The Survival Mom » Food http://thesurvivalmom.com Helping moms worry less & enjoy life! Mon, 13 Oct 2014 21:46:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 Comforting Hot Drinks http://thesurvivalmom.com/comforting-hot-drinks/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/comforting-hot-drinks/#comments Mon, 06 Oct 2014 15:00:08 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=18412 Winter is coming and with the cooling air comes a desire to drink something warm. In fact, I’m learning that whenever I’m in the need for a little mental comforting I reach for something warm. It seems many of us do Read More

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Comforting Hot Drinks - Finding comfort for body & soul from food storage.Winter is coming and with the cooling air comes a desire to drink something warm. In fact, I’m learning that whenever I’m in the need for a little mental comforting I reach for something warm. It seems many of us do that, we reach for a favorite drink to help give us comfort and a moment of rest to face whatever needs facing. As we get ourselves prepared with the practical matters of flashlights, medical supplies, blankets, etc., let’s also take some time to prepare for some comfort in the form of hot drinks as well. Comfort in a cup, after all, can be accomplished for everyone in the family and easily be a part of our food storage plans. Need some inspiration? Here are some comforting hot drinks to get you started:

Hot Drink Ingredients to Stock

Keep your favorites as part of your food storage rotation – coffee beans, tea bags, cocoa powder, dried herbs for tea. Even a bottle or two of whiskey, brandy, or liqueurs for an extra adult comfort now and then. A person can always buy hot cocoa mixes but those tend to be full of artificial things many of us try to avoid and it’s easy and cheap enough to make from powdered milk, sugar, and cocoa powder anyway. Beyond the things like coffee and tea that come immediately to mind think of bottles of apple cider for hot cider, even orange juice concentrate can be used in a warm fruity punch.

Mixes to Make Ahead of Time

1. Hot Cocoa: 1/3 Cup Brown Sugar – 1/4 Cup Cocoa Powder – 2 1/2 Cups Powdered Milk.  Combine everything together well and store in an airtight container. To make a cup: mix 3 Tablespoons of mix with 8 ounces of boiling water or coffee.

That cocoa mix makes a great gift too, if you wanted to help someone else find comfort in a cup.  A splash of coffee or mint liqueur in hot cocoa is a nice relaxing adult treat.

2. Chai tea concentrate make and freeze for a quick fix when the need for comfort strikes.

Don’t Forget Your Health

Hot drinks are comforting to our minds but they’re also very often nourishing and healing to our bodies as well. Keep some things stocked to boost immune systems, soothe sore throats, calm upset stomachs, and generally care for your families bodies too:

Other Recipe Ideas

What’s your favorite hot drink recipe?

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Casseroles Forever! Pantry Substitute for Canned Cream Soup http://thesurvivalmom.com/casseroles-forever-pantry-substitute-canned-cream-soup/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/casseroles-forever-pantry-substitute-canned-cream-soup/#comments Thu, 02 Oct 2014 06:00:12 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=18424 It’s a key ingredient in almost any casserole: cream of mushroom soup. Or cream of chicken, or cream of potato, or cream of celery. I used to buy cans and cans of the stuff. Then, as I slowly started to Read More

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creamed soup

It’s a key ingredient in almost any casserole: cream of mushroom soup. Or cream of chicken, or cream of potato, or cream of celery.

I used to buy cans and cans of the stuff. Then, as I slowly started to substitute healthier items for what I had in my pantry, I discovered a healthy cream of “whatever” soup mix.

And, the best part – it’s made from easy pantry items that you can stock up on for emergency situation. Instead of cans of creamed soup, you just need dry milk, cornstarch, bullion, dried minced onion, and seasoning.

Cream of “Whatever” Soup Mix

Mix together and store in an airtight container:

  • 2 C powdered dry milk
  • ¾ C cornstarch
  • ¼ C bullion (chicken or beef, personal preference)
  • 2 TB dried minced onion
  • 2 tsp seasoning, such as Italian or vegetable (personal preference)

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, whisk together 1/3 cup of the mix and 1¼ cup water until desired thickness is reached. This equals roughly 1 can of creamed soup.

If a recipe calls for adding milk and a can of creamed soup, I often just double the soup mix instead. Mushrooms, potatoes, or chicken can also be added to the dish, if desired, to come closer to the old recipe with canned cream soup.

Now you can have casseroles at any time – emergency or not!

Recipes for this mix can be found on several websites, but I found this one at One Good Thing by Jillee.

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10 Condiments That Make Life Better http://thesurvivalmom.com/10-condiments-make-life-better/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/10-condiments-make-life-better/#comments Wed, 01 Oct 2014 06:00:00 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=16780 So something really, truly bad happens. The grid has been down for a month or a deadly pandemic has us sequestered in our homes. Or you’re simply out of work for months and the savings are gone. You are living Read More

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So something really, truly bad happens. The grid has been down for a month or a deadly pandemic has us sequestered in our homes. Or you’re simply out of work for months and the savings are gone.

