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The Mystery of the Meal-Stretcher

For many of us, buying food specifically for food storage is an additional expense that can, sometimes, become too burdensome. When money is tight, it’s hard enough to cover the groceries for our main meals, much less add another few day’s worths of food to the grocery cart. Stretching a meal to feed additional hungry mouths is the next best thing to a miracle.

Foods like rice, beans, potatoes, pasta, and other grains have always formed the core of most food storage plans. First, they are inexpensive foods, like these potato dices. Purchased either from the grocery store or in large multi-pound packages, it’s a lot of food that will go a long way in your meals. If you add just 1 cup of rice to a pot of soup, the expense is just a few cents. This is probably why some of my Nana’s recipes contained elbow macaroni. Just cook up a little ground beef, add some onion, a can of tomatoes, seasonings — and then double the amount of food in the pot with macaroni! During the Great Depression days, as I wrote about here, this was a common and necessary practice. Most of the macaroni in my pantry is in large #10 cans. The larger size provides lots of servings and the metal can provides an optimal storage container.

These meal stretchers also add a lot of calories. Now, for many of us, calories are something to be avoided but consider what life is like during a long-term power outage. Folks who have lived for days and weeks following a hurricane or Superstorm Sandy had to do without modern electrical conveniences that typically make our lives easier. We burn far fewer calories when machines do our laundry, wash our dishes, and help us in so many other ways. Without them, there’s more physical labor and stress. Thus the need for more calories.

I’ve heard stories of financially strapped moms learning that company is coming over and quickly adding a meal stretcher or two to their dinners. A scoop of homemade chili over a cup or two of white rice stretches the pot of chili at least another few servings. One Facebook reader recently told me how she cooked bulgur wheat with beef bouillon until it was tender and then added it to some of her soups and chili. She said it had a similar consistency to ground beef. Classic meal stretcher!

One other advantage to most meal stretchers is that they are easy to store and have long shelf lives, with the exception of pasta. Grains, rice, dehydrated or freeze-dried potatoes, and beans all have exceptionally long shelf lives, which means they retain most, if not all, of their flavor, nutrients, texture, and color over a long period of time. Stored in a cool, dark, and dry location, they will last for 20 or more years. Pasta, on the other hand, is a little more finicky when it comes to long-term storage, but still, we’re talking about a good 8-10 years or more shelf life and worthy of including in your food storage pantry.

Not just for homemade recipes

Although I use meal stretchers primarily in my from-scratch recipes, they can also be helpful with just-add-water meals. For example, a dry chick soup mix could easily be stretched with the addition of rice or small pasta. Canned or freeze-dried chili can be stretched with any number of stretchers — more beans, bulgar wheat, a can of diced tomatoes and/or macaroni for Chili Mac.

This is also a good strategy for increasing the number of calories. One complaint many of us have with “survival food” meals is that they usually don’t contain enough calories per serving. That is easily solved, again, with the magic of meal stretchers.

If you have pouches, cans, or buckets of instant meals, give some thought as to how you might stretch them if you ever really needed to make a 3-months-supply of food last 4 months or longer.

Some downsides to meal stretchers

There are just a few negative points about storing meal stretchers. First, they can attract insects. If you’re planning on storing them for many years, you’ll want to protect them by adding food safe diatomaceous earth to the container. Here’s some information about diatomaceous earth, if you haven’t heard of it before, and these instructions will help you know exactly how to add it to your food for pest control.

One other method for pest control is to put tightly sealed containers of food in the freezer for several days. This kills any microscopic insect eggs that could be present. I do this and also add the appropriate size of oxygen absorber, which deprives insects and their eggs of oxygen, insuring their doom.

Most store-bought packages of things like rice, beans, and pasta are made from very flimsy plastic or cardboard. In both cases,the foods will have to be repackaged to extend their shelf lives. It isn’t a complicated process. It just takes a little time.

A reality of modern American life is the prevalence of gluten sensitivities and other food allergies. If this applies to you or anyone in your family, then wheat and anything made from wheat will be on the “Do Not Buy!” list. Instead, stock up on varieties of beans and rice. Stocking up on large quantities of gluten-free pasta is probably not going to be practical.

Wheat and beans, in particular, can be rough on digestive systems that aren’t used to them, so in a crisis, be prepared to deal with tummy troubles for a few days.

Stocking up on meal stretchers is a very smart strategy for any family’s food storage pantry.

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Why sea salt should be included in your food storage pantry

When we think about setting aside emergency supplies, most of us would agree that preserved food and purified water are the essentials and everything else is secondary to these. Some might even choose to incorporate things like a manual grain mill, a water purifier, a food dehydrator, a solar cookstove and so on.

But who would ever consider something as simple and humble as salt as an indispensable necessity and commodity in the tumultuous days ahead? I would even go so far as to say if sea salt is not a part of your survival provisions, it’s time to tuck away this invaluable, hidden treasure.

In fact, salt was once valued as a form of currency – it was that scarce, and considered a luxury of few. The ancient Greeks used salt to trade for slaves and Roman soldiers were paid in “salt money” or “salarium argentum” where we derive the English word, “salary”. Homer called it “Divine”. Jesus calls His followers (which I’m honored to say I am) the “salt of the earth”.

