Adventure, gardening, Meal Time, Motherhood

Long Term Storage: Food and Everything Else

If 2020 has taught anyone anything its that being prepared is something that is very much needed. I hadn’t really gotten very far in the past when attempting to store food long term or even as a rotating pantry that was big enough to last a long time if needed. After witnessing first hand not having the food my family needed during a time when food was scarce and some even hard to find such as meats or meat products especially those that are typically used in long term food storage. During that time when stores were near empty and this unknown virus at the time was lurking everywhere it seemed I became afraid. I had never been put in a situation like that where I had to ration food for my family. There was that lurking question, What if we can’t get more? Or What if we don’t have money to buy more?

Those are not questions that I had ever had to face as it was always there. I remember more than a few times where my husband and I had to make the decision not to eat or not to eat as much during this time because our kids needed it more than we did. We would do anything for them including starve because we can take it and that is just the kind of thing you do as a parent for your kids. It was at this moment when I realized how foolish we had been in our spending over the years and would need to change them in the future that was if things ever started to feel normal again. Lucky for us it has started to feel normal again and I know that this is not a feeling that everyone is feeling I mean normal will never be the same again and the normal we feel now is different of course.

Rotating Pantry Vs. Long Term Food Storage

It is important to prepare; that is one big thing I learned just a few months ago and that is exactly what we have been doing with whatever extra funds we have. We are preparing for the winter firstly then plan to continue preparing for the future. For our pantry it is planned to be a rotating pantry that is kept well stocked with foods that we will use everyday but replenished so that we have them on hand when needed. What do I mean when I say rotating pantry? Well that is basically a pantry that is constantly being used up and replenished by using up the older stuff first. The stuff closer to expiring should be used first then so on after that. Then you would buy whatever was used up to replace it in the pantry.

On top of a rotating pantry I am creating a long term food stockpile by using Mylar bags to store items such as dry beans, rice, flour, oats, ect. I suggest that when or if you choose to store food in Mylar bags you do extensive research on what you can store and how to do it properly so that it doesn’t go bad in the Mylar bags. I am not a professional at all and am just sharing with you what I have done and will share future updates on how they all turned out. For me I used 5 mil sized Mylar 1 Gallon bags and a plain old iron to seal up the bags and 1000cc oxygen absorbers to take the oxygen out of the bags. The recommended oxygen absorber for a 1 Gallon Mylar bag is 300cc-500cc I believe I ordered the 1000cc because I had a hard time finding the others and so that’s what I got. Now even though I got a much larger absorber means it will work just fine but I would have been fine with a 500cc as well. No big deal as it will do the job it needs to do!

Above are the bags I put together recently I did several bags of various types of dry beans and some bags of Jasmine rice as well. On each of them I made sure to label what the contents of each were with a black permanent marker and then wrote the date I packaged them up. Even though it may sound a bit funny on the beans I also wrote that they will need to be checked for rocks before using as usually you will find small pebbles that look like beans in with the actual beans. It is always better to be safe rather than break a tooth or worse!

How did I do this whole process of packaging and sealing them up?

  1. Well first I took each 1 Gallon bag and set it in a pitcher like the pictures below.
  2. Next I carefully poured each type of food I was storing in this case each type of beans in the correct bag in increments of 3-4 lbs. in each bag. I stored black beans, 16 bean soup, & pinto beans. Then of course a few bags of Jasmine rice as well.
  3. I sealed each bag with a hot iron on the edge of my table. (You can use a wooden board for this as most people do this but I figured this would work for me as I did not have a spare board lying around). I made sure to leave a space big enough to put the oxygen absorbers in later for the final sealing. I set them all aside for them to patiently wait until I was ready for that very last step of final sealing them.
  4. I made up 10 bags of food in Mylar bags, this is important because this was the amount of oxygen absorbers in one pack. I would be able to use all of the absorbers in that one pack so none was wasted because I do not have a canning jar to seal them in to keep them fresh for longer.
  5. For that last step I set up each bag in a tote and made sure each had that opening meant for the oxygen absorber opened enough to quickly put it in then seal it up when I set my timer, because you have roughly about 15 minute to get them in the bags and sealed up before they are useless. Note: to make sure they are good to even use check the pack for an indicator that should still be pink as ever package of oxygen absorbers should have an indicator sealed inside with them to tell if they have been compromised or are still good to use. Pink is good white is not!
  6. Once I got them prepped I started the timer and went to town placing the oxygen absorbers in each first then grabbing each bag to finish the seal with a hot iron. I sealed the bags on both sides to make sure they were sealed and to double check I checked each seam just to be sure. The whole process to add the absorbers and to then seal each of the 10 bags only took about 6 minutes.
  7. For best results I will be storing them in a tote that is a solid color with a lid. To keep the light out in our basement which will also be great because it is naturally dark, cool, and dry.

