Thursday, January 31, 2019

Food Storage Calculator--The Best Ever

As the title suggests, this is, hands-down, the best food storage calculator I have ever seen anywhere.  If anyone has a link to a another better, or even just a different but good one, please post it in the comments section below.

Before you go over to check it out, or worse, totally ignore the information, let me tell you what's so great about it.

  • People.  It lets you plug in the number of people you are preparing for. 
  • Months.  You then enter the number of months.  Most food storage calculators include these two.
  • Lifestyle.  This is where it begins to shine.  Do you want to store enough food to be "hungry but alive," "satisfied," or "living comfortably"?
  • The food.  Not only does it cover the basics--grains, legumes, sugars, oils, milk, and salt--but it also includes fruits, vegetables, baking essentials, and water, and it has several sections for each category with recommended amounts of each item.  
All you do is enter your little bit of info and it shoots back the recommended amounts faster than you can blink. Of course, you may not be interested in some of the food category suggestions.  I don't store powdered fruit drink, but I do store hot chocolate.  I don't store mayonnaise, but I do store extra oil for making my own mayonnaise.  You get the idea.  You can make your substitutions and make it work.

Food Storage Calculator

The site that hosts this food storage calculator is run by the Highland Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  (The link is in the sidebar on the right.)  And everything they have on their site pertaining to food storage and preparing for emergencies is fabulous.  I mean, really, really good.

If they could come up with an app that would calculate all the food we have everywhere in the house (and elsewhere), my life would be complete.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Dietary Deficiencies and Consequences--Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)

When society collapses and people begin starving or even just failed to store good food and vitamins, we'll start seeing conditions that occur with vitamin deficiencies.  We've already reviewed pellagra and beriberi, conditions that occur when the body does not receive adequate niacin (vitamin B3) or thiamine (vitamin B1).  Riboflavin (vitamin B2) deficiency doesn't have a common name; probably because it wasn't common (shocker).  However, riboflavin deficiencies are found in more than half the population of third world countries and refugee camps.  Deficiency is uncommon in the United States due to government regulations requiring the fortification of milled grains and cereals with essential vitamins.  Currently, even with the relatively unhealthy and overly processed diet Americans consume, over 97% of us meet the minimum requirements.

But what happens when the government is no longer in place to make sure processed foods are enriched with riboflavin?  What happens with riboflavin deficiency?

Even mild to moderate riboflavin deficiency may cause anemia.  Severe deficiency, ariboflavinosis (yeah, that was creative), is marked by inflammation of the mouth and lips, sore throat, painful tongue, chapped and cracked lips.  There may also be oily skin rashes on the scrotum or vulva, the little cleft above the lips (anatomically known as the philtrum, learn something new every day), and/or the nasolabial folds ("laugh lines" between the nose and the mouth).  The eyes may become itchy, watery, bloodshot, and light-sensitive.  In pregnancy, riboflavin deficiency may cause congenital heart defects and limb deformities in the fetus. 

Riboflavin is water-soluble, which means the body does not store it; it has to be consumed every day.  Riboflavin is found in milk, cheese, yogurt, and eggs; legumes; lean meat, liver, and kidneys; leafy green vegetables, beet greens, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts; winter squash, sweet potatoes, mushrooms and almonds.

When basic nutritional needs fail to be met, riboflavin deficiency may become something we see in those around us, but it's likely that they'll have other consequences of nutritional deficiency appear first, especially those related to the B vitamins.  However, life is going to get interesting.  We don't know exactly how things are going to unwind, and we especially don't have experience with what happens when a society goes from having a well-fortified healthy diet to scavenging for food.  The vast majority of us have never even seen pictures of people with vitamin deficiencies.  We should probably prepare.

© 2019,  

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Blood Types

In our extended family, about 25 years ago someone decided it would be a good idea to know everyone's blood types, in case of an accident or major surgery where blood donation might be required.  Most of us preferred the idea of receiving blood from family whose social behaviors were healthier than those of society in general.

Everyone noted their blood types on a sheet of paper posted by Mom and Dad's kitchen phone.  Initially, it was the eight siblings and mom.  And the eight siblings each had a different, unique blood type.  Shocking but true.  Mom was A+.  Dad didn't jot his down because he wasn't 100% positive, but he thought he was O.  (No.  No. No.  I tried to be pretty gentle about this, and eventually had to let it go.)  Fortunately, he came back a little later and informed everyone he was B-.  Life could have gotten pretty interesting if he'd turned out to be O.

I don't think we need to have a detailed discussion on the genetics of blood types here.  If interested, you can research that on your own.  What you do need to know is that A and B are co-dominant and O is recessive.  For the Rh factor, positive (+) is dominant to negative (-).