Wars have been fought and whole settlements turned into cities and nations over the pursuit of salt. Just as gold and silver have once again gained ground in this present economic meltdown, so also will sea salt be a valuable and tradable commodity, literally “worth its weight in gold.” It will be a supreme bartering tool.

Preserving Food with Sea Salt

Sea salt has a unique ability to draw out the flavor in food like no other seasoning, but this is secondary to yet another one of its amazing values. Salt has long been known for its ability to preserve foods. In the event of a societal and economic collapse, refrigeration may be a thing of the past. Unless you plan to consume what you pick immediately, depend on your air dehydrator or live off your food storage, you will need salt for preserving food.

During harvest time, there should be plenty of fresh food (assuming you thought ahead to plant a garden), but the long harsh winters will inevitably come and preserving food will be a crucial issue. Even hunting for game, chances are you will not be able to consume it all in one sitting – salt preservation will be key. And without power, your pressure canner or electric dehydrator will not get you very far, so salt can be the perfect alternate route.

Health Benefits

With salt’s same ability to retard spoilage, “mineral dense sea salt” also aids in disinfecting and healing wounds. A simple salt paste or soaking a wound in a salt/water solution several times a day should achieve positive results. Sea salt also rejuvenates the skin keeping a more youthful appearance while aiding in the healing of acne, psoriasis, eczema and other skin related problems.

Ever wonder why your skin felt so tight, free and clear of irritation or blemishes after spending a day at the beach? Sea salt has miracle healing properties that are often overlooked. In fact, the Blue Lagoon in Iceland is world renown for its hot salt springs that people flock to with skin conditions. Dead Sea salts are another sought-after skin commodity.

Which kind of sea salt?

But might I be quick to add that not just any salt will suffice when it comes to you and your loved ones, especially typical table salt (sodium chloride) and in some cases, certain brands of sea salt.Salt that is processed for vast human consumption – while meeting the public’s demand for a product that is cheap and convenient – sacrifices a lot of health benefits.

Table salt has been stripped of all but two of its 84 trace minerals through a chemical process, dried at extreme temperatures, and oftentimes – for the sake of appearance – anti-caking, free-flowing, or conditioning agents are added along with iodine. But buyer beware of even some brands of so-called sea salt: It may be mechanically harvested from dirt or concrete basins and piped through metal conduits; artificially processed; heated to extreme temperatures to break the molecular structure; stripped of its essential minerals and further adulterated by chemical additives. In essence, many highly acclaimed “sea salts” are no different than plain ole table salt.

So where do you find pure, unadulterated salt?

Dense with vital trace minerals along with its light grey hue from the pure clay sole it’s harvested from, Celtic Sea Salt® is unmistakable in old world flavor and nutritious. (And taste may mean everything with a bland diet of survival foods!)

Extracted from the natural evaporation of the sea and wind alone, the ocean brine is channeled from the sea to the pristine shallow clay ponds, surrounded by vegetation. It provides a natural habitat for the salt while the salt farmer gathers the dazzling white crystals with a long, shovel-like tool, then collects it daily by hand.[ii]

Other Benefits

Celtic Sea Salt can be a simple addition to any food storage plan that just makes sense. It not only stores indefinitely, it provides so many hidden health benefits to mention in this article, but here are just a few:

Supplying well over 80 (24 of which are essential to life) minerals needed for proper metabolic functions and the assimilation of necessary nutrients in the body, natural sea salt is also an excellent immune booster and helps keep the body alkaline.

It works synergistically with vitamins and other minerals for their bioavailability to the body. (Bioavailability: the extent to which a nutrient or medication can be used by the body.) For instance, we know that calcium needs both magnesium and Vitamin D3 to be absorbed; sodium and potassium need each other in the proper proportions to help maintain normal blood pressure and water distribution.

Since natural sea salt contains a balance of minerals including sodium and potassium, the body is able to safely eliminate any excess sodium without the complications of typical table salt. This is a huge benefit for those who have to monitor their salt intake.

“Seawater contains minerals such as ionized sodium, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and selenium, plus many trace elements such as copper, iron, zinc, manganese, and chromium. The human body uses the minerals & trace elements in sea salt to create electrolytes, maintaining the “internal ocean” which is vital to the proper functioning of every system in the body.”

In an age of degenerative diseases and in the difficult times that may lie ahead, no doubt sea salt is and will be worth its weight in gold, in more ways than one. Not only essential for health and vitality, sea salt clearly carries a vast array of benefits.

A Final Note

The familiar round grocery store container of salt is always ground the same. That’s not true of the many varieties of sea salt. It can be anywhere from chunks the size of landscaping rocks to finely ground, which is what most Americans are used to seeing. The website Sea Salt has a lot more specific information on types, coarseness, history, etc. of sea salt.

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Taking the mystery out of dried milk

Many dehydrated and freeze-dried foods are easy to add to our food storage pantries because we know what to expect when we buy them. There’s no big surprise when you open a can of dehydrated onions or freeze-dried strawberries. However, when it comes to dried milk, there are lots of confusing options. Which are best for drinking? Baking? What about the so-called “milk alternatives”?

