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  • Freeze-Dried Food as a Mainstream Meal Option

    Last week stank. One daughter had her tonsils removed Monday. All of the rest of my family – including me – were suffering through nasty colds. And my husband’s been out of town. I could barely leave the house.

    To feed my family, I relied on food storage, especially products like freeze-dried beef stew and freeze-dried vegetables that were fast and easy to cook.

    This TV news story, from a Houston ABC affiliate, said freeze-dried food isn’t just for natural disasters or astronauts anymore.  It’s also showing up in everyday cooking, as people discover that freeze-dried foods are convenient and save money.

    Preparing a freeze-dried meal takes less time than going out to a restaurant or ordering something in. It also costs less than a restaurant meal – even a fast-food one.

    beef-stroganoff Mainstream Beef Stroganoff

    It’s fast. Add boiling water to a freeze-dried meal pouch, stir a couple of times, and 10 minutes later, dinner’s ready. As more people have discovered freeze-dried foods, the variety of food available has increased too.

    "Basically, anything that you would normally cook can be freeze dried," Alissa Rumsey, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, told ABC 13.

    Or, if you’re Misty Marsh from the ABC 13 news story, combine ingredients from separate cans of freeze-dried meat and vegetables to make a quick soup.

    Freeze-dried ingredients are already washed and cut, so you don’t have to do it yourself. I’ve tossed reconstituted freeze-dried hash browns into a recipe that called for potatoes. I’ve done the same for freeze-dried corn.

    Like other prepared foods, freeze-dried food is more expensive than canned or fresh food. However, it can still reduce your food budget, not just your dining-out budget.

    American families throw away about a quarter of the food and drinks they buy, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. That costs a family of four an estimated $1,365 to $2,275 annually.

    The NRDC attributes much of this loss to factors like poor planning, spoiling and waste from past sell-buy dates.

    Freeze-dried food can help with all these issues.

    chicken-teriyaki Mainstream Chicken Teriyaki

    You should be rotating food storage anyway. So, plan meals using food storage items, then replace them as they get used up. This will help reduce the hit to the wallet from food waste. It will also allow you to spread out food storage shopping throughout the year, so you can buy items when they’re on sale, instead of when you run out.

    Have you ever lost a zucchini or bunch of spinach in the refrigerator? And discovered it three weeks later, a soggy, mildewed blob?

    Freeze-dried vegetables and fruit last longer, so they’re less likely to spoil than fresh ones. If you’re keeping more of the food you buy, because it doesn’t spoil, you’re saving money.

    Freeze-dried food has a much longer shelf life than canned or frozen food – 25 years and more, if left unopened. I recently cleaned out my food storage and removed some really out-of-date cans. (2013, anyone?) What a waste of food and money. I could have bought freeze-dried food that would still be good.

    Freeze-dried foods take some practice. The first time I tried tossing reconstituted freeze-dried hash browns into a casserole, they came out soggy. I learned if I fry them just a bit before I toss them in, they hold together more like fresh potatoes. Also, different brands have slightly different flavors. So experiment. In the long run, you’ll save time and money.

     

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  • Winter Has Arrived: 4 Ways to Prepare for the Next Storm

    On November 17, 2016, Utah experienced its first snow storm of the year. Sure, it mostly just accumulated on the grass because the roads were too warm. But there was snow!

     

    The winter weather that Utah experienced was the tail end of a larger storm passing over the Northern Plains. Utah was only under a winter weather advisory, but parts of Minnesota and South Dakota faced a Blizzard warning. On November 18, 2016, however, Winter Storm Argos continued to blow powerful winds and dumped over a foot of snow as it made its way through South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, and Minnesota.

     

     

    Winter, it would seem, has finally arrived.

    While the snow may still melt, we can take this as a warning that more winter storms will be coming along. That means it’s high time to get out your winter gear. But what, exactly, should you be prepared with?

