Friday, November 22, 2019

Four Ways To Maximize the Shelf Life of Cooking Oils

Up next:  Don't Waste the Bacon Grease!

This is one topic that preppers pay attention to. We know that oils deteriorate. We've both smelled and tasted rancid foods. We know there's no fixing rancid oil. We know that oil is an integral component of our food storage. And we all know it's relatively expensive. And every prepper out there, including me, has opinions on which oils are best. We have favorites for cooking and baking and our own dietary needs. There's so much to consider. So how do we keep from wasting money on it?

Here are five ways to maximize the shelf life of your cooking oils, plus a handy chart for making comparisons about which aspects of each individual oil are important to you.

  • Buy the right oil. In general, the more saturated a fat is, the longer the shelf life. Coconut oil is the most saturated. And it has a great shelf life, at least five years in my experience.
  • Store it in the right container. Oxidation is what makes oil rancid. Reduce the oil's ability to become oxidized as much as possible. Oil has the longest shelf life if stored in glass or metal. All plastics are somewhat permeable. Glass is better than high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and polyethylene terephthalate (PETE), which are both better than low-density polyethylene (LDPE). If possible, transfer your oils to glass jars. 
  • Vacuum seal your oil. Along with storing your oil in glass jars, also vacuum seal it for best results.  
  • Store your oil in a cool, dark place. Light and heat accelerate oxidation. 

Here's a handy table to help you identify which oils will be best for your situation.

Saturated (in grams per tablespoon)
Smoke point (in Fahrenheit)
In refrigerator, 1 month past printed date.  In freezer, 6-9 months past printed date.
2 years
1 year
Clarified butter (ghee)

3-6 months past the best-by date, if refrigerated
Coconut (refined)
Months to years
Months to years
Coconut (unrefined)
1 year
1 year

3-6 months in cabinet
up to 3 years if refrigerated
Olive (refined)
1-2 years
3-4 years
Olive (extra virgin)
2-3 years
2-3 years
3 years
2 years
2 years
1 year
1 year
6-8 months
1 year
1 year
Soybean (vegetable)
1 year
1 year
2 years
1 year

Please note that the figures for all these fields varied quite a bit among the various sources I consulted, but the rankings were consistent across the board. Hopefully, this will give you an idea of what you want to store. Unfortunately, some of this information is hard to come by. And then you have to look at the source. If the information is from a California company selling their own olive oil, the shelf life is apparently a whole lot shorter than every other source indicates. Most individuals report that their oils last a lot longer when properly stored. Most businesses state that the shelf life of oils is shorter. Perhaps it's to err on the side of caution and avoid unhappy customers.

The numbers in the table come from more scientific research than what goes on at my house.
However, my personal experience with cooking oils is that they can last longer, in some cases much longer, than indicated by the numbers in the chart.

Links to related posts:  

For further information:,137399/

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Thursday, November 21, 2019

Storing Canned Goods for the Long-Term in Humid Areas

Seven years ago, when my family and I moved from the high, dry desert to the very humid Midwest, I had a lot of new lessons to learn about food storage.  Some rules were just entirely different.  It was quite the shocker.  No longer did sandwiches need to be eaten right after they were made.  

But that was just the beginning.

Salt could no longer be stored simply in the cardboard cartons on the shelf.  Especially canning salt.  It would clump up.  

Plastic buckets couldn't just be set on the cement.  So much moisture would accumulate underneath.  Not good.    

And this was with a dehumidifier or air conditioning running all the time.  What happens if there is no AC or dehumidifier running?

What we didn't notice until much later was that the cardboard boxes that held our #10 cans were wicking moisture from the air to the cans inside.  And the boxes were also wicking moisture from the cement to the bottoms of the cans.  Naturally, the way we do our food storage is to put the very most expensive items in metal cans.  

Which cans started to rust shortly after we arrived in Missouri.  

But which we did not notice until much, much later.  


So we had a decision.  We could take measures to protect our canned goods, or we could move back to the desert.

We chose the desert.  

But for those of you who happen to not have that choice, or happen to love the humidity, here's how to protect your canned goods.  

Consider removing the paper labels in more humid areas.  I never had a problem with the paper labels rusting cans in my area, but we did have the AC and dehumidifier running.  I'm not sure what would happen without them.  I have read reports of people in super humid areas having problems with the paper labels wicking moisture to the cans and rusting them.  The whole humidity thing is just very bizarre to me still. So remove the label, but don't forget to label the contents of the can and date it first. 

Protect your cans with a wax coating.  To do this, make sure your cans are completely dry.

Next, melt paraffin wax in a double boiler.  An empty #10 can makes a great container for the paraffin and keeps your regular bowls and pans clean.  To protect your hands from the sharp edges of the can, cover the rim with duct tape.  

Use canning tongs to dip both ends of the can in the wax. 

If, however, you live in a really humid area, you may wish to paint the whole can with paraffin.   Set the dipped cans on a cake cooling rack to dry.

Do not store your cans in or on cardboard, unless you dipped the whole can in paraffin.  