Having dry milk on hand is extremely handy whenever I run low on regular milk. Back in the day when my kids were drinking cold milk by the gallon, having a back-up ready to go was a life-saver. With a couple of tricks, you can even turn it into buttermilk or evaporated milk.

In fact, I do have a lot of dried milk in my pantry. We don’t drink a lot of milk anymore now that my kids are older, but I do use it for baking and in other recipes. I have stocked up on mostly instant milk and powdered milk, with a can or two of milk alternatives. Here’s how these are different.

Instant Dry Milk

Instant Dry Milk is non-fat and will dissolve instantly in water, both cold and hot. If you’re looking to stock up on milk that will be used primarily for drinking, this is your go-to product. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the taste if your only memory of drinking dried milk is from 20  years ago. The product has improved a lot since then!

Instant milk is made by a process called spray drying, in which milk is quickly dried by hot air. This produces a very, very fine powder, which helps instant milk dissolve quickly when mixed with water.

Some moms add a small amount of vanilla to the rehydrated milk, just to add a little extra flavor, and then serve it nice and cold. If you’re concerned about additives, check the label on the brand you are considering buying. Some add only Vitamins A and D3, while others might contain additional ingredients.

You can use this product in your cooking and baking recipes as well, so it’s quite a workhorse in your kitchen. Store it carefully, however, in the coolest location possible. Its ideal storage temperature is in the 55-70 degree range (F), which is quite cool. Warmer temperatures will lead to a gradual decline in nutrition and flavor, in particular.

Powdered Milk

Not all food storage companies sell powdered milk, but this dry milk is a little different from “instant” dry milk. It’s also non-fat and is intended for cooking and baking. It doesn’t need to be rehydrated before being added to your recipes. If your family doesn’t drink much milk, you may want to stock up more with powdered milk and less with instant.

Powdered milk is created in a process called drum drying. This process produces a dry milk that has a different texture than instant milk, and since more heat is added in the drum drying process, the flavor changes slightly. The powdered milk particles aren’t puffed with any air, which makes it more difficult to combine with water. Some moms mix powdered milk with warm water for easier blending.


Dry Milk to Fresh Milk

Either Instant or Powdered milk will combine with water to produce milk that can be used in recipes. Check your container of instant/powdered milk for instructions, but in most cases, you can use these measurements:

1 cup water + 1/3 cup dry milk =  1 cup milk

1 quart water + 1 1/3 cups dry milk = 1 quart milk

2 quarts water + 2 2/3 cups dry milk = 2 quarts milk

1 gallon water + 5 1/3 cups dry milk = 1 gallon milk

A #10 an of instant milk will make around 50-55 cups of rehydrated milk.

How to store dry milk

Dry milk can be a bit fussy when it comes to long-term storage. Food storage companies will claim that their dry milk will last 25 years in storage, but that’s in optimal conditions in temperatures ranging from 55 to 70 degrees (F)! Most homes are warmer than that and household temperatures vary from day to day and from season to season. Inconsistent temperatures negatively affect any food in your pantry.

Because milk is a little pickier than other foods, it may be wise to stock up on smaller amounts and put it in your regular food rotation. That is, use the dry milk with the oldest expiration date and then replace it with newer, fresher dry milk. If you don’t use dry milk all that often but still want it in your storage, either buy it in smaller containers (#2.5 cans rather than the gallon-size #10s) or repackage it in canning jars or smaller mylar bags.

Dry milk versatility

You probably know how to quickly transform regular milk into buttermilk, but did you know you can do the same, and more, with dry milk?


To one cup of reconstituted milk, add 1 Tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar. Stir and allow to set for 5 minutes. Add to any recipe that calls for buttermilk.

Sweetened Condensed Milk

In a blender, combine 1/2 cup hot water, 1 cup dry milk, 1 cup sugar, 1 Tablespoon butter. Blend well and use in any recipe in place of sweetened condensed milk.

Evaporated Milk

Whisk or use an electric mixer to combine  1 1/2 cups water and 1/2 c. + 1 Tablespoon powdered milk powder. When thoroughly combined, use this in place of evaporated milk.

Bonus recipes

Try this yummy Hot Cinnamon Milk Mix!

2 cups Thrive Life Instant Nonfat Powdered Milk

1 cup dry powdered creamer

1 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

Vanilla extract

Mix all dry ingredients together and store in airtight container. Add 3 heaping spoonfuls to a mug of hot water. Add a splash of vanilla, stir well, and enjoy!


Prepper Cheese

3 cups powdered milk

6 cups water

¼ cup vinegar (any type) or lemon juice

You also need the following supplies

  • A piece of cheesecloth, flour sack towels, or soft t-shirt type fabric
  • Colander
  • Large slotted spoon
  • A cook pot
  • Thermometer capable of reaching 180 degrees F. This includes most candy thermometers.

Mix together the powdered milk and water in a large pot and stir until the milk is dissolved. When the milk is completely dissolved, heat it over a medium heat to 180 degrees F. Now stir in the ¼ cup of vinegar and remove from the heat. Set it to the side and cover with the cloth.

