Thursday, February 26, 2009

Ready for Recession

For Mormons, preparing for hard times is an article of faith

By Beth Brelje
Pocono Record Writer
February 22, 2009

How long would the food supply in your home last without grocery shopping? A couple days? A few weeks?

A year?

Mormons, who store a year's supply of food in their homes, might top the Boy Scouts in the "Be Prepared" department.

"The Lord tells us, if you are prepared you don't have to fear," said Marie Whitaker of Henryville, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Stroudsburg.

You don't have to be Mormon to plan for tight times. It is simple advice anyone can follow.

Whitaker says her stash of necessities has come in handy a few times. Twelve years ago, her husband lost his job. With five of their six children living at home at the time, the family dipped into the food storage.

"I wasn't worried about food because I had things on hand," Whitaker said.

When her husband went to graduate school, she planted a garden, and they used the food storage more often. Recently, a friend had surgery. Whitaker went to her pantry and had all the ingredients to whip up a dish. She was able to quickly get food to the friend without running to the store.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints counsels members to plan ahead. "We believe in being self-reliant and self-sustaining. We set aside three months of food in case there is some adversity in our lives so we can take care of ourselves," Whitaker said.

The three-month supply is made up of food in the family's regular diet. Whitaker's family likes ketchup, so she bought four bottles of the condiment when it was on sale recently. They are also big on green beans. She buys them a case (24 cans) at a time when the price is low. Stockpiling saves money.

Chocolates and the fixings for a birthday cake or homemade cookies are in the three-month pantry too. Treats like these can lift spirits during lean times.

Items in the three-month storage are rotated. As new items are added, older shelf contents are used.

In addition to the three-month supply, a long-term storage is kept. These are things that will sustain life and can sit on a shelf for as long as 30 years without spoiling when properly stored. They include dried beans, rice, wheat for making flour, and freeze-dried fruits and vegetables.

Sara Lane of Tunkhannock Township is also a member of the church. Jokingly, Lane wondered if people crave French toast when it snows, because everyone rushes to the store to buy eggs, milk and bread whether they need it or not.

Running out of food during a snowstorm is not a concern for those who stockpile food.
They also keep basic necessities such as water, candles, blankets and a grill or camp stove for cooking.

"It frees you from worry," Lane said.

Lane and her family also have 72-hour kits. These are bags near the door filled with everything the family would need for three days in case they had to suddenly leave the home.

Of course if you end up breaking into the long-term supplies, you are going to have to know how to prepare them. The knowledge of how to prepare dried beans and other foods is essential. Basic, homemade cooking can dramatically reduce the cost of feeding a family, while increasing flavor.

Lane, for example, bakes her own bread. She gets four loaves from a batch at a cost of 25 cents a batch, or less than 7 cents a loaf. Her sister makes yogurt for $3.50 a gallon, and they trade yogurt for bread.

For those who say they don't have time to bake, Lane says it takes five minutes to mix the bread dough, and later, another five minutes to shape it into loaves. "People make time for what's important to them," Lane said.

A long-term pantry is not stocked overnight. The church also teaches members to save money and live within their means, so buying all the food at once is not practical. Instead, they recommend gradual purchases over time. Watch the ads and buy it when it goes on sale.

"It's nice not to worry. It gives you a peace of mind that you can take care of yourself in any circumstance," Whitaker said.

Items with an estimated 30-year shelf life when properly stored, according to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:

White rice
Pinto beans
Rolled oats
Potato flakes
Apple slices

Items with a 20-year shelf life:
Non-fat powdered milk
Dehydrated carrots

The Mormons' estimate of what a family needs per person, per month:
25 pounds of wheat, white rice, corn and other grains 5 pounds of dry beans and other legumes


Monday, February 23, 2009

Recession grows interest in seeds, vegetable gardening

By Bruce Horovitz, USA TODAY

(Here is the original article.)

Hard economic times are acting like instant fertilizer on an industry that had been growing slowly: home vegetable gardening.

Amid the Washington talk of "shovel-ready" recession projects, it appears few projects are more shovel-ready than backyard gardens. Veggie seed sales are up double-digits at the nation's biggest seed sellers this year.

What's more, the number of homes growing vegetables will jump more than 40% this year compared with just two years ago, projects the National Gardening Association, a non-profit organization for gardening education.

"As the economy goes down, food gardening goes up," says Bruce Butterfield, the group's research director. "We haven't seen this kind of spike in 30 years."

At W. Atlee Burpee, the world's largest seed company, seed sales will jump 25% this year, Chairman George Ball estimates. "It's weird to have everyone else you talk to experiencing plunging markets. We're on a roll."

Burpee is taking pains to craft its marketing to fit the times, says Ball. It recently rolled out the "Money Garden," a value bundle of tomato, bean, red pepper, carrot, lettuce and snap pea seeds sold online at With a separate retail value of $20, the pack sells for $10, and under the right conditions, Burpee claims, can produce $650 worth of veggies.

"Seeds are God's microchip," says Ball. But in the suddenly hot world of veggie seed sales, Burpee has company:

•Park Seed. Vegetable seed sales are up 20% this year vs. 2008, says Walter Yates, who oversees the company's e-commerce.

Says Yates, "Every time this country goes through a recession, there is a surge of folks who want to get back to basics."

•Renee's Garden. Business manager Sarah Renfro says veggie seed sales were up about 10% last year and look to grow up to 20%.

"After years of declining veggie seed sales, the whole cycle has completely reversed," says Renee Shepherd, president.

•Harris Seeds. Home garden vegetable seed sales are up 80% from one year ago, says Dick Chamberlin, president. "A jump like this has never happened."

•Ferry-Morse Seed. After 2008 sales grew 5%, the company stocked up on 50% more vegetable seeds to sell in 2009, says John Hamrick, vice president of sales and marketing.

The veggies are apparently squeezing flowers for space in the nation's gardens. Ferry-Morse, along with others, is seeing a decline in sales of flower seeds, and Hamrick says the company has switched its inventory mix from 50-50 to 40% flower seeds and 60% veggies.