You are living on your food storage.

Hey, it’s all good! You’ve got staples like grains,beans and rice. You’ve got a wide range of canned, freeze dried, dehydrated and home-canned foods. There’s a well stocked root cellar. You’ve even got waxed cheese and waterglassed eggs.

Guess what else you’ve got?

Scared people. And you’re one of them. One of the reasons for prepping is to provide a sense of continuity (not normalcy – things aren’t currently normal: river…Egypt…). Continuity is a tether to how things were and holds the hope of a return to that state or something like it.

No matter how well you’ve prepped, sooner or later you’re going to be eating a lot more basic staples than you’re used to. So imagine this: you’ve grilled up some bean-based veggie burgers or you’ve mixed up some mashed potato flakes and…then what?

Let’s lay aside spices, sauces and ingredients like honey for another day and confine ourselves to ready-made condiments. And really, even if things are perfectly normal, these are still great to have in the house.

The 10 Condiments that will save your sanity

1) Ketchup

Why? Because it’s ketchup, that’s why! Ketchup is the duct tape of the kitchen. Unrivaled for versatility on the table, it’s also indispensable on the stove and in the oven. It can make almost anything edible.

BTW,there’s more to ketchup than just tomatoes. Ketchups made from blackberries, lobster shells, onions, and more used to be produced at home and commercially. There are parts of England where mushroom ketchup is still commonplace. If you’d like to try your hand at these heritage flavors, you’ll have to resort to out-of-print cookbooks like an old Joy of Cooking. Or there’s this.

2) Mayonnaise

Sure, you’ll be making a lot of tuna and chicken salad with all that canned meat. But there’s also creamy salad dressing, pasta salad and the basis for tartar sauce. Mayo is an ingredient in a wide range of recipes.

This brings us back to Continuity. Try telling a 6 year old who’s life has already been upended that there’ll be no birthday cake this year. There are a lot of food storage chocolate cake recipes out there. Most taste odd or have  weird ingredients/procedures. Burrowing holes? Puréed beans?  No.

My mother used to make a good and simple one, but this recipe is even better. Top it with powdered sugar or soft-whip some canned cream.

3) Soy / Worcestershire Sauce

There’s a lot of overlap between them because they both have high Umami. That’s a Japanese concept that boils down to a savory, meaty flavor where (typically) no meat is present. It’s caused by naturally occurring amino acids called glutamates, which are the source of concentrated laboratory MSG.

Ketchup has a lot too, but soy sauce and Worcestershire don’t have the high sugar and fruitiness, so it’s a very different flavor profile. Either one is a great way to perk up sad stew.

WARNING: Glutamate-rich foods like salami, mushrooms, red wine,aged cheese and walnuts are often migraine triggers.

4)Mustard

Mustard has a staggering number of other uses besides the “barbie,” especially in pan sauces and casseroles. You can’t make civilized baked beans without it. Sneak a touch into Alfredo sauce, turkey tetrazzini, and mac ‘n cheese. There’s also plain old honey mustard on almost anything. Combine with onions, rosemary and peach or apricot jam for an epic meat glaze!

5) Jam

You’re gonna make some bread with all that wheat,right? Also use on pilot bread or crackers, and in innumerable recipes, like the technique above. It can be stirred into plain muffin or coffee cake mix to make any flavor you choose, or thin it down and substitute for pancake syrup. Try sweetening herb tea with it and save the honey and sugar for other things.

6) Salsa

Tortillas have an impressive shelf life. Fry some up and crack open a jar of salsa as a treat when nerves get frayed. It can also be tossed with rice or pasta for a quick one-skillet meal or added to soups and casseroles. If you bottle it at home you must use a pressure canner!

7) BBQ Sauce

BBQ sauce makes the list in part because it covereth a multitude of sins. It also covereth game meats your family isn’t used to yet.

I grew up in suburban Rhode Island but was once in a rural conversation where hunters were discussing the pros and cons of various game meats. The subject of squirrel was broached. I remarked, “I’ve never had squirrel.” Someone at whose house I’d eaten many times wryly informed me:  “Oh yes you have…”

8)Something Hot

Tabasco, sriracha , whatever your family likes. Even if you don’t use any, store a couple bottles for barter or the inevitable guests you’ll be taking in. It can also be used medicinally in soup to clear a badly stuffy head.

9) Gravy ( or the stuff and knowledge to make it)

Okay, not exactly a condiment, but for our discussion it functions like one. Think of all that rice, pasta , potatoes, canned/ freeze dried meats, and game. All just crying out for gravy.

Sure, you can make it from ingredients, but it’ll help to have some ready to roll, and it’s shockingly cheap around the holidays. It’s also another cheap thing that becomes a valuable barter item.

10) That Thing You Love

The condiment your family can’t live without, whatever it may be. If your family can’t go a week without Thai peanut sauce or Branston Pickle, you’d better store some – especially if That Thing is laborious to make or contains lots of arcane ingredients!

What’s Left Out?

