Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Expanding the Gluten Free Pantry - Emergency Preparedness

Just read an article that really got me thinking, and I needed to share it with you...

As I was out hip-hopping around the blogosphere this weekend, I found an article about how to easily and inexpensively save up 52 weeks worth of food.  With the economy the way it is, and natural disasters, and all - we should all have a well stocked pantry, just in case.  In fact, FEMA's emergency preparedness supply list recommends having a three-day supply (at least) of non-perishable food.  And that's at least a three-day supply.  For each person.  Including 1 gallon of water per person per day.  And that's just for drinking.

This may sound really over the top, but remember what happened in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina?  Or New England after Hurricane Irene?  Desperate conditions existed for those folks for a lot longer than 3 days in many places.

Would your family be ready?

Emergency preparedness is no laughing matter, but it's especially important for those of us who live on a special diet.  Being ready with some shelf-stable basics will help!

About two weeks ago, I shared with you how to stock a gluten free pantry.  These are basic items I keep on hand just for every day.  Within that list, you'll notice that a LOT of the items are shelf-stable items that anyone could and should keep on hand.

The easy way to start building up an emergency food supply is to just buy one more of whatever you happened to be buying.  For example, if you normally buy a bag of rice, buy 2.  One way that we've found to not only save money, but to keep a good store on hand, is to buy in bulk.  Some products are significantly cheaper if you can take advantage of case discounts (like at Whole Foods or warehouse stores), or through Amazon.com.  Depending on the item, a case is usually good for our family of 4 for 2-3 months.  Lately, with a growing teenage boy, some items are disappearing significantly faster, but that's another story for another day.  Also, do what the extreme couponers do:  wait for items to go on sale, then use coupons!  Hmmm, where have I heard this before...

So what do I buy in bulk and where?

Here's my simple list:

Whole Foods:  Chicken broth; beef broth; cream of chicken soup; all canned tomato products; bagged grains and beans; snack items such as Glutino brand crackers and cookies, Smoreables graham crackers, etc.; Oregon Chai (brand) chai tea concentrate; fruit and vegetable juice blend drinks (when they are on sale); frozen fruits and vegetables; butter (can be frozen); orange juice (the kind in a milk-type carton); condiments (BBQ sauce, ketchup, mustard); rice noodles; canned beans.

Amazon.com:  Pamela's Baking and Pancake Mix; Betty Crocker baking mixes;  Gluten Free Pantry baking mixes.  They also have lots of Bob's Red Mill and King Arthur products if you are interested in those.

Walmart:  Nonfat dry milk powder; non-dairy powdered coffee creamer; Hershey's cocoa powder and baking chips; some condiments (chili sauce); sugar; Chex-brand cereals; Gluten Free Rice Krispies (TM)

My local Meijer:  canned fruits and vegetables; dried beans; anything they have that's usually in my pantry that's on sale for cheaper than I can get it anywhere else.  This is where knowing the price of everything really comes in handy.  For example, this week, they have several gluten free baking mixes on sale.  You bet I grabbed whatever I could get!  They also had several types of Glutino cookies and snacks on sale.  Also, I buy my coffee from Meijer.  I look for the organic coffee that's on sale, and I can get it cheaper there than anywhere else.  I store it in my freezer.

Check the clearance bins and racks, too.  I found some single-pot size coffee packages for $1 one time, among many other values.  You'd be amazed what ends up there, so it's worth the look!

And as for storage?  We have several shelves in our mudroom that hold all the cans and bags.  Unless you are really good at building things, I HIGHLY SUGGEST getting the metal wire shelves.  You can get them at WalMart and elsewhere for very reasonable prices (be sure to check around to get the best price).  They also hold a LOT of weight per shelf.

Other basics to keep on hand - cooking oil, and anything else you think you can't live without food-wise.

Try to keep your items as organized as possible by expiration date.  Most canned goods are still safe to eat beyond the expiration date, but that's an easy way to ensure you are rotating your stock.  Also, buy and store what you'll eat.  There is nothing worse than spending money and throwing the items in the trash due to spoilage.

A few other things to keep in mind:

  • In your freezer, keep a bag of ice.  I know it limits your storage space, but if the power goes out in an emergency, you'll have that much more "cold time".  We keep a bag of ice in our upstairs freezer above the refrigerator and in our deep freeze.  If you have one of those big-enough-to-hide-a-dead-body freezers, get two or three bags of ice.  And, we plan to also rotate frozen items out of our freezer into our refrigerator to help keep the fridge items cold as well as SAFELY defrosting what we are going to eat should we lose electricity.
  • You will need a way to cook it all.  If the power goes out, you may not be able to cook on your stove.  Having a camp stove, or some other means of cooking, will be essential.  So will a handheld can opener.
  • Food safety will be especially important.  Keep some plastic gloves on hand, and some bleach to help sterilize water for drinking and cleaning.  Also dish soap.
  • Speaking of washing dishes, a good supply of disposable plates, forks, spoons, and knives will be good to have on hand.  We have a drawer in our kitchen where leftover items from takeout get stored.  Look for sales around graduation time if you need to stock up.
  • In your emergency kit, include a copy of Triumph Dining's gluten free dining and grocery shopping guides.  If you have to evacuate, you may eventually be shopping and eating in unfamiliar places.  These are great to have on hand anyway, but they should definitely travel with you.
Be sure to check out these other great articles on emergency preparedness at Six Sisters' Stuff.  LOTS of really great ideas!

And, my favorite, and perhaps most family-friendly guide to emergency preparedness:  the merit badge book for Emergency Preparedness from The Boy Scouts of America.  See if you can get a copy from your local library if you don't have a scout.  Or, you can buy it for $4.49 + shipping.

Think about it. Learn what you can.  Make plans - even a simple plan to start is better than no plan at all.  Talk about it with your family.  Then start preparing.

Have a great Tuesday, everyone!

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