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October 2016

Did you add to your food reserve today?

Mike Thayer 2016 (2)By Mike Thayer

Did you have a grandma and grandpa that had a cellar or basement full of canned goods and food supplies? 

Ball_jarI did, they were the parents of six kids, a farming family, living the hard life through the Great Depression.  They used their life skills to get through some very tough times.  Lessons of preparedness practiced during the Great Depression continued in later years even during good times.  Keeping a food reserve came in handy for example when bad weather affected the corn harvest and money got tight.    If it wasn't a bad harvest one year, it might have been low prices in another. 

I have fond memories of my grandparent's home, grandpa's chair, the cuckoo clock, the pictures, and the open basement which included shelves stocked with those Ball canning jars packed with cucumber pickles, assorted vegetables, jams, etc.  My grandparents were always putting a little bit of food aside for whatever tough times might come down the road.

My gut, and it's substantial, is telling me that we're going to go through some very tough times again.  Don't take my word for it, do some homework and see what's coming for yourselves.  I sincerely believe things are going to get much worse for this country economically and politically before it gets better.  I hope I'm wrong, I really do.  But I was taught to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

So today, like I do everyday and since I don't can like my grandmother did, I made a small purchase to build my food reserve.  I spend at least $1 a day on something, be it canned vegetables, a bag of rice, a box of salt.  If I'm out to buy a newspaper, or running an errand or two, I stop at a store and pick something up. 

Today I didn't 'can' though, I bought a gallon of drinking water at the grocery store for 88 cents.   Tomorrow when I'm running some errands, I might get a couple cans of corn or green beans at Aldi.  Friday it might be a small bag of pasta I pick up if I'm doing things in the Walmart neck of the woods.

I treat my food reserve like a savings account.  It needs to build, it's not something to select ingredients from for tonight's meal.   It's for emergencies, for tougher times.

Why did I buy water when I've got it coming from the tap courtesy of the city?  Because you never know when a boil order or some other emergency might come.  When there's flooding, area towns issue boil orders.  It's comforting to know that you've got bottled water already on hand because guess what gets sold out first at the grocery stores?  Yep, water.  

Most of the bottled water on the shelves are good for about one year after purchase.  A person needs about a gallon of water a day.  Most of it to consume, a little to prepare food, a little to wash with, brush teeth with. 

Stocking up on water saves money, prevents hassle 

When it comes time to take a vacation, go to a sporting event, or a simple walk on a trail, I always pack some bottled water.  I'll  take some bottles of water from my food reserve with me so I don't have to buy the pricey stuff on the road.  Hotel water usually tastes like crap and you have no control over the quality.  With bottled water and a brand you trust, you know you have good water.  And here's an ewwwww factor, sometimes those rest stops or gas station restrooms aren't the cleanest..... Once in awhile you run into one of those "Why the heck is that clerk twiddling thumbs behind the counter when the restroom looks like this?" situations and guess what, their sink isn't working to boot.  Or how about attending a carnival or festival and the sanitizer gizmo is empty in the Johnny On The Spot?  So it's nice to have water on hand at all times in your vehicle for drinking or washing....  Using it like this is a good way to rotate your water stock too.  You take water from your food reserve nearing its expiration date with you on your travels and replace it with a fresh supply after vacation.

So what did you add to your food storage today?

Making your own beef, chicken or pork stock

Mike Thayer 2016 (2)By Mike Thayer

Don't throw those bones away!

Bones and meat scraps are the foundations for stock, which you can use to create some fantastic soups, sauces, gravies as well as flavor side dishes like rice, potatoes and pasta with.

Those bones and meat scraps, combined with some nice veggies - all translate to flavor!  Besides, what YOU make is better than anything you can buy.  Why?  Because you control the flavor, the salt level, you can customize it to the way you really like it and there's no ingredients you can't pronounce!

Doing a bone-in pot roast?  Don't throw away those bones.  Roasting a chicken?  Don't throw those bones away.  Frying up some pork chops?  No, don't throw those bones away. 

You're probably already familiar with beef and chicken stock and those are the most popular stocks you see on the grocery store shelves, along with vegetable. 

But tonight, I made some pork stock.  It's used regularly in Asian and Mexican cuisine, but for some strange reason, it's totally under-used in the American kitchen.

I put a pork roast in the oven tonight with some root vegetables for dinner, DELICIOUS!  But after the meal was enjoyed and the leftovers were put away, I proceeded to make some pork stock with the remaining meat scraps and bones.

