (ok, same thing!) very carefully. I don't really store wheat since only one person in the family can have it. Same with soy, tree nuts, peanuts, and cow's milk dairy. Most of what I'm storing is gluten-free, and I store things in groups to make sure we have all the ingredients to make certain things.

The following packages are gathered up, placed in seal-a-meal packaging along with a recipe and informational card and a couple of bay leaves, and sealed up. Then they are put into a plastic storage bucket, contents marked on a sheet on the outside of the bucket, and marked in our inventory. Very careful to note expiration dates, especially for the special flours or grains. (Note: I don't store millet because it needs refrigeration.)

Package 1:
-Small bag green split peas
-Small bag brown rice
-Small jar real bacon pieces
-Small baggie dried onion pieces

Package 2:
-Small bag lentils (any color)
-Small bag white rice
-Tiny baby-food jar garlic powder

Package 3:
-Small bag white beans (navy usually)
-Small bag grain: quinoa or amaranth
-Small tomato paste
-Small bag dried onion pieces
-Small bag dried garlic pieces
-Small baggie brown sugar

Package 4:
-small package adzuki or anasazi beans
-small package gluten-free oats
-small tomato paste
-small baggie brown sugar (times 2)
-small jar real bacon pieces
-small onion powder

Package 5:
-1 jar unsalted sunflower seeds
-small package cornmeal

Package 6:
-package of teff flour or coconut flour
-package of potato starch
-package of sorghum flour
-package of garbanzo-bean flour
-tiny baby-food jar of baking soda
-tiny baby-food jar of xanthum gum

Package 7:
-2 packages of rice crackers
-2 large cans chunk chicken
-2 small cans tuna in water
-3 single-servings of Spam (for hubby)
-1 squeeze mayo
-1 squeeze pickle relish

In a survival situation (whether a worsening of economy or otherwise), each package will last our family of 3 for 1 meal per day for 3 days, IF we are careful about portion control. More or less. Yes, we'll be eating the same protein meal for 3 days in a row, but we get to look forward to what the next package will be!

I'd take pictures but we're still in major upheaval with selling the house, moving, etc.

So... anyone else do something similar to this?

Wal-Mart Cleaned Out

I went to Wal-Mart this past Sunday to get package of cloth diapers (took me 15 minutes to find and never did find cloth diaper pins!). While I was there, I wanted to get another package of dried split peas, lentils and 2 bags of rice. I do this almost every time I go.

The dried bean section was nearly empty. There were some bags of turtle beans, peas and lentils, and some bags of white beans (navy, etc.) but there wasn't much else left. About the only thing that had any quantity was pinto beans. Even the mixed beans/bean soup was gone.

Thought it was a fluke, till I went to the rice section.

Cleaned out.

There was one bag of brown rice that was hidden in the 4 bags of jasmine rice, and a bag of organic brown rice hidden in the back on the very bottom lower shelf behind 8 or 9 very large bags of white rice.

I have my suspicions. Do you have yours?

Storing powders in mason jars

A recent comment: "Please tell me your process for storing powders in Mason jars. I have been putting cake mixes in the wide mouth jars still in the bag. But I tried to do the same thing with Pancake mix and it would not go in the jar. I worry about the powder getting in my Food Saver and it suddenly stop working. That would be a terrible thing! Thanks for all you do. GRITS"

Great question.

First, I tend to use the larger wide-mouth jars... mason, ball, etc. Second, since I was talking about the small bags of gluten-free flours, they will usually fit.

However, I've found a resource for certified gluten-free oats and those bigger bags don't fit in my mason jars. Here's the 2 options I've come up with:

Option 1:
Freeze the product to kill any potential bugs (between 2-3 days). Open the original package, and divide into smaller portions using ziploc or other strong baggies. Squeeze out all of the air. Place in the mason "canning" jar. Add a dessicant package and a couple of bay leaves (to keep away critters). Apply lid then ring. No need to process. Mark with contents and any expire date that was on the original package. Sometimes I photocopy (shrink to 50%) the original package and wrap around the inside of the jar before applying lid.

Option 2:
There are other ways to do this one. Gather those large glass pickle jars. Except, well, not pickles because anything you store in those jars will smell like pickles. Go through Sam's Club or Costco or even Wal-Mart and look at the bulk condiment section... salsa, ketchup, mayonnaise, etc. Need not be glass. Place what you're storing in the big jar/container. Again, add dessicant packages and bay leaves, seal and mark.

I've even used a super-large plastic coffee container, emptied, cleaned, and loaded with small bags of coffee beans!

I recently found a huge bulk pancake mix (just add water kind of thing) in the bakery markdown section at my local grocery, for $3.00. I froze to kill any bugs, then scrubbed out an old huge mayo container. Perfect!!

Let me know if this answers your question, GRITS.

Buying Gluten-Free Long-Term-Stored Staples

As you know, we have food allergies and intolerances in our family. As I was perusing the newest "Backwoods Home Magazine" yesterday, I realized I hadn't put away (storing for emergencies) any long-term-stored oil or butter. I took a look at where I get most of my supplies, Emergency Essentials at, and took a look at the ingredients for shortening powder, butter powder and margarine powder.

Then I looked at the nutritional info. Shortening powder and margarine powder are made with soybean oil, which my Kid (VHTS) can't have. The butter powder does not have that... just dairy which my Hubby can't have. All three are "processed in a plant that handles dairy, wheat, soybean, peanut, and tree nut products". Which means I can't get any of them because my Kid's behavior would go so completely out of orbit if any of that is eaten.

Plan: I'm gonna keep buying olive oil, and keep working towards getting 2 dairy goats to make our own butter.


