Diane Devereaux, The Canning Diva®, shares what she has learned about her overall pantry supply after being faced with a disaster lasting more than six weeks. After breaking her ankle, having surgery and going through recovery, it has really forced The Canning Diva to look at her personal food preserves in a whole new light!
In today’s episode, she will share with you some of her recent discoveries in hopes to get listeners to really think deeper about the recipes and food types they’ll use and/or consume when times are tough. She will share her experiences and the ‘thought process’ behind it all to better help you determine what foods to preserve, which methods to focus on, and which food groups and recipes make sense, so you too may be prepared if an unfortunate disaster strikes!
What Preparedness Recently Taught Me
Season 2, Episode 6
Thank you for tuning in. I am Diane Devereaux, The Canning Diva, and I am so happy to be back in my studio recording. I have been on an unexpected hiatus - which has prompted me to create this episode of Canning with The Diva! Be sure to subscribe to my channel if you have not done so already.
For those of you who do not follow me on social media at Canning Diva, you may not be aware that I broke my ankle March 20th. I had to have surgery - so yes, now I will be setting off metal detectors at every airport - but thanks be to God, everything is healing well and I am happy to say I am already up a bit more walking with the assistance of my crutches. Sadly, I am not in a position to start canning yet, but I am positive by the end of May I will be right back at it!
What I have recently been through is exactly what I refer to when teaching food preservation and the many reasons why food preservation is so vital to us in times of disasters. Many of you will hear me say, “disasters are relative” and this recent medical situation of mine is proof as to why having a fully stocked pantry of ready-to-eat foods is imperative to how well you get through said disaster.
In my classes and presentations, I will often dive a bit deeper when stating “disasters are relative” - meaning, a disaster does not have to be a nuclear event or major hurricane. A relative disaster could be losing your job, a car accident leaving you injured and needing rehabilitation, (like my ankle break and ligament tear rendering me unable to walk the past 7 weeks, or drive my truck or care for myself alone). A relative disaster could be a death in the family or a prolonged power outage. Whatever the case may be, it is imperative to have at least a 3-month supply of food waiting in the wings to help making surviving a disaster that much easier.
While I have been very blessed to have loving friends and family to support me initially, as the weeks drew on, and everyone went back to their lives (and rightfully so). Those of us who have experienced a disaster will gladly accept, and need, the support, but many of us are then left with limited assistance as the weeks wear on. Not to mention, if you are anything like me, you strive hard to have your independence back - which forces you to remain mentally tough and positive, because the alternative will impede your healing process. And I am not going to lie, that gets tougher to do when less and less people come around. Thankfully, I had a well-stocked pantry to see me through. But even that came with its own set of challenges…
Not being able to prepare meals for myself, or even shower without support, has been a very humbling experience to say the least. Having groceries delivered sounded like a great idea, until it hit me - I was literally unable to prep or cook anything of great detail… For the first 4 weeks, I used crutches, rendering my hands almost completely useless. I could only get up to use the restroom or to head to bed because I had to keep my foot elevated while it healed in a splint.
Now these past 2 weeks, I have been blessed to wear this incredibly sexy grey boot, which protects my ankle while I am moving around a bit more. Oh - and my good friend lent me her super cool scooter, so I do not have to use my crutches as much. BUT even with my new found mobility, I am still very limited and cannot be upright for very long due to circulatory issues from no use of my calf and foot for such a great length of time. Not to mention, the pain…
So where has this unexpected injury left me with regards to eating nutritionally these past six weeks? Well, I could have spent a fortune on DoorDash for breakfast, lunch and dinner, OR I could head to my pantry and simply pop open a jar of home canned food, or tap into my dry goods storage.
This “adventure”, as I like to call it, has really forced me to look at my pantry in a whole new light! It has shown me the areas in which I need to expand my canning and shopping endeavors, the various meals and recipes I gravitated to, because of nutrition and ease, as well as the some of the food preservation areas I can either phase out, or drastically reduce so I may focus my time, energy and resources in other areas that have proven more worthwhile.
In today’s episode, I am going to share with each of you some of these very discoveries in hopes I get you really thinking more about the recipes and food types you’ll actually use and/or consume when times are tough. Now, I totally understand what I emphasized above - disasters are relative - so what may work for me may not work for you; however, I want you to pay close attention to the ‘thought process’ behind it all to better help you determine what foods to preserve, which methods to focus on, and which food groups and recipes make sense, so you too may be prepared if an unfortunate disaster strikes!