You need to know blood types for you, your family, and all the other members of your group.  You also need to know what types of blood you can receive and to whom you can donate.

A+   can receive A+, A-, O+,O-                                can donate to   A+, AB+
A-    can receive A-, O-                                             can donate to   A+, A-, AB+, AB-

B+   can receive B+, B-, O+, O-                               can donate to B+, AB+
B-    can receive B-, O-                                             can donate to B+, B-, AB+, AB-

AB+can receive everything--universal acceptor      can donate only to AB+
AB- can receive A-, B-, AB-, O-                              can donate to AB+, AB-

O+   can receive O+, O-                                           can donate to A+, B+, AB+, O+
O-    can receive only O-                                          can donate to everyone--universal donor

Because O- people can donate to anyone, they are called universal donors, or in more colorful language, walking blood banks.  If you have one of these people in your group, and only one set of body armor, this person gets it.

If you don't know your blood type, now's the time to find out.  By the time most of us are adults, we've had occasion to find out for one reason or another.  But children can be a different matter.  So you can take your child down to a hospital lab and pay around $100 for a test.  Or you can order one from Amazon and DIY it at home.  The kit is called an Eldon card, and at the cheapest, purchased in the right quantities, they run about $3.00 each.  We ordered eight kits for our family of seven because that was the cheapest way to go.  If I were of child-bearing age, I'd probably have a couple of extras on hand.

Because my husband and I are both O+, the odds were high that all the kids would be O+ as well.  However, we also know that my husband carries the Rh negative gene as well (because his dad is B-).  I may carry it, too; there's no way to test for that (well, none that I was ever willing to do).  We did the tests to be absolutely sure everyone was O+; receiving the wrong blood type is deadly.  Happily, we are all O+; we can all donate to each other if necessary. 

The supplies for collecting blood and administering it into a patient are a topic for the future.  But if you really want to get started on it now, get some (ok, a lot of) rayon gauze sponges for soaking up blood.  You may have to collect the blood of a patient that is bleeding out and re-use it (in that patient).  Rayon sponges are sturdier than cotton and can be washed and sterilized for re-use more readily.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Herbal Medicine--Pine

Disclaimer.  I am not a licensed health practitioner.  This is just another post on an item you might wish to have available if needed so that a physician can treat you and your family as best as possible.  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.  A qualified, licensed physician or other medical provider should be consulted before beginning any herbal or conventional treatment.

You can't spend much time hanging out on prepper forums or reading self-reliance books before coming across the suggestion of drinking pine needle tea for vitamin C.  And it's true, pine needles are full of vitamin C.  And while pine isn't my first choice for tea (I just don't have that refined palate that makes me want to drink or eat things that taste like Pine-Sol) or wound treatment (honey and sugar are easier to use than pine pitch), it's good to know how pine can be used.

While Scotch pine has a rich history of use in herbal preparations, almost all pines are effective to some extent.  In the east, Eastern white pine is the go-to pine species.  In the desert southwest, pinyon pine favored.  All yews and Norfolk Island pine are toxic.  Ponderosa pine was used medicinally by Native Americans, but there are also claims that it is toxic, so if you've got a choice, it's best to go with something else.  Pine may cause dermatitis in sensitive people.   

In all cases, use new, green needles.  Remove the brown sheath at the base of the needles, wash well, chop the needles into 1/2 inch pieces.


Fresh needles:  Simply chew a few and swallow to meet your daily vitamin C requirements.  Yum.  /sarc off

Tea:  Steep a tablespoon of chopped needles for 5-10 minutes, no longer, or the vitamins are gradually lost.  Pine needle tea not only provides vitamin C but also vitamin A. This tea is great for thinning mucus and thus works well as an expectorant. 

However, for the greatest medicinal effect, add one tablespoon of chopped needles to boiling water; cover, boil 2-3 minutes, remove from heat, and steep until cool enough to drink.  (It will probably taste like turpentine, so now if you're craving a little turpentine because you didn't store enough and you're fresh out, you know how to satisfy your appetite.)  Drink several cups each day, freshly prepared.

Wound wash:  Use cooled tea as a wound wash to prevent infection.

Tincture:  Fill a wide mouth jar with whole pine needles (or cut in half if using very long needles) and then add apple cider vinegar to the top.  Let sit for six weeks.  Apparently it tastes a lot like balsamic vinegar.

Poultice:  Crush green needles to use as a poultice for wounds.


Fresh pitch:  Native Americans chewed pine pitch to help alleviate arthritis pain.  They also dabbed the sap onto skin above and around a splinter;  the splinter would then come out on its own in a day or two.  (I don't know that I could wait that long.) 

