food


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By Kellene Bishop

Rotating Can Shelves photo c/o The Sassy Saver

Rotating Can Shelves photo c/o The Sassy Saver

Last weekend I was speaking with a very excited man who is a relatively new acquaintance of mine. He claimed that he had finally broken down and bought a years supply of food for his family and even purchased those “nifty” little shelves to hold all of his cans. He was so excited, he just had to show me. So he took me to his storage room along with his pleased wife and with the flare of a Broadway emcee, displayed his years’ supply of food storage. As I stood there thinking of him and his wife and their 5 children, I was dumbfounded. I thought for sure that I was missing something. I looked around the small room to see where else he may be pointing. But nope. He had a small set of rotating can shelves full of cans of foods. The problem was, by my somewhat flawed math estimates, I could only see about 200 cans of food. It doesn’t take a math genius to figure out that one can per person PER day would only amount to about 28 days of ONE meal per day. I frankly didn’t know how to kindly break it to him. So I did what I do best. I was blunt. *grin* I told him that I was so happy that he started his food storage and asked him how it made him feel. He said it was a GREAT feeling. I asked if he felt like he could handle a little bit more of that feeling. He said, “Sure!” So I proceeded to point out that what he had wasn’t even enough to feed one adult for a month, let alone his family for a year. Feeling a bit dejected he moved our conversation out of the basement and into the family room that was attached to the kitchen. From there I could see remaining cans of tomatoes, corn, and beans they had used to create an aromatic taco soup.

Taco Soup photo c/o His Daughter

Taco Soup photo c/o His Daughter

I asked him, “How many people did you feed with this batch of soup tonight?”
He said, “All of us, but we all had seconds.”
“Why did you all have seconds?”
“Because we were hungry and it tasted good.
I asked him how many cans he used to create dinner.
“Nine, plus some spices and a pound of ground beef.” 
“Do you feel overly stuffed from your meal?”
“No.”
“Do you feel content from your meal?”
“Yes.”
“Don’t you think that in a time in which you’re stressed with a chaotic environment that feeling content will be important to your family?”
“(Sigh) Yes.”
(You would have thought that I’d taken away Winnie-the-Pooh’s honey pot.)

During this conversation, some of the kids volunteered that after dinner they’d gotten into some snacks because they “still wanted some more to eat.” The wife sheepishly admitted that she had to have some Dove chocolate to “take the edge off of the day.” (I had to empathize with her on that one, for sure!)

Ok, so the point? I have been shown a person’s food storage on many occasions. The majority of those who believe they have enough food do not even have 3 months’ supply, let alone a year.

First of all, understand that food is a lot like cash in your wallet. It sure does seem to go quickly. Secondly, don’t underestimate the amount of food your family will need to feel healthy, calm, and content. Food indeed will be a way to “ground” your family in some sort of normalcy when all heck breaks loose.

As you accumulate and organize your meals, keep in mind generous servings, not minimal. Be realistic. I once had a gal tell me that she could feed her whole family on one box of mac-n-cheese. When I asked if she had ever put such a theory to the test, she replied no, that usually each teenager wants their own box. 

Beef Stroganoff photo c/o Creating Post-it Notes

Beef Stroganoff photo c/o Creating Post-it Notes

When I take an accounting of our food storage, I have a lot of my records by the serving, not the pound or ounce. Also, I store the recipes and ingredients for entire meals in 4-gallon square buckets. (These are invaluable in my home as they stack higher, take up less room, etc.) For example, let’s say I’m planning on serving Beef Stroganoff. Inside a 4-gallon square bucket I have the cans of cream of mushroom soup, cans of beef chunks, bags of pasta, seasonings, cans of veggies for the side dishes, and a bottle of applesauce to finish the meal off. That way when my husband asks me “what’s for dinner?” (tonight or in the future) I can simply go downstairs, look at the rows of buckets and pick a meal knowing that I already have everything I need for it right in there, along with the recipe. This makes life a lot less stressful NOW and in the event of a future food shortage scenario. I’m telling you, there’s a great deal of peace when you can look and see these meals neatly stacked and labeled in your food storage. Each bucket represents at least one meal based on how I have the bucket labeled. Sometimes I can fit a couple of meals in each bucket depending on the number of ingredients.

So the moral of this story is to take an actual accounting of the numbers of servings you have in your food storage, use what you store regularly, and try to store your food in clusters of meals that you know your family already loves. Be generous in your estimation of serving sizes and account for the entire meal as opposed to just a single dish.

4-gallon-bucket(By the way, a great place to find 4-gallon buckets is Five Star Preparedness. They have used 4-gallon square buckets that take up less space than the round ones. They also enable me to stack them much higher securely than the others. Since they are only 4 gallons, they don’t present as much of a physical challenge to me as do the 5-gallon ones. The 4-gallon buckets are $2 each and come with a lid. I love that I can buy a new lid with a hinged, stay-open feature and rubber gasket seal for only $2 (less than what they sell for at Wal-Mart) and use the new lids once I’m getting into them regularly. You can reach Five Star Preparedness at 801-734-9596)

Copyright 2009 Preparedness Pro & Kellene Bishop.  All rights reserved.  You are welcome to repost this information so long as it is credited to Preparedness Pro & Kellene Bishop.

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This blog has moved. Please visit us at www.preparednesspro.com.

By Kellene Bishop

Morning Moo's Cans photo c/o everyday_something

Morning Moo's Cans photo c/o everyday_something

If you’re in Las Vegas, NV; Henderson, NV; Gilbert, AZ; Southeast Gilbert, AZ; or Mesa, AZ you should feel pretty darn special cause you’re getting a product that isn’t available anywhere else. Costco now has 2 special 6-packs of the Morning Moo’s/Blue Chip foods that they are selling.  In one 6 pack they have “breakfast items” and in another 6-pack they have “dinner items.”  The 6-packs contain 6 #10 cans. Some of these items are SO dang good I can’t believe they are freeze dried! 