     

    1. Warmth

    One of the biggest threats winter weather brings is cold temperatures. Fortunately, with a little planning, this can be countered rather easily. If you’re in your home, you most likely have access to warm clothing, blankets, and perhaps even a generator and heat lamp to counter any power outages.

    mr-heater-lifestyle-image-ck-h800 Winter Storm ArgosBut if there is a power outage, there are still ways to get extra heat, even without a generator.

    Portable propane heaters provide reliable heat that that are even safe to use indoors. This image shows off the Mr. Heater Portable Buddy connected to a propane tank. But you don’t necessarily need a tank that large. Instead, smaller one-pound propane cylinders provide up to 6 hours of heat.

    Hand and body warmers are a smaller, more space-friendly alternative to larger heaters. Once activated, they produce heat for up to 18 hours. These are ideal for your car’s emergency kit, since they don’t take up much space but can help keep you warm while you wait for assistance should a patch of ice force you off the road. (Of course, keeping blankets, gloves, and hats in your car is also a good idea during the winter months.)

     

    1. Shelter

    Shelter plays a big role in keeping warm, and it will also keep you out of the elements, including snow and wind. Shelter could range from your home, a tent, or even just a tarp. In fact, your car can transform into a warm shelter by lining the interior with reflective blankets. That way, your body heat will be trapped inside. It would take a number of blankets, but the idea still shows that anywhere can be warm if you’re prepared.

     

    1. Food and Water

    Ice Storm (CNN) Winter Storm ArgosWinter storms can dump huge amounts of snow and leave the roads slicker than an ice rink. When this happens, there’s a good chance you could be trapped in your home. We posted an article back in May, 2015 about how one family from Kentucky was trapped inside their home for a couple of days because of a storm that knocked out power and iced the roads. They were stuck indoors, wrapped in blankets, and cooked with a portable propane stove.

    Whenever a huge storm of any kind is expected, grocery stores run low on the essentials, including bread, eggs, and milk. But if you have food already stored, you won’t have to rush to the store only to find empty shelves. Likewise, having extra water stored can help in a pinch if your water pipes freeze over or water is otherwise unavailable.

    Once you have food and water, you will still need an alternate method to cook, just in case. In the example above, the family couldn’t use their stove or oven because it ran on electricity. Fortunately, they had a way to cook. Many people, when the power goes out, will not. Your alternate cooking options range from small gas powered stoves to flameless cookers. Small cookers don’t take up much space, making them ideal for emergencies (and camping and hiking, too!).

     

    1. Lighting

    Flashlight Reading Winter Storm ArgosThe thing about winter is, it gets dark so early! Many places in the country will need to turn on the lights even at 5:00 in the evening. If the power goes out, you’ll most certainly want some extra light sources. Flashlights are always a good option, but the can become a nuisance if you have to hold on to it for hours on end while you get things done around the house.

    One option is a flashlight that charges in a base that plugs into a wall outlet. As soon as the power goes out, the base lights up, not only illumining the room, but also helping you find your flashlight so you can reach the rest of your prep in other darkened rooms. Lanterns are also a good option, since they provide light while standing or hanging on their own.

     

    Of course, books and board games are also necessary when you’re trapped at home, and anything else you and your family would enjoy (like snacks and blanket forts). But before the next storm comes, make sure you’re prepared with these basic necessities to see you though cold days and even colder nights.

     

    Winter_Storm_Blog_Image2 Winter Storm Argos

     

    Freeze-Dried Vegetable Chef Combo Giveaway

  • Transform Your Food Storage Staples Into Gourmet Goodness (Plus Recipes)

    Whipped topping from beans. Tortillas and egg roll wrappers from flour. Yogurt and “Hamburger Helping Mix” from powdered milk.

    I love to stock food storage staples this time of year. Thanks to the holidays, and holiday bakers, stores everywhere have sales on beans, flour, milk and other baking staples.

    These staples are incredibly versatile, and they’ve saved me hundreds if not thousands of dollars over the years. The internet is awash in do-it-yourself recipes to turn these basic ingredients into other pantry items, meals, and mixes. Some of my favorite sites are allrecipes.com, food.com, budget101.com and the Utah State University extension service.

