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  • Mountain House Review (Part 1): 3 Meals from the Classic Assortment Bucket

    I’m not a chef. I’m more of a short-order cook. In my family of seven, six have dietary restriction. Food allergies include milk products, tree nuts, wheat, corn, eggs, and soy, in varying degrees of severity. I also have an autistic son who, until last year, ate fewer than 10 foods, and a special needs daughter with weak musculature who struggles with hard-to-chew foods.

    When I find a food that most family members like and can eat, it’s lovely.  It’s even better when it cooks in less than 30 minutes. And it’s a massive bonus when my kids can make it themselves. Meal pouches from the Mountain House® Classic Assortment (12 pouches) (SKU: FC B395) meet all three qualifications. We tried three of the six types of meals. I enthusiastically recommend all three.


    Lasagna with Meat Sauce

    mh-lasagna-pouch Mountain House ReviewMy kids first requested the Lasagna with Meat Sauce. We used two packages. Each package said it served 2.5 people. When we used it as a main dish, we found it served more. Six of us ate, and we had leftovers. Our side dish was Emergency Essentials® Freeze-Dried Sweet Corn with Butter and Salt (SKU: FN C101)

    “It tasted superb,” my 9-year-old said.

    I don’t have much experience with freeze-dried food, so I followed the package directions exactly. (We didn’t always do so; more on that later.) After I added two cups of boiling water to the pouch and stirred, I expected everything to mush together in a (flavorful) blob. It didn’t. The texture was reminiscent of skillet lasagna, and the ingredients were distinct.

    My 3-year-old, nicknamed “the little carnivore,” ate the meat and left the noodles. My special needs daughter ate the noodles and left the meat. Both requested multiple helpings.

    The meat sauce was thick with a cheesy, mildly spicy flavor. (If you like a strong flavor, you might want to add spices.)

    “I think it should have less sauce, because it got all over me,” my 9-year-old joked.

    It contains dairy and wheat products.


    Granola with Milk and Blueberries

    mh-granola-with-milk-and-blueberries-pouch Mountain House ReviewThe package says the Granola with Milk and Blueberries serves two. It depends on the two. My 9-year-old, who made it herself, ate the whole pouch.  And she doesn’t normally like fruit.

    The directions call for ½ cup of cold water. When my daughter made it, she said it was “too liquid-y.” The pouch says you can add less water for thicker granola. The second time we made it, we started with 1/3 cup of water and added a bit more as needed.

    The granola contains milk, soy, wheat and coconut.

    I also tried the granola pouch as a streusel topping for blueberry muffins, adapting a Betty Crocker recipe. It enhanced the muffins by adding a bit of crunch and cinnamon flavor.


    Streusel-topped Blueberry Muffins


    Streusel Topping

    One packet (two servings) Mountain House Granola with Milk and Blueberries, prepared.



    ¾ cup milk

    ¼ cup vegetable oil

    1 egg

    2 cups Gold Medal™ all-purpose flour

    ½ cup granulated sugar

    2 teaspoons baking powder

    ½ teaspoon salt

    1 cup fresh, canned (drained) or frozen blueberries



    Heat oven to 400°F. Line 12 regular-size muffin cups with paper baking cups, or spray bottoms of cups with cooking spray.

    In large bowl, beat milk, oil and egg with fork or wire whisk until blended. Add 2 cups flour, the granulated sugar, baking powder and salt all at once; stir just until flour is moistened (batter will be lumpy). Gently stir in blueberries. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Sprinkle each with about 1 tablespoon streusel.

    Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. If muffins were baked in paper baking cups, immediately remove from pan to cooling rack. If muffins were baked in sprayed pan, leave in pan about 5 minutes, then remove from pan to cooling rack. Serve warm or cooled.


    Beef Stew

    mh-beef-stew-pouch Mountain House ReviewI was at the doctor and my 13-year-old was babysitting. My doctor appointment ran late, so my 9-year old decided to make dinner. She went to the Mountain House bucket, opened a package of Beef Stew and added 2 cups of water. Unfortunately, she didn’t read the directions to boil the water first. She put the mixture in a saucepan, and we heated it over the stove. It still came out great.

