Sunday, August 29, 2010

Food Inventory

August 28, 2010

It was another Salsa Saturday. This time I picked about 50 tomatoes and canned 12 pints of Salsa. I had to beg 2 green peppers from my neighbor, but I will take her a bottle of salsa tomorrow to make up for it. I also made another 4 loaves of bread.

Michael went on a long bike ride across town and back. He enjoyed it tremendously, but the smell of fast food restaurants was very hard to ignore. I must admit that I would love a hamburger of any kind right now. Steak is still the other real craving. I think it may have something to do with the fact that our grill has not been used since it caught the porch on fire on Father’s Day. That means that we have not had hamburgers or steak for 2 ½ months. I don’t attribute all of my beef cravings to LAWKI month, just another kind of withdrawal.

Breakfast: Cereal, toast, whatever people wanted
Lunch: Sandwiches, Salsa and chips, Ramen
Dinner: Bean and Cheese Quesadillas

We used the last of the tortillas tonight. I pulled out the recipe book and will try to make some this week from my friend’s recipe. Between my sophomore and junior years of high school, I attended a month long camp thing at the University of Wyoming. One of my classes was about world hunger and we had the challenge to cook a meal for 150 people using only the staples that so many live on everyday. I must have rolled out 100 tortillas that day to serve with the rice and beans that were the meal. While I remember it being easy, but it is just one more step to dinner that I don’t usually have to take. This cooking from scratch everyday is getting old.

LAWKI Day 10
August 29, 2010

It was much cooler on the walk to church today. I wore my Birkenstocks and my feet don’t hurt. Somehow more people were late to choir practice from our family than made it on time. Either we are still adjusting to how long it takes to walk or there are a bunch of kids who have found a new way to put off church.

Breakfast: Bread, Cereal
Food after Church: Sandwiches
Dinner: Chicken and sauce with pasta, cucumbers, carrots, cantaloupe, peach cobbler

We ate the last of the fresh meat today. The debate between rice and pasta was great, with everyone thinking of the next few weeks of rice and pasta with canned chicken or no meat at all.

Fresh fruit left: a few sick looking grapes, a bag of nectarines, a honeydew, some blueberries that may only be good for smoothies or muffins, very brown bananas and about 15 apples. James actually ate an apple on his own free will today. That has not happened in a few years. I am not sure if that means they are very good apples or he is trying new things.

Fresh Veggies left: one head of ice burg lettuce, 3 romaine hearts, 2 pounds of baby carrots, sad celery, one store cucumber (hope for more from the garden, but no edible ones yet), plenty of tomatoes, and some hot peppers. Garden hopes include celery, zucchini, squash, carrots, onions, and a watermelon.

Dairy: 2 gallons of milk with sell by dates on Tuesday, 20 slices of cheddar cheese, a few slices of provolone and Swiss, one package of fresh mozzarella to go with the tomatoes and basil---yum!, 2 ½ cartons of sour cream, about 2 lbs of fresh butter with about 12 old packages in the freezer, 4 packages of cream cheese and a can of spray whipped cream.

Other: 1 ½ packs of lunch-meat turkey, 2 lbs of bacon, 4 dozen eggs, left over soup, left over chicken and pasta.

Michael’s mom and brother and family came over tonight for fun and to celebrate the summer birthdays. We shared our peach cobbler (freshly made by James and me) and they shared ice cream, cake and cookies. It was a good time.

Friday, August 27, 2010

First Day of School and a few Answers

LAWKI Day 7 & 8

Day 7
August 26, 2010

The first day of school! After the last week, I was very happy for this day to come. Everyone had reached the emotional breaking point of summer. We still wanted to be lazy and have no school, but we could no longer stand being home with no purpose and no schedule.

I imagine that in a long lasting emergency, this sort of chaotic nothingness could also get old. During the busy days of school and all of the kid’s activities, my neighbor Maretta and I often dream about a 3-month quarantine. However, after spending the last 6 weeks reading a couple of books about the 1918 Influenza pandemic, I am pretty sure I don’t want that kind of situation, even if it gave us months of “vacation” with the family. When it comes to actual real emergencies that might cause us to live off of our food storage, Michael and I debate what will come first, the big earthquake or the pandemic flu. Either way, I find it interesting that the Church guidelines for food storage are now a year of life sustaining food (the grains, beans, etc) and 3 months of the food you regularly eat.

