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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Motherhood

Get Prepared!

I think that just about everyone was a little under prepared for COVID-19. It wasn’t expected and that surprise caused a mass effect to everyone in the world not just some countries but all of them. Wow when you think about the effect of it, it’s mind blowing! Stores everywhere sold out of all sorts of sanitation products some you still cannot find, they sold out of toilet paper, they sold out of a lot of food items of all kinds, the meat factories/processors are to my knowledge booked pretty much the rest of the year solid or close to it; this virus caused a mass wave of chaos and the domino effect is still going just now in other forms. I wasn’t prepared for this or anything like it to have happened; but like a lot of people out there I want to get prepared. In my opinion this is not over and it will continue to unravel the world as we know it. I want my family and I to be able to survive and stay fed & healthy if things were to shut down again; and with everything the way it has continued to domino downward it is completely possible it will happen sooner rather than later. Now the questions is how will I accomplish this?

Make a Plan

With anything you set out to do in your life before you can really accomplish anything you need to come up with a plan one what it is you are setting out to accomplish. I find that the best way to make a plan is on paper. I am old fashioned I guess because while computers are great and all I would rather write it all out visually in front of me on paper. I will write out what I want to stock up on by writing my list up by individualized categories. Doing it this way will help keep things organized. For instance our family of five consists of me, my husband, our two older boys, & our new infant so we will have to plan to stock up on baby items on top of regular items for our family. The best way to keep all of what we need organized is by writing it out and separating each item into categories. Just like I did below.

Look for the Best Deals

Now is the time to start stocking up for the coming Winter months especially living here in Iowa where I know it already comes with its own set of challenges without the possibility of another wave of COVID-19. We tend to have really cold Winter’s with lots of snowy days and I know that with how things are currently getting regular items from the store may be near impossible this year so it is better to be safe than sorry. It is the tail end of July 2020 and Summer is getting ready to come to an end here in a couple of months by the middle of September we will have that colder weather setting in. The start of Fall then Winter will follow after that by a couple more months. I look at my weekly store ads and when I do go into our local stores I look for every possible deal that works for our family and that we can afford to get at the time. I have gotten into the habit to pick a little bit of extra up even if we don’t need it at the moment I am sure we will in the future. Stocking up little by little will be helpful for us in the future especially for the upcoming colder months. Also when I go to my stores I look in my clearance aisles just in case! There is clearance in the grocery sections and the household areas and if you can’t seem to find yours you can always ask!

Preparing a Stockroom

Having a location for everything extra that is going to be stocked up is something else that you need to think about. Where ever it is keep in mind that a cool dry location such as a basement or room with no windows would be ideal. Unless of course your basement gets damp or has a habit of flooding…
Most people have a pantry room or location for pantry items; if not make one! You will need a place to store all of the extra items that you have acquired for the upcoming Fall & Winter months. I am in the process of creating a pantry space upstairs on our main floor but our basement will also be a great place that doubles as a storage area as it never floods and has the ideal conditions that you need to store our items. Besides finding the location to store your extra goods you need to be able to store them properly depending on how long you are preparing for. I am mainly stocking up for the Fall & Winter but I am also looking into storing some of my items longer term. I will do a post over that when I get everything that is needed to do that process. Most of the longer term storage items that need to be prepared are food items. Things like toiletries & cleaning products just need to be stored somewhere that they will not get damaged and somewhere that is out of reach from kids. Be sure to store items like medications in a lockable case or up high to keep kids out of it. We use a tool box with a padlock for storing our medications.

If you have a freezer or freezers this is where you should store items like meats & vegetables unless you plan to can those things then make sure you learn how to do it properly to prevent botulism. As for my family we will be utilizing our freezer space for things like meats, extra bread, freezing vegetables/stocks, & extra milk/dairy products. I always make sure my freezers are well organized, that way I know where everything is and what I have available to use. It is important to make sure you are familiar with items in your stockroom/pantry and/or freezer so you know what you may need more of or less of. A good way to make sure that everything is used first to last is by organizing. Make sure you label items with a date somewhere that is easy to see (if the date is at the bottom use a permanent marker to write it on top of the item). This will help keep the items in order and help you use the older items first and rotate your stockroom easier.