    At first glance, there didn’t seem to be that much beef in the stew. However, the beef flavor came through in every bite. It was thick enough that we served it with toast.

    Even though it tasted really good, it was not the most appetizing-looking food on the planet. So imagine my surprise when my picky, autistic, 5-year-old ate two full helpings and asked for more. This one’s a keeper.

    It contains soy and wheat.


    Other notes: The Mountain House packets contain my favorite “Best if used by” label: July 2046. Here’s one food storage item you won’t have to rotate.

    Make sure you store water as well as food. Ready.gov recommends storing a gallon per person per day for three days.

    I will review the other three meals in the Mountain House Classic Meal Assortment® in my next post.



    Editor’s note: While the food in the Mountain House® Classic Assortment comes in pouches, these meals are also available in #10 cans.


    Blog Image

  • Hanjin Shipping Declares Bankruptcy: Stranded Cargo Prompts Financial Preparedness

    Hanjin Shipping

    On August 31, Hanjin Shipping declared bankruptcy. The South Korean company’s declaration left $14 billion worth of cargo and more than half a million containers stranded offshore, as ports fearful of going unpaid refused to allow the company’s ships to dock or unload.

    So why should we care?

    First, Hanjin Shipping transports 8 percent of manufactured goods that enter into the United States. Look around. Imagine if one item of every 12 you see suddenly became unavailable. It adds up fast, doesn’t it? Companies like Wal-Mart and Target are twiddling their thumbs while they wait for Hanjin to work out how it’s going to pay to get everything unloaded. Even if they don’t have anything on the ships in limbo, they still have to try to find other ways to ship their goods. Samsung, for example, is considering sending smartphones and devices in cargo planes to accommodate its U.S. market. That’s going to cost extra.

    And this time of year, as retailers order more goods for holidays, there’s not a lot of extra shipping space to go around. Already, freight prices for Asia-U.S. cargo have jumped 40 percent, according to The Wall Street Journal. Honestly, what are the odds retailers won’t pass any of these costs on to consumers?

    Second, for the moment, fewer manufactured goods are reaching the U.S. Though no one is predicting shortages, and every financial planner predicts the bankruptcy mess will be sorted out by the end of the year, it means supply could be temporarily reduced, again driving up prices right around the holidays.

    “This is not impacting store shelves now,” Nate Herman, a senior vice president for the American Apparel & Footwear Association, told The Wall Street Journal. “It will impact store shelves if the situation isn’t resolved.”

    pipeline-colonial-pipeline Hanjin Shipping Leaking oil pipe in Alabama - Image via Colonial Pipeline

    The world is a global marketplace. A bankruptcy in Asia can cause the cost of goods to increase in Indianapolis. A leaking oil pipe in Alabama can cause fuel shortages and governors to declare states of emergency in six states.

    “The key to keep in mind is that anything can happen,” said Kaylee Chen, a peer mentor at the University of Utah Personal Money Management Center, in an e-mail. Add, “anywhere.”

    “Therefore, always prepare for any possible emergency,” she said.

    Start by building long-term food storage. And don’t be afraid to use it when you need it.

    Early in 2015, avian influenza affected more than 35 million egg-laying hens, or 12 percent of the domestic population, according to a June 22, 2015 blog from the American Egg Board.

    The USDA’s Egg Market News Report said for the week of June 22, 2015 a dozen large eggs sold for a $2.35 national average. The average price over the previous three years, for the same week, was about 95 cents.

    If you have powdered eggs when eggs prices are sky high, you can use them instead. This 2010 article in the Deseret News, a Utah newspaper, tells how to use powdered eggs in everyday cooking.

    Second, have an emergency savings.

    Kayleen Chen, a peer mentor at the University of Utah’s Personal Money Management Center, suggested the 50/30/20 rule. Fifty percent of a paycheck should go toward fixed expenses, like house payments and utilities. Discretionary expenses that can be adjusted, like grocery bills and fuel, should take up about 30 percent. Twenty percent should go toward short-term savings, an emergency fund and retirement.

