Larval-stage Church Lady

Larval-stage Church Lady

I’ve written before of that miraculous, wonderful creature known as The Church Lady. As I get further into my own career as a Church Lady, I’m starting to see some amazing benefits to my daughters as well, and I thought it was about time to write about how to build a Church Lady… because it really is a process, and it’s one I think can benefit most young people (not just girls).

Our middlest girl, the Spicy one, turned ten this year. She’s decided that, like her sister Eldest, it’s time for her to get to join me in serving at funeral suppers, and the other little tasks that seem to her to be hallmarks of Being Grown Up. The month of May marked her first experiences as a larval Church Lady… and what a happy little larva she is, too!

Watching her carefully choose her outfit for the first funeral luncheon (the funeral of one of our neighbors), watching her choose which pretty apron she would bring, folding it into a neat little bundle–I hoped that her experience would be a good one. I’m realistic. I can set up a situation to be as positive as possible, but it’s still going to be her experience, and that experience is between her little self and her Heavenly Father. I have to go into it all trusting that He loves her, and will give her the learning she needs, when she needs it. The First Funeral Luncheon and whatever learning it contained would have to be in His hands.

That trust was richly confirmed.

Our Church Lady In Charge is amazing. That helps a lot. Our fellow Church Ladies are generally awesome. That also helps a lot. They’ve each welcomed my girls into the fold as capital-S Sisters, and it is a joy and a blessing to me.

I quietly undertook my own assigned tasks for the luncheon, and did not interfere or direct Spicy in her work. She took her marching orders from our organizing Sister, who, being amazing, tucked Spicy under her wing and treated her with the same respect and friendliness given to the longest-serving Sister among us.

I was delighted when our organizing Sister reiterated what I had told Spicy on our way over: how to receive thanks from the family with a smile and “It’s our pleasure to serve. We’re glad to be here,” or “It’s no trouble at all. We love our Sister and want to help out any way we can,” or “We’re glad to do it.”

I watched Spicy ask intelligent questions. I watched her spring to lift things that the more fragile Sisters (one who is actually eye-to-eye with my none-too-tall 10yo!) should not lift. Her young legs and back were useful. I watched her take the instruction to “keep an eye on the water pitchers” to heart, as she zipped here and there, refilling pitchers and delivering them back with a smile and cheerful word.

I watched her visit with the Grandpas and Aunties and little children, as she made sure they had what they needed. I watched her clever little feet tip-tap briskly, carrying her from service to service, her muscled little body swathed in her best pretty apron.

I watched her take special care of our Sister who had lost her husband after an all-too-brief 66 years of marriage. I watched her seeing how love and tears and sadness and joy and grief and hope all work together.

As we wrapped it all up, I watched her eyes sparkle. I watched her watching the other Sisters as we all took off our aprons to signal the finality of our service, fold them into neat bundles, and disperse to our homes again.

And on the way home, she fairly bubbled over with happiness and observations and the recounting of her experience. The quote that made my day:

“I am going to need some good flats. I just cannot do funeral luncheons in these heels!”

I’m convinced that any young girl can benefit richly from these kinds of experiences. If anyone raising girls is wanting them to experience more connection, more compassion, more happiness, more self-respect, more cability–being built as a Junior Church Lady and serving alongside older sisters in Christ is a significant and simple way to get there.

If you’d like to build your own Church Lady, or are looking for ways to add connection and service for pre-teen or teen youth groups in a church setting, here are my top tips for making it work:

A True Invitation: I am 100% opposed to voluntelling. It’s a gross usurpation of agency, and quite frankly, it’s disrespectful and despicable.

A true invitation is low-key and sincere, and has a clear path to inclusion. There is no carrot-and-stick. It’s as simple as, “We are doing this cool thing, and we’d love to have you join us. Here’s how. Let me know if you’d like to, and we’ll make it happen.”

A True Mentor: partner them with adult Sisters who consider young people Actual People. Being tucked under the loving instructional wing of someone who likes you just for you, and has no genetic requirement to do so, is a wonderfully expanding thing for a young person. (It’s also pretty awesome for the adult Sister, too, if the ladies in my acquaintance are any representative sample. Spending time working together knits our hearts together, and that benefits young and old.)