Day 7 Menu
Breakfast Bacon, 2 Eggs and Toast---1st day of school splurge
Lunch School lunch for the kids, packed lunch for Michael, Café Rio for Shannon
Dinner Leftovers, 1st day of school cookies, fruit and bread

The Café Rio was a birthday lunch from my good friend Shelly. We set the plans about a month ago, before we even were sure we would do this. I asked everyone’s opinion about it and they all voted it was acceptable.

Day 8
August 27, 2010

A couple of answers…

Slrpycow is a nickname from High School. I used to tease my sister Megan that with her initials of MAAR, she should make sure to marry a Smith so she could be Mars for the rest of her life. One day she came back with telling me that I should marry someone with a P last name so I could be SLRP. My friend overheard that conversations, laughed herself silly, and then called me Slrpycow for the rest of the year, in reference to Megan’s comeback and my liking cow collectibles. I have used that as an online user name/log in/etc since the Internet came of age.

James, in buying cologne with his “crazy shopping day” money, is not quite as vain as you think. Okay, he is that vain, but he is also mature. I was very shocked that he did not choose to buy steak or beef jerky or some other meat thing that he could hoard. When I asked him about it, he said he would rather go cold turkey than try to drag things out. He has been very supportive of this whole venture, so we let him buy the cologne.

We did get the cell phone and the book at Costco. James drove and then bought himself a “black market” hot dog. I must admit it was very hard to be in Costco and not want to go shopping. Everything looked and smelled really good. I am glad it was this week and not 2 weeks from now.

Breakfast Cereal and bread
Lunch School for kids, sandwiches for Michael, sandwiches or leftovers for Shannon
Dinner Soup (I think)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Shampoo and Cat Treats

August 25, 2010

Breakfast Wheat Waffles
Lunch Left over Chicken Pot Pie, Ramen
Dinner Spaghetti w/sauce and meatballs, Salad, Cantaloupe, Carrots, Cucumbers

A few years ago, a friend who was the emergency preparedness coordinator for our church talked about how she determined what was a year’s supply of non-food necessities. She labeled with a sharpie marker bottles of shampoo, laundry soap, dish soap, deodorant, toothpaste, etc, with the date it was opened and then she would know how long it lasted.

I have done that with many things. We use a big Costco box of Tide every 78 days. Michael uses a bottle of shampoo every 2 months. My tube of toothpaste was opened on April 10 and is about 2/3 gone. I fill the main floor bathroom with 8 4-packs of toilet paper every 2-3 months, knowing we use 3-4 rolls a week there, and plan for 2-3 rolls a week for the other bathrooms. (That is a lot of toilet paper to store! I have often joked that my food storage would be easier if I just had a basement full of toilet paper and traded with everyone else for all of my food needs.)

I think about all of the personal and household things I would hate to not have if life was miserable in so many other ways: shampoo, hand soap, toilet paper, tampons, toothpaste, deodorant, paper towels, light bulbs, laundry soap, cleaners, etc. In the LAWKI book series, they had the supplies they got on “crazy shopping day” and then began to raid abandoned homes for toiletries. They found empty bottles in most houses, but soon discovered that people would often have half jars of the travel-sized shampoos in suitcases and would take those. Imagine relying on free hotel bottles of shampoos. How miserable.

All of this rambling does have a point. Monday morning, day 3 of our experiment, Katie came downstairs and told me that the kid’s bathroom was out of shampoo. Boy do I feel dumb. I thought there were a couple of bottles of the big Costco ones, but as it turns out, me buying the shampoo and conditioner as a set only meant a huge supply of conditioner and no shampoo. I guess the boy to girl ratio on that shower means conditioner is over-rated. In the end, there was one extra bottle in the basement bathroom, but definitely not a year’s supply. It is now on the top of my stock up list.

