Feed the Beef!

For the first several millennium, cattle lived off grass or whatever forage was around.  Cattle were leaner and typically had a lower weight than they do now.  Then some time after 1875, farmers started to wonder why pork was preferred over beef.  As it turned out, pork had more fat.  Fat was a valuable resource.  It was used for everything from making soap to preserving and cooking foods.  Besides all that, fat in foods gives it a silky feel and makes things taste yummy.

Cattle farmers decided they needed to see what they could do to increase fat content in beef.  With trial and error, farmers discovered feeding cattle a diet of strictly corn for the better part of the year yields a fatter, heavier, and tastier beef.  This spurred farmers to grow corn to meet the demand, and eventually cattle farms were relocated to regions where corn is produced to save on transportation costs of the grain.

Corn is a high energy food, if fed to any animal weight gain is going to happen.  Eventually farmers realized they could reduce the amount of corn fed to the animals if they confined them smaller lots.  This revelation reduced the time on expensive corn from eight or nine months to three months.  Finally, some farmers rationalize that by further restricting the amount of movement, beef would be more tender on just thirty days on corn feed.

Of course, restricting movement, keeping animals in extreme close quarters, and little or no variety of feed, leads to less healthy animals.  Those cattle require all sorts of veterinarian services from antibiotics to treatments for flies and other maladies.  Some farmers also give their beef cattle steroids to produce more beef.  Every pound of beef is money.  Then cattle are taken to butcher or market, depending on the cattle producer’s choices.  The cattle on the right are awaiting auction.  However, the small pen is about the size of many enclosures prior to market or slaughter.  Feedlot cattle stand around in muck twenty-four hours a day.

Many of you are aware of these facts.  Some people think it’s just how business is done and it isn’t any big deal.  Other people think conditions need to be changed for greater health of the animal to provide a healthier protein for humans.

In contrast, until recently, most countries in Central and South America were grass fed.  They were pastured until they were wanted for slaughter.  People accustomed to corn fed beef usually find grass fed beef less appealing in texture and flavor.  For this reason, farmers in many countries have switched to corn feeding so they could enter into the global beef market.

What is interesting is the lack of discussion about cattle feed prior to 1875.  This is where it gets interesting.  Since cattle were mostly domesticated in Europe, those methods were brought along with the cattle as people migrated to the Americas.

beetsFarmers grew crops not only for their own consumption and sale, but also to feed their cattle, pigs and chickens.  Beets, cabbages and carrots are all perfect for cattle, just to start.  Cattle will eat just about any fruit or vegetable except nightshade products like potatoes and peppers.

Considering that these crops can be grown in large scale on just a few acres, it is obvious that people have it within their power to raise their own beef cattle as well as feed a dairy cow or a gestating cow.  Enough food can be grown for an entire year’s supply of cattle feed for the price of seeds.  You can produce more beets and carrots per acre than corn by weight.

If you feed garden produce to your dairy cow, remember what a dairy cow eats effects the flavor of the milk.  Cabbage is good food for bovine, but not so good for the flavor of milk. That is only Cabbagesimportant if you are consuming the milk yourself and it is not “homogenized” by a dairy company.

This is how it was done for centuries upon centuries.  People more often than not raised their own beef using their own produce.  This is proof that it isn’t too expensive to raise your own cattle.  People have bought into the lie about the difficulties of cattle production.  So much so that over time, almost 150 years, most people don’t know it can be done any other way.  For most people, the skyrocketing price of beef means they purchase less beef.  With this information, a little bit of land almost everyone can afford beef.  Those who don’t have enough land to raise beef can partner with others by producing vegetables in exchange for a quarter or side of beef.

 

 

Solar Cooking on the Cheap and Easy

Solar cooking is easy ad economical.Everyone needs a solar cooker.  Even if they think they may never use it they need one.  You know, just in case.  They can be range in price to $350.00, or they can be as cheap as a roll of aluminum foil and a cardboard box.  It’s up to you, but it’s important.  With just a few mouse clicks there is a wealth of information about solar cookers, their design, and how to build them.  Once you get a solar cooker, make sure you practice solar cooking.  Your electric bill might like it so much you use it every day.  Here are a few ideas we thought were worthy of mentioning.

