Using Four Year Old Rice

FourYearOldRiceThis post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com

We are rotating the first batch of rice we stored away and replacing it with the new batch.  I bought the rice back in April 2010 but did not repackage it for for long term storage until November 2010.  Usually, rice that is left in a pantry with no special packaging will last one to two years.

Since this is the first time I am using my rice storage I was really curious as to how the mylar bag/oxygen absorber packed rice held up.  We don’t keep it especially cold in our apartment – usually 75-78 degrees, and it does get humid indoors sometimes.

First, Mr. Apt Prepper opened up the five gallon bucket.  I didn’t realize they are not the easiest things to open, which is actually a good thing, because you know the contents are safe.  After he released the plastic zip seal, he had to slowly pry open the lid with a butter knife.  It would have been easier to have a bucket opener so I added one to the Amazon wish list.

Rice in mylar bagOnce opened, we examined the mylar bags inside and found them to be the same as when we packed them nearly four years ago.  The bags were still very much air tight as they shrink around the food once the oxygen absorber activates.  When I opened a bag, I found that the oxygen absorber was still soft and fresh, and did not harden as expired ones do.  I poured the contents into a jar, and cooked up a batch.

Pouring rice from mylar bagThe rice tasted good and there was no difference in taste or texture at all.  I am really glad the process works, and feel confident the food storage will hold up for many years.

Buying food in bulk and repackaging it yourself is a cost effective way to store for emergency long term storage.  As long as you keep rotating your food, it will not go to waste.  If you’d like to get started repackaging bulk food for long term storage, the easiest method is described here.

© Apartment Prepper 2014

Avoid Boring Survival Food: Include Spices and Seasonings in Food Storage

Avoid Boring Survival FoodThis post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com

Once you’ve stored at least a couple of weeks worth of food and water, you’ll want to store a few of your favorite spices and seasonings.  Though it would not be life threatening to leave them out, your survival storage diet would become quite monotonous without a few basic spices.

Start with the basics such as salt, sugar, pepper.  Then add a variety of spices and seasonings such as: cinnamon, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, basil, oregano, parsley, chicken and beef bouillon, cumin, bay leaves.  Store only the ones you know you are going to use.

How long do spices stay fresh?

If you keep them in your cupboard in the original package, you can count on herbs and spices staying fresh for about a year to two years.  After that, the flavors will start to deteriorate.  Although they won’t turn completely bad (I’ve used them over the two year mark with good results) they will not be as flavorful as when you first bought them.  The older they get, the blander they get, until there is no point in keeping them.  It recently tossed out a few spices I never used after the initial recipe, after I noticed

Enemies of spice storage

Just like other food storage items, keep spices away from heat, light, moisture/humidity and air.  It’s best to keep them in an airtight container.

Long Term Storage

To make them last longer than two years, you can repackage spices and seasonings for long term storage.  I stored a few seasonings for long term by repackaging them in mylar bags, the same way I stored bulk foods.  The only difference was I used small mylar bags

Don’t forget to label and date your stored items.

Here is another method to store spices, nicely illustrated over at Are We Crazy or What:  Storing Herbs and Spices for Long Term Storage.

Final Tips

  • Seeds, roots and leaves will last longer than powder form, but will need a grinder for use.  I stored the powdered form to avoid the extra step.
  • For best results, rotate your stored items after a couple of years.
  • As with other food items, keep your stored spices and seasonings away from chemicals such as gasoline, kerosene etc. – these fumes can permeate and contaminate your food storage.

 

© Apartment Prepper 2014

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Spam for Survival Storage

can of Spam

This post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com

For anyone who has never tried Spam, it is a canned meat by Hormel, made of pork shoulder and ham.  It looks like a pink brick when you first take it out of the can.  A lot of people hate it, but there are a great number of fans out there.   My parents actually introduced me to Spam.  Since they were kids during World War II, they grew up eating Spam as a special treat.  Meat was scarce back then so having a little meat, even from a can, was a good thing.  My Mom made me Spam and cheese sandwiches with mayonnaise on white bread up until high school when I got too “grown up” to bring Mom’s lunches to school.

spam-pieces

When our family visited Hawaii a few years ago, we found fast food places like McDonald’s actually served Spam, egg and rice for breakfast. We tried it and it was pretty good.  They love Spam they actually had a Spam Festival.

There are lots of ways to cook Spam, but here are my favorites. 