In the Breakfast Pack they have the whole Freeze-Dried Strawberries (scrumptious!), Creamy Wheat, Buttermilk Pancakes (amazing!), Scrambled Egg Mix (I use these all the time), Imitation Bacon Bits (only 1g of fat!) and the Potatoe Shreds. There’s over 200 servings in these 6 packs, and they have up to a 25 year shelf life. 

I like to add a bit of cinnamon to the pancake mix and let the batter rest a moment. I served some of these to a girlfriend who has 9 people in her family and she says that she’ll never make homemade again.  Also, if you recall, I’ve shared with you how great the strawberries are. They are WHOLE, not flakes. You can eat them right out of the can or make syrup or pie filling or jam with them. The creamy wheat is really hearty. I enjoy it! (See my fried creamy wheat recipe below.) I have served the potatoe shreds and folks can’t believe they are freeze-dried. I use them in casseroles as well. And I use the scrambled egg mix to make quiches, all kinds of scrambled eggs, and even French Toast. (Dang, do I sound like a “foodie” or what?)

In the Dinner Pack they have the Creamy Potato Soup (yum), Imitation Beef Bits (TVP), Potato Gems (I eat them RAW–they are THAT good), Honey White Bread and Roll Mix (Divine and idiot proof), Freeze-dried Sweet Corn (great right out of the can!) and the Vegetable Stew Blend. 

I use the corn, potato soup and bacon bits all in the same soup for a chowder like soup. The vegetable stew is just plain vegetables like cabbage, tomato, red and green bell peppers, celery, potato dices, and onion. So it’s REALLY versatile!  The Potato Gems are already flavored with butter and salt. So I LOVE eating them raw, in their freeze-dried state right out of the can!  And when I want to make them I just have to add a little warm tap water. So dang easy.

These foods are just “food storage” to me folks. I use them everyday. But even I don’t get them in this Costco priced 6-pack. Only you folks in NV and AZ will get them. Stop in to one of these stores this week and get some samples. If I remember correctly, Blue Chip demonstrators will be there all the ding dong day for 3 days, so call your store to see which days this week.

In addition to the 6 packs they will also be offering the oats and the Morning Moo’s milk at these same stores as well. (The oatmeal is a great deal and has an awesome shelf-life!)

If you’re not in AZ or NV, you can still purchase the products in Utah Macey’s stores and most of Utah’s Central and Southern Wal-Marts. The good news is that I that I have an inside track as to when they’ll be coming to other parts of the country. I do know that there are plans in the works, folks, so just be patient. I also just spoke last week with a new internet store that will be selling the less common Blue Chip products nationwide at low prices, so I’ll let you know what that comes on line too.

As you know, Preparedness Pro doesn’t sell anything, and we never will sell any products. But I am in LOVE with these products. I’ve compared them to several others and I’m just happiest with these. As a result, Blue Chip found out what a fan I am and asked me to develop some recipes for them. So I did and I’m sharing some of the recipes with you.  Enjoy!  PS- just got an update on the pricing for you folks.  The breakfast pack is only $53.99 and the dinner pack is only $48.99!  Considering it has 200 servings in each pack, that’s only 25-27 cents per serving!!!  Crud, just the strawberries alone retail in my area for about $25!  Go get em’ AZ and NV!

Corned Beef and Veggie Stew

½ cup of Morning Moo’s Vegetable Stew Mix

6 cups of Water

1 teaspoon of salt

½ teaspoon of pepper

½ teaspoon of caraway seeds

1 can of corned beef (broken into bite sized pieces)

Bring all ingredients to a boil for about 20 minutes. In the meantime, in a small skillet add 3 Tablespoons of flour to 2 tablespoons of butter. On medium-high heat, stir constantly until small bits of golden brown mixture are cooked. Add to the soup mixture and still until thickened.

Morning Moo’s White Chili

1 cup of Morning Moo’s Creamy Potato Soup

4 cups of chicken broth

2 cups of cooked, boneless chicken cut into small cubes

1 can chopped green chilis

1 can (19 oz.) white kidney beans (cannelloni), undrained

2 green onions, sliced

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon of garlic powder

½ teaspoon of ground red pepper

½ teaspoon of oregano leaves

1 teaspoon of cilantro leaves as a garnish, optional

Shredded Monterey Jack cheese as a garnish, optional

In a medium saucepan whisk together the soup and the chicken broth. Bring to a simmer on medium-high heat. Add all ingredients except for garnishes and beans and simmer for 15 minutes. Add beans and cook for another 5 minutes.

Serve topped with cheese and cilantro.

Morning Moo’s Corn Chowder

Corn Chowder photo c/o Never Trust a Skinny Cook

Corn Chowder photo c/o Never Trust a Skinny Cook

1 Tablespoon of butter

1 cup of Morning Moo’s Creamy Potato Soup

1 cup of Morning Moo’s freeze-dried Sweet Corn

2 cups of Morning Moo’s milk (in powdered form)

4 cups of chicken broth

1 teaspoon of smoked paprika

2 Tablespoons of Morning Moo’s Bacon Flavored TVP

½ teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves

¼ cup of diced of red or green bell peppers

½ teaspoon of sea salt

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the butter, soup, milk and chicken broth. Add all other ingredients and simmer for approximately 20 minutes on medium heat.

