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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Starting an Emergency Fund

dollar sign $
It really shocks me how many preppers fail to prep financially. In my mind having an emergency fund is just as important as stocking up on life’s other necessities. I think the reason a lot of people fail to start an emergency fund is because they feel overwhelmed.
It’s estimated that 90% of the country lives paycheck to paycheck. No wonder so many people struggle with finding any extra money to put aside.
Do you have an emergency fund? Here are a couple of ideas that might help you find some extra cash for your fund.
  1. Have a garage sale – How much junk do you have laying around that could help you build your emergency fund? Why not have a garage sale and sell all that crap?
  2. Cheaper Plans – Check your cable, cell phone, and  internet plans to see if there is a cheaper option. You could also cut out the cable all together for a cheaper option like Netflix or a free option like hulu.com
  3. Cancel your magazine & newspaper subscription. If you have internet access you probably don’t need them anyways..
  4. Stop eating out – Cooking at home saves a ton of money.
  5. Rice and beans baby! Is there anything that you could change on your grocery list? Eating healthy & filling foods like brown rice and beans can help you save a huge amount of money.
  6. Garage Sales and Thrift Stores. – If you really need something why not check the thrift stores or the garage sales first?
  7. Free Activities – Local Parks, camping, hiking, baseball, basketball, etc…. Remember the good old days when you could leave the house without breaking the bank? There are still a number of things that you and your family can do that don’t cost a dime.
  8. Barter – What skills do you have that you can use to barter for the products and services that you need?
  9. Sell some stuff on Craigslist
  10. Get a gig on Craigslist – You can often find odd jobs in the gigs section that can help increase your fund.
  11. No More Starbucks – Do you really need to spend 4 bucks a day on coffee?
  12. Although this goes against saving money it will help you in the long run…. I recommend buying The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness (you could also check it out from the library to save some money)
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Just Because You’re Eating Canned, Dehydrated or Freeze Dried food Doesn’t Mean It Has to Suck

This is a Kinox stock pot.
Hey Everybody.  I’d like to start the New Year with a guest post from one of our readers – Chefbear58.  Have you ever eaten MRE’s or camping food day in and day out for weeks on end and got sick of the same flavor day after day?  I have and I’ve got to tell you it would have been nice having some idea of how to spice it up.  Chefbear58 has agreed to share some TEOTWAWKI cooking tips with us.  You just might want to print this out for your SHTF notebook.  Read on…
-Jarhead Survivor
Stocks and Broths – just because you’re eating canned/dehydrated/freeze dried food, doesn’t mean it has to suck!
Let’s start this post by explaining a few differences in the subjects.
1. Stock is made from bones and can be made “light” or “dark”, this refers to the color/flavor/texture.
2. Broth is made from meat, connective tissue, and bone and it can also include skin when made from some animals like poultry.
3. Stock/Broth/soup “bases” come in powder/paste/compressed “cube” forms, high salt, artificial flavors and MSG- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monosodium_glutamate -best bet is to avoid these unless the real stuff just isn’t your thing- limited uses.
Before we dive in to the long term storage /cooking uses, I am going to give you guys a simple recipe for stock.  Below I will explain how to adjust stock into broth. This is a “Light” stock recipe; simple adjustments are made for “dark” stock, and once you have made one good stock you can make good stock out of almost any animal!
4lbs- Chicken carcasses (For stock- use bones only) (For broth- use meat, skin in domesticated poultry broth, and any connective tissues- Connective tissue will turn into gelatin, will explain why that’s good further down
1 bay leaf, 5 parsley stems, 1 ½ tsp peppercorns, 1 strip lemon zest (approximately 1”x2-3”), 2 rosemary stems, 2 garlic cloves- peeled
1 lb onion,  ½” dice (avoid “sweet” onions, yellow, white and Spanish work best)
2 gallons water
½ lb celery,  ½” dice
2 tbsp fat, oil/lard/butter- whatever you have will work
½ lb leeks,  ½” dice (if you don’t have leeks use half the amount of onion)
Place all of the herbs and spices into a piece of cheesecloth, tie closed with a piece of butchers twine leave ~12” extra twine from the knot. Reserve the “sachet” for later. Heat the fat over medium heat, when its heated up, add in the vegetables and cook until softened, do not brown. Once the vegetables are softened add the chicken bones, allow the chicken bones to “warm up”, keep stirring so the veg doesn’t brown. Raise the heat to medium high, pour in the water. Place the “sachet” in the center of the pot, tie the “slack” end of the twine to one of the pot handles, keep the “sachet” off the bottom of the pot. Bring contents to a light boil, reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 2-4 hours without stirring, use a ladle to skim off the foam that will float to the top of the pot. The foam will discolor the stock, and the flavor/texture will be negatively affected. When the bones are soft, strain the stock into a container and allow it to cool. Then place the stock into smaller containers and refrigerate, freeze, or can.
Now I am gonna share with you folks a little “family secret” about stock… after you strain out all the stuff used to flavor the stock, stir in 1 packet of unflavored gelatin for every gallon of water used. Gelatin acts like fat; it engages and coats every part of your mouth. This is the same effect you get when you eat something loaded with butter; the flavor seems to hit you from all sides! Gelatin is made from collagen, found in connective tissues.
Dark stock adjustments- Carrots in place of leeks; lightly brown the veg; roast the bones to obtain a light brown color; you can rub tomato product (i.e. sauce or ketchup) on the bones to get right color/flavor.
It is important to avoid using the spinal cord/skull for stock; they are more likely to contain disease (even if there are no signs, check out CWD or chronic wasting disease.)
Stock rule of thumb- If it walks.. Dark stock (use large bones, i.e. leg, shoulder, pelvis, tail); If it flies.. Light for domesticated.. Dark for game; Fish/Shellfish- DON’T USE oily fish (i.e. salmon) … Light stock method, about 45 minute simmer, may need about 1.5x extra herbs/spices, a “fumet” tends to be a little bland.
Ok, now that you have some stock that would make Emeril CRY, let’s get into how to use it!
1. Use stock in place of water to rehydrate meats- boosts natural flavors, dark chicken stock will work with beef, deer, or pork.
2. After straining the stock, reduce it over medium heat until it is a dark syrup consistency- It is now called “Glace”, the flavors concentrate, excess water evaporates, takes up less space and less is needed to cook with, you may need to add some water if using Glace in cooking.
3. Use the stock as a base for AWESOME soups/sauces.
4. Using “wild game” bones to make stock allows you to get about 1/6 more nutrients/calories from the animal.
5. Hot stock can help to soothe a sore throat, warm you up, and can sustain someone who is sick or unable to handle heavier foods.
6. Stock can be added to instant potatoes/rice to add flavor and texture, especially handy if you don’t have dairy products, but “plays nice” with milk/butter.
7. You might want some “gravy” for the rice/potatoes. You can just thicken the stock to the consistency you want (here is a link to some ideas for thickening, for the sake of space- http://learnsomethingnewtoday.us/2007/09/20/thickening-agents-for-cooking/). For REALLY GOOD GRAVY- cook some onion, garlic, spices, herbs, even bacon, and add to the gravy. Spirits like whiskey, brandy, port etc., all made flavorful additions.
8. Use stock instead of water to can meats with, this creates “double strength” stock to make a soup/sauce with. This “2x stock” can even be used to make TVP (textured vegetable protein) more palatable.
9. If you have stale bread, and some awesome homemade stock… You can make a basic soup! It’s actually pretty good, even better if you have meat/veg to throw in!
10. Use the “pile” of cooked down ingredients from your delicious stock, to lure some fresh meat into your cross-hairs! Mice, Muskrat, Coyote…the neighbor’s pets! Chances are they’re all hungry to, so bait ‘em and trap or shoot ‘em and eat ‘em!
11. Yep sneakin’ ONE more in… Stock/broth is a preservation method, if kept in a cool (<60F) dark place, sealed (Tupperware can wok) it has the potential to keep for weeks, canned it has the potential for months-years! Plus, the “chicks” dig a guy that can whip up some good eats! Use these post SHTF skills wisely young grasshopper!
OK guys, your turn! Have you used/made stock? Do you like it? Have you considered it for long term storage/cooking? After reading this do you think it could find a place on your shelf/in your list of skills? What are some other uses that you know of?
If anyone has any questions, I would be happy to answer them to the absolute best of my knowledge!
Jarhead Survivor & Ranger Man, thanks for giving me the opportunity to share my knowledge and being a part of your community!
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Survival Plants