Spam and rice 

Slice Spam into thin slices.  Fry in a bit of oil until browned and sprinkle sugar on top, and a few drops of soy sauce.  Serve with scrambled eggs and white rice. 

Breakfast sandwich

Make a breakfast sandwich with Spam, a fried egg and American cheese between two pieces of sliced bread.

I’ve had good results pan-frying Spam as well as cooking it on the grill, oven or convection oven.   I know it comes fully cooked but I prefer is cooked crisp and slightly browned.

This is not a paid endorsement and I have no connection to Hormel.  I am always on the lookout for inexpensive foods with have a good shelf life that the family likes.  It comes in various flavors such as bacon, black pepper, turkey, jalapeno and hickory smoke.  I think Spam is a worthy addition to the larder, as it is actually pretty tasty if you cook it the right way.

© Apartment Prepper 2014

 

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The Difference Between Oxygen Absorbers and Silica Gel

This post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com

I was telling a friend who is new to preparedness about packing bulk foods for long terms storage, when she asked me if oxygen absorbers are the same thing as the little  packets you find in new purses and shoe boxes that say “Do not eat.”   This reminded me that I was confused about this at one time so I thought I’d do a quick post about it.

oxygen absorber

Oxygen Absorbers

Oxygen Absorbers

Oxygen absorbers are tiny sachets that contain iron filings, salt and clay.  The clay provides moisture, and works with the salt to activate the iron filings.  The process starts as soon as the oxygen absorber packets is exposed to oxygen.  What happens is the iron filings begin to oxidize, forming rust which then releases nitrogen.  Nitrogen helps the food keep fresher longer.  The lack of oxygen in the stored food will keep weevils and other insects from living in there.

Most oxygen absorber packs come with a little pink pill that turns blue if the oxygen absorber is no longer effective.  A few other notes about oxygen absorbers:

  • Sugar and salt for long term storage do not need oxygen absorbers as they will turn rock hard.
  • Once you open a pack of oxygen absorbers, take what you need and keep the rest in an airtight jar, not a plastic bag.  Keep their exposure to air as little as possible.  Otherwise they will all get activated and useless by the time you need them.
  • To be effective, you need to use the right number of oxygen absorbers for the food you are packaging.  This site has a handy chart on how much oxygen absorbers to use. (We have no connection to this site, just found the chart helpful.)
  • Oxygen absorbers cannot be reused.
Silica gel

Silica gel

Silica Gel

Silica gel is made of silicon dioxide, essentially, porous sand.  It is used to reduce condensation and allows the stored item to stay dry even during humid, damp conditions.  You find them in bottles or packages when you buy vitamins, purses, shoes, even computer equipment.  Because silica gel inhibits moisture, it therefore prevents mold to grow.

If you are packing a 5 gallon bucket with silica gel to keep moisture at bay, you will need a 10 gram silica gel packet.   Some items that can be packed with silica gel include:

  • photos
  • camera equipment
  • prescription and non prescription medicines
  • ammunition cans and gun cases
  • seed packets
  • tool boxes
  • luggage
  • important documents

Silica gel packets can be reused.

I haven’t tried it, but silica gel packets can be reactivated – see these instructions from eHow.

Can oxygen absorbers and silica gel be used together?

The answer is NO, they should not be used together.  The reason is, oxygen absorbers require moisture in order to work.  If the silica gel absorbs the moisture, it will halt the activation process of the oxygen absorber, rendering it useless.

 

© Apartment Prepper 2014

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Repackaging Salt for Long Term Storage

Because salt is one of those essential ingredients with multiple uses, I decided to add more of it to my storage.

I bought a huge bag of salt at Costco, but knew I’d need to repackage it for storage sooner than later to preserve its quality.  I know you can always break it up if it were to clump up, but it’s so much easier to use if it does not have clumps and is free-flowing.  I’ve posted about bulk food storage a couple of years ago, but this time, I am doing it a bit differently.

