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Preserving

  • How Emergency Food Storage Can See You Through Unemployment

    unemploymentWhen we think of building an emergency food supply, people most often think about the headline-making natural disasters that send whole communities into turmoil. Floods, fires, earthquakes, storms—these are all tragic events that can put families on the street in an instant, without food, water or shelter. These are certainly prevalent catastrophes that should motivate us to prepare, to plan, and to develop habits and lifestyles to defend ourselves and our families against the unexpected.

    But there are other disrupting calamities that often hit closer to home. They don’t make the news, but they are no less devastating than the tragic stories that do. They are the type that hit Richard and Marie.

    In 2009, Richard was at the top of his career. Working in the same industry for 25 years, and for a single company for most of that time, he'd progressed through the rungs of his profession and made a comfortable living. His wife Marie worked part-time at a local school, and he supported the three children he still had living at home.

    Canned FoodDuring those 25 years, Richard diligently paid down his mortgage. He and Marie bought cars for cash and saved a large portion of their paychecks every month. They also kept a garden, and every fall Marie spent weeks canning beans and beets, peaches and pears, and anything else she got her hands on. Their children don't remember ever buying canned food, Marie was such a prolific preserver.

    And then something unexpected happened. In the spring of that year, a company buy-out left Richard suddenly unemployed.

    Between a hefty severance package, temporary unemployment benefits, and an impressive resume, Richard wasn't overly worried. However, a job search that was meant to last weeks stretched into months, and then into years. For three years, Richard, Marie, and their three children lived on Marie's scant income.

    Throughout those difficult years, Richard and Marie's family experienced several major events that strained their already strained expenses. Richard went back to school to earn a Master's degree. A grand-baby joined the household. A grown child passed away. It’s worth noting, though, during that time, no one in the family cashed in a single food stamp. No one so much as ate a free lunch at school. And no one went hungry.

    Ground WheatRichard and Marie are living illustrations of the importance of food storage. Besides Marie's endless shelves of canned produce, the rice, beans, and other food they stored lowered their grocery bills to such a degree that they could continue to pay other bills while their income was nil. Marie ground wheat to make bread and used powdered milk to cook. They relied on oatmeal for breakfast instead of cold cereal. And the homemade jams and pickles made meals feel less like rations and more like normal fare.

    Richard and his family probably thought--along with most of us--that their food storage was primarily to serve as relief during a natural disaster. But when their most severe disaster came, without any help from Mother Nature, they were glad they'd spent those earlier years preparing.

    Family Dinner Unemployment shouldn't mean not eating well.

    So, are you ready? If not, check out these helpful articles on food storage, and get inspired!

  • Food Dehydration

    When it comes to food storage, there are few things more satisfying than “putting up” your own food. Drying, or dehydrating, homegrown produce is one of the traditional ways of food preservation. This process involves removing moisture from food, while exposing it to temperature increases and moving air.

    Dried fruits provide an inexpensive and sweet alternative to sugary store-bought foods. Fruit leathers and jerky are two examples of snack replacements that you can produce at home for mere pennies.

    iStock_000010243854XSmall_driedfruit

    The three primary ways of home drying food today are sun-drying, oven-drying, and using a food dehydrator.

    Sun

    drying is ideal for fruits such as apricots, peaches, grapes, and figs, although there are other foods suitable for this method. Sun-drying requires a number of hot (85 degrees or higher) days with relatively low humidity. Spread thin pieces of fruit evenly across a shallow pan and cover with cheesecloth to keep the food safe from bugs. Putting boxes in the back seat of a car and laying the tray on top, with full exposure to the sun through the back windshield is a creative and easy way to dry food. Others have used sunny porches, balconies, and even flat roofs to dry their food.

    Oven

    drying involves drying food at temperatures between 130 and 150 degrees. (Some older ovens may not have temperature settings this low). As in sun-drying, distribute pieces of food in a shallow pan or dish. You may want to check the food periodically for adequate dehydration.

    If the temperature is too low or the humidity too high when sun or oven-drying, the food may dry too slowly or even 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 molding or other forms of spoilage from microorganisms.

    Food Dehydrator

    Commercial food dehydrators offer the most controlled drying environment. They provide a constant ideal temperature combined with heated air that circulates via a blower or fan. Most food dehydrators also offer liners and trays for dehydrating fruit leather and small, sticky foods. Fruits, vegetables, and meats can dry while you are away at work, asleep, or doing your household chores with minimal worry or fuss.

    FP-D800

    After drying the food, cool it to room temperature and loosely package in plastic bags, hard plastic containers, or glass jars. For longer-term preservation, pack in airtight containers. Foods that you dehydrate yourself are not only great for snacks at home but are useful when camping or backpacking since they do not require refrigeration.

    There are many good books on the market that specifically describe how to dry fruits, vegetables, and meats with delicious recipes included. We at Emergency Essentials often carry books on dehydrating. You may email us at sales@beprepared.com and we will help you find information.

  • Preserving Basics

    While there are many commercially available foods for long term storage, preserving your own food is another a great way to prepare for an emergency. Preserving your own food for storage can be a lot of work, but it also brings many rewards. For example, canning and dehydrating homegrown produce not only helps you save money, it can give you and your family feelings of self-sufficiency and confidence. As many have learned first-hand, preserving food as part of an emergency preparedness plan requires specific knowledge, skills, and equipment.

    Knowledge

    When preserving food at home, it’s important to know about the different methods of preservation; whether canning, dehydrating, pickling, etc. With home preservation, you also need to know how to do it safely to ensure the food will be safe to eat when the time comes. There are many books and websites dedicated to home food preservation that can help you.

    Skills

    Preserving food at home often requires multiple steps. Depending on how much food you preserve and in what form (whole, stewed, sauce, jam, etc.) you might have to process the food by peeling, chopping, blanching, pureeing, slicing, and so on. If you’re canning, the prepared product will need to be placed in a jar, then heated and sealed in a canner. If dehydrating, you’ll need to lay the right amount of product in each tray of your dehydrator on the right setting for a designated amount of time. As you refine your preserving skills, you’ll be able to juggle the different aspects of the process.

    Equipment

    Preserving requires special equipment and tools. You’ll likely need a variety of equipment such as jars, lids, canner, various food processing tools, a food dehydrator, etc. Although the expense of this equipment can add up initially, preserving your own food will save you money in the long run.

    To learn more about preserving food at home read the Insight Articles linked below:

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