Melt in Your Mouth Bread Sticks

3 cups of Morning Moo’s Honey White Bread and Roll Mix

2 Tablespoons of instant dry yeast

1 cup and 1 Tablespoon of warm water

½ cup of oil

3 Tablespoons of lecithin granules

Salad Supreme Seasoning

4 Tablespoons of melted butter

Dissolve yeast in water. Add the bread mix and mix well. Add the oil and lecithin granules and then knead for about 7 to 10 minutes. Dough should be elastic and soft. If dough is too stiff, add a little bit more water in 1 tablespoon increments.

Spray a large piece of plastic wrap with non-stick cooking spray and cover the dough in a bowl with the non-stick spray side down. Allow dough to sit in the bowl for about 30 minutes at room temperature, until dough has doubled in size. Gently pinch off 2 tablespoon pieces and with your hands roll into small bread stick shapes. Dip in the melted butter, and then place on a large cookie sheet. Continue until you’ve used all of the dough. Allow the dough to rest on the baking sheets at room temperature for 15 more minutes. Generously sprinkle the dough with Salad Supreme. Bake rolls in the oven at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes.

Red Carpet French Toast

French Toast with Whip Cream and Strawberries photo c/o ehow.com

French Toast with Whip Cream and Strawberries photo c/o ehow.com

1 cup of Morning Moo’s Scrambled Egg mix

3/4 cup of warm water

1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg

½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon

1 cup of prepared whipped cream

½  cup of Morning Moo’s freeze-dried Whole Strawberries

Whisk together the egg mix and the warm water until all lumps are removed. Add spices and whisk to incorporate. Dip thick slices of bread into the egg mixture, covering completely and then place on a hot skillet. (About 325 degrees)  Let cook about 1 ½ minutes on either side. Top with whipped cream and strawberries and serve.

Fried Creamy Wheat

Prepare Morning Moo’s Creamy Wheat according to directions on the package, but omit about ¼ of the water. When finished cooking mixture should be cooked nicely but very thick. Place prepared creamy wheat in a non-stick bread pan. Allow to cool at room temperature and then place in refrigerator overnight. In the morning, release the loaf of creamy wheat and slice into ½ inch slices. Place on a hot skillet greased with butter and fry on each side about 2 minutes. Top with your favorite syrup and butter.

Divine Scrambled Eggs

 1 cup of Morning Moo’s Scrambled Egg Mix

1 ½ cup of warm water

1 Tablespoon of Morning Moo’s Imitation Bacon Bits

1 teaspoon of Johnny’s Garlic Bread Seasoning

Salt and pepper

¼ – ½ cup of shredded cheese

Whisk together the egg mix and water until no lumps are visible. Add TVP and seasoning. Place mixture into a hot skillet and let cook on one side for about 30 seconds. Then scramble and flip to other side of the egg mixture. Allow to cook about 30 seconds then add the cheese. Continue cooking until the eggs are at the desired texture then serve.

Breakfast Casserole

2 cups of Morning Moo’s Potato Shreds

2 cups of water

2 cups of Morning Moo’s Scrambled Egg Mix

3 ½ cups of warm water

1 teaspoon of black pepper

½ teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon of Tabasco Sauce

¼ cup of Morning Moo’s Imitation Bacon Bits

1 cup of shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Combine the potato shreds and 2 cups of water and boil for approximately 20 minutes in a small saucepan. When finished, drain the potatoes and place them flat on the bottom of a 9 x 13 casserole dish sprayed with non-stick spray.

Whisk together the egg mix and the 3 ½ cups of warm water until all lumps are dissolved.

Add seasonings and mix well. Pour over the potato shreds.

Top with bacon bits and shredded cheese.

Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.

Copyright 2009 Preparedness Pro & Kellene Bishop.  All rights reserved.  You are welcome to repost this information so long as it is credited to Preparedness Pro & Kellene Bishop.

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wheat-investment

This blog has moved. Please visit us at www.preparednesspro.com.

By Kellene Bishop

How long will your wheat last? What’s the best way to store it? How do I keep insects out of it?  What do I do when it smells like the can?

Today I was doing a training which involved going over the shelf life of various foods. One woman in attendance incorrectly stated to the entire class that “wheat goes bad easily because it has oil in it, and so it goes rancid if you’re not careful.”

I got to talking to my husband and asked him what other misinformation he may have heard about wheat. Turns out, there sure is a lot of MIS-information out there. So, I decided to help dispel some of the rumors so that you can more confidently store this vital food.

First of all, what IS the shelf-life of wheat?

Wheat does have an oil in it. It’s called vitamin E. It’s what gives the grain some fat content which makes it an even more complete food. (Nice how God is so thorough that way, eh?) In fact, by extracting the oil in wheat, you come up with the expensive oil called Wheat Germ oil. (Very healthy for you, by the way.)  However, oil doesn’t go rancid because of its mere existence. It goes rancid when it’s exposed to oxygen, primarily. 

Storing wheat for 30+ years is a drop in the bucket—excuse the pun. The key is to store it in its whole grain form. I do the same thing with dent corn. I store dent corn in its whole grain form so that I will have plenty of cornmeal on hand when I need it, otherwise just plain cornmeal would go rancid relatively quickly. In the cornmeal stage all of its oil is fully exposed to oxygen. Oil exposed to oxygen is what makes things go rancid. It’s nice that whole dent corn is easy to store for 30+ years. I’d never get that far with cornmeal. The same goes with groats instead of oats. Groats are the “whole” form of oats.  By the way, when you store grains in their whole grain form, you can sprout them—YUMM-MEE.

Use the whole grain Photo c/o uniflour.com

Use the whole grain Photo c/o uniflour.com

The ideal temperature for storing wheat for the longest shelf life is 75 degrees or cooler. However, yes, you can store wheat in a warmer environment so long as it’s packaged well. Ideally you’ve got it in a double-bagged packaging. Or in a bag and then in a bucket. Or better yet, in an number 10 can—although more expensive to buy that way (you can always buy it in the bags and then use a canner). Wheat stored in a Mylar bag in a bucket would be another good method, however, it’s also more expensive than the simple bag or bucket method. So long as you keep your wheat off of a heated cement floor, and out of direct sunlight, you’ll have success in storing it long term. Remember though, the cooler, the better and the easier the wheat will be to work with in your recipes too.