Salt for long term storageMaterials I used:

Mylar bags (one gallon size)

measuring cup or scoop

hair straightening iron

food grade 5-gallon bucket

Steps:

  1. Wash and dry hands thoroughly.  You don’t want any moisture around when doing this.  It’s best to do this away from kids or pets, to avoid accidents with the hot straightening iron.
  2. Scoop salt into the mylar bag with a cup or scooper until it is about 1/2 – 3/4 full.
  3. Gently shake the bag to make sure the salt is evenly distributed throughout the bag.
  4. Squeeze all the air out by placing hands on each side.  Now you are ready to seal.Sealing a mylar bag with straightening iron
  5. Use the straightening iron, set on the high setting, and start sealing one side to the top of the bag.  When I did this process a couple of years ago I used a clothes iron.  But ever since I read the tip from Gaye, Survival Woman, I wanted to try using the hair straightening iron.  I found that it is so much easier this way.
  6. Do the same thing on the other side. DO NOT TOUCH the Mylar bag after you’ve run the iron across it – bag will be hot!
  7. You do not need oxygen absorbers for salt or sugar.  But if you are storing flour, rice or some other bulk food, you will need them.
  8. Label the bag with the item name and date.  This way you’ll know what bag to use first when you rotate your food storage.
  9. Store the bags in a 5-gallon bucket with a lid.  Store in a cool, dry place, with temperatures around 72 degrees or lower.

Here is a photo of the results of my salt storage project before I placed them in a 5-gallon bucket:

Salt Repackaged for Long Term Storage

How long will it last?

Properly stored bulk foods should last 10-30 years, however, other factors such as light, heat and humidity may affect the stored food.  If the food is stored at higher temperatures, the shelf life would be shorter.  Storing food in less than ideal conditions may be a bit of a challenge but don’t let that stop you.

Always rotate your food storage

To avoid food going to waste, periodically go through your food storage and rotate your stores.  Use up the foods with the oldest dates, and replace with a fresh batch.

 

© Apartment Prepper 2014

 

 

You’ll find lots of great food storage tips from Gaye Levy’s latest e-book, The Prepper’s Guide to Food Storage, which I reviewed here Preppers-Guide-to-Food-Storage-268-x-403

Self Sufficiency Saturdays: Homemade Dog Biscuits

Dog Biscuits in a JarWe were looking for all-natural, made in the U.S. dog treats at the pet store.  The affordable brands had a long list of unpronounceable preservatives and additives, and were made in China.   (I haven’t forgotten about Deaths of 500 dogs blamed on jerky treats, FDA says  so we don’t buy pet food from China.)  I found some that fit the bill at the farmer’s market, and at specialty stores, but they were too expensive.

I decided the only way to know what ingredients are being used is to make it myself.  I searched for an easy recipe, with ingredients that are already in my storage, and found the recipe for basic dog treats on the Cesar Milan website.  I adapted the recipe to what I had on hand.

This is how I made the dog treats.

IngredientsdogbiscuitsIngredients:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (you might prefer whole wheat)

1/2 cup hot water (you may use chicken broth instead)

1 teaspoon chicken bouillon (omit if you are using chicken broth)

1 egg

bacon grease

Directions:

1.  Grease two cookie sheets generously with bacon fat.

2.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

3.  In a large bowl, mix the hot water with the bouillon

4.  Add the egg, flour with the bouillon water and stir well.

5.  On a floured board, mix well and keep kneading until the dough is stretchy but no longer wet.  I’ve had to add 1-2 teaspoons of flour.

Rollingdough6.  Roll the dough flat.  I don’t own a rolling pin due to space issues so I used a bottle.  It worked fine.

DogBiscuitsCutouts

7.  Cut out the dough in your desired shapes.  I’ve used various cookie cutters before; this time I used bone shaped cookie cutters.

8.  Place dough pieces on the bacon greased cookie sheets and bake for 30 minutes.

DogBiscuitsReadyIt took me about 30 minutes to mix and shape the dough, and another 30 minutes is needed for baking.  The recipe is easy to make, and does not take long  at all.  Our dog loves them.  And now, I don’t have to run to the store to buy them.

 

© Apartment Prepper 2014

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Self-Sufficient Saturdays: How to Cook a Common Survival Food

Pinto BeansWelcome to another Self Sufficient Saturday post.  Today we’ll take a look at a prepper’s staple:  dried beans.  It is an inexpensive source of protein, tasty and filling.   Many people settle for canned beans, thinking it is too hard to make it yourself.  It is actually very easy.

How Much Dried Beans to Use

1 cup dried beans = 3 cups cooked beans

Since I like to make a large enough batch to last for a few meals, I use about three cups of beans.

Preparing Beans

Before you cook any type of beans sort through them to remove any pebbles or any foreign matter.  You should also give the beans a quick rinse.

