The little birds...

If you watch little birds you will see they are busy and happy! Using whatever they can find they create the most gorgeous little nest.
I would be the little bird with some glittery thread in her nest!
We can be like this. Happily working away with the things that are available to us to create a beautiful and happy home.
All the while with a little song in our heart.

Banner by Free Pretty Things for You.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Pantries and Preparedness, April 1, 2015.

This post is a progress report. I am looking over what have I done to build up my pantry and supplies so far this year. It is April now after all!

First of all I worked to fill all my kitchen pantry jars, canisters and tins.
I cleaned out my kitchen pantry cupboards and re homed things that were just taking up space that didn't really belong in there. And got rid of some outdated things, weird things and had a good clean out. This freed up so much space! I then built up my supplies of things that will make an easy meal when shopping is impossible for some reason.
I made a list of what to make from pantry ingredients so I know I have plenty of pantry meals.
Over time I built up my meals in the freezer. There is a good supply of options that I can just thaw out and dinner is done!

We greatly improved our first aid kit and there is a kit in each car as well.
I added a fair bit to the medicine cabinet.

We have a place with emergency numbers in print as well as an action plan to help us act quickly if we know a storm or shortage is coming (or a blackout etc.)

Now for the cellar...
I started with a dusty and dark cellar that was unused. It is thanks to Wendy that I decided this was a terrible waste and I should make the most of it.  I got it cleaned up and we found shelves (road side find) that fitted down there very nicely.

Once my kitchen cupboards were looking healthy I started adding things to the shelves in the cellar.
There is a large plastic tub which I add packaged goods to, canned goods go on the shelves. There is a space that also has heavy plastic sheeting, gar bags, masking tape, candles, matches etc.

We continually add water. As we have containers empty we fill them and add them.

I have built up supplies of shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste etc.
Over summer I make heaps of jam and also froze stewed fruit and fruit pies.

I got a first aid app on my phone and a first aid book next to the kit inside.

I have learned a lot! Plus it is a fun project and another way to build up my home.

A little review is a good idea. Am I even heading towards my goal of building up a pantry and cellar pantry over the course of the year? Well, yes, I am going ok. And I can't wait to see how things are in a few more months. But you have to keep on it!

My cellar shelves are filling and I need to add a big tub for more dry goods. These include tea, pasta, powdered milk, flour etc.

It is kind of satisfying to look in the cellar and see almost a mini home store! Plus I am used to it now and pop down and up the stairs without a thought. Originally I was afraid to go down there!
Now it is an asset to our home. (Thank you Wendy!)

The images I have included come from a project I am working on. Making over recycled jars and tins for storing food... and these lovely labels are examples of free ones you can download from The Graphics Fairy. There are so many to choose from. Air tight containers, from infant formula tins to pickle jars can become beautiful pantry storage! You can have a lot of fun printing labels to pretty things up!

As you know I love contributions and comments. I really appreciate the time it takes and the help and encouragement it means to everyone. Fiona went to comment as I asked her to elaborate on the things she had been doing. From what she had said and the fact that she is an experienced nurse and had decided to do this... well, I wanted to hear! So I am sharing with you what Fiona has done and the insights from her experience... (comments would not let her post it there as there is a short word limit so I asked her to please email it to me and I would post it this way.) Over to Fiona....

I have always had the preparedness gene in me I believe.   But when the bird flu epidemic/sars was a threat, it came to me - I had the ability to render my little family somewhat immune.  I lived on a large property with chooks, vegies etc.  I worked part time and had paid off my mortgage. I decided that if this particular event hit & there was quite concern back then (remember worries diminish with time and you forget how topical this all was).  Both my kids were at school. I had decided that we would just close up shop, not go to work/not go to school.   I had under house storage as well as a brick cellar in the house and a large cupboard under the stairs.  I spent a heap of time analysing our food needs, how much of each we used and longevity of said products.  I had always menu planned – usually only a week at a time.  I made up a months worth and worked out what would be needed.   Initially I used cardboard boxes but did go and buy 12 tubs (huge) from bunnings.  These I just labelled 1 for January, 2 for Feb etc.

