Being Frugal, Food Storage and Canning with Daisy Luther of The Organic Prepper
Living a frugal lifestyle and building a big pantry doesn’t always go hand-in-hand. But Daisy Luther of The Organic Prepper has been very successful in building her own food storage while living a frugal lifestyle. She shares her experiences on her website and books. She also took some time to share her experiences in episode 602 of The Prepper Website Podcast. This post is a partial (edited) transcript of the interview where she talks about frugality, food storage, and canning.
Me: So that transition from living that normal American life that you had when you were married and with your kids and then feeling that need to be frugal, and not the need, but you really had to do it out of necessity to be frugal, and then being a single mom, what kind of transition was that for you?
Daisy: There was a mental shift because I grew up in a pretty well to do family. My dad was a doctor. My mom was home with me. So there was definitely a disconnect between me and frugality when it first started out. But I got these really cool books at a library sale by Amy Dacyczyn. And they were the Tightwad Gazette 1, 2 and 3. And those completely changed my life. I’m actually dedicating my next book to Amy, even though I’ve never met her and she doesn’t know who I am. I’m dedicating my frugality book to her because those three books changed everything for me. They completely changed the way I looked at money, at stocking up on necessities, at reusing things and your pinching a penny until it squeals.
Me: So that’s funny that you mentioned her because I remember being introduced to her like on Good Morning America or something like that. And they’re talking about their extreme living and the way that they did things. And I went out and bought her book and I still remember that. I mean, that was crazy thinking back then. But, it really does help you change the way that you’re thinking and live a little bit different.
Being Frugal Helps You Through Tough Financial Times
Daisy: It does. And you know, she has inspired a lot of people. I hope that I kind of helped spread her ideas a little bit and introduced her to other people because that was life-changing. When I found that, everything fell into place. And when I became a single mom, I think it was a little less difficult for me because I knew how to handle money at that point. So, maybe it wasn’t quite as bad for me. I didn’t have a great job. I was a telemarketer, because that was the only job I could get. It paid better than everything else. But I was only making $10 an hour to raise my kids at that one point. Then things got better.
But that’s the thing that people have to remember. You’ve got your good financial stages and your bad financial stages, and I don’t think there are too many people these days, especially where it’s always smooth sailing. There are a few, of course, but I think for most of us it’s like sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s not so good.
Me: Very true. And it’s the preparedness that helps you, and the mindset, and the ability, and the things that you put back in place that help you to get through those financial situations, those financial times when it’s slow. Because, I’ve read [your articles] where you have mentioned finances are a little tight, sometimes things are better than others, and the ability to be prepared or having this food storage and all that kind of stuff has really helped you to get through those times.
Daisy: Oh, definitely. I mean, it would take us a long time to go hungry. We might get down to the things that we’re really not that crazy about eating, but it would take a long time for us to be to the point where we didn’t have anything to eat.
A Food Storage Strategy
Me: All right, I think that’s a good transition for this next question. Because you’ve done a lot of articles and you’ve written a lot of books on food storage. So talk to us a little bit about food storage from a few different perspectives. Where should the new prepper start? And then about the prepper who has cans and other long term food that’s already been purchased? Maybe those who are ready to start canning or dehydrating food.
Daisy: Absolutely. One of the things that I recommend in my newest book, Preppers Pantry, is I talk about, the way that I shop. And this is a really good way for new people to transition into getting a little bit of extra food. Basically, you want to stock up to the point where you can go a week without going to the grocery store. And at that point, when you can go, you’ve gotten enough shelf stable food and all of that, you can go a week without going to the grocery store.
Then you can begin to make bulk purchases like that 20-pound bags of rice or, even bigger purchases, you know, a case of something. Or you can go a couple of weeks and maybe by a 1/4 of beef to put in your freezer. The point is, you don’t want to have to sit there worrying about going outside your normal grocery budget. You just want to start shopping in a different way, where you’re using more shelf-stable food and everything is not fresh.
I know everybody preaches fresh food is the only way to go. You need your fruits and vegetables and your gallon of milk and your bread and all that kind of stuff. But if you want to build a stockpile, you need to kind of mix it up. Maybe, you know, have a few things that are fresh. That your kids, if they love bananas with breakfast, you know, have a few things that are fresh. But start adding in those shelf stable versions, too, so that you can go 1 to 2 weeks a month without going to the grocery store. And when you start doing that, you’re building up kind of a reservoir of cash.
Do You Need a Food Storage Bucket?
If you spend, let’s just say a $150 a week at the grocery store, I used to say $50 a week, but the price of food has gone up so much that you can’t get anything for that. So let’s say your budget is $150 a week. If you can go two weeks out of a month without spending anything for groceries, you’ve got $300 to spend on bulk purchases, and that’s pretty cool.