While these are intended for people who are at least as smart as a fifth grader, they will work for anyone:

http://solarcooking.org/plans/Dublin_Ohio_class_project.pdf

http://www1.eere.energy.gov/education/pdfs/solar_oven.pdf

If you are as smart as a college student, you can recycle your pizza box:

http://www.nmsea.org/Curriculum/4_6/pizza_box_oven/pizza_box_ovens.htm

And for dummies:

http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/how-to-make-a-solar-oven.html

Some wikis on the topic:

http://solarcooking.wikia.com/wiki/Windshield_shade_solar_funnel_cooker

http://www.wikihow.com/Make-and-Use-a-Solar-Oven

An interesting plan from India:

http://www.angelfire.com/80s/shobhapardeshi/ParvatiCooker.html

Here you can learn to build solar cookers and solar dehydrators:

http://www.builditsolar.com/Projects/Cooking/cooking.htm

Vinegar Making For Prepared Families

Vinegar is not just for pickles any more.Quite often people stock up on vinegar for canning, cooking, cleaning, health benefits, and getting rid of bacteria.  Most likely they store white distilled vinegar because it is easily available and cheap.  A very long shelf life doesn’t hurt.  People who use vinegar for cooking will also stock up on apple cider vinegar and maybe balsamic vinegar for their unique flavors.

Let’s face it, making anything from scratch is not as easy as plucking it off the grocery store shelves.  Some people think products seem to be better when produced commercially and stacked on our grocery store shelves, but most things are better when made fresh at home.  Unfortunately, many people don’t know they can make their own vinegar.  Others think it’s too much work.

Not only can vinegar be made at home at no cost, but it can be higher quality and better flavored than commercially produced varieties.  Those wonderful benefits aside, homemade vinegar can be made from a variety of fruits, vegetables and grains, or even just plain sugar can be used to make vinegar.  This almost makes vinegar production a no-excuse homemade household item.

Making apple cider vinegar from the left over parts from making applesauce or apple pie works.  When making vinegar, consider the flavor you want, that you will need to take time to stir it daily and that you might want to save your empty wine bottles.   Making vinegar is one more way to use something that otherwise might go to waste.

Flavored vinegar has been all the rage in foodie circles, but for the prepper, it might be a way to keep a favorite flavor from loosing luster over time.   Herbs and spices have a fairly short shelf life, even when properly stored.  They gradually lose freshness and flavor from the day they are harvested until one day they are just a flavorless mess in a bottle.  Homemade vinegar can be used for preserving flavors of herbs and spices for a much longer period of time.

Many people decide to make vinegar, find some instructions and get right to it.  Others do quite a bit of research, read up on the subject and choose whether or not to use a starter, which ingredients to use, and determine the fermentation time by the flavor.  While both people will end up with a usable product, the person who takes the time to fully understand the vinegar making process will most likely be happier with the end result.

If you’ve made home made vinegar, post your comments about your experience and offer advice.

Wood Resources – Not Always Easy to Get

Tree Stumps Make Great Fire WoodWhile many people are stocking up on propane and gasoline to operate furnaces and generators, others are stocking up on wood.  Many people think that having a large supply of propane will get them through any hard time that might come along.  And, for the most part that’s true.  Not everyone believes there is a possibility, however remote, that they could run out of propane before the difficult time is over.  This makes wood one of the most important resources.  There’s a reason for that.

Every family will need wood in the event of a significant world changing event for heating and cooking.  Many people think if something happens they’ll just go out and get some.  The question to them is “How?”.  How are they going to cut down the tree?  Do they even own a chain saw with plenty of gas for it?  How will they get the wood if they don’t have a truck or other way to get the wood home?  How will they get wood if they live in an area with few or no trees?  How many people are they willing to fight off for one tree, or even part of a tree?

Collecting and storing wood should be considered one of the most important activities for prepping.  Here are some tips to help you collect wood for your emergency stores.

