Food Storage-Beans

dry beans

I will not bore you with all the great reasons you need beans in your food storage, except that they are a complete protein when combined with a carbohydrate like rice which your body needs.  I will bore you, however, with storing and cooking ideas.  I like to have options in my food storage such as, dried, canned, etc., because if I need to conserve water or fuel I can open a can, heat it and be done with it.

This is what I have in my storage:

Cannery Beans

Dry Beans

This is the traditional dry bean sealed in #10 cans.  This is probably what I have most of. The upside is their longevity in storage, the downside is how much water, time and fuel it will take to cook the beans that have been stored a long time.  It is important that beans be cooked completely to avoid poisoning from the natural insecticide within the bean that needs to be broken down.  Symptoms can be diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, gas and abdominal pain-not the kind of info you were expecting?  Don’t let that scare you away from storing dry beans, just be aware of the resources needed to cook them properly.

A great way to shorten cooking time is by using a pressure cooker.  What took 10 hours in a dutch oven in the oven took 35 minutes in a pressure cooker.  I’m not great with math, but this is a huge energy saver.  You don’t have to soak the beans before cooking using this method found at (she has pics and everything).  I’ll include directions at the bottom.  To soften up those skins soak the beans in salty water for a couple of hours, rinse then cook.

Canned Beans

Cooked Canned Beans

I love to stock up on different varieties of beans at a case lot sale.  I am more often than not a 5:00 pm “what shall I make for dinner” gal.  I can make chili, soups, etc. in 30 minutes. In the event of an emergency these are a quick and nutritious option, although bland without seasonings.  The shelf life of commercially canned beans is around 3 years.

Home Canned Beans

A great way to rotate your older beans in a useful way is to can them at home.  It requires time and a pressure canner.  A good tutorial on canning dry beans at home is found here if you want to try it.  You should probably use them within 2 years.


Quick Cook Beans

I think this is the best thing ever!  These beans are fully cooked then freeze-dried and will reconstitute in a a soup or stew in 15 minutes.  Don’t over cook them, though.  I put some in a crock pot soup early on and couldn’t find them later, I think they disintegrated. Honeyville Grain offers them in red or black, but I found pinto beans at other online stores. I have used these in “just add water” meals like taco soup and hamburger stew, find the recipes for those here.

Dried Cooked Beans

You can make your own “quick cook” beans by cooking the beans and then drying them in a food dehydrator.  This is a little time consuming and it stinks up the house a bit, too.  I store them in quart jars with an oxygen absorber packet for longer term storage or without an oxygen absorber in my pantry for short term usage.

Beans-No Soak Method

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  Sort and rinse 1 lb of beans then put them into a dutch oven.  Pour in enough water so it is 1 1/2 inches above the beans and add 1/2 Tbs salt.  Bring to a boil on the stove, put the lid on and place pot in the oven.  Cook for 75 minutes.  You may need to add more water during the cooking time.

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Rehydration Mix

Rehydration Bottles

Dehydration is a serious concern after a natural disaster due to lack of clean water or diarrhea type illnesses from poor sanitation or forced changes in diet.  A way to combat that is to replace the electrolytes to re-balance the system.  Heck, who needs a natural disaster for dehydration problems, your average stomach flu can wreak enough havoc.

Here are the symptoms of mild dehydration according to the Mayo Clinic:

  • Dry, sticky mouth
  • Sleepiness or tiredness — children are likely to be less active than usual
  • Thirst
  • Decreased urine output — no wet diapers for three hours for infants and eight hours or more without urination for older children and teens
  • Few or no tears when crying
  • Dry skin
  • Headache
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

These are the symptoms of severe dehydration, a medical emergency:

  • Extreme thirst
  • Extreme fussiness or sleepiness in infants and children; irritability and confusion in adults
  • Very dry mouth, skin and mucous membranes
  • Lack of sweating
  • Little or no urination — any urine that is produced will be dark yellow or amber
  • Sunken eyes
  • Shriveled and dry skin that lacks elasticity and doesn’t “bounce back” when pinched into a fold
  • In infants, sunken fontanels — the soft spots on the top of a baby’s head
  • Low blood pressure
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Rapid breathing
  • No tears when crying
  • Fever
  • In the most serious cases, delirium or unconsciousness

Unfortunately, thirst isn’t always a reliable gauge of the body’s need for water, especially in children and older adults. A better indicator is the color of your urine: Clear or light-colored urine means you’re well hydrated, whereas a dark yellow or amber color usually signals dehydration.

