Nov 302011

Continuing our discussion of inexpensive but useful items to stockpile, starting with a couple of recs made in the comments.

1. Canning jars and lids. These could prove to be quite valuable both for home use and for trade. The jars, of course, are reusable as long as there are no chips in the lids. Manufacturers recommend that the lids be used only once. I have a friend, an experienced canner, who reuses these lids two to three times. The trick is not to nick the lid when you remove it from the jar. If you use a can opener to pry it off you will make a small nick that will keep the jar from sealing. Try pulling the lid up using four fingernails to break the seal.  There is the risk of having an unsealed jar. Better to buy lots and lots of lids which are $2-3 a dozen. Yeagers normally has a good supply. The Co-op and Walmart are other locations that seem to stock jars and lids. Jars are normally $10-12 a case (dozen).

I discovered the hard way that I use more pint and half pint jars than quarts. But it depends on what you are putting by. I’ve found also that it’s a good idea to have different sized canning pots—a big one and a small one. It takes a lot less energy to heat up water in a small pot to can pints and half pints.

Another canning item to stockpile is Pomona pectin. This kind of pectin keeps indefinitely and is pretty much foolproof when it comes to making jams, jellies and chutneys.

2. Bleach. Lots of applications such as water purification and as a cleaning agent.

3. Vinegar (white and cider). A virtual necessity for preserving food. White vinegar is also useful as a cleaning agent with a myriad of applications. Apple cider vinegar is a classic folk remedy, almost a panacea for some home-remedies.html. If you are using it as a tonic a high quality organic like Bragg is a good choice. Read some of the 111 customer reviews on if you have doubts about apple cider vinegar. If 25% of the claims are valid, Bragg apple cider vinegar is a cheap medicine to have in the pantry.

4. Zip lock bags in various sizes. A variety of uses including freezing of food and storing leftovers.

5. Rope, twine, string. I find I’m using twine in the garden all the time. I save baling twine and hang it from the fence and use it to tie up or stake up plants that want to topple or blow over. My collection of rebar and cedar stakes also comes in handy. Harbor Freight has lots of cheap rope. Made in China, of course.

6. Toilet paper. No discussion necessary.

There’s more we can add to future lists. All the above are relatively inexpensive. What else should we have on hand in good supply?


  12 Responses to “Stockpiling”

  1. All good suggestions! Make sure the bleach is the plain kind, the scented ones are unsuitable for sterilizing water. The ratio I was taught is 8 drops per gallon of water and let sit for 24 hours (if you can). Aerating the water and letting it sit will blow off much of the chlorine smell and taste.

  2. No need to stockpile vinegar when we live in prime apple growing country. Just make apple juice (fresh cider) and put it in a wide-mouth jar covered in cheesecloth in a dark location for as long as it takes. Best to add a little “mother” from an older batch, or when you first start, from raw ACV from the store (like Bragg’s). In winter it’ll probably take a few months. In summer, less. Just taste it ever so often. I make several gallons a year and I could use more if I made it.

    Re: reusing canning jar seals: I have done this before, and the best advice I have is to save this tactic for the most foolproof products: jams and pickles, ie things very sweet or very acidic. AND inspect the seal for any nicks, as Randy said, plus, look at the rubbery part of the seal and see that it looks fresh still. If it looks dried out or really compacted, it’s probably not the best. And, of course, canning jars are excellent for food storage of dry goods, herbs, etc., so the used up seals are good to keep around for that reason. Also for sauerkraut and giving foods away as gifts, putting leftovers in…and lots of other things we would need to store if we didn’t have plastic anymore.

  3. Really nice suggestion on making vinegar Krista. I have always wondered how it was made and had no idea it was so easy. It was always what I was trying to avoid when making wine, and imagined that the origin of the word was when some French guy tasted wine (vine) that went bad and said “GAR!”.

    I just bought a case of my favorite bar soap. The inspiration to do that may be because I am reading “The Road” and realized that if it goes really bad we can scrounge for food and shelter but soap may be hard to come by and being clean is really nice.

    Salt. If we end up eating only food that we grow on our own, salt will be a very needful thing to have in our diet. We will actually die if we don’t get enough of it. When we eat processed food, it has a lot of added salt and we get enough without adding it to other foods. It would seem that it would be difficult here in the PNW to make salt in the traditional method of drying sea water in salt flats. But I wonder if you could just add a teaspoon of seawater to your soup instead of dry salt. Maybe that is what the natives did. Something to test.

  4. I’d suggest getting reusable plastic containers instead of plastic bags. They work great both for the freezer and for leftovers. If you get some that are good and heavy, and you don’t use them in the microwave, they seem to last for a really long time. I also like the sets that nest and have lids that snap together. Helps minimize storage space and avoid having lids all over the place.

  5. Also, why not buy local cider vinegar? You could probably buy it in bulk from BelleWood Acres (near Lynden). I’m a big cider vinegar fan and have tried many brands. I like Braggs well enough, but BelleWood’s cider vinegar is amazing in quality. Worth a little extra, in my opinion.

  6. Question on Jars and lids. We’ve been saving our spaghetti sauce jars for some time now and have cases in the garage. The lids are one piece and it looks like the gasket is good on all of them. Is that pretty safe to use those, or bite the bullet and buy a supply of rings and lids?
    Future canner.

  7. Mike, Those spaghetti jars will make good storage jars but I wouldn’t use the screw top lids for canning. I’ve never checked to see if the opening is standard size for a canning lid.

    Nancy, I will try some of the Bellewood vinegar. Do you have to go out there to buy it? I’m experimenting again with a vinegar tonic three times a day to see if it may be the panacea that some suggest.

    Re: zip lock vs storage containers. We froze four gallons of beet greens, 20 lbs of onions, a couple gallons of string beens, a couple gallons of squash, and a gallon of pesto. The plastic bags work pretty well for these larger quantities.

  8. Randy, I think if you take your Baking Soda, and then drink Vinegar, you will blow up like a balloon, and go shooting across the island! Be careful out there!

  9. Ed, baking soda plus vinegar. This may be a way of saving on ammo. I can become a weapon of mass repulsion.

  10. I buy white vinegar by the gallon for cleaning. It is a “must have” for people with wells, and the high “lime” content in our water. I add some, and run a cycle in the washing machine periodically, to de-scale it’s inerds. It is great to run through a coffee maker, or tea pot, and is a must have to add to cleaning water when washing windows. If you are a real clean freak, you can even add some from time to time to the water closet of your toilet.

  11. Trick my mom taught me: Use plain vinegar as ‘softener’ with every load of clothes — helps rinse out soap and soften fabrics nicely w/out stinky smell or, if you use a clothes drier, that formaldehyde which is a major active ingredient in ‘fabric softener’ strips. I have many bottles of plain vinegar, maybe not enough.

  12. I used to work at Bellewood. I haven’t heard of them selling bulk cider vinegar but you could ask. I suggested making your own because 1) it will save you a lot of money over buying it, and 2) Bellewood Acres is a business that has to make money to stay alive. They could dissappear in a heartbeat if the economy crashes. Know how to make it yourself and you are golden.

    But that is my philosophy for everything.

    Soap: I believe we could make from wood ash and tallow at some point in the future if necessary. It’s not hard to make otherwise, but the typically ingredients (olive oil, coconut oil, lye) are not easy to grow in the backyards 🙂 Call Sandie Ledray for her “seconds”. She’s a natural soap maker over near Marietta, on Hoff Road. We have a giant case of her seconds in our barn. Probably will keep us clean for about ten years.

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