These true mentors can be very helpful when they share their own motivations for service, and their own good experiences. I’ve noticed that the Church Ladies in my life have been ready, willing, and able to share with others *why* we serve, and that the reasons are varied and individual.

Having heard several Sisters visiting in the kitchen with Spicy about why they enjoy serving at funerals, I was delighted to hear her express her own personal motivation for service at the second funeral this month: “I don’t know this family, but I think every family should get some time to just be together, and tell stories that make them happy, even though it’s a sad time. And it’s fun to make sure everyone has what they need!”

Those are good reasons to serve. And she got there because adult women were able and willing to articulate similar reasons, and help her define the feelings she had bubbling in her tender little soul.

A True Need: no one likes to be made superfluous. Ask a young person to fulfill a meaningful task, and thank them for their help simply and sincerely and privately. Let them have the private pleasure of a job well done and truly appreciated.

The Uniform: You need the right clothes for the task. According to my Spicy child, and confirmed by the Ladies in the kitchen, the starter gear consists of Comfortable Flat Shoes, and a Pretty Apron. So you’ll need to provide those for your dear one.

(Blog rules say no single blog post should ever, ever be this long, and by the Rules, I should have about 40 cute pinnable pictures posted in here by now. Hence my tag line: Rebelling in Small Ways. Read on, MacDuff.)

Now, some practical application things if you’re trying to build some Church Ladies.

Be One Yourself. I think it does work best when Mom already has a habit of giving joyful service in ways that suit her time and her talents. If you’re not already there… well, it’s a great day to start. Pray about it. Find out what Heavenly Father wants you to do, personally, to be His hands and feet and love in the world. Then do that. And share words about it with your kids. Not bragging words, just… words. Let them know what you’re doing, and why, and that they can do it to, and how.

Do Some Lead-Up. Few people like to be thrown into something cold. So suggest some activities for the youth that introduce skills and concepts they can use in Church Lady service. Perhaps baking, or freezer meals, or other food-type skills they’ll use in college, mission, and adult life. Let them learn some basics together. These can be great additions to Personal Progress planning and activities. Then:

Have An Easy-Intro Service Opp. One simple thing I’ve done is to invite the young women to participate when I take around a sign-up sheet for New Baby meals. It takes only a few seconds to blurb it, and let them know they’re welcome to partner up and bake a treat for a meal, or work with their mom, auntie, grandma, or another Sister to help with a meal.

Let them know there are ways to ease into it, too. If they’re not up for food prep or service during the luncheon? They could come over and set up tables, or come after for take-down and sweeping. Those portions of service are vital, and still ripe with camaraderie.

Do Some Pre-Service Prep. Many young people have not been around much death, or around grieving rituals. Let them know what to expect, and some simple phrases to use in response to family thanking them, and that sort of thing. Do it all in conversational tones. This stuff is not scary. It’s just new. They can handle it.

Treat Them Like They’re Real People. And by Real People, I mean separate from their adult female relatives, and a complete person in their own right. Contact them directly, without passing messages through others. Ask for them by name, and treat them as a peer. It is thoroughly gorgeous what being treated as a valued peer by adult women does for a girl.

Teach Watch-Care At Home and Away. This starts when they’re little–teaching them to notice the needs of others, and consider how they might personally fill a need. Noticing and thanking them for the little acts of service they do is important, too. Maybe the wash cloths didn’t need to be re-folded, maybe you already have five dandelions-taped-to-paper, but they saw what they perceived as a need, and filled it with gladness, and did it to serve, so recognize it and accept it as love!

As they grow, this paying-attention-and-acting-in-love morphs into a kind of personal visiting pastoral care. Even without formal “route assignments”, young women can observe the needs of others and seek inspiration to fulfill them. Do what you can do make it possible for an observant girl to take a treat or card to a recovering friend, or to pop across the street to help a neighbor with something. Allowing them the freedom to act on their inspirations teaches them to hear God, and act on what He’s telling them. Their service will be different from yours. That’s cool. Rearrange what you can to make it possible. This stuff is important.

