Friday, July 04, 2008

Preparedness Challenge Week I (for us anyway!)

I came across this on Melonie Kennedy's Preparedness blog: She found the original challenge on another site, but you'll be able to read that if you click on the link.
Ya' know...with the food crisis it kind of makes a lot of sense, especially for my family of eight...So I am going to attempt to work at it. Being realistic, it's probably somewhat late to accomplish everything, but if I go at it a little bit at a time, weekly, well...I'm hoping it will make a huge difference in our pocketbook as well as the cupboard. So this might be a regular feature in the upcoming weeks -- at least through harvest season. Beyond that, well...we'll see how it goes. It does make sense though, so maybe even those of you without a green thumb (and I really don't have one myself) will give it a go...The worst thing that could happen is that you'll be a little more prepared.

Preparedness Challenge: Week 1
1. Plant something: I have to say that I was pretty pleased with our efforts earlier in the season. We basically only planted herbs, garlic, lettuce and two pepper varieties, and all are doing rather nicely - considering that I'm the one doing the gardening (which means minimal effort and no green thumb). But just the other day Les planted two grape tomato plants. So hooray, we accomplished this part of the challenge!

2. Harvest something: I was surprised to find a nice green bell pepper ready to be picked. I also clipped some rosemary to dry, along with mint (for fresh mojitos and iced tea), and some lavender that I want to make into sachets for my drawers.

3. Preserve something: Well, the only thing I did that was close to preserving anything was to start drying my rosemary. Other than that, I bought some ground beef on sale and divided it into freezer bags. So at the moment I have about five 2lb. packets of ground beef in the freezer. Maybe not what I had hoped for -- those strawberries are still calling my name, and hopefully I'm really not too late already!

4. Prep something: I don't know that I accomplished much here, except that I sliced up some red and green bell peppers and stuck them in the freezer so they wouldn't go bad on me before I was ready for them -- I like to cut strips for fajitas and then little diced pieces for various other dishes.

5. Cook something: Well, not knowing what to make because of the heat suffocating me in the kitchen this week, I ended up doing pretty well. Monday I baked one loaf of sourdough bread (the rest of the starter is in the fridge) and made a chicken dish for dinner. Tuesday we had homemade pizze (I cheated with store-bought crust) and Wednesday we had spaghetti with bacon and a creamy cheese sauce of sorts...It ended up not being thin enough and I drained all the spaghetti water before I was finished, silly me. Then Thursday Kayla had her turn to pick a dish to make. She opted for cold noodle salad, which was spaghetti, cabbage and carrots with scallions and an Asian-inspired peanut-butter dressing. We still have three containers of leftovers, so it was a pretty cheap dish overall. We added fortune cookies (store-bought at the bulk store, so pretty cheap) as a dessert for a nice touch. Tonight we were supposed to have a barbeque, but it has rained almost all day. So Les took us out to a pizza buffet. Not too bad, really, for the week. I hope next week turns out just as good.

6. Manage your reserves: Well, this is where we're experiencing a lot of trouble. Since the pigeon company filed for bankruptcy, we're just trying to hold on. We were looking forward to a lot of relief with that monthly income and now there is no monthly pigeon income, but we still have the pigeons (almost 400 of them) and barn rent and feed. Right now the market has been flooded with pigeons, so it really does not pay to start getting rid of all of them, and I'm sorry, but I just can't see destroying the eggs. I think if we shop around maybe we'll be able to find a market for squab. We'll see. Other than that, paid the cell bill, some other small things, made a list of total debt (that almost gave me a heart attack) and tried not to splurge or add any new debt. One credit card is being paid in full and that will help a little. It means we can try to pay off another one next month, and go from there. I am going to take scissors to the majority of them...Monthly payments seem so foolish now, especially when you get interest and such tacked on. I want to try to follow Mary Hunt's Debt-Proof Living advice. Seems like a good plan -- I mean, who can't use more of their own money every month?? So that's where we're at for the moment...Trying to stay above water and avoid bankruptcy...which we feel should only be used in the most dire circumstances. And even though financially it seems pretty damn dire, well...We'd rather honor our debts if possible...The bad thing is that not all companies will even work with you. The health care scenario is the WORST for that...I called to make payment arrangements on a hospital bill and told them what we could afford. They were not willing to accept that arrangement -- in fact, they wanted 300% more than what I could pay. I mean, should I just die next time and avoid the trip to the ER or what??? I said, we're working on it...

7. Work on local food systems: Well, as far building up our own pantry...I hit a sale and got a few things. But I've been really trying to shop the perimeter of the store and avoid the isles of processed and unhealthy foods. Sadly, that's more of what we can afford right now. I did use coupons to purchase deli cheese and meat on sale this week -- Usually that is one of the first things we cut out when life gets a little expensive, but everything was on sale, plus the coupons too. I am hoping to work out a menu based on the sale fliers and use coupons where possible to stock up our meager pantry. Aside from that, though, I've found that I've been able to feed our family of eight a lot more healthy produce from spending a mere $20 at the farmers' market every week. There is a huge difference when I go versus when I don't. The kids are even enjoying a variety of fruits and veggies that are fresh and local without too much complaint...I've found that Les and I grumble more about the cookies, chips, ice cream, etc. we miss than the kids do!

8. Learn or work on a new skill: Well, not sure if this counts, but I have been working on my bread-baking a lot more, despite the rising cost of flour. I still find it more satisfactory to eat something on a homemade slice or two of bread than to buy that squishy air-inflated stuff they try to pass off as bread at the supermarket. And quite honestly, we're trying to use other grains in our diet anyway, so it's not like we're constantly going through the bread now. Aside from that, I just found a recipe for ricotta cheese that I want to try out, because I want to do some bulk cooking. I have some recipes for things like lasagna and even stuffed shells that I can freeze ahead of time to save on time during the upcoming busy cheerleading/football season. And...I want to try yogurt again too. So I'm working on "skills". Outside of the kitchen I'm working on two cross-stitch projects, a quilting project and hoping to learn crochet with Sara early next month.

9. Serve someone: I don't know if this counts, but...I gave my parents my first green bell pepper, a packet of homegrown and dried rosemary and a bunch of lavender. We have a whole bag full of clothes to go to Goodwill as well. Sometimes it just is hard to get into a serving mindset when I'm here all day with six kids plus Les, but I'm really trying to be less selfish with the things I do have. I hope that this challenge really keeps me in check as far as serving others.

I didn't do all of this in one fell swoop...It was a little here, a little there. One small thing every day for the week. And I hope to really keep up with it. It's pretty nice to look at your pantry shelves and see a variety of stuff -- that you actually eat or use -- there all ready for you.
Well, I don't know if/how many of you will join me in this challenge, but I think that with the food prices going up and the gas prices going up and all the natural and other disasters world-wide, it's not a crazy or far-fetched idea to be prepared. That can mean just buying an extra can of tunafish or whatever you eat every time you go to the grocery store or see a sale, or making sure your flashlights and smoke detectors have batteries or that you have a whole "kit" ready for any kind of disaster. It doesn't have to be consuming or make you scared or crazy, but you can do it sensibly. FEMA has information online at: and it doesn't hurt to look at it once in a while.