    You want to make sure that when storing food it is sealed in some container to keep bugs out, that it is somewhere cooler to keep it from spoiling, and also that it is not somewhere that will get wet or where there is moisture even if the food is sealed in Mylar. Always take precautions because it could mean the difference between starving and not starving some day!

Setting Up a Rotating Pantry

My family has been fortunate to be able to purchase some Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers for longer food storage but it is not required. They are a bit expensive and a lot of places were starting to go out of stock and weren’t expected to get them in anytime soon at least the correctly thickened ones that are meant to last a long time. As there are different sizes of thickness for Mylar bags that effect the ability for the bag and product inside to last for longer and shorter time frames. The recommended thickness is at least a 5 mil or higher as they tend to give the longer storage times versus a lower thickness of a bag. They will hold up better and will keep their seal when they are thicker. I got all of my Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers from a combination of stores Pack Fresh USA and Discount Mylar Bags; I would recommend going directly through these companies rather than through Amazon because you would be in direct connection with the company selling to you rather than through another party. I find this to be the best way to do any kind of shopping for stuff like this.

I have done lots of research even before covid happened I had started this process before just never finished it well never really got going just learned about it through research. I have gotten a late start to this now and I think a lot of people have; so let me make something clear Mylar bags are not a necessity and you shouldn’t feel like you have to do food storage quick at the moment at least. Right now during this time where stores are restocking and people are calm is the time to build a food stock pile or rotating pantry nice and easy. No need to panic buy or rush.

Panic buying will only drain your bank/funds and leave you with nothing or possibly very little depending on when you do your panic buying which is usually at the very last minute possible when things have turned for the worse. Pretty much three months ago for a lot of people including myself. Instead be smart about your food purchases so by that I mean whenever you get your regular groceries grab some extra stuff that you don’t need and this should not be limited to food think about all of the things you need on top of food to make your lives easier like soaps, dishwashing detergent, laundry soap, feminine products, diapers, wipes, sanitizer, cleaning products, medications, and so much more! Just when you can grab a little extra when you are shopping and over time you will be surprised on how much you can accumulate by doing this. I suggest that you shop clearance items and if you are able to freeze things grab extra dairy products or meats and freeze them. You could even learn how to can food but that is if you can find the equipment needed for canning as of lately it has been quite scarce. You should figure up how much you and your family will need for at least a 3 month span then start accumulating that amount of extra stuff and food. Then after that continue to at least 6 months.

Other Things to Think About

So now you have established a plan and possibly started accumulating your Rotating Pantry now what? Well there are some things that you should think about which kind of ties into when I previous talked about storing food in Mylar bags it is sort of the same for any form of food pantry like storage. Where and how are you going to store your pantry and household items? This place should be dark, cool, & dry and free from insects or rodents if possible. If you do have insects or are worried about items be sure to place the items that would be vulnerable to damages into airtight lidded containers that are a hard plastic. Items such as boxed pastas, instant potatoes, or anything that would sustain damage from moisture, light, heat, insects, or rodents should be placed inside such containers. And then of course store these items so that they are easy to rotate so I would recommend organizing them for sure instead of just tossing them in a tote. This will be my next thing I need accomplish in my pantry when I can get all of the storage totes that I need to get that is.