Trust God. The building of a Church Lady is not something we can control. It’s God’s process, and we need to relax and trust it! Don’t over-analyze another’s experience. Don’t ask a girl “HOW WAS IT? HUH? DID YOU LOVE IT??!!?” Give them space and time to process, and just let it be, trusting that their Father will use each situation to teach them what HE wants them to know. It is not within our power to control their experience. We can only set up favorable conditions, and step back and let them live it.

So, that’s how I was built to be a Church Lady. It’s working with my girls, and I’m so grateful. Give it a shot.

Faux-French Bread

So, I made a batch of French bread today.  Never Buying Loaves AGAIN.

1.5 Tablespoons yeast
1.5 Tablespoons sugar
1.5 Tablespoons oil
1 Tablespoon salt
2.5 cups warm water
about 6 cups flour

Mix all together down through water, and proof 10 minutes. Add 4 cups flour and beat the crud out of it; add up to 2 cups more to form a loose-but-nice dough. Proof, stopping by to give it a good smack down every 20 minutes for an hour or so. What will have started out as a somewhat sticky dough will autolyze into a lovely smooth elastic dough. It’s bread magic.

Divide and form 4 batards/oblong loaves, really TIGHTLY shaped (there are videos… I do a rounded-end baton, rather than a batard, but it’s fun to write Four Fat Batard Breads).

Place on an oiled sheet or parchment paper, and brush with egg wash (this is the faux bit… true French breads get their shattering crisp crust by added steam in the first part of high-temp baking. The egg wash will create a shiny, sorta-crisp crust, much like the big-store-bakery loaves, but *not* like actual French bakery loaves); slash deeply 3-4 times down the length. Preheat the oven to 425* while they rise til doubled.

Bake 425* for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 375* and bake another 20 minutes. Remove and cool on a rack until you can’t stand it anymore, and break open a loaf.

For scale, this fat batard is 10" long.

For scale, this fat batard is 10″ long.

There are loads of different homeschooling philosophies, but one of my favorite thinkers is Charlotte Mason. I like her foundational principles because I find them deeply respectful of and compassionate toward children; her thinking just seems to fit with a gentle, gospel-centric family culture really well!


Once upon a time, the only way to get hold of her writing was to track down her original essay series in hardcover form… thanks to the wonders of the internet, now there are some great on-line resources!

https://simplycharlottemason.com/ is laid out very cleanly–there’s a LOT to explore around the site, but it’s pretty intuitive, and there are some good summaries and get-started ideas there.

https://www.amblesideonline.org/ has the original Charlotte Mason texts for free on the site, which I find highly useful. If you’re not used to 19th century writing, you’ll find her work a bit of a slog, but it’s gorgeous language, and full of deep thought and compassion.

Now, both sites give curriculum layouts–but keep in mind that the philosophical structure of Mason’s work does not proscribe a particular set of resources. That’s what I like so much about her philosophy. It’s a MINDSET, and you can use whatever resources to fulfill that mindset and home culture as are best fit to your family.

For instance, we use Mason-style philosophy combined with John Holt style unschooling. I have friends who combine Mason’s philosophy with far more structured “classical school at home” set-ups. BOTH are consistent with the underpinnings, and both work. So you’re not locked into anything. It’s just the philosophy.

Some of the things I like best about Charlotte Mason are: focus on character, meaningful work, twaddle-free learning, “living” books and tools, the basic respect for the humanity and soul of a child, a grand appreciation for outdoor activity… it’s just so lovely and gentle and humane, and fits so well into gospel-centric living!

* The Scriptures (can’t get much more Living Book than that!)

* Church magazines like The Friend for child-centered application of gospel principles, though you will generally have to weed out “inside the box” thinking on some topics.

* Preach My Gospel as a resource for parents–some good teaching and mentoring strategies there!

* The Primary section on LDS.org... so many great bits of art, music, and scripture/theme notes to harmonize home teaching with Primary class topics and sharing time.