  • In regions sparsely wooded or nearly no trees, finding wood can be as simple as going to your local dump.  The same place you go for mulch also has mountains of wood.  Much of it is going to be stumps.  That’s okay.  Stumps make great camp stoves.  Choose your stumps well.  Make sure they are not eaten through by termites.  That’s the last thing you want to bring home.  There’s going to be other wood as well.  
  • While at the dump, or other area with cut boards, be sure not to take any construction wood that has been treated with chemicals.  The chemicals will not only get in the air for your family to breath, but will also contaminate any food you cook.  What good is it to survive an event if you or your family is going to suffer a worse end for it?
  • When there is a storm or tornado that downs many trees, be a volunteer.  Not only are you helping those in need, but you are also stocking up on wood.  Haul off as many loads of wood as you can.  Cut downed trees and put them in the back of your truck or on your trailer.  In such a situation, charging someone to haul off the wood seems wrong, especially when benefiting from their troubles.
  • If you live where there are no trees to harvest, be ready to travel.  That means have enough fuel set aside for your chainsaw, a trailer as big as the law allows, and a truck to tow the setup.  Go to where the disasters are to volunteer your services.  If you have to drive a few hundred miles to get the wood, the money is nothing if that wood is the difference between freezing to death and cooking.
  • Store the wood appropriately.  How many times have you seen a picturesque woodpile next to a building, or in a row along a fence?  That’s an okay way to store the wood if you are going to use it all up in a season.  Needing to store cut wood for many years?  No more stacking it directly on the ground.  It needs to be off the ground so that all the wood can dry after a rain.  Some people use the big round metal wood racks.  Others lay it on a concrete floor or patio.  What ever you choose, be certain the wood can dry quickly.  Cover it so moisture isn’t so much a problem.  Some people cover it with plastic tarps.  Others store wood in the wood shed.
  • If wood must be stored outside, it is important to inspect it regularly for termites.  Any wood found to be infested, get rid of it, and the termites, quickly.  Do not bring termite infested wood into the house.  Burn that wood outside.  Any wood showing signs of rot, use it up first.
  • Wood stored outside or on the ground will absorb moisture either from rain, fog, or sitting on the damp ground.  The problem with this is that wet wood won’t burn.  Well, not easily and maybe not safely.  If your wood supply gets wet, remember to place wet wood on an existing fire.  It will dry and burn, but the moisture trapped inside will cause it to “snap”, “crackle” and “pop”.  This results in flying hot embers.  Splitting the down the length will help it dry and burn better.  If you don’t have an existing fire, you’ll have to start small with twigs, paper and other small things to get the fire started.  Gradually add larger pieces of wood until the fire is the size you desire.
  • If the only wood is a tree stump still in the ground, use it.  Saw down to ground level in a pattern like a six slice pie.  Light the fire in the center and between “slices” to use as a cook top.

If you have other ideas to add to the post, please do!

Bonfire, Campfire, or Cooking Fire?

Bonfires are big fires that attract a lot of attention both day and night.
This fire attracts all kinds of attention, as does its smaller version, the campfire.

Frequently people comment that they will kill a rabbit, bird or deer and just cook it over a fire.  It’s pretty obvious that they have visions of putting the animal, or parts of the animal, on a stick and cooking it over a bonfire, afterwards they will lay down next to the fire and sleep for the rest of the night with a full belly.

Okay, cooking the meat that way will happen in a survival situation where there is no danger of someone seeing their smoke in the air or smelling the food.  But, if they build the fire in the conical shaped way most people build a fire, they should be prepared for the burning pieces of wood to tumble as the flames eat them.  For safety a person shouldn’t be within 10 feet of it.  A campfire doesn’t provide much warmth at that distance.

Eventually people cooking their food over a campfire will get tired of meat on a stick.  They will want to use indigenous plants for seasoning and nutritional needs.  They might even want to add water and make a soup or stew.  If you are the camp cook, you need to know how to make the right kinds of fires for the types of cooking you have to do.

Campfires are a gathering place, like the family kitchen.
This is a collapsed conical shaped campfire.

The bonfire isn’t a cooking fire.  It is a signal fire, or for generating heat, sending large amounts of smoke high in the sky, and for roasting marshmallows and hot-dogs or some other meat on a stick.  Bonfires are dangerous when the logs start to cave in on themselves or collapse outside the fire.  When they cave in or collapse, people can be injured by burning wood or flying embers.  Sleeping near a fire that has this type of splash effect is dangerous.  Build this type of fire only when you need to show someone your location.

A campfire is a smaller version of the bonfire.  It’s useful for meat on a stick and marshmallows. Many people think digging a fire pit and putting rocks around it means they have a cooking fire.  In order to use this type of fire they need a grate or spit.  They are shocked, upset, and sometimes injured when their cookware and food fall into the fire.  If you look in the background, you will see that this fire also has a bench too close to the fire.  Care must still be taken that it doesn’t cave in or collapse causing the splash effect of the bonfire.  People can still get burned and sleeping bags and clothing can catch fire by flying embers and burning wood.

