Food Safety and Food Security - A Guide from the USDA

Tuesday, May 31, 2011
I found this great guide to food safety from the USDA when I was investigating some of my non-safe food items last week. It has some great information!

Food Safety and Food Security: What Consumers Need to Know

FREE First Aid bag or storage box at Target (with purchase)

Monday, May 30, 2011

I found this at my local Target today:

Johnson & Johnson First Aid items, various
Special Purchase with FREE hanging bag or storage box wyb 3 participating items

My store had these on an end-cap near the pharmacy. You can get a free bag or storage box (valued at 4.89) when you purchase 3 items from the display. The cheapest option was a 10ct gauze pads for 1.69. (The sign does say that the total purchase must exceed 4.89 – I do not know whether that is pre-coupon or not since I didn’t have my coupon with me.)

Buy: (3) J&J 10ct gauze pads for $5.07
Use: (1) Johnson and Johnsons Red Cross products, any $1/2 (5-31-11) RP-3/13
= 3 for 4.07 + storage bag or box (making it 1.02 ea for 4 items after factoring in coupons)

OR Buy: (6) J&J 10ct gauze pads for $10.14
Use: (3) Johnson and Johnsons Red Cross products, any $1/2 (5-31-11) RP-3/13
= 6 for $7.14 + (2) free items (making it about .90 ea for 8 items after factoring in coupons)

OR you could just do what I did and buy three without the coupons to get the free bag because you're a hoarder collector of all things first-aid related! ;)

And if you're into using coupons, you can see a few of the others deals I picked up for this week's Target sale HERE (dry cat food, Banana Boat suncare, Tide Stain Release and Pantene hair care).

Being Prepared

Sunday, May 29, 2011
"Members of the Church have been counseled for many years to be prepared for adversity. Preparation, both spiritual and temporal, can dispel fear. With the guidance of Church leaders, individual members and families should prepare to be self-reliant in times of personal or widespread emergency." (

Emergency preparedness includes being prepared in the following areas:
- Family home storage
- Family finances
- Family emergency planning
- Ward and Stake emergency plans

President Gordon B. Hinckley gave us the following counsel in 2002:

"I wish to urge again the importance of self-reliance on the part of every individual Church member and family.

"None of us knows when a catastrophe might strike. Sickness, injury, unemployment may affect any of us.

"We have a great welfare program with facilities for such things as grain storage in various areas. It is important that we do this. But the best place to have some food set aside is within our homes, together with a little money in savings. The best welfare program is our own welfare program. Five or six cans of wheat in the home are better than a bushel in the welfare granary.

"I do not predict any impending disaster. I hope that there will not be one. But prudence should govern our lives. Everyone who owns a home recognizes the need for fire insurance. We hope and pray that there will never be a fire. Nevertheless, we pay for insurance to cover such a catastrophe, should it occur.

"We ought to do the same with reference to family welfare.

"We can begin ever so modestly. We can begin with a one week’s food supply and gradually build it to a month, and then to three months. I am speaking now of food to cover basic needs. As all of you recognize, this counsel is not new. But I fear that so many feel that a long-term food supply is so far beyond their reach that they make no effort at all.

"Begin in a small way, my brethren, and gradually build toward a reasonable objective. Save a little money regularly, and you will be surprised how it accumulates." ("To the Men of the Priesthood", Ensign, November 2002)

What I Found...

Friday, May 27, 2011
Part of me is hesitant to post this. I love having canned meats in my pantry - they are a lifesaver for busy nights and quick meals! And I don't want to scare ANYONE away from canning meats - it really is a lot easier than you might imagine.

BUT - I think this is also a good teaching/learning opportunity, and worth posting if it will help anyone else.

I canned my first batch of hamburger in 2009. We've used all of the jars so far, except one. It was sitting on my pantry shelf. I've spent the last week (or more) cleaning out my pantry and getting it organized (there was no time when we first moved in, so stuff was literally just set on shelves wherever we could fit it). I pulled this jar out to move it to another area, and as I was looking at it, I saw something that seemed a bit odd.

Here's what it looked like from the outside:

Pretty normal for canned hamburger. The white is fat. I thought I had drained the hamburger better, but I apparently didn't. (My second batch of canned hamburger that I did a month or so ago turned out much better because we actually rinsed the hamburger in water before canning it, to wash off all the fat we could.) Not a big deal - it rises to the top and then settles. Nothing too strange.

