Gardening for Self-Sufficiency

When my family and I plant our garden each spring, we select which vegetables and fruits to plant for the year like we might pick out treats at a candy store: I love to have fresh tomato sandwiches, so we plant a few sweet tomato plants; my husband loves ripe-from-the-vine cantaloupes, so we plant a few of those too. And so on. We think of our gardening produce as an added bonus to the food we are going to get from the grocery store throughout the summer months.

Gardening this way is fun and rewarding, and it saves us some money on our grocery bills, but it is a far cry from the type of gardening people do when they garden to be completely self-sufficient. Because gardening for self-sufficiency is the pinnacle of gardening and an excellent emergency preparedness practice, today we are going to look at just how self-sufficient gardeners do it. And maybe along the way we can incorporate some principles into our own gardening to get a little bit closer to being able to feed ourselves.

Feeding a family purely on things we have grown requires a lot of planning, time, work, and space. Adhering to the following principles can help us to approach this lofty goal.

PLAN EVERYTHING OUT

As much as I enjoy my spontaneous crop-choosing for the year, self-sufficient gardening is not the place for spontaneity. Self-sufficient gardens must be carefully planned so that enough food is harvested to feed all the members in the family. If you want to figure out how to feed your family on your own crops, you can start by figuring out what and how much your family regularly eats. One good way to do this is to save your grocery store receipts for a month. At the end of the month, look at what quantities your family ate of each produce item for the month. This will give an idea of how much food you need to grow.

After you know how much you need to grow, you can then look at yield charts to see how many plants of each crop to plant in order to grow the amount you require. Here are a few good yield charts for reference:

How Much to Plant in the Vegetable Garden

Vegetable Planting Guide

This process will not be exact, and you are probably going to have to tweak your garden a little bit year after year until you find what is right for your family. Keeping a gardening journal is one great way to remember what you learned from this year’s garden and apply it to the next. Your personal experience as recorded in this journal will probably be the most valuable resource you have on your path to self-sufficiency.

THINK IN TERMS OF STAPLE CROPS

Staple crops are crops that are calorie-dense, nutritious, high-yielding, and easy to harvest and store. Mother Earth News lists the following as the best staple crops based on the preceding measurements: sweet potatoes, potatoes, corn, wheat, beans, peanuts, squash, collard greens, cabbage, and kale. Other gardening experts add onions, berries, and summer vegetables to the list. In reality, staple crops will vary based on your family and what they regularly eat, but keeping in mind crops’ relative yield and calorie density is a helpful way to get the most use out of your garden.

USE GARDEN SPACE WISELY

Some estimates say that you need 4,000 square feet of space to feed a person for a year on home-grown crops. For most of us, 4,000 square feet is a garden size that exists only in our dreams. No matter what kind of space you have to work with, here are some gardening principles that will help you maximize on your crop yield.

1. Use most of your space for staple crops. You may love your pumpkin plants, but think about planting fewer than usual this year to free up space for more calorie-dense, higher-yielding crops like those we listed earlier.

2. Plant densely. Most people grossly underuse their gardening space. Plants can usually be planted very close together and still be healthy. (Actually, some gardeners say close planting makes their soil even healthier! Read here for more.) As an added bonus, covering nearly every inch of your garden with crops crowds out weeds.

3. Use succession planting. Get three for the space of one by planting early-maturing varieties early in the season (lettuce, peas, radishes, etc.), then medium-maturing varieties in their place, and then late-maturing crops in the same place later.

Even if your garden space is small, you might consider growing all of one food item that your family eats. For example, you might grow all the onions you need for a year or dedicate your garden to wheat growing to make all of your bread for the year. Just because your garden is small doesn’t mean it can’t support you in a major way.

MASTER FOOD PRESERVATION

Food preservation is key if you are trying to feed your family throughout the year on crops you have grown yourself. Learning how to can, dehydrate, and/or dry your fresh produce is vital to spreading your food out across the year. If you’ve never preserved your garden produce before, this year is a great time to start!

There are a lot of fantastic reasons for gardening—mental and physical health, lower grocery bills, plain and simple enjoyment, etc. But done the right way, gardening can also allow us to be completely self-sufficient in our food needs. This gardening season, as you contemplate what kinds of crops you will plant, consider taking small steps toward raising a garden that could sustain your family by following the principles above.

Make Your Life Sweeter With Freeze-dried Fruit

Recently, Legacy Premium made the food storage world a little sweeter when it released a new line of delicious and nutritious freeze-dried fruits. Among the offerings now available through PrepareWise are freeze-dried apple slices, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and pineapples. Add these to Legacy’s long-time favorites, mango and banana slices, and that’s a whole lot of delicious fruit for your food storage supply. To celebrate these exciting new offerings, today we present you with 10 ways to use freeze-dried fruits to make your life a little tastier.