I am not doing this at the moment, so I forget the quantities, but I worked out that if say for instance each month I used 2kg of sugar, 6 of flour, 1kg of rice, dried biscuits, milk powder, pasta etc etc, that I would purchase those and put them in Tub 1.  I bought long life stuff including cream and that awful plastic Kraft cheese in the blue box that doesn’t need refrigeration.   I bought tinned soups, salmon and tuna and even that awful campbells spaghetti sauce - the meat one, fruit and spaghetti and baked beans, cordial and those orgran powdered eggs as well.  I could pretty much make most things.  Then before the month was out I shopped again and repeated it.  I did about three months worth in each month. Before long I had 12 months supply of food.  A lot of things I purchased I grimaced a bit at using, i.e. the campbell meat sauce, it was never half as tasty as homemade but when it came time to use the tin, I just added it to the meat sauce I made, thereby diluting its taste.     
Separately under the cupboard stairs I stored soap (which I have been making for years).  I stored laundry soaps, bleach, dish washing liquid, dishwasher powder, toilet paper (I had over 200 rolls of the stuff), shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste – basically all the supplies needed.

I had an animal section & stored wheat and layers pellets in bulk.  I also bought slabs of dog food and worked out how much the dog ate and multiplied the grams per day into a weekly/monthly amount and purchased the 8 kilo bags of dry food up until the expiry dates.
I began to keep any plastic bottles (not milk) and my dad kept his too for me.  I washed them carefully and filled with water and stored in the huge linen press upstairs.  They just lived on the floor, about 60 bottles wide and as high as I could get it.   I knew that I could keep this water about 6 months.  I kept note of this date and when the six months was up, I painstakingly emptied each bottle into the garden and re washed and refilled.   I have a feeling I put a drop of bleach into each bottle, or was that what I would have had to have done had  I needed the water. Water is a biggie, we need clean fresh water.  I also purchased the ten litre water containers the ones with the taps in them and used one at a time, probably monthly.   Just re purchased when one was gone.  They had long life.
I had a tub with salt, spices, oils, sauces and kept that topped up well. 
I have a methylated spirits camping stove that has all sorts of attachments.  I knew I would be able to cook for us on that.    So I cooked a few things and worked out how long it took to get water to boil or to boil spuds or rice etc.  Multiplied that by daily/weekly/monthly and stored up the big 4 litre bottles of metho.  I had a lot of that.    I had boxes and boxes of candles and matches also.
Each of us had a torch in our room and I had spare batteries as well as a battery radio (now where did that go???).  I also had those hand wind up torches which don’t need batteries.   The first aid kit including medication was topped up as well.
Re the expiration dates on things, I made sure that if a product was to be used by June, that it did not go in the number 6 (June) tub, it went into 3 or 4.  There was not one tiny piece of waste in this.   It was probably the most economical year of living ever.   I also remember just loving the first day of the month, cos I would go downstairs and open up the tub.  They were too heavy to lift, so it was a several trip empty out and bringing everything up to the bench and putting away.  It was actually quite a lot of fun.
Several years later, my circumstances have changed.  I now own more property, have that dratted mortgage thing again but I’m far better off. But, I don’t have good stocks of anything.   I am getting back into it and watch your posts with interest Annabel.
I’m sure this is a bit boring, but you asked me what I did back then and that is the best I can remember.  I now have a new desire to recommence all this and hope to learn more from you and the others.
Re the freezer I had a system of large garbage bags I tied up with a knot with a tag hanging from the knot. The number corresponded with the number of the month.
In each bag I had blocks of cheese, butter, peas, steamed fish, frozen cream, basically all the hings that make life a bit nicer. I bought a few months ahead.