After it has cooled, remove the solid curds by straining through a cloth lined colander. Squeeze out the excess whey and your cheese is ready to eat. If you want, you can add a bit of salt after it is finished.

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All about rice: a tutorial


Rice growing

Rice is inexpensive, easy to store, and is a versatile, economical food. It is a good source of energy and can supply vitamins and minerals to the diet. It is generally classified as a grain, but in family meals, it can be used as:

  • A cereal, cream of rice
  • As a substitute for potatoes
  • As a base for meat
  • In soups as a thickener
  • A dessert in puddings and custards
  • A flour

Rice has been in use since ancient times. It is easy to store, takes little storage space, and has no waste since it is completely edible. Even though there are 7,000 varieties of rice produced in the world, for our purposes you only need to know that there are only three different lengths of rice grain and four different kinds.

Lengths of rice

Long grain rice has a length that is four to five times its width. The grains are clear and translucent. The grains remain distinct and separate after cooking.

Medium grain rice is about three times as long as its width. This type is less expensive than long grain rice because it requires a shorter growing season and produces a higher yield per acre. It is also easier to mill than the long grained variety.

Short grain rice is only one and one-half to two times as long as it is wide. It is generally the least expensive of the three lengths.

Kinds of rice

With four different kinds of rice to select from, you should know the differences.

Brown rice is the whole, unpolished grain of rice with only the outer fibrous, inedible hull removed. It is more nutritious than white rice. Brown rice requires more water and longer cooking time than white rice. Because its shelf life is very short it is not a good item for long-term storage. Store brown rice for only six months.

White rice this is rice from which the hulls, germ, outer bran layers and most of the inner bran is removed in the milling process. The grains are bland in flavor and are fluffy when cooked. This rice properly packaged oxygen free will store for up to 30 years.

Parboiled rice, sometimes called processed or converted rice, it has been treated to keep some of the natural vitamins and minerals the whole grain contains. It has been cooked before milling by a special steam pressure process. It requires longer cooking time than regular milled white rice, but after cooking, the grains are fluffy, separate and plump. According to Brigham Young University, parboiled rice that is properly packaged will store for up to 30 years.

Pre-cooked or instant rice also called minute rice has been precooked and dehydrated. To use it you only have to let it stand in boiling water to be ready for serving.  Minute rice says it has a shelf life of one year. However, I suspect it would last much longer since it is merely rice that has been cooked and dehydrated.

All rice sold in the US has to be fortified with B1, B3, and iron by law.

Preparation of rice.

  • Because the B vitamins are added to rice in the form of powder, much of the valuable nutrients are lost if the product is not handled properly.
  • Do not wash rice before cooking or rinse it after cooking. Rice is one of the most sanitary foods. Rice grown and milled in the U.S. is clean.  Nutrients on the surface of the rice are washed away if it is washed or rinsed before cooking.
  • Do not use too much water when cooking rice. Any water drained off means wasted food value. Too much water makes soggy rice. Too little water results in a dry product.
  • Do not stir rice after it comes to a boil. This breaks up the grains and makes the rice gummy.
  • Do not leave rice in a pan in which it is cooked for more than 5-10 minutes or the cooked rice will pack.

Rice is a good healthy inexpensive food to add to your storage.

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All about diatomaceous earth

What is diatomaceous earth? (DE)

image of diatom by Derek Keats

image of diatom by Derek Keats

A multitude of Americans is becoming more and more aware of the chemicals and other potentially dangerous ingredients in the food we eat, in our household cleaners and in the products we use to maintain our gardens and control pests. We’re trying to eliminate these products from our lives with more natural, less toxic products.

That’s where diatomaceous earth (DE) comes in. It’s non-toxic and all-natural, made from the fossilized remains of diatoms, an ancient algae.

For insect control, when bugs of all types wander through DE, it clings to their bodies and acts like a sort of dehydrator, drying up the insect’s body until it falls over dead. This usually takes around 48 hours.

DE is a life-saver for pet owners

Since DE is safe for humans and animals, it can be used indoors and outdoors.

This season our dog and cats have been beset with fleas. It seems that the squirrels in our backyard carry these obnoxious little creatures, deposit the eggs and larvae in our backyard, where our dog sunbathes just about every afternoon. She brings the fleas inside where they, eventually, land on our cats.

It’s been a real problem. We’ve used DE to combat the situation, though. First, we bathed the dog and cats and watched as fleas leaped to temporary safety within the bathtub. Once each pet was dry, we worked DE into their fur with our fingers and a brush.

To tackle the issue of fleas inside our home, we sprinkled the carpet in every room with DE, used a rake to work the powder down deep into the carpet, and then let the DE do its work for a few days. We vacuumed up the DE, dusted the furniture, and we were good to go.

If pets have parasites, mix a small amount of DE into their food for 3 or 4 days until the worms are eliminated.

Since DE is harmless, this process can be repeated whenever necessary.

Use DE to rid your home of pests

For use inside your home, place shallow containers of DE in crawl spaces, in the attic, on windowsills, behind the refrigerator, or anywhere else you find insects. In just a matter of days, those insects will disappear.