1. Eat them plain. This is the number-one way to eat freeze-dried fruits for a reason. Crunchy and sweet, freeze-dried fruits are a seriously delicious snack. And even though they taste decadent, when you snack on freeze-dried fruits, you enjoy all the vitamins and minerals of fresh fruits because of the beauty of the freeze-drying process, which maintains the original taste and nutritional value of foods. In fact, you might even like the freeze-dried variety better! When you have freeze-dried fruits stored, you also enjoy the benefit of eating “fresh” fruits all year long, even when they are out of season in your area. And if you don’t feel like a crunchy snack, simply re-hydrate your freeze-dried fruits and add a little whipped cream on top for a refreshing treat.

2. Throw away the fruit snacks. Feed your kids freeze-dried fruits instead of expensive and nutrient-deficient fruit snacks. Legacy’s freeze-dried fruits are pure fruit with no added sugar or other ingredients. Best of all, kids love them because they are so sweet and crunchy. We recently bought some freeze-dried mangoes, and the bag was empty before the week was over. Our three-year old was the main culprit; she called them marshmallows and ate them like they were candy.

3. Make your own trail mix. All you need to prepare a tasty, satisfying, and healthy trail mix is a few different fruits and some nuts and seeds. Buy the nuts and seeds in bulk at your local discount grocery store, and add in your favorite freeze-dried fruits. With Legacy’s wide variety of fruits, you can be creative and play around with the different flavors you have. What about almonds, raspberries, and white chocolate chips, for example? Or blueberries, sunflower seeds, and strawberries? Mangoes, pineapples, and macadamia nuts? The possibilities are endless and endlessly tasty.

4. Add them to salads. Take a boring salad and make it gourmet by adding in a handful of freeze-dried fruits. One of my favorites is to add strawberries or blueberries to a plate of fresh greens and toss in some olive oil, vinegar, and lemon juice. The fruit gives the salad the perfect amount of crunch and flavor.

5. Put them in your cookies. Imagine a chocolate chip cookie with raspberries inside. Or an oatmeal cookie with white chocolate chips and mango. Adding freeze-dried fruits to your cookies allows you to make a classic cookie even better. Be creative, and you just might come up with the world’s next best cookie.

6. Add them to breads and muffins. Add raspberries, blueberries, or apples to a basic muffin mix and make a quick breakfast your family will love. If you need a good basic muffin recipe that you can mix fruit in, here is one of my favorite recipes from my mom’s recipe box. It’s the perfect base for any kind of fruity muffin you want to make:

Bran Muffins

Mix together 1 cup of boiling water and 1 cup of bran cereal. Cream together ½ cup of oil and ½ cup of honey. Mix everything together, and then add ½ tsp salt, 2 ½ tsp baking soda, 2 cups buttermilk, 3 eggs, 2 ½ cups flour, 2 cups bran cereal. Bake in muffin tins at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes. This mixture can keep in the refrigerator for up to six weeks, so you can make a big batch of the dough and then bake muffins as needed.  

7. Add them to stir fry. Toss some freeze-dried fruit in with a variety of veggies for a little bit of sweetness in your meal. Freeze-dried pineapples and even mangoes can make a great addition to a classic stir-fry. Just re-hydrate them and add them with your other veggies for a tangy tartness.

8. Fruity up your smoothie. Adding a handful of freeze-dried strawberries, mangoes, or blueberries (or really any other freeze-dried fruit for that matter) is an excellent way to make a nutritious smoothie. Toss in a little protein powder and your favorite milk, and you’ve got a delicious and healthy drink.

9. Dip them in chocolate. Have you tried chocolate-covered freeze-dried fruits yet? If not, you are in for a major treat. Dip your pineapples, mangos, strawberries, raspberries, bananas, and blueberries in dark chocolate or white chocolate, and you might never go back to other treats. Chocolate-covered crunchy fruits make a quick treat to take to parties and also turn you into the most popular person at the party. For a healthier version, dip your freeze-dried fruits in your favorite yogurt and then freeze them.

10. Save them for emergencies. Legacy’s freeze-dried fruits last 25 years in storage. Add them to your stored foods and add nutrition to your food storage supplies, no matter when you end up using them. If you’ve been eating standard food storage fare for days in an emergency situation, just think what it will be like to eat a bowl of strawberries or pineapple or blueberries. Legacy’s freeze-dried fruits are a valuable addition to any food storage pantry.

New Emergency Prep Store Opens in Oklahoma City, Offers Legacy Food Storage to Tornado-Prone Region

Homestand Preparation Station Enables Oklahomans to More Easily Stock Storm Shelters with Emergency Supplies; First Brick-And-Mortar Store to Feature Legacy

OKLAHOMA CITY—March 19, 2014—Legacy Food Storage, a Utah-based manufacturer of emergency food storage and other essentials, is teaming up with a new emergency preparation store in Oklahoma City, Homestand Preparation Station, to make it easier for those in this tornado-prone region to stock their homes and storm shelters with food, water and other items critical during – and after – a natural disaster and other emergencies. Opening Thursday, Homestand is the first brick-and-mortar store to sell Legacy products, which have previously been available exclusively through online distributors.