Food and household items are very important things to stock up on but there are other must haves to think about. For instance if you have pets or other animals you need to think about keeping a food source open and readily available for them long term. You should also think of how you would provide clean water not only for them but for you and your family as well. A way to sanitize and clean your water so it will be drinkable is just as important as having a food plan. Then if you have animals depending on you as well as a family you need to think about how to accomplish this whether you get a water filtering system, invest in rain barrels for water collection from rain/snow, or if you invest in some sort of purification plan from other sources. There are a lot of ways to obtain fresh clean water you just need to figure out what will work best for your family and any animals you have!

Now what if a scenario happens that forces you to utilize your food pantry & water system for purification but the power goes out. What would be your plan for a power shut down? Most people depend on electricity in there homes to survive in these modern times but it would be wise to have a back up plan if the power grid were to shut down suddenly. A generator would be something to invest in but one with enough power to power items such as freezers and refrigerators’ or AC units and other important items that run on power. With this being something that would help keep freezer running which are important for my family because it preserves some of our food I would suggest a solar powered generator. Stocking up on enough fuel to run a gas powered generator long term seems like it may not be the right choice since a power grid outage would also effect surrounding business such as gas stations and fuel is a resource that would have to be replenished once it ran out. It would be very unpredictable to assume that you would always have access to a gas station in the future if something like this scenario ever happened in real life. Unless the sun all of a sudden goes out of commission you would have the best luck with a solar generator along with proper knowledge of how one works ect.

Speaking of knowledge being able to accumulate knowledge both in your head and in a physical book will be of great value because a book will generally last longer than the internet. The more knowledge you fill your mind with now will be able to help you in times that may happen later on when that knowledge isn’t readily available to learn at that time. Maybe you print off information from the internet, buy books, or simply copy from the internet or books by long hand if you don’t have access to a printer and also cannot buy books. There are tons of ways to accumulate knowledge but definitely worth investing in it in the end.

Finally one of the last things that is important to think about in preparing for just in case scenarios in this post is that you should make yourself familiar with growing your own food some way and all of the knowledge needed to not only grow your food but to also preserve it and keep it going year after year. It would be wise to learn this skill even if you just have a few plants in containers growing on a porch or if you have a full on farm with animals and crops. Being able to grow/raise your own food will be valuable if you ever ran into future scenario where food was scarce again not only for eating but also as a way to barter for other items that you may need and don’t have. You should not leave any stone unturned when it comes to learning new skills and preparing for the future just in case something like what happened just months ago happens again or much worse! Get prepared!

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Garden Harvesting 2020

It’s taken nearly all of summer but I am finally picking fresh sweet corn. The corn variety that I planted is a white sweet corn which was a different kind than I normally have grown in the past. I was nervous that since it was a different variety and from a new seller it may not turn out but to my surprise it turned out pretty good with little complaints. I don’t do any pesticides as I grow all the garden food naturally. There is a little bug damage to some ears but not much; I would say my one complaint with this variety is that a lot of the ears that put on are very small.
Out of the 30 ears about half of them are on the smaller side compared to a full sized ear of corn for all of them. Today is the second time this week that I have picked corn from my small garden both times getting about the same amount pictured below. With half of the corn planted not turning out to the size I had hoped for I will not have a bunch to freeze this year but like mentioned in previous posts this years garden was a test to see what grows well in this new area.
We moved into this house last year so even though we live in the same area that we both grew up in, my husband & I; this marks our first year growing a garden at this house. Living in Iowa corn usually does pretty well so for my plan next year is to plant triple and maybe even quadruple what I planted this year. We love our corn! Everything else will have to find a balance on and learn when the best time is to grow some of the other plants I tried out this year.