If bugs are getting inside your house from outdoors, sprinkle DE around the outside of your home, especially where plants grow close to your foundation. If ants are a problem, and this includes the infamous fire ant, sprinkle DE directly on the ant hills where it will be tracked into the colony. Suddenly, ants will no longer be an issue without the use of toxic insecticides.

Keep in mind that DE will kill beneficial insects as well as the ones you want to be rid of. That would include friendly ladybugs and earthworms that you want in your garden.

Ridding pests in your food storage

Want to keep pests out of those bags and buckets of food? Simply mix it in with your wheat, rice, oats, etc., using about a cup of food-grade diatomaceous earth for a 5 or 6-gallon bucket of food. Leave enough headroom at the top of the bucket or bag so you can shake the container, making sure the DE is thoroughly dispersed.

At the same time, lightly sprinkle DE around the baseboards of your pantry room and at the base of any outdoor windows. Pests aren’t welcome anywhere near our food, right?

I’ve sprinkled it around the baseboards of my pantry and around buckets of wheat, rice, and beans. I’ve seen a few signs of bugs, a few small spider webs, but that’s after an entire year with my food storage in this location!

DE for human consumption?

Some people ingest DE as a de-toxifer and claim that it’s beneficial to bones, skin, nails, and hair because it contains silica. A teaspoon added to juice, water, or a smoothie makes it more palatable. Since DE isn’t regulated by the FDA, there aren’t any official claims of its health benefits to humans, but there are plenty of positive testimonials you can read online.

All in all, DE is worth having around the house as a non-toxic, multi-purpose product that I recommend.

WARNING: Do not use the DE intended for use in a swimming pool filter. Buy the food-grade DE, even if you aren’t planning on using it in food that is stored.


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19 Alternatives to wheat

I know that many of you are trying to avoid wheat in your diet for any number of reasons. Most of the wheat we consume today is not the same wheat that our great-grandparents grew and ate.

Here is a list of alternatives to wheat that will still allow you to make dozens and dozens of different recipes, and you may end up not missing wheat at all. Some can be used to create bread and others are great to have on hand as meal-stretchers.

  • Almond flour
  • Amaranth
  • Arrowroot
  • Barley
  • Buckwheat (A member of the rhubarb family!)
  • Coconut flour
  • Corn
  • Flax
  • Millet
  • Oats
  • Peanuts (George Washington Carver came up with 300 uses for these!
  • Potatoes (Can be used to make potato flour.)
  • Quinoa
  • Rice (can be ground for flour)
  • Rye
  • Sorghum
  • Soy
  • Tapioca
  • Teff

If you’re worried about buying genetically modified seeds for any of these foods, don’t be. GMO seeds are not sold to the public, at least for now. Azure Standard is a good source for almost all these foods and many of them will be organic.

TIP: If you have chickens or plan to add them to your backyard, consider planting millet, rye, wheat, oats, and/or barley underneath backyard trees. They’ll create ground cover, shade the tree trunks from the harsh summer sun, provide food for the chickens, and then the chicken poop will act as an organic fertilizer for these grains all over again.

ANOTHER TIP: If you’re planning on grinding any of these foods to make flour, be sure that your grain mill is up to the task. Some are designed to grind only wheat. I use the Wondermill Junior.

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There’s more to wheat than bread-making

Lots of us like to store wheat as part of our long-term food storage. It has a long shelf life, it’s nutritious, and you can use it to make that beloved staple of Western Civilization: bread. In fact, in Medieval Europe, all other foods – meat and vegetables – were considered, “stuff you eat with bread.” However, the ovens the Medieval Europeans used to make this bread were huge, required enormous amounts of fuel, and took most the day to heat up.

We are certainly spoiled with our nice little electric ovens that come up to a temperature in less than twenty minutes, but without modern conveniences, how would you bake that bread? Most of us don’t have Medieval bread ovens out in the backyard. And even if you did, what would you use for fuel? It would be a shame to let all that wheat go to waste.

Bread is a staple but it’s also something that takes quite a lot of time to make. I’ve been working on my own bread-making skills and

Fortunately, bread is not the only thing wheat is good for. If you have a grill, or at least a cast iron frying pan, a manual wheat grinder, and just a few extra ingredients, you can make a wide variety of meals. I’m not even going to mention cracked wheat cereal, which brings to mind thin, sad faces, gruel, and Little Orphan Annie. I mean meals that you would actually want to eat, like pancakes and biscuits.

Even without a modern oven or range, you can place a frying pan on your outdoor grill or over a campfire. This method is perfect for making things like pancakes and tortillas, and can also be used for other quick breads like flatbread and biscuits (you will have to flip them).

Knowing alternative ways to cook, and having the tools to do so, is important for short-term power losses and even a long-term failure of the power grid.


Any pancake recipe can be converted into a whole wheat pancake recipe simply by substituting whole wheat flour for white flour. For very best results, use buttermilk. If you don’t have buttermilk, you can use reconstituted powdered milk and add a tablespoon of plain yogurt. Here is my children’s favorite recipe:

2 Eggs

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 1/5 cup milk or buttermilk

2 cup whole wheat flour

2 Tbsp brown sugar

4 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

Combine all ingredients, cook as you would any other pancake recipe. Makes 6-8 pancakes, depending on size.