There are two ways to prepare beans:

  • Soaking method
  • Fast boil

Soaking method:

1.  Just measure three cups of beans and soak in a pan of water overnight.  The beans puff up the next day.

2.  Throw out the soaking water, then rinse the beans.

3.  In a large pot, add the beans and enough water to cover the beans.  Cook on medium heat and let the pot simmer.  You can add a peeled piece of garlic if you like.

A couple of tips:

  • DO NOT ADD SALT.  The salt will toughen the beans and will not cook properly.
  • Old beans may take longer to cook.  For tips on how to properly store beans, please see Survival Food Storage.

Add more water as it boils down.  If the water runs out, the beans will start to burn.  Allow the mixture to boil for 1 1/2- 2 hours until the beans are tender.  Once the beans are soft, add salt to taste.

Fast boil method

1.  If you forget to soak the beans the night before, do the fast boil method.  Add enough water to cover the beans in a pot.  Let the mixture boil for about three minutes.  Turn off the fire and remove from heat.  Place the pot in the sink and add tap water.  Pour the beans into a colander and throw out the water.  Rinse the beans one more time under the faucet.

2.  Now you are ready to cook the beans.

Follow Step 3 above.

Plain cooked beans are great added to plain white rice.   With a bit of salt and pepper, beans and rice make a great comfort food.  Even picky kids like it.

Another thing you can easily make is refried beans.

Refried Beans

You will need:

5-7 cups of cooked pinto beans (following the steps above)

1/2 cup lard, butter or vegetable oil

1 cup grated monterey jack cheese or your favorite type of cheese like grated cheddar cheese

Melt the lard, butter or if using vegetable oil, add to the pan.

Drain the beans leaving around 1/2 cup of bean water and add the beans and water to the pan all at once.  Careful you don’t get splattered.

Mash the soft beans with a potato masher.  Mix the beans and the oil very well.  If the beans look too dry, add 1/4 cup of water or chicken broth to the mix and keep mashing to your desired consistency. Some cooks like the beans to be on the dry side, some like it a bit more watery.

Mashing beans

Once the beans are mashed, add salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle the grated cheese on top.  Allow the cheese to melt.  Serve with tortillas, tostada shells or tortilla chips.  You can even make breakfast burritos by mixing the refried beans with scrambled egg, more cheese in a large flour tortilla.

Refried beans

Refried beans with monterey jack cheese

 

The Prepper’s Pantry

The Prepper’s Pantry

Why Storing Peanut Butter is a Must for Preppers

Peanut ButterIn the previous article, the giveaway question is asking readers what are their favorite protein sources for food storage.  I can tell you that one of my favorites is peanut butter.

Unless someone has a peanut allergy in the family, peanut butter makes a great storage food:

–inexpensive

–filling – “sticks to your ribs”

–protein rich and calorie dense

–can be used in a variety of ways such as as sandwiches, sauces, cookies, shakes, spread on crackers or eaten right out of the jar.

–long shelf life.

Besides the obvious food uses, there are several other uses for peanut butter:

  • Remove chewing gum out of hair.  It’ll also remove gum stuck under your shoe
  • The high oil content makes it a decent lubricant to get rid of squeaks
  • Attract birds- coat a pinecone with peanut butter and feed the birds
  • Easily give your dog medicine by coating the pill with a light coat of peanut butter
  • Some people swear eating peanut butter helps alleviate diarrhea.
  • Fix scratched CDs and DVDs by smearing the scratch with smooth (not chunky!) peanut butter and polishing it off.
  • Again for smooth peanut butter, I’ve heard it can be used in place of shaving cream, but I don’t know if I’d want to smell it all day long! :)
  • Use peanut butter instead of cheese as mouse trap bait.
  • Remove a sticky label
  • Clean off glue from your hands
  • The high oil content would also make it a good firestarter.

Even with limited space, an item as tasty AND useful as peanut butter deserves a spot in your storage shelf.

 If you have any other unconventional uses for peanut butter, please share in the comments!

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The Prepper’s Cookbook by Tess Pennington: Recipe Test and Giveaway

The Prepper's Pantry by Tess PenningtonI received a review copy of The Prepper’s Cookbook:  300 Recipes to Turn Your Emergency Food into Nutritious, Delicious, Life-Saving Meals by Tess Pennington.

In it you will find 300 recipes using common food storage items, many of which you may already have in your kitchen shelves.  The recipes are easy to follow, and require no special equipment.