Continuing on with the temperature issue… Keep in mind that wheat was found in the pyramids, and Egypt is NOT known for its cool climate. 🙂 I had someone comment to me recently when I told them this: “yeah, but the deep dark corners of the pyramids are rather cool.” First of all…have you been to a pyramid? It’s flippin’ HOT in there. Sure it’s COOL-ER than outside of it. But it’s not a cool 75 degrees. (Although SOME have been found to maintain 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Why can’t I build my home to do that?!) Second of all, such a statement presumes that the wheat came fresh off of the stem before it was put in the pyramid. *heavy sigh* In other words, it’s presumed that it was never exposed to any heat prior to being placed in the pyramid tombs. As I’ve shared in a previous article, when I lived in the Philippines, they would frequently “dry” their grains by spreading them out on the road for a couple of days. And yes, it is extremely hot and humid in the Philippines, and yet whole grains are the most vital food source they have. Whole grains are just another one of these neat miracles that God has given us to feed us, if you ask me. They are temperamental foods that the majority of the world can’t store without refrigeration.

A metal can is the ideal way to store wheat simply because varmints can’t chew through it. But to be forthright with you, I have very, very little wheat stored this way. Most of mine is in the big, thick, double 50 pound bags. The wheat of my mother’s that we kids moved around for 18 years was also stored this way. I’m sure many of you have parents and grandparents with their wheat stored the same way. Remember, that if you do get little bugs in your wheat, there’s no need to throw it out. Simply put it in 180 degrees for about 20-30 minutes and Voila! You no longer have bugs. You simply have extra protein. (Don’t worry. You’ll get over it.)  

When you open a can of stored wheat it may smell a little “tin-ish.” Don’t worry about that. It’s natural for the ingredients to take on that smell. But the good news is that it’s not permanent. Simply aerate the wheat for a couple of hours outside of the can, and you’ll eliminate that smell just fine.

I don’t mess with buying the more expensive wheat. I almost exclusively store the hard red wheat. It’s more environment- hearty and tolerant to store than the hard white wheat. My bread, pie crusts, and cookies turn out just dandy with the hard red wheat. When selecting your wheat for storage, make sure that it doesn’t have a moisture content higher than 10 percent in order to successfully store it long-term.

Well, I hope this helps answer some of your grainy questions about wheat. (Sorry, I’m in a punny mood today.)

Copyright 2009 Preparedness Pro & Kellene Bishop.  All rights reserved.  You are welcome to repost this information so long as it is credited to Preparedness Pro & Kellene Bishop.

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By Kellene Bishop

Freeze Dried Blueberries. Photo c/o thereadystore.com

Freeze Dried Blueberries. Photo c/o thereadystore.com

While I am able to obtain produce periodically, I have to say the majority of the fruits and vegetables in my food storage are of the freeze-dried variety? Why? Cost and convenience.

Consider this. I can purchase a flat of fresh blueberries for $30-$35 at a farmers market. Undoubtedly there will be some waste, bruising, and I may or may not be able to use them all before they spoil. I will also need to wash them and dry them off prior to using (depending on what I’m making with them). However, if I purchase a #10 can of freeze-dried blueberries, I still get 90-95% of the ORIGINAL fresh produce nutrition, without any bruising or waste. Plus there’s no need to wash and dry them, or to sort through them and clean off any stems. The freeze-dried produce is picked at their prime and I get them without any pesticides or any other “yucky” ingredients. In addition, the shelf life of the brand I prefer (I haven’t checked on ALL of the brands) is 20 years. Not only that, but the Blue Chip brand (a.k.a. Morning Moos) also guarantees that AFTER you’ve opened that big #10 can, it’s guaranteed for its taste, texture, and nutrition for a full 18 months! So there’s no need to be overwhelmed at the thought of opening the can.

My husband and I munch on the freeze-dried fruits as snacks quite frequently during the day. And when I watch for the sales, I’m paying LESS than I would have had to pay for fresh produce.

Photo c/o freeze-dried-food.com

Photo c/o freeze-dried-food.com

The benefits of freeze-dried foods deserve restating:

Last 20 years on the shelf
Last 18 months after opening
No yucky ingredients
Taste great
Easy to use
AND COST LESS

Sometimes the “costs less” component of freeze-dried foods is hard to wrap our minds around. We think in terms of paying $1.29 for a small pint of berries, for example. But then when we see the price tag for a #10 can of freeze-dried produce at $25-$30, we choke. Keep in mind you’re getting a LOT of produce that can easily replace a flat of produce you would purchase elsewhere.

As opposed to dehydrated foods, freeze-dried foods reconstitute with much less water and time. In fact, in many instances, I don’t even bother reconstituting a lot of what I use by relying on the moisture in the dish I’m making or the heat from cooking to do the work for me. That way I get a much fresher, powerful burst of flavor. Even better, with freeze-dried products I don’t have to waste freezer space on the items which may or may not taste mushy or get freezer burn.

Even more important, these foods are really nutritious FOODS as opposed to somethings I bring home from the processed foods aisles. Can words ending in “oxins” “ose” “itrates” or ithin” really be considered “food?”

Freeze-dried foods also look prettier and more appetizing in my meals. I recently purchased a muffin mix with “real blueberries” in it. The “blueberries” were just shredded little bits. So the next time I had a hankering for blueberry muffins, I simply put some of my whole freeze-dried fruit in them. My volunteer munchers scarfed them down.