I’ve left off things that aren’t used as often (plum sauce) or are easily and quickly made from common ingredients (tartar sauce and teriyaki). As for salad dressing, see my article here.

Hey, where’s the peanut butter?

(Warning: Heresy Alert!) I have several problems with PB.

  1. Classic PB is full of hydrogenated oil. Don’t be fooled by ” interesterified” oil, it’s even worse than just sounding like a made-up word from Calvin and Hobbs. It also contains a ton of sugar and varying amounts of salt. “Natural” PB has to be stirred and is often hard and rips up the bread or breaks the crackers.doit
  2. People use far more of it per serving than they think they do.
  3. Even if it’s all-natural and you only use a tablespoon, it’s a tremendous amount of fat for the protein you get.

In my search for the right wrap-up to this post , I let my family read it. When it was suggested to me that my beef with PB just might be sour grapes because I’ve become allergic and can’t have it anymore, my brother channeled Darth Vader: ” Search your feelings, Beth. You know it to be true…”

( Defiant huff…)  Fine. Be that way.

11) Peanut Butter

Being a pastry chef, I think of PB more as a baking ingredient than actual food; it’s baking and confectionary applications are almost endless. Then there are the obvious uses on bread, crackers, apples, jicama, celery. The “Fam” suggested the aforementioned Thai peanut sauce, fried PB sandwiches, curry, and more…

…if you’re into that sort of thing.

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10 Ways to Use Dried Beans http://thesurvivalmom.com/10-ways-use-dried-beans/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/10-ways-use-dried-beans/#comments Fri, 26 Sep 2014 06:00:34 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=17761 Dried beans keep for a long time and are often included in our preps.  They are lightweight, nutrient dense, and easy to prepare.  We all know beans and rice is the perfect protein. High in fiber and full of good Read More

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10 Ways to Use Dried Beans - The Survival Mom

Dried beans keep for a long time and are often included in our preps.  They are lightweight, nutrient dense, and easy to prepare.  We all know beans and rice is the perfect protein. High in fiber and full of good fats, beans are a healthy addition to our diets.

However, beans and rice might get boring after a while. Thankfully, beans are an extremely versatile food that lend themselves to many adaptations.

Here are 10 Ways to Use Dried Beans:

  1. Pinto Bean Oat Waffles
  2. Southwestern Breakfast Burrito
  3. Navy Bean Gravy
  4. Cherokee Bean Bread
  5. Basil White Bean Sandwich Spread
  6. Savory Bean & Cheese Oatmeal
  7. Rosemary Leek Cannellini Cakes
  8. Chickpea Zucchini Brownies
  9. Black Bean Fudge
  10. Oatmeal Chocolate Chip & Bean Cookies

What’s your favorite way to use dried beans?

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Top 10 Foods for Stocking Up http://thesurvivalmom.com/top-ten-foods-for-stocking-up/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/top-ten-foods-for-stocking-up/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 22:00:55 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=1245 You’ll want to pin this list for future reference! Click here. To get started with the basic building blocks of food storage, these are the top 10 foods I recommend. If these aren’t a good fit for your family, for Read More

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You’ll want to pin this list for future reference! Click here.

top 10 foods for stocking up

To get started with the basic building blocks of food storage, these are the top 10 foods I recommend. If these aren’t a good fit for your family, for whatever reason, stock up on the alternatives that you’re currently using. Be very aware of the enemies of food storage and always try to store your food in the most optimal conditions possible.

Wheat 

Once ground, wheat is the building block for varieties of bread, tortillas, flat bread, pizza crust and more.  I’ve stocked up on hard red wheat for hearty breads, general purpose hard white wheat, and soft white wheat for pastries.

Rice 

On its’ own, it’s a side dish.  Mixed with herbs and a vegetable or two, it’s a simple main dish.  It’s a great meal-stretcher when topped with, or served alongside, main dishes such as a stir fry.  Note: brown rice contains oils which will eventually become rancid. If you can keep it stored at very chilly temperatures, say below 60 degrees, it will be fresher, longer. Otherwise, plan on a shelf life of about a year or so.

Dried milk

Without electricity, fresh milk will go bad in hours.  In an emergency situation, fresh will be difficult to come by unless you own a cow or a goat.  Dried milk provides not only milk to drink, but milk to use as an ingredient in other dishes. Also look for shelf-stable milk that comes in cardboard cartons. It’s a very good option to dried milk.

Salt

Stock up on table salt at your local Costco.  It’s inexpensive and has multiple uses. I’ve purchased boxes of Kosher salt, along with the regular iodized table salt.

Beans

Buy canned beans and dry beans in different varieties.  Versatile,  economical and a good source of fiber. Dried beans can be ground into a powder and added to everything from cookies to soups.

Tomatoes

Canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, tomato puree, etc.  Watch for them on sale and then grab a few dozen cans.  Learn how to can and dehydrate tomatoes. They’re the basis for salsas, soups, stews, and sauces. I’ll bet you’ve eaten something made from tomatoes in the past 48 hours!