We eat a lot of tortillas at our house in the form of fajitas, enchiladas, soft tacos, burritos, and so on. I went through a lot of tortilla recipes trying to find one I like, and this one is pretty fool-proof. I usually double it for my family of five:

2 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup water

3 Tbsp olive oil

Combine all ingredients and mix by hand until it forms a ball. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour a little at a time until the desired texture is reached. Let the dough rest for about twenty minutes, then divide into six portions. Roll out each ball and cook about a minute on each side. Makes 6 tortillas.


This recipe is adapted from a recipe book that used to belong to my great-grandmother.

2 cup whole wheat flour

4 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

4 Tbsp shortening (the amount can be decreased to 2 Tbsp, but I prefer the flakier texture that comes with more fat)

3/4 cup buttermilk

Mix the dry ingredients together, cut in the shortening. When adding the buttermilk, do not overmix. Instead of rolling out the dough, save time and form the dough into a log, then cut the log into biscuit-shaped slices. Allow 4-5 minutes per side on medium heat, taking care not to let them burn. For best results, cover the pan. Makes 12 biscuits.


You’ll notice that none of these three recipes require more than two cups of flour. That is because I assume that if you don’t have your electric stove, you probably don’t have your electric wheat grinder, either. Have you ever tried to grind six cups of flour at once with an ordinary hand-powered grain mill? It’s incredibly tedious. You’ll be having flashbacks from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s The Long Winter for days. Two cups at a time, however, is entirely doable. You’ll be able to finish in less than a half hour.

I hope you will be inspired to test out these recipes. I was skeptical about the idea of skillet biscuits on the grill but was pleasantly surprised by how they turned out. Recipes using wheat typically include budget-friendly ingredients, so get busy experimenting with these recipes and others. You’ll soon learn just how versatile wheat can be!

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How toxic water affects children

In my many years teaching people about water and its impact on health, I have discovered that people in our society know shockingly little about the subject. This is even true of people who should know better. Water contamination is more dangerous for children and every household with a child or grandchild should know more about this topic.

We live in a toxic world. The evidence is overwhelming. The examples could fill many books, but consider just these:

  • More than 85,000 chemicals are in use today. Municipal water supplies, however, are only required to meet standards on about 100 of these potential contaminants. Water supplies that meet these standards are considered “legally” safe to drink. Many cities that have “safe drinking water” actually have water supplies contaminated by high levels of dangerous, yet unregulated chemicals.
  • 62,000 chemicals have been grandfathered into our chemical safety laws. This means that even though many of these chemicals are used every day, they have gone through little to no toxicity testing. This was the problem with the recent chemical spill in West Virginia; no one knows how toxic the chemical is.
  • In the US alone, more than 1.23 billion pounds of conventional pesticides are released into the environment each year, and that number increases to 4.5 billion pounds when all types of pesticides are included.

While adults should not consume these chemicals, these toxins pose a greater threat to the health of newborns, small children, and even the unborn. Yes, the unborn are being exposed to these chemicals in the womb. A recent study of umbilical cords of ten babies found 287 chemicals (an average of 200 per child). Of these chemicals, 180 are known to cause cancer in humans, 217 are toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 208 cause birth defects in animals. (Source: Body Burden; Pollution in Newborns).

Many chemicals in use today are known to be toxic including lead, mercury, cadmium, fluoride, industrial solvents, many pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides. Many more chemicals, however, have unknown health effects.

So let’s answer the question, “Why are children more susceptible to these toxins?” Some of the reasons include:

A child’s body contains a higher ratio of water than an adult’s body. A healthy adult male’s body is close to 60 percent water, while an adult woman’s body is around 55 percent water. A newborn’s body will consist of upwards of 78 percent water.

Children consume more water for their weight than adults. Children’s need for water is greater, and they can become dehydrated faster.

Children’s nervous systems (including their brains) are continuing to develop, which means that toxins can interfere with the development process and cause permanent learning disorders.

Children have lower body mass. A child’s chemical exposures are greater pound-for-pound than those of adults, so chemicals may interfere with brain development at exposure levels that have minimal or no effect on the adult brain.

There are a number of other reasons, but they are too technical for such an article. It’s not just chemicals that can be present in drinking water. Biological contaminants, such as cholera, giardia, and cryptosporidium can be ever more dangerous than chemicals, so I am compelled to add a vital fifth reason:

Children have an undeveloped immune system, and thus they are more susceptible to microbes in water. When there is a biological contamination of a water supply, children and elderly are more likely to become sick.

An Emergency Situation

What I have been talking about so far is exposure to water contaminants in our day-to-day lives, but it’s very important to also talk about emergency situations. Earthquakes, hurricanes, floods or even man-made disasters such as chemical spills can happen without warning, and when they do your water supply could be threatened. Chemicals can be released in large quantities because of ruptured pipelines, storage tanks, train derailments, and more. An even bigger threat is bacteria from sewage, which can cause adults and children to become severely sick and dehydrated. It’s during these times that you need to know how to provide your family with safe drinking water.