On a lighter note, Katie ate a cat treat Monday night. She was bribing the cats to play nice with each other while we were playing a game. She made the mistake of wondering out loud what the treats tasted like. After much encouragement, and taking up a collection of 50 point chips in the game to bribe her, she ate it.

She does not recommend the clover flavored ones.

We are down to eating cat food....send supplies!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Gas, Cell Phone and Mockingjay

August 24, 2010

So yesterday, Day 4, was a yucky day. Not much to do with the whole LAWKI thing, more with not enough sleep and general end-of-summer snipping at each other. It is days like yesterday that make me want school to start. Otherwise I am sad that summer has come to an end.

I think I did 10 loads of laundry. Yuck. Of course, with it now being a new day, I again have laundry to do. Fun. I am glad, however, that I am not doing it by hand. Love electricity.

Day 4 Menu
Breakfast Pancakes
Lunch Soup for some, sandwiches for some, crackers and cheese for some
Dinner Pork Chops and mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, tomatoes from the garden
Snacks eaten all day long: microwave popcorn, blueberries, and granola bars

Day 5 (planned menu)
Breakfast Toast, cereal
Lunch Sandwiches
Dinner chicken pot pie (stretch those last chicken breasts!)

We had our first instance of kids hoarding food. James took the sliced cheddar cheese and hid it behind the tall items in the fridge. I laughed and put it back in the drawer.

For the last 5 years or so, Michael and I have made an honest effort to not let our gas tanks go under ½ full. That way, in a true emergency, we could have one tank of gas between the two cars. We both started LAWKI with full tanks and thought it would be fun to see how long we could make them last. Now however, our hopes are gone. We realized that James still needs to get 15 hours of driving in before his birthday so he can get his license. We might make a trip up to Sheridan or Pocatello to avoid just driving around town for the time.

I just talked to a lady in my neighborhood that buys the meat from a pig and a cow each year. The meat is delivered right to her door, wrapped to her quantity specifications. The prices seem very good, but I am always nervous about how much money could be lost due to a freezer door left open or a long-term power outage. I think LAWKI has made both sides of this debate very vivid right now. I would love to have that much meat stored at my home, but I don’t feel like I can count on electricity during an emergency. Even the windstorm on Sunday left thousands in the Salt Lake area without power.

One solution is a generator, with stored gas to run it. But then we start worrying about keeping and using the gas so it stays good, and the fact that no one in my family has mechanical skills. Would not using it regularly hurt it? What happens if it breaks?

Two other planned purchases that might happen today include another cell phone for the triples. We decided that $10 a month buys peace of mind for us with the kids riding their bikes to school and other various activities. James took over the phone that all of them shared last year during the musical and has never given it up. He is now paying for that one.

The other purchase, I still am debating. Mockingjay, the third Hunger Games book, came out today. I will get it tomorrow at the library, but I have had this on the calendar since April. Ben is dying to get it and read it before school starts. I am torn. I guess if I can get it at Costco where I am buying the phone, then I will probably buy it. I know that I will not go all over town looking for it….unless James is driving and then maybe it will be a justified use of the gas.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Salsa, Sun Oven Bread and Walking

August 22, 2010

Yesterday was a fun day. I woke up and started making salsa. I had about 30 tomatoes and onions, hot peppers, and garlic from the garden. I had bought green peppers before LAWKI started just for this purpose. (By the time I have more tomatoes ripe, I hope I have some green peppers ready too.) After all the work, I only had enough for 5 pints of salsa, plus the bowl of fresh stuff I kept out. In case you are wondering, we do have one package of tortilla chips left, so we can have salsa for a bit longer.

As that was cooking, I made bread. It has been almost 2 months since I last made bread. Katie has done it most of the summer, or I have been too busy with stuff and just bought it. I made 3 regular loaves and then cooked 2 smaller (8-inch) loaves in my Sun Oven. It was so cool! It took about 40-50 minutes to bake and the bread never browned, but it tasted just the same. It was fun to do. I am planning to try a casserole, pasteurizing water and making a soup in it as well. So far it did okay on the bread, bread sticks, frozen pizzas and refrigerated cinnamon rolls.