According to the Oklahoma Climatological Survey, the state sees an average of 53 tornados a year, with some years showing as many as 100. As of May, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has invested more than $57 million in 11,768 private and public storm shelters in Oklahoma, more structures than in any other state. The increased demand has resulted in a backlog of orders for more of these shelters throughout the state.

“Residents of Oklahoma and other nearby states know first-hand how important it is to take shelter during an emergency, but they often neglect to stock their storm shelters – or homes or cars – with essentials their family may need until help arrives,” said Scott Harper, general manager, Homestand. “Legacy Food Storage has everything needed in case of an emergency, with dehydrated meals and other emergency products such as water containers and fuel packages that are portable and easy to store. Their food even tastes good, which is more than anyone can ask for in an emergency.”

Legacy Food Storage provides complete meals in Mylar pouches that only require water (preferably boiled) to prepare. Water and other related supplies from Legacy, including cases of water bottles, boxes of distilled water, water purifiers, and purifying tablets will be available at Homestand to be used for preparing foods as well as other water needs.

After witnessing the May 2013 tornado that devastated entire neighborhoods in central Oklahoma, a group of Oklahoma City investors established Homestand to help Oklahomans prepare their families and homes for Oklahoma’s harshest weather conditions. In addition to carrying the latest emergency products and technologies, the 2,384-square-foot retail space will offer workshops to educate the public on emergency preparedness.

“This venture with Homestand is a giant step forward in helping Oklahoma residents be prepared in an emergency – and just as big of a step for our company as we strive to get closer to where are products are most needed,” said Phil Cox, founder and CEO of Legacy Food Storage. “In a place like Oklahoma, where natural disasters are more a matter of ‘when’ than ‘if,’ having the necessary supplies for safety and survival is essential. We want to make buying those supplies as easy and as painless as possible.”

About Legacy Food Storage
Legacy’s pre-packaged emergency food storage meals and products provide consumers with good tasting, high-quality food that is convenient and provides peace-of-mind knowing good food will be available during times of emergency or need. For more information, visit http://www.legacyfoodstorage.com.

About Homestand
Homestand Preparation Station is committed to delivering a well-rounded customer experience in order to help keep families safe, prepared and knowledgeable during times of duress and uncertainty, with the first store located in Northwest Oklahoma City at 63rd Street and May Avenue. Homestand features the latest products and technologies that supply power, water, food, light and shelter to families during times of emergency, as well as educational courses. A calendar of classes and product details are available at www.HomestandReady.com.

Media Contact:
Kelly Wanlass
Snapp Conner PR
801-602-4723

New FDA “No MSG” Guidelines

We received the following statement from Legacy Food Storage CEO Phil Cox, please let us know if there are any questions that we can answer for you! –

Per FDA, Legacy Removes ‘No MSG’ Labels from Popular Meals

With many consumers identifying themselves as sensitive to MSG, Legacy Food Storage makes every effort to keep this common additive out of its foods and will never use MSG as an ingredient. However, new standards from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now require the removal of “No MSG” or “No MSG Added” labeling from any food source containing even the natural forms of MSG (ie cheese and tomatoes). As a result, over the next month, Legacy will remove these labels from several of our most popular meals.*

Why the change?

Although the FDA considers MSG as “generally recognized as safe,” these new requirements are designed to ensure consumers aren’t unknowingly consuming MSG of any sort when labels claim there is none present.

MSG is commonly known as a food additive to increase savory flavor, as well as a preservative. However, it does occur naturally in hydrolyzed vegetable protein, autolyzed yeast, hydrolyzed yeast, yeast extract, soy extracts, and protein isolate as well as tomatoes and cheese, and the body processes it the same it would if the MSG was an additive.

While the FDA requires that these products be listed on the ingredient panel, the agency does not require the label to also specify that they naturally contain MSG. However, foods with any ingredient that naturally contains MSG cannot claim “No MSG” or “No added MSG” on their packaging. MSG also cannot be listed as “spices and flavoring.”

*Legacy meals with naturally occurring MSG:

Italian Pasta with Marinara
Cheddar Broccoli Soup
Potato Cheese Soup
Classic Chili
Beans & Rice
Stroganoff
Alfredo
Primavera
Loaded Baked Potato
Chicken a la King
Southwest Chicken soup
Mac n Cheese
Veg Rotini
Chili Mac
Creamy Potato soup
Vegetable Rice soup
Corn Chowder
White bean chili
Hawaiian sweet n sour

Legacy Foods without any form of MSG:

Oatmeal
Coffee
Creamy Wheat
Multi-grain
Milk
Chocolate milk
Orange drink
Apple drink
Mango dices
Banana Chips
Mashed Potatoes
Corn
FD Beef
FD Chicken
Pancake mix
Refried Beans
Parboiled Rice

Live With Less: The Art of Simplicity

Last year, my husband and I changed our lives, and it was relatively easy. Here’s how it happened. We had been moving from apartment to apartment, all of them pretty small spaces. As is the way of things, as time went on, we accumulated more and more stuff, and soon our stuff outgrew our living space. So we rented a storage shed to hold some of our things for a “short while” until we could move into a bigger space. We paid $40 a month for this luxury. Well, months and months slipped by, and we paid our $40 fee without thinking for a second about anything that was in our storage shed. Before we knew it, a year and a half had gone by.

