Book Review: A Practical Guide for Food Storage

What? It’s been a while?

Yes, yes it has been.

While I love writing about what I do as a homemaker and a mom and sharing it with the world, sometimes I have to step back and remember that being a homemaker and more importantly a wife and mom, is my most important job, and sometimes it’s hard to do both. It’s been one of those times for me. I forgot how busy it gets when kids get older and start to have lives of their own…and now with three teens, I’m running many different directions at once trying to get them to their events, and cooking and cleaning, church responsibilities, littles and all of that good stuff.

But, I’m back. And I had the opportunity to read a great little book that I wanted to share with you today. Charisse Merrill is a wife, mom, blogger, author, and preparer (I can totally make up words, right?) who has written a guide on food storage that anybody can read.

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There is so much peace of mind involved in being prepared for the possibilities of life. Some of these could be major big things like natural disasters, terrorist attacks, pandemics, etc. It is more likely, however, that life will happen….illness, job loss, divorce, car repairs, and other things that can effect our financial situations. These things are easier to navigate if one is prepared and the best way to do that is by beginning to accumulate food storage.

It’s really not enough, at least in my {humble} opinion, to become a “couponer” and buy hoards of items at the store for very little cents…..taking all these things and making them work into MEALS that your family will actually eat….that requires a system.

A Practical Guide for Food Storage by Charisse Merrill is a quick read with lots of good basic information, as well as recipes, lists, and a system for obtaining and tracking your food storage. For the beginner, this is a great place to start. Charisse began her system with 4 months worth of food, but you could even break that down further and focus on ONE MONTH of food, by following the steps outlined in her system, scaled for a month’s worth of meals. Then work up to 3, 6, and even 12 months of supplies.

There IS some initial work involved in any comprehensive food storage system, but Charisse spells it out and makes it easy to get started.

Some of her greatest advice:

  • Try recipes BEFORE the crisis hits -Not only does every family have their own likes and dislikes, but being familiar with the recipes and foods BEFORE you are under significant amounts of stress because of life circumstances is CRITICAL to well-being. I know this from experience. The first time we lived on food storage, I had a lot of great basic items (wheat, milk powder, rice, oats, etc). But actually making FOOD that people would EAT with these items….that was a whole other thing. It took some time and a significant toll on me to learn how to do so under pressure. Charisse has several recipes that you can try for your family if you need help getting started.
  • WATER WATER WATER! – This is one of the easiest and most neglected areas of preparedness. STORE WATER! Remember you need water for drinking, water for cooking, water for cleaning and washing. Include amounts needed for cooking as well as needed for drinking in your food storage plan. More on storing water HERE.
  • Spices! Good seasonings can take food from awful to amazing….remember to store spices, herbs, and seasonings. More HERE, as well as ideas on drying your own herbs, and making your own onion or garlic powder,.
  • A master list of where items are stored….this is one of the big excuses I hear when I talk to people about food storage….”I don’t have anywhere to put it.” There are SO MANY places to stash your food storage and making a list of where everything is makes it easy and stress free to use.
  • Have a little redundancy….for example have an electric wheat grinder to rotate your wheat and make homemade bread like this HERE, as well as a hand grinder in case there’s no electricity.

A couple of points that I wanted to make from my perspective and experience:

  • I only buy Tomato Powder now instead of cans of tomato sauce, tomato paste, and tomato juice. I can use the exact amount that I need and I don’t end up throwing away bulging cans of tomato sauce (which has happened, unfortunately).
  • As a Thrive Consultant, I would tell you BEFORE YOU BUY THRIVE AT COSTCO (I love Costco, by the way), to FIND A THRIVE CONSULTANT! Your Thrive Consultant will NOT ONLY MATCH the Costco price on any Thrive item, BUT ALSO set you up so you can earn 10% back in free product and sometimes even additional 1/2 off product…MUCH BETTER DEAL! GO THROUGH a CONSULTANT! If you’re reading this, and you’re interested in more info…well, click on the little envelope in the right side bar.
  • You can absolutely adapt your food storage to what your family eats. Our family lives in a state of rotation. We live on our food storage and are constantly rotating and replacing. That way, I know what my family will eat, they are used to eating it, and I have it on hand. We’re a little different than some families in that we don’t do a lot of prepackaged food. We make almost everything from scratch. This means that my list is a little longer since I would need to include ingredients to make spaghetti sauce, cream of mushroom (or whatever) soup (click here for recipe), refried beans (recipe here, home-canned bean directions here), tortillas, etc, but that’s ok. It’s all achievable.

