Monday, 17 October 2016

06:54 – We repackaged 100 pounds of sugar and 50 pounds of rice yesterday, using a mix of one-gallon Costco water bottles, 3-liter bottles, and 1.75-liter orange juice bottles. Sugar and rice go much, much faster than flour. Barbara had no objection to repackaging sugar and rice, but said she’d really, really rather not do the remaining 50-pound bag of flour.

And speaking of repackaged LTS bulk staples, email over the weekend from another correspondent who wants to remain anonymous. I’ll call him Jeff. He and Laura are in their mid- to late-40’s and have two sons of high school age. They live in the exurbs of a mid-size city. Jeff runs the family engineering business, which he took over when his father retired a few years ago. Laura is a stay-at-home mom. She homeschools their sons and runs a profitable eBay business on the side.

They’ve been preppers since 1999, when they became very concerned about Y2K. They’d bought a house shortly after they married, and in early 1999 they started stocking up food and other supplies. Jeff built a false wall in one of their below-grade basement rooms. He framed it out with 2X4’s, they filled it up with food and other supplies, and then he screwed plywood sheets to the studs. They ended up with a concealed storage room that’s 12 feet wide by about 2 feet deep. To camouflage it further, they installed steel shelving units in front of the plywood wall. Then they pretty much forgot about it for the next 15 years or so.

A few weeks ago, they noticed the basement floor on that wall was damp. The following day, there was actually standing water in puddles along that wall. So that weekend they pulled everything off the steel shelves, disassembled the shelving, and took down the plywood panels. Behind the panels were piles of supplies that hadn’t seen the light of day in 17 years. There didn’t appear to be much damage to the supplies other than soaked cardboard boxes. They moved all the stuff that had been behind that wall to another room and then called a contractor to fix the leak.

The food they had stored behind that wall was a mix of cases of LDS #10 cans, cases of supermarket canned goods, and long-term staples they’d repackaged themselves in soft drink bottles. All of it at least 17 years old, and everything other than the LDS #10 cans at least 15 years past its best-by date.

Their first thought was just to throw it all out and start again from scratch, but Jeff decided to check things out before doing that. The LDS cans were in pretty good shape, with some light rust on some of them and a few labels peeling off. The commercial canned goods were in about the same shape. The soft drink bottles looked pretty much the same as they had the day they’d filled them. The only thing that looked like it had aged was the oil in plastic jugs, which had darkened and become a bit cloudy.

As is usual for women, Laura was much more concerned about the age of the stuff than Jeff was, but she finally agreed to test some of it. First up was a 3-liter bottle of white flour. Jeff says it may have darkened a bit, and it was caked in the bottle, but it passed the sniff test. As Jeff said, it smelled like flour. So they sifted it to break up the caking and used it to bake a loaf of bread. It rose normally and the finished loaf tasted just as home-made bread always tastes. No one clutched their throats or keeled over.

They next sampled some of the commercial canned goods. The soup smelled normal when they opened it, as did a can of baked beans. Laura cooked both of them very thoroughly, and they tasted normal. Again, no one keeled over. They opened a can of shortening, which looked and smelled normal. They used it along with some of the antique flour to bake biscuits, which turned out normal. The only fail was their stored oil. When they opened a bottle, it smelled a bit off. Jeff says that he’d have been willing to use it in an emergency if they had no other source of oil, but Laura was greatly relieved when Jeff decided to pitch it without testing it first. As Jeff says, oil is cheap.

They decided to hold onto everything but the oil, as a last-ditch source of food in an emergency. They’re not going to rebuild the hidden room, so they’ll just stack it against the repaired wall. The steel shelving had been mostly filled with more recently purchased food, and that along with stuff they’re still adding will serve as their deep pantry, with the really old stuff as their deepest pantry.

11:06 – Barbara points out that she didn’t say she didn’t want to repackage the remaining 50-pound bag of flour. What she said was she’d really, really rather not transfer it to PET bottles because they’re such a PITA to fill. She wants to transfer it to one-gallon LDS 7-mil foil/Mylar laminate bags. That’s fine with me. For flour, they’re immensely easier and faster to fill, and they’re what we’ll use for flour we purchase in the future.

Barbara is spending the afternoon volunteering at the Friends of the Library bookstore. Tomorrow, we’ll finish labeling bottles, adding an oxygen absorber to each, and transferring them down to our deep pantry shelves in the basement.