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Getting Started With Solar Ovens

How long can you go without craving a hot, homemade meal, if you have been eating only cold rations and snacks?  If you’ve ever been without power for more than just a couple of days, eating cold ravioli or tuna out of the can gets really old, really fast. Most survival minded people realize, better than most, that it doesn’t take much to disrupt the flow of electricity we depend on for cooking. A natural disaster or freak weather event can turn the most modern home into a survivalist camp within a few hours. Electricity can also be interrupted by man-made crises, such as civil unrest, terrorism, or an EMP, making that hot meal a rare treat.

You’ll learn all you need to know about surviving without electricity in a long-term power outage in an upcoming module, but for now, let’s take a look at how to use solar ovens.

A popular slogan among survivalists and preppers is, “Always have a back-up to your back-up.”  When it comes to cooking and having a way to heat and purify water, what is your back-up to your back-up?

One simple addition to your emergency preparedness is a solar oven. It’s a great way to get started cooking off the grid, and is something everyone, not just preppers, should have on hand.

As long as the sun is shining and the sky is relatively clear, a solar oven can serve up a delicious pot of rice and beans and brownies for dessert without requiring any fuel. In fact, its dependence on the sun as its only source of fuel, is the reason every home should have a solar cooker. Solar cooking is an unbeatable back-up for making sure there’s a hot meal on the table three times a day. It’s also a sure-fire way to have hot water on hand for sanitation purposes and to purify water.

There Is Something New Under The Sun

Solar cooking and using the sun to preserve food has been around for hundreds of years, but only in modern times has the use of solar cookers become widespread both in the survival community and among communities around the world with unreliable electrical power. Its advantages are obvious.

  • There is no need to store additional fuel.
  • Sunshine is free, unlike propane, butane, gas, and other fuels.
  • It’s possible to store several months’ worth of food, but storing all the fuel you might need isn’t as easy.
  • Once paid for, or built, if you’re the DIY type, there are no other expenses involved and maintenance is simple.
  • There are no dangerous fumes or safety issues to worry about.
  • A solar cooker can be used for every type of cooking, except frying.
  • Food never burns in a solar cooker.
  • During hot, summer months, the use of a solar cooker helps keep the kitchen, and the cook cool.
  • Over time and with frequent use, the use of a solar oven will save money on the electric bill.

A Solar Cooker For Every Home

A solar cooker is a must-have as a back-up method for cooking food. It is the single most self-reliant way to cook food and heat water, and has the additional advantage of being a DIY project if there’s a handyman (or woman) in the family.

Commercially produced solar cookers, such as the All-American Sun Oven, are perfect for the prepper who is too busy for even one more DIY project. The Solavore is another reliable brand. Depending on the brand you choose, these stoves have consistent quality construction, are designed to reach temperatures for the quickest possible cooking results, and have features for enhanced usability, such as interior thermometers, large reflecting panels (optional on the Solavore), and a weather resistant design.

However, some of these ovens carry a price tag of $300 or more and can be large and bulky. In a Get-Out-Of-Dodge scenario, there might not be room for my Sun Oven in the back of our Tahoe, and if I ever had to cook for more than my family of four, it might be too small. That’s one of the limitations of a store-bought solar cooker. You’re stuck with a standard size that may be too small, and your budget may not allow for a second cooker.

On the other hand, a DIY solar cooker can be customized to your specific needs. One friend used a large ice chest on wheels for her solar oven. She could wheel it to any location in the backyard and she chose a size that could accommodate as many as four baking dishes. Another ingenious DIY plan that can be found on the internet uses a 5 gallon bucket and a reflective sunshade. Total cost?  Not much more than ten bucks, if that. The advantage of many DIY solar cookers is that they can be dismantled for convenient transport, and all of them require materials that are already in most garages. Plans for homemade solar cookers can be found on dozens of websites and demonstration videos abound on YouTube.

The DIY solar cooker comes with a few disadvantages. If the design doesn’t maximize the amount of sunlight available, you may end up with nothing more than a hot silver box sitting out in your yard. I recommend testing and tweaking any DIY design until it consistently reaches 350 degrees or more. Reliable temperatures will help you plan mealtimes and insure that foods reach temperatures that will deter any bacterial growth. Another issue with the DIY cooker is its durability. If a slight breeze knocks over your cooker and pot of beans, you’ll know you need to fine-tune the design for added stability.

Getting Started With Solar Cooking

Regardless of which solar cooker you settle on, some foods are easiest for getting started.  Be sure to keep a log of foods you cook, time of day you begin cooking, and the length of cooking time required. This log will be a huge help to you as you branch out and begin cooking a wider variety of foods.

  • Hard boiled eggs. Place eggs on a dark colored towel or inside a dark pot inside your cooker.  After 20 minutes, check one egg for doneness. Solar cooked hard boiled eggs will be softer than those cooked in a pot of boiling water.
  • Rice is either cooked or it’s not. It’s probably the easiest food to experiment with when you’re new to solar cooking. Combine rice and water in a covered pot. Check for doneness after 25 minutes. A package of Rice-a-Roni works just as well for your experimentation.
  • Yes, brownies! Mix up a batch of your favorite store-bought or homemade recipe, pour it into a dark, greased pan and place it in your solar cooker. Use the baking times recommended by your recipe, test for doneness, and leave in for additional minutes if required. I’ve found that solar-baked brownies are usually finished in the same amount of time as oven-baked.
  • Heat water in your solar cooker to pasteurize it. Check the temperature of water after 30 minutes. At 149 degrees Fahrenheit (65 degrees Celsius), all germs, viruses, and parasites are killed. This information, along with your solar cooker, could be one more way to insure safe drinking water in an emergency and provide sterilized water for medical and first aid purposes.