All in all, this is a GREAT book for beginners who are looking for guidance in starting one of the best investment and insurance policies a family can have.

You can find Charisse’s book, “A Practical Guide for Food Storage” at Amazon HERE, and read more about her preparations at The Merrill Project, where she is also running a food storage challenge so check it out.

No matter where you are in your preparedness journey, make a plan to do a little more today. Times are tough and the more prepared we are, the more peace we can feel in our every day lives. So if you’re new, check out Charisse’s book. If you’re a veteran of preparedness, leave a comment with one or two of your BEST ideas gained through experience for preparing.

Have a wonderful day, and see you soon with some recipes and plans for making peace and preparedness a part of every day life.

*Although I received a free copy of this book to review, all opinions are my own.

Tricks for Banishing the WITCHING HOUR

TEH-witchinghourMy eyes glance at the clock. My breathing starts to speed up and my heart starts to race. It gets harder to breathe…..My muscles tighten and then I hear the garage door open. Hyperventilation. Panic.

Don’t get me wrong….I LOVE my kids. LOVE them. I honestly believe…..

“Children are an heritage of the Lord and . . . happy is the man [and woman] that hath [their] quiver full of them” (see Psalm 127: 3-5 ).

And boy do I have a quiver full,….thankfully. And I absolutely agree with Ezra T. Benson, who said,

“Yes, blessed is the husband and wife who have a family of children. The deepest joys and blessings in life are associated with family, parenthood, and sacrifice. To have those sweet spirits come into the home is worth practically any sacrifice.”

Although many would try to convince me to be somewhere else, to get a job and avoid this trying block of time, as a mother and homemaker, I know the importance of this: “First, take time to always be at the crossroads when your children are either coming or going–when they leave and return from school–when they leave and return from dates–when they bring friends home.” (Ezra T. Benson, To the Mothers In Zion, Feb. 1987)

I KNOW this is where I’m supposed to be. But I still inevitably suffer from being at the crossroads, also known as

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Every day about 3:15 p.m., I suffer from extreme anxiety and overwhelm and stress. It lasts until about 8 p.m. EVERY WEEK NIGHT.

The kids come in and they don’t say hi, they say “what can I eat?” And bless their hearts, they all want to talk to me at the same time and tell me about their days, and lists of things they need me to spend $$$$ on, and things they WANT me to spend $$$$ on. And homework, and reading, and dinner, and choir concerts and church youth group meetings, and visiting and home teaching, and on, and on, and on……

Is it a rough time of day for you, too? Rough might be downplaying it, yeah? And while Xanax is lovely when needed, taking it every single night…..not a good thing.

Here’s a few ideas that have been helpful for me, and hopefully will be helpful for you, to get through the Witching Hour….who knows, maybe you’ll avoid it all-together.

TEH-menuPlanMenu Planning: I shop once a month, which is hard sometimes, but that’s what works for us. So it is essential…ESSENTIAL that I have a meal plan. So I sit down once a month and plan out what we will eat. In addition, I have 15 meals (times 6) that I have stuff on hand for all the time (more about that in another post coming soon).

PM Planning: I find it really helps if I look at what is going on the next day, before I go to bed. It helps me carve out my time to prep, so that I can avoid that witching hour.

TEH-AMPrepAM Prep: I like to do as much meal prep as I can in the morning, when things are quiet, and my little XY is doing his online preschool work. Whether it’s getting all the ingredients chopped and measured, and assembled, or putting a meal in the crock pot to be done when dinner rolls around, I find the more I can do in the morning when things are slow, the easier it is on me later in the day.

 

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Bulk Cooking/Bulk Prepping: When I go to the store and come home with a ten pound bag of carrots, but best thing for me to do is chop, slice, (etc) that whole bag, then and there. Not only does that make my day-to-day easier, but I (and the minions) end up eathing alot more veggies if they are prepped and ready to go. In all honesty, this doesn’t always happen, BUT when it does….things go much better.

Prep ahead Veggies, Prepping and freezing in portion sizes, Home Canned Beans, Frozen Cookie Dough Balls, Home Canned Chicken Stock

Homestore: Having a home store means I have the ingredients for at least 15 meals on hand at any given time. I am working on having three months worth of foods we regularly eat on hand so I can provide in times of economic hardship, or some other disaster, or simply just have what I need for a quick meal so I don’t have to run to the store. Some of the meals on my list are: Spaghetti, Hawaiian Haystacks, Homemade Pizza, Burritos, Fried Rice, Southwestern Chicken & Rice Soup, Macaroni & Cheese, and more.