Other canned veggies and fruit

These will help provide important nutrients, variety to your recipes, and have a very long shelf life.  If you can’t stomach canned veggies, try dehydrating your own or purchasing freeze-dried.

Peanut butter 

High in protein, yummy on warm, freshly made bread!  Add some honey and you have a winner! Keep a new, sealed jar in emergency kits for a quick dose of protein when you might need it most.

Oil

Without oil, you’re pretty much stuck with boiling your meat and veggies. The problem is that oil goes rancid very quickly. Most oils have a shelf life of only a year. Some food storage experts recommend packing vegetable shortening in canning jars and then using a Food Saver jar sealer to vacuum out all the air/oxygen. Stored this way, shortening can stay fresh for years as long as it’s stored in a cool location. When the time comes to use it, just measure out what you need for a recipe, melt it, and you have oil. While many of us have moved away from the use of vegetable oil, this is probably the best option for having a supply of oil on hand, long term.

Dried pasta

Another meal stretcher and a kid-pleasing dish any day of the week.  My own kids have been known to dip bow-tie pasta in ranch dressing. I really, really like the egg noodles from Ready Reserve Foods, which are actually dehydrated. As they cook they expand and become thick, hearty noodles, much like the homemade noodles my mom used to make.

Sugar and honey

Okay, that makes eleven, but I’ve known women who were ready to kill when deprived of sugar for too long! Both honey and sugar will last indefinitely.

NOTE: This article was originally published on September 3, 2009. My blog had launched only 4 months prior! This list continues to be what I recommend for basic food storage, so I wanted to publish it again with additional information.

 

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Augason Farms fall recipes http://thesurvivalmom.com/augason-farms-fall-recipes/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/augason-farms-fall-recipes/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 15:30:00 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=17934 This month’s recipes from Augason Farms are a perfect fit for chilly autumn whether. If it’s still a bit warm in your area, turn down the AC, put on a sweater, and make these yummy fall recipes anyway! All Augason Read More

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fall recipes

image by Jing a Ling

This month’s recipes from Augason Farms are a perfect fit for chilly autumn whether. If it’s still a bit warm in your area, turn down the AC, put on a sweater, and make these yummy fall recipes anyway!

All Augason Farms products are available at this link.

Cheesy Corn Chowder

8 cups water (add less for a thicker soup)

½ cup Augason Farms Cheese Blend Powder

2 T Augason Farms Chicken Bouillon

4 cups Augason Farms Freeze Dried Sweet Corn

1 T Augason Farms Bacon Flavored Vegetarian Meat Substitute

2 T Augason Farms Dehydrated Diced Carrots*

1 cup Augason Farms Dehydrated Potato Dices**

½ cup Augason Farms Dehydrated Cross Cut Celery***

½ cup Augason Farms Dehydrated Chopped Onions****

1 small can diced green chilies

2 t. Augason Farms Iodized Salt

1 ½ t. cumin

½ t.  garlic powder

2 cups heavy cream

Directions

1. Place all ingredients except the cream in a pot and bring to a low boil, simmer 20-25 minutes until vegetables are tender.

2. Place soup in a blender in small batches and blend until smooth.

3. Return to pot and add cream. Mix well.

4. Garnish with hot sauce and fresh lime juice.

* Can substitute with ¼ cup fresh diced carrots

** Can substitute with 1 ½ cups fresh potato dices

*** Can substitute with 2/3 cup fresh diced celery

**** Can substitute with 1 cup fresh chopped onion

Macaroni and Cheese

3 cups elbow macaroni

1/2 cup Augason Farms Cheese Blend Powder

1/4 cup Augason Farms Butter Powder

1 T water

1/3 cup milk

Directions

1. Cook and drain macaroni.

2. Add remaining ingredients, mix until creamy.

NOTE: The beauty of this particular recipe is that it’s a way to have mac ‘n cheese for the kids at any time because all these ingredients are shelf stable! Substitute fresh milk for 2 Tablespoons dried milk and 1/3 c. water.

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The Nitty Gritty of Commerical Food Storage Packaging: Oxygen vs. Nitrogen in Food Storage http://thesurvivalmom.com/food-storage-packaging/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/food-storage-packaging/#comments Mon, 15 Sep 2014 06:15:08 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=18129 It’s easy to pin this for later! Click here. Over the years, I’ve tried out dehydrated and freeze dried foods from many different companies. Nearly all of the packages I opened, whether cans, buckets, or pouches, had an oxygen absorber Read More

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oxygen vs nitrogen

It’s easy to pin this for later! Click here.

Over the years, I’ve tried out dehydrated and freeze dried foods from many different companies. Nearly all of the packages I opened, whether cans, buckets, or pouches, had an oxygen absorber inserted inside.

When I’ve packed my own foods in 2-liter soda bottles, buckets, or canning jars, I’ve also used oxy absorbers because they are the easiest technique in food storage packaging for removing oxygen, one of the main enemies of food storage.