* Hymns and Primary songs to use in the music and poetry sections of a CM base

* Pioneer, church history, and world faith stories are all living stories, not twaddle.

* The Church History museum and archives all have fantastic art to study, and there are very low-cost art prints from the distribution center.

* Nature and science study can be given a Gratitude To Heavenly Father base that really, really lets us all experience joy!

* Prayer and scripture, singing, etc, built into the day’s work…. I’m working on a fun project to do with hymns, and when it’s ready, I’ll share.

So, commercials on the internet are good for one thing: they remind me of Manufactured Major Holidays. And this current one is, of course, Mother’s Day.

(It’s also our wedding anniversary, which we planned to coincide because both myself and my Tall, Dark, and Slightly Neanderthal Fellow are woefully, miserably BAD at remembering significant days, and we thought we MIGHT have a shot at remembering the day we got married if the whole industrialized world were sending us reminders. This has worked. A few years, anyhow.)

Here’s what I want to say about Mothers and Motherhood:

Motherhood has absolutely nothing to do with a uterus, or the uses of a uterus.

The endowment of motherhood, the creation of a mother, happened ages ago, before the beginning of time, when our Creator formed our souls from the very starlight of the universe.

If we’re going to celebrate the eternal nature of a role of a mother’s heart, let’s celebrate it in full: let’s celebrate the stewardship of “mothering” that is our right and privilege.

Mothering happens in a myriad of ways, undertaken by women who are married, widowed, single; women who have and who have not borne children in their bodies. Motherhood is a stewardship given to every woman ever created, at the time of her soul’s birth.

I know women who work within that eternal role by being adoptive and step and foster parents, willing to take a child into their hearts forever, no matter how long they have together. Other women express their mothering heart by mentoring others (young and old) in any and every way.

Some mother through hospice and care homes, extending grace, humor, compassion, and humanity to those in the winding up days of their time here. They take under their wings those whose mothers have already gone on, in the moments when a human soul needs a mother the most.

Some mother as “church moms” or “church ladies”, making life gentle behind the scenes, and loving the whole community. Others mother the “unlovable” in shelters and slums, and the worst of conditions, and never flinch from the pain their mothering brings.

Some mother as midwives, as teachers, as soldiers–all standing to protect the vulnerable in whatever ways are needed.

Some women mother as legal advocates for children in the court systems who have no one looking out for their needs. Some mother by collecting needful goods to put into “rescue” bags for children entering that system, or trying to live on the streets.

Some women mother by fundraising for orphans and traumatized people; others work the phones to provide the loving, compassionate ear and a voice on the other end of the line, telling another soul that they matter, that the universe is better because they exist, and to not give up.

Some mother by helping with rescue animals and sustainable agriculture, extending their stewardship into everything around us, for the generations now present, and the generations to come.

A mothering heart loves the broken, rejoices with the unburdened, cries with the mournful, and binds up the weary hearts of others. A mothering heart is a gorgeous, gorgeous thing.

If a woman does anything to spread love, compassion, safety, warmth, kindness, goodness, health, longevity, comfort, justice, mercy, or betterment in the world, she is doing that under her mantle of Motherhood, given to her by God at the moment of her creation, inseparable from our Divine Mother–all our expressions of it would be familiar to Her, as they are to our Divine Father.

God bless all mothering hearts–for we are all made in the image of God’s love.

Making Pictures

I was not a child who enjoyed coloring, so it’s been a bit of a surprise to give birth to children who do!

Standard coloring books rarely satisfy, however. The art is often quite poor, and the paper is generally abysmal. It’s time and money wasted, as the high-acid papers deteriorate while the picture is still in the mail to Grandma.

We’ve found some lovely options in good paper and good art from Dover (the Fine Art, History, Nature, and Design books get the most use here), and the on-line printable pages from Phee McFaddel and Jan Brett.

We’ve been inspired by the art of ZenTangles and Doodles. It’s cool to see what gorgeous, creative things adult artists like Johanna Basford are doing.