This fire is dangerous because there is no restraint for the burning wood, flying embers and ash.  It is dangerous to restock the wood in this fire.
This fire is dangerous because there is no restraint for the burning wood, flying embers and ash. It is also dangerous to restock the wood in this fire.

Cooking fires are different from the two conical shaped fires above.  These fires are built in a cross patch pattern overlapping them in such a way that the top forms a level sturdy surface for your cast iron cookware.  Cooking fires allow you to control the temperature for cooking so you don’t have burned outside and raw inside foods.  Your meal should be completed and the pans “cleaned” by the time the wood burns through.  These fires collapse into the center and rarely does wood fall away from the fire.  However, embers are and ash are not predictable so don’t sleep too close to the fire.

Knowing the difference between these fires is important.  Each requires a different

This fire set up is great for cooking.  However, they are using finished wood.  Finished wood has paint or other chemicals you should not use for cooking, or for any other purpose that requires you to breathe the smoke.
This fire set up is great for cooking. However, they are using finished wood. Finished wood has paint or other chemicals you should not use for cooking, or for any other purpose that requires you to breathe the smoke.

amount of resources and attracts attention in different ways.  If you are worried about being seen, all fires produce smoke, so you need to build the smallest fire possible for the immediate purpose.  Building fires during daylight makes the smoke easily seen from a distance.  Smoke is more difficult to see at night.  Building the smallest cooking fire possible will reduce the possibility of the flames being seen from a distance.  Building the fire in a deep pit will make it possible to conceal most of it, but if the pit is too deep the fire won’t burn well.  When you are finished, extinguish it as soon as possible.  Preparing all the items you are going to cook before starting the fire will reduce the amount of time the fire is lit.  If you do not want the location of your fire to be found, be sure to bury it completely when finished. Even so, an experienced tracker may still find the location.

To practice these skills, go camping in campgrounds that allow campfires.  A future article with a pictorial illustration of how to make a proper cooking fire will be posted soon.

Campfires: Cooking on an Open Fire

Round CampfireCooking on a campfire is a skill every prepper should master.  Hopefully you will never be in a situation in which you will be forced to make a fire and cook your fresh kill.  Surprisingly, many people think it’s simple.  Build a fire and start cooking, right?  Not at all.

Skills to cook on a fire are important because you many not always have the items you need to make campfire cooking easier and safer.  Big ones, small ones, burning coals, you name it.  Each fire has a different purpose and requires skills for those purposes.  Fires are not just to boil water and heat canned goods.

Can you fry fish on an open fire?  Why is that important?  Because frying over an open flame can be dangerous at best and disastrous at worst.  If the flames lick up in the pan your frying fish may just become an exploding fire bomb that can cover anyone standing near enough with flaming hot oil.  It can also start a forest or range fire.  For this reason, children should never be near the fire!

Cooking over an open fire is not as easy as it might seem.  A skilled camp cook is a must.  Fortunately, almost everyone can gain those skills.  It just takes practice.  Start in a camp ground that allows camp fires, ask if there is water at each site, and bring your garden hose.  You must ask specifically if they allow camp fires.  Starting a camp fire in a location other than in designated areas could have serious consequences.

If you already have, or know how to use, a gas grill, you are a bit ahead of the rest of the class.  But, using the gas grill for this project won’t work.  Gas grills are pretty much just cooking on a gas stove top.  As a matter of fact, that pretty much goes for charcoal grills and smokers too.  Those are all well controlled systems for cooking.  If there’s a flare-up simply take the food off the grill, turn off the gas or put a lid on the pan.  With an open flame, your only options are to put a lid on it and taking the food out of the fire.

Okay, lets begin with choosing a location.  It needs to be:

  • away from buildings and structures
  • away from trees and brush
  • not in a “red flag” region (burn ban)
  • in an appropriate fire pit (dig a hole and place the dirt pile close to the fire)

When practicing, safety requires you have a garden hose handy in case your fire climbs out of the pit.  Remember, fire can double in size very quickly.  If your fire gets out of hand, go for help immediately.  Do not stay.

