Treats and Snacks in Your Food Storage

Treats and Snacks in Your Food StorageIn the movie Zombieland, one of the goals of Woody Harrelson’s character had was to find a store that had Twinkies.  He was obsessed with getting a hold of a Twinkie stash he wouldn’t let anything, including a bunch of zombies get in his way.  It might have been just some product placement but they still had a valid point – a disaster does not make you stop craving for treats.

At the worst of Hurricane Ike, which sent me on my path to preparedness, I really wanted cheese and crackers.  When the stores finally opened, there was no dairy to be found, including any kind of cheese whatsoever, even Cheez Weez was gone.  After that, I made sure I have cheese on hand, including cheese spread  – I know it’s fake, but it’ll do.  I admit I happen to like artificial cheese flavor – Doritos and Cheetos Cheese Puffs.

Adding snacks and treats to your food storage

What Snacks and Treats should you Include?

The answer really depends on you – the items you really crave, as well the amount of space you have.  Some ideas:

  • Chocolate   A lot of people crave chocolate; I do enjoy a good bar of plain Hershey’s on occasion, as well as my all time favorite, Heath Bars.  You can even rationalize that it is good for you, especially dark chocolate.  You do need to make sure you buy it well ahead of expiration dates, and the packaging must not be broken.  When I first started working, I had the misfortune of opening up a bar of Rocky Road Marshmallow Chocolate (these used to be my favorite) and it was full of maggots *shudder*  I bought it from a convenience store in my office building at the time and it must not have been stored properly.
  • Crackers and cookies   Cookies and crackers can be satisfying treats, and not just for the kids.  Again, pay attention to the packaging and dates.  You already know what you and your family like, just pick up a couple of boxes and save them.
  • Nuts and seeds   Nuts and seeds are both satisfying and healthy – pick up a few cans or jars of peanuts, cashews, macadamia, almonds etc.
  • Dried fruit   Again, they are both tasty and good for you.  Pick up raisins,  dehydrated strawberries, blueberries etc.  Or better yet, pick up a food dehydrator and dry them yourself.  (one of my “to-do’s”)
  • Chips   Okay, these are not so healthy but I like them.  Between salty and sweet, I am partial to salty snacks.  Go on, pick your favorites and have a few bags on hand, just in case.
  • Bacon   The only person I know who hates bacon is a vegetarian, everyone else loves it.  Bacon comes in a can, so you have options.
  • Soda   I am not a soda drinker, but I do like carbonated water.  Some people swear by 7-Up to relieve stomach aches so who am I to judge.  Keep a liter or two in your pantry, you can always use the plastic bottle for water storage.  Or, learn to make your own soda at home.

Tips:

  • Make sure the items you keep are shelf stable, that is, no refrigeration needed.
  • Buy items that have long expiration dates.
  • Pick up items while on sale and stock up.  Halloween is coming up in a few weeks – now is a good time to stock up on chocolate and candy.  You can even freeze them for later use and use them for making other desserts.
  • Follow the same tips to avoid food storage mistakes, as you do other foods.

As an added benefit, your non-prepping teen or spouse will feel a little more receptive to preparing if you include their wish list to your storage.  In an emergency, having favorite snacks would boost family morale.  And, if nothing happens, then you still have your favorite treats on hand for cravings.

 

 

 



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10 Easy Tips to Avoid Food Storage Problems

10 Easy Tips to Avoid Food Storage ProblemsThis post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com

A lot of people are now considering storing food for emergencies but feel they have obstacles that prevent them from doing so.  Perhaps they feel they don’t have any free space, or become overwhelmed by the task.

Having limited space and living in a hot humid climate for at least 120 days out of the year, I am very familiar with storage problems.

Ideally, food should be stored at around 50-55 degrees, with no more that 15% humidity.   Does that mean you cannot store food if you do not have these ideal conditions?  Of course you can!  The conditions described are “in a perfect world” type scenario, and we all know it’s not perfect, otherwise we would not need to store food.

Summer temperatures in Texas reach over 100 degrees with 80% humidity.  To save electricity, we keep the air conditioning at around 78-80 degrees.  The A/C cuts down on humidity, but moisture still seeps in.  This is something we cannot ignore.  We just factor in that the food stored will not last as long as it would have at cooler, drier temperatures.