Wound salve:  Collect pine pitch in a small jar, about half full (that's why it's a small jar) and then fill to top with olive oil.  Set in a warm place, like a sunny windowsill or by a wood stove, and shake daily.  After the pitch has softened, stir it into the oil, and then run it through a fine strainer.  Use alone as a natural antiseptic and drawing salve to remove a splinter, or use as a base for making other healing salves.

Tincture:  Collect pine sap in a small jar.  Barely cover the sap with Everclear or other 190 proof grain alcohol.  Label and date and the tincture will be ready in 6-8 weeks.  Use five to ten drops per cup of boiling water for treating colds and bronchitis.  Use five drops per tablespoon of carrier oil, such as almond or coconut, for massaging into sore muscles or arthritic joints.

Contraindications:  Pine needles should not be consumed by women who are pregnant.

Other uses of pine:  The inner bark is eaten raw or cooked, most often though ground into a powder and dried for later use in thickening soups or added to flour for making bread.  Pine needles are woven into baskets.

For further information:  (Interesting article on history of scurvy and treatment with pine needle tea in colonial Canada). (herpes viruses) (Alzheimer's anxiety, depression) (reducing triglycerides) (general information article)

© 2019,

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Expanded Food Storage--Canning Butter and Cheese

Today's post is going to be rather short.  I'm not going to discuss the intricacies of canning butter and cheese, for a very simple reason:  DON'T DO IT!

Supposedly people in previous generations did this and survived.  My great-great-grandmother Jane treated my great-grandfather's diphtheria by pouring kerosene down his throat.  Although my great-grandfather Chester survived, that doesn't mean that the kerosene saved him or that it was a good idea.  Just because our ancestors may have canned meats and vegetables in a boiling water bath and survived doesn't mean that was a good idea, either.

Look, I understand.  I really do.  Cheese is such a nice thing to have.  And butter?  Is life really going to be worth living without butter?

Those were my thoughts when I first canned cheese and butter ten years ago.  I followed the same directions you can find for yourself on the internet.  And I canned a lot, because I sure as heck want both butter and cheese til the day I die.

I think I threw out the last of the butter a few months ago.  There are still a few jars of cheese to be cleaned out.

Early on, I used some of the butter for baking.  We all survived.  No one even got sick.  I probably used some of the cheese, too.  But as time went on, some of the cheeses turned color.  In case you feel you have to can cheese, which again, you really should not do, at least learn from my experience.  Mozzarella cheese turns a kinda gross brown color pretty quickly.  Same goes for Monterey Jack.  The ten-year-old cheddar (probably mild, but maybe medium) still looks ok. It doesn't smell completely gross.

The butter, however, was a completely different matter.  Some seals failed early on and the butter started smelling a bit like blue cheese.  However, a lot of jars held their seals until I emptied them a few months ago.  And they also smelled like blue cheese.  Why did I hang onto them for so long?  Well, I wouldn't have felt bad sharing it if someone came along demanding food.

Do I regret having canned butter and cheese?  After all, that was a bit of time and money wasted.

No, I do not regret it one bit.  I may regret having canned so much, but I don't regret having done it for the simple fact that I learned, from my own sad experience, that it is not a good idea, despite what the nice folks on the internet say.  I'm not one to worry too much about advice from government agencies like the cooperative extension, but in this case, I think they're right.  You don't want to risk giving your family botulism or other food-borne diseases, especially in a grid-down situation were hospital laboratories (for diagnosis) and physicians and medications are in short supply or non-existent.  Especially when you have alternatives.


First off, cheese stores for a long time.  What did people of previous generations do?  How did they preserve the abundance of cream their cows and goats provided?  They made it into cheese.  The cheese was stored in root cellars where it was cool and dark.  And depending on the kind of cheese, it could be kept for many, many months.  Hard cheeses store longer than soft.  Big blocks store longer than smaller.  If the power goes out for good, the cheese doesn't have to be eaten or thrown away immediately.

There are commercially canned options.  There is freeze-dried cheese.  And there is always Velveeta.  (Or not.  Personally, I just can't go there.)

And for butter? Actually, that was covered at the end of yesterday's post (25 January 2019).  Ghee and clarified butter are ridiculously expensive.  However, coconut oil substitutes perfectly for butter in baking breads and cookies.  It's shelf-stable, and right now at my Grocery Outlet store it's selling for three dollars a pound, the same as butter on a good day here.  Freeze-dried butter is a pretty expensive option, and it doesn't reconstitute all that well, but at least the flavor is right.  However, mix the freeze-dried butter powder into coconut oil, and you've got the perfect substitute for spreading on toast, veggies, and baked potatoes and drizzling on popcorn. 