How you build your fire is as important as where you build it.  That’s why they say “build” a fire.  First, dig the pit six inches or more deep and twice the diameter of the intended fire.  It should be at least 12 inches deep on windy days.  Clear the area twice the size of the pit around the pit to stop any hot embers or flames from starting a fire outside the fire pit.  For us, a three foot square fire has an additional ten feet of cleared space around the fire.  The fire area is the size of a 12 x 12 room with the fire in the center.  No children and unskilled persons allowed!!  Kindling is placed first and the fire started.  This is a good place to put the bark if you choose to strip it from the wood.

Gradually adding larger and larger pieces until the fire is the the size you need for cooking.  Logs are skillfully placed in an arrangement that allows flames to form in a controlled pattern according to the purpose of the fire.  Logs must be placed flat so they support the pan well and so that when they burn through they fall into the fire pit instead of out of the pit.  

The fire in the picture above is a typical cone shaped fire.  To cook on a campfire without a grate, you need a flat fire, square or rectangle shaped fire.

The trick is to keep the flames small and shallow while providing enough wood to keep the fire going for the amount of time you will be cooking.  Too much wood on the fire causes larger flames.  Flames should never lick up the side of the pan.  This is unsafe as well as too hot and will burn your food even if you don’t have a flare up.  If your fire does flare into the pan, put the lid on it immediately.  If you are unable to put the lid on the pan, go to a safe distance until the fire subsides.  Your dinner will be ruined, but the fire should remain within the pit and cleared area.

How to practice?  NEVER camp cook alone!  You many need help for any reason or emergency!!  Get out your well seasoned cast iron dutch oven set (with stabilizing lid lifter) and use it on the fire to prepare all manner of foods not using a fat or oil for cooking.  When you can prepare foods without burning or scorching them, you are ready to to try frying.  Practice with small amounts of food, just enough chicken to make one small layer on the bottom, and just enough oil to make a 1/4 to 1/2 inch layer on the bottom of the pan.

To begin cooking, place the clean, dry pan in the heat just until it is hot enough to “bounce” droplets of water off the dry pan.  If the water bounces, remove it from the heat and set it somewhere safe and let go of the pan.  If the pan is too hot, the oil may catch fire immediately when you put it in the pan. If this happens, put the lid on and wait until the pan cools.  Poor off the oil into a safe disposal area.  You will need to clean the pan before you can begin again.  Once the oil is in the pan, add then the chicken legs and return to the fire and turn the chicken to brown both sides.  Remove the pan it when the chicken is as done as you like.

Now that the cooking is done, you will want to clean the cooled pan.  This is the best part about cooking over a fire.  Empty to cooled oil to a safe area.  Grab some leaves and sticks to remove most of the oil and any “crumbs” in the bottom of the pan.  turn the pan upside down and place in the fire.  Allow to cook just until it stops smoking, just a few seconds or minutes.  If you leave it too long you will damage the pan.  Remove from flame and check for cleanliness.  If it needs to be cleaned again, let it cool and start the process again.

Once you are finished with the fire, douse it with water if available, then cover with the dirt from the hold you dug to ensure the fire smothers and does not escape the pit.  The pit will remain hot for a long time if it is not completely doused with water, so be careful where you walk.

Before you start practicing, read more information about the topic before you start.  Find someone who practices campfire cooking skills and ask them teach you.  If your teacher does anything that goes against the safety practices in the articles you read, do not use them as a teacher.  Only learn from the very best camp cooks.  D.P.N. assumes no responsibility for anyone who is learning this skill.  

Should Preppers Use Stored Water During Drought?

Water consumption is limited during a drought.In a word, no.  No, you should not, even if your well goes dry, as long as you can get water from any other source.  Even if you have to drive a long distance to haul water, you should not use your water preps.  It took a long time and much effort to get those water resources built up.  In fact, you should continue to build up your supply even in the face of drought.  You will know when to use your water supply.

  • Buy bottled drinking water for drinking and cooking.  It’s cheaper than soda.  Stop buying soda if money is an issue.
  • Fill jugs in water supply stores.  Many of these stores are found in California.
  • Contact a local water delivery service which services water coolers.  They will deliver water in three to five gallon containers, or maybe larger.
  • Contact a water hauling company to deliver water in bulk.  Treat this water like lake water.
  • If you live on the ocean, install a desalinization plant on your property.
  • Remember public lakes and some rivers will most likely be considered part of the public water supply.  Pumping from these sources might be prohibited during a severe drought.