One day we realized that it had been so long since we’d visited the storage shed that we couldn’t really remember what we were storing in there. So we took a trip to have a look. What we found were boxes of games, old books, random notes from high school, baby toys, and other odds and ends that we’d kept because we thought we’d need them some day. We looked around in bewilderment, laughed at ourselves for being so silly, then got rid of it all. As we dropped off the last load of things to goodwill that day, we felt giddy with relief. All of that stuff was off our backs. Because of the freedom we felt from getting rid of our things, we decided as a family to have a once-a-year day on which we pared things down. We would call it Thoreau Day, and the member of the family who got rid of the biggest percentage of junk would get a prize—intangible, mind you.

This has been our own experience with paring our lives down. We are nothing like Thoreau, of course, who lived for two years in a tiny home he constructed himself and owned little more than the clothes on his back and his own two hands to work and feed himself. Even today there is a movement of people in the blogosphere who are deciding to live on 100 things or fewer. Decluttering our lives can mean decluttering our homes, our days, or even our minds, but any way we think about it, decluttering allows us more freedom. When we get rid of junk, we have less to take care of, less to work hard to pay for, and thus less weighing us down. Getting rid of the junk also leaves us more space for the things that are most important. (Why not clear up closet space for your food storage, for example?) And even if we’re not ready to live on fewer than 100 things, there are still ways we can simplify our lives.

Painless Ways to Simplify Right Now:  

1. Get rid of something every day. (Or every month if you’re timid.) Take a look at all your belongings. If you haven’t used something in several months, consider seriously whether you need it or not. Be tough. In the emergency preparedness world, we tend to hang onto a lot of things just in case. While it’s wise to be prepared for real situations, look at your belongings with a critical eye. Are you really ever going to use that old box of checkers that has sat in the corner of the closet for years?

2. Give away extras. Do you have an abundance of silverware? A few too many clothes? Getting rid of the ten extra pairs of pajamas your kids have, for example, will not only free up space in their rooms, it will eliminate the time you spend on laundry every week and the time you spend picking them up off the floor. Getting rid of excess things frees up space and time in your life.

3. Simplify your obligations. Choose your priorities every day—the essential things you must do in order for your life to be purposeful—and then do those. Don’t worry about everything else. To quote our friend, Thoreau, “It is astonishing as well as sad, how many trivial affairs even the wisest thinks he must attend to in a day; how singular an affair he thinks he must omit. . . [S]implify the problem of life, distinguish the necessary and the real. Probe the earth to see where your main roots run. ” For me, this means deciding to spend plenty of good quality time with my kids, teaching them things, enjoying life with them, and watching them grow. It also means spending time working out and writing every day. Everything else that might clutter my life right now is secondary. Keeping these priorities in mind throughout the day helps me to avoid getting lost in the details.

Once we have the essentials (food to eat, water to drink, a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs, and emergency supplies stocked away), it’s helpful to look at our other belongings and evaluate whether they are worth the weight they place on us. In some cases our things might have a valuable place in our lives, but in many cases simplification can bring us greater focus and free up time and space for us to do more living.

Be Fit and Live

If you’re like most of us, chances are good that one of your New Year’s resolutions was to get in better shape. The benefits of being in great shape are extensive: Exercising regularly helps us avoid getting sick, allows us to live longer, improves our mental health, and increases our enjoyment of everyday life, among other things. But if you are a serious emergency prepper, there is one more very important reason to keep yourself in top physical condition: Being fit increases your chance of survival in an emergency situation.

If you have made the effort to stock up on food storage and emergency supplies, built a bug-out location, and learned survival skills, don’t neglect the crucial step of preparing yourself physically for emergency situations by keeping your body fit. Here are five reasons anyone who claims to be prepared for a disaster should be in good physical shape:

1. Being fit makes you mentally tough. If you regularly push yourself to the limit physically, you condition your mind to endure hard things. Mental toughness is a vital quality for survival during difficult times; you might even argue it is the most vital quality. Without mental toughness, you might have plenty of food and water stored, but your mind will not be able to handle the shock and stress that can accompany emergency situations. Conditioning your mind and body beforehand allows you to be at your strongest and handle anything that comes your way.