I think it was Ms Basford’s work that recently inspired Lefty and Spicy to spend some time creating their own coloring pages. We have a multi-function machine at our house, so photocopies and scans/prints are not a problem, which led to a many-hours work session yesterday, wherein my Littles and their friend created lovely line-art scenes to photocopy and share with one another.

Here are some things they learned along the way:

* Work in #2 pencil, which is soft enough to leave nice solid marks and lines thick enough to photocopy well.

* Don’t put in a lot of shading; you can add that when you color the final picture. It’s hard to remember to not fill it all in when you’re drawing!

* Fill up the whole page with your art; there’s room to tell a bigger story!

* If you choose to trace your drawing with ink or marker, take your time. Use a good art eraser to gently rub out the pencil marks. Don’t rub too hard.

* Everyone draws their own style of art, and it’s all very cool!

Some things I learned along the way:
* If you’re photocopying directly for immediate sharing, enhance the contrast a bit to darken pencil lines.

* Photocopy one extra. It’s just sensible.

* If you’re scanning, do it at 300dpi minimum, for the best printing later.

* After the image is scanned, use basic photo editing software to turn it gray-scale/black-white. Then heighten the contrast 2-3 times to get nice solid lines for reprinting.

* After the images is manipulated, re-size it to fit within an 8×10 rectangle, so it prints easily on regular paper.

* Print out an extra. Sensible. I promise.

Creating Is Awesome, and You Can Do It Anywhere

If you have a full-service printing house near you (generally not a chain-store/big-box one; try Alphagraphics), they can print line drawings onto special papers like heavy card stock a home printer or photocopy machine can’t handle and then a young artist can go to town creating all over again.

Coloring page art can be on any topic. It can be done to practice or explore the styles of famous artists. It can be simple, or quite ornate, right from the start. If it’s simple, you can add custom fanciness by filling spaces or sections with doodles. You can add designs to the page as you color. The possibilities are truly endless!

Coloring pages could be a fun project during a family reunion, church social, or “maker’s” day. They make a great portfolio item to showcase what a young learner has been up to (and provide extra opportunities to cement knowledge into their brains by coloring their examples over again.) Put together a collection of coloring pages, and you can make customized gifts or books for family and friends.

The thing I like best about creating these pictures is that it’s up to the child. As a parent, I’m on hand to help with the technical aspects of reproducing the art for coloring, but other than that, it’s entirely up to the young artists. That autonomy in creation is a fantastic gift!

Here’s a printable from my girls, to you, with bunny and hen-shaped clouds.


Nifty Things for Noobs

My baby brother and my baby sister-in-law recently added a lovely little person to their household, and as I am wont to do, that throws me into a frenzy of making Nifty Things for the Noob. This particular Noob comes with some exciting accessories that no one was anticipating, so there was the added frenzy of making Nifty Things That Are More Boyly, Because Noob Has Outdoor Plumbing, and We All Expected Otherwise.

(I’m going to go ahead and finish the pretty white girl gown for his Eventual Sister… and we’ll be making a bitty man-kilt for Sir Noob in a few weeks, instead.)

I’m content to let others concentrate on the cute little clothes and things; I was very excited to get to help out with some of the nitty-gritty basics that make for one-time investments with long-term use. And that means: diapers. Diapers and burp cloths. And diaper covers. And some other stuff, because once I get going I can’t stop!

DIY Diaper Covers!

Nifty Things for Noobs!

I found a great deal on unbleached pre-folds, and ordered 24 in the small infant size, then washed and dried them to fluffy perfection. Those went in a boring box, because they’re pretty utilitarian and boring, but useful. The advantage of pre-folds is that they wash and dry pretty easily and quickly, and last a long, long time, and can be used as doublers when Sir Noob outgrows them for daily diapering. Unbleached pre-folds start out a creamy natural light brown, so they actually do a nice job at hiding the long-term evidence of their use, too!

In the fun box, we tucked:

  • 24 burp flannels, made like this.

    Burp flannels in Owls and Chemistry.

    Burp flannels in Owls and Chemistry.