I also grated garden zucchini, froze 4 quarts of it, and used one more quart to make 2 loaves of regular zucchini bread and 2 chocolate zucchini bread loaves. Yum.

Day 2 Menu:

Breakfast: cold cereal
Lunch: salsa, fruit, chips
Dinner: chicken fajitas, watermelon, zucchini bread desert

We only have 7 chicken breasts, and another round of pork chops left in the fresh meats. We do still have bacon and lunch meat turkey, and 4 packages of already cooked frozen ground beef in the freezer. We also have some sausage in the freezer, a turkey, ribs and various other meat things that we likely will not get into. On the other hand, the turkey is sounding better and better all the time! Think of the soup!

I lectured the kids this afternoon about only using 2 slices of turkey per sandwich. I wonder if it is better to just say that, or just use it up. I debate that with the eggs too. Limit them or use them. Is the lesson in want/scarcity or in stretching things out further than we want them to go?

The walk to church today was not as bad as I thought it might be. I think it took until the middle of Sunday School until I stopped sweating though. It was 85 and sunny, but the wind was pleasant. On the way home, it was very windy and mostly cloudy, with the occasional raindrop. I don’t think I will mind walking, but I will either have to carry dress shoes or keep wearing my more casual and more comfortable in the future. I am not thrilled that we get to walk back for the fireside tonight, but I guess we do it anyway. We discussed if we would ride bikes to church or let the kids ride and agreed that it was an acceptable transportation option. Now we just need to figure out how make it work in a skirt.

Day 3 Menu:

Sunday Brunch: hash browns, 1 slice of bacon, 1 egg, watermelon
Sunday after church: fruit, bread, other various foraging
Sunday dinner: pork chops, rice, blueberries, broccoli

Overheard at our house:
"I would have used my $10 on salt if I thought we were going to run out of that." (we won't)
"Pudding is such buttery, fatty goodness." (made with skim milk)

Overheard twice, from 2 different families, at church:
"Interesting idea" from a parent, quickly followed by "don't get any ideas," from the kids.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


The "before" picture of our fridge.

Yesterday we started our Life As We Knew It Month. The name comes from the book by Susan Beth Pfeffer. Here is how I described that book on my Goodreads account when I first read it in September of 2008:

"This seemed more like an experience than a book. It is the story of 15 year-old Miranda's life after a catastrophic event that changed the climate of the earth and plunges life into a volcanic winter of food and fuel shortages and death all around. While the science is shaky and it feels a bit like watching The Day After, it takes you through a roller coaster of emotions. Miranda is still a teenager, dealing with her brothers and mother and normal teen angst, but also goes through a harsh maturing that made me wonder how I would have done, and how I would do now in the mother role. It also makes me want to inventory my food storage carefully, and makes me glad that I don't live on the coast."

***Warning---book spoilers***
In the book, the moon is hit by a giant asteroid and is knocked closer to the earth. For a while, life is normal, until people realize that some of the changes will be permanent. There is no re-stocking the grocery stores so they do a "crazy shopping day" where they frantically fill cart after cart with whatever they can fight people for. The electricity becomes unreliable, then off completely. School is eventually closed when too few students and teachers come and when there is no more food for lunches. Their garden fails and all they have left to do is ration food and cut firewood. Epidemic flu hits, bitter cold, and every worst nightmare situation happens. Finally, when the mom reaches the point of starving herself, and then choosing which of her children she wants to live, they are able to find a steady food supply and hope for the future.
***Spoilers over***

I think I first heard about this book from the blog postings of Mette Ivie Harrison, a local Utah author. She has done LAWKI month 3 times with her family. Summed up, it is no shopping for one month, live with what you have in the house now. I was fascinated reading about her experiences and lessons learned with her family and have wanted to try this for about a year now. It finally has happened.