HOWEVER, as I turned the jar around, I thought I saw a spot that looked a little gray/green rather than the standard dirty white. I checked the lid - it was fully sealed and the lid was flat as flat can be (meaning it had sealed properly). But the inside still just didn't look quite right - it didn't look like most of the other jars of meat had looked.

So I opened it - I heard the seal break as I opened the lid, so I KNOW it was sealed before that. But here is what I found:

I'm not sure what it is. I don't think it is botulinum...It looks like a mold or fungus of some kind. I'm not sure how it was able to get in there, and why it wasn't killed by the long processing time in the pressure canner. I need to do a little more research and find out the what and hows...

But I wanted to post this to show that you do need to be alert when canning foods and using canned foods - even commercially canned foods. Know the signs of what to look for in possibly contaminated or tainted foods. There is no need to be scared, or to not can your own foods. You just need to be aware and alert.

- Always make sure you sterilize your canning jars before placing food in them
- Always follow the correct canning method for the type of food you are doing (water bath vs. pressure based on low-acid vs. high-acid foods)
- Always follow the correct processing time (and pressure) for the type of food you are canning
- Watch for signs of contamination: bulging of the lid, mold growing on the top of the food, discoloration, cloudiness in the brine or broth or juice, or a white film covering the food

For more info, I highly recommend reading through the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning. It will tell you everything you need to know about canning all different types of foods and doing it SAFELY.

[I also want to mention that we've gone through literally dozens of jars of canned beef and chicken in the last two years, and this is the first (and so far only) time we've encountered one with a problem, so please don't let this scare you off of trying your hand at canning. And just because it is home-canned doesn't mean it is any less safe than commercially-canned items - we once got incredibly sick with food poisoning after eating a can of chicken breast meat from Sam's Club.]

Sunflower Farmers Market - Gluten-Free Shopping List

Thursday, May 26, 2011
For those of you who live near a Sunflower Farmer's Market, they have published a list of all the certified gluten-free products they carry!

Celiac Shopping List

Let's Talk Food Safety...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Do you see anything wrong in the following picture?

No? How about now...?

Still not? Try this one...

See those bulges? NOT GOOD!!! This can shows signs of possible botulism poisoning. The toxin produced by the bacteria growing inside can be deadly, even at very small amounts. NEVER OPEN A BULGING CAN - EVER! Not even to peek inside - it isn't safe.

From the USDA's Food Safey and Inspection Services website:

"Store canned foods and other shelf stable products in a cool, dry place. Never put them above the stove, under the sink, in a damp garage or basement, or any place exposed to high or low temperature extremes. Store high acid foods such as tomatoes and other fruit up to 18 months; low acid foods such as meat and vegetables, 2 to 5 years.

"Canned meat and poultry will keep at best quality 2 to 5 years if the can remains in good condition and has been stored in a cool, clean, dry place.

"While extremely rare, a toxin produced by Clostridium botulinum is the worst danger in canned goods. NEVER USE food from containers that show possible "botulism" warnings: leaking, bulging, or badly dented cans; cracked jars or jars with loose or bulging lids; canned food with a foul odor; or any container that spurts liquid when opening. DON'T TASTE SUCH FOOD! Even a minuscule amount of botulinum toxin can be deadly."

The can in the pictures above was in my pantry - probably been sitting there for quite a few years in the dark corners where I can never reach. See why it's important to rotate your food storage? (Which I obviously haven't been doing as well as I should, as evidenced by the bulging can above.) The scary thing is, though, that it wasn't the only one I found...just tonight I pulled out a can of sweetened condensed milk that wasn't quite so "condensed" anymore - two bulging cans in one week! :(

If you have a weak stomach, you'll definitely want to skip tomorrow's post on another interesting find from tonight's pantry cleaning...YUCK!

Today's Emergency Preparedness Lesson

Monday, May 23, 2011

For those of you in Utah, today's emergency preparedness lesson will be on various options and plans for building your own ark...I'm thinking of going with the motorized version above, he he he!

I think someone forgot to remind Mother Nature that Utah is a desert... ;)

Are You Prepared for a Zombie Apocalypse?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Would you be prepared to survive a zombie apocalypse? Would you know what to do to keep your family safe?

Check out the Center for Disease Control's blog post to find out what you need to do to be prepared!

Make Your Own Emergency Clutch/Purse

Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Want an easy way to keep a few emergency essentials in your car, or purse, or diaper bag?