     

    black-beans-large-can Food Storage StaplesBeans

    Beans are undergoing a renaissance in the food substitution world. They add protein and fiber, and replace some of the fat. I’ve found recipes for black beans in brownies, and I recently ran across this recipe for making whipped topping out of bean liquid. Seriously.

    To grow some quick veggies, try sprouting dry beans.

    I’ve enjoyed this recipe for black bean veggie burgers that uses food storage ingredients, adapted from a recipe at allrecipes.com.

     

    Homemade Black Bean Veggie Burgers

    Ingredients

    1 (16 ounce) can black beans, drained, rinsed and dried

    1/2 green bell pepper, cut into 2-inch pieces, or equivalent dried green bell peppers

    1 1/2 tablespoons dried minced onion

    ¾ teaspoon garlic powder

    1 egg

    1 tablespoon chili powder

    1 tablespoon cumin

    1 teaspoon hot sauce

    ¾ cup rolled oats

    Directions

    If grilling, preheat an outdoor grill for high heat, and spray cooking spray on a sheet of aluminum foil. If baking, preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C), put aluminum foil on a cookie sheet, and spray foil with cooking spray. Put waxed paper on a cookie sheet and spray it with cooking spray.

    In a food processor, mix together bell peppers, dried minced onion and garlic powder. Add rolled oats and process.

    In a small bowl, stir together egg, chili powder, cumin, and chili sauce. Add to mix in food processor and process.  Add black beans and puree. The mixture should be sticky and hold together.

    Divide mixture into four to five patties on the waxed paper cookie sheet. Freeze for at least a half hour.

    Put the frozen patties on foil if grilling, and grill about 8 minutes on each side. If baking, place patties on foil-lined baking sheet, and bake about 10 minutes on each side.

     

    Flour

    wheat-grinder-and-wheat Food Storage StaplesFlour’s not just for bread and desserts. (Though, offhand, I can’t think of a better use for it.)

    I’ve made homemade biscuit mix for biscuits, pancakes, waffles and anything else that calls for store-bought biscuit mix. I don’t buy boxes of brownie mix. My favorite homemade brownie mix recipe is in the Make-A-Mix cookbook, but many others are online.

    For healthier recipes, substitute whole wheat flour for part of the white flour. You can even grind your own.

    I’ve made noodles, egg roll wrappers, and my favorite, tortillas.

    You know the frozen rolls that you thaw and cook? They’re surprisingly easy to make.

     

    Homemade Frozen Rolls

    Ingredients

    Ingredients for any bread or roll recipe

    Directions

    Spray a large baking dish and enough plastic wrap to cover it with cooking spray.

    Follow the directions for your bread or roll recipe through the first rising. Make sure you don’t let it over-rise. Punch down the dough, then divide it into balls – larger for larger rolls, small for smaller ones.

    Put the balls into the baking dish, cover with greased plastic wrap and freeze. When they’re frozen, remove and store in a plastic bag in the freezer.

    To use, thaw on a baking dish covered with greased plastic wrap or on the defrost setting in the microwave, then bake or cook them just like frozen rolls. I use them for rolls, pizzas, flatbread, calzones, etc.

     

    Powdered milk

    fortified-dry-milk-superpail Food Storage StaplesI grew up drinking powdered milk. I loathe the stuff with an unmitigated passion. However, I keep it around because it’s quite useful in cooking. The Utah State University extension service has a pamphlet that teaches, among other things, how to substitute dry milk for regular milk in recipes.

    I also use it to make evaporated milk, and even crock pot yogurt.

    It’s useful in mixes, too. I make and keep a jar of this “Hamburger Helping Mix” for quick meals.

    The main disadvantage to storing and using pantry staples is time: making food from scratch takes longer.  If you can find the time to make mixes beforehand, though, and get kids involved, it doesn’t take that much longer. And the versatility and cost savings of the staples make them well worth buying.

     

     

    Freeze-Dried Food Image Food Storage Staples

    Freeze-Dried Vegetable Chef Combo Giveaway

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