The other day I made jam in a jiffy just by using a little bit of sugar, the freeze-dried raspberries (or strawberries or blueberries) and some water. No cooking or refrigeration was required. And just as important it didn’t require an entire day of canning. I just made up exactly how much I needed/wanted to go with my homemade bread.

Toast and Jam photo c/o Dinner with Julie

Toast and Jam photo c/o Dinner with Julie

Ultra MaxiGel Jam/Syrup

1 cup Morning Moos (Blue Chip) freeze-dried raspberries, strawberries or blueberries
1/3 cup sugar
2 T. UltraMaxigel
Water (about 1 cup+)

Blend all ingredients well with a high speed mixer or blender. Add enough water to create the consistency you prefer. You may add more water for a syrup consistency as well.

That brings me to another point of using freeze-dried fare everyday. It’s so simple. The recipe I just gave you is easy enough that a 4-year-old could make it. For example, when I’m making meatloaf, I just throw in a handful of freeze-dried spinach flakes and some freeze-dried red and green peppers that are already diced up. Cooking with freeze-dried foods simply couldn’t be easier.

As you may be able to tell, this food isn’t “just” for food storage. In fact, I kind of think of the two words “food storage” as a bit of a nasty connotation in my home given that I use these kinds of ingredients every day. While these types of products may be great FOR food storage, these everyday items are vital ones of convenience in my home. So keep your eyes open for freeze-dried products in your area. And if you have any doubts as to the taste, write to the company and ask for some samples to be sent to you before you spend the money on them. I’m a true convert to this kind of product—especially when it comes to my produce.

Copyright 2009 Preparedness Pro & Kellene Bishop.  All rights reserved.  You are welcome to repost this information so long as it is credited to Preparedness Pro & Kellene Bishop.

Subscribe to Preparedness Pro today and never miss a thing!

This blog has moved. Please visit us at www.preparednesspro.com.

By Kellene Bishop

Popcorn photo c/o granitegrok.com/

Popcorn photo c/o granitegrok.com/

Let me ask you a question. Would you cook up fresh popcorn only to stuff it in a garbage bag, store it on the floor of a closet overnight, and then serve it the next day as “fresh popcorn?” Would you even want to eat such a food item? If so, would you be willing to pay “theater prices” for such a treat?

While working for a movie theater, if you saw a drink cup fall to the floor, what would you do with it? Throw it away, right? Ah…but that would be a problem if you were a concession stand employee at the American Fork, Utah Cinemark theaters.

Missi* was newly employed at the Cinemark Theatre at The Meadows in American Fork. Grateful to have a job unlike many kids her age, she was eager to please. On her second day of the job however, she got a rude awakening as to just how much she would be required to do to keep her job. As she spotted a drinking cup drop to the floor, she put it in the trash. According to Missi, her manager, Mr. Bejera, proceeded to yell at her and asked, “What do you think you’re doing?” Thinking that perhaps she had violated some kind of an accounting protocol, she took the cup out of the trash and placed it on the counter where the movie theater put broken and unsalable items. Unfortunately, that wasn’t what Mr. Bejera had in mind. Missi claims that Mr. Bejera continued to holler at her saying, “That cup is not dirty!” He then reclaimed the cup from the counter, placed it on the top of all of the other soda cups to be provided to the consumers and hovered over Missi until she had actually sold the cup to an eager movie-goer.

For those of you who may practice “the three second rule” in your home, you should know that according to my interview with the Utah County Health Department, a concession stand drinking cup is a single-use item and should have been discarded after it fell on the floor.

Photo c/o Melanie Sochan | The Saginaw News

Photo c/o Melanie Sochan | The Saginaw News

Unfortunately, this potential nightmare doesn’t stop there. Missi and two other employees of Cinemark at The Meadows confirmed with me the policy of overnight popcorn storage. The unsold popcorn is placed in a garbage bag—yes, the same ones they use for the garbage cans—NON-food grade—, tied off, and then stored in a closet overnight. One morning when the employees began set-up for the concession stand, they went to retrieve the popcorn bag only to see that it was open. They had no idea if it was left open during the entire night, if the cleaning crew had a sudden craving during their shift, or if any critters had made their way into it during the storage time. Regardless, they retrieved it from the garbage bag and served it fresh that day.

For you to know, the Utah County Health Department Guidelines will permit the popcorn to be served the next day IF it is stored in a food-grade container. Yeah, I’m always putting my leftover chicken teriyaki in a garbage bag and then serving it the next day, aren’t you? In fact, I think Costco would save a us all a whole lot more money if they just bagged all of the bulk items in garbage bags instead of all of that fancy food-grade packaging—don’t you?

But wait. It gets better. The policy at this Cinemark Theater is that when a concession popcorn bag drops on the floor, the employees are required to leave it on the floor UNTIL there aren’t any customers in sight. Then they are required to pick it up and return it with the rest of the popcorn bags to be sold. Now, I ask you. If this is such a safe, ethical, and moral practice, then why are the employees admonished to wait until no customers are in sight?

When you’re ordering a hot dog, you may want to inquire specifically as to when they were cooked. In my opinion, if I’m paying $5-$7 for a hot dog, I don’t want one that was cooked at 11:00 a.m. the day before.

This same Cinemark Theater has a militant policy about employees coming in sick to work. “If you don’t get a replacement for your shift, then you are strongly encouraged to come into work,” says Missi. Don’t you find it interesting that the doctor’s offices don’t even want you to come in with the flu and yet a movie theater insists upon it? Sick employees are berated and treated with contempt for missing work due to illness. Management even goes so far as to arbitrarily require a doctor’s note prior to an employee returning to work if they aren’t satisfied with the timing of the absence. Whether an employee is sick with a headache or flu-like symptoms, the theater has no problem requiring them to work at the concession stand or handling tickets.