The tomatoes have finally put on fruit this year but I did expect a later time for putting fruit on because I got started in my garden later than I wanted to. There are none that have turned that ripe red color but will soon be on their way. I have two varieties that I planted this year; a Beefsteak & a Roma. Both varieties are coming on most of the plants that I planted. I have them a little too close together this year so will be planting further apart next spring. In the picture you will see that they kind of exploded into vegetation; we have had quite a lot of rain recently so they went a little wild. On a few of my tomato plants they have gotten sick and from what I have learned from YouTube and just reading up on growing a garden when a plant gets sick from what ever, it can spread to other plants.
Now I am not sure if it is only spread between plants of the same variety or any plant in general but to be safe I am trying my best to separate the sick ones from the healthy ones. I haven’t had to tear any up as the main ones that have gotten sick are in the containers so I have just moved them away from what I planted in the ground to another part of the yard. This is mainly because some of those sick plants have fruit on them and they don’t look like the fruit is suffering so I want to see if those turn out even if the plant is sick.
Maybe one of you reading this knows what to expect? If so let me know in the comments. I am on a learning journey and in order to learn I need to experience; I learn best by doing. I expect that in a couple of weeks or less depending on the weather I should be expecting ripened tomatoes for our family to enjoy too.

As the summer is nearing its end and the fall is coming afterwards a lot of people usually start planting a fall garden for fall harvesting before winter. I will not be planting for fall this year I hope that next year I will be able to when I have a bigger garden area that is more organized than this years is. I have an over crowding of tomatoes in the area that I would just tear out to plant a fall garden but since they have taken over the small space I will try it next year.
Also I have watermelon that I tried to grow this year in containers and surprisingly enough I managed to grow actual fruit but I worry they are not going to get very big and they are a big melon variety. I am just watching them and letting them do their own thing. The melons and bell peppers seem to take the longest to grow.
Unfortunately I am beginning to wonder if I will ever get bell peppers on all of the plants I planted as I am just now starting to have those fruit set on a couple of plants. Everything else in our little garden was a giant flop! The pea plant has gotten sick after holding on for so long it is starting to die off. I more than likely will not plant peas next year my family didn’t really get a great amount from our plants this year and even if we did plant more they just aren’t a plant that we would want an abundance of in our garden with limited space to work with it is best to plant food that we will get the most benefits out of.

We have been over joyed to be able to harvest the food we have been able to grow this season it has helped give us fresh vegetables for us to eat and saved us money. I have learned a lot of different tips/tricks this year and will carry that knowledge on into the future. Quite a lot of our plants didn’t turn out to produce anything; what did will provide us something at least and what has yet to give us anything but still growing has hope to provide us with something, as there is still time before that first frost hits our area. This has been a fun gardening year and it isn’t over just yet. I know that this next spring will be just as great because even though I don’t know how it will go I know that I will learn something new.

Thank you for reading this post; I thought I would share our recent harvests from our garden and kind of give an update of some of what I have been up to lately. Drop a like below and follow me on social media!


Garden 2021 Plans

Well 2020 has been a wild ride and quite frankly I am ready for it to just be over, can we just skip the rest of 2020 because it feels like it may just continue this spiral downwards. Like most people I can’t take anymore of 2020 its just gotten to that insane level and we are only halfway through! In a previous post I wrote about my 2020 garden and how it was doing or really not doing this year. Some things that I planted have still yet to produce anything at all such as my broccoli & bell peppers however a lot of other things have started to fruit. I now have 3 official tomatoes, 4 watermelon growing strong, & like 30 ears of sweet corn growing. This year was sort of an experimental variety to see what grows best in ground vs. in containers; also because we didn’t get the timing down. The verdict is in and the ground will be the best option for our family and next year we will have more time to be able to that.
I have been busy with a whole lot of different things in our household. Home school prep, slowly stocking up for fall, quitting my job due to Covid, applying for help, & simply just trying to figure things out! There has been a whole lot of unexpected things happen this year and I don’t for see that quitting anytime soon. I think that we all should just get used to 2020, because it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon! In the spirit of preparing I am working on preparing my outdoor space alongside my inside space, meaning I need to get my prep-work done for next years garden now the best I can because who knows what is coming next. It doesn’t look like anything good that’s for sure. In a past post I mentioned that I needed to make the ground that I have to work with well workable the best that I can. For part of this years garden I used a tarp and placed it over the grass to prevent weeds or grass from growing anymore and to kill the grass so I could then in turn use it easier. I also just needed a clean-ish space to set all of my garden containers with out having to move them for mowing. That sounded like a complete nightmare so the tarp was the way to go. In doing this I discovered that putting more tarps or mats down over the sections of land that I wished to use for my next garden would be the way to go. I would in turn be able to work the land a little better and easier.
I don’t have any kind of equipment just a shovel that I borrowed from a family member. I will be getting my own and hopefully some kind of storage system for everything as well. My main goal is to be able to work the ground easier and without the right tools that will be near impossible. I am not really worried about weeds but I will be looking into ways to combat them for sure. I want to be able to dig into the land so that I can plant in ground and not have to use containers for anything really. In order to plant anything next year I need to have seeds. Just like anything else I am stocking up on, seeds are a necessity. They are a food source that if kept in the correct storage area they will last a very long time. I hope to make a seed library that will house thousand of seeds that my family and I can use for years to come as part of our main food source.