Both of my grandfathers grew up during the depression and suffered through shortages during WWI and WWII (as youngins and men of course). One of them had the honor of living with his own grandfather who recalled stories about shortages and life after the civil war as well. Of course as a youngin myself some of the knowledge they possessed found it's way into my store. Some of it I didn't really want back then either, like eating squirrel brains (more on that some other time).

Anyway they would sometimes recount stories of some various plants and how they would use them during the rough periods. Chickory (pictured above) was used as a coffee substitute (I have mentioned that before), Dandelions were used for their greens and to make wine (The wine sucked BTW). Cattails could be eaten in a variety of ways and depending on which part sometimes tasted like corn or also made a potato like substitute. They also pointed out wild carrot, asparagus, mustard and plantain to me on occasion. Once my grandfather even showed me a pawpaw tree, which I have never been able to find another in the wild since. Believe me I have tried, I would love to get one growing on the Small-Hold.

Of course edible and useful plants will vary by your location. Every so often I will take a picture of one and do a post about it but today I wanted to post up the general guidelines for the universal edibility test as listed in the "U.S. Army Survival Manual".

You never know when it could be useful.

1. Test only one part of a potential food plant at a time.

2. Break the plant into basic components - leaves, stems, roots, buds, flowers etc.

3. Smell the food for strong or acidic odors. Smell alone will not indicate if a plant is edible.

4. Do not eat for 8 hours before starting the test.

5. During the 8 hour period test for contact poisoning by placing a piece of the plant inside your elbow or on your wrist. Usually 15 minutes is enough time to see if there is a reaction.

6. During the test period take nothing by mouth except purified water and plant part being tested.

7. Select a small portion of a single component and prepare it the way you plan to eat it.

8. Before putting the prepared plant part in your mouth, touch a small portion (a pinch) to the outer surface of the lib to test for burning or itching.

9. If after 3 minutes there is no reaction on your lip, place the plant part on your tongue, holding it there for 15 minutes.

10. If there is no reaction, thoroughly chew a pinch and hold it in your mouth for 15 minutes. Do Not Swallow.

11. If no burning, itching, numbing, stinging, or other irritation occurs during the 15 minutes, swallow the food.

12. Wait 8 hours if any ill effects occur during this period, induce vomiting and drink alot of water.

13. If no ill effects occur, eat 1/2 cup of the same plant part prepared the same way. Wait another 8 hours. If no ill effects occur, the plant part as prepared is safe for eating.

Of course if I used my son as a test subject he would be nice and full while I would be vomiting up everything. I swear that boy has a cast iron stomach.

While I hope I never have to use the test, it is certainly good information to have.