Monday, September 26, 2011

Continuity Insurance - A Challenge From Me to You!

Good day to you all! This is the last of my posts from my book. First part is a list of commonly completely forgotten items. The second part is a challenge to you! The third part is some of the resources used in all the previous posts containing “Continuity Insurance” in the title.

After today and for as long as it takes, I’ll be picking topics and expanding on them from the angle of “I know nothing about this at all, where do I start?” For some of us it will be a reminder, for some of us (including myself) it will be a kick in the butt, and for some of this it will be new and exciting.

Now, I return you to your reading pleasures…..

Equipment and Utensils (Oft forgotten items)

·         As you are planning your food menu, don’t forget that you need certain utensils and tools to cook and eat with. Essential items include:
·         small cooking pots
·         spoons, forks, knives (plastic or metal)
·         metal camping/backpacking cups that you can heat food in or drink from (also known as Sierra cups)
·         mess kits or camp plates
·         napkins or paper towels
·         small, trial size of dish soap
·         hot pad or wash cloth
·         can opener
·         waterproof matches or matches in waterproof container
·         canned solid fuel and folding stove or MRE heaters
·         zip lock bags

Challenge - One to Three Day Emergency Test

Try living at least 24 hours with only one gallon of water per family member per day and only using your food storage. For example: a family of four would need to live off of 4 gallons of water and use only food storage for a 24 hour period. You can make this even more challenging by going for 48 hours or even stretching that to the suggested three days.

You may be thinking this would be easy. Anyone can go without cooking or extensive cleaning for 24 hours. You can expect that your children will have no problem drinking less than a gallon of water per day. However, consider average water usage in non-emergency situations: brushing teeth, 1 gallon; washing hands, 1 quart; taking a bath, 35-40 gallons; taking a shower, 5 gallons per minute; laundry, 19-45 gallons; washing dishes, 10-15 gallons. When you begin to consider sanitation, cooking, and washing clothes you'll notice that one gallon of water is an absolute minimum.

It is far less stressful to challenge your family to survive on your emergency supplies voluntarily than to have to turn to those supplies during an emergency with no experience or familiarity of the items. You may have practiced fire drills with your family, planned escape routes and a meeting point somewhere in the neighborhood, or practiced climbing down fire escape ladders from a bedroom. You may have experienced earthquake or tornado drills, and other role-plays to prepare for whatever disaster might occur specific to your area. If you feel your family has those drills down to perfection, or you are concerned about being prepared for all situations that may arise, then try this challenge. It's a simple challenge but you may be surprised at how revealing it can be.

As for the food side of this challenge, there are a few ways you can test yourselves. First thing would be no cooking with electricity for the entire chosen length of time. After that, try locating a manual can-opener, a specific can off food (like a can of beans, not the peaches) and opening it in the dark. Try using only food ration bars. Try cooking using alternative means.

Make this activity a fun, learning experience for your family and they will come away knowing more about what to expect in an emergency when life turns upside down. Similar to other emergency drills such as earthquake, fire, and tornado, this challenge is intended to familiarize your family with a difficult situation. They may also become more confident and prepared to deal with other challenges that could arise. Use wisdom and caution when trying out this challenge. Keep members of your family well hydrated and fed and it will be a good experience for everyone.

This activity is also a great way to introduce the principle of preparedness to your children. Let them help prepare the storage water, teach them about the importance of clean water and its scarcity during emergencies and show them what storage options are available (containers that are not clear to inhibit algae growth, smaller containers for easy carrying, or large containers with siphon pumps, etc). Let them choose whether you should use food storage or emergency ration bars.

After completing this challenge you may want to take some time to evaluate what occurred and re-evaluate your family’s preparedness plans. Were the proper tools available to cope with limited water use? Would one gallon of water per person per day be sufficient for your family? Most recommendations are for 2-5 gallons of water per person per day in an emergency. Will a food bar work or do you need more than that? Did everyone know where the can-opener was? Did you grab the peaches instead of the beans? When you’re finished, discuss the results with your family and adjust your plans accordingly.