Get immediate medical care if you develop severe signs and symptoms such as extreme thirst, a lack of urination, shriveled skin, dizziness and confusion.

This is a recipe from Lana Richardson who is an expert in preparedness.  She has written a fantastic book (I hear) called “Emergencies and How to Prepare for Them”.  My sister saw a presentation by her and purchased her book.  I saw it online at and when I was ready to buy-it was gone and her website is down so I don’t have it!  I would love to say I have permission from her to put this in my blog, but I don’t, the information is so valuable I am using it and will ask forgiveness when I can find her.  To view her presentation, which I highly recommend, go here.  She received the recipe from an emergency room nurse.  It has the correct ratio of salts and sugars to do the trick.

Rehydration Ingreds

Rehydration Mix
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp “Real Salt” it has minerals included
1/4 tsp “No Salt” (Potassium Chloride)
2 1/2 tsp sugar
optional:  1/2 tsp lemon juice powder or unsweetened Koolaid-my addition to the recipe

Mix into 4 cups water and sip every 5 minutes until person begins to urinate normally

If you would like to mass produce this recipe (makes 48 servings):
1/4 cup baking soda
1/4 cup “Real Salt”
1/4 cup “No Salt”
2 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice powder or unsweetened Koolaid

Use 3 1/2 tsp in 4 cups water and sip every 5 minutes until person begins to urinate normally

The “No Salt” and “Real Salt” are a little pricey, but one container can make quite a bit.  I have a larger container for home and smaller ones for our 72 hr kits.  I found the containers in the bulk section of Winco where the spices are.  You could also use empty containers you already have but know whatever was in there can remain in the plastic.  I washed an empty parsley container several times in the dishwasher and it still smells like parsley which would permeate the rehydration mix so I didn’t use it.  I printed up labels with directions and sealed the label under packing tape to help prevent water damage so it will remain readable.

Rehydration label

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The Gift of Survival

SnowGirlGifts-Vintage-GraphicsFairy                merry xmas

This glorious season of celebrating and gift giving can be a bit of a struggle for me.  Maybe it is because I am very practically minded (to a fault) or because I’ve moved enough times that I see new “stuff” as just something to either get rid of or pack.  Whatever the reason it is a lot of work to find a balance between useful and enjoyable for the receiver.

Enjoyable may be in the eye of the beholder.  For my oldest daughter’s birthday (she is mother to the cutest red-headed grandkids, ever) I gave her something I’d been working on for her birthday/Christmas gift.  It was 2 tubs full of emergency preparedness stuff which included:

  • 1 wonder oven,
  • 1 rocket stove
  • 1 12-oz emptied soda bottle filled with matches and a strike plate
  • 1 case of Spaghetti-o’s
  • 15 or so mylar packets filled with “just add water” macaroni & cheese
  • 10 or so mylar packets filled with “just add water” flavored hot cereal mixes
  • 1 can Morning Moo’s
  • 1 can chocolate Morning Moo’s
  • 1 bottle of rehydration mix

My daughter isn’t very interested in preparedness and has questioned my sanity on an occasion or two as she witnessed my feverish prepping.  I knew she didn’t have much for her and her little family and I felt this would give them quick foods that the little ones would eat and the ability to cook them with little or no fuel.  I could tell by the mist in her eyes that she knew I loved her and her family so much that I wanted them to survive so we could enjoy each other longer here.  In retrospect it could have been because that wouldn’t be her first choice as a gift.

My sister gave her married kids wonder ovens last year for Christmas and other folks I’ve talked to give similar gifts.  Emergency preparedness is a great practical gift and even if the receiver doesn’t love it now, they will love you for it later if they ever need it.

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Making Yogurt

yogurt bowl

Yogurt is a protein filled treat that can be made into yogurt cheese (kinda like cream cheese) or used for sour cream substitute.  Because of the beneficial cultures it contains for health and digestion it is one of the must haves in my food storage. When you know how easy and inexpensive it is to make your own yogurt, you may not go back to buying it.  You can make it with fresh or dry milk, but fresh milk yogurt tastes better.

I make mine unsweetened to keep my options open.  We like it plain with honey drizzled on it or with granola and fruit stirred in.

The initial heating phase of making yogurt can take 2 hours (it doesn’t need to be babysat, just checked on occasionally) and the culturing takes 7 hours (no attention at all required for this)  so plan accordingly.  I will either make it in the morning and let it culture during the day or in the evening and let it culture overnight.