Another option is to coat cans with a very thin layer of food- or medicine-grade mineral oil.  Unfortunately, the mineral oil attracts dust which will need to be removed before opening the can. 

Links to related posts:  
Long-Term Food Storage    
The Ins and Outs of Oxygen Absorbers   
Amounts of Various Foods That Buckets Will Hold and How To Store Them   
Reusing Glass and Plastic Bottles for Food Storage 

For further reading:
Preparedness  survival  emergency  bugging out in bug pack survivalist prepper freeze dried dehydrated food storage gamma lid bucket #10 can medicine supplies supply emergencies disaster natural civil war political unrest hyperinflation inflation canning jar Mylar oxygen absorber disease

© 2019,
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Wednesday, November 20, 2019

The Scoop on Hand Sanitizer

Somehow you find yourself in a position where you have no soap and water, but you've got hand sanitizer. You've heard people say that it works just as well. But are they right? Is hand sanitizer as effective as washing hands? Is it better? Is it worse?

The answer: Well, it all depends. It actually depends on several factors.

First, whether hand sanitizer is effective depends on whether the alcohol content of the hand sanitizer is adequate. The hand sanitizer must contain 70% rubbing alcohol. Fifty percent alcohol is not strong enough. Ninety-one percent alcohol will evaporate before it penetrates into the microbes and kills them. The alcohol content should be indicated on the hand sanitizer label. However, if the hand sanitizer is older, some of the alcohol content may have evaporated, and it may not be as strong as when it was manufactured. This is one of the few instances in medicine where the use-by date should be taken seriously. Maintain a careful inventory of your hand sanitizer and rotate it well. If older hand sanitizer is all you have, make sure to apply it two or three times and rub it in well.

Secondly, the hand sanitizer must come into direct contact with the microbes. If there is visible dirt or other waste on your hands, it must be removed first. So use a baby wipe, washcloth, or clothing if necessary to remove all visible dirt and particles. Then apply the hand sanitizer.

Next, hand sanitizer that is applied and rubbed in like lotion is not sufficient. To do its job, hand sanitizer should be applied liberally and rubbed in vigorously for at least twenty seconds, just as for washing hands with soap and water. However, that is just for regular, garden-variety viruses, not the real bad guys (which is what you really want protection from). A study published just last month by researchers in Japan showed that hand sanitizer being rubbed in for two full minutes did not kill the influenza A virus. It took four full minutes of rubbing in hand sanitizer to completely disable that virus. We can't get a lot of people in this country even to wash their hands for a few seconds after using the bathroom. Taking four minutes to use hand sanitizer probably isn't going to work.

Finally, hand sanitizer really should not be used as a substitute for routine handwashing. Yes, in some cases hand sanitizer works just as well as soap and water. But in others, like with influenza A, it definitely does not. In addition, the alcohol in hand sanitizer is very drying to the skin, and excessive use may result in dry, cracked skin. And dry, cracked skin is vulnerable to infection. Hand sanitizer should not be used in place of regular washing in the home. Washing with soap and water is the gold standard and should be used whenever possible.   

Links to related posts:
Hand Washing

For further reading:
Armageddon Medicine, p 85.

© 2019, 

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Epinephrine--Is It a "Must-Have" or "Nice-To-Have" in Your Medical Kit?

Disclaimer.  I am not a licensed health practitioner.  This is just another post on knowledge and understanding you might wish to acquire in advance of a disaster in case no higher care is available.  As long as our society is functioning, you should leave anything more substantial than applying a Band-Aid to the professionals.  No medication, including those available over the counter, should be taken without consulting a physician.  Information shared here is for educational and entertainment purposes only.  It is not medical advice nor a substitute for licensed medical care. 
Epinephrine, a hormone produced in the adrenal glands, is also a medication.  When you go to the bathroom in the middle of the night in a very quiet house, and when your mother jumps out at you as you open the door to leave and scares the bejeebers out of you, you experience an adrenaline rush.  The fight or flight response.  It makes the heart beat faster, widens air passages to facilitate breathing, raises blood pressure, and dilates pupils.  (Epinephrine and adrenalin are the exact same thing; the former is derived from Greek and the latter from Latin.  Americans favor the term epinephrine, and the rest of the world uses adrenalin.)

Synthetic epinephrine acts in much the same way.  It is effective against all aspects of anaphylaxis, which is the first big reason you may want to have it in your medical kit.  And that is because anyone can have a reaction to anything at any time.  People who are allergic to nuts, bee stings, etc., already know that they should be carrying an epi-pen at all times and that all their family members should know how to use it as well.  In a true anaphylactic reaction, the patient's airway is being compromised or entirely shut down.  In addition, the patient's blood pressure drops, the tongue and/or back of the mouth may swell, further compromising the airway, the chest may become tight, and there may be hives and weakness or confusion.  These symptoms most often appear during the first hour after the sting or eating the food.  Epinephrine must be injected to act quickly enough to save that person's life.

Without epinephrine, you may be able to help the patient with Benadryl, oral steroids if you have them, and/or a histamine blocker like Zantac (ranitidine) or Pepcid (famotidine).  Of course, your patient's best bet is to get to a functioning hospital where he can get intramuscular injections of epinephrine, as well as steroids and antihistamines in a clinical setting.

