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9/24/14

Food Storage Hack: Shelf Stable UHT (Boxed) Milk

Shelf-stable milk? Bwaaaa?

They've had UHT pasteurized milk over in Europe for a looong while--like the 70s. In many countries, the majority of milk consumed is UHT milk.
 
I've had some in past during living stints in Switzerland, and then promptly forgot about it upon returning to the U.S., where it hasn't been readily available for sale until recently. Something about shelf stable milk weirding us Americans out.

Taste-wise, it's somewhere around skim. Dramatically better than powdered milk. You can't tell the difference pouring it over a bowl of cereal or using it in a recipe. It's even good enough to drink on its own.
 Thanks go out to SP1 for giving a shout out for this stuff a while back, which led me to keep an eye out for it. I've found it at local Target and Wal-Mart stores, which means it's probably in your local grocery/mega-marts, too. Prices are $2/quart, so more expensive than regular milk, but not highway robbery.
 Recommended shelf life is going to range from six months to a year, though as usual, your mileage may vary. We just bought some (September '14) that has a Best By date of April '15, so that's 8 months. Like most shelf life/best by dates, those are probably pretty conservative.

In terms of food storage, a year is a fairly short shelf life, so it'll need more frequent rotation. Unlike non-fat powdered milk, this isn't something you can throw in your basement and forget about for the next 20 years.

But, unlike powdered milk, this is one of those "store what you eat" things that is really easy to rotate.

Running low on milk? Crack open one of these to keep the family tided over 'till you can get to the store.

With three little ones in the house, we find ourselves in that situation pretty frequently. That's when this stuff rocks. Our kids have a Spidey-sense for when we've changed up something with their food, but they can't tell the difference with UHT milk.

Super convenient, super easy. Never again find yourself with a fresh batch of cookies/brownies and no milk.

After some trials and taste tests with the fam, this stuff has a thumbs up from me. I'm going to stock up on around a month's worth of milk for our family, and then rotate out regularly from there.

9/18/14

Question for the Tribe: Safe Recommendations?

Well, I need to get a safe.

Son #2 is fascinated by the "boom booms" and likes to go exploring for them. They're all stored in a safe/secure fashion, but having the toddler trying to get into gun cases is no good. There's nothing he can do with 'em if he does get to 'em, but its the principle of the thing.

And, of course, lots of other good things about having a safe.

So, a bit about what I'm looking for:

I've got a couple handgun safes, but need something for the long guns. 12-24 in terms of capacity. My long gun collection isn't that big and not growing that quickly, and I don't have space for a giant 100-gun, walk-in safe just yet.

Looking to spend somewhere in the ballpark of $1K.

We've historically moved around a fair bit. We own our home now, are more settled and have no imminent plans to move, but I'd put the chances of us moving within the next 3-5 years somewhere at 50-75%. And moving a 700lb safe would be a challenge.

For those who have moved with a conventional safe--how big of a deal is it? We could move across town or across the country.

Conventional safe, I'm looking at the AmSec safes - SF and FV lines. We've got a couple dealers 'round these parts.

But, the move deal has me a bit worried, which leads me to look at the modular safes - some assembly required.

Zanotti has been around a long time. They're a bit more than I want to pay, and the wait time is a bummer.

SnapSafe is another option I've come across new on the market. They're a bit less expensive, seem to be ready to order. A 7 gauge Titan would probably be the one I'd go with.

As far as I'm aware, those are the two main players in modular safes these days. If you know of another company making these things, let me know.

So--that's where I'm at. Looking for recommendations from the many who have been there, done that--fire away!

And, I'm not opposed to less conventional options - quality gun cabinet, for example, or something else.

Edited to add: I'm looking for a safe, or something that will be basically as hard to get into as a safe - so a really, really solid gun cabinet. Something that crooks would see and give up on trying to get into pretty quickly.

Fire resistance is a nice to have--generally, it seems that to get good fire protection, you have spend a fair penny extra. It's not worth it to me to drop an extra $1k out of the budget to go from 30 minutes to 60 minutes or whatever.