2. Survival situations require work. We never know what emergency scenarios might entail. I am currently reading a book called The Cellist of Sarajevo. It’s a novel that follows four people trying to survive in bombed-out Sarajevo during the Bosnian War. One of the main characters in the book must travel several miles every few days, carrying eight gallons of water held together by a rope so that his family can have water to drink, cook with, and bathe with. It is a fictional story, but it portrays real conditions. Whether emergencies are brought on by political unrest, natural disaster, or economic uncertainty, city infrastructures are likely to shut down. If your water supplies run out, you may need to go out to the closest water source to refill. You may also need to go out to collect kindling and wood for fires or forage and hunt for food. Survival is all about performing the daily work required for living. It requires strength and stamina, and the better shape you are in to start with, the better off you will be.

3. Being in good shape is vital for self-defense. In survival situations, resources like food, water, and fuel are likely to become scarce, and, unfortunately, chances are good that those who have these resources will also need a way to defend them. The better shape you are in physically, the better able you will be to defend yourself and your family against those with malicious intent.

4. Being strong allows you to be an asset for your family. Your being tough enables you to support any weaker members of your family. Maybe you can go without food for a few meals a week to provide more food for your children, or maybe you can spare your coat because your body is healthy and strong. The better shape you are in now, the more you will be able to do to help those you love.

5. Being strong can make you a valuable member of any group, whether it is your family or not. We see it in nature repeatedly: There is safety in numbers. Those who are able to be part of a group have a greater chance of survival than those who go it alone. Being able to join a group is usually dependent on your value to that group. If you are strong and healthy and able to not only carry your own weight but also do plenty of hard work for the good of the group, you will be an indispensable member.

Emergency preparedness isn’t just about gathering supplies and making plans. It’s also about preparing your body to stand up under difficult situations. For this reason, physical fitness is just as important a preparation as all of the other measures we take to protect ourselves and our families. Do yourself and your loved ones a favor by working on your fitness goals today.

Prepared in 11 Months

It’s the start of a new year, the perfect time to leave bad habits behind and start good ones. Why not make this the year you become more self-reliant? Cody Lundin, expert survivalist, wrote in his recent book, “Over the years, Americans in particular have been all too willing to squander their hard-earned independence and freedom for the illusion of feeling safe under someone else’s authority.” You may not be interested in moving off the grid and joining the ranks of serious preppers, but take a minute to evaluate how much you rely on outside sources to meet your and your family’s needs.

Consider this: In West Virginia last month, a coal treatment facility leaked a chemical used in processing into the river that is the water source for over nine West Virginia counties, and as a result, over 300,000 residents were advised not to drink their water, bathe with it, or use it to clean their houses, clothes, or dishes. Many homes were without usable water for up to a week. If this situation happened in your neighborhood right now, would you have enough emergency water on hand to be able to keep your family hydrated and washed and your household clean for a week’s worth of time? Chances are you are more dependent on outside sources for survival than you think.

Experts say that one-third of all New Year’s Resolutions have been ditched by the time February rolls around. If one of your resolutions is to become more self-reliant in 2014, we’ve got a plan to help you keep your resolution from getting tossed aside. Why not make an emergency preparedness goal for each month from now until the end of the year? If you start now, by December, you will be 11 steps closer to emergency preparedness than you are today. Here’s a sample year you might model yours after:

February:

Make this the month you store some water. This is a fairly simple first step to take, and it is also arguably the most important. Begin by multiplying the number of people in your family by three and then storing that many gallons. (For example, I have four people in my family, so I would start by gathering 12 gallons of water.) This will be a baseline amount to supply your family with water for three days. Store more if you can. The more you have, the better off you will be. For more information about long-term water storage, here’s a good place to start: Storing Water for Emergencies.

March:

Make March the month you gather emergency food. In reality, this is a task that will stretch throughout the year, but you could make this month’s goal to get 3 days’ worth of food stocked up. Then build your supply from there throughout the year as you encounter sales or have more money in your budget to dedicate toward emergency food.

April:

This month, put together a basic emergency kit. Do it together as a family for a fun family night activity, or simply gather items throughout the month as you find them on sale. For a good list of emergency kit supplies, check out our recent post on the subject.

May:

As spring settles in, start a garden. If you’ve never gardened before, start small. If you have, make this the year you expand your gardening skills. Grow something new or try your hand at growing staple crops like wheat or oats.

June:

This month, schedule a few family nights and use them to make a family emergency plan. Family emergency plans are crucial when emergencies actually occur as they can eliminate the panic and worry that come from not knowing if your family members are all right. For more information about what needs to be in your family emergency plan, hop on over to our post on emergency planning.

July:

Make July the month you think about storing emergency fuel. Check out our post on the topic for more information on what kind of fuel is best to for you and how to store it for an extended period of time: Emergency Fuel Storage.