Because it is a liquid, epinephrine doesn't have great shelf life, usually about a year.  Even the EpiPens have a pretty short shelf-life, and once they hit their date, you're supposed to throw them away.  Never mind that they are incredibly expensive in this country.  However, the dirty little secret is that they don't automatically go bad once they hit their use-by date.  Even EpiPens five years out of date may have enough epinephrine in them to save a life.  So if you have a source for EpiPens that are out of date, get them and hang on to them.  Yes, the efficacy decreases, about ten percent each year.  EpiPens five years out of date are about 60% effective, but a lot will depend on how it was stored.  A nice, moderate temperature is critical.  Do not let it freeze under any circumstances, and do not let it get hot.  Also, always protect it from light, and always know exactly where it is in the medical kit.

Now, one more item about EpiPens, and this is mainly for people who have them or their family members.  Those epinephrine pens actually have five full doses in them.  But you can only use one dose at a time.  Yes, it doesn't really make sense, and the manufacturers all know this, but they still continue to put the full five doses in, even though only one will be used.  The EpiPen can be dissembled and reloaded so that it can be used again.   Please note, this should only be done when you have no other options--no other epinephrine, no doctor, no hospital, no trained medical personnel whatsoever.  There are Youtubes and other instructions online; click here for one such video.  Note that this requires strong hands and you and anyone else in the room will need safety glasses.  It would also be best to do this in a small, enclosed area if possible.  That spring is gonna go flying. 

A second reason that it is nice to have epinephrine is that as a vasoconstrictor, epinephrine also helps to stop bleeding.  In this case, epinephrine is usually combined with lidocaine in a 1-2% solution.  It is not to be used on fingers, toes, noses, or ears because it may cut off circulation entirely.  It also should probably not be used in the feet of diabetics or others with compromised circulation.  It is great when used with lidocaine on superficial wounds with significant bleeding, especially scalp wounds.

Finally, a third reason to consider having epinephrine in your medical kit is for treating croup.  Croup is most often caused by a virus, and most often in fall and winter.  It's a little more common in boys than in girls and usually occurs between the ages of six months and five years, though it can occur in patients as old as fifteen years.  My daughter, Charlotte, was nearly eight years old when she had it in the summer.  Croup causes swelling of the inside of the trachea which results in the classic seal bark cough, stridor (high pitched breath sound due to turbulent airflow in the larynx), and hoarse voice.  The symptoms are often worse at night and usually last only one or two days.  It afflicts about 15% of children at some point in their lives, and 1-5% of these cases are severe enough to require hospitalization.  A single dose of steroids is usually administered in more serious cases.  Lacking steroids, epinephrine may also be used.

However, systemic epinephrine will not work in the case of croup.  The epinephrine needs to actually come into contact with the vocal cords.  So the epinephrine, if it is liquid, as most of it is, needs to be put in a nebulizer.  Dry epinephrine may be put into a pot of boiling water for the patient to inhale the steam.  In this case, 1/4 cc, or 1/4 gram, of epinephrine should be added to one cup of water.

Epinephrine is not a controlled substance.  It is not illegal to possess it.  But it is not so easy to find, either.  If you've got a good relationship with your doctor or veterinarian, you may be able to get a vial that way.  And one vial is all you should need to get you through TEOTWAWKI.

The other possibility for obtaining epinephrine is online at Dr Natural  It's labeled as being straight epinephrine, with 0.22 mg per capsule.  It also comes with the inhaler and instructions on how to use it.  It probably won't work for someone who is having an anaphylactic reaction, as that person won't be able to inhale it.  It is designed for asthma sufferers.  The doctor I showed it to and asked about it believes it would work as an injectable if combined with sterile saline.

So now, the $64,000 question.  Is epinephrine a "must-have" or "nice-to-have" for you?  I asked this very question of the doctor teaching the off-grid medicine classes I attended.  I shared our family medical history, with no one having any known allergies to anything except stupid pollen, and my husband's brother being truly allergic to bee stings.  He said if dollars were limited, he would forgo the EpiPen in our situation and use that money elsewhere.  He'd still recommend getting a vial of epinephrine, if at all possible.  Without having tried out the epinephrine capsules, he said he couldn't recommend it, but it might be a good thing to have just in case.

One final note:  The US FDA took Primatene Mist, a mainstay for treating mild asthma for many years, off the market in 2011 because it didn't like the propellant used in it.  It is finally available again, as of late last year.  However, Amazon doesn't have it.  (And even though I've been looking for it for the past two years, I only checked Amazon and so I didn't realize it was back on the market until just last week.) Walmart, Walgreens, and CVS do carry it.  It would be a really good idea to have this in your kit for treating mild asthma, anaphylaxis, severe wheezing and coughing, and croup.  At $30 each, it's not cheap, but it is OTC. 

Links to related posts:
Common and Off-Label Uses of Antihistamines
Antacids, H2-Blockers, and Proton Pump Inhibitors 

For further reading:
Armageddon Medicine
The Survival Medicine Handbook, pp 249-251.

© 2019,