Check out this AMAZING tutorial at eighteen25. Emergency preparedness can be practical AND stylish, too! ;) You could even put a few of these together for the hygiene or first-aid items in your 72-hour kits.

Oh, how I need to be reminded of this more often...

"The hands which hang down and most need to be lifted up belong to those too discouraged even to reach out anymore."

- Elder Neal A. Maxwell, "Swallowed Up in the Will of the Father", Ensign, November 1995

NOAA Weather Update and Flood Potential

Tuesday, May 17, 2011
New briefing from the NOAA office in Salt Lake City, for Wasatch Front and surrounding areas.

LINK to online briefing

What I'm Buying - Target Deals 5/16

I did a little deal scouting at Target yesterday...

It ended up being about $40 for everything pictured, plus I got a $5 gift card (from the AcneFree deal) and about $5 in mail-in rebate to send for, so total was about $30 for all after factoring everything in. (Without coupons the total would have been about $65.]

For specific details on the coupons used and where to find them, check out my post at PYP.

Flood Preparedenss

Sunday, May 15, 2011
This spring has brought some crazy weather, and with it, some crazy high chances for flooding here in Utah! But Utah is not alone...

My heart goes out to all those being affected by the rising Mississippi river, especially those who are losing homes or crops or livestock.

Closer to home here, we've got some flooding issues in several different parts of the state.

The Salt Lake County Public Works Department has put together a Flood Preparedness Manual, called a "Homeowners Guide for Emergency Flood Control," for use in preparing for flooding events. The Manual can be viewed online or downloaded for use. It presents some simple actions homeowners can take to prepare for and reduce the impact of flooding to homes and businesses. The pages contain instructions for using sandbags, timber and plywood to protect buildings and grounds.

You can also find many additional resources on the Salt Lake County Emergency Management - Flood Preparedness page. There are updated flood plain/runoff maps and lists of available local resources.

What to do with unused canning rings?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

I decided to fix some homemade Bacon, Egg & Cheese Biscuits for lunch last Sunday. I’ve tried making them before, and everything goes well up until the ‘egg’ part. It’s just not very easy to eat these things with a bunch of scrambled eggs just piled loosely on the biscuit – they tend to fall out of the biscuit faster than you can scarf them down! I’ve tried using those special circular egg molds you put in your pan, but with a 12″ skillet, they never seemed to sit flat enough on the bottom, so when I poured the eggs in they would just run out the bottom under the mold and all over the pan – kinda defeats the purpose of the mold, you know?

We recently bought a large flat griddle and we have been loving it (can’t believe we’ve gone this long without one)! We pulled it out and cooked our bacon, and then it was on to the eggs. But those little round egg molds were nowhere to be found, and I didn’t want a repeat of the Amazing Collapsing Biscuit Sandwich, so what’s a girl to do? Canning lids to the rescue!!!

We sprayed the inside of some wide-mouth jar rings with cooking spray, set them down on the skillet, and then poured the eggs inside. We let them cook until they were almost entirely set (just a little runny in the middle on top), gently popped the mold off, and then turned them over to finish cooking for another minute or two. VoilĂ ! Just like the “eggs” on those other biscuit sandwiches that you might find under a pair of golden arches…Nicely cooked, the perfect size for the biscuits (I used canned dough ‘cuz I’m lazy), and no loose eggs falling all over the place!

The best part? We had two biscuits leftover. We stuck them in the freezer in a plastic zip-top baggie. Later that night, I pulled one out, wrapped it loosely in a paper towel and microwaved it for 60 seconds – fabulous! Just like my friend Jimmy Dean’s…(Okay, he’s not really my friend, but I still like his breakfast sandwiches anyway.)

[I'm probably the last person to figure out this little trick, right? You all probably had this figured out years ago...Oh well, just humor me, okay? And yes, you could use fried eggs or poached eggs, which would solve the scambled-eggs-all-over-you mess, but I have a serious aversion to egg yolks that are not mixed together with the whites somehow, and I'm not talented enough to be able to pull off a poached egg, so scrambled it is!]

Wheat on Sale

Thursday, May 12, 2011
The Sandy UT Macey's location has red or white hard wheat on sale this week, 50lb bag for 12.99!

What I'm Buying - The Fruit Guy 5/11

Wednesday, May 11, 2011
We've been out of the "good stuff" for several weeks now. To tide us over, I bought some Pink Lady and Braeburn apples two weeks ago at Ream's. Now, I love Ream's, and they usually have great produce. But these apples, not so good...