I was conscious that if the S#it hit the fan then likely power would be lost so I concentrated on dried food in the pantry store etc and a huge effort was on water and fuel to feed the camp stove. (Metho)
But if power was not an issue and it likely wouldn't be if it was ill health or job loss I was planning for then I had a full stash of food.
If it was a pandemic then certainly at some point there would be power loss. I do remember clearly when the Longford gas explosion happened, we were without gas in Melbourne for almost two weeks.
I never believed that this could happen, not in this day and age and in an advanced country either. That was an eye opener.

It is a comforting feeling to know that one is somewhat prepared.   Fiona.

Thank you so much Fiona. Thank you for the effort to write all this up. If there is the threat of another epidemic (and of course there will be) I feel I have some tips. To be able to avoid crowds in itself would be a big thing. And I am grateful to be able to ask you what you would say about things from a nurses perspective as well as a Mums perspective.

If you would like further reading I enjoyed Cath's blog post about her pantry. She shared how her Mum was always prepared for anything. You all know Wendy and her blog My Abundant Life (on my side bar). Wendy also writes a column on The Cheapskates Club (also on side bar) called The $300 challenge. Her family of four live on $300 a month for all their groceries (in Australia). Wendy posts how they do it. There is really a little community that supports and encourages each other in the quest to keep the grocery bill down. I have learned heaps from reading this! The Cheapskates Club has a free newsletter and face book page also. This is the link to Cath's article on pantries...        How to stock your pantry.

This week I have had computer problems! I am needing to learn some new ways to do things. This may explain a lot! Eek

Also I have discovered some wonderful blogs that I will share coming up. The right blogs have an amazing power to inform, inspire and motivate!  

How are you going with building up your pantry and general preparedness? The little ways we add to our supplies, the skills we learn and the steps we can take to being better prepared all add up! Little by little we greatly improve how we are going to handle all kinds of things from being stuck home because of a storm, snow, sickness, or a loss of income or so many scenarios that just happen!

"She is not afraid of the snow" as she has been busy doing stuff! xxx


  1. Hi Annabel, I first started reading your blog whe you were starting to switch that unused cellar to a pantry. That wasn't long ago and now look how much you've done! I am very happy for you

    1. Thank you Rhonda! I feel ok with how Ive gone so far. I figure I am 1/4 into the year... and it is honestly amazing even if you do some small thing per day or week that it soon adds up. Its kind of encouraging! I think it applies to everything a little bit often adds up! xxx

  2. Another thought provoking post Annabel. I have just used some of my pantry stock to make the minestrone soup so need to look at replacing those items.

    Next week while my husband is away I am going to be working on creating some extra pantry storage in the linen cupboard. After all, I did donate some items to be sent to Vanuatu so there must be some extra room in there.

    We have just had some news about the company that my husband works for - not sure how things are going to roll so am taking this opportunity while he is away to do some planning.

    Thanks for reminding me about the graphics fairy - she may have some pretty things to go onto my new recipe cards.

    Our backyard is flooded again with all of the rain we have had - we have a feeling that the solid fence at the back is dug into the ground so the water cannot escape via the natural water course. Something else to add to the weekend job list.

    Off to look at the grocery catalogues - we do not get them so I look at them on line and then write a list according to our up coming movements.


    1. Dear Lynette I hope this doesn't mean you are too worried about your husbands job? A lot of companies seem to be restructuring, laying people off and all sorts of things. Anyway I hope not...
      It was very good of you to send things to Vanuatu. A linen press is a great place to stash all kinds of things!
      We have gentle rain tonight, we need it so much!
      Google or Pinterest "free printable recipe cards" and you should find some lovely ones. The Graphis Fairy is my usual first place to go for printables. lovely! Good luck, I love recipe cards! Xxx