Like any new skill, the only way to learn how to cook with a solar oven is to just do it. For most dishes, allow at least an extra 30 minutes to your cooking time.

Top Ten Tips For Solar Cooking

  1. Solar cooking isn’t an exact science. It requires a bit of trial and at least a few errors to determine the correct cooking time for any food.
  2. Always use dark pots and pans with any solar cooker. Basic, inexpensive Granite Work pots and pans work very well. If you must use a light colored or shiny baking dish, cover it with a dark colored hand towel.
  3. Thin metal baking dishes work best in a solar cooker. They will heat up more quickly and lessen the amount of cooking time needed. Again, Granite Ware is a good example of these.
  4. A thermometer is a must-have for a solar cooker.
  5. Allow your solar cooker to pre-heat for 15-20 minutes. Pre-heating will shorten the cooking time a bit.  Just be aware that the interior of your cooker will be hot, so be sure to use pot-holders.
  6. Always use a baking dish with a lid for all your solar cooking. The lid retains important heat and moisture. There’s no need for a lid if you’re baking. Pies, brownies, cookies, cakes, and bread won’t require a lid.
  7. If you’re cooking meat, make sure the interior of the oven reaches at least 180 degrees. Again, a thermometer is a must to insure food safety and predictable cooking times.
  8. Use the ‘slow-cooker’ method when you’ll be gone all day. Place the solar oven so that it faces directly south. Pop in your baking dish, close the lid, and by dinner time, you’ll have a hot, delicious meal waiting for you.
  9. Moisture will likely collect inside the cooker during the cooking process. Wipe the inside dry before storing it.
  10. Turn your solar cooker into a food dehydrator by propping open the oven door by a half inch or so. This allows moisture to escape while the interior of the cooker retains heat.

If you’re new to solar cooking, prepare to be amazed.  There’s nothing quite like placing a baking dish in a box out in the sun and coming back later to a fully cooked and delicious meal.  A prolonged power outage doesn’t mean the end to hot, nutritious meals when you have a solar cooker as a back-up.




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What is a WAPI?

You might think that untreated water must be at a rolling boil, which occurs at 212°F (100°C), for at least one minute in order to be safe to drink. Without any kind of temperature gauge, this is good advice to follow for water purification.

What many people don’t know, however, is that water does not need to reach 212°F to kill off all the nasty stuff. It only needs to be pasteurized, which occurs at a significantly lower 149°F (56°C).

Simply put, the WaPI, or Water Pasteurization Indicator, is a basic, easy to use, and reusable thermometer that allows the user to know for sure when water has reached a high enough temperature to be safe to drink. Pasteurization kills all microorganisms that lead to disease from drinking contaminated water.

Temperatures Required to Kill Microorganisms/ Water Purification

131°F (55°C)
Protozoa Cysts – Giardia, Cryptosporidium, Entamoeba

140°F (60°C)
Bacteria – V. cholerae, E. coli, Shigella, Salmonella typhi

149°F (65°C)
Hepatitis A

A WaPI device is a small plastic tube containing soy wax that melts at 149°F. It will save precious fuel (wood, charcoal, gas) by eliminating the need to heat water all the way to boiling. Even better, it is possible to achieve pasteurization only using the heat of the sun and a solar oven, making this process ideal for camping and in emergencies.

How to Use Your WaPI

1. Pour water into a black pot, a jar, or bowl.

2. Set the WaPI into the container with the wax at the top of the cylinder. The WaPi should be in the deepest part of the center of the container. It should not touch the sides or bottom of the container. If you have to use extra fishing line in order to get the WaPI properly placed, do so.

3. Put the pot in the solar oven or on another heating/cooking device.

4. When the wax melts and slides to the bottom of the WaPI, the temperature has reached 149°F and the water is safe to drink. Plan on this taking about one hour per liter of water in full sun.

5. The water needs to cool before drinking and should stay covered to prevent recontamination. Keep your fingers and any other objects out of the water. If you think it’s been recontaminated, simply re-pasteurize the water.

6. Once the wax in the WaPI has solidified again, turn it upside down and use it for the next batch of water!

It is important to note that dangerous chemicals are NOT removed by pasteurization. Do not attempt to drink water you think may be contaminated with chemicals, even after pasteurizing.  

Pasteurization is NOT the same at sterilization. Heat resistant spores that survive pasteurization are harmless in drinking water, but can be deadly in other uses. This process should NOT be used to prepare water for medical needs or for certain food canning processes.

You can use your WaPI in water being heated over an open flame source if you choose. Newer WaPIs are made to withstand high heat.

WaPIs are often included with the purchase of a solar oven, or you can buy them individually. Consider purchasing one for each vehicle and one for each bug out bag. They also make a nice, inexpensive gift for a survival minded friend.


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