Sample Food Handlers Card. Photo c/o kcmo.org

Sample Food Handlers Card. Photo c/o kcmo.org

Were you aware that there are no standard requirements regarding WHEN an employee is to have a Food Handlers Permit? For some practical reasons a great deal of leeway is provided to employers at food establishments as to when their employees must be educated in the handling of food. In the case of this particular Cinemark Theater, numerous employees were able to work at least 30 days at the concession stand without verification of an FHP.

Lastly, as I feared, there are absolutely NO requirements by the health department to clean arm rests, seat backs or door handles in a theater. I interviewed three employees from the theater. None of them could recall a time in which they were asked to clean any more than the “standard”—vacuuming the carpets, cleaning the baseboards, or peeling gum off of the theater seats. So yes, when you rest your hand or arm on that armrest in the theater, you are joining the throngs of people before you who sneezed, spilled, coughed, drooled, etc. Sani-Wipes, anyone? I can assure you that I will never look at popcorn and a soda the same way again. 

As we enter this concerning flu season, I find it even that much more alarming that regard for the public’s health is taking a back seat to the cost of a concession stand cup or popcorn bag. That message speaks much louder to me than any movie promotion ever could.

Cinemark Movie Theater photo c/o lezgetreal

Cinemark Movie Theater photo c/o lezgetreal

You should know that the regional and national Cinemark offices clearly did not take this issue seriously. In spite of several detailed telephone messages over several days, no one felt that this issue was serious enough to merit a comment on this story. I don’t know about you, but the silence on the other end of the phone line speaks volumes in my mind. It solidifies the impression that the company culture of Cinemark tolerates these types of actions and that it’s not isolated to a rogue middle manager. Apparently an issue like this plays second fiddle to what Brad Pitt has to say about his current girlfriend and kids as he promotes his latest film.

So what does all of this have to do with preparedness? As we enter the flu season I’ve shared two articles with you over the past week regarding “germ warfare.” I’ve shared with you many ways that you can be mindful and better prevent yourself from becoming ill amidst all that threatens our bodies during this season. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that part of that prevention may require avoiding a particular movie theater, or perhaps all of them.

May I just remind you that you have every right to be HYPER VIGILANT about your health? Don’t look the other way when you see questionable hygiene or food handling practices. Address it head on. Say something to a manager. Call the health department. (The Health Department assured me that all complaints will be handled anonymously when addressing the business owner.) Ignoring the issue may cost you your life. At the very least it will cost you a couple of sick days. Ultimately you are the one responsible for your health. I can assure you that in the future I will certainly think twice about the real price of attending a movie.

*The real name of the employee has been changed.

Copyright 2009 Preparedness Pro & Kellene Bishop.  All rights reserved.  You are welcome to repost this information so long as it is credited to Preparedness Pro & Kellene Bishop.

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By Kellene Bishop

Is there a better way to store fruits and vegetables? Are there better kinds or times to purchase them? Is there one preservation process that’s more nutritious than others? The answers to these questions all depends on what you are ultimately more concerned about. Taste, texture, freshness, appearance (familiarity) or nutrition. What I’m going to provide you with today is simply a rule of thumb as to the hierarchy of the condition of the fruits and vegetables to obtain in terms of nutrition and cost. Then you’ll need to decide, as always, which type really fits your family.

Fresh Produce photo c/o Wiedmaier

Fresh Produce photo c/o Wiedmaier

The first choice for most people when obtaining fruits and vegetables is to get them fresh–either they grow their own or they purchase them from the store. However, you should be aware that the nutritional content does vary dramatically dependent on what types of pesticides and other chemicals are used and WHEN the fruits and vegetables are harvested. Obviously, harvesting them at their peak time in an organic setting will be the most enjoyable and nutritious for your family. The downside to fresh produce is that you don’t know if they were harvested at the ideal time. And even if they were, how long did they travel before they got to your store? How much will you end up having to toss as a result of spoilage? These types of mostly unanswerable questions make the top dollar you pay for fresh produce a bit of a gamble. I wonder if fresh really does belong at the top of the produce hierarchy?

Having said that tough, I’m all for making my own FRESH produce by growing my own sprouts. Sprouts have significantly more nutrition in them than just about any produce you can purchase anywhere. Not only that, but they are economical and they contain no nasty chemicals. Remember, you can easily sprout any whole grain, nut, legume, or seed. (Stay away from the flowers on tomatoes and potato sprouts. They are toxic.) I can’t believe I’m saying this, but my husband actually got me hooked on having sprouts on my sandwiches instead of lettuce. In fact, at the end of this article I’ve got a GREAT Orange Marmalade Sprout Salad recipe for you. Yum!