“Just In Case – How to be Self Sufficient When the Unexpected Happens” by Kathy Harrison
“Making the Best of Basics - Family Preparedness Handbook” by James Talmage Stevens
“Marlene's Magic with Food Storage” by Marlene Petersen
“The Backcountry Cupboard” by Dorcas Miller
“The Sense of Survival” by J. Allan South
“The Seven Major Mistakes in Food storage” By Vicki Tate
Emergency Essentials /
The American Red Cross /
The Millionth Monkey /

Copyright ©2010 Noel Napolitan

*All rights reserved. No part of this blog may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author.

Visit my emergency preparedness/self sufficiency/homesteading website! It is a work in progress so, please check back often!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Continuity Insurance - Food Storage - Remembering Rotation

I think today’s blog is pretty self explanatory. So, let’s get into it!

Rotation of Foods

We’ve gone over this partially as well; you want to provide the most nutrition and taste for your family. In order to do that properly, any and all food you have stored should be rotated as frequently as possible. If you don’t want to use it on a regular basis, every six months to a year you should use it for a week or longer and replace what you’ve used. Rotation of your long term storage stops you from throwing away unused and expired items, which saves you money.

How Do I Remember My Food Storage Exists?

Most families keep their food storage hidden and out of sight in the basement or in the back of their pantries. These are great places to keep food storage because they are usually dry, cool, and dark, which increases the life span of food. You will want to be aware of ‘out of sight, out of mind’ if you are not in the habit of using it on any regular basis. To help get rid of this problem, try the following suggestions (especially if you don’t already use these foods daily):

è Keep a little bit of your food storage in the kitchen.
Stock your kitchen shelves with smaller containers filled with egg mixes, powdered milk, and more. This will be a reminder that you have ‘that food back there’ without taking up your whole kitchen. Stock your shelves with canned items, as well. The more you see these items the more often you will use them.

è Plan out a one week menu consisting only of items in your food storage at least once every two months.
This will really put your food storage to the test. You will begin to notice that your food storage isn't as rounded out as it should be. Maybe you don't have enough breakfast items, or your food supply doesn’t have the essential proteins or vegetables. After completing this bi-monthly challenge, you will have a much better idea of what you need to purchase or change to make your year's supply complete. And your family will be ready to eat meals made from stored food in disaster situations. You'll also find yourself looking for and/or creating more recipes using your food storage items.

If you don't know where to start in creating a menu that uses food storage products, “Marlene's Magic with Food Storage”, “Magic Mixes”, “Country Beans” and “Cookin' with Home Storage” are very helpful books. If you can your own food and don’t already have it, “Putting Food By” is one of the best canning books around. They contain some wonderful recipes and meal ideas.

è Mix Your Food Storage With Everyday Foods.
One of the best ways to form rotation habits is by incorporating food storage supplies into your favorite recipes. Some habits formed by the aforementioned professionals are:

·         Use cheese powder to make homemade macaroni and cheese.
·         Grind wheat to make pancakes or muffins.
·         Substitute powdered milk and eggs for a few days.
·         Make homemade cold cereal with oats, honey and dehydrated fruits.
·         Include dehydrated fruit in lunches (it makes a great snack for the kids too).
·         How do you make your food storage supplies last longer?
·         Store all your foods in a cool (40-60°F F), dry, dark place.
·         Actually rotate all foods, dating them using permanent marker and placing all of your newest items towards the back.
·         Store them off the ground, away from the condensation near the floor.
·         Don't wide temperature fluctuations.

Now, enjoy peace of mind you have created by knowing you can provide for your family's nutritional needs. Be wise in preparing so that an emergency won't turn into a crisis.

Copyright ©2010 Noel Napolitan

*All rights reserved. No part of this blog may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author.