Let’s dive in…
Summary of What I’ve Learned
While I have considered myself to have a very well-rounded pantry, it became really clear to me what I must have available if I am going to easily consume a nutritional meal three times a day. This all stems from what foods I gravitated to each time I needed to eat.
For instance, when you think of breakfast, lunch and dinner needing to be consumed every day for six weeks, to keep your strength up to help you heal, it can instantly become an overwhelming task! Heck, we all suffer with this task on a good day, let alone in times of disaster! Am I right LOL How many of us struggle with the chore of “what should I make for dinner tonight?”
Breaking it down, there are 7 days in a week, 42 days in this six week timeframe which totals 126 meals to consume throughout the course of it all. Just hearing the number 126 is enough to give us anxiety.
Each day, it became clearer and clearer what I wanted to consume versus what I was capable of creating to consume. For instance, I usually stand at my stove for each meal after taking 5 to 15 minutes prepping some type of ingredient list. Take breakfast for example. I prefer to make farm fresh eggs, I will often fry bacon or some type of sausage, I will toast some bread and, I just love frying up a jar of dry packed potatoes to complete the meal. The entire process is really easy, and on average takes about 20 minutes to have breakfast on the table for me and my daughter.
Well, that ‘easibility’ went straight out the window given the fact I could not be upright for very long and was limited in what I could have access to given my circumstances. I mean, my toaster is now out of reach because it is stored above my refrigerator and I cannot climb; all of my extra frozen meat is in the deep freezer in my garage which I no longer am able to gain access to because of the stairs; and my ability to clean up dishes, scrub multiple pots and pans and load a dishwasher is downright impossible. So…what did I gravitate to from my pantry items to help make eating something healthy an easy experience while I recover?
In a nutshell - Meals in a Jar saved my bacon! Pun totally intended! LOL
See, there is fun in having a variety of pickled vegetables, salsas and fruits on my pantry shelves, none of these items could provide me with the sustenance I so desperately needed. I mean, I love my pickled asparagus, don’t get me wrong, but I a quart jar full is hardly considered a meal!
So what did I pick for breakfast? My go to was home canned Corned Beef Hash, cereal with milk, and oatmeal. Why? Because it consisted of one bowl and in the case of the hash, one saucepan and bowl. Also, corned beef hash as well as oatmeal, are filling, stick to the ribs, nutritional meals that would sustain me until lunch. The choice for cereal was merely based on convenience, but I do love me some Honey Bunches of Oats and sliced bananas!
Other breakfasts consisted of one-pan-meals or skillets. I used a pint of meat like home canned beef tips, corned beef or chicken, a pint of home canned potatoes and tossing in an egg to scramble about was a quick and easy meal that just needed to heat through and I only dirted one pan. And, it made enough I could eat off of it for a couple days.
Lunch consisted of a variety of soups like Carrot, Chicken Tortilla, Asparagus, Lentil and my recent Ham and Navy Bean with Carrots and Kale. My other go to, which I quickly ran out of, was my Irish Bean Stew that has pinto beans, cabbage, carrots and sweet potatoes. It is hearty and delicious plus it’s power-packed with nutrients. A pint is the perfect portion for one person when it comes to soups and stews and the ease of heating, eating and clean up was a cinch!
Dinner namely consisted of Meals in a Jar! Not gonna to lie, it truly made my life easier and saved me so much time and money eating from my pantry during my recovery. Meals such as Chicken Cacciatore, Burritos in a Jar, Fajitas in a Jar, Chicken Pot Pie Filling, making chicken salad sandwiches with home canned chicken. Beef Tips with Gravy was another easy one because boiling a side of egg noodles or rice was easy for me to accomplish and didn’t take up much time or require much standing.
As time drew on, I was able to round out meals using fruits and vegetables, and of course I’d have an occasional PB&J using my home canned jam. For a snack, I enjoyed my home canned salsa and chips, but you can easily see where the real sustenance came from…
But what didn’t I eat?