Yesterday, Michael called the family together and announced an "emergency"---chemical spill at the railroad that is a quarter mile from our house. We had 15 minutes to evacuate. We have a set emergency plan that includes a list of quick jobs to do (put out extra food for the cats, adjust the thermostat, call our emergency contacts, etc) and then a list of items everyone is responsible for gathering (5 gallon water jug, small tent, external hard drive, small fire safe with important documents, mp3 players, books, and 72 hour kits). We have these lists printed so we can hand each person their instructions and get right to work. They also include less items and more items, depending on how quickly we have to go and if we have time to put the roof carrier on the van for more room. In the end, it was just over 14 minutes from the first call to leaving the garage.

We evacuated to a local grocery store where, over ice cream cones, we explained what the real situation was...that we were simulating a more extensive emergency, such as a major earthquake where supplies might be limited for days, weeks, or months. The bottom line is that we would not be able to go shopping for the next month, food or otherwise. We gave them each $10 and said they could buy whatever they wanted with it, what they thought they might miss the most or what they would want to have just to themselves. The choices were surprising. Ben bought Ramen in every flavor and pudding, some already made in cups and some boxes to make. John bought 4 Fuze drinks and a bag of Quaker rice treats. Katie and Michael combined their money and bought Ramen, Nutella, tortillas, Doritos and string cheese for lunches and oysters. James bought cologne. I bought a bag of Fritos, a bag of pretzels, a bag of Lays and a container of sour cream.

When we got home, we unpacked everything and then gave everyone a survey to fill out. We will do it once a week during the month:

What three words would you use to describe your thoughts on LAWKI Month
: understandable, smart, surprising; good idea mom; stupid, wasteful pathetic; creepy, horrible, awful; intense, educational, FOOD!; nuts, wise, harsh.

What will you miss the most:
Milk!, easy food, cheese, sour cream, free-for-all dinners (my version of everyone fix what you want and can find), pudding, pizza, milk!!!, no idea.

What lessons do you think that we will learn from LAWKI Month?
How lucky we are, what else we need in food storage, none, how to ration food, commitments, whether planned meals will work, how to cook some foods, how prepared we really are.

On a scale of 1-10, how crazy are we to do this?
8.3 (7.6 if just the kids)

On a scale of 1-10, how angry are you to have to participate?
3.1 (most were 1 or 2, but we did have a 10)

On a scale of 1-10, how much do you think this will affect life?

We do have some rules, and exceptions to those rules planned.

1. Kids get to eat school lunch if they want, but cannot gorge, just the standard meal.
2. All garden produce we have growing we get to eat.
3. We can barter with our neighbors for things, but must offer something in return. For example, my neighbor borrowed a package of butter today, but brought back 7 ears of fresh corn in return. We are blessed with a great neighbor family who we regularly trade with and I can't imagine that stopping in an emergency.
4. We will try to walk when we can. As we are not going to stores anytime soon, this should not be too bad. It is only about a mile to church and a mile to the library, and 2 miles to the schools. The kids will ride bikes to school so we are fine there. Michael will drive to work, and we will get gas as needed for that. It will be interesting to see how long the gas lasts.
5. With school starting next week, we understand that we will be shopping for school supplies once they get lists from their individual teachers. They have backpacks and binders, but some teachers are specific in what they want and we will get what is needed.
6. Some stores have "case lot" sales this time of year that we usually purchase from. It is how we stock and maintain our food storage. I am too cheap to not shop during these sales, so we will be doing this. We will not use any of this food/supplies in the next month, however.
7. We are in the process of buying a new water heater and new computer. We will continue as planned with these purchases.
8. James' 16th birthday is 3 days after LAWKI month is done. If we need to shop a bit to make that what we want, we will.
9. Because we have, in theory, a years supply of food, we will absolutely not run out of food. In some respects, one month is not long enough. We intentionally might limit what we can get into, such as when the real eggs are gone, I don't think we will open the powdered ones. We will just do without. We will breach the powdered milk though, even if it is just for cooking. I also don't think we will use everything in the freezer, as I want to try some of the meatless meals that we would have to do if the electricity was out for an extended length of time.
10. We are totally making this up as we go along, so everything might change. Hopefully, it will stay in the spirit of what we are trying to do.

I am going to try posting regularly in the next month. I really don't think all that many people care about this, but it will be a forced journal for this and I think that will be useful.

Wish us luck.