Everyone is stocking up on a lot of things including seeds so finding them online or in store is going to continue to become hard to find. It is best to start gathering the items you and your family will need in the future now even if you don’t get everything it is best to at least try to get some of it. I have had to compartmentalize a lot of items, picking and choosing what I will be getting this time around and what I will not because we cannot afford to get it all at once. If you are one of those people who can afford it all then go for it but we are just doing the best that we can for the time being. I definitely don’t want to go into the Fall of 2020 with out anything prepare because at this point in the game I feel like that is a very stupid move. Big things are coming well really bigger things are coming and I don’t want to be someone who is scrambling to get things done when it comes around. I don’t want that for my family. If you are not thinking about the future now then you should start because what just happened a couple of months ago with stores not getting what they need is going to happen again. The supply chains are not going to be able to keep up if/when people start buying up everything again. Food/item shortages are going to happen again! Be prepared.

A good tip for beginning your path to being prepared is to start planning a garden or something of the sort for spring 2021 now. You should lay it all out and figure out what it is going to take to get it done! What seeds are you going to have on hand? When are you going to start your seeds? When will you plant in ground? Are you planting in ground or container? Do you have a plan for watering? Do you have a way to protect your garden? What about pests?
These are the questions that you should be thinking about. Now a days a garden isn’t just a hobby it is also a source of food for your family you need to take this seriously and protect it! You will work hard to grow your own food, it takes a lot out of a person but it is definitely worth it in the end if you take good care of it. I don’t think a lot of us ever thought we may one day have to worry about not having our normal life things. We get so used to having these comfort items that we can’t imagine our lives with out them and I believe that those comfort items can disappear again like they did not too long ago. So don’t get too comfortable; things are changing constantly!

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Gardening 2020: What I Learned

I have had many gardens in the past all in the ground as using containers in the past have been total losses. This year I got a late start to things as it was being that I was at a hospital from late February to middle of April with my youngest son. I didn’t have the time or really equipment I needed to get the ground ready to plant directly in for all the things that I planted; but this year was a good way to learn. Even being away I was trying my best to prepare by ordering seeds & things I needed to plant a food supply for the summer. I ordered online due to covid-19 and because in the area I was in was a big city. It was highly advised to not go to the stores and at the very end of being up there at the hospital they wouldn’t let you into the NICU if you had been out and about, plus why would I put my child’s life in danger by going to stores. Anyways back to the ordering; online shopping hadn’t quite gotten backed up but little did I know it was about to. Everything I bought or wanted to buy was either very low stock when I bought it or the things that were out were well out! Everyone went nuts, people who weren’t even thinking about planting a garden was now planting a garden; way back I decided my family & I were going to have a garden this year but I didn’t want to get things too early in the year since at that time it was wintery outside. Never will I think like that again, ever. I think my new motto will be always be prepared; even if you don’t need it now.
In the middle of April my son & I returned home; I needed to get things planted but had to wait a week until they came in the mail. I started my heirloom seeds out in ice cube trays, egg cartons, & any small containers I could find. While they grew from seeds to seedlings I got a section of my yard plowed by hand coming to the conclusion that I need the grass to be killed or I need a machine because I had just given birth not too long before so everything was still a little sore. Plus I felt weak still because I had been on bed rest prior to birth for a few weeks. I was able to get a plot of ground tilled up by hand for my corn; but then decided to give container gardening a try just to get the food in the dirt and growing. I wanted to do a variety of food I settled with these: Romaine Lettuce, Baby Spinach, Beefsteak Tomatoes, Roma Tomatoes, Watermelon(not sure on variety), pumpkins(just to see if I could get them to grow), broccoli, bell peppers, garlic, sweet peas, green onions (from grocery store scraps), & sweet corn.