August:

As you start to reap the harvest of your garden, learn some food preservation skills and practice them. Whether you try your hand at canning, dehydrating, or some other food preservation method, put your harvest to good use and increase your emergency food stores in the process.

September:

This month, increase your emergency supplies. You might bulk up your existing emergency supply kit, make a more portable bug-out bag, or make some smaller emergency supply kits to stash in car trunks, school and work desks, or backpacks.

October:

Learn a survival skill that will be useful to you and your family should disaster strike. For example, you might learn how to start a fire without matches and sharpen your skills by having plenty of bonfires with your family during the cool autumn months. Or you might learn about water purification in the wilderness. There are a host of skills that can lead you to greater self-reliance (think beekeeping, wilderness foraging, fishing, hunting, etc.) so find one that interests you and get practicing.

November:

Up your food supply. If you stored enough food to last you for three days back in March, store more this month. Make a specific goal, like that you will gather enough food to last for a week or three weeks or a month. Whatever it is, make sure it is manageable for you to accomplish it by the end of the month.

December:

This month is the month to review your emergency efforts and fill in any gaps. If you would like to store more food, do so. If your water store needs rotating, make that December’s goal. If you need to add a few more supplies to your emergency kit, do this. Use this month to tie up any loose ends in your emergency preparation.

That’s it. We’ve reached the end of the year. By this time, you will have achieved your goal to become more self-reliant, and you will rest a little easier knowing you can provide for your family no matter what 2015 brings. Emergency preparedness is an attainable goal, and you can achieve it sooner than you think.

 

Preparing the Family for 2014: Five Essentials for the Inevitable Emergency


By Phil Cox, CEO, Legacy Food Storage

From food shortages and natural disasters to political unrest and economic uncertainty, the world is not a predictable place. A National Geographic Channel survey conducted in 2012 found that even though 64 percent of Americans surveyed thought the U.S. would experience a significant earthquake or other major emergency state within the next 25 years, a staggering 25 percent said they have done nothing to prepare for it. Not good.
For many people, this inactivity is due in large part to a lack of knowledge about how exactly to get started. To help you take the first step, here are some basic emergency preparedness steps you can take to get you and your family ready for whatever comes:
Stock up on Food

Results from the National Geographic survey highlight another disturbing fact about Americans and their food storage. If a major natural disaster or emergency situation were to interrupt the current flow of resources, 18 percent of Americans say they wouldn’t be able to last two weeks on the supplies they currently have in their homes.

Again, this may be due to a lack of knowledge about how to get started, but it may also be because people believe storing food can be expensive. The truth? Storing food is not as overwhelming as it seems.

First, add it into your budget. No matter how tight things are, most people can afford to spare $10 or $20 or even $50 a month. Dedicate whatever amount to your emergency food storage. Buy what you can when foods go on sale, or put your money toward a bigger purchase of emergency food from a reputable food storage company that offers food with a very long shelf life. (Some offer 25-30 years.)

Keep these things in mind as you gather emergency food:

1. Store food you regularly eat.
2. Store food that tastes good.
3. Store a variety of foods.
4. Store food that has a long shelf life.
5. Store freeze-dried meals that only require boiled water (and a heat source to boil it)
5. Store an alternative way to cook your food should power go out. (Think camp stoves, dutch ovens, and the like.)

Our family of six keeps a 3-month supply of long-term emergency food storage in buckets (with mylar pouch food storage instead of cans. They stack better). In our pantry, we also keep a lot of additional canned items, as well as peanut butter, crackers and other items that can keep for 3+ months and then rotate them throughout the year.

Store Water

FEMA recommends starting with storing one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days. This is a very meager amount when the realities of an emergency situation hit, so store more if you can. You can never have too much water. My family keeps water bottles stored throughout the home, along with a 50-gallon water drum in the garage, which we then rotate every six months.

How to Store Water Safely

1. Store water in food-grade containers (but not juice or milk cartons, as the sugar will have created bacteria growth).
2. Store water only in containers that have been thoroughly sanitized first.
3. Store water away from heat and light.
4. Rotate self-bottled water out every six months and store-bottled water out every 12 months.

In addition to storing water, it’s also a good idea to store water purification tools. There are a variety of convenient and inexpensive water purification systems, from water bottles with built-in filter straws to gallon-size water pitchers. Other options are to use water purification tablets, apply the bleach method (16 drops of regular household bleach added to a gallon of water), or simply to boil water vigorously for 1-2 minutes. All of these methods should purify most types of contaminated water.

Put Away Fuel

Fuel is essential in emergency situations for heating, cooking meals and powering tools, generators and household appliances. There are a variety of fuel types to choose from, some more difficult to store than others. Gasoline, for example, must be stored according to strict regulations depending on your area and has a relatively short shelf life. Propane lasts for long periods of time but is fairly expensive to buy in large amounts. More traditional fuel sources like kerosene or firewood can be good options but require a little more knowledge and creativity. Many people (including our family) finds it convenient to store quick-lighting fuel discs or fuel cans to use along with their camping stoves, and these can be purchased through some emergency food companies or outdoor suppliers. Some only burn for 20 minutes; others will burn for up to 4 hours per cell, so do your homework well in advance to decide which type of fuel will work best for you (and your budget) – and stock up.

