Sunday, August 28, 2016

Food storage for small spaces

How do you fit more nutrition into a small home? I've written about 'nutritional density' before, but I believe it is a concept still overlooked by too many people. Our home is small and has only one closet. We've added storage furniture and re-done kitchen and bathroom to include more storage. We also manage more than 6 months'-worth of canned food storage without it being visible or obvious to the casual visitor.

How can we do that? Nutritional density is the key. For a given volume of storage, like a #10 can, how much basic nourishment can you store? Not looking at vitamins and trace minerals, just calories and some balance of protein, fat, fiber and carbs. You may think it's all the same, but you'd be surprised! For example, a #10 can of white rice has more than twice the calories, three times the carbs and twice the protein of a #10 can of potato flakes. Black beans have about the same total calories as a can of white rice, but the beans have three times the protein and 6 times the fiber.   You'd get even more nutrition serving those beans with hard white wheat prepared like rice than with actual rice. Fiber is important to keep your plumbing humming, so don't neglect it as a basic component of nutrition.

You can calculate the nutritional density of a #10 can using the nutrition information on the label. For your initial dense storage, try to have 6,000 to 9,000 calories per can with at least 5 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber per serving. Stay away from foods with more than 20% of the carbs listed as  sugars, except dry milk. The sugars in dry milk are milk sugars, so hard to have dry milk without those.

The 'beans and rice' or wheat options still leave you with a problem, despite being nutritionally dense.  They contain virtually no fats. You will starve over several months without some added fats and carbohydrates. Remember the stories of 'rabbit starvation?'  Some foods like peanut powder and fatty canned meats (cooked burger crumbles or pork sausage crumbles) need to be in your long-term storage if you aren't otherwise self-sufficient for fats. Raising rabbits isn't the answer for fats, but tree nuts, chickens, pigs and cows will help. These will have shorter shelf-life and must be rotated more often due to oils going rancid. Keeping extra butter (including canned) and olive oil on hand, and rotating it regularly will also contribute to keeping this balance.

Another important high-density storage item is a stash of sprouting seeds. These don't take up a lot of space, and a little goes a long way. If you have long winters or are far from produce, sprouts can add both vitamins and variety to your basic fats-carbs-protein diet.

Once you have your basics stored, if there is space left over, add some fun foods. These monotony-breakers will be important if your local emergency lasts more than a few weeks. You can choose from fruits, puddings or bakery mixes. Another choice is to add some 'fast food' that needs only water to prepare a full meal. Foods like Mountain House beef stew or scrambled eggs could break the monotony or be useful if cooking fuel is in short supply.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Random Thoughts about Cash Reserves

The cash reserve addressed here is the real green stuff you can hold in your hand, stored in your home, or nearby.  Having it in a bank safe deposit box won't help you if the banks are closed -- it may also be illegal in your state.  This is your no-BS emergency-nothing's-working fund. It's not your mad money and is separate and above a savings account or other prudent reserve.  That's not to say that if your 'emergency' is being laid off from work you couldn't use it -- that's an emergency in my book!  This is for the times when ATM's are down or empty, stores will only accept cash and you need something desperately, or you still have bills to pay regardless the emergency. Many websites have addressed this subject well, at least in theory. Just thought I'd add a few comments on the practice of a cash reserve.

First is deciding how much should be in your reserve. What's reasonable or affordable is different for everyone. It's based on your monthly requirements, how much income you have and how much cash you can afford to have sitting on the sidelines. Sometimes it's 6 month's, but shooting for 1 month-worth is a good starting point. If that's more than you can do, go for at least a few hundred dollars - two hundred is certainly better than nothing.

I began in 2009 when I received a small bonus at work. The gov reserved 20% for taxes, so I took 10% of what was left and turned it into my first cash reserve 'payment' to myself. It was a few $50's and a $20 or two, for about $200. I tried to faithfully add another $20 each pay period until I had a enough to cover a month's worth of bills and necessities.

Eventually, I had my reserve. I have left it alone in its secret place. Now I realize that cash, like food storage, should be rotated. Since starting the cash reserve, several bills have actually changed, including the $10's and $20's. That's one more task to add to the list: rotate old cash reserve bills. Seems odd, but a bunch of old bills could signal to smart people that you started preparing for hard times years ago, and get them wondering what else you have socked away.