Visit my emergency preparedness/self sufficiency/homesteading website! It is a work in progress so, please check back often!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Continuity Insurance - Food Storage - Shelf Life

Just in case my post title didn’t cover it, today we’re going to talk about how long your food will last. Of course, if you actually store the types of foods you normally eat  (rotation is tomorrow’s topic), you won’t have to worry about storing your food for more than a year anyway.

Food Storage Shelf Life

The first thing you need to know is what is meant by ‘food storage’ and ‘shelf life’. ‘Food storage’ is intended to be held long-term and is usually considered low moisture food packaged in either #10 cans or in metalized bags within large buckets. ‘Shelf life’ can mean one of the following two ways:
·         ‘Use by’ shelf life - The length of time your food will keep most of its original taste and nutrition.
·         ‘Discard after’ shelf life - The length of time your food will keep you alive, without becoming inedible.

There can be a huge time difference between these two meanings. Most foods available in the grocery stores that have a “Best if used by” date range from a few weeks to a few years (except for dairy). With that said, studies have shown that when stored correctly, powdered milk can have a ‘Discard after’ shelf life of 20 years. This means that the milk may not taste quite as good as freshly purchased powdered milk, but it is still edible and useable.

The second thing you need to understand is food constituents. All food contains the following:
·         Calories: A unit of measurement of energy derived from fats, carbohydrates and protein.
·         Fats: A wide group of compounds that will break down in organic solvents but not in water.
·         Carbohydrates: Simple sugars as well as larger molecules including starch and dietary fiber.
·         Proteins: Large organic compounds that are essential to living organisms.
·         Vitamins: Nutrients required for essential metabolic reactions in a living organism.
·         Minerals: The chemical elements required by living organisms, other than carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen.

Both minerals and carbohydrates will not change much during long-term storage. But proteins can and will deteriorate in quality. Fats can acquire bad odors and flavors, thus becoming rancid. Vitamins can be destroyed by heat, light and oxidation. Most importantly, even if some of these things deteriorate over time, the fat, carbohydrates and proteins still contribute calories. The most needed of these items in preventing starvation is calories.

The third important aspect to recognize is that the shelf life of food depends heavily on the following storage conditions:
·         Temperature: Excessive temperature is damaging to food storage. With increased temperature, proteins breakdown and some vitamins will be destroyed. The color, flavor and odor of some products may also be affected. To enhance shelf life, store food at room temperature or below (40°F to 60°F is best) and never store food in an attic or garage as discussed earlier.
·         Moisture: Large amounts moisture can result in deterioration and spoilage (grossness) by creating an environment in which microorganisms (wee beasties) may grow and chemical reactions can take place.
·         Oxygen: The oxygen in air can have deteriorative effects on fats, food colors, vitamins, flavors, and other food constituents. It will cause conditions that will enhance the growth of microorganisms.
·         Light: The exposure of foods to light can result in the deterioration of specific food constituents, like its fats, proteins and vitamins, resulting in off colors, bad flavors, and loss of vitamins.

Examples of Shelf Life

Recent studies of dehydrated foods have shown that if it is stored properly, it can last for a much longer time than originally thought. This research determined the ‘discard after’ shelf life to be the following:

Wheat, White Rice, and Corn
30 years or more
Pinto Beans, Apple Slices, Macaroni
30 years
Rolled Oats, and Potato Flakes
30 years
Powdered Milk
20 years

Freeze-dried food is also excellent for long-term food storage. Mountain House® has tested some of their freeze-dried foods and the results enabled them to claim a “use by” shelf life of 25 years. As mentioned above, freeze-drying fruits, vegetables and meats help maintain the foods original shape, color and taste.

Copyright ©2010 Noel Napolitan

*All rights reserved. No part of this blog may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author.

Visit my emergency preparedness/self sufficiency/homesteading website! It is a work in progress so, please check back often!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Continuity Insurance - Food Storage - Storage

And now we’ll go into the actual storage of your food storage. After all, you gotta put it somewhere!