Yogurt Equipment

Equipment needed:

  • Crockpot able to hold 2 quarts (heats the milk slow and gentle)
  • Thermometer
  • 2 quart jars + a pint jar with lids and rings (the lids can be previously used)
  • Canning funnel (unless you are not as sloppy as I am)
  • Small strainer

Ingredients for fresh milk (for raw milk directions go here):

  • 2 quarts of milk 1%, 2% or whole
  • 3/4 cup nonfat powdered milk (the extra milk is to give it more protein and structure for setting up)
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt with live and active cultures (I like Oikos Greek for a firmer set)

A note about yogurt cultures:  Your yogurt will only be as good as your culture.  If your yogurt has been in the fridge too long and has gone a little sour, your new yogurt will be sour so start with a new one, ask me how I know.

Ingredients for dry milk:

  • 8 cups of hot water
  • 1 cup Morning Moo’s
  • 1/2 cup nonfat powdered milk
  • 1/4 cup Nino powdered whole milk (for information on that go here)
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt with live and active cultures


  • 8 cups of hot water
  • 2 1/4 cup nonfat powdered milk
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt with live and active cultures

For each recipe put everything except yogurt in a crock pot on high; mix well.  Don’t worry if it’s lumpy the powder will dissolve eventually.  Keep covered and whisk occasionally to work out lumps and check temperature.  Heat until it reaches 185 degrees-the purpose of that is to re-pasteurize the milk to prevent unwanted bacteria and to denature the proteins for a better set.  When ready pull pot out of Crockpot base (if your pot can be removed) and place on cooling rack to speed up the cooling a little; if you are in a hurry put it in the sink with cool water.  If your pot won’t come out it will just take longer.

Cool milk to between 115 and 110 degrees.  If it gets below 110 heat it up again just until it gets there.  Pull milk skin off of the top (powdered milk doesn’t create much skin), discard and stir yogurt in well.   Nestle the small strainer in the canning funnel and place that on the pint jar; ladle in one cup of yogurt mixture; put a lid and ring on that.  This will be your starter culture for next time.

pour thru funnel                   yogurt in jars

At this point you can add sweetener and vanilla to taste if you like or just leave it plain.  Ladle the remaining yogurt in the quart jars pouring it through the strainer to catch lumps.  Screw the lids on and you are ready to culture your yogurt.   Culturing is just keeping it at a warm temperature so the bacteria can work it’s magic.  The object is to keep the temp between 105 – 112 degrees F, too low and the milk will curdle without culturing and too high (118) will kill the culture.  These are the methods for culturing that I like, for other ideas check here.

Oven: Place all the jars on a cookie sheet in the oven, turn the light on and shut the door.  Let sit for 7 hours.  The heat coming off the bulb should keep it at the right temperature for culturing.  If your oven light is old and has stuff baked on it you may want to replace it so it can heat properly.

Wonder Oven:  Place all the jars (quickly to preserve heat) in the Wonder Oven, cover with lid and let sit for 7 hours.  For info on a Wonder Oven go here.

Yogurt Culturing in W-Oven

Your yogurt has cultured when it stays together as the jar is tipped on it’s side.  You can culture it longer and it will produce a thicker and tangier yogurt.  Chill yogurt through, about 4 hours.  It should be good for about 4 weeks refrigerated.

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The Wonder Oven and How to use it


If I could figure out how to put glowing lights and sparkles around the wonder in Wonder Oven, I so would.  This is by far my favorite cooking tool in my emergency cooking arsenal. It is a fantastic fuel saver for cooking.  I have made stews,  rice, “baked” bread and muffins and cultured yogurt in it.  I have 2 so I can make stew in one and rice in the other.

For a tutorial on how to make one go here.

It isn’t technically an oven it is more a thermal cooker; this is how it works.  The square shaped bag is filled with small polystyrene pellets (bean bag pellets) which have insulating properties.  There is no heat source it just retains heat which keeps food cooking.  Because it is just insulation it will keep cold food cold too like a tub of ice cream for an outdoor event

These are some things to remember when using your wonder oven.

  • Use a pot with a lid that is close to the amount of food you are cooking.  Empty air space will cause the temperature to drop more quickly.
  • Whatever food you are cooking needs to be covered in liquid because of the empty air space thing.
  • Make sure you boil your food with the lid on to get it hot as well.
  • When ready quickly transfer the pot to the pocket in the “oven” to prevent heat loss.
  • Boiling your food gets the temperature up to 212 degrees (boiling point).  The wonder oven will lose around 5-7 degrees per hour.  The “danger zone” food temperature is between 40 to 141 degrees where bacteria thrive and multiply at a rapid rate.  At this rate of heat loss you have up to 8 hours (I wouldn’t go longer than that) in the Wonder Oven before the food reaches unsafe temperatures.  Are you still awake after that?