Gather Essential Non-Food Items

We all need food/water to live but for some that is not all that they need to live. Some people require medications to survive or will need machines such as nebulizers or sleep apnea machines to be able to breathe air. If you fall into this category you should be figuring out a plan to get extra medications if you can afford to do so. Try talking to your doctor about setting a plan in play. See if you can have extra scripts on file for a just in case scenario I mean its worth a try. Some medications are restricted but some are not. Breathing machines will need electricity so even if you had thought about getting a generator for your freezer but haven’t gotten around to it think about medical needs as well. That generator should be bought sooner rather than later as your life could depend on it. Generators should be on your list for sure due to medical necessity of course but also if you have food stored in the freezers and refrigerators that you and your family depend on. And depending on the type of generator you will need to plan accordingly. If it is a gas generator you will need to stock up on gasoline as well as having a place to store gas cans out of the elements. You luck out with solar generators as the sun is free and has its place in the sky so no need for storing it. Just keep in mind that you should become familiar with a solar generator and how to fix it if it were to become unusable during a necessary time. Having books and manuals on the items you are obtaining is also another great thing to have in storage. A library of sorts will help bring you knowledge especially if you lose power and the internet is down; that phone may only be good for holding down a page in a book in the end!

Prepare for Any Situation

While we currently live in the modern age where things like electricity & running water come easy to us there could be a future where those things rarely or no longer exist. You should prepare your mind and your family for a scenario where clothes will be washed by hand, food will be cooked over a camp fire, and just about everything else will have to be done the good old fashioned way. You may have a pantry or freezer stocked to the brim but what will happen if that runs out? Being able to grow your own food is just as important in my mind so stocking up on seed packets & gardening supplies is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
The best way is to prepare your mind; knowledge is power! This brings me back to a topic I have already touched on but in the end may be the only way to obtain knowledge which is to have a library of all sorts of books & manuals somewhere safe away from moisture. You may not need it now but some good survival books and how to live the old fashioned way books might do you some good some day. Instead of only depending on what we have now you should learn to depend on other things that we take for granted or at least keep them in stock. You should keep things like matches or lighter on hand. Those batteries will only last for so long and with out gas for a car or the internet getting more after you run out may be impossible. To go along with the ability to light a fire think about stocking up on some candles or something to use for a lamp (oil lamps). Lehman’s has a variety of old fashioned items at their store HERE as well as a variety of oil lamps HERE that’s worth checking out. I have even read that some citrus fruits like oranges can double as a olive oil lamp that will burn just like a candle. The point is you should prepare and get knowledgeable about those things.
At one point in my life I was very enthusiastic about prepping I learned a lot about preparing for a SHITF scenario or scenario’s. I have filled my head with knowledge that until the year 2020 happened I had not seen a real need for those preparations until 2020 happened and is still happening. It like oh well that will never happen and I guess somewhere along the line I just believed that. Even though I was sure wrong because we all live in that impossible year I am glad I was able to fill my head with the knowledge all that time ago. I feel prepared in a way because I am not just starting out in this prepping world and I know some of it already it is just putting what I know to good use and continuing to learn from this point on.

Get Prepared!

Covid-19 hit most of us out of nowhere but some of us not so much. Some of us were able to prepare and will continue to do so. Those of us who are now awake and just starting out need to get prepared and get to learning how or what needs to be done to do so. You shouldn’t be discouraged because you are not already prepared you should charge the mound and go for it. It was only a month or so ago that the stores were sold out of just about every kind of food item, meats were so high priced or out of stock altogether, essential food items were out of stock, & the postal system as well as the internet was so backed up it felt like it would never get un-stuck. It just happened and I am afraid that it is not over just yet and may not be for sometime. Get prepared now while you still can because the system could break all over again just like it did not that long ago.

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