Storing Your Food storage

Okay, now you've got your food storage and you've spent a good amount of time and money to know that you and your family will not go hungry during an emergency situation. But you live in a small house or apartment and you have no idea where you're going to put it all or you simply don’t have any extra space. We’ll, you should have thought of that when you were planning this out. Just kidding! Seriously, many people have this problem (even in the planning stages).

When considering where to keep your food storage (which should be done during your initial planning stage), you need to remember the following:
1.   In order to keep your food fresh and nutritious, you need as cold and dark a place as possible because light and heat can ruin the taste and texture of your food as well as the nutritional content.
2.   You be very wary of insects and rodents.

The best temperature for food storage is between 50° and 60° F, though the colder the better (as long as it remains at least 10° above freezing). Most of the time, your food storage will be in one of two different types of packaging:

#10 cans (standard coffee can size): These are easier to keep fresh and safe, since it's next to impossible for light, insects, or rodents to get into a sealed metal can. As long as you can keep them cool, they will stay fresh for years (we’re talking upwards of thirty years).

Plastic six-gallon buckets (pickle buckets): These are more of a risk, but precautionary measures have generally already been taken to make sure they keep your food fresh. Being made of plastic, insects still aren't able to get into them but it is still possible for rodents to gnaw into them. And, if they can smell your food, they will. Inside the well-packaged buckets are vacuum-sealed Mylar bags. One company calls these "Superpails". The Mylar bags are airtight and do not allow smells to escape. Even so, it's important to check your “Superpails” (or whatever they’ve been called) and the bags inside as soon as they are delivered and again every few months to make sure they are still solidly sealed.

Since heat rises, the best to keep your food is in a basement or a cellar where it will stay cooler than it would in an attic. You can also put it underneath beds or on closet floors. You can also place boxes of #10 cans on their side behind a couch or even a headboard. Just move it about a foot away from the wall and suddenly you have several more cubic feet of storage space.

You can also store your food storage cans outside, but you must take care that they will not rust. Rust will destroy your food. The good #10 cans are double enamel-coated, inside and out, so they won't rust unless they get nicked or dented. Being directly exposed to the elements will generally make your cans much more likely to rust, but there are a few good places to keep your food cool. Just be careful and always avoid anywhere that gets direct sunlight. A crawl space that stays dry is a good place. A garage is another, but garages can get quite hot during the summer months. If your garage is gets hot in the summer (more than 60° F or so), don't hesitate to move it somewhere cooler.

Two words of caution about storage outside of your house: you don't want your food to be in areas that shift from cold to hot or dry to wet and back again. When temperature and moisture content go back and forth, it generally isn't very good for your food. Another caution about the garage is that you want to store your buckets away from gasoline, insecticides, or any other harmful chemicals. The plastic of the buckets is porous and will usually allow the toxic fumes that these chemicals give off to contaminate your food.

Burying your food storage in the ground (thinking that it would probably keep cool and secure) is not a good idea at all. This will make it much more likely to rust or, in the case of buckets, leak. You would have to dig down at least five feet plus the actual depth of your ‘package’, just to get it to where it would be safe. This alone could take you several hours. Also think of how much work it would be to get to your food in case of an emergency, especially if that emergency happens during any kind of serious weather. Imagine trying to dig your food up in the middle of winter. Also, you would have no way to rotate it and that will increase the chance that it will be no good when you need it.

Plastic buckets are harder to store (or hide) due to their size and weight. There are several ways. One involves hanging a floor to ceiling curtain or tapestry a foot away from the wall. Another good idea is putting an Oriental (or similar) folding screen a foot away from an existing wall, maybe in a corner. You can store and hide a large number of buckets behind these things. Even though if takes a bit of space, it is not a lot of space. However, if you already have only a small living area, this may not be possible. Buckets sometimes simply fit better in a ‘layer’ on your closet floors, since they are bulkier and closets offer more space. You should never store heavy six-gallon buckets on high closet shelves, because you definitely don't want it all to come crashing down to the floor or on top of you or your family.

