Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Man, a Vacuum Sealer and a Year of Food

A Man, a vacuum sealer and a year of food

If you’re like me, understanding the times we live in are just about
impossible! Getting a grasp on our current situation feels more like
treading water on a stormy sea and gasping for air when one can. In that
situation the one thing that makes the difference is a life vest to keep
you afloat.

OK, that said to frame what I want to talk about. I live in a small city
of around 20K people. I live around farms but they don’t grow anything
but hay and corn to feel horses and cattle. We owned a small restaurant
here in the Shenandoah Valley and I quickly learned that I had to make
sure that my produce was stocked to match shipments being trucked in from
California and Mexico! You see, almost a complete absence of commercial
greenhouses around Virginia and the sad part is I do live in what is
considered to be farm country.

We know that the “Just in Time” supply model has become the standard for
industry suppliers including food distributors. When I was a kid, I
worked in a grocery store and the back wall was stacked to the rafters
with boxes of canned goods. Now the new stores are just designed to have
a receiving staging area. All that is ordered is enough to “front” the
shelves. No longer are full cases ordered but at times restocking is just
one at a time so the shelves are now the stock room…in a real crisis we
all know just how fast the grocery stores will be emptied.

What is one to do?

Food supply:
Food is relatively cheap right now so this is the best time to start
stocking up for your own supply that can carry you through the first
year…you, your children, and their children if they are grown. One can
purchase 50 pounds of wheat for around 40 cents per pound so you can see
that one can quickly you can build up serious stock, but don’t forget to
buy a grinder!

What kinds of foods you need to inventory are the ones that seal up nicely
and have inherent long term storage built into them. Seeds by design,
when kept whole, like wheat, corn, oats, rice and beans (for example) have
excellent storage capability built right in so it makes sense to major on
these types of foods. I have managed to put away quite a few buckets of
food of these types and a whole lot more to go but here is what I do but
there are lots of ways to get the job done.

I like to put up food in smaller vacuum bags. There are really nice
commercial vacuum machines that run around $350 and up but that was not in
my budget so I spent about $30 on a Foodsaver brand (or whatever) sealer.
Although this will only draw around a 10 to 15 inches of vacuum I add two
items into the bag just before sealing. One is an oxygen absorber and the
other a moisture absorber. Between these two I figure I am getting just
about all the moisture and oxygen out of the bag and as the air we breathe
is about 80% Nitrogen that leaves my future food bathed in an inert gas
that is excellent for long term storage. Even if you had buggies that you
could not see in with your grains, they simply cannot live without oxygen.

On eBay I found out you could order six gallon (food grade) Mylar bags
with a huge oxygen absorber for just over a Dollar. At Home Depot they
have nice orange, five gallon buckets with rubber gasket in the lids for
under $5.00. So I place the Mylar bag into the bucket, then put the
smaller bags say quart sized and perhaps one or two ½ gallon sixed vacuum
sealed bags into the Mylar bag along with the large oxygen absorber and
with practice you can seal the large Mylar bag with your vacuum sealer and
remove the oxygen from that larger Mylar bag. To do this after loading
the Mylar Bag take a small board (or any nicely flat and sturdy object)
and fold the Mylar over the board and take the wife’s nice iron (a lot of
guys might consider getting a used iron from the thrift store) and seal it
up except for enough space to stick a small vacuum hose into your bag.

I purchased a Mason jar sealer that attaches to my vacuum sealer and
nicely seals up canning jars with dry packed stuff like bulk spices. It
has a PVC hose that connects to the vacuum sealer. I take that hose and
stick it into the Mylar bag and then finish sealing the Mylar bag with the
iron right up to the hose. With a little pinch I then get a seal so I can
now pull a vacuum inside the Mylar bag as well providing your food with
triple sealed storage, bucket, Mylar and small vacuum bag. You have just
created five gallons of food for the future for around $5.00, plus the
food cost, for a small fraction of the “emergency” foods you can buy over
the Internet. When it comes to bulk wheat you might want to forgo the
individual bags and put it right into the six gallon Mylar bag and seal it
up properly. You can get a lot more food into each bucket that way and
that is important when space is critical. These smaller bags then need
protection from everything from rodents to accidental tears and punctures.
One can purchase 55 gallon Mylar bags if you are seriously sheltering
in…and space is critical.

This kind of food storage is critical if we do have a TEOTWAWKI (we all
know that stands for The End Of The World As We Know It, right?) event.
Most of what I read about looks more like a slow and painful death of the
Dollar through contortions of hyper inflation/stagflation and deflation.
In my really stupid years I once drank a whole bottle of Tequila and that
is a lot what we will have when a financial system is completely out of
control, our coming financial collapse is going to be like that on an
experiential level…complete loss of voluntary control, and it is going to
be messy.

This food you can easily set aside can help you make it through the first
year of your life should the unthinkable happen and you have to become
self sufficient overnight. Google phrases like “food storage per person”
and see what the calculations look like. It might take thousands of
pounds of food for a medium size family but this can be done. I looked
for a local semi-independent supermarket that orders food in bulk and then
breaks that down into smaller bags for retail and asked if I could add
bulk orders onto their regular weekly shipments. They said yes and now I
order 50 or so pounds of bulk foods from wheat to beans and I also get a
10% to 15% discount rather than buying off the shelf. Best of all is no
shipping charges! You can also order off the Internet but you will have
to pay for Mr. UPS to come deliver it typically doubling the cost of the

This week I just ordered another 50 Lbs of Raw Sugar as Sugar prices are
expected to be sharply on the rise due to crop failures and Wall Street
commodity investors. Items like sugars and honey have practically
unlimited shelf life and if you package them as I described you will
eliminate caking due to moisture. You will get some packing together,
especially with raw sugar, due to the compacting typical with the
vacuuming but it busts apart easily.

Adding in a nice variety of freeze dried foods for flavor and simplicity
gives you a great selection so that meals can be different and interesting
in a crisis situation. The only thing I can imagine worse than eating the
same thing day after day is eating nothing day after day.

To start taking advantage of your new supplies, start making prepared
meals out of them now. Think of a meal you would typically make. In my
house Black Beans & Rice are a typical dinner. Beans typically need to be
soaked overnight before cooking and that is so easy to forget. Try this
idea for quick emergency or not so emergency meals. Take a canning jar
and fill it with the beans like Black Beans. Add in spices along with
garlic & onion or what you might typically use and then fill the jar with
boiling water and seal it just as you would when canning with a hot lid.
Place your jars into a pressure cooker and pasteurize the contents. When
you open it back up you will have a bean dinner already seasoned and ready
to heat up and serve.

In addition to canning veggies you can also can meats and butter but you
have to do some reading on that temperature you need to reach for 100%
food safety.

If a TEOTWAWKI hits in winter then you might not need a full year’s supply
till you have food coming in from the garden but you have to have seeds
and good soil…more about that next time.


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