I happened to see on Facebook this morning that the Fruit Guy was in town this week. I gave him a call and literally within 10 minutes he was at my door! They didn't have potatoes or Granny Smith's this time around, but that's okay. We'll just have to feast on navel oranges and Fuji apples!

This is 3/4 bushel (minus 3 oranges and 1 apple that have already been eaten this morning), split between oranges and apples.

Total: $29.00

This may seem like a lot for some fruit, but trust me, it is TOTALLY worth it! It is amazing stuff, it is brought to my door, and I know exactly where it is from and where it has been because I know the vendor and get to talk with him directly. LOVE IT!!!

While I love getting cheap deals, sometimes it is worth it to pay full price for quality. Using coupons is a great way to save money, but don't get trapped into thinking that you can only buy stuff you have coupons for, or that you must get everything at a discount and you're some kind of failure if you don't. It's okay to splurge sometimes or for the right reasons.

The case for having a car emergency kit

You've probably heard the news story about the Canadian woman who was lost in the backwoods of Nevada and able to survive for 7 weeks before being rescued this week.

It would be very easy for any of us to make a wrong turn somewhere and end up getting stranded. There are a few things you can put in your car that don't cost much and don't take up much room, but that could literally save your life in this kind of situation.

Here are some suggestions from a KSL news story.

What I'm Buying - Smith's 5/10

Tuesday, May 10, 2011
I FINALLY made it to the store this morning! There have just been too many other things going on this last week that have gotten in the way.

Smith's is having another Mega Event sale - Buy 10 items, save $5 instantly. This mega event will go on for one more week, so if you're like me and you haven't had a chance to shop the sale before now, no need to panic - you'll have one more week to grab some of these great deals.

There are actually several FREE items for this sale - free pasta, free potato chips, free toothbrushes and free body wash. The toothbrushes, potato chips and body wash are VERY hard to find in stock. But my store was fully stocked on all of the pastas today, except for the American Beauty Quick Cook.

And if you don't do coupons, it's STILL a great time to stock up on pasta. The American Beauty brand is on sale for .99. When you buy 10, or as part of a group of 10 other participating items, you'll get the pasta for only .49!! It's great for food storage because this stuff has a LONG shelf-life. It's also great for food drives and donating to the food bank!

Here's what I ended up with this morning:

(3) Freschetta frozen pizza, on sale 4.99 (4.49 after promo, 3.49 after coupon, 1.82 after Catalina coupon)
(17) Quaker Cap'n Crunch cereal, on sale 1.99 (1.49 after promo, .82-.94 after coupon)
(4) Oscar Mayer Lunchables, on sale 2.49 (1.99 after promo, 1.75 after coupon)
(2) Ritz Munchables crackers, on sale 2.49 (1.99 after promo, .99 after coupon)
(8) Ronzoni Garden Delight pasta, on sale .99 (.49 after promo, FREE after coupon)
(8) Ronzoni Smart Taste pasta, on sale .99 (.49 after promo, FREE after coupon)
(8) Ronzoni Healthy Harvest pasta, on sale .99 (.49 after promo, FREE after coupon)
(4) Jello Temptations 3ct, on sale 2.49 (1.99 after promo, .99 after coupon)
(5) Gillette Odor Shield body wash, on sale 3.49 (2.99 after promo, .99 after coupon)
(5) Gillette deodorant, on sale 4.99 or 4.66 (4.49-4.16 after promo, FREE after coupon)
(2) Sunny D, on sale 1.29 (.79 after promo, .24 after coupon)
(4) Silk PureAlmond milk, on sale 2.99 (2.49 after promo, 1.49 after coupon)
*(1) Mountain Dairy whole milk, on sale 2.33
*(6) Sierra Mist 2-liter, on sale 1.25 (.83 after Buy 4 Get 2 FREE promo)

I used (3) 1.00/1 coupons for the pizzas [see SS-4/10], (2) .55/1 coupons for the cereal [see RP-4/17], (5) 2.00/3 coupons for the cereal [see Moments-5/1], (1) 1.00/2 peelie for the Lunchables, (2) 1.00/1 printable coupons for the crackers [was at GroupB - no longer available], (4) 1.00/2 printable coupons for the Garden Delight [see], (4) 1.00/2 printable coupons for the Smart Taste [see link above], (4) 1.00/2 printable coupons for the Heathly Harvest [see link above], (4) 1.00/1 printable coupons for the Jello [see link in GrocerySmarts list], (5) 2.00/1 coupons for the body wash [from inside some product packaging several months ago], (5) B1G1FREE coupons for the deodorant [see P&G-5/1, buy body wash get deodorant free], (2) .55/1 printable coupons for the SunnyD [no longer available] and (4) 1.00/1 coupons for the almond milk [see SS-4/10].