 

IMG_4237Mixes: Having my own “convenience foods” ready to go makes meal time so much easier. Not only can I control the food we eat, but I can do most things cheaper than their grocery store counterparts.

Pancake Mix , Instant Oatmeal Mix, Muffin Mix, (if you’re doing “Breakfast for Dinner”), Pizza Sauce and Seasoning Mix, Cream of Anything Soup Mix, Tortillas, Bouillon

TEH_BCN1Freezer Meals: By bulk cooking and freezing the extra in portion sizes, I can have meals ready to go in the freezer that just require a few minutes in the microwave, or can go from freezer to oven in a snap.

Bean & Cheese Burritos, Homemade Chicken Nuggets, make and freeze Homemade Pizza Dough,

TEH-tomatobasilsoup1Meals with 5 Ingredients or Less:  Something quick and easy, with few ingredients like Tomato Basil Soup which is awesome with grilled cheese sandwiches, helps make dinner quick and easy, and lets us get on with the rest of the evening crazy.

TEH-MIJvarietyMeals In Jars: Taking an hour or so on a slow day to put ingredients together in a jar, makes dinner come together in 20 minutes.

Prepping Meals in JarsSouthwestern Chicken & Rice Soup, Summer Porridge,

TEH_scHamPot_8Crockpot/Pressure Cooker: Slow Cooker Ham & Potatoes, Rosemary Chicken, Turkey Breast, Roasts, Dry beans…..all things that can be cooked in a fraction of the time in a pressure cooker, or cooked on low heat all day in a slow cooker, for spectacular mealtime results.

By using these tricks, I can focus on what’s really important FOR ME as a mother and a homemaker. Being at the crossroads. Because I am a mother who knows how important it is for me to overcome my anxiety and be there for my children. Finding ways to eliminate and avoid stress during the Witching Hour is one way that I try to make peace and preparedness a part of my every day life.

What things do YOU do to avoid the crazy stress of the Witching Hour?

 

Recipe: Southwestern Chicken & Rice Soup-In a Jar!

Last month I went to my mom’s house and helped her fix a bunch of meals in jars. Using shelf stable Thrive ingredients to create some meals put together in advance, are just the thing to make life a little easier. It’s incredibly lovely to have a yummy, healthy dinner on the table in 20 minutes or less.

TEH-MIJvarietyWe did Zuppa Toscana, Chicken Noodle Soup, Southwestern Chicken & Rice Soup, Lasagna Soup, Penne with Chicken & Asparagus, and Beef Stroganoff. Now she has 12 meals on the shelf in the pantry that she can get on the table in a jiffy.

I LOVE THRIVE!!!

Not only are these quick and easy, but Thrive freeze dried ingredients also make them healthy and delicious.

Simply add your ingredients to your jar, usually with all powdered ingredients on the bottom and larger pieces on top…I will usually tap the jar gently on a towel to help settle the ingredients and make sure everything fits in.

 

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Then you can seal it with the jar lid and ring, or you can use a Food Saver to remove all the oxygen from the jar and seal it. These will last several weeks in your pantry with no loss of quality or nutrients, but are not meant for long term storage.

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Today I’m sharing my Southwestern Chicken & Rice Soup in a Jar recipe with you. This recipe originally was one I made with my canned food storage and called it 6 Can Chicken Soup. And it was pretty good. But after tweaking it and adding good stuff like Thrive Instant Brown Rice, and Thrive Veloute Sauce and Classic Tomato Sauce, it’s evolved into a whole new set of deliciousness.

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Serves 4-6

Ingredients:
Add to quart sized mason jar, in order:

  • 1/2 cup Thrive Instant Brown Rice
  • 1/2 cup Thrive Sweet Corn
  • 1/2 cup Thrive Instant Black Beans
  • 1/2 cup Thrive Tomato Dices
  • 3/4 cup Thrive Seasoned Chicken Slices
  • 1/4 cup Thrive Green Chili Peppers

In a plastic zip-top bag, place:

  • 2 Tbsp Thrive Chicken Bouillon
  • 2 Tbsp Thrive Veloute Sauce
  • 2 Tbsp Thrive Classic Tomato Sauce
  • 1 tsp Thrive Cilantro
  • 1/3 cup Thrive Shredded Monterey Jack Cheese

Directions:

  1. Heat soup pot to medium high heat. Add jar contents except for sauce mix. Toast in pot, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 3-5 minutes.
  2.  Add two quarts water and bring to a gentle boil. Simmer 10 minutes.
  3. Add Sauce mix and simmer another 10 minutes.
  4. Serve with tortilla chips, if desired.