But that's not all. Many of these storage places (not just E.E.) don't provide products for people who have food allergies or reactions. I can get some wheat for Hubby, but the Kid and I need gluten-free grains like quinoa, amaranth, rice flour, even cornmeal that hasn't been processed where wheat has been. I realize we're in the minority and it's not cost effective to provide long-term-storage containers of these grains, but it is a little frustrating.

Because most of these grains are so expensive, we're buying only a few extra packages every month. (3 brown rice flour, 1 quinoa, 1 amaranth, 1 gluten-free oats, 1 cornmeal, 1 bean flour, 1 teff flour, 1 coconut flour, 1 potato flour, 1 millet flour, 1 sorghum flour). I mark the date, and seal in a mason jar.

We can also grind/mill from our whole grains/etc: rice flour, bean flour and corn flour.

Fun fun.

Preserving Harvests for My Picky Eater

My VHTS (very hungry tween son) is a bottomless pit but a very picky eater. Add to that his food problems and allergies, and we have a problem.

Last year I dehydrated much of our harvest, but I also froze a lot. Didn't do much with canning and pickling. Here it is harvest time for 2009 and we still have lots of the 2008 harvest in the freezer. I got to thinking... what on earth am I going to do?

As I was harvesting yellow squash, zucchini and tomatoes today, I really worked on puzzling this out. How can I get him to eat our harvest several months from now... during the Winter? I expect this winter to be long, hard and early, and combining that with the possibility of a swine flu quarantine, so this could become a very serious problem.

Here's what I've come up with, based on what we grow:
  • TOMATOES: He doesn't like these at all, except as pizza sauce and ketchup. However, all of my canning supplies are packed away until we sell the house and move into a new place. So... I'm dehydrating all tomatoes, and will powder and rehydrate to make pizza sauce and ketchup as needed.

  • STRING BEANS: He likes this fresh and frozen and canned, but as I said before, I can't can this year. He likes them cooked so I'll freeze these.

  • DRY BEANS: He doesn't like my baked beans as well as Campbells or Bush's but he'll tolerate them. I'll finish drying them on the bush and vine (or pick before we move and string up to dry). I'll store them in a mason jar to cook in the winter. Perhaps I can soak, cook, mash, and hide in frycakes?!?!

  • YELLOW SQUASH and ZUCCHINI: He likes zucchini better raw but none of it cooked and certainly not frozen first. I'm dehydrating a batch today. I'll store dried in a mason jar, and powder it to hide in pizza sauce or homemade gluten-free bread or smoothies or wherever I can.

  • EGGPLANT: Same - dehydrate, store, powder, hide

  • CUCUMBER: He hates cucumber unless it's benedictine (cream cheese, onion, cucumber dip) so I'll dehydrate, store, powder, and reconstitute into benedictine during the winter. Hmmm... yum.

  • WATERMELON: He hates watermelon too. I know, unbelievable. I'll dehydrate any leftover, store, powder, and add to smoothies.

  • PUMPKIN: He loves pumpkin pie. I'll dehydrate, store, then rehydrate to make gluten-free pumpkin pies and turnovers.

  • CARROTS: We never have any left over, so we just eat them raw. In the future, hopefully we'll have extras, and we'll dehydrate, store, powder and hide. We don't like the taste of cooked carrots, so this will work.

  • PARSLEY: I'm growing flat-leafed and curly, and he won't even try them. I'll dehydrate, store, powder and hide. I can buy more at Vitamin Cottage, already dehydrated.

That's my plan for the little bit we're growing this year. I didn't have the space or time for really anything else this year. When on sale, I'm buying: beets, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, cabbage, cantaloupe, bananas and other fruit. He likes much of those raw, none of them frozen or cooked.

So, as above, I'll mostly dehydrate (at night since the house gets shown during the day), store, powder and hide.

Just remembered that Vitamin Cottage (a local health food store) has mixed vegetables, spinach, parsley and other things, already dried. Especially fruit. I'll stock up on those, store in a mason jar, and powder/hide as needed. All of the dried fruit, whether purchased dried or dehydrated by me, will do well rehydrated and added to his smoothies. Loves it!

Preserving Nasturtium Seeds (like capers)

Americans like to use nasturtium seeds like other people use caper seeds (the bud of a Mediterranean shrub). The nasturtium seeds are just as spicey.

Gather the seeds (from plants YOU grow to make sure they don't have pesticides) while they are green and let them stand in the sun for a few days to dry. Soak/steep for a day or so in cold vinegar. Drain. Add to fresh boiling vinegar and boil for 10 minutes. Pour seeds and vinegar into sterilized canning jars and cover tightly. Store in a cool place for 5-6 months. This makes them like pickled seeds.
Add to salads or even martini's!
NOTE: I've also seen where people take the seeds, dry them and grind them to use as pepper. Store in a tightly sealed bottle in a close place. I'd wait to grind until just ready to use. This was a common substitute for pepper from World War II. Good to know if you can't grow black peppercorns where you are.

Freezing Milk

Local store-brand milk has been pretty cheap lately. $1.58 per gallon of fat-free milk. Take advantage of the price by buying several. For this, you'll need to get the bottles that aren't quite as full, with perhaps an inch or a little more of headspace. Remember, liquids expand when frozen.

Assuming you rearranged your freezer before you left for the store, place the extras in your freezer. Keep in the container it came in. Will keep about 3 months.

Be sure to check on the milk a few hours after placing them in the freezer, to make sure the milk jugs didn't burst when the milk inside expanded during the freezing process.

To use: Take out of freezer and thaw in the refrigerator. Again, check periodically that same day to make sure as it thaws, there's no leak.