  • 5 tiny-newborn-with-umbilical-scoop-section diaper covers, with white PUL inside and fun fabric outside. These are made smaller than normal, and have limited usefulness, but Sir Noob is a tiny thing, and “newborn” is a bit big on him just yet! Our Lefty was in preemie clothes for six weeks for the same reason, and I remember how hard it was to diaper her in “newborn” things. So, to adapt the pattern I used, I folded out the section that would be snapped together for initial use, to make them a bit shorter in the rise, and used shorter elastic stretched more (4″ in the legs, and a 5″ stretch across the back), to snug up the legs. This blog has about nine-billion free printable patterns for different styles of cloth diapers and cloth diaper covers. I marked the umbilical scoop covers with a little green dot center front.Owls and Foxes
  • 6 regular newborn diaper covers, made with the pattern out at normal length, and slightly larger elastics (4.5″ in the legs, 5.5″ across the back). All the diaper covers fasten with sewn-on hook-and-loop. I decided on the elastic lengths using Annie Tuttle’s suggestions, and used a simple method of sewing the body of the cover right sides together, and using a long narrow zig-zag to attach the elastic to the seam allowances. When the diaper cover is turned right sides out, I can go from topstitching next to the edge to curving in a bit and creating the final casing for the elastics, all in one step. I also turned all the diaper covers through the short end of one of the front side tabs. The PUL in the diaper covers is shiny-side-up, so the covers can be wiped clean easily, and won’t need full laundering after every use.

    I call this "Covers, With Kitten In Background"

    I call this “Covers, With Kitten In Background”

  • 4 sets of old-fashioned diaper pins. If you store the points in a bar of Ivory soap, they go through the cloth of the diaper insert smoothly.
  • 2 size 0-3m onesies in neutral colors.
  • 1 newborn snap-shirt that Lefty wore as an infant, which she found and was determined to wash up and send to her new cousin. So we did.
  • A copy of the Garth Williams illustrated “Baby Farm Animals” Golden Book, because it has lovely pictures. I think every child should get to see those pictures.

Previously, we made a baby blanket with the owl fabric in the diaper covers, backed with a pretty pale greys/taupes spotted flannel. I make those kinds of blankets with the same process as the burp flannels, and machine quilt the layers together. They’re cozy… my baby sis-in-law reports that it’s already one of her favorites for swaddling.

I’m pretty much in love with making the diaper covers. The PUL was easy to work with, and the option of combining it with a range of personalized cloth for the outer layer was a lot of fun. One thing I did notice: with the very directional prints, my own sensibilities required that I flip one half of the fabric “upside down” so when the diaper cover is worn, the words are right side up on both the front and back. The join is at the base of the crutch, so it’s not very visible. The PUL is cut in one complete piece to avoid any leak points.

Boffo! Kapow! Biff! Zoom!

Boffo! Kapow! Biff! Zoom!

As Sir Noob gets bigger, I’ll be able to make new sets of covers for him. We’re planning some pretty nerdly coolness for summer use, when his fluffy bum will be on display more often.

Sir Noob is very likely to be a ninja.

Sir Noob is very likely to be a ninja.

Food Storage Feedback

Just now, there are some various lists floating around my home territories of the Interwebs that share “How to Build Food Storage for $5 A Week” and other similar titles and schemes. That $5 a week one has shown up five times for me, in the last five days!

Looking at it, specifically, I notice a few things that become problematic when you have to actually EAT your stored items. Nowhere does it mention these are storage items for essentially one person, not for a family. And the foods themselves are problematic. During the course of a year, with this particular list, you amass various quantities of 14 food items, and 2 non-food items, and no toilet paper at all:

12 pounds of salt. If you’re doing your own baking and such, this is pretty reasonable, and you’ll have some left to scrub the cast-iron skillet.

30 cans of condensed cream soup (salt, sugars, and chemicals)

40 cans of condensed tomato soup (salt, sugars, and chemicals) (So, that’s 70 cans of condensed soups. You get one can per week for the whole year, and get to choose 18 additional glorious days with More Soup.