  3. I like that, "she is not afraid of snow, she has been busy doing stuff!" Sometimes it is overwhelming trying to figure out where to start, or what takes priority, when you have never had a pantry before, or worked towards being prepared for situations described above, but maybe just getting busy doing Something towards being prepared is better than doing nothing. We never had a large pantry because my growing family goes through most of what we buy quite quickly. However, we recently started buying a few items we use regularly in larger quantities, such as soap, toilet paper, cereal, etc. Wow! It gives the whole family peace of mind knowing we can just walk over to the closet and get something when we need it, not to mention it saves money and time. I've never worked towards being "prepared" beyond having flashlights and candles available...but I know it is a blessing when we are prepared. My first aid kit needs attention, as winter is just about over here, and my children will be outdoors most of the summer. Last year I was unprepared for all of the cuts and scrapes! Thanks for the ideas! -Marie

    1. Thank you Marie! It is such a good idea to be ready for summer bug bits and all the things that usually happen. Each time you dont have to rush to the shops or pharmacy is a bonus.
      I dont know if you get snowed in ever there but we all have different weather circumstances and what we most likely need to prepare for and do things suited to that. But even on a small level having simple meals in the freezer or pantry to use when you are not feeling well is a big help. And the savings of buying in bigger lots are often big. Over time less trips to the shops can be a saving too.
      Thank you for the encouragement! Truly little bits just add up wonderfully! We can keep adding little bits over the year and see how far we can get! xxx

  4. Annabel, this is a fabulous post! I am going to print it off and start implementing some of the things mentioned. Thank you for this great information!

    1. Patsy thank you and I hope Fiona reads this!
      Together we are learning and making progress! xxx

  5. It is important to stop and take stock now and then, we get bogged in the minutiae and lose track of the over all picture. The taking stock helps to keep us going and you especially have done so much in such a relatively short time! Awesome job and sharing it makes for good encouragement!

    1. Thanks for the encouragement Kathy. You are right we need to think about how we are doing and what to do next. With my stock I am buying good specials of things we use. I have the theory that over time the specials cycles will cover everything... but toward the end of the year I will study what I have and try and fill the gaps of what may have been missed.
      A bit of a stock take now and then...
      I am 1/4 into the year. I should do a report at half way and see how Im going!
      Be encouraged Kathy... every little bit adds up! xxx

  6. You have done an amazing job with your cellar, Annabel. I too would have been a little scared to go down there but I can imagine you and Andy have brightened it up a lot. Well done on stocking up like you have done. We did a lot of research about how to do that quite a few years back and I can remember my husband asking some Mormon friends how they stored wheat for a year without getting weevils. They had some good ideas I must say.

    1. The Mormons are wonderful. They storewheat for many years. The Prudent Homemaker is one I love they are also Mormons and just wonderful. Her pantry is something else!
      The cellar seems nice now, like a mini shop. It gets better all the time as far as it seems friendlier! Thanks, I am getting there

  7. Awesome!!!!! I loved this post. I am going to work on a first aid kit for our car. Thanks!!!

    1. Thank you Chrissy! I also added a wool blanket in the car and water. We can always use our car kit at other times if we need them. My friend who has smaller children keeps cups, a knife and paper towel in her car so she can always cut up an apple, pour drinks etc. Good thinking! Thank you for commenting xxx