I also used my double points coupon from my Smith's Rewards gold envelope received last week, as well as my $8 rewards certificate.

Total: $54.01 + $5 Catalina coupon good of floral department purchase

Homemade Pickles!!!

Monday, May 9, 2011

My husband's uncle is famous in the family for many things (or is it 'infamous'?), one of which is his homemade pickles. He grows his own cucumbers and dill in his garden. I think the recipe comes from his dad (my husband's grand-father), but the story grows fuzzy from there on back...hmm, have to look into that further next time...

Anyway, it is the simplest recipe ever, and they are the most amazing pickles! He was kind enough to show me one afternoon while I was at their house borrowing their internet connection so I could send in some work files while I was on vacation.

I have been meaning to make some pickles ever since, and have bought cucumbers and dill SO many times, and then let them go to waste in the fridge without actually MAKING the pickles...But I finally broke down and just bit the bullet this weekend.

I used about 8 large cucumbers and filled 4 quart jars. I made them on Saturday afternoon - and as of Sunday night at 10:42pm, one jar is already empty and a second jar is now only half full...that's how good these things are!

[Before I can share the recipe with you, I need to track down some additional details from the master himself, who is returning home this weekend from vacation. So stay tuned - I hope to have the details for you soon!]

More on the syrup...

Sunday, May 8, 2011
Ream's had cases of strawberries on sale awhile back for 6.99 (.88/lb), and I picked up two. I should have picked up four, but oh well. I was going to make jam and syrup, but then we found an(other) unopened box down in the basement and what was inside? A batch of strawberry jam that I did last year - we hadn't even opened a single jar yet! So then I decided I would just dedicate all the strawberries to syrup.

My first attempt was, well, a disaster. I've never made strawberry syrup before, let alone tried to can it.

The instructions are to mash the strawberries and then simmer them. I read a few tutorials online and several suggested using a juicer if you have one, and running the strawberries through there instead of mashing by hand because you would get more juice. Well, if a juicer is better than hand-mashing I thought, wouldn't a run through a Blendtec blender be EVEN better...? Turns out, not so much. It made a great strawberry smoothie, but the stuff was IMPOSSIBLE to strain and we couldn't get a clear juice to come off, so there went 5 pints of strawberries...(we stuck the pureed strawberries in the fridge and have used them for smoothies all week).

I figured rather than waste yet another 5 pints of strawberries on the second batch, the second time I'd just follow the good ol' canning bible (the Ball Blue Book of Preserving), which I should have done in the first place. :)

We decided to have pancakes for dinner that night, and we went through an entire jar of syrup in no time flat, so I don't expect the 17 jars to last for too long. Guess I'll be on the hunt for more cheap strawberries!

Strawberry Syrup
Yield: about 3 pints (I got 9 half-pints out of each batch)

2 1/2 quarters strawberries (5 pint containers)
3 cups water, divided
1 2-inch strip of lemon peel
2 1/2 cups sugar
3 1/2 cups corn syrup
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Wash strawberries, drain and hull. Crush strawberries with potato masher. Combine strawberries, 1 1/2 cups water and lemon peel in pot; simmer for 5 minutes. Strain through several layers of cheesecloth. While the mixture is straining, combine sugar and 1 1/2 cup water in another pot and boil to 230F. Add strained strawberry juice and corn syrup to sugar syrup; boil 5 minutes. Stir in lemon juice. Ladle hot syrup into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Adjust lids and rings. Process 10 minutes in boiling-water canner.

The syrup is thinner than your regular maple pancake syrup, but most fruit syrups are.

Here's what I spent the last two days doing...

Thursday, May 5, 2011

17 half-pint bottles of homemade strawberry syrup!!! ;)

I'll be back to post more details.

Meet Our New Water Storage Additions...

Sunday, May 1, 2011
These are the large 55-gal drums that soda bottling plants get their syrup in. A friend of ours was able to procure us two of these beauties for $25 each.

We will need to wash them out with soap and water a few times, and then disinfect with bleach and water. After that they can be filled with water for storage! Because they are white, we will need to store these inside the garage or outside under a tarp (out of direct sunlight) since sunlight can filter through and break down the chlorine in the water.