Ask The Survival Mom: Re-using glass jars, food storage brands, budget camping gear, and dehydrating dairy and eggs

canning jars in box

image by Southern Foodways Alliance

From Stacey:  Hi! I have been following you for several months now and planning, planning, planning. I have done as you suggested and saved 2liter bottles and glass jars for cheaper storage of dry goods, but I am a little confused about using glass jars (formerly pasta jars, etc). can I just put dried goods in the jars and use the same lids to vacuum seal the goods inside, or do i need to purchase canning lids? Before I waste my time, I was hoping you have some advice and I didn’t see anything on your site. thanks!

SURVIVAL MOM:  Stacey, you really do need canning jars. The lid has a rubber seal around the outside that does a much better job of keeping food fresh. Since you won’t be using these for actual canning, you can use the lids and rings again and again. The Classico jar openings are compatible with standard canning lids/rings but most other jars aren’t. You can definitely re-purpose those jars to help organize your non-food items, for example, but I don’t recommend using them to store food.

Lulu asks:  I’m late in jumping on board the survival train and could use your help. Since my main concern regards the economy, something tells me I don’t have much time. So, buying trial sized storage foods and taking my time in deciding which brands are the best is not advantageous. So, could you spare a few minutes and help us newbies? Write the best of the best of foods and include the brand name. Thanks a million!!!!

SURVIVAL MOM:  Lulu, I agree that the number of choices out there are overwhelming and it could take a very long time to go through each one.

From my own experience, you can’t go wrong with Shelf Reliance, Honeyville, and Augason Farms brands. Those are the brands I buy most often and have never opened one and said, “Ugh!”  Their freeze-dried fruits and vegetables are all very good. I don’t buy a lot of freeze-dried entrees but Mountain House brand consistently ranks at the top of taste tests and they have a very long, lab-tested, shelf life.

image by Paul

image by Paul

Heidi wants to know about budget camping supplies: On your website I was looking for suggestions for camping gear. I am on an extreme budget. What is the best bang for the buck for essential gear?

SURVIVAL MOM: The worst camping experiences I have ever had were when I was using cheap camping equipment! A flimsy tent, thin sleeping bags, and no sleeping pad makes for some very long nights!

When it comes to camping supplies, go for the highest quality that you can afford when it comes to your shelter (tent) and sleeping bags. Check Craigslist, eBay, and even Freecycle for bargains. We love our sturdy REI tent and got it when it was on clearance at Same thing with our sleeping bags, although I’ve found that as I get older, a good night’s sleep is more important to me than it is to my kids!

In warmer weather, you can get by without any sleeping bags at all, just sheets and a light blanket, but make sure to keep track of nighttime temps so you’re not caught in “unseasonably” cold weather!

By the way, your tent doesn’t need to be fancy with extra “rooms” or a “garage”. You just want it to have very sturdy seams that won’t leak and a good rain fly (outer “layer” that covers your tent and protects from rain). A couple of brands you might look at are Kelty and Wenzel. When a tent description says that it sleeps 4 or 5 or whatever, subtract one person to get a true idea of how much space you’ll have and keep in mind that you might be using this tent for many years and your kids are just going to keep getting bigger and bigger.

If you have a great tent and are insured a good night’s rest, then most everything else can be cobbled together pretty cheaply. An old piece of carpet or an old doormat is good for placing right in front of your tent’s door to keep out excess dirt. We have air mattresses that are about 8 years old and going strong. They aren’t necessarily the “best” brand, but they haven’t leaked yet! There are always at least 2-3 tarps and plenty of rope in our supply box and we’ve used them for extra shelter from rain and the sun as well as wind breaks. Those are not pricey by any means.

You will quickly learn what supplies are essential to your family’s camping experience. It’s better to add necessary things as you go and not spend a lot of money up front on items you end up rarely using. I have a whole closet full of camping “stuff” and we never take all of it with us when we hit the road!

Lisa asks: I heard you cannot dehydrate eggs and milk but so many different mixed messages out there leave me confused. I found YouTube videos showing how to do it, but the people commenting are contradicting what the video says. I am so confused.

SURVIVAL MOM:  The contradictory information about dehydrating certain foods applies to canning, too.One person will say you can can any recipe you like and others will say, “Do that and you’ll die!!”

A book I recommend that is something of a Bible when it comes to canning is by Mary Bell, Mary Bell’s Complete Dehydrator Cookbook. Also, there is an EXCELLENT website,, that has videos and just tons of great information. Between the 2, you won’t even notice that your dehydrator didn’t come with instructions.  (Mine didn’t, either.)
Regarding your question about dairy and eggs, according to Dehydrate2Store:
“Cheese, milk, eggs, and butter need to be commercially processed with special equipment. Items with high oil content must also be processed using special commercial methods and will turn rancid in a short period of time if done incorrectly. It has been recommended by experts in food storage and dehydrating that these items be purchased through a company that can commercially process such items.
Eggs, however, can be scrambled and dehydrated and then rehydrated with boiling water, but you cannot use these dehydrated scrambled eggs in cakes, breads, or other baked goods. Also, you cannot fry them up into an omelet the only thing you can do is eat them scrambled. The shelf life when done at home is not as long as if purchased by a company in # 10 cans. Dehydrated scramble eggs are great for someone who is going hiking or camping. My advice is to buy the powdered eggs that have been safely dehydrated by commercial equipment and properly stored. They taste great (like a fresh egg), and are more versatile for cooking and much more safe. The same goes for Cheese, Butter and Milk.”
From my experience, commercially dehydrated eggs, in particular, are so inexpensive that it makes more sense to just buy them from Honeyville, Shelf Reliance, etc. than to dehydrate them myself.