A whopping 180 POUNDS of sugar… for one person. That’s in addition to the sugars added to the canned soups, box mac, and peanut butter. That’s a LOT of sugar. So much sugar. Americans eat a lot of sugar to start with, but this storage plan tops average 2005 sugar consumption levels (100 pound per person) by another 80%! And at the list’s $5/20 pound assumption, you’re spending nearly $1000 on sugar–and that’s at antique prices. Current prices for sugar in my area run about $5.50 for ten pounds (store brand), so spending only $5 a week cuts that sugar purchasing down to 90 pounds, which is much, much better, and still waaaay too much sugar for one person to consume. Our family of 6, with all our baking habits, uses about this in a year.

10 pounds of honey. More sugar, but at least it’s a digestible kind. If you have a diabetic in the family, please make sure to store a whole lot of insulin.

100 pounds of flour… which sounds like a lot, until you’re doing your own baking, and realize each loaf requires between 1 and 1.5 pounds of flour, and that means getting anywhere from 75 to 100 loaves in a year, without making any other use of flour. That’s less than 2 loaves of bread a week. And bread is practically your only protein source in this storage plan… you’ll get about 55 grams of protein per loaf of bread. A good target amount for daily protein is about .8 grams per 2 pounds of body weight. That means a 150 pound person needs to shoot for 420 grams of protein per week. This plan’s flour allotment gets you 110 grams in a week. For one person.)


One bread-stuff option: homemade English muffins, which can be done from the pantry, if you store the right stuff!

12 pounds of macaroni noodles presumably to mix with the cream soups for some sort of protein-free chemical goulash?

21 boxes of chemical mac-n-cheese (salt, sugars, and chemicals again). Good luck making it edible without butter, because that’s not part of the storage plan.

24 cans of tuna (finally, a non-flour protein source! Only a little bit, though. You get 10 grams of protein in one meal, once a week… for one half the year. So now the plan has one person consuming a total of 120 grams of protein a week for at least half of the year, against a basic need of 420 grams a week. This is not a ratio for survival.)

6 pounds of peanut butter (hey, another tiny bit of protein! 6 pounds of PB will give you 85 two-tablespoon portions, with 8 grams of protein per portion. So you can add 1.5 sandwiches for one person per week, and get a whole 13 total additional grams of protein… now we’re up to 133 grams, against that basic need of 420 grams per thin adult per week.) (And mostly salt, sugars, and chemicals.)

6 pounds of yeast. This is not a bad amount, particularly if you know how to use it for a sour-dough start, and can make a lot of bread without adding new yeast.

40 pounds of powdered milk (the list is not specific as to whether this is non-instant milk, which requires mixing with hot water and chilling before it’s drinkable, or instant milk, which doe not. 40 pounds of non-instant dry milk will yield about 160 quarts of milk, which sounds like a lot, but actually works out to ONE person having 14 ounces of fluid milk per day. And if you store 40 pounds of instant milk, one person gets 7 ounces of fluid milk per day.)

6 pounds of shortening (one of the most chemically processed fats you could choose, with zero nutritional value on its own. Lard has actual nutritional content. And a variety of oils is better than just one hydrogenated chemical oil.)

1000 ct multivitamins (and you’re going to need ’em! The food list is really low on vitamins and minerals. Notice, there’s not a single fruit or vegetable item listed. Not one. British sailors were given more actual nutrition than this list provides.)

500 count aspirin (so, the list is made pre-Advil? That explains buying 5 pounds of honey for $5. Or 20 pounds of sugar for $5. Actually, if you only buy $5 of sugar at each buying interval, you’ll end up with a lot less sugar, so that’s a good thing. )

It sounds harsh, but a person amassing this quantity and distribution of foods is worse off than someone without any storage at all, because this plan lulls one into the idea that they are prepared. And it’s not a preparation plan. It’s not edible, nourishing food.

The very low protein levels (133 grams per WEEK if we’re generous… now take your body weight, divide it in half, and multiply by .8 to see what your baseline protein intake actually needs to be to maintain key body functions) lead to some ugly consequences: muscle wasting, increasing weakness, compromised immune function, hair loss, skin changes/rashes, mood changes including depression, and eventually shock and even death. Without consuming any protein, the human body can only live about 70 days, and those will be rife with the physical deprivation and malfunction I just mentioned. This plan gives only about 1/3 of baseline protein levels for a 150 pound person. Sooooo… live miserably and die about 8am on day 93 instead.