Blue Chip Freeze Dried Products photo c/o utahdealdiva.com

Blue Chip Freeze Dried Products photo c/o utahdealdiva.com

So, if not fresh, then what’s next on the hierarchy? Freeze-dried. Not to be confused with dehydrated. Freeze-dried produce typically contains 90-95 percent of the same nutrition as picked-in-their-prime fresh produce. And there are no contaminants with freeze-dried produce. I’ve not kept it a secret that I’m in love with all of the freeze-dried fruits and vegetables that Blue Chip Foods manufacturers. They truly are my favorite. I can do just about anything with freeze-dried produce as I can with fresh. They take very little, if any, time to reconstitute. The taste packs a punch of REALISM that you wouldn’t expect. The fruit doesn’t taste soggy like frozen, defrosted fruit does and I’ve also discovered that it’s actually quite economical. I don’t end up throwing away ANY freeze-dried produce despite the fact that my hubby isn’t a veggie fan. I find myself eating the strawberries, raspberries, bananas, and peas right out of the #10 cans. Dollar for dollar, the purchase price is the SAME between fresh and freeze-dried when you get the cans at regular price—even better when they go on sale. That’s right. I can pay $35 for about the same amount of raspberries at a farmer’s market right now as I would get freeze-dried in a #10 can. Yet there will inevitably be some waste with the fresh produce. That’s just how Mother Nature works. Whereas the freeze dried product I purchase is guaranteed to maintain its nutrition, taste, and texture for a full 18 months AFTER I’ve opened the can, and for years and years when prior to opening. This is why I use the freeze-dried versions as much as possible, everyday. I use the peas in my tuna casserole, the apple slices in my apple crisp, the strawberries in an easy jam made with clear gelatin and water, etc. etc. etc. I love how I never have to cry over cutting an onion. I just open the can, scoop up the amount I need, sauté it, and I’ve got carmelized onions or whatever the recipe calls for. I never have to slice or dice peppers, spinach, mushrooms, broccoli—well, you get the point. (I AM a bit zealous when it comes to my freeze-dried produce, aren’t I? I sometimes even get goosebumps just telling people about it in my classes. Too bad you aren’t close enough to get a sample of these yummy raspberries right now.) 🙂

Dehydrated fruits and vegetables photo c/o yes-green.com

Dehydrated fruits and vegetables photo c/o yes-green.com

Next in the hierarchy are dehydrated fruits and veggies. This level of nutrition is at approximately 70-75 percent of the same nutrition as fresh produce—even when you dehydrate your own.  You can enjoy dehydrated produce easily as a snack and they make easy additions to slow cooking dishes. Otherwise you need to reconstitute them and that may take a while and a bit of water. (You can also dehydrate meat successfully, but that’s another article.) When you dehydrate produce you don’t have to use your oven to do so. You can simply use the good old sunshine by itself or make use of a great solar oven. Dehydration is quite simple to do yourself, however, most dehydrated foods sold commercially are about the same cost as freeze-dried. If you have the choice, pick the freeze-dried version. Here’s a tip. When you’re rehydrating your foods, instead of using water to do so, use broth, juice, milk, or the water from the cans of other ingredients—whatever is already a part of your recipe. It will give your dish a much greater flavor. When I reconstitute apple chips, I use this yummy “Apple Delight” drink I get from Blue Chip. When reconstituting vegetables, I’ve also been known to use the water from the cans of other veggies I may be using in order to no throw any more nutrients and flavor out than necessary. I’ve also used the pasta water, potato water, etc.

Next, and definitely last in the hierarchy is canned. Canned produce keeps about 40-45 percent of the same nutrition as fresh right off the bat. Even when you do it yourself, you’re not likely to obtain more than 50 percent of the nutritional value as you would a fresh piece of produce. Obviously, the longer you store it, the more of its nutrition you lose. I personally do not can my own fruits and vegetables. Why? Because I can purchase the canned goods for a much better price than what my time and energy are worth—especially with coupons! And considering what all I get in return, in terms of nutrition, I just don’t think it’s worth the money. I’d rather pay more for the other options.

One point I do want to make. When you purchase fresh produce, such as the oversized bags of spinach at Costco, don’t hesitate to freeze it. The frozen produce is great and you don’t need to do anything special with it. Just seal it and throw it in your freezer. (The frozen spinach makes for great healthy smoothies or a lightly blanched spinach salad.) Of course you know that tomatoes, lettuce, and other high water content produce don’t freeze so well. So use your best judgment on that.

Hopefully you’ve learned a thing or two about what produce to select for your family for long and short term storage. While it may be more important that your family see something familiar at mealtime as opposed to something freeze dried, at least you can now make an educated decision.

Orange Marmalade Sprout Salad

Orange marmalade photo c/o notecook.com

Orange marmalade photo c/o notecook.com

Dressing:

Combine the following ingredients in a small bowl with a whisk

2 T. Orange Marmalade

4 T. Olive Oil

1 T. Balsamic Vinegar

1 pinch of red pepper flakes

 Drizzle the dressing over about 4 to 6 cups of fresh sprouts of your choosing. I also like to lightly toast some nuts and put these on the salad as well. This is yummy and something you can easily make with food storage ingredients.

Copyright 2009 Preparedness Pro & Kellene Bishop.  All rights reserved.  You are welcome to repost this information so long as it is credited to Preparedness Pro & Kellene Bishop.

Subscribe to Preparedness Pro today and never miss a thing!

This blog has moved. Please visit us at www.preparednesspro.com.

By Kellene Bishop

expiration-date-browniesIf you’ve read my articles in the past, then you know that I usually take issue with folks who are naïve and spread their ill-informed opinions around—usually to the demise or hindrance of other’s preparedness efforts. Well, yesterday I was commenting on a couponing forum to a gal about how her addiction to brownies no longer needed to be hindered by the expiration dates on her mixes if she was properly equipped with a FoodSaver. Unfortunately, a naïve, very ill-informed person got after me and claimed that it was unethical and just plain wrong for me to tell anyone that they could store any food product for that long. She even went so far as to present the grid that FoodSaver publishes which is their official claim in terms of how long food can be preserved with the benefit of a FoodSaver. (Obviously, the claims were nowhere near the time periods I had expressed.) So, today’s article is in honor of those who have been duped into believing that the expiration dates printed on a food product are some kind of a Cardinal rule to live by. And I’m even going to tell you exactly why they are not.

In a previous article I shared with you that “expiration dates are created for one reason and one reason only” and that was to protect the food manufacturers from any legal liability. It’s not liability from food poisoning so much as it is false advertising. For example, if you store your cereal that claims it has 100% of a days worth of Vitamin C, well, that won’t be accurate if you store it forever, right? Eventually the nutritional value will be lost and yet they will still have printed on the box an assertion regarding the Vitamin C content. With this article however, I’m also going to show you a couple of other darker sides in the use of expiration dates.

