It has been quite a while since I took the opportunity here to answer questions. Please remember no question is foolish or stupid or too small to ask. I guarantee if you have a question, someone else has the same concern. If you have questions please let me know either through comments here or on the Totally Ready Facebook page or website. Disasters are increasing and the wise of all religions and political persuasions are becoming more serious about preparing. Knowledge is power.
Q: Does it need to be shelf stable meats/proteins or is this assuming adequate freezer space? (question from a week when we stored proteins on the Totally Ready Facebook page food storage challenge of the week)
A: As with all food storage, variety is key. You should have some shelf stable proteins, but if you have freezer space, stock up there as well. Always stock what you and the family eat and rotate it. If you like tuna or chicken sandwiches – then make sure you are including cans of those in your panty. If you love bacon, you can purchase canned or stock up on frozen. Consider how and what you would prepare during a crisis. Can you prepare the meats you are freezing on a barbecue, as foil dinners, in a Dutch oven? Are you prepared with the equipment to do that?
When using a freezer to stock up, be sure to pack it full in case of a power outage. Add water filled resealable bags or blocks of ice to fill empty spaces.
Q: I am worried about my single mother in law who lives in a cold climate….what should I make sure that she has if a storm knocks her power out?
A: As with any food storage plan, you should be sure she has canned foods that can be eaten right out of the can or heated, if there is a way. Naturally, the more warm food during a winter power outage the better so the next item on the list would be a camp stove to warm up food and water. Hot drinks will also be important so be sure she has a good stock of hot cocoa, hot cider, and herbal teas. To insure a supply of hot drinks you may consider purchasing a thermos or coffee pitcher designed to keep drinks warm for hours. If she is not likely to eat an entire can of stew or soup at one sitting, a thermos can also be used to keep the leftovers warm until she is in need of a snack.
Thinking about non food items you should be sure she has wood for her fireplace, if she has one. Be sure she understands how to block drafts coming into her home around windows and doors. Purchase a good sleeping bag if she doesn’t already have one. Be sure she has a good crank radio/flashlight so she can stay informed and has a light for the evening hours. You may consider purchasing several glow sticks for her to use around the house. They are perfect to use at night for night lights in hallways and bathrooms. I really don’t recommend candles as they are too easy to forget to extinguish, especially if you live alone. If you don’t live close enough to get her during an emergency, be sure you have the name and several phone numbers for neighbors and friends who live close by. Contact them and explain that you would like permission to call them during an emergency to check on mom.
Q: What are the Best and Worst canned foods to store (longest vs shortest shelf life)?
A: Whole grains (wheat, oats, quinoa, rye, barley, etc.) white rice, beans, pasta, sugar, honey and powdered milk all have a long shelf life, about 20 years. As always they must be stored in a cool, dry, dark, place to maintain the nutritional value.
While powdered milk has a long shelf life, canned milks do not, only about two years. Oils or anything containing oils or with a high moisture content will not store as well which is why we add them to our three month supply but not a full year’s worth. Nuts do not store well unless they are kept frozen or refrigerated, although they are a great source of protein, so their storage should be considered.
Canned fruits and vegetables all have a shelf life at least four years beyond their expiration dates. Tomato products are the exception and should be eaten within two years of the expiration date or they begin to taste like metal. In addition to the need for a balanced diet, these foods also provide water or syrup which can be consumed when water supplies are in short supply. A three month supply can easily be rotated in four years. Rusted or bulging cans should always be discarded. Dented cans should be used first.
No food is off limits in a storage plan if you remember heat, moisture, light and pests are the biggest problems for any plan to succeed.
Q: Is it better to store canned or bottled juice, than dry juice mixes?
A: Yes. Juices in bottles or cans are best because they can be considered part of your water storage. They will not need to be purified during a crisis, however, your water may need to be treated in order for you to use powdered mixes. Powdered mixes have their place as long as you have plenty of water stored or a great purification system. Water gets boring, especially for kids. Always store 100% juice the others have little, if any, nutritional value.
Q: A snowstorm knocked down the power lines, can I put the food from the refrigerator and freezer out in the snow?