However, there is actually a much better system for preserving food for the longest shelf life possible, and that is a system that removes the oxygen and replaces it with nitrogen. Ready Reserve Foods is one of only 2 or 3 in the country that use this system in all their food packaging. I’ve toured their facility and have seen this system in action.

Nitrogen vs. Oxygen

Because we typically use up the food in our kitchen pantries and refrigerators rather quickly, we don’t often see the results that oxygen has on food. Although oxygen makes up only 21% of the air we breathe, it can cause food to spoil, go rancid, lose its nutrients, as well as its flavor.

Oxygen allows microorganisms to grow, which results in mold, and when there are microscopic insect eggs present in dry foods such as cornmeal, flour, and pasta, the oxygen provides a friendly environment for those insects to develop and eventually hatch.

Nitrogen, on the other hand, is actually beneficial to food. When used in food packaging, it helps the food retain its flavor, smell, and appearance, and extends the shelf life.

So, when it comes to food storage, oxygen = bad! Nitrogen = good!

Oxy absorbers are the easy way out with food storage packaging

Removing oxygen from a can or pouch of food is time consuming. It has to be vacuumed out very slowly. This takes time and not a lot of companies have the time, or want to take the time, to do that. Generally, oxygen absorbers are okay but they aren’t nearly as effective for very long-term storage.

The food storage companies that solely rely on oxygen absorbers do so because its easier, less expensive, and, to a point, effective. When you and I re-package bulk food for storage, using oxygen absorbers is, by far, the easiest technique for removing oxygen. Regardless of where the food is packaged, oxygen absorbers do not remove all the oxygen.

Over time, though, the oxygen that remains in the sealed containers will have a detrimental affect on the food in spite of the absorber.

Buying food for the long haul

If you believe, like many Americans do, that keeping food stored for emergencies is a priority, you’ll want to take into consideration how that food has been packaged. Companies that use only oxygen absorbers and claim a 25-30 year life of their food are grossly exaggerating.

Under the most ideal conditions, including consistent storage temperatures of 70 degrees or lower, most foods will be at their optimum for 10-15 years, or so. When preservatives are added to the food, the shelf life can be extended for a few more years, but oxygen will still be present.

Ready Reserve Foods takes the time to slowly vacuum the oxygen out of every container and then fill them with nitrogen. The nitrogen pushes out any remaining oxygen and the container is sealed. At most, there might be 2% of oxygen remaining. This method, by far, is the most effective.

Should I throw out my foods with oxy absorbers?

Since most every food storage company relies solely on the use of oxygen absorbers, chances are the food you have purchased fall into that category. This doesn’t mean you have been buying rubbish, just that there are foods out there that have been more effectively packaged.

In my own food storage pantry I have foods from at least 5 different companies, including Ready Reserve Foods. The food I’ve purchased from them has been individual ingredients, such as parboiled rice (I love it!), chicken and beef stock for soups, noodles, and dehydrated vegetables. All of these can be used in my everyday cooking, but because of the way they’ve been packaged, I’m keeping many of them on hand for longer-term storage.

If all your food storage products have come from companies using the oxygen absorber technique, it’s more important than ever to keep that food stored in the coolest spot in the house. When it comes to food storage, cooler is always better.

NOTE: Until further notice Ready Reserve Foods is offering a 20% discount on all their food storage products. Use coupon code SURVIVAL.

 

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7 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Join a Meal Swap & 5 Reasons Why You Should http://thesurvivalmom.com/shouldnt-join-meal-swap/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/shouldnt-join-meal-swap/#comments Sat, 13 Sep 2014 19:57:50 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=17747 Over the years, I’ve participated in several different meal swaps.  If you aren’t familiar with these, it’s where a bunch of people, mostly women, get together and swap meals.  For example I might be in a group with 5 other Read More

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Join a Meal Swap

Over the years, I’ve participated in several different meal swaps.  If you aren’t familiar with these, it’s where a bunch of people, mostly women, get together and swap meals.  For example I might be in a group with 5 other women.  On the designated day I make 6 casseroles and so do all the other women using different recipes than mine.  Then we get together, hand them out to each other and we each go home with 6 different meals. (After some awesome Mom-time visiting of course)

The first one I was in was a Freezer-Meal Swap.  That meant that the meals we came home with were either already frozen or ready to be frozen.  I think it lasted for 8 months or so.

The next time I decided to join a meal swap, we decided it would be a Pantry Meal Swap.  All the ingredients needed to be shelf stable.

I was at lunch the other day with a friend  and she told me about a fridge-swap that she’d been part of. It was a  weekly thing and the meals just went in the fridge for that week’s dinners.

Now there are a few reasons that I’d like to share as why you might not want to join a swap,  Do any of these resonate with you?