Yes, I know this meme/plan is only a suggestion, or a start, or something. But it’s about the worst way to go about accomplishing provident, functional storage.


This site has a much more functional planning strategy. This site gives some solid basics and reasons why. Yes, it’s possible to build food storage $5 at a time. But, it needs to be more thought through than the $5/week plan floating around the net!

I’m not a perfect paragon of storage. Not at all. But here are the questions I look at when building at $5 a week:

  1. What does my family actually eat? We eat a lot more variety of grains than the above “plan” allows for. Wheat, oat groats, corn grits/polenta, barley, and more regularly grace our table. Going to only wheat flour would be a vast down-grade to our eating plans. We eat leafy and root vegetables, and fruits, and a wide variety of protein sources, including different rices and beans. For storage to be provident and functional, it needs to contain what we actually eat.
  2. What are the realistic quantities? For instance, our family of six will consume an average of two loaves of homemade bread, or their equivalent (homemade biscuits, rolls, tortillas, muffins, scones), per day. Seven days a week. We’ll use the equivalent of three 15oz cans of vegetables in a dinner meal. I need to store realistic quantities for our consumption, or we’ll run a high risk of feeling grossly deprived. (And that includes some items that are strictly for comfort and treats! That’s why we store fruits for making pie, and chocolate chips for cookies, and cocoa powder for cakes and pudding and hot cocoa.)
  3. Do those menu items come in shelf-stable versions? This might include dehydrated, freeze-dried, home-canned, or commercially-canned items, as well as stable-as-is items (like grains).
  4. What are the most nutritionally-dense foods I can store? (hint: sugar is not one of them. Nor is box chemical mac.)
  5. What are the most beneficial and shelf-stable protein sources I can store? (hint: dry beans and rices, lentils, and other such vegetable-based complete proteins are awesome to store, bulk up gorgeously when cooked, and can be used in a variety of cooking styles. And backyard chickens provide fresh eggs daily, no shelf-storage needed–although you can store fresh eggs, right there on the counter, for weeks!)
  6. What shelf-stable fats can I store? Oils, lard–our bodies need fats to function well! One stable source of fats is actually in certain grains–I’ll do better storing wheat berries and grinding them fresh for bread, retaining the tiny amounts of fats in the grain, than by trying to store huge quantities of pre-ground whole wheat flour that risks the fats going rancid before I use them.
  7. What seasoning sets give those basics a good variety of flavors? How can I store those in shelf-stable ways, and how much should I be storing? Salt, pepper, garlic, onion, curry, cumin, bouillons, coriander, cayenne, dry mustard, dried herbs of all kinds, more garlic, sriracha, Mex-style pepper sauces, Worchestershire, soy sauce… all of these are in our normal flavor patterns, and to be in a situation of living off only stored foods, without those flavor patterns, would be a huge spark to depression, appetite fatigue, and voluntary starvation.

    Flavor! Who knew?

    Flavor! Who knew?

  8. How can I adjust my grocery and meal planning to allow for small, consistent purchase of additional quantities to build my surplus store? Stocking up on peaches to home-can only makes sense when peaches are in season; if I’m going to put up jams and jellies, I’ll need to make sure I do purchase additional sugar in the months leading up to the cheapest fruit availability. Do I have secure, air-tight storage for seasonings, herbs, grains, etc? Can I adjust our meal plans to incorporate the least-expensive forms of high-quality protein, carbs, and fats?

I grew up with an active cycle of food storage and use, and I’m trying to do better with my current plan. Living with that active cycle is a heck of a lot of work, so involving the whole household is vital! The quantities to feed a household of ten, realistically, were enormous. It wasn’t feasible to do it all at once, and a spread-out plan that takes advantage of seasonal accessibility and careful purchasing is really the only way to make it work no matter what size household you have.

Some is better than none. Planned “some”, tailored to your household’s needs, is better than generic some.


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