How to make meat stock


  • Meat bones/carcass (preferably, something you've roasted)
  • 2-3 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 2-3 stalks of celery, roughly chopped
  • One medium onion, roughly chopped
  • Three cloves of garlic
  • One heaping teaspoon of dried parsley flake
  • The juice of one lime
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Place meat bones in a stock pot, cover with water and add the juice from the lime.  Bring to a slow rolling boil, skim off any foam that comes to the top.  After skimming, add the remaining ingredients, cover and simmer for up to 12 hours.  The longer the simmer, the deeper the flavor.  After the simmer, let the stock cool to room temperature and strain the broth from the bones and veggies.  Transfer to storage containers and freeze.  The broth is good for up to seven days in the refrigerator and is delicious added to a number of dishes!

Flavor those mashed potatoes with some chicken stock.  Use some pork stock to cook rice with instead of water, you'll be amazed how much better rice is!  De-glaze that pan you used to fry up that steak with some stock to create a nice pan sauce or gravy.  It's another dose of YUM!

Build a food reserve for $1 a day

Mike Thayer 2016 (2)By Mike Thayer

There are a lot of programs out there offering storable food packages, various types, sizes, prices.... 

But buying dehydrated, freeze-dried, or MRE style food isn't for everybody.  Buying things in bulk isn't for everybody either, and not everybody has an unspoken for $100 or $200 laying around to do that.  So I've come up with a way for you to start building your food reserves starting tomorrow, for about $1 a day.  It's a plan that's really quite simple to do, all you need is a grocery store.

"But Mike," you say, "We already buy groceries, what are you talking about?"

Sure, you're buying groceries, but are you building a food reserve?  It's kind of like a savings account.  A food reserve is the stock of food you have on hand in the case of emergency, or it can be food you buy now, so you're not fighting inflation later - an investment if you will.  

If you do the grocery shopping for your family, then you already know that beef prices are up, pork prices are up, poultry is up....  The overall price for a week's worth of groceries is up.

Food reserves aren't just for emergencies.  You actually save money building one.  That can of corn you buy today for 89 cents is probably going to cost you around $1 in 2017, $1.25 in 2018, you get the picture.  Aside from a temporary sale, can you remember when your overall grocery bill went down?  I can't.   Food prices continually rise.

So start building your food reserves, for whatever reason that motivates you.  Maybe you want to stop buying so much delivery pizza.

The next time you're at the grocery store, pick up an extra can of green beans, or pears, a little bag of rice, something like that.   I do this every morning when I venture out to get the daily paper before work.  One day I get a can of black beans, another day I might get a box of instant potatoes, the next it might be a bag of lentils.   If you're not a morning person, this can be done on your lunch hour.  If you usually eat out for lunch during your work day, take an extra 10 minutes or so and stop at the grocery store on the way back to work.  Pick up something simple.  There are plenty of things you can get for under a buck.  Gravy mixes, salt, macaroni, tomato sauce, etc., all these things are needed to build your food reserve, it starts to build up much quicker than you might think and you don't miss the $1!

Look for sales, or buy store brands

I'm not a coupon shopper, but this can come in handy for things like specials on canned meats and/or some of the pricier items you may want to include in your food reserve.  After all, there's no sense in stocking up on things you really don't care to eat just to save a few coins.  Buy things you enjoy, eating a bland meal is a downer.  Store brands are another way to go.  Not always the best quality, taste test the store brand product(s) to see if you like it well enough to stock up on it. 

"But Mike," you ask, "How much food do I need to buy for my food reserve?"

Good question.  A lot of households are surprisingly short on pantry items (folks that don't like to cook and end up eating out or ordering in a lot), at a minimum you need a 72 hour supply of food you don't touch, or at least rotate out by keeping an eye on the expiration dates.   For a single person that's nine meals and three gallons of water.  Put another way and for those of you who live in Valley Center, KS., that's three breakfasts, three lunches, three dinners.  So we're talking some items like store brand cereal, about four cans of assorted veggies, a bag of rice, a bag of pasta, a couple cans of soup, perhaps a can of tuna.  Along with three gallons of store brand bottled water, you now have an emergency 72 hour food supply and you spent about $14.  That's it.  

You may have spent that $14 on Chinese take out last night.  Tasty, but one, perhaps two meals.  The thing is, spending about $1 a day at the grocery store over the course of two weeks easily translates into building a food reserve that will get you through a rough three-day period.  Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.  And don't forget that you've beat inflation to boot.

Ideally, you should try to build your reserves in steps.  Once you get the 72 hour mark achieved, it's easy then to keep going and build it up to a couple weeks, then a month.   It's a matter of spending $1 a day is all.