  1. You hate to socialize with other people on a regular basis.  Commiserating on the trials of motherhood makes you ill.
  2. You love that angelic question that comes from the lips of your offspring each day, “I’m hungry. WHAT’S FOR DINNER?”
  3. Your brain just adores thinking of something new, creative, beautiful nutritious and delicious each and EVERY evening.
  4. You love extra work. In fact you search it out, as much as possible.
  5. You’ve never had the opportunity to learn about ‘motion studies’ from Frank in “Cheaper By the Dozen” (the original)
  6. Washing lots and lots of dishes after a hard day of Mom-ing makes you oh, so happy.
  7. Your family is perfectly content with the same 3 or 4 recipes for dinner.  They are just happy there is something….anything :)

Now, the readers of this blog are more intelligent than some and I’m sure you can tell by now that the title of this article was a bit (OK, a lot) sarcastic. In fact, I think everyone should be part of a Meal Swap at some point in their lives because:

  • It’s rejuvenating to meet with like minded people on a regular basis, if only to realize that we are not alone in our day to day struggles.
  • Meal prep happens in concentrated spurts rather than little bits here and there that can take away from other more important things, like reading Laura Ingalls Wilder books on the sofa to our children or grand children.
  • We get to try a variety of meals that we might not have otherwise experimented with.
  • Grocery bills are lower because we get to purchase ingredients in bulk.  I planned my swap selections around the current sales, like when I buy chicken in bulk.
  • Daily meal prep is as easy as preheating the oven and heating up a main dish.  Add sides and bread if you like and dinner is on the table.

Are you interested yet?  There is nothing to lose and so much to gain by sharing the burden and workload with others.  Ask around and if there are no swaps with vacancies, start one of your own.  The great thing about starting your own is that you get to make the rules.

In our Freezer Meal swap we set rules like these.:

–All veggies either had to be blended beyond recognition or big enough to pick out.

–Meals had to feed 8 adults which usually meant a 9×13 pan.  Our families were different sizes but for the smaller families that size left enough for dad to pack in his lunch the next day while still feeding the larger families a full meal, with second helpings sometimes.

–We emailed our meal choices early in the month so we could avoid duplication in the same month.

–Recipe cards were provided with each meal so that if it turned out to be a keeper we’d have it to make again.

In our Pantry Meal Swap (We called it our the PMS Group) these were the rules:

–All ingredients need to be shelf stable

–Meats for the dish were provided by the recipient, this allowed for flexibility at the time of use.  If there was power we could use frozen meats, if not we could use our bottled meats (In that group were a bunch of preparedness minded families and this was on our mind quite a bit)

–All ingredients fit into a box about 4 x 10 x 12 for easy stacking in our pantries or food storage rooms.  This wasn’t the most space efficient way to store the ingredients but it made it a handy grab and go size.  We did a bulk purchase on the boxes so they were very inexpensive.

Meal Swaps are a great way to expand your repertoire at meal time and add variety to the everyday ruts we get into.  Have you had a great experience with a meal swap?…or maybe a horrible one?  I’m itching to start another swap. Tell me what’s worked for you.

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6 Tips for Selecting a Vacuum Sealer http://thesurvivalmom.com/6-tips-selecting-vacuum-sealer/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/6-tips-selecting-vacuum-sealer/#comments Thu, 11 Sep 2014 07:00:07 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=17553 As harvest time rapidly approaches, many people are looking to get or replace the equipment they need to preserve the fruits of their hard work. Vacuum sealers have been around for home use since the 80’s and with so many companies out there, Read More

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Tips_for_Selecting_a_Vacuum_Sealer

As harvest time rapidly approaches, many people are looking to get or replace the equipment they need to preserve the fruits of their hard work. Vacuum sealers have been around for home use since the 80’s and with so many companies out there, your available choices can leave one feeling overwhelmed and unsure. Arming yourself with some basic criteria before you go selecting a vacuum sealer will save you sanity, headaches, and another trip to return the sealer in favor of one that will better suit the needs of you and your family. Before you buy anything, you should ask yourself a few questions:

  • What will I primarily use this for? (meat, veggies, etc)
  • How often will I use this in a year?
  • How long will the average package sit in the freezer?
  • Will I need to use the sealer outside or only inside?
  • Do I want/need a hose adapter on the sealer?

What will I use this for?

While most people buy vacuum sealers for food purposes, there are others out there who use it to preserve non food items as well. Consider whether you plan on using the sealer for mostly meats, which stay sealed better with a thicker seal band, or if you are going to use it just to freeze veggies and dried goods. A sealer with a thinner seal band is acceptable for veggies and dried goods.

How often will I use this in a year?

This is very important because, if you are like me and seal large batches a couple of times a year, you need something more heavy duty than the average $75 or less sealer. More sparing usage would be a dozen or so packages sealed at a time. For myself, it takes a full day to package up all the meat I buy twice a year (on sale, of course!).

I take time to make the bags the length I want and let the machine rest between every dozen or so bags. Most sealers have a safety system that will not allow it to run when overheated – but not all of them – and you can burn your machine out. Be sure you are certain that when you are selecting a vacuum sealer, it can handle the work load you will be putting it through. Better to spend the extra money for something that will work as you need it to for years versus saving $20 on a cheaper model that dies after one year of use.

