vitamin c - additional items for longer-term storage

Scurvy was a disease that used to afflict sailors as they crossed the ocean. It was caused by a lack of vitamin C in their diets. Long voyages meant that sailors often ran out of perishable fruits and vegetables which supplied necessary vitamin C to their bodies. Scurvy is not very common anymore. Food preservation techniques have made vitamin C abundant throughout the world regardless of season. A longer-term supply full of grains and beans may keep you alive, but vitamin C is completely lacking in this diet. Consequently, it is advised to store vitamin C as a part of your longer-term supply.1

The best way to get vitamin C and other essential nutrients is from fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet. Through gardening and home preservation, you may be able to maintain a good supply of these vitamins in your home storage. You can also get vitamin C from canned goods. Most commercially canned and home preserved fruits and vegetables, however, have shorter shelf lives and require regular rotation. By storing a variety of fruits and vegetables that you regularly eat, you can ensure a good vitamin C supply. I have also chosen to store multi-vitamins as a part of our home storage. Vitamins decline rapidly and also require frequent rotation.



baking soda - additional items for longer-term storage

Baking soda is a great item to have for longer-term storage. Not only is it important for cooking old, dry beans (see information on cooking old, dry beans here), but baking soda can also be used for cleaning, as a toothpaste substitute and as a laundry boost. Baking soda is also a great leavening agent and is an important ingredient as such in many recipes.

Baking soda has a long shelf-life.1 Steer clear of those small cardboard boxes in which baking soda is often packaged. Instead choose baking soda in #10 cans or repack it into a PETE container for ideal storage life. A typical #10 can contains 576 teaspoons.3 I also store baking powder and yeast as a part of my longer-term storage. All store well in cool, dry conditions.2

1 - LDS Church News
2 - USU Extension
3 - Emergency Essentials


family home evening - earthquake scenario

I taught a lesson on preparedness last night for FHE (family home evening). Here is a synopsis, if you would like to try something similar:

I chose the most likely emergency for our area - which in our case is an earthquake. I invented a scenario including time of day and extent of the earthquake. I also determined situations - like downed power lines, dam breaks, and gas leaks that we would encounter (but I didn't share these additional situations with anyone else).

I gave each member of our family a blank sheet of paper with a single sentence indicating their location and situation. After the earthquake "occurred," each family member wrote on the page what their next course of action would be. I had predetermined my course of action prior to starting the activity so that my responses were not changed based on their decisions. Then I responded (by writing on their paper) to their actions indicating additional situations as needed. The main objective was to find each other.

We have older children and a three-year old. Obviously, this activity is better suited for children who can write. Our little-one acted as the paper "passer" as we responded to each other and loved it.

Here is what happened:
Tuesday @ 10:30 am - 8.5 earthquake occurs. There is major damage, no electricity, and many injuries.

My responses:
10:30 - I am grocery shopping with my three-year old. Sky lights in the store break sending glass everywhere. I cut my shoulder. By the time we make our way out of the store, everyone is busy and frenzied. We find the car and use the first-aid kit kept in the glove box to bandage my shoulder. We discover that all cell-phone service is dead.
11:15 - I attempt to drive back into our neighborhood. However there are so many power lines, trees, and poles down that I finally park the car and start walking.
1:15 - We've walked up into our neighborhood, only to discover that there must be a major gas leak up by our home. We need to stay out of the area.
1:30 - We walk to our church building instead. There I find my oldest son waiting for me. My 11-year old and husband are not there, however.

My oldest son:
His paper states, "School collapses in two-story section. What class are you in? What do you do?"
My summary of his responses:
10:30 - He isn't affected by the collapse. He looks for his friends. They start walking home.
11:30 - He arrives at our neighborhood only to discover that he can't go to our home because of the gas leak. He decides to stay at the church with his friends.
1:00 - I wrote on his page: "You've been waiting at the church for 1 1/2 hours now and haven't seen any other member of our family. What do you do? His response: "I pray" [This was my favorite response of the whole activity!]. I ask: "Do you stay there?" His response: "Yes."
1:30 - Mom shows up at the church at 1:30.

My 11-year old son:
His paper states, "Part of the school gym collapses. Many injuries among those who are there. Rest of school is moved out into the school fields. Where are you? And what do you do?"
My summary of his responses:
10:30 - Not in gym. Go out to field with friends - am really scared.
12:00 - I wrote: "Many of the kids have been checked out. The school won't just let you walk home so you have to stay until someone checks you out. You see Mrs. J. come to the school to check out her kids."
12:15 - He asks Mrs. J. to check him out (she is authorized to do so), then heads west back towards our neighborhood with her.
12:30 - I write: "you see a huge set of power lines on the road all along the major north/south road." He responds, "jump over." [This was the most disturbing point of the whole exercise. I discovered at this point that he honestly didn't know that you shouldn't jump over power lines. Hopefully Mrs. J would have not let this happen. We discuss this problem verbally and I teach him about power lines.] His new response, "go around."
12:45 - He gets to our neighborhood (north end) only to discover about the gas leak. He continues with Mrs. J around the neighborhood to the south end. They tape a note to our mailbox (which is not in the neighborhood) to let us know where he is.
Note - We didn't get any farther with him on the scenario. He determined that he would stay with Mrs. J. But we figured out that we would have spent a lot of time looking for him and that we would have just missed each other. We discussed better places to leave notes (like on the church doors).