This is a good recipe to break in your Wonder Oven

Beef Stew
2 lbs stew meat
2 Tbs vegetable oil
1/4 cup flour (or use cornstarch to thicken later)
1 small or medium onion, chopped
3 or 4 large carrots sliced
3 or 4 potatoes, scrubbed, unpeeled & diced
1 bay leaf
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp thyme
3 cups beef broth

Brown stew meat in vegetable oil, add onion, stir and cook for 3 minutes or so; add flour and stir to coat meat and onion; cook for 2 or 3 minutes.  Add in remaining ingredients adding more beef broth if desired.  If flour was not used make a paste with a couple of Tbs of corn starch in a small amount of water; add to stew stirring constantly until mixed well.  Boil for 15 minutes having the lid on the last 5 minutes.  Make sure the stew gravy is as thick as you like.  It will not thicken as it cooks.  Quickly transfer to Wonder Oven and completely cover with top of oven.  Let it sit in oven for a minimum of 1 1/2 hours.  It can sit up to 4 or 5 hours.

I make rice to go with it in my other Wonder Oven.  Prepare rice according to your package, boil it for 5 minutes and drop in the oven for 1 – 2 hours.  It can stay in as long as your stew and won’t burn, just stay nice and hot.

Other Meats                                  W-oven & bag
If you don’t want your food immersed in water like seasoned chicken breasts, for example, put them in an oven bag or the inner bag from a box of cereal, place the bag in a pot with hot water making sure the meat is immersed, drape the top of the bag over the edge of the pot (when the lid get’s put on it keeps the bag in place to prevent water from getting in).  Boil for about 5 minutes, quickly put pot in Wonder Oven and let cook for 3 to 4 hours.

I know you are wondering how in the heck do you “bake” bread and muffins in there so here’s how:

  •  You need 3 tall 28-oz cleaned cans (like spaghetti sauce) or 3 1-1/2 pint wide mouth canning jars for loaf pans.  Make sure it is wide mouth or the bread won’t come out without a fight.
  • The bread will be moist and not have a crust because there is no direct heat.  This will be a positive thing for most kids.
  • It is not necessary to use a new lid each time for baking because you are just looking to keep water out.

Make your favorite 1 loaf bread recipe raising it once (if recipe calls for that).  Divide dough into thirds and place in greased cans or jars filling half full.  Place in a pot of warm water which is 2/3 up the cans or jars.  When the bread has raised put either tin foil secured by  rubber bands on the cans or a lid and screw ring on jars.  Boil for 10 minutes with pan lid on (that should hold cans/jars upright), place in Wonder Oven and let “bake” for 2 hours.

For Muffins use soup cans or smaller canning jars for individual muffins or use bread size pans to make a loaf.  Make dough  stiffer than if going into a regular oven because there will be no evaporation.  Fill cans or jars 2/3 full and place in warm water which is 2/3 up the containers.  Boil for 10 minutes like the bread recipe, transfer to Wonder Oven and let “bake” for 3-4 hours.  It can sit up to 7 hours and still be good and warm.  It will just wait until you’re ready.

For Culturing Yogurt go here.

To extend the life of your oven:

  • Put it in a 20 gallon tub.  It makes it easier to store, keep clean and hide.
  • Place 1/2 of a metalic space blanket (99 cents) in the pocket of the Wonder Oven, drop your pot in and fold the blanket over the top to cover.  This will keep the oven cleaner and help with condensation.

W-oven in tub covered         W-oven & blanket

Hope you enjoy yours as much as I do!

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Food Storage-Milk

I don’t have pleasant childhood memories about powdered milk.  My parents tried that out on us and it didn’t go well.  In powdered milk’s defense we were used to getting milk from a local dairy.  Every week my mom would go to the dairy, swap the empty glass bottles with ones filled with heavenly fresh milk and no matter what percent milk you bought there would be a little bit of cream on the top when you pulled off the foil lid.  Those were sad, sad days when the Roylance and Country Boy Dairies stopped selling it, but I digress.