This is a delicious, quick, easy meal that you can have on the table in 20 minutes. One you can feel good about. I’d love to know if you make it!

Have a happy Halloween this weekend. Can you believe Thanksgiving and Christmas are right around the corner!??!!?

 

The Art of Time Management

I struggle….I mean STRUGGLE with time management. There is so much going on….things that need doing, places I have to be, 1/2 a million kids with different stories that distract. As a person who is easily overwhelmed, organization and time management are critical to my productivity, and well, my general well being. But that doesn’t translate into “good at it.” I’m trying all the time to figure out how to keep it together. (Side note: for Mother’s Day my daughter filled out an “all about my mom” page in primary….incidentally, “My Mom is good at: everything” and “My Mom isn’t very good at: keeping it together.” OUCH.)

I ran across a Facebook post by one of my favorite people to follow, Jennifer Wilson over at Simple Scrapper. She wrote a great article this week on Time Management and I loved what she had to say. Although it’s written for a scrapbooking site, it’s principles are applicable to life in general. Check it out: My Every Day Productivity Tricks by Jennifer Wilson. It got me thinking (again) about how to make my day more productive.

Her number one is also my #1 way to stay ahead of the game: Get Up Earlier.

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Because of health issues and fatigue, I have struggled (ah, there’s that word again) with this so much lately. I don’t always wake early, and when I do, I’m not always able to get up right away. Let me tell you that when I DO get up earlier (15 minutes earlier that usual, or 15 minutes before anyone else….whatever “earlier” is to you), my day goes SO MUCH BETTER! I get some of those things done that I can’t do in the midst of chaos, like morning prayers and scripture study and mapping my day. And I feel like I’ve gotten some ME time.

My next favorite way to boost productivity is my planner.

IMG_5284Whether you do it in your smart phone or in a paper planner (I ADORE the Mormon Mom Planner. I’ve used it for the last two years and it helps me keep my focus and be deliberate in my….everything. You can check it out here). Prioritizing and defining your focus is so important to a productive day. It helps me see where I can fit little projects in and helps me make sure I’m where I’m supposed to be. It also helps ME because I have places to write quotes and inspiration to help me remember this years “one little word” which for me, is INTENTION. Each week I have a “sub-word” and I write ideas and quotes about that secondary idea on each weeks page. Mapping my day gives me an opportunity to make sure I’ve got all the important stuff in the forefront of my mind so I don’t forget things.

My next favorite trick to time management and productivity is the FlyLady philosophy….living life 15 minutes at a time.

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Especially when I am completely overwhelmed, setting a timer and going to work on one specific thing for 15 minutes, and then moving onto the next critical thing for 15 minutes, really helps me power through a whole lotta stuff. I get so much more done, particularly housekeeping stuff, when I operate 15 minutes at a time. And on days when I am really struggling to go, because of health issues, that 4th quarter (work on three different projects for 15 minutes and then take the 4th 15 minutes to relax, get a drink, READ A BOOK, etc) makes such a huge difference for me mentally.

Next, I find there are a few small, but critical items to be accomplished every day for maximum productivity and success. Yours might be different….

  1. Make my bed
  2. Read scriptures
  3. Pray
  4. Exercise
  5. Get dressed for the day
  6. Put in laundry
  7. Put meals in motion

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There are probably a million and one more ways to increase productivity and manage  your time as a woman, but the last one I’m going to mention that I need to remember is the importance of being fluid. Things are not always going to go according to plan. Sometimes only 3 of the 254,698 items on the to-do list are going to get done, and that’s ok. Making sure that I’m tuned in to catch a teaching moment with my children, or recognize the beauty in this amazing planet we’ve been blessed with, or realize a blessing, see a neighbor in need and help out, or share a hug or loving word with my loved ones is so much more important that having everything crossed off the list.
They are the TRULY essential things.
I never want to be so busy, so wrapped up in my to-do’s that I fail to recognize what is truly important.

I’m not there yet. Everyday is a new journey, a new attempt at managing my time and being successful at…..well, everything. But working to manage my time better and increase my personal productivity is one way I work to make PEACE and preparedness a part of EVERY DAY LIFE.

Leave me a comment and tell me YOUR favorite time management ideas!