Saturday, November 5, 2011

Fireless Cooking in Your Thermos

If you haven't visited SurvivalBlog.com recently, I would highly recommend that you check it out.  I found this post on fireless cooking just fascinating.  One of the more pressing problems in the event of a utility outage is how to cook food.  I would rank that second only to heating your home.

This post addresses something called fireless cooking.  For those of you (like me) who are not familiar with the concept, it involves cooking foods with less heat than might normally be required.  As described in this blog post fireless cooking involves adding uncooked food and boiling water to a thermos bottle and allowing the food to cook over a period of hours.

I'm sure you've noted, as I did, that "fireless" is not exactly accurate.  What would be fair to say is that this type of cooking would require less fire and therefore less fuel than a more conventional means of cooking.

I probably won't use this type of cooking to save on fuel in the normal course of events.  If I were forced to cook with propane, kerosene, or even wood, then I might look at this much more seriously.  The truth is, I plan to experiment with this over the winter.  Just to be sure in my own mind what does and does not work with this method.
"Summarized, fireless cooking in a wide-mouth thermos involves immediately transferring boiling-hot food into the thermos which is then sealed up for approx. two to three hours. It won’t burn or over cook the food. If the food temp drops over time into double digits fahrenheit, the food will eventually begin to spoil. If cooking grain, leave a half inch space empty at the top for expansion. If it is to be carried in a pack it should be maintained upright and placed within a plastic bag which can be secured against leakage."
The following video offers a couple more great reasons to consider this type of cooking.  If you're interested, be sure to check out Thermoscooking.com for recipes and additional information




PS  No knock on propane intended.  It's just that given my current situation, using propane means stocking up on a number of propane bottles.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Bloomberg to New Yorkers: Get Ready to Evacuate

"City officials are planning for a storm with winds of at least 60 miles per hour (97 kilometers per hour) accompanied by heavy rain, the mayor said. They expect the brunt of the storm to cross mid-Long Island, on the border of Nassau and Suffolk counties, to the east of the city, he said.
He advised residents to prepare "go-bags" containing water, non-perishable food, medications, important papers and extra house and car keys in the event officials declare the storm dangerous enough to evacuate. The areas affected include lower Manhattan, southeast Queens, Brooklyn's beach communities including Coney Island and coastal areas of Staten Island, Bloomberg said."
Photo by Schmoop
I've been in and out all day, but if what I understand is correct, much of lower Manhattan will have to be evacuated.  Good luck to them with that.  (And yes, I really do wish them good luck.)

Closer to home, my wife struck out at our local food store, which was totally devoid of bread, milk, and eggs.  She did a little bit better at Target, but you can see a picture here that she took in the bread isle.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Why Bother with Food Storage?

The last time I covered a rationale for food storage, I was making it all up.  This time, the headlines support my position




Emergency officials are urging New Jersey residents to be prepared for the hurricane headed toward the East Coast.  Hurricane Irene has already raked the Caribbean and is projected to make landfall in North Carolina by Saturday then travel up the coast. The path of the storm is still uncertain, however.
 Sounds like a good time to have some food on hand to me!



Monday, August 22, 2011

Pre-packaged Foods at Sam's Club

As this first video shows, I couldn't get some of the prepackaged foods I hoped to purchase a Sam's Club.



On the other hand, I was able to pick up some items I did want at an excellent price. Better yet, this was during Sam's Club's "back-to-school" special. There was no membership required this weekend, and no up charge on items purchased.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Buy at Sam’s Club with no Membership Fee

Just a quick note. Anyone who would like to pick up some pre-packaged long term food might want to check out Sam's Club this weekend. According to their web site, non-members can shop today and tomorrow with no member ship fee and no upcharge.

Their web site indicates that they carry foods from AlpineAire and Augason Farms. If you go, I'd recommend pricing some items online (and note shipping charges) so that you'll know if the in store prices represent a good value.

I'm hoping to buy a small amount from both AlpineAire and Augason farms just to see how I like their food. If I do, I'll be back with an update-but not by tomorrow. :)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Why Use 5 Gallon Food Storage Buckets?

5 gallon food storage buckets are a key part of many long-term food storage programs.  This is true for a number of reasons.  Some of the features that these buckets offer include the following:

  1. Water and moisture resistant
  2. Insect and rodent resistant
  3. Light resistant
  4. Easy to carry
  5. Stackable
  6. Readily available
  7. Food safe!
I know that those first three items are going to get me in trouble with some bucket manufacturers.  Some sell buckets, buckets and lids, or simply special lids which attach well to recycled buckets you may obtain elsewhere.  I believe there are some excellent bucket and lid combinations available out there.  In fact, I recently bought 12 of each from freckleface.com.

While I am pleased with my purchase, and may very well purchase from them again, I don't want to rely too heavily on those buckets or the gamma seal lids.  While they may be a waterproof, pest proof, and light proof, I prefer to hold them only to the lower standard of resistant.  To be safe, I first pack my foods in mylar bags with the appropriate oxygen absorbers.  This is a little bit more expensive, but I'd like to be sure that a bucket I open in 15 years will still contain food in good condition.

As to the next two criteria, I can assure you that these buckets are certainly easy to carry, as well as well as stackable.  

As far as readily available goes, a quick Google search should easily prove my point.  Remember, you want food safe buckets.  Double check that before you buy any buckets.  A good friend offered me his old paint and spackle buckets.  Using the mylar bags that I use, this might be safe, but I'd rather not take that chance.