A: First…as soon as the power goes out put a do not open sign on the fridge and freezer doors. This will help keep food safe longer. Make a list of items you want out before opening the door.
Can food be kept in the snow? No, frozen food can thaw if it is exposed to the sun’s rays even when the temperature is very cold. Refrigerated food may become too warm and food borne bacteria could potentially grow. The outside temperature could vary hour by hour and the temperature outside will not protect refrigerated and frozen food.
Perishable food can be exposed to animals, pests and insects. These may harbor bacteria or disease; never consume food that has come in contact with any of these.
Rather than putting the food outside, consider taking advantage of the cold temperatures by making ice. Fill buckets, empty milk cartons or cans with water and leave them outside to freeze. Place these containers in the shade so they will freeze faster than if it is affected by the sun. Then, put the homemade ice in your refrigerator, freezer, or coolers. Keeping coolers with ice inside your home will protect your food far better than placing the food outside. Coolers may also be filled with snow and then food added and the lid closed. Coolers can be kept sheltered outside where it is easier to replace the snow inside as it melts.
Q: What do we do about laundry if we live in an apartment and have to quarantine and can’t get to the laundromat?
A: That is a really great question. Laundry may become a problem for all of us during any emergency when the electricity fails. In many of the largest cities of the world, doing laundry without a washer and dryer is a fact of everyday life. We can do it in a pinch, by applying know-how and a bit more muscle.
Making a “washer” out of a five gallon bucket and a plunger is the easiest and cheapest way to prepare.
- Purchase a five gallon bucket with a lid (home improvement centers often sell these very cheap for mixing up paint or cement on the job).
- Purchase a plunger.
- In the center of the lid cut a hole large enough for the handle of a plunger to fit through.
- Fill bucket 1/2 full with water.
- Add small amount of liquid laundry detergent.
- Add a few items of clothing.
- Insert the plunger handle through the hole in the lid and replace the lid.
- Agitate by moving the plunger up and down.
- To rinse, repeat the process with clean water.
This is best done on a floor which will not be damaged by standing water. If you do not have this, then place the “washer” in the bath tub or shower. Have rope and clothespins available to hang and dry clothes. Wring out small items and for larger items enlist the help of someone in your home. One person holds one end while the other person holding the other end twists the clothing, wringing out excess water. Do this over the tub or in the shower.
Home improvement centers sell clothesline pulleys. These are great to attach to a fence or across an alley to a neighbor’s balcony, be sure to return the favor. Towels and heavy items will dry in a few hours outdoors – but will take a day indoors – so try to plan a method for outdoor drying.
In the case of illness in the house, you will need to use bleach to kill all the virus germs. This is why I recommend everyone have white sheets and white towels to be used in a recovery room.
Q: Should I store Himalayan salt?
A: Remember you are the expert for your family. If you use Himalayan salt, store it. If you do not, store what you use. There are definate advantages to using Himalayan salt which contain other minerals naturally. Both store well.
Q: You said storing spices is important. How do you store them?
A: Spices really help make eating stored food more fun and they can make the same old foods taste new and more exciting. Spices can even be used to sprinkle on popcorn for a new twist on an old favorite. Spices can be purchased in many sizes. Add small packages to your General Store for long term use. Spices like taco seasoning will last much longer in small pouches because the air will not degrade them. For short term, purchase larger containers of the spices you use often, thus saving money. Spices also store well in the refrigerator or freezer.
Q: I heard you say 40% of first responders are likely to be unavailable to help. Who are first responders?
A: First remember first responders have homes and families too. They may not report following a disaster because they can not physically get to the location due to blocked roads, have their own medical emergency, a family member is in need of care or they are attempting to save their home or evacuate themselves.
A first responder is a person with specialized training who is among the first to arrive and provide assistance at the scene, such as an accident, natural disaster, medical emergency, fire, crime, or terrorist attack.
Fire fighters, law enforcement personnel, medical personnel such as doctors, nurses and medical technicians, utility workers and public health professionals are all first responders. However, depending on the emergency organizations such as the Salvation Army, HAM radio operators, and CERT trained persons may also be necessary to meet needs and may be essential in the first hours following a disaster thus being considered first responders.
Again, please never be afraid to ask questions, I love them!
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