  8. Dear Annabel,
    Just look at all of your progress! You have come such a long way from that empty cellar in such a short time, I'm all giddy over it! Thank you for sharing this information from Fiona. Fiona: you're an incredible lady! Well done! So much good stuff I have to go back and re-read with my notebook so I can take notes.'s April?!?! Weren't we all just excited about the new year and January and 2015 planners/calendars and STARTING our pantry projects? Now it's April...I cannot believe it. Thank you for all of your encouragement. You've sincerely helped me to narrow my focus and build a little at a time, instead of being overwhelmed and not starting at all. Helen, Mimi, Wendy have all encouraged me. Everyone here has encouraged me. I have learned so much from everyone and you're all helping me to become a better wife, mother, friend, PERSON, period. All of these months I've really learned to better utilize my freezer and make it my friend. Having meals and soups and stews ready has been a real helper. Before I read your blog, I honestly never chopped and pre-froze onions, peppers, carrots, basic veggies for stuff. I do that now and it makes me better prepared to feed my family. Truth is I have always planned and stocked some ahead, but it's way more than that now and I love it. I have really built up my toiletries/hygiene items. Our first aid is greatly improved. My linen space looks like a mini-store. We do not run out of items, I really have a handle on that. I have learned how to make miracle spray and laundry detergent. I have become better at shopping sales and stocking, and I thought I was good already. ~HA!~ Then I read Mimi's 3 week menu and it's really, really good food. Decadent. I learned about Patsi's blog and FB page and whoa! I've learned that I actually know very little and then I laugh because these women are all so smart and just sharing all of this good information. It's all life skills and instruction I never had when I was younger and I so desperately needed it, but it's ok! It's never too late to learn and I love learning and becoming better. My family has always been my priority but the difference now is I feel better prepared to care for all of them. This has made me more on top of things for the most part, and I still have so much to learn. Thanks so much for this place to meet, Annabel. It's really something special! xxx Big hugs to everyone today for all of the inspiration!

    1. Dear Colette, Two messages did come through but they are so different I have included them both! Thank you!
      I really think there are times we learn a lot and develop a lot just like children have growth spurts! Also the teacher comes when we need the information. In my case Patsi's blog was right for me where I was and what I was learning. It is funny too as I have found some places I used to go to learn I no longer learn anything from at all and I have had to look for replacements. And as soon as I have known I need more Christian friends and support, more teachers... they keep appearing!
      I must mention I have tried most of Mimis recipes. They are all yummy and economical too.Many of these things it is amazing how much food you can end up with from a supply of ingredients and a bit of a cook up.

      It comes through what you say that you feel a sense of happiness and satisfaction from all the ways you are improving things at home. I feel exactly the same. It is really exciting to learn, save, make things nice, nourish everyone... it is wonderful.
      Have a beautiful Easter and thanks for sharing your progress... yes its April already! Now we can wait and see how far we have come at the six month point and at the end of the year... hopefully I will have a full cellar and will amaze myself!

  9. A very thoughtful and informative post, Annabel. Thanks so much Fiona for sharing all of your planning information. I'm really impressed by how well prepared you were! I know that my space is limited to keep the amounts Fiona shared, but such wonderful ideas for preparedness. I'm interested in finding out more about the methylated spirit stove, so will research that.

    Annabel, your cellar stock is coming on so well! My pantry stores are quite full at present. I was able to get pear quarters 411g size, for $3 dozen, and added to my stores. What I will be adding is now medicines and first aid. Thanks for the ideas to add first aid books to the medicine chest. I have some from courses we have done. I stocked up regular prescription medicines and supplements last month. It is time to replace over the counter items and things like throat lozenges etc that have expired dates, cough mix etc for the coming winter. I won't go crazy though, as if I have to throw some away, it means we haven't needed so much. Obviously, I've been prepared case!

    I couldn't get the link to open the page on Cath's blog. It goes to her blog though, and just typing the title into her search bar works. It is also very informative.

    1. Thank you Kaye! I cant believe the prices for the pears! What a find! And I am happy to hear your pantry is so full!
      I agree as the weather cools to add things, I keep strepsils on hand, Taken the minute a store throat starts they seem to work to knock it out. It has to be right away. So keeping them in the house is the way to do it. Plus other things that are often needed.
      Also from what some of the ladies have said when I see the doctor I have asked for my scripts even though I really havent run out.. so I can end up with a few spares and be ahead... then if there was a reason for staying home, a shortage or whatever I am a few ahead. I never did this before, I always had some on hand but not spares. Mel got me doing this. It is a bit like always keeping half a tank of petrol in the are not caught and left with none.
      Now we can keep building things up through April and see how far we can get! xxx