Friday, January 25, 2019

Basic Food Storage--Oils

Oil.  It's another component of basic food storage that people don’t get particularly excited about.  It’s not like you actually eat oil.  Most people don’t store enough, because they say they never use that much.  It’s true.  It’s like salt.  When most of your food comes out of boxes or bags or cans, you don’t use much oil.  The manufacturers already put the salt and oil in for you.

But it’s an entirely different story when you start making everything from scratch, or when you’re having to supplement your food stores with plants scavenged from the yard or woods.  An awful lot of wild plants are rather unpalatable raw, but become pretty tasty when sautéed in a little oil.  (At my husband's Christmas work party last year, Brussels sprouts sauteed in bacon grease and with bacon bits was served as one of the appetizers.  I have never been one to get excited about Brussels sprouts.  After going back for thirds, I was too embarrassed to go back for fourths.  So I asked my husband to get me some more.  They were so, so good.  I might even try to grow them in the garden this year.)

Because many people don't give much thought to the importance of oil in their food supplies, I'm including an excerpt of an article written by F. Enzio Busche over forty years ago about his experiences regarding food during and immediately after World War II.  I posted more of the article last week, but this paragraph about oil bears repeating:

"As for what we needed, the food item we relied on most was vegetable oil. With a bottle of vegetable oil, one could acquire nearly every other desirable item. It had such value that with a quart of vegetable oil one could probably trade for three bushels of apples or three hundred pounds of potatoes. Vegetable oil has a high calorie content, is easy to transport, and in cooking can give a tasty flavor to all kinds of food items that one would not normally consider as food—wild flowers, wild plants, and roots from shrubs and trees. For me and my family, a high-quality vegetable oil has the highest priority in our food storage, both in times of daily use and for emergency usage. When vegetable oil is well-packed and stored appropriately, it has a long storage life without the necessity of refrigeration. We found ours to be in very good condition after twenty years of storage, but circumstances may vary in different countries and with different supplies."1

The minimum amount recommended for one person for one year is 20 pounds, or 20 pints, or 10 quarts.  In light of Enzio Busche's comments, you might wish to store a whole lot more.  Some oils have a longer shelf life than others.  And some oils, especially vegetable oil, have preservatives added.  Oils stored in glass or metal (as shortening was before cardboard containers came into use) and vacuum sealed have a much longer shelf life than oils stored in plastic.

So let’s talk about some specific oils and why you might wish to store them.

Vegetable (soybean) oil.  Around 100% of the soybeans grown in this country are “Roundup Ready,” GMO.  The only soybean oil I have here is ten years old, and is waiting to be used in oil lamps.

Peanut oil.  It’s what I use for most of my baking and cooking and making mayonnaise.  It is not GM, so far anyway.  I buy it in large containers at Sam's or restaurant supply stores and then pour it into half-gallon and gallon canning jars and vacuum seal.  

Olive oil. It has a long shelf-life, but it's a bit more expensive so I don't have as much.  A lot of it is sold in glass bottles, so that's a plus. 

Butter.  Buy it when it's on sale and store it in the freezer if you have the space.  Butter eventually becomes freezer-burned if not stored in freezer bags.  If the power goes out, it will still be fine in the short-term.  If the power is going to stay off for months, try to keep it as cool as possible.  While freezer-burned butter won't work for buttering your toast, it's still fine for baking chocolate chip cookies.

Shortening.  It's not my favorite oil to store.  We don't use a lot of it here, but it is essential for making buttercream frosting for cookies and cakes.  If you are storing much of it, you might wish to consider melting it and pouring it into glass jars and vacuum sealing for longer-term storage.

Lard.  All lard is rendered from the fat of pigs.  The commercially-prepared stuff has preservatives added.  It's used for frying and makes the best biscuits and pie crust.  Do not try substituting lard for shortening in frosting recipes, unless you hate yourself or the people you are feeding.

Coconut oil.  I don't know if I'm saving the best for last, but coconut oil is definitely one of my favorites, and that is because it is an excellent substitute for butter.  And I mean excellent.  It works great in cornbread and chocolate chip cookies.  Where it doesn't work perfectly is in buttering your toast or popcorn, because it doesn't have that butter flavor.  However, if you're putting any jam or honey on your toast, you probably won't notice the absence of the butter flavor. 

Freeze-dried butter powder.  This is pretty pricey stuff, and it doesn't reconstitute quite well in my opinion.  It definitely doesn't look like butter when you mix it up.  And for us, it is far too expensive to store for use in baking, especially when coconut oil will do the job so admirably.  But if you really need butter for your bread or popcorn, this is what you do:  Instead of using water as directed on the freeze-dried butter can, use coconut oil (melting point is 76 degrees, so it shouldn't be difficult to work with).  Coconut oil will provide the perfect butter consistency and texture, and the butter powder will provide the butter flavor. 

Life is good again.


Food Fatigue