This is a current picture of my garden today. My corn went through an apparent wind storm or what I have concluded that some animal jumped off of my fence down into the stalks luckily not damaging them too badly. I used an old shirt cut in strips and some stakes to tie them up until they get strong enough on their own again to stand freely. As of this morning they have put on silk and ears of corn are starting to grow.
Now for the rest of the garden its a rather sad site. I have decided I planted too many plants in my containers in some. I recently moved three tomato plants out of the bucket in hopes to save them put them in the ground. The ground where the buckets are setting on has a tarp under neath to keep the grass & weeds down as well as to make a plot ready for next year. I am going to be readying a new plot area for next years garden here in the future and will write about how I do that. When I planted the tomatoes into the ground all I had to do was easily dig because under the tarp the grass & weeds were non-existent. Now I know I have too much planted in other buckets as well; I am at a junction where I could transplant them to the ground but I just am so dissapointed in how my garden has turned out I don’t really think I care at this point. I just want to do what I can do this year then restart next year. I am also worried that the plants if transplanted will die rather than root in the ground. Seeing how it has been death heat outside lately it is near impossible to in turn do any kind of outside manual labor anyways with out heat stroke. I will say this the tomato plants I have planted in the ground have started to fruit versus the ones in the buckets which have not. I read/learned that if you prune off the lower leafs of your tomato plants that will help them grow better so I have done that the best I can.

For everything else I am just trying to wait & see what happens. I have a couple of watermelons starting to grow; I learned that as long as you have a plan to support the weight of the melons you can grow them in containers. My plan is a work in progress… My lettuce & spinach died the first week of planting. The broccoli is a failure, you see in my area we have those stupid Japanese beetles that eat everything and I am afraid after finding them in my garden recently they have gotten my broccoli for sure. Also my broccoli has started to flower which is not great if any of you have ever grown broccoli; when the broccoli plant starts to flower from what I have read and experienced the vegetable will almost never grow. It started to grow then in garden terms it bolted and has done so because of the extreme heat recently. I am hoping it can be saved and I am going to be reading and researching what can be done with the plant even if it has bolted.

If anyone has any suggestions for everything else please help me out. I think I will be planting the peppers in the ground directly as they seem to be thriving and I feel they are less likely to die during the transplant like a lot of other plants. In my conclusion for my growing season which is not yet over for some of my plants unlike others it is. I will be doing my in the ground planting next year and will be able to be more prepared. My plan is to placing tarps or heavy mats over the ground areas through the winter into spring so that the grass & weeds do not grow. And then I will be able to work the ground a little easier since I do not have a tiller of my own. I will be changing the location of the garden as well; it just isn’t a big enough space for a full sized garden and it isn’t very easily accessible. I kind of just threw this years together quickly as I didn’t plan on being put on bed rest as no one really ever does. That unexpected event changed my plans for sure then on top of that along came covid-19.
My advice for other people having similar issues with gardening is to plan it out. Make a set plan; plan ahead because everyone is going to want to grow their own food now and some may still continue to do it next year as well. Make a list of what you are going to do, what supplies you will need, and when/where everything is going to go. Gather supplies that go on clearance at the end of this season at your local stores to plan for next year. If you get seeds make sure you store them in an air tight water proof container out of the sun so they will last until next year. If you plan on taking seeds from this years harvests you will need to do that properly here is a video link that takes you through that process, via Roots and Refuge Farm. In the video she explains the process as well as some helpful tips on making sure your fruit/vegetables are pure when they put fruit on.

Things may have not gone the way I had planned but I will still make due with what I have been given for this years harvest to come. I still have some plants that will give a good bounty. I will take the knowledge I learned from this years planting/growing season and use it next year to hopefully have a better season with even more next time I plant. If you have had similar experiences with gardening don’t give up, its a learning experience that will help you get better at gardening for years to come. You just have to stick with it and keep on trying until you get it!

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