One of my food storage heroes, Wendy Dewitt

One of my food storage heroes, Wendy Dewitt

First of all, let’s face it. Food doesn’t poison a person. Germs and molds IN the food do. So let’s make sure we’re battling the correct culprit here. If you can store a food in such a way that you inhibit the growth of “critters,” then you will outlast the deadline of any expiration date on the planet. Oxygen, light, and heat are your enemies when it comes to preserving food. If you can control the exposure your food has to those beastly enemies, then you can control the longevity of your foods. One of my personal food storage heroes, Wendy DeWitt, has successfully stored Snickers candy bars for eight years by adhering to this battle plan. (How she refrained from eating it that long is beyond me.) The Snickers tasted just as wonderful as it did the day she bought it. I have successfully stored brown sugar, brown rice, oats, Keebler Fudge-Striped Cookies, nuts, chocolate chips, Peanut M&Ms, pudding mixes, Rice-a-Roni, and other packaged foods (even with hydrogenated oils) successfully in my cool, dry, basement for over 10 years by eliminating oxygen, light, and heat!

Of course there’s no manufacturer on the planet that is going to say “You can store this $2 box of cake mix for 10 years, so stock up when they are on sale and never think about buying them again for 10 years”, right? Think about this for a moment. You can store sugar for years and years. You can store cocoa for years. You can store spices for years. And you can store oils for years. So what makes a package of brownie mix exempt from being stored just as long? Oh. It’s that mean, ole’, ugly, expiration date on there, eh?

Rotting macaroni. Photo c/o wichita.edu

Rotting macaroni. Photo c/o wichita.edu

This leads me to another one of the dirty little secrets of the food manufacturing industry. Another key reason for issuing an expiration date on a particular product (and in some cases their 1st consideration) is for marketing purposes. They don’t want you to take advantage of that special at the grocery store in which you can get a box of brownie mix for only .47 cents, stock up, and not buy their brownie mix again for years. Their strategy, when they work with retailers to create a special sale, as well as print and distribute coupons, is that you will TRY a product that you may not have tried otherwise, and/or to increase their sales by 3-12% in order to keep stockholders happy. But darn it. They can’t combat the savvy couponers out there who will stock up on products when such deals come along and who then buys 10 boxes of brownies, or cereal, or pasta sauce, etc. So what counter measures do they employ in order to force even the coupon crazies to fall in line and buy the product again and again? They convince the consumers that the food will be rotten, disgusting, and just plain scary after the expiration date. This isn’t about rationing food or keeping you safe, folks. This is about selling more product. Tell me you haven’t fallen for it before? Sure the cereal tastes stale after it’s sat in your pantry for too long. But you didn’t repackage it, did you? Sure you’ve had salad dressing that goes rancid after being stored too long. But that doesn’t make the expiration date rule the be all and end all for every food. (Note: I haven’t found a way to make salad dressing last much longer than 6 months outside of refrigeration past the expiration date. So instead I like to also store items that I can successfully MAKE dressings with to use on my sprouts.) 

Also, here’s another little secret to let you in on. When the coloring changes in a food, it does NOT mean that the original nutritional value has been altered yet.

About 8 years ago I read a study that the Army had done to determine the expiration of MREs. (I WISH I had known that I would be writing like this professionally many years later so that I could provide it to you. But even a lengthy look on Google didn’t turn up anything—yet.) While MREs are indeed created to undergo more extreme storage conditions, the key results of the study were interesting. The Army study discovered that despite the intended expiration date of 3 years the meals continued to provide their original nutrition value for 25 years and only then began to have coloration variances.

Just in case some of you are wondering what the heck a FoodSaver has to do with significantly extending the life of your foods, I’ll remind you of one of my well-used tactics.

Foodsaver lid. Photo c/o cabelas.com

Foodsaver lid. Photo c/o cabelas.com

You can stuff a Mason jar with any dry ingredient such as rice, nuts, chocolate chips, granola, etc. Place the lid, no ring, on the jar. Connect the air port from the FoodSaver to your Mason Jar attachment with the hose that comes with the FoodSaver. Place the jar attachment on top of your jar. Turn on your FoodSaver, and bzzzzzz…a moment later you have successfully sucked out the oxygen from your jar. After doing so you should store it away from heat and regular light. As such you will win the battle against expiration dates.

Foodsaver Canister

Foodsaver Canister

Here’s some really good news. As it turns out, if you have the canisters that typically come with the FoodSaver, you don’t need the Mason Jar attachment. All you have to do is put the jar with the lid on it inside the canister and then seal the canister like you would with anything else inside. Doing so actually sucks the air out of your jar. Simply remove the seal to the canister once you’ve done the seal process and then store your jar. Pretty cool, eh? (To be on the extra safe side, I would use the jar sealer though if I had my druthers.) The nice thing is WHEN you do get into that jar of Peanut M&Ms, so long as you don’t ruin the lid trying to dig in feverishly, you can simply reseal the jar again and again. In fact, since your seal is not reliant on the rubber ring getting hot, you can even use old lids that you may have left over from other canning projects. Simply make sure they are nice and clean when you use them.

Just in case any of you are looking for the jar attachments, FoodSaver isn’t offering the regular sized one right now, only the wide-mouth. But a Google search will easily pull up several options for you.

Well, I hope that clears up expiration dates for you. And I hope that you are never duped by them again.

Copyright 2009 Preparedness Pro & Kellene Bishop.  All rights reserved.  You are welcome to repost this information so long as it is credited to Preparedness Pro & Kellene Bishop.

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