This is what I have in my storage thus far:

Nonfat Powdered Milk                         Nonfat Dry Milk

I used to have the instant powdered milk until I found out it is just regular powdered milk puffed up with air  to make it dissolve a little quicker.  It takes up almost twice as much space to store per prepared gallon than plain old powdered milk, and it tastes the same.  If you are used to fresh-ish grocery store milk (those dairies made me a bit of a milk snob) it will be an adjustment for your family to go straight powdered milk for drinking.  To soften the blow try adding a little vanilla-1/4 to 1/2 tsp per gallon and sugar-1 tsp to 1 Tbs and use dry milk powder that is under 2 years old.

I haven’t used powdered milk just for drinking.  It is great for creating dairy products such as yogurt, yogurt cheese, mozzarella cheese plus you can make your own evaporated and sweetened condensed milk.  I have used it in dry mixes for hot cocoa, pancakes, muffins, etc. and “just add water meals”, such as Potato Soup (the recipe will be at the bottom) and Beef Stroganoff, that recipe is here at Chef Tess’ blog.

Powdered Whole Milk                 Whole Powdered Milk-Nido

This hidden treasure is found in the Hispanic food aisle of the grocery store or Walmart.  It is dry whole milk with added vitamins and minerals.  Look for the “Nido” can made by Nestle.  It is a great option to store for kids or those needing more fat in their diet (I am not in that category).  The down side is it only has a 2 year shelf life.

It has a great taste for just drinking.  Add it to your nonfat dry milk for a creamier drinking milk and a nicer texture for yogurt and cheese making.

Morning Moo’s                                           Morning Moo's

This product is put out by Augason Farms as a “low fat milk alternative”.  It contains nonfat milk, creamer, sugar and other stuff I can’t pronounce.  I bought it because it has a much better taste for just drinking and it comes in chocolate flavor, too 🙂 .  You may be able to tolerate it better than powdered milk if you have lactose issues.  Some people have had success in making yogurt with it.  We have been drinking it and like it just fine.

Shelf Stable Milk                shelf stable milk

I don’t have this in my storage because my kids aren’t so little anymore, but I’m including it anyway.  This would be a great option for instant milk in an emergency when you don’t want to mess with measuring and mixing and it also comes in tasty flavors.  It isn’t a great long term storage option because of the 1 year shelf life so make sure it gets used and rotated.

Recipes which are great for powdered milk:

Potato Soup from Kathy Clark’s “Dinner is in the Jar” book
Recipe used with permission
1 3/4 cup powdered milk
2 cups potato flakes (brilliant idea to use for thickening)
1 cup dried potato dices
1 cup dried sweet corn
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
2 tsp onion flakes
1 tsp parsley flakes
2 Tbs beef bouillon
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp thyme

Bring 7 cups water just to a boil.  While that is heating up, whisk 3 cups water with the powdered milk in the baggie.  Once the 7 cups of water just reaches a boil, turn off heat & add contents of both jars.  Stir, cover and let sit 5 minutes.  Add whisked milk, heat for about 5 to 10 minutes until well blended.  Top indivual bowls with shredded cheese & sour cream.

Evaporated Milk:
mix 1 cup water with 2/3 cup powdered milk

Sweetened Condensed Milk
1/2 cup very hot water
1 cup powdered milk
1 cup sugar
2 Tbs butter

Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve sugar and powdered milk.  Makes 1 can

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Prepping Buddies

Getting your preparedness stuff together can be daunting and expensive.  Not everyone is at the same point in life, single, young marrieds, family with young kids, divorced with kids, family with older kids, empty-nesters, or widowed.  With every phase of life comes different financial circumstances as well.  While a young family will have different needs for emergency preparedness than empty-nesters there will always be those basic things that we all commonly need, shelter, water and food.

Here is my suggestion: find a prepping buddy.  Not just any buddy, like a  family member that lives close by or a neighbor who will be there for a while, 2 or 3 widowed ladies who live in close proximity to one another.  A buddy that you are close enough with so that you can supplement each other’s preparations.  One buddy has a solar oven and the other buddy has a camp chef for alternative cooking options.

A couple more scenarios: a young family collects needed food stores while a widowed neighbor has firewood and a wood stove to keep both families warm; one family has long term food storage and another family has a garden with fresh produce and canning equipment; 3 widowed ladies each provide 30 meals enough to feed 3 people and you have a 90 day supply of food complete with good company.

I can see this working well in my neighborhood, but I know there are plenty of places where neighbors aren’t as friendly.  My family has lived in a few different states and it has been a challenge breaking the ice with some neighbors.  If this is your situation try and find opportunities to strike up conversations with your neighbors and casually throw out words like “food storage” and “emergency preparedness” you just might find some common ground . . . .  and a prepping buddy.


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