  10. Dear Annabel,
    If this is a duplicate, please delete! I am having trouble with my ipad tonight.
    Your cellar is incredible! Just a few months and look at where it is! So encouraging. Thank you for sharing Fiona's story. Just incredible. My pantry has improved greatly since we started this journey. Thank you for giving me the focus, every little bit really does make a difference and starting on just one thing gets the ball rolling. I am learning so much from everyone and it has changed me for the better, truly! My husband is thrilled with my progress and he encourages my blog reading and research. I am utilizing my freezer better than ever, my toiletries/medicines/hygiene items are really well stocked. My linen closet feels like a mini-store. I do more prep and planning and my efforts are really paying us back in greatly reduced grocery spending and reduced spending in general. I've put aside money every single week since January, I'm looking FORWARD to Christmas with presents already going since January plus saving more money specifically for the holiday as it approaches. There's so much more, I am so grateful for all I'm learning from everyone. Thank you Annabel for this very special meeting place! Also Wendy, Patsy, Mimi, Helen, Lynette, Rhonda, Nanna Chel, Mel, I know I'm forgetting names...but I prayed that God would help me in my home and maybe give me a mentor. I never thought it would be over the Internet but here you all are, all definitely mentors all definite answers to my prayer! Xxx big hugs to all

    1. Dear Colette, thank you Thankyou! A while back I wrote a post called The Buddy System. I know I do better with others. It can be lonely in a way, going it alone on all the things we need to do. But it also can be really fun when you are in an encouraging group of some kind. At one time I had Laine plus a lovely older lady... they were my buddy group but it worked. Not everyone one around us, our neighbours or even at Church, are necessarily trying to do better financially, save, build up their homes etc. I think we are so lucky to be able to cross States and the world and find perfect friends to encourage us. "Encourage one another" we sure all do that and so nicely and kindly too. I appreciate it so much and it helps me so much in my days... Just thinking of all my little challenges and how I'm going and looking back over the week encourages me a lot and keeps me going. It is not easy, life, kids, marriages, health, budgets, housework etc etc. Lots of positive thoughts and learning all the time just make it so much better.
      Almost two years ago I prayed for more Christian friends. God answered this prayer wonderfully and amazingly!
      It is beautiful that your husband can see the fruit of your efforts and the things you are working on. He would not be the only one you have lots of little eyes on you too... Example is a powerful thing.
      Thank you so much Colette, you are doing a great job and it's showing in your home! Xxx

  11. Annabel, you've done brilliantly. That pantry is a sight to behold! I found this passage on another blog, and it's a great rule of thumb. 'A beginner's pantry focuses on convenience and contains back-up products for each storable item used in the home. The standard is simple: for each open bag, box or carton in the household, the pantry contains a second, back-up product, toothbrushes to tortellini. A good first goal: a three-day supply of food and hygiene supplies adequate to support your family plus one additional person.' I think that's really helpful....for me anyway :) Mimi xxx

    1. Dear Mimi, thank you! I have just bought good specials of things we use. And like that quote I get extras of the things I would be buying anyway. I figure that over a year most things will come on special. But at the end of the year I will do a stocktake and consider the gaps, things that we should have and don't and concentrate just on those until it's about right. Something is better than nothing, meanwhile!
      Have a wonderful Easter! Love

  12. Great post! I am just getting started on my pantry and emergency preparedness. I set both as goals for this year. I'm always looking for ideas and encouragement. Really like Fiona's ideas. P.S. Found you via Prudent Homemaker. -Melissa L.

    1. Thank you Melissa! My blog is a bit of a disaster at the moment as I am having to learn to blog from my iPad.
      I love The Prudent Homemaker and get a lot of encouragement there.
      Truly with your pantry and emergency preparedness doing something every week even if it's small will give you so much progress over a year. We encourage each other along every Wednesday. Many


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