There may be links in the post above that are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission, which does not affect the price you pay for the product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. 

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  1. Laura says

    Thank you for the advice! My dh and I are knew to this and there are so many things that need to be done and learned! Fortunately we naturally fell into small farm life and garden, have goats and chickens. I might add about prong eggs; first of all dehydrated eggs sounds disgusting! Lol! I would check into your area to see if you could have your own chickens. They are extremely easy to take care of. They eat bugs. They’re less noisy than your neighbors dog. And you usually get an egg a day per chicken! Mine follow me around like dogs! I love them. Not to mention fresh eggs every day that are delicious and more nutritious than store bought.

  2. Allison says

    I bought a canister for my foodsaver that most of the glass jars fit in (3 1/4 quart, I think–it is big) . Then I put the hose attachment on the canister and it vacuum seals the used jar and lid. Once you take the attachment off the canister, the jar seals. Pretty nifty. I only use this for things I don’t need to “long-term” seal, though, since I don’t know what shelf life it would actually have. There is a definite “pop” when you open it, though.

  3. Philip Kienholz says

    At a fall 2011 canning class from a representative of the Bernardin company, a Canadian manufacturer of canning jars and other canning supplies, the instructor, an expert in the field, stated that re-use of the glass jars and metal rings for canning food was fine.

    Using the rubber coated sealing disks for canning food however, was restricted to one-time use only!

    He offered to answer e-mail queries within12 hours. More information at

    • lee says

      using canning jars/rings/and the rubber seals for non canning items is a wonderful use….I don’t vaccum seal….I freeze whatever I’m going to save….like pasta, rice….for a couple of weeks, then ploy them in the jars with an oxygen absorber and seal….

      • Vivian says

        I just tried oven canning for the first time an scanned dry rice. All the lids sealed and have read that this really increases shelf life of dry goods. Do you have any thoughts on this method?

  4. says

    This is for the camping equipment: do your research know WHAT is a good quality brand, and read reviews! THEN go stalking at your local goodwill/thrift store/flea market. If you know what you are looking for it help weed out the crap. know what brand is carried at Wally World (it’s cheap crap) so when you see an ozark tent for $5 at a flea market you don’t go oh yeah that’s awesome…and it’s really going to rip the fist time your kid opens the zipper. Also think twice about a used sleeping bag…if you do have it professionally cleaned at the dry cleaner before using it.

  5. Barb says

    Ooh, may I humbly disagree with one of your points? I find commercial jars just ducky for re-using for dry-packing. I use those sauce jars for oatmeal, cream of wheat, corn starch, dehydrated onions, dried minced peppers, small macaroni, tapioca pearls, chocolate chips, well… lots of things. I wash them, simmer them a short time to make sure they’re good and clean, and fill them up with dry stuff (Once they’re bone dry themselves, of course).

    If you have a Food Saver vacuum sealer with the jar attachment, it will even vacuum and seal these jars with a canning lid.

  6. Penny says

    Tip on camping gear. This year we got a new tent, as our old one had reached the end of its life. If you are in an area that gets cold and rainy the open screen top tents with the rain fly are great for keeping you dry, but all the warmth escapes from the top. We froze during an unexpected cold rainy snap on our last October vacation, because this was the type we chose.

  7. says

    Just wondering if there’s something wrong with my comment from yesterday morning. It included a link to
    where I got some info on dehydrating eggs. Are links not allowed? Except I see one above. This is sort of a test post, trying to figure this out..


    • says

      Oh, and I know it was submitted because when I tried to resubmit, it said “you’ve already said that”. Now the one I just posted went through immediately. So it must have been the link? But someone else posted a link above. I can’t quite make sense of it.

  8. says

    Lisa, about the eggs. I found a site where someone tried dehydrating both raw egg and scrambled eggs, and reviewed the results. Their conclusion was that the raw eggs give a superior product AND the rehydrated eggs can be used like raw eggs in baking, while as Survival Mom says above scrambled can’t. For the pictures and details, you can google search “Powdered Eggs – Tactical Intelligence” as it appears this won’t let me link it directly.


  9. says

    Another good place to look for good quality, budget friendly camping supplies is an Army/Navy surplus store or outlet store. The tents and sleeping bags are heavier or bulkier than camping gear from a retail store (and you’re pretty limited to green or tan colors), but you can’t go wrong with the quality.

  10. Lucina says

    The conventional wisdom about reusing non two-part lids for water bath canning might need some further testing. I have tried reusing the one part lids that come with most jars. They seem, for the most part to seal (indented top). If it didn’t seal, I would use that jar’s contents first. I have not tested them the long run though…years? I would try it out a small batch of water bathed product and see what you get. In a survival situation, one might only be able to recycle from their pantry. Why not try it now? I probably wouldn’t try it on pressure canned foods, though.

  11. Chandra says

    RE: Camping cheap. Check out they have a tent that is basically a big tarp. Check out the various ways they set it up. Then buy a good quality tarp from a farm supply place and a bunch of rope. Gives you a good quality tent relatively cheaply. You will still need a ground pad and a good quality sleep sack.

  12. Skip Ingersoll says

    As to Lisa’s question, my advice is ask your county extention agent. Yes they are government, but they are the most useful source of information. They are a great source of agricultural and food storage issues. In my view they are an example of what is worth keeping with the government.

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