I also recommend you get at least one of those buckets of freeze-dried meals. Just throw it in the back of your closet, leave it sealed up. You don’t have to use it unless times are really, really bad. But those you just have to be able to boil water and you’ve got a month worth of meals for one person. So, that’s another thing to just add one of those buckets for each member of your family. It’s not gonna be gourmet food, but it will get you through a real rough spot. And you don’t have to do any repackaging. You don’t have to do anything to it. It only takes boiling water. So if you can afford it, I always recommend you do that. If you can’t, then you just keep doing that grocery shopping method where at least one week a month you are not buying groceries and you’re spending that to build your stockpile. And pretty soon you’re gonna find that you really only need to go for groceries once a month.
Food Storage vs Grocery Shopping
Me: That’s a good recommendation. I know people that go to the grocery store every single evening to get whatever they need for dinner. And I’m like, that’s just not smart. You’re gonna wind up spending more money that way and you don’t grow food storage at all when you do that.
Well, that’s a very New York, big city kind of thing to go to the market and get fresh ingredients for that day. And I have a lot of readers from the city that like to do that. And you know, you’re not going to persuade people who do that not to do that. But what I always tell them is that it’s even more important for them to get those freeze-dried buckets, then it is for someone who’s got a pantry full of canned goods. You just wanna have something on hand so that, if there’s an emergency and the lights go out, you’re still gonna be able to eat. So, I recommend going to the grocery store as little as possible.
I order a lot of my bulk stuff off of Amazon. It’s got free shipping. If it’s a prime item and it’s delivered right to your door, you’re not tempted by anything else. I think It’s a great way to buy food.
Food Storage and Canning
Me: I agree with you on that one. So when is someone ready for canning? You’ve written books on canning. When is someone ready to start canning and dehydrating food,
Daisy: Anytime they’ve got more than they can eat. If they’ve got more food than they can eat before it goes bad, that’s the time to start canning and dehydrating. I am much more of a canner than a dehydrator, just because canning is very scientific. You have to reach a certain temperature for a certain amount of time or a certain pressure. And then if you do this correctly, you know your food is going to be good.
I do dehydrate some things, but I just dehydrate them until they are brittle enough that I can just turn them into a powder to add to food. I know a lot of people love dehydrating. I’ve just always been so leery of botulism that I don’t do a whole lot of dehydrating. I do a little bit, but not a lot.
We get like a bushel of apples at a time. I’ll can applesauce and apple pie filling and then I’ll dehydrate apple chips. But those don’t last long in my house. My kids eat those within a day.
Half the time you’ve spent 20 hours dehydrating these and then inhale them in 10 minutes.
But any time you’ve got something extra, don’t let it go bad. There’s so much food wasted in this country because it sits there at the back of our fridge. So once a week, we go through our fridge and we pull out the stuff that is going to be iffy if it sits there any longer. And we either can it or dehydrated or put it in the freezer.
Further Reading – Thoughts on Canning Meat
Pressure Canner Concerns
Me: Some people are leery. Back in the day, everybody canned. But today it’s not that big of a practice. What would you say to someone who is a little scared of blowing up their house or something?
Daisy: That is everyone’s first fear. I thought the same way when I began pressure canning. I was terrified. I wouldn’t do it until my kids were at school, because I thought that way, if it blows up, at least the kids will be okay. I locked the dogs in a bedroom and I very cautiously proceeded to do my thing. And pressure canning is noisy. The little weight on the top makes all sorts of racket. It whistles and hisses and it makes a lot of noise. But after you’ve done it once, you’re going to feel so much more comfortable with it.
Most counties have a County Extension Office. They usually offer Master Canning Classes. I recommend going to one of those. Now those aren’t always the best teachers, but it’s a good way to get started. Sometimes they’re overly cautious, and they scare people to death. The other good way is to get my book the Preppers Canning Guide. I’ve got extremely detailed instructions on water bath canning and pressure canning in that book. And, when I say details, it’s like five pages each, so it’s very step by step. But don’t be scared of it.
Reasons Pressure Canners Blow-Up
There are only a couple of reasons that you’re gonna have your pressure canner blow up. First of all, there’s a little spout that you put the weight on top of. Before you start canning, you check that spout and you make sure it’s clear and that things can get out. As long as that’s clear, you’re good! The other way that people hurt themselves is that they try to force the lid to come off. So when you’re finished canning, you take your canner, canners are heavy, especially when they’re full of quarts and quarts of food. So if you can move it, you move it to a burner that hasn’t been on. Let it start cooling and you leave it for 45 minutes to an hour and you just watch the pressure on your gauge go down. You should not try to remove anything until that is at zero.
If you try to move the little weight and it gives you any resistance at all, they’re still pressure in there. So just leave it alone and you can leave it alone for hours. It’s not gonna hurt anything. I used to go pick my kids up from school, and that would take about an hour or hour and 1/2 round trip and then take my jars out. But it’s not gonna hurt the jars at all to stay in the canner longer. It’s when you try to force the lid off where you’ve seen those pictures of like the lids flying into the ceiling. It’s because they did it wrong. So as long as you don’t force anything, you’re gonna be just fine when you pressure can.
Visit Daisy over at The Organic Prepper.
Listen to the whole interview below.