 

 

Free Prepping Series, Part 6: Food Stores and Budgeting

Food Supply and BudgetIn this article on food stores and budgeting we will look at one of the most difficult things to prepare: a food supply.  It sounds and looks easy enough.  Just buy extra food when you go to the store, right?  Hold on.  Not so fast.  If it were that easy, people all over would be doing it.  Whether or not you are already stocking food for an emergency, this prepper activity you can, and should, do at not money cost.  But first you need to figure out where to start.

Inventory

Most of us have had an experience with not getting to the grocery store often enough and one day realizing there isn’t anything in the house to eat.  Sure, you have some ingredients, but not really enough to make a balanced meal.  Off to the store to buy that huge supply of groceries that costs a lot of money out of the budget.  If you are at that point right now, GREAT!  This gives you a baseline to look at what you have in the pantry that, for one reason or another, you consider “not food”.  Include the freezer in the pantry!  Make a list of those items.  If you don’t want to write it down, use your cell phone’s speech to text option in either the email function or the text message function.  Use that feature to email the list to yourself.

Once the inventory is completed and emailed, you can use one of the programs discussed in the Getting Started series to see what you can actually do with the groceries you have on hand.  You will be surprised at just how many items you can make and you still have not gone to the store.  For even more recipes, try importing them from the web into your recipe program.  Type mealmaster or mastercook recipes into your favorite search engines.  There are hundreds of thousands of recipes out there free for the downloading.

Making use of these programs and recipes enriches your cooking habits, provides alternatives outside your normal habits, and helps prepare you for times when your ingredient list is shorter than you like.  More than that, they help you plan menus in doubled or tripled proportions so you can set aside products for the prepper’s food pantry.  They organize your grocery lists and manage your kitchen if you fully utilize the features.  The key is that you actually use the programs as designed.  The most difficult part is sticking to the menu plans you make and actually marking them in the program as completed.  The first time you don’t do as you should, you no longer have an accurate record of your pantry.  But, using the program to plan every menu, either as you are making it, or for the whole month, will help you keep track of everything from what it will cost before you go to the grocery store to what you need if you want to make your spouse’s favorite dinner.

Now that you are in the habit of using the program for your everyday needs, it is time to start planning the long term supply.  If you got the free mealmaster program, you still have not spent anything on prepping.  If you bought mastercook, it was $20.00.  Look back through the history of which menus you used over the last several months.  Those are your family’s favorite foods.  Now plan a menu for a month.  Not so easy, but still no cost in planning.  Once you have mastered monthly planning, go big and plan a menu for three months.  The fact is eating the same foods every month, people get bored and crave something different.  Planning inexpensive meals is optimal, but every now and then you must plan a meal that feels more luxurious.  Over time you will know what items to start putting in your prepper pantry.  If you maintain a complete inventory, you will quickly be able to increase your pantry.

Menus

Let’s talk more about what menus mean to the cook and the family.  For the cook, menus force the issue of stretching your cooking skills and addressing dietary and budgetary issues.  Cooking the same meals over and over is boring.  So is eating them. Posting the menu lets every one anticipate what is coming up.  This can be a source of entertainment all by itself.  Pay attention to the comments they make when they see the menu.  If you hear a lot of grumbling about this meal or that, take notice.  Foods that don’t get eaten are a waste of money.  Find other ways to sneak the spinach or broccoli into a meal.  Keep notes on each recipe such as “spouse hated it but the kids loved it”.  Later if your spouse is going to be gone, you can do a recipe search for those recipes.  The kids will feel special because they get something they wouldn’t get if your spouse was home.  It’s a win-win.  This is how you will know which recipes probably would not be a good choice for your prepper pantry.

Budgeting

Lets talk about budgeting.    Gather up your receipts for the last twelve months if you have them.  If you don’t have them, you will need to start saving them.  Once you have at least 90 days worth of receipts  you can start figuring out what you are doing with your food money.  If you want to work on a rough estimate of what you spend, look in your bank records to see what you spent at the grocery store.  The trouble is most stores stock more than groceries, so the totals won’t be accurate.  In any case, do not include in your food budget anything you can’t eat.  Once you have an idea what you spend monthly on everything edible, evaluate the list for items that are not of good nutritional value.  Boxed foods, chips and candy are not a good value for the money, calories, sugars, salt and fat.  You get the idea.  Add up the cost of those items, and that is the amount of wasted money and the rest of that deadly diet list.