I've also been thinking about denominations. What is the right balance of denominations?  For discrete storage, larger denominations mean a smaller stack to store. If used during a period of higher prices, larger bills would be more convenient. If using them in a crisis when prices are very fluid, larger bills will be more expensive to use. The likely scenario is a $10 item becomes a $20 item if you only have a $20 and the seller claims to have no change.  Some mix of small and larger bills seems to make sense.  It might make sense to have 10% in each of $5's and $1's bills (maybe only 5% in ones...), 20% each in $10's, $50's and 100's and the rest in $20's. For $1000, that would mean $400 in 130 small bills (85 bills if keeping only $50 in one dollar bills and replacing with $10's)  and $600 in 16 bills for your twenties and larger.  That leaves a fairly small physical target to stash for a rainy day.  

As for where to stash, it's not an easy task. Probably should not be in the bed or bathroom as apparently robbers look there first.  Stash it in a water (fire?) and bug proof container of a type similar to its resting/hiding place. If that's near a lot of metal, use a metal container. Don't let it be the only metal container in the room full of wood and plastic.  Above all else, it needs to be in a place you will REMEMBER. A cash reserve you can't find in an emergency is the same as not having one.


Friday, August 5, 2016

Little known food sensitivity

Here's yet another thing to consider in planning your emergency food storage. A percentage of Americans, especially those of European genetics, have a food sensitivity that they probably don't recognize. It is a sensitivity to foods from the nightshade family, which are very common in the American diet. To be more correct, the sensitivity is to specific chemicals, called alkaloids, within these foods. Symptoms of the sensitivity include muscle and joint aches, headaches and gastrointestinal symptoms that can include severe intestinal cramping and diarrhea.  Fatigue and mental dullness can follow about of too much nightshade food. The half-life of these compounds in the body is long, and it can take weeks for all the symptoms from a mild to moderate case of poisoning to completely resolve.

I know about this because I am one of those people who can't tolerate nightshades.  One good enchillada puts me out for three days, and they are not three days of fun. A full blown case of moderate poisoning will start with what feels like indigestion.  This progresses to severe abdominal cramps, which nothing really helps though pepto soothes a bit.  Next,  a headache and several hours of toilet time add to the festivities. Following that litle bit of Heaven, count on flu-like symptoms minus the fever for one to three days. Muscle aches and fatigue can last beyond that, but you feel so much better that you don't notice them that much. These foods in smaller doses can cause minor gastrointestinal problems, joit and muscle aches and just feeling crummy.

So what are these foods? Are they rare or outlawed? Nope, you probably eat them every day. Potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, bell pepers, red and yellow peppers, our friends red and green chili, pepperoncini, pimento, and even tobacco are just a few of the nightshades.

You think you're safe because no one has complained. They probably haven't made the correlation. I was 30 years old when I had my first case of this. On a trip to New Mexico, I was pigging out on enchilladas made with fresh Hatch chili had one almost every day for a week. Bad idea.  Haven't been able to eat more than a couple of bites of one without getting sick since.

There are ways to avoid bringing this problem into your emergency situation by carefully planning your food storage.  Here are my 'tips:'

1. Store and serve these foods for use in moderation. I suggest limiting to no more than 2 servings a day. Sounds simple? If you have hash browns for breakfast with a generous dose of ketchup, you're done for the day.

2. Don't plan your seed supply around nightshades. What edible plants for your garden do you see most often in stores like Home Depot and Lowes? Six packs of tomatoes, potato starts and all kinds of peppers!

3. Pay attention to your symptoms and those of family members. Each person has a different tolerance for these alkaloids. Unexplained malais, achy or "I hurt' complaints a couple hours fter a meal with nightshades (whopper with fries!) could be a sign of sensitivity.

4. If someone in your group shows the sensitivity, learn to cook with less tomato sauce or whatever seems to be the problem.

Luckily not every group will have someone with the sensitivity. If you do have one, be kind. They didn't plan it. It's better to manage this through diet planning than by white-knuckling it!!