SuperdomeThe best part is, you won't need government assistance if crap hits the fan.  If some type of emergency happens in your area, you've provided for yourself and your family.  Think Hurricane Katrina.  Some people were told to leave their homes and go to the Louisiana SuperDome.  Homes were flooded, damaged, power went out.  In many cases leaving a home was a must.  But a lot more people went to the SuperDome only because they weren't prepared.  They didn't have food on hand, the neighborhood grocery stores, convenience stores, restaurants - all closed either due to evacuation or damage.    Many people's homes were fine to stay in, perhaps no power, but otherwise not flooded out or damaged.  Yet those people still went to the SuperDome because they didn't have any food, bottled water and a few candles on hand.  They weren't prepared.  They exercised poor judgement and relied on the government to help, and we know how bad that turned out.

You can prevent having to put yourself in that kind of situation.  Be prepared on $1 a day, that's it.

Coming soon....  A list of essentials for your food reserve.

Repurposing deli meat containers

Mike Thayer 2016 (2)By Mike Thayer

If you're just starting out on your own for the first time, recently divorced and/or otherwise starting over from scratch again, one basic item you'll need is some kind of Tupperware.  You've got to have some containers to store food in right?

Don't buy any brand new storage containers, there's no need to purchase a set of Tupperware, Rubbermaid, not even those el-cheapo Ziplock containers. 

Buy food instead.

Deli Meat ContainerWhen you buy food, part of that price is for the container it gets packaged in and some of those containers are great for storing leftovers, cucumber slices, shredded cheese, whatever! 

Finished with that cottage cheese?  Don't throw the container away, don't recycle it, wash out the container instead because it just became 'Tupperware'.   Done with that tub of butter?  Wash that tub and use it again for storing something else in the fridge.  The best containers out there for repurposing are the clear plastic containers used to package deli meats.  They come in a variety of sizes and they're better than re-used cottage cheese containers or butter tubs and the like because they're clear, you can see what's being stored.  They seal well, they're dishwasher safe (top rack) and most actually hold up better than the el-cheapo Ziplock stuff.   BONUS:  They stack well in the cupboard when not in use.  BONUS #2:  These containers are great for storing other items besides food.  Tacks, nails, screws, batteries and much more can be stored, stacked and packed using repurposed deli meat containers.

One thing I would recommend you DON'T do is put plastic in the microwave.   Nuking food in a plastic storage container prematurely shortens the life of plastic.  The plastic stains (especially tomato sauced/based foods) and loses its shape and ability to properly seal over time.  TIP:  Always nuke your food on a real plate or in a real bowl, use paper plates only to cover your food to prevent splattering, but not to eat off of (unless of course you didn't wash the dishes last night and you don't have a choice....).  

Repurposed Deli Meat ContainerDon't waste your money on Tupperware or Rubbermaid, repurpose what you've already paid for at the grocery store.

Buy your shoes at Kohl's, the store rocks!

By Mike Thayer

Think you're getting a good deal buying shoes at places like Payless ShoeSource? 

You're not.

Those so-called 'bargain' $30 shoes are only going to last you 6-7 months.  The stitching is going to come apart and the tread will wear thin long before it should.

Buy some quality, name brand shoes at Kohl's instead.  The only thing you have to do is watch for sales, which they have fairly often and better yet, a clearance!

About seven months ago, I went cheap and bought a pair of black bargain brand casual oxfords for work.  They cost me about $30.  At the time I thought, "What a deal!"  But the saying, you get what you pay for holds true here.  I don't think I wore them three months when the stitching started to pop, creating a few holes and the tread was gone at the six month mark.  After a recent heavy rain storm and an almost fall (wet asphalt and no tread on the shoes = slick), needing to buy a new pair of shoes wasn't just something on a list, it became must do reality.

Enter Kohl's.  I've bought shoes from Kohl's before, I already knew they had the sales that make it worth your while, but usually, for me anyway, that typically means getting a pair of $75 shoes, for $50.

FilaNot today.  Today I really scored!  I bought a pair of Fila brand running shoes, which normally list for $59.99, for just $17 on clearance.  I had reviewed the Kohl's website before I went shopping and found a pair of Skechers brand shoes I liked for $30 (normal price $64 but on sale) and that's actually why I went out there.  But it pays to browse.  Don't be the stereotypical male -  go in the store, find what you need, buy it, get out - take a look around.  In browsing a bit once I got to Kohl's (maybe 10 minutes?), I found the Fila 'Windshift' shoes and opted for those instead of the Skechers.  I didn't see that particular Fila $60 shoes for just $17 deal online, but I'm certainly glad I found such a deal by browsing in the store!

And here's the best part, these Fila shoes aren't going to start coming apart at the seams in just three months.  I will still have good tread at the six month mark.  At that $17 price, it kicks the $30 bargain shoe's ass!  Heck, I could spend $60 on two pairs of those bargain shoes, have them both worn out in about a year, and it still wouldn't measure up to the full price of the Fila's, which will still be going strong at 12 months of wear.

Spend the money on a good pair of shoes, even if you have to pay full price.  If they're on sale, that's just a bonus, a TRUE bargain.