How long will the average package sit in the freezer?

This is important for several reasons. If you expect food to sit in the freezer for a year or more, you will need a sealer that has a nice, wide sealing band which helps keep the bag sealed. With a thinner seal band (or seal line), you run the risk of it not sealing fully, especially if what you are sealing is moist. Moisture will prevent a solid seal from forming. If you think you will go through the sealed foods more quickly, a thinner seal line may serve you just fine.

TIP: When packaging moist meats such as fish, first wrap it in some Glad Press and Seal. It makes a world of difference!

Will I need to use the sealer outside?

This may seem an odd consideration for many people who use vacuum sealers. The sealer we have is designed to be taken into the field and used to preserve your food. It has an extra long cord and came with a 12 volt car adapter that plugs into the cigarette lighter jack. It also has a handle and locking mechanism that keeps the unit closed while carrying (if you do not have it in the carrying case, of course).

Hose AdaptorDo I want/need a hose adapter for sealing  jars and containers?

Some, but not all, vacuum sealers have an adapter where you can attach a hose and use it to seal other containers such as wide and regular mouth canning jars or vacuum seal containers specifically made to be sealed and frozen. I can tell you from personal experience that it is worth it! The options this gives you are endless! I have dehydrated veggies from the garden and then layered them in a quart jar with some spices as a stew starter. It is all sealed up with the adapter and will last for at least a year!

A vacuum sealer in the right hands can do so much more than just preserving food to last and protect against freezer burn. All it takes is a little imagination and you can amaze yourself!

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Back To School: Easy, Frugal Freezer Meals http://thesurvivalmom.com/back-school-easy-frugal-freezer-meals/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/back-school-easy-frugal-freezer-meals/#comments Sat, 06 Sep 2014 06:00:53 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=16469 I am so excited to share with all of you some of our family favorite and frugal freezer meals! This summer has flown by so fast and it’s Back To School time already. It seems like just yesterday I was Read More

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back to school easy freezer frugal meals - karen lynn I am so excited to share with all of you some of our family favorite and frugal freezer meals!

This summer has flown by so fast and it’s Back To School time already. It seems like just yesterday I was anticipating the smell of grills outside and the beauty of lightning bugs off in the woods behind our house.

I love the crisp smell of fall and the cool August summer mornings in coastal North Carolina. However, it is also the tell tale sign that it is time for not only the children to go back to school but for me, as an educator, it is time to return to school along with them.

I am sharing some of my favorite easy, frugal freezer meals to help keep your schedule less frazzled and less chaotic as the Back To School Madness begins. Not only do I focus on using the easiest recipes, I also want to have a little bit of time each night after I pack lunches to relax.

You can create your own family-friendly fast food that is not only lighter on the wallet but you control the quality of the ingredients! Nice..huh?breakfast burritos - Karen Lynn

Breakfast Items

I need a good breakfast, and I usually just eat hard-boiled eggs, but the men in my life aren’t quite content with that option only, so here are two tried and true recipes they love eating and ask for over and over! I make them in advance so they can pull one out of the freezer and feed themselves.

There’s no excuse not to eat a healthy breakfast. Feel free to switch out the meats in both recipes. You can exchange sausage for turkey bacon, etc. This is YOUR breakfast after all!

Breakfast Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 12 sausage patties or  18 slices bacon (1 1/2 slice bacon per muffin)
  • 2 cups shredded or 12 slices of cheese
  • 12 eggs
  • butter to grease pan and if you want to put some on muffin before assembly
  • 12 English muffins

Instructions:

Heat up a skillet and cook the sausage patties or bacon. Both, if you want variety.

While you are cooking up your sausage patties, start cooking your eggs. The secret is to scramble the eggs in a large pan but let them cook kind of like an omelette so you can cut them into squares and serve on each muffin.

You do want to undercook your egg just a little bit so it reheats better later.

While your eggs and sausage/bacon are cooking, toast the English muffins lightly in the oven. Line them up directly under the heat source at a low heat, about 250 to 300 degrees depending on your oven and how toasted you want them. Again, you don’t want them to be too cooked because you want them to reheat well in the microwave.

Assembly looks like this: toasted muffin, sausage, add slice of uncooked cheese (it will melt a little – that is okay) or sprinkle some shredded cheese, then add egg, then top off with muffin, wrap in wax paper and place in freezer.  You can also put a little butter on each muffin if you like prior to assembly.

Makes 12 Breakfast Muffins

Yum I hope you enjoy!

Freezer Breakfast Burritos

Ingredients:

  • 10 to 12  8″ to 10″ flour tortillas
  • 1-2 lbs. of sausage and/or bacon depending on your preference
  • 12 eggs
  • 2 cups shredded cheese to your taste
  • 2 cups chopped: mixture of tomatoes, onions and peppers (salsa, optional.)