Here are some tips:

  • Clear out an area before getting started, or as you supply grows.  Clean out the junk closet and sell or donate items, leaving free space for food storage.  Try using underutilized spaces such as under the beds, inside empty suitcases or TV cabinet.
  • Avoid waste and store only foods that your family eats.  Resist the urge to stock up on sale or discontinued items just because of the low price.
  • Choose canned foods that have the longest expiration dates.  Do not buy cans that are dented or misshapen even if they are heavily discounted.  Although some studies have shown they can last a few years past their expiration dates, I prefer not to risk it, especially after a friend’s unfortunate experience.  Getting ill from eating spoiled food is not worth it.
  • Rotate your food constantly.  I mark the expiration date with a Sharpie marker on top of the canned food and on the sides to make sure I use them before those dates.  At least twice a year, go through your supplies and use anything close to expiration.
  • If you are storing bulk foods in mylar bags, observe the proper technique by using oxygen absorbers and letting all the air out.  Label your buckets with the contents and the date the food was stored.  Plan on using these stored foods within five years, instead of ten, if your storage conditions are not ideal.
  • Find out that pests got into your stored food such as rice or flour would be disastrous, not to mention expensive to replace.  Clean the area surrounding your food storage thoroughly.  Make sure the area is dry and pest free.  For additional protection from pests, keep stored foods in five gallon food grade buckets with tight lids.
  • For maximum shelf life, choose dehydrated or freeze-dried foods.  Mountain House, a provider of food for recreational and emergency purposes, just increased their stated shelf life from 10 years to 12 years on their pouches.
  • If you are storing water in containers for drinking, use and replace the water after a year.  Mark the date of storage on the container using a label or sharpie marker.  Mold or moss may develop after the container been sitting in a warm, humid area for a while.  If you do use water that has been stored for a long while, have a backup water purification system by running it through a filter, boiling etc.
  • Make sure your food and water storage is not close to gasoline or other chemicals that emit fumes that will contaminate your supplies.

This tips will help minimize mistakes,  and ensure your stored food and water will be available when you most need them.

© Apartment Prepper 2014

Don’t let those expiration dates get past you.  An inexpensive but helpful tool to keep track of supplies:

 For beginning preppers

Fire Roasted Vegetables for Food Storage

Mountain House Fire Roasted Veg Blend4At last week’s Monday Musings, I mentioned I was catching up on product reviews.  Therefore, in lieu of the scheduled posts, this week is Review Week!

I had the opportunity to test out the new Mountain House Fire Roasted Vegetables.

Mountain House Fire Roasted Veg BlendLong time readers know we’ve tested a few Mountain House entrees, and brought them on camping and backpacking trips.

I was a little iffy about how fire roasted vegetables would turn out, as this is one of my favorite foods and some restaurants don’t even cook them properly.  But I gave it shot so here’s the result.

Here is what the vegetables look as you open the packet.  It contains freeze dried fire roasted bell peppers, onions with corn and black beans.

Mountain House Fire Roasted Veg Blend2

As usual, I followed the instructions to take out the oxygen absorber then just add 1.5 cups boiling water.

Mountain House Fire Roasted Veg Blend3Then mix up the contents to make sure the water has covered the vegetables.  Then seal up the bag and wait.  The directions said leave it alone 7-8 minutes.

I checked it after the 8 minutes were up and the vegetables were ready the the black beans were still a bit tough.  So I left it for another 7 minutes for a total of 15.  By now the black beans were perfect.

Mountain House Fire Roasted Veg Blend5I tasted the vegetables and they were excellent.  They had a sweet, fresh taste and a firm, not mushy consistency.  The pouch contains 2.5 servings.  I had it plain for lunch and it was satisfying.

I think it’s actually better than some of the frozen fire roasted vegetable blends I’ve tried from the supermarket.  They would be great for camping, backpacking and long term food storage.  I highly recommend Mountain House Fire Roasted Vegetables.