You might even consider making furniture from your buckets. You can stack up two buckets and firmly attach a round piece of wood to the top and put a tablecloth over it and have a good nightstand. You can place four buckets in a square and put a couch pillow on top of them to make a ‘corner seat’. Put six of them together in a rectangular shape with a board on top to make a coffee table. Another rectangle of three buckets by six buckets with a board on top and a single mattress on top of that makes a bed. I know of a person who had a ‘hide a bed’ couch that broke. So, he took the ‘guts’ out and put his buckets inside. Use your imagination and make it a game with the family to see how many places a bucket can be hidden.

Most importantly, don’t forget the rules; avoid high temperatures, light and ‘uninvited guests’. With a bit logic and some creativity, you can keep your food good and fresh for as long as you need, so it will be there when you do need it.

Copyright ©2010 Noel Napolitan

*All rights reserved. No part of this blog may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author.

Visit my emergency preparedness/self sufficiency/homesteading website! It is a work in progress so, please, check back often!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Continuity Insurance - Food Storage - MREs (Meals-Ready to-Eat)

Today's lunch special is MREs. Just a little info and history. 

Meals Ready to Eat (MRE's)

These were originally designed for the U.S. government. The compact pouches contain delicious ready to eat foods. MRE's have been used since the 1970's in the U.S. Space Program, Military, Forest Service and FEMA. More recently, many other governments have started using these foods. Today we have civilian versions of these foods and the military version is actually illegal to sell to the general public.

One of the biggest concerns in the development and testing of rations for the U.S. government has always been shelf life. All MRE foods are packaged in triple-layer plastic/aluminum pouches that have better storage qualities than heavy cans, so there’s no need for a can opener. The food is precooked and the pouches are sealed at a high temperature so that any bacteria are killed off and the food will be shelf stable even when stored at room temperature. Some of the best information available on MRE shelf life is the storage life chart (below) compiled by the U.S. Army's Natick Research Laboratories. This chart provides a very good summary of their findings.

of Storage

Note: Time and temperature have a cumulative effect. Meaning that if you store an item at 100°F for 11 months then move it to storage at 70°F, it would lose one-half of the 70°F storage life (adding 50 instead of 100 months to the storage life). Avoid varying temperatures, in and out of freezing levels. Because of this cumulative effect, MRE's should be rotated and used within 5 years.

The shelf life ratings shown in the chart above were determined by ‘taste panels’ (groups of average people, mostly office personnel) at the Natick lab. Their opinions were combined to determine when a particular component, or in this case the entire MRE ration, was no longer usable.

The shelf life determinations were made purely on the taste, because of the fact that the important nutritional content and basic safety would last long beyond the point where taste became ‘yucky’. This means that the MREs would be safe and still have a high degree of food value for quite some time after the lengths of time listed in the chart.

MRE pouches have been redesigned where needed according to standards much stricter than for commercial food. They must be able to stand up to abuse tests such as obstacle course traversal in field clothing pockets; storage outdoors anywhere in the world; shipping under extremely rough circumstances (such as by truck over rocky terrain); 100% survival of parachute drops; 75% survival from free failure drops; severe repetitive vibration (1 hour a t G vibration); 7,920 individual pouch drops from 20 inches; and individual pouches being subject to a static load of 200 pounds for three minutes.

The freezing an MRE pouch does not destroy the food inside, but freezing it over and over again will increase the chance that the stretching and stressing of the pouch will cause a break any one of the seals of the laminated pouch. These pouches are made to withstand 1,000 flexes, but repetitive freezing does increase the failure rate by a small fraction of a percent. Also if MRE food is frozen, then thawed out, it must be used the same as if you had thawed commercial food from your own freezer at home.

Copyright ©2010 Noel Napolitan

*All rights reserved. No part of this blog may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author.