    Hanjin Shipping Containers

    The short-term savings fund is for future expenses like holidays or a down payment. An emergency fund helps when things come up like car repairs or doctor bills, to avoid paying for them with high-interest debt like credit cards or short-term loans.

    Women should put 12 percent of their salary toward retirement; men 10 percent, Chen said.

    “The reality is that women live longer and make less income than men,” she said.

    Third, get out of debt. Interest never stops, even when you’re struggling.

    Consider learning additional skills that can translate into side jobs for additional income or to help get out of debt. Chen used the example of a piano teacher. She also encouraged a budget or lifestyle change. Peter Dunn, a financial columnist for USA Today, suggested decreasing spending by 10 to 15 percent over time.

    Personal finance collapses like job loss, divorce, medical emergencies and retirement are far more common than a major shipping company’s collapse. Creating a long-term food storage, getting out of debt and saving can reduce their impact.


    Disaster_Blog_Banner Hanjin Shipping

  • Financial First Aid Kit: 5 Tips for Financial Preparedness

    Dolla billz financial first aid kitWhen it comes to preparing for disasters, emergency kits are usually one of the first things people think of. But what about financial preparedness? Sure, being prepared with food, gear, and other necessities is important, but a lot of times, financial preparedness is forgotten. Having a financial first aid kit can bring immediate relief during a financial crisis, much like an emergency kit built for disasters can alleviate issues following natural upheavals.

    Why have a financial first aid kit? Well, for starters, emergencies don’t suddenly negate your responsibility to paying bills. How you get that money could very well come from the contents of your financial first aid kid.

    Not sure what to put in a financial first aid kit? Check out the official Emergency Financial First Aid Kit checklists and forms from FEMA. For an abbreviated version, keep reading.


    1. Household Identification

    Having proper identification for everyone living in your household (you, spouse, children, etc.) can provide proof when proof is needed. Photo ID such as a copy of a driver’s license or other ID should work. Especially important for children is to have their birth certificate safe in this emergency kit, to prove to any authorities that you are indeed the parent. Social security cards, military service and pet ID tags are also a good idea to keep in this kit.

    Having all your household identification documents in one place can help provide proof of household members, maintain or re-establish contact with family members and employers, and even apply for FEMA disaster assistance.


    1. Financial and Legal Documents

    Being able to continue making payment and credit during an emergency is crucial. Certain documents containing housing payments, insurance policies, sources if income, and tax statements are important to have for many reasons. Identifying financial obligations will be much easier with these documents, and you’ll be less likely to forget about something that needs to be paid. Such documents will also help re-establish financial accounts, provide contact information for financial and legal providers, and of course, apply for FEMA disaster assistance.


    1. Medical Information

    Home Filing Dividers showing Bank Statements financial first aid kit

    Health insurance cards are a must. In the event of a disaster or other emergency, injury is much more likely, and health insurance cards can help you get the medical attention you need. Your physician information and immunization records will also provide doctors with your current medical situation and the information they need to provide proper medical care. Also, if you are currently receiving medical care, this information can ensure it continues uninterrupted.


    1. Household Contacts

    Your contacts are likewise important. Know who to talk to at your bank, as well as how to contact them. Other people to have contact information for would be your insurance agent, health professionals, and service providers. This information will allow you to begin recovery quickly, including contacting utilities about outages and restoration, insurance, and other aspects of recovery.


    1. Emergency Money

    If there’s an extended power outage, ATMs may not work and banks may be closed. Credit and debit cards will likewise be useless. If this is the case, acquiring money for, well, anything could be all but impossible. It’s recommended to have at least $100 in cash on hand. Make sure your cash is also separated into small bills. During an emergency, people may not have change, in which case a $2.00 bottle of water could cost you $20 or more, depending on your smallest bill denomination. $20 bills should be your highest value, with ones, fives, and tens mixed in.


    For forms and checklists for you financial first aid kit, visit FEMA.gov by clicking here.


    Disaster_Blog_Banner financial first aid kit

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