Now that you have tightened your belt and removed the poor quality foods from your shopping list, you can use that money to purchase good quality foods for your family.  It is hard to know what is an appropriate budget for your family’s food supply.  Use the tools at the USDA offices to help you decide what your budget should look like.  If you are currently spending more than you should, menu planning will help.  While sticking to a budget and a menu plan requires discipline, it is important.  Only when you are able to be disciplined in the kitchen, and with the checkbook, will you be able to effectively plan for a SHTF event.

Getting Prepared: A Primer for Beginners Series, part 9

A food supply for the prepared.Let’s talk food supply.

Many people have the mistaken idea that all they need to do is stockpile a bunch of food and they have it made.  It doesn’t work like that.  The first thing a new prepper needs to do is figure out what food habits exist in the household.  While it is important to assess what kinds of foods the various family members eat, it is also important to keep grocery receipts and use them to better identify what you buy, how often you go to the store, and how much long term planning you do.  How long your current supply of food will last is only as good as how you currently shop.

Prepping well will not only change the amount of food you store, but will also change your life.

Since your goal is to go grocery shopping once a month or less, you will spend less time in the grocery store.  You will waste less money on items you shouldn’t be buying anyway.  You will apply those savings towards your preps.  Your family will eat and be healthier.  You will have peace of mind that if anything should happen, you are ready.

Now that you know how often you shop and how you spend your grocery money, you are ready to move on to food planning.

If you are not in the habit of planning your menus, this would be a good time to start.

Planning menus can be challenging at first, but you can use any number of online menu Even Armstrong had a Menu Prepared.planners or you can purchase a copy of MasterCook for about $20 or MealMaster for free.  We use MasterCook because it has all the capabilities we need, we are not connected with the authors of MasterCook in any way.  We just like it best.  It keeps track of your pantry once you have entered your existing pantry items.  You can create and print your own cookbooks based on your family’s preferences and needs.  It will also keep track of pricing and dietary statistics.  When you plan a meal you will know how many calories, grams of carbohydrates, fat and other important dietary information.

Knowing this information is important because you need to know how well nourished your family will be on a diet of your preps if SHTF.  If you are including too many calories during a time when they are going to be sedentary, they will gain too much weight.  If you don’t include enough calories during a time when they will be working harder than normal, they won’t have enough energy.  It can be difficult to prepare for both scenarios, but we will tackle that at another time.

See you next time in the “Getting Prepared:  A Primer for Beginners Series”.

Getting Prepared: A Primer for Beginners Series, part 7

Welcome back to part 7 of our little primer.  Today we are looking at all that stuff you found in the garage.  Did you find plenty of scraps?  How about all sorts of screws, nuts and bolts?  Nails galore?  Did you get them all sorted for purpose and size?  You didn’t throw away those scraps of wood did you?  I hope you sorted them into containers according to size and type of wood.  Even the tiniest pieces of wood can be used to repair some hole in the wall.

The hardwoods are great for furniture making, wood smoke for cooking, and boat building.  Softwoods are great for indoor applications because many are susceptible to bugs and rot.  Cedar, which is a softwood, is suitable for outdoor and indoor use since it has a natural chemical compound that repels bugs and mold while still being pleasing to humans.

If you throw some cedar chips in with your wood it will help protect it from bugs and help your wood supply last longer.  Oh, and throw some cedar chips in with the stash of fabric too.

Once you know what kinds of wood you have and how much you have, decide if you think you have enough to meet your needs should TSHTF.  That means do you have enough to board up your house in a hurricane?  How about to board up windows that broke in a hail storm?  If a tornado dropped a chunk of a tree on your roof, would you have enough lumber on hand to cover the hole until repairs could be made?  You can bet there will most likely be a list of people ahead of you if you plan to use a roofing company.

It’s time to evaluate the hardware you sorted into cans of all sizes, or boxes and tins.  Consider if you have enough nails to completely nail the amount of wood you have if you were to be placing nails every four inches apart.  Do you have the right screws if you have to replace flooring or decking?

Come back for part 8!

Happy prepping![subscribe2]