Visit my emergency preparedness/self sufficiency/homesteading website! It is a work in progress so, please, check back often!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Continuity Insurance - Food Storage - Dehydrated

Good day to you all! First thing I want to do here is apologize for my disappearance over the past week. My wife and I have purchased a new home. The last week has been spent packing, moving, and unpacking. We still have quite a bit more to do but now my ‘office’ is set up and I will continue my daily posting. I’ll let you know when we start our new blog on rural, small town homesteading and self sufficiency and the slow advancement of our refurbishing our 'new to us' 1918 house.

And now, let’s get to it! The last thing I posted was all about freeze dried foods. Today we’ll cover dehydrated foods.

Dehydrated Foods

Lower price than freeze-dried
Food loses some texture when dried
Food is compact, more can be stored in a container
Some loss of taste compared to freeze-dried
Food can be dried at home (sun-dried)
Loss of nutrients
Easy to reconstitute with water
Need a machine to create air tight seal and add oxygen absorber

In the dehydration process, the water is slowly cooked out of the fruit or vegetable, without actually cooking it. There are three different methods: air-dried, sun-dried, or kiln-dried. Food can be easily sun-dried from your home, whereas the air or kiln method requires more equipment. All of these are very cost-effective ways of storing food. After drying, they are stored in airtight containers. Usually they are packed with an oxygen absorber, which removes the oxygen (which allows food to go bad faster), leaving only nitrogen behind.

Dehydrating your own food

There may well be not much that is more satisfying than "putting by" your own food. Bottling (canning) and drying are the traditional ways of preserving homegrown (or fresh farm stand/farmer’s market) produce. Drying food is one of the oldest ways of food storage. The process involves removing moisture from food, while exposing it to high temperatures and air flow. Dried fruits provide a cheap and sweet alternative to sugary snacks bought at a grocery store. Fruit leather and jerky are two snack replacements that you can make at home for virtually pennies.

There are three main ways of drying food at home. They are: sun-drying, oven-drying and using a food dehydrator.

Sun-drying is best for fruits like apricots, peaches, grapes, and figs, and there is other produce that is good for drying. Sun-drying requires a number of hot (85°F or higher) days with relatively low humidity. Spread thin pieces of fruit evenly across a shallow pan and cover the pan with cheesecloth to keep the bugs off your food. Once this is done, you’re ready for the sun. There are many ways of getting exposure to sunshine. One creative way is by putting boxes in the back seat of your car and laying the pan on top of them, with full exposure to the sun through the back window. You can also use sunny porches, balconies and even flat roofs to dry your food. Just make sure it does not get blown away by strong winds or rained on.

Oven-drying involves drying food at temperatures between 130°F and 150°F. Before you even start this process, make sure your oven even has a temperature setting this low. As in sun-drying, distribute pieces of food in a shallow pan or dish. Check on your food occasionally to make sure it is dehydrating adequately.

If the temperature is too low or the humidity is too high when sun or oven-drying, the food may dry too slowly or spoil. When the temperature is too high it could cook the food and make it hard on the outside, while leaving the inside moist and vulnerable to mold or other forms of ‘grossness’ from ‘wee beasties’ (microorganisms).

Commercial food dehydrators (or the smaller ones made specifically for home use) offer the most controlled drying environments. They provide a constant perfect temperature together with heated air that circulates using a blower. Most dehydrators also come with special liners and trays for dehydrating fruit leather as well as small, sticky kinds of foods. Fruits, vegetables, and meats can dry while you are away at work, asleep, or doing your household chores with no worries. These are easiest simply because you can “set ‘em and forget ‘em”.

After the food is done, allow it to cool down to room temperature and package it loosely in plastic bags, hard plastic containers or glass jars. For long-term storage, pack it in airtight containers. Foods that you dehydrate yourself not only make great snacks at home but are useful when camping or backpacking since they do not need refrigeration.

There are very many good books on the shelves that can teach you how to dry fruits, vegetables and meats and most have excellent and delicious recipes included. Do your research and buy one of these if you want to know more.

Copyright ©2010 Noel Napolitan

*All rights reserved. No part of this blog may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author.

Visit my emergency preparedness/self sufficiency/homesteading website! It is a work in progress so, please, check back often!