The book includes practical tips for starting, building and using your emergency pantry.  I liked the section on making your own seasoning mixes, ingredient substitutes, and enjoyed the section on beans and rice.  Beans and rice are some of the most common and inexpensive items you can keep in your food storage, but sure can get boring if you prepare the same thing day after day.  The Prepper’s Cookbook includes a lot of variations that no one will mind eating.

I tested the recipe for Cuban Black Beans and Rice because I already had all the ingredients available.

The dish turned out very well – here is a photo:

Beans and Rice

Even if you don’t like beans and rice, there are lots of recipes to choose from, and there is a whole section on kid-friendly snacks.  You too can try these recipes – I recommend you pick up The Prepper’s Cookbook by Tess Pennington.

The Giveaway

A copy of The Prepper’s Cookbook is reserved for one lucky winner.  For a chance to win, just leave a comment below:

– What is your favorite food storage tip?

OR

– How many months worth of food storage do you currently have?

 

The winner* will be chosen at random on Saturday,  August at 8 pm Central.  Good luck!

THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED.

*Winner will be notified via email.  Winner must reply to email notification within 48 hours or another winner will be drawn.

 

Emergency Essentials/BePrepared

Emergency Essentials/BePrepared

How to Grow Fresh Food Fast with Very Little Space

Cooked sprouts (2)

Growing an apartment garden is rewarding but somewhat unpredictable.  I’ve had mixed results from year to year.  This year’s garden seems to be doing well (fingers crossed) but I wanted to try another way to grow fresh food with very little space and in a short time.  That is why I decided to try sprouting.

Benefits of eating sprouts

  • Seeds are rich in vitamins A, B-complex, C, and E, and the sprouting process increases the nutrition value.
  • Sprouts are also high in minerals such as calcium and magnesium.
  • They are rich in fiber
  • They contain protein
  • Inexpensive

If you grow them you know you will always have access to fresh food, even when you cannot go to the market.

The Experiment

I bought the sprouting seeds from Amazon a while ago, and finally got around to trying them out.  I chose a mix with mung beans, lentils and chick peas.

I followed the package instructions and used materials I already had in the kitchen:

  • large jar to sprout seeds
  • coffee filter as  cover
  • rubber band to secure the coffee filter to the mouth of the jar.

I know you can buy special sprouting jars but I wanted to try it without spending additional money.

First day:  Soak the seeds in water overnight.

Day 1-Soak overnight

2nd day:  Rinse the seeds well and drain.  I just used my hand to keep the beans from falling out.  Cover with the coffee filter and secure.  Leave it alone in a clean, well-lighted area.  Repeat the rinsing process in the afternoon.

Day 2-Closeup

3rd day:  Rinse the seeds once in the morning and once in the afternoon. By now all the seeds had sprouted.  I did a quick sniff to make sure they smelled fresh and were not going bad.

Day 2 (1)

By the 4th day, I repeated the process and saw the sprouts had a bit of green leaves on top and I worried I left them too long.

Day 3

After reading a few sprouting sites, I determined they are perfectly safe to eat at this point.

It was interesting to see the the sprouts I grew were not nice and straight like the sprouts sold at the market.  These sprouts curved all over the place.  That’s because the commercial ones are grown in sprouting boxes that allow the shoots to go straight up.

I decided to cook the sprouts instead of eating them raw.  I am not big on putting sprouts in salads, plus, being new at this, I felt it was safer to cook them.

How I Cooked the Sprouts

First, I washed and drained the sprouts.  I also double checked to make sure they continued to smell clean.

I heated a tablespoon of coconut oil in a pan.  Once the pan was hot, I added the sprouts and sauteed them with a tablespoon of soy sauce and a dash of pepper.  After about two minutes, they looked ready.

I tasted the cooked sprouts and they had a pleasant taste.  I wouldn’t go as far as rave that they are “absolutely delicious” but they didn’t taste bad either.  I’d say they taste just fine and made a good, healthy lunch.

Cooked sprouts (1)

Would I eat them again?

Yes, I would.  I think they would taste good added to stir fries and possibly some ramen noodles.  Lots of people eat them raw, but cooked is my preference.

The container would have to be thoroughly cleaned and sterilized before making the next batch.

After trying this out, I am convinced seeds for sprouting would be a good addition to the emergency food storage.  Sprouting is also a good skill to have in terms of increasing your self-sufficiency.

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