My husband:
His paper states, "Windows blow out in your building. You have minor injuries from glass/books. Many campus buildings collapse and a lot of people are cut and hurt."
My summary of his responses:
10:30 - I would spend several hours helping take care of students.
2:30 - Go look for car. Car is luckily in an exterior lot. Can drive away from campus, but finds roads jammed. Rumors that the overpasses have collapsed on the freeway. Tries cell phone only to discover that it is dead.
3:00 - Takes side roads until police officer stops him and indicates a potential dam break and the need to move to high ground. He abandons the car, takes blanket and water from car and moves into high area.
5:30 - I write, "Flood threat is cleared. But in the middle of a huge rainstorm now." He writes, "walk" - to "the church."
Note - We figure he would have walked through the whole night in terrible weather to find us. I'd like to have an office kit and a better car kit for him in this type of situation. He had water, a blanket, and a 1/2 full gas tank, but he also needed a rain poncho and some food.

At the end we discussed meeting locations and note-leaving locations. We also discussed basic precautions like not jumping over power lines, etc. All is not worked out -- but a lot was! It would have been appropriate to serve snacks from our 72-hour kits (but we did something else). My kids thought that the activity was "fun." Go figure.


72-hour kit failure!

Though 72 hour kits are not a specific part of the home storage program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they are a good part of preparedness generally. I created 72 hour kits for my family many years ago and had been pretty good about rotating and updating them. I confess that I have not been as good about doing so lately.

This month, I resolved to pull my kits out and update them. I went shopping yesterday and purchased several foods for the kits including tuna/cracker kits, pull-tab fruits, and some new "compleats" which are entrees that don't require refrigeration and only need to be warmed to be eaten (and could probably be eaten cold).

This morning I pulled out the kits. What a disaster! This is what I found:

1) Difficult accessibility - I had to move too many things in order to get to the box that contained the kits in my garage. I need to relocate the kits, perhaps to pegs hung on the interior wall of my garage. There is no way that these would have been a quick "grab" in an emergency.

2) Clothing no longer in the right sizes - I have one complete set of clothing for each member of our family including underwear and socks. I need to buy sweat pants in at least a size too big for each of my kids. The size 14 jeans in my oldest child's kit would not have been an option for him or any other child. I think sweats would offer more flexibility - literally.

3) Pillaged kits - I think my sons raided the 72-hour kits while looking for first aid supplies for their scouting merit badges. All of the first aid kits had been removed and were missing supplies. The tent was also missing. I can't imagine where this has gone. Several kits had contents spilled throughout the box.

4) Spoiled contents! - The mandarin orange cup contents were black; several canned fruits had bulged/burst and covered the rest of the stuff in the packs with a black sludge; and many of the pull-tab cans had leaked. In many cases, the cans were double packed inside of gallon-sized storage bags. The kits with food packed this way were salvageable. My kit, however, didn't have cans that were double bagged. I literally had to throw the backpack along with the bottom 6 inches of it's contents into the trash. Several flashlight batteries had leaked. Thankfully, they were packed separately into sandwich-sized plastic bags. So, I just threw those bags out.

Obviously, I learned some lessons. I'm not sure that I will pack pull-tab canned goods into my 72-hour kits anymore. It might be worth including a can-opener instead. In the future, I will always put food items into sealable plastic bags. I've already done this with most of the other contents to prevent them from getting wet. I will also check the kits more frequently. I think that I will pack the actual kits with less perishable foods and then include a separate bag (maybe stored in the house) with more extensive food supplies. I think I would be better about rotating the contents of a more accessible bag.

What have you learned about 72-hour kits?


cooking oil - additional items for longer-term storage

It's interesting that during World War II, one of the most desired, but difficult to find cooking items was cooking oil.1 It makes sense when you realize that many foods need a little bit of fat in them. There are times that you can substitute beans or applesauce, but this doesn't always work well. Other oil substitutions include different varieties of cooking oil, shortening, mayonnaise, peanut butter, miracle whip, and high oil/fat content salad dressings (oil based vinaigrette, ranch etc.).

All of these oil-based products have very short shelf lives – anywhere from 6 months to 2 years. When they get too old, they are usually inedible. Because of this you HAVE to rotate these products regularly. One way that you can keep these products regularly rotated is to donate any items that are close to date expiration (but not over) to a local food kitchen. Extra Virgin Olive Oil is supposed to store longer than other oils, but is also the most expensive. By storing and using a variety of oil products (see above), you are more likely to be able to rotate within appropriate time frames.

The thing that I've noticed about using older oil from my storage is that it tastes/smells just fine when I first open the container. But if the oil is very old, it becomes rancid very quickly. Because of this, I like to store my oil in very small containers. It makes it more likely that I'll be able to completely use (and not waste) a container of oil before it goes bad. It also helps to keep oil products in a completely dark area. I double pack my oil bottles into boxes so that light exposure is limited.

1 -
World War II Food Rationing


salt - additional items for longer-term storage

Salt is one of the easiest and cheapest items to store. It stores indefinitely as long as it doesn't get wet. You can usually purchase enough salt for your three-month supply and a bunch (9 months-worth) for your longer-term supply for less than $10! It is often available for $.33 per 1 1/2 pound container. It is also available at Costco in large quantity sacks for a similar price. Make sure that you purchase "Iodized" salt.

Salt is a good preservative, but I would say that taste is the most important reason to store salt. Have you ever had cookies/oatmeal/fill-in-the-blank without salt? It's terrible! Salt, like sugar, makes most things taste better.