The common attribute here was using a pressure canner to preserve low-acid foods for long-term storage. The majority of what I consumed to keep me well fed, provide myself nutrition, and give me the convenience I needed, was all due to using a pressure canner and choosing foods I know I would like to eat. What have I always said…”If you don’t eat it, do not preserve it”.
But what didn’t I eat from my pantry? The answer to this question is what I really took inventory of so I could evaluate and then answer “why” I did not eat it. This information collected is what I will use this year when planning my 2022 canning calendar.
Let’s dive in…
Some of the things I did not eat the first 4 weeks from my pantry consisted of home canned tomatoes, pickled items, chutney, home canned beans like navy or pinto, stocks and broths. I did not use any of my dehydrated or freeze dried goods either. Dry pantry items like flour, sugar, dried beans were also not used during this time.
The main theme as to why I did not use these items was because they all required some type of preparation or they were foods used when creating a full-on recipe on the stovetop. Given my circumstances, I needed something I could eat straight away that required little to no prep work, or something I could simply heat and eat. Thankfully as I entered week 5 and 6 of my recovery, I was able to be up a bit longer because the pain subsided, and it was part of my overall goal to become more independent and mobile. The first meal I made when I was able was a stock pot full of Beef Ramen soup. I used my home canned beef stock, was able to slice up onions and bok choy and access my freezer for meat. But it took me five weeks to get to that point. See where I am going with this?
Now please do not misunderstand me. What I shared doesn’t mean the items I was unable to use from my pantry are useless or do not provide value in times of disaster, however in my case and many others who are recovering from surgery, accidents or impairments, having a ready-made meal in a jar and pre-made soups and stews were a REAL lifesaver!!
So Where Should We Focus our Energy and Food Efforts?
So what does this mean for all of us food preservationists who wish to have a well-rounded pantry, who preserve food in jars and who also take part in dehydrating, freeze drying and dried food storage?
It means keep doing so! Just be sure when you are planning your food preservation calendar out for the year or season, incorporate meals for up to 4 weeks of consumption so if you too are in a similar unfortunate situation, you have the nutrition and convenience from your home pantry.
Be mindful of what you consume regularly and where you are putting your food preservation efforts.
While it is awesome to use a dehydrator for every fruit and vegetable under the sun, ask yourself, are you consuming it regularly? Have you attempted a meal or recipe to date using your dehydrated goods? Would you use what you dehydrated in the event of a disaster - especially if your access to fresh water is limited, for instance in a power outage.
While food preservation as a whole is essential to being self-sufficient and prepared, it is most important to consider where your overall time is spent in the various methods of food preservation.
What I personally learned is I need to have 80 percent of pantry stocked foods in jars, with 90 percent of those home canned goods being a meat, vegetable, meals in a jar as well as soups and stews. The remaining 10 percent of my efforts can be spent on jam, pickled items and chutney, etc. I will also ensure my chicken, beef and vegetable broths and stocks are substantial, to carry me through a year or two because it is the base for so many meals and is also a great way to have hydration with nutrition, as the broth/stock can be consumed as is.
Now with 80 percent of my energy geared towards canning, I will then divide up the remaining 20 percent of my time in a calendar year on supplementing my pantry with dried stored items (like dried beans, rice, flour, etc.) and dehydrated foods, like fruit, vegetables and meat jerky.
My freeze dried goods have a lengthy shelf-life, so I can put my mind at ease without worrying about those foods until they are near their expiration date. However, because freeze drying is becoming such a popular in-home method of food preservation, I highly encourage those of you who have purchased a freeze dryer, to start canning water! If the bulk of your food reserves are freeze dried and dehydrated foods, it is imperative to have potable water stored. For the reason, without rehydrating your freeze dried and dehydrated goods, many foods are not digestible as they wreck havoc on your digestive system. Many others are simply not palatable or pleasant to consume if not rehydrated. So if your intent is to have a food supply to use during times of disaster, be certain you consider preserving water long-term!
Well, I do hope I have given you much to think about! Especially seeing we are at the start of the 2022 Canning Season. Take some time to review your pantry. Think about what you and your household consumes weekly and make any adjustments necessary to your canning calendar this year so you too can be prepared!
Thank you for tuning into another episode of Canning with The Diva! I look forward to getting back on track and providing you with more helpful podcasts to support your food preservation needs! If you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe to my podcast so you are alerted every time I upload a new episode. Until then, Happy Canning!