Gather Emergency Kits

FEMA offers a detailed list of basic emergency supplies, including practical items like batteries, flashlights, first aid supplies and other emergency essentials. Ideally, everyone should have a comprehensive emergency supply kit that stays at home with their other emergency items, a kit that is more portable for taking with them if evacuation becomes necessary, and smaller supply kits in the trunks of their cars, in school backpacks, and in work desks so that emergency supplies are available even if disaster strikes when not at home, which it often the case.

My wife has prepared 72-hour packs for each member of our family. We keep them above the washer and dryer in our laundry room. Each bag has a water filter, change of clothing, flashlights, food, emergency kits (band aids, stuff like that, etc), and a few other essentials.

Make a Family Emergency Plan

The Ad Council’s 2013 national survey found that 60 percent of Americans surveyed do not have a family emergency plan. This plan will help eliminate stress during an emergency, and should include specific procedures each family member will follow in case it happens when you are apart.

First, decide how you will contact one another to let each other know that you are safe and where you will be:

• Designating an out-of-state family member that everyone should call
• Use the Red Cross’s Safe and Well website
• Post status updates on social media.

Also, discuss how you will reunite when the disaster is over. Designate meeting places in your neighborhood, outside your neighborhood, and out of town, and make sure everyone is clear about when to meet where.

In addition, try to keep your car tanks at least half full of gas at all times because you might not be able to refill during an emergency.

Summing It All Up for Real Life

Preparation is not about paranoia or hypothetical situations; it’s about doing all you reasonably can to protect yourself and your family from situations that occur regularly across the world. Once you have your emergency preparations finished, you’ll know you’ve done all you can to keep your family safe.

What have you done to prepare your family for an emergency?

How to Compost in the Cold

Back in June at the height of gardening season, we talked about composting and why it is such a beneficial practice not just for seasoned gardeners but for anyone who tinkers around with growing their own food. Not only is composting a responsible and self-reliant way to dispose of our waste; it is also one of the most beneficial things we can do for the health of our gardens. If you jumped on the composting bandwagon after reading our post in June, you may be wondering what will become of your hard-earned compost pile as the world becomes a cold, snow-covered place. We have some good news for you: Just because the weather has turned cold doesn’t mean your composting efforts have to end. Winter composting is possible, especially when you take the right measures to ensure the health of your compost pile.

 

 

Composting in Cold Weather

You already know that proper decomposition in a compost pile requires three things: the right amount of moisture, proper aeration, and a good carbon-to-nitrogen ratio. In the wintertime, maintaining these conditions is a little bit trickier for obvious reasons. Cold temperatures threaten to cool the pile down and halt the process of decomposition, and snow and increased rainfall can easily drench the pile and ruin any air pockets that exist. For these reasons, winter composting does require a little extra care, but it can work. In cold, snowy weather, decomposition can still happen in the deep center of the pile when you take the right measures. Here are a few measures you can take to maintain your compost pile’s processes throughout the winter:

Improving Your Winter Compost Pile

1. Start out big. The bigger the pile you start the winter out with, the easier it will be for it to generate and maintain heat. Most experts recommend that at the very minimum, a healthy compost pile should be 3 feet by 3 feet by 3 feet. If you live in an area that gets particularly long and bitter winters, you will benefit from starting with an even bigger pile. Put all your autumn yard waste in it, ask neighbors if they have any they’d like to get rid of, and build as big a pile as you can.

2. Create a shelter. Your goal throughout the winter is to protect the valuable center of the pile from the elements. You can do this by walling your pile in somehow. Many people like to build wooden structures around their pile or buy fancy compost containers, but you can also simply stack some cinder blocks or hay bales around it. Just make sure your pile is well-insulated to keep it from the cold as much as possible. It’s also a good idea to put some kind of covering over the top of your pile. Whether you build a roof or just put a tarp on top, you will be able to keep it from getting too much moisture. One last option is to simply bury your pile several feet underground for the winter. Then whenever you add new material to it, cover it up with earth again.

3. Keep scraps small. Because bacteria will slow down in the winter and not perform as efficiently, your pile will need a little more help than usual breaking down food. Shred or cut any material you add to the pile down to less than two square inches in size to aid the decomposition process during cold months

4. Add more brown stuff. In the winter time, don’t add green matter (kitchen scraps) to the pile by itself like you might do in the summer. Whenever you add green scraps, also be sure to add a layer of brown matter too. Keeping a pile of leaves, twigs, or shredded newspaper near your pile can make this process a lot easier.