If you don't want to purchase your buckets, likely sources are fast food restaurants or bakeries.  I have to say though, I've struck out at several in my area.

Safe Water Storage Containers

The simplest way to find safe water storage containers is also the most obvious.  Buy them--already filled with water.

By doing so, you can be reasonably assured that your water is safe and pure and the bottles are the appropriate type for storing water.  For your first efforts at storing water, this is probably the best way to go.  Because it's so simple, and reasonably priced, it's likely that you'll actually take the time to do it.

This may not be the way you prefer to go, however, for all of your water storage needs.  Those cases of water, which seemed reasonably priced when we buy one or two cases at a time may seem a little pricey when you think about how much you'll want to have on hand.  If that happens, you may want to think getting containers and storing water of your own.

If you do so, it's critically important to choose the right containers.  Your containers should be "food safe."  The good news is that food safe containers are incredibly easy to identify.  With used containers, look for containers that were commercially packaged with food.  US manufacturers have too much to risk to use containers that are not food safe.

Beyond that, though, you'll need to pick the right containers and to prepare them properly according to FEMA, the best recycled containers are old are old plastic soda bottles (NOT milk or juice containers).  These have to be properly prepared and the water has to be stored properly.  If you do this, the water should be safe for use for a period of six months.

If you want to purchase water containers, there are many different sizes to choose from.  While liter or half liter bottles might be the best choice for some of your supply, five or 10 gallon jugs, or even 55 gallon drums, might also have a place in your storage plan.

When you're planning your storage.  Always keep in mind that an average person will need about 2 liters of water a day under normal conditions.  Remember, that is fluid for consumption, and does not include water for washing or any other purposes.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Obstacles to Long Term Water Storage

The first goal of any food storage plan should be water.  Remember a healthy human might live a few weeks without food, but only a few days without water.  Plan for your water needs first!

Water storage is a little bit tricky.  There are several major complications in my mind.  A few of these include:
  • Water is bulky
  • Water is heavy
  • Water can "spoil"
  • Water is "always available"
Let's take a quick look at each of those.

Water is bulky.  We humans need a fairly lot of it, and our systems eventually fail without it.  How much do we need?  According to MayoClinic.com, one guideline is as follows:
"The average urine output for adults is about 1.5 liters (6.3 cups) a day. You lose close to an additional liter (about 4 cups) of water a day through breathing, sweating and bowel movements. Food usually accounts for 20 percent of your total fluid intake, so if you consume 2 liters of water or other beverages a day (a little more than 8 cups) along with your normal diet, you will typically replace your lost fluids."
So if each person in your home needs an average of 2 liters of water a day simply to live, how much do you want to store.  Enough for a day?  A week?  A month?  You can see where "bulky might become an issue.

Water is heavy.  If you're in a home with a full basement, heavy might not be an issue.  If you're in an apartment and have to carry your water up 3 floors, "heavy might be more of an issue.

Water can "spoil."  Or at least taste bad.  The common thinking (try here or here to start) seems to be that water bought in plastic bottles will eventually taste bad, but still be safe to drink. Maybe.  I would really prefer not to drink bad tasting water or rely upon it's safety.

Water is "always available."  This, to me, is the greatest obstacle we face in planning water storage.  It's the assumption tomorrow will be just like yesterday, and that our taps will always deliver unlimited clean, safe water for very reasonable prices. 

I am just like you in that I hope that's true, but I am unwilling to "bet the farm" on it.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Long Term Food Storage?

(Update 8/24/11:  How about having some food on hand when you have an earthquake and a hurricane in the same week?)

No, I'm not talking about canning fresh salsa now to have with next year's super bowl.  Actually, I'm thinking quite a bit longer than that.  As you may know, food stored properly can last up to 30 years.

If the idea of storing food for that long seems strange to you, I have to say. I agree with you.

But these are strange times.  Certainly the hardest economic times of my life, and I'm over 50 years old.  And if this is an economic recovery, I hope for the sake of our children that it doesn't last much longer.

So I'll come right out and admit it.  I'm storing some food against the possibility that our society breaks down--or at least suffers through some traumatic times when systems (banking, food production, transportation, utilities, etc.) break down for some period of time.

If that sounds crazy, paranoid, or whatever to you, I'd ask you not to take my thinking as gospel, but to consider a couple of ideas.  The first is the idea of Black Swan Events.  This idea is explained in great detail by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his book, "Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets."

The main idea is that rare occurrences that we never expect to happen can have more impact on our lives than much more probable and frequent events.  The story I remember best is about a turkey, born in January, who thinks life is a never-ending party right through most of November. . . (see it here)

The other idea is that we are all prone having a "recency bias."  That is to say, we expect to see more of what has happened recently.  For those of us in the U.S., that means we expect "the system" to provide us with an abundance of food at reasonable prices.

For the last 60 years that's been a fair assumption in most times and places, but that doesn't guarantee the future.

Finally, I look at it a simply another type of insurance.  I pay $1,200 or so a year to insure my home.  I'm never upset that it hasn't burned.  And the food is guaranteed to pay off, as I plan to eat it sooner or later!

So I'm storing some food for the long term, and I decided to put together this blog to document the process and make it a little easier for anyone else that wants to it.

PS  One final argument in favor of food storage.  Hurricane Katrina.  How many days did the people of New Orleans wait without even having water?