Monday Menu–a day late

I started writing this post last night, but it was late and i was very tired and hot.  Why am I hot in April?  So I tried to save  it as a draft and went to bed.  Lo and behold, I can’t find it today. I guess it must be in some hidden digital vault.  So here I go again.

I am always thinking about food storage and other supplies, and I have learned so much over the years that I feel confident to share what I have learned with others.

I didn’t always have food storage. When I was first married, we bought a few bags of wheat, and then we didn’t even know what to do with them. We didn’t store them properly and eventually, we threw them away. Yes, we threw them away.   That was such a waste, and I was determined that before I ventured into food storage again, I would learn more about it.

When I started up again, I bought regular food from the grocery store to start my supplies.  When I bought a can of beans, I bought two of them. When I bought tomato sauce, I bought twice what I would usually buy.  One was for my food storage and the other one was for that week’s use.  I did that with many of the items we used, especially staples such as flour, sugar, shortening, etc. After several weeks I had a  small stock of food that I could use in an emergency.  I date all of my food and try very hard to rotate it.  I also stock up on sales from the store.  I shop at Market Basket in Lee and they always have great sales on the things I use in my food storage.

I learned through trial and error that flour will keep fresh and bug free and flavorful for about a year after purchase if you store it with Bay leaves.  I buy King Arthur flour when it is on sale and store it in 5 gallon buckets. I put in 4-5 bags of flour into each  bucket (I dump it right into the bucket) and then put 5-6 bay leaves on top and then seal it.  After about a year it starts to have a strong taste and smell, so I use it within a year.  Market Basket regularly has baking goods on sale during the holidays and in the spring, so I use those times to stock up on things like flour, sugar, chocolate chips, nuts, etc.

A few years ago I learned about vacuum sealers, and I now have one and use it regularly.  I seal things like nuts, chocolate chips, stuffing mix, pancake mix, and brown rice in wide mouth canning jars. This year I sealed a box each of my favorite  Girl Scout cookies for enjoying later in the year. I even have a jar of the peppermint Three Musketeer bars. I love them and they are so hard to find.   Vacuum sealing allows me to buy items that don’t usually have a long shelf life and extend it.  I also use the plastic bags and seal my meat and even my cheeses to extend their life.

I can fruits from the local farms and vegetables that I grow in my garden.   I make my own apple pie filling, apple sauce, apple butter, jams, pickles, salsa and relishes every summer. I can give them away as gifts or just enjoy them myself. My daughters regularly take my jams out to college with them.  Kelsie walked off with the last of my blueberry-peach jam.  I have even ventured into the unknown and canned meat.

As you know we have the group orders that we do every month through Emergency Essentials.   This is just one of many companies that sells freeze-dried and dehydrated food that has a long shelf life, sometimes up to 25 years, depending on how it has been stored.  We have the church’s storehouse in Worcester, MA, that provides food such as wheat, oats, rice, etc. that can be sealed in Mylar bags or #10 cans.  And speaking of Mylar bags, you can buy them from and seal your food yourself.  Last summer I used my iron to seal up my grains and beans that I had been storing in 5 gallon buckets.  This allowed me to put them into smaller, safer packages.  Just pour the grain or beans into the bag, throw in an oxygen absorber or two, leave enough room for sealing, and then seal with a warm iron.  It can get messy, but it worked for me. I know Kashann has done this too.

And my final thought–oxygen absorbers can be bought from the church website, too, and they seem to be priced the cheapest with them.  They come in different sizes, but the church sells the size that is most appropriate for Mylar bags and #10 cans.  They come in packages of 100, and should be sealed up tight to keep them fresh if they are not all used at once.  Last year I found a new use for my oxygen absorbers and I wanted to share this use with you.

I try to rotate the food in my three  day emergency kits every six months, but sometimes a whole year will go by before I get around to it.  I put in my kit instant oatmeal, pop-tarts, granola bars, Luna bars, fruit gummies, and hot chocolate.  After a  year they all taste pretty yucky, and I always feel bad that all of that food goes to waste.  Last year I put the items into different quart sized ziploc bags and just before I sealed them up, I slipped in an oxygen absorber.  This year when we rotated the food, a year later, I might add, we found that the old food tasted good. In fact, it tasted pretty fresh, like it was just bought.   Now I will use oxygen absorbers in my three day kits every year.

If all of this seems overwhelming, remember that I started a little at a time. What I have now is probably 20 years of trial and error and learning new ways to store food. And if we help each other, we can all be successful.  Pam



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