Emergency Essentials/BePrepared

Emergency Essentials/BePrepared

11 Emergency Food Items That Can Last a Lifetime

11 Emergency Foods that can Last a LifetimeThis article originally appeared in Ready Nutrition

By Tess Pennington

Did you know that with proper storage techniques, you can have a lifetime supply of certain foods?  Certain foods can stand the test of time, and continue being a lifeline to the families that stored it.  Knowing which foods last indefinitely and how to store them are you keys to success.

The best way to store food for the long term is by using a multi-barrier system.  This system protects the food from natural elements such as moisture and sunlight, as well as from insect infestations.

Typically, those who store bulk foods look for inexpensive items that have multi-purposes and will last long term.

Listed below are 11 food items that can last a lifetime

Honey

Honey never really goes bad.  In a tomb in Egypt 3,000 years ago, honey was found and was still edible.  If there are temperature fluctuations and sunlight, then the consistency and color can change.  Many honey harvesters say that when honey crystallizes, then it can be re-heated and used just like fresh honey.  Because of honey’s low water content, microorganisms do not like the environment.

Uses: curing, baking, medicinal, wine (mead)

Salt

Although salt is prone to absorbing moisture, it’s shelf life is indefinite.  This indispensable mineral will be a valuable commodity in a long term disaster and will be a essential bartering item.

Uses: curing, preservative, cooking, cleaning, medicinal, tanning hides

Sugar

Life would be so boring without sugar.  Much like salt, sugar is also prone to absorbing moisture, but this problem can be eradicated by adding some rice granules into the storage container.

Uses: sweetener for beverages, breads, cakes, preservative, curing, gardening, insecticide (equal parts of sugar and baking powder will kill cockroaches).

Wheat

Wheat is a major part of the diet for over 1/3 of the world.  This popular staple supplies 20% of daily calories to a majority of the world population.  Besides being a high carbohydrate food, wheat contains valuable protein, minerals, and vita­mins. Wheat protein, when balanced by other foods that supply certain amino acids such as lysine, is an efficient source of protein.

Uses: baking, making alcohol, livestock feed, leavening agent

Dried corn

Essentially, dried corn can be substituted for any recipe that calls for fresh corn.  Our ancestors began drying corn because of it’s short lived season.  To extend the shelf life of corn, it has to be preserved by drying it out so it can be used later in the year.

Uses: soups, cornmeal, livestock feed, hominy and grits, heating source (do a search for corn burning fireplaces).

Baking soda

This multi-purpose prep is a must have for long term storage.

Uses: teeth cleaner, household cleaner, dish cleaner, laundry detergent booster, leavening agent for baked goods, tarnish remover

Instant coffee, tea, and cocoa

Adding these to your long term storage will not only add a variety to just drinking water, but will also lift morale.  Instant coffee is high vacuum freeze dried.  So, as long as it is not introduced to moisture, then it will last.  Storage life for all teas and cocoas can be extended by using desiccant packets or oxygen absorbing packets, and by repackaging the items with a vacuum sealing.

Uses: beverages, flavor additions to baked goods

Non-carbonated soft drinks

Although many of us prefer carbonated beverages, over time the sugars break down and the drink flavor is altered.  Non-carbonated beverages stand a longer test of time.  And, as long as the bottles are stored in optimum conditions, they will last.  Non-carbonated beverages include: vitamin water, Gatorade, juices, bottled water.

Uses: beverages, flavor additions to baked goods

White rice

White rice is a major staple item that preppers like to put away because it’s a great source for calories, cheap and has a long shelf life.  If properly stored this popular food staple can last 30 years or more.

Uses: breakfast meal, addition to soups, side dishes, alternative to wheat flour

Bouillon products

Because bouillon products contain large amounts of salt, the product is preserved.  However, over time, the taste of the bouillon could be altered.  If storing bouillon cubes, it would be best repackage them using a food sealer or sealed in mylar bags.

Uses: flavoring dishes

Powdered milk – in nitrogen packed cans

Powdered milk can last indefinitely, however, it is advised to prolong it’s shelf life by either repackaging it for longer term storage, or placing it in the freezer.  If the powdered milk developes an odor or has turned a yellowish tint, it’s time to discard.

Uses: beverage, dessert, ingredient for certain breads, addition to soup and baked goods.