5. Don’t turn it. Turning the compost pile is essential in warm weather and speeds up the process of decomposition wonderfully. However, in cold winter weather, turning your compost pile will let out precious heat and can kill the important things happening in the middle of the pile. Let your pile be nice and still for the winter season and in the spring time it will come to life again.

It might seem like a little extra work to maintain a compost pile throughout the winter, but composting year-round is a great way to extend the gardening season and keep active. When you compost in the winter, by the time spring rolls around, you will have a compost so rich to begin your garden with that you will have laid the foundations for a growing wonderland.

More winter composting resources:

http://earth911.com/news/2012/01/26/your-guide-to-winter-composting/

http://www.compostguy.com/winter-composting/

http://www.organicgardening.com/learn-and-grow/cold-weather-compost?page=0,1

A Food Storage Thanksgiving

Did you know that each year Americans are estimated to spend over $2 billion on the Thanksgiving dinner meal alone? Putting a turkey, pumpkin pie, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, and cranberry sauce on the table is not a cheap endeavor, and it’s easy to spend a good amount of money just to create the fix-ins for America’s favorite feast. This year, try using your food storage ingredients to make Thanksgiving favorites and save money in the process. Trust us, with the recipes we’ve got for you today, your family will have no idea you are serving them food storage.

 Five Ways to Use Food Storage to Make Thanksgiving Dinner

 1. Serve up mashed potatoes your family will talk about for Thanksgivings to come with Legacy’s instant mashed potatoes. These popular potatoes have the perfect creamy texture and an addictively savory flavor. Whip them up in a jiffy (forget about the work of mashing your own) and serve them with a dollop of butter or your family’s favorite gravy. For some delicious variations on the traditional mashed potato dish, try adding in some roasted garlic, melted cheese, chicken broth, dill, or even spicy chipotle peppers for a bolder Thanksgiving potato.

 2. Use your freeze-dried corn to make tasty corn dishes. Legacy’s freeze-dried corn is a deliciously sweet golden corn that reconstitutes to the perfect texture. Serve it as a side dish with a heaping spoonful of butter on top, or use it to make this family favorite:

 Creamed Corn

Ingredients:

2 lbs reconstituted corn kernels

1 8 oz cream cheese

½ stick butter

1 T sugar

¼ C whipping cream

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:  

Cook all ingredients on low heat until butter and cream cheese are melted, stirring occasionally.

 3. Use your dried milk as a much cheaper alternative to fresh milk for all your recipes. Powdered milk can be used in any recipe that requires milk. All you have to do is add in the powdered milk with the dry ingredients and the water required to reconstitute it in with the wet ingredients.

 4. Use your dried milk to make the whipped topping for your Thanksgiving desserts. Here’s the recipe, courtesy of Hillbilly Housewife:

Creamy Whipped Topping

Ingredients:

½ cup water

½ cup dry milk powder

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon lemon juice

½ teaspoon vanilla

Directions:  

Pour water into a large bowl and place it in the freezer. When ice crystals form around the edges, remove it from the freezer. Add dry milk powder and whip the mixture with an electric beater until it is light and fluffy. This will take a couple of minutes. Then add sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla, and beat again until it is the texture of whipped cream. Use immediately.

 5. Make delicious Thanksgiving biscuits out of your bulk food storage ingredients. Utah State University has put together a recipe for Ready-Quick Mix, a dry mix that you put together and store on the shelf for up to six weeks. You can use Ready-Quick Mix as the base for cakes, cookies, muffins, breads, and more. Here’s the basic Ready-Quick Mix recipe and a recipe for scrumptious pumpkin biscuits using Ready-Quick Mix:

Ready-Quick Mix

Ingredients:

9 cups flour

⅓ cup double-acting baking powder

4 tsp. salt

1 ¾ cup shortening

1 ¾ cup dry milk

Directions:

Stir baking powder, non-fat dry milk, and salt into the flour. Cut fat into flour mixture until all particles of fat are thoroughly coated and mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. This can be done with a pastry blender, fork, or electric mixer. This recipe makes 13 cups of Ready-Quick Mix. Store it in a tightly sealed container at room temperature and use as you need it. Store for up to six weeks.

Pumpkin Biscuits

Ingredients:

3 cups Ready-Quick Mix

¾ cup pureed pumpkin

1/4 cup water

Directions:

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Mix all ingredients together until a soft dough is formed. Knead dough 10-12 strokes on lightly floured board. Over-kneading makes biscuits tough. Roll ½ inch thick. Cut biscuits with a biscuit cutter or glass turned upside down, dipped in flour. Bake on ungreased shiny baking sheet 10-15 minutes.

For more recipes you can make with Ready-Quick Mix, check out USU’s Ready-Quick Mix Publication.

Try out these delicious recipes for your Thanksgiving meal this year and make your cooking cheaper and more convenient. Do you have any food storage recipes you like to use in your Thanksgiving meals? Let us know in the comments below. Happy cooking and happy Thanksgiving!