Instructions:

  • Preparation is very similar to the recipe above, although we cook scrambled eggs that have peppers, tomatoes,  and onions mixed in.
  • In a separate cast iron skillet, we have sausage cooking, and close by we have a bag of Mexican shredded cheese.
  • If you decide to use salsa rather than the chopped peppers, tomatoes, and onions, just be aware that it can make your burritos soggy.
  • Place your sausage and egg mixtures on each tortilla, sprinkle with shredded cheese, roll up your burrito, wrap in wax paper, and voila’ – you have breakfast!
  • This recipe makes 10 to 12 burritos, depending on how full you fill each one.

We make a ton of these at a time!  What a time saver! Store them in the freezer until you need them.

To store both the muffins and burritos, I wrap them individually in wax paper and place all together in large gallon size zipper bags. Since these go fairly quickly, you only need to use the freezer strength if you are planning for long term storage. You could use plastic containers as well.

Lunch Items

For our lunches we don’t quite have as much variety but all of my family members love these lunches and are always quite pleased. We do change things up from time to time but it’s nice to know these are in the freezer ready to go, and they are healthy, too!

Healthy Chicken,  Rice, and Veggie Combos

Ingredients:

  • Lemon Pepper/Italian Seasoning/ or BBQ Rub (Sauce) We alternate between these seasonings each week to keep things exciting!
  • 8-12 baked chicken breasts (Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 1 hour.)
  • 8-12 Cups of your favorite rice cooked (I cook ours in home made chicken broth)
  • 8-12 Cups of your favorite veggie roasted (I often use the large back of vegetable medley from the discount warehouse store), I roast our veggies with just salt and some ghee and they turn out amazing.  Our favorite is a broccoli cauliflower blend.

Instructions:

Then I assemble all of the plastic ware (small to medium size plastic storage bowls and lids) and dispense chicken, rice, and veggies into each dish and freeze.

These take about 3 minutes or so to heat up in the microwave.  I sometimes have leftover meat or veggies and I just toss them into a stir fry, which we have just about every Monday night during the school year because it’s easy, healthy, and a personal fave of mine!

Dinner Items

We  use a lot of sauces for dinner time, and so I decided to share one of my favorite dinner ideas that covers all your bases and that seriously, no pun intended, calls for using a tomato based sauce!  All of these sauce variations can be made from this single sauce recipe. Just double it or triple it, depending on the recipe you are using.

Karen Lynn’s Base Tomato Sauce

Since everyone likes their tomato sauce flavored differently, I suggest tweaking this recipe to fit your needs and you can double it or triple it depending on your needs

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. of cooked ground beef
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
  • 1 dash of red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups diced canned tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  • Heat up a large skillet and place 2 T. olive oil, onion, chopped garlic.  Cook until translucent.
  • Add your ground beef and brown it.  (I prefer the leanest ground beef.)
  • Add 2 cups canned tomatoes or pureed tomatoes.  (You decide!)
  • Finish with salt and pepper to taste and a dash of red flakes.
  • Simmer on low heat for an hour.

That is all there is to making your own tomato based sauce for other recipes. You can easily double this or triple this for your needs. Or you can use a canned tomato sauce you have in your pantry, if you prefer to keep it on hand. That means you would have your base sauce already prepared!

For a variety of different meals, just add the base sauce to the following recipes in place of tomatoes and seasoning!

Spaghetti  Sauce – I just add chopped onions, peppers,  Italian seasoning , parsley, and garlic. Cook down some more and done!

Home Made Beefaroni  I simply add the base sauce to cooked elbow noodles, stir it up, and toss with Parmesan cheese and an Italian seasoning blend.

Very quick Chili  Add base sauce to a can of kidney beans, a can of chili beans, or any other beans you like,  1 tsp. cumin, 1st. garlic, and Voila’ – serve with tortilla chips!  (If you use dried beans, remember to follow soaking instructions.)

Additional Recipe Options You May Be Interested In Trying for Back To School Easy Dinners!

Homemade Sloppy Joes These can be put together quickly and efficiently once you have a base sauce made and it is so much tastier than store bought.

Chili Who doesn’t love the smell of a pot of chili cooking on the stove in the fall?  For my chili, I add cumin, chili powder, some salt, red pepper flakes, and a couple cans of beans and corn. This could include black beans, chickpeas, chilli beans, kidney beans, and great northern beans, just to name a few.

Some prefer a homemade Ready Made Chili Mix that is ready to go when you need it!  You still control the quality of ingredients you are feeding your family and it’s a convenient time saver.

*For Gluten Free/Paleo Folks: I serve my sauces over grilled zucchini, spaghetti squash, and eggplant, just to name a few. They turn out absolutely delicious and I don’t miss the bread and pasta! Personally I do like to cook my squash up fresh. There are ways of freezing your squashes ahead of time for future use but they end up a lot softer to work with.

I hope you enjoyed learning the tips and strategies I use at my Lil’ Suburban Homestead to make meal time healthier and so much more convenient, but still so delicious!

 

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