Prepper's CookbookAbout this author

Tess Pennington is the author of The Prepper’s Cookbook: 300 Recipes to Turn Your Emergency Food into Nutritious, Delicious, Life-Saving Meals. When a catastrophic collapse cripples society, grocery store shelves will empty within days. But if you follow this book’s plan for stocking, organizing and maintaining a proper emergency food supply, your family will have plenty to eat for weeks, months or even years. Visit her web site at ReadyNutrition.com.

 

 

Emergency Food: How to Make Corn Tortillas

Howtomakecorntortillas_titleMr. Apt Prepper and I were talking out our emergency food supply which contains a lot of beans and rice.  For variety, we thought we should try making homemade tortillas.

Howtomakecorntortillas_ingredientsThe instructions came from the corn masa flour package.

How to make corn tortillas:

1 cup corn masa flour

2/3 cup water

1/8 tsp salt

Other equipment used:

  • Large bowl
  • Zip-lock freezer bag
  • Tortilla press (you can make them without one, this just makes it easier)
  • Flat cast iron skillet – coat with oil or butter

1.  In a large bowl, add water to the corn masa flour.  Mix for two minutes until you can shape a ball.  Add water by the tablespoon if the mixture feels too dry.  I ended up adding about three tablespoons as I kept kneading the dough.

Howtomakecorntortillas_dough2.  Once you can make a smooth ball out of the dough, you can start shaping your tortillas.  Separate the dough into eight small balls.

Howtomakecorntortillas_separated

3.  Lay a piece of plastic such as a cut up Zip-lock freezer bag against both sides of the tortilla press.  The plastic will keep the dough from sticking to the press.

Howtomakecorntortillas_ball

4.  Place the dough ball on one side of the plastic and flatten the press.   Heat the cast iron skillet on medium heat.

Howtomakecorntortillas_flattendough

5.  Carefully pry the dough off and place on the hot skillet.  Cook for 1-2 minutes on each side.  You will notice the dough start to brown and puff slightly.  If you undercook it, the tortilla will taste like raw dough.  I should know, I tried one too soon.

Howtomakecorntortillas_cooking

6.  Keep cooking until all the tortillas are done.  Serve warm.

Result:

These tortillas came out way too small to make tacos but were tasty by themselves.  They are more flavorful and more filling than store bought tortillas.  This makes about eight corn tortillas.

Next time I will double or triple the recipe to make bigger tortillas.

I decided to see if I could make tortilla chips out of these, since they were too small for tacos.  I cut up the tortillas into four and fried them in hot oil.  I fried them for about three to four minutes until slightly brown, then added salt to taste.  Drain on paper towels to remove excess oil.

Howtomakecorntortillas_chipsThe chips made from homemade tortilla chips were very tasty and filling.

It was a bit time-consuming to make corn tortillas yourself, but I like knowing I can make them in case I run out and don’t want to run to the store.   This skill will also help to add variety to survival foods.

 

My new book is out!

Jake and Miller's Big Adventure

Food Storage for Self-Sufficiency and Survival by Angela Paskett: Review and Giveaway

Food StorageI had an opportunity to review a copy of Food Srorage for Self-Sufficiency and Survival by Angela Paskett.

I like the way the book is organized, with a separate chapter covering food needs for 72 hours, short term emergencies (two weeks to three months) and long term emergencies (three months or longer).   There are more sections dealing with water storage, preserving, packing dry foods for long term, maintaining balance, sustainable food storage, organizing and using your food storage.  In short, this book covers everything you need to know about storing food.

If you are just starting out with your food storage plan, then you are fortunate to have this guide, but if you already have some food stored, you can still find a lot of good ideas.  With this book you will also learn to make the most out of your food storage, avoid waste and use your storage to save money and time.  For example, there is a section on what to do with oil that has gone past its edible prime.  The book also covers how food storage can actually improve your financial situation as you get through some lean months.

I found a lot of ideas on how I can improve my own food storage plan.  The author gives practical steps that anyone can implement right away.  I highly recommend this book.

Now for the giveaway…

What aspect of food storage do you find the most challenging and why?

The winner* will be chosen at a random “Pick a Giveaway Winner” drawing on Friday,  May 16th at 8 pm Central.  *Winner will be notified via email.  Winner must reply to email notification within 48 hours or another winner will be drawn.

 

© Apartment Prepper 2014

 

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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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