9/8/14

Mylar bag cereal (or anything else) for long term food storage


The old food storage adage "store what you eat" is often thrown by the wayside in favor of stocking up on exotic, styrofoamy tasting freeze dried foods and #10 cans of pricey, no-name bulk goods. Who really eats most of that stuff in their day to day diet?

But, that doesn't have to be the case. You can package up familiar dry non-perishables foods for long term storage with minimal tools and inexpensive mylar bags.

What the heck is mylar? It's one of those wonder materials developed by NASA back in the crazy 60s. It protects the food from harmful light, and when sealed correctly, keeps the food in a dry, oxygen free environment--essentially the same conditions found inside a well sealed #10 can. Mylar has been used for food packaging for many years, and is well known amongst food storage aficionados.

Packaging up your own foods in mylar bags is a dead simple process. And, because you know exactly what's getting packaged up, there's no need to wonder about the initial quality of the food, no doubts about whether the family will like it, and no trouble to rotate it into your daily life.

And, you can save a ton of money doing it yourself. Hit up Costco or grocery store sales, buy your favorite foods cheap, package them up and stack 'em deep.

9/5/14

Mylar baggin'


Well, that bucket 'o Fruit Loops inspired me to get some mylar bags and start doing a better job packaging up some of the food we have set aside for mid/long term storage.

I've been planning on buying up some #10 cans of food, but the cost savings and better ability to stock up on familiar products/brands led me to give the mylar bags a try.

The bags I'm using are these 5 mil weight ones. They're good quality and a nice, durable weight.

Of course, if you're going to repackage your foods, you might as well do it right with some nice looking branded labels. Helps with the picky eaters, looks much better than some poorly scrawled Sharpie writing.

Anyways, I've got some more baggin' to do over the weekend...and, I've gotta go hit up the stores for some o' that bulk cereal. I'll get a Pinterest-worthy DIY post up soon.

9/3/14

Food Storage Win: Giant bucket o' Fruit Loops!



A 6 gallon bucket of generic Fruit Loops? Now that's survivin' the apocalypse in style. Thrown down some of that powdered milk and bro, you got yourself a mean bowl of cereal.

Emergency Essentials recently added these and they are honesty fairly tempting. Normal food can be a big psychological deal when dealing with tough times...especially for kiddos.


There's 100+ servings in one of these buckets, which is the equivalent to about 5 big boxes of cereal. We'd get a month of breakfasts for the family out of one of these pretty easily, but we have little kids. If you had a couple teenagers roaming the pantry, expect to get a long weekend out of one of these.

Not sure on shelf life - none is specified. 5-ish years plus would be my guess. They are mylar'd up with oxygen absorbers, and normal cereal shelf life is around a year to a year and a half, and that's in cardboard with crappy packaging.

For those who prefer slightly less dye and sugar in their breakfast cereals, they've got generic Cheerios and Frosted Flakes as well.

You could certainly DIY these up for less, especially with sales and buying generic. Add your own bucket, mylar bags and oxygen absorbers and you'd be good to go. Figure $15 in cereal, $5 bucket, $2 bag/oxygen absorbers (1 gallon sizes are appealing for a variety of reasons) and you could DIY up one of these cereal buckets for under $25. But, there's also something to be said about letting someone else do the work and do it right the first time, especially if you only want a bucket or two to put back.

Next question: When will they be getting generic Captain Crunch?

9/2/14

Top 5 Primitive Traps from YouTube

Let's hope that your survival never depends on your ability to catch game with little more than a blade, cordage and natural materials. But if it does, here are five of the best primitive traps, as shown on YouTube.

And by best, I mean functional but easy to make. This kind of survival is a calories game - you want to take in more than you expend. Many trap designs require intricate whittling and a lot of time to build. Why spend 2 hours of whittling when you can get the same results with 10 minutes of work? Trapping, especially primitive trapping, is often a numbers game - the more traps you have, the better your odds of catching something. 2 hours for 1 trap or 2 hours for a dozen traps?

Also - primitive trapping isn't something that most of us practice a whole lot. Simpler designs that you can remember and execute independently are preferable to complex designs that you can't, or only partially can.