Saturday, March 18, 2017

Prepping for Emergencies.......Stove/Oven Failure

I just went grocery shopping on Thursday.  I spent $161 on groceries for the next week.  We had made a menu for meals and I shopped from that menu list.  We have a food budget and I need to stick to it this month.

Here is our menu for this coming week:

Friday: St. Patrick's Day
Corned Beef  - Reuben sandwiches/french fries

Tacos/Dad's salsa/Mexican Rice/Green Beans


Fried Chicken/Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Okay, you get the idea.  Again, I shopped using this menu.

Friday morning I woke up and went to make some eggs and sausage for breakfast.  I turned on the stove and lo and behold, NOTHING.  It flashed a bunch of codes on the digital screen and then nothing.  Blank.  I tried again.  Nothing.  I called my husband in to look at it.  Nothing.  I tried to turn on the oven. Nothing.

We called the warranty people (the oven/stove has an extended warranty on it) and they scheduled their first available appointment for next Tuesday.  That was the earliest they had.  We sweet talked them and still that was the earliest they had, but they moved us to the first appointment that day.  No squeezing us in on an earlier day.

So, from Thursday morning until Tuesday we have no oven and no stove.  Let me remind you that I have three teenagers in the house and they like to eat.  They also don't leave the house for school as we homeschool.  So three meals a day are expected.  I cook all. the. time!  I use our oven/stove all. the. time!  So now what???

I took stock of what we had.  I have a crock pot.  I have a toaster oven.  I have a grill outside.  I have a panini maker.  I have a waffle maker.  I have a microwave (that we hardly ever use for cooking).

Friday night's meal consisted of using the crock pot to cook the corned beef, the toaster oven to cook the fries, and the panini maker to make the reubens. Okay, We had that covered.  But tacos? Spaghetti?  Those might be a bit harder.

This is where a little preparation for emergencies come in handy.  Thankfully this emergency I have electricity.  That helps a ton!

I pretty much don't need to rework my menu at all.  I have a grill and that will be a main source for cooking.  I also have cast iron pans and pots.  That is a huge help.  I can put my cast iron on my grill and cook from there.  It takes a while to boil water and it isn't great to boil in a seasoned cast iron but I can use my crockpot for the spaghetti.  A cup or so of water in my sauce and adding the noodles in can make a great "baked" spaghetti in the crockpot.  The tacos can be made on the grill, even better if I pull out a couple steaks and use the cast iron griddle and make fajitas or "street tacos" instead.  I might try to cook the rice in the microwave (always a first for everything).  My fried chicken will become grilled chicken and the roasted brussels sprouts can be done in the toaster oven or even on the grill in my cast iron.  I will have to cook them in batches but that is okay.

For breakfasts I, luckily, just bought a couple boxes of cereal, but we also have regular breakfast items also.  I can grill the sausage patties, cook bacon on the grill in the cast iron if needed and I can make grits in the microwave if wanted, as well as instant oatmeal. Waffles on the waffle iron will be a nice treat as I haven't done them in a while anyway.  This morning we had sausage "biscuits" on English muffins with cheese.  Sausage was cooked using the cast iron pan on the grill and the muffins were toasted in our toaster oven.  I melted the cheese right on the muffins in the toaster oven.  Perfect breakfast.

Lunches can consist of chicken nuggets, corn dogs, fries, and other frozen fast foods in the toaster oven.  The kids can also "resort" to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or ham sandwich or even do grilled ham and cheese paninis or whatever they want using our panini maker. They love a hot meal.

The long and short of it:

I used to use my cast iron cookware all the time when we had a gas stove.  Now we have this "fancy" electric/glass top range and oven.  I don't use them much anymore but I kept them (just in case).  I now can use them on the grill in my "emergency".  I also have a variety of other cooking methods that I have available to use.

Meal planning is great and effective in keeping costs down but keeping a few things on hand just in case is always helpful.  I didn't need to do too much adjusting to our menu by using the equipment we had.

It is easy to declare, "well I guess we will be eating out for the next 4 days!"  But I hadn't budgeted for eating out.  I had just spent our money on groceries that we need to eat.  These are the little emergencies we have happen all the time in our house.  Things break and what we had planned can't be done, hence and "emergency".  This is the type of "emergency" I like to be prepared for.  These are the kinds of emergencies that throw us into a tizzy and bust our budget for the month if we don't have a back up plan in place.

How we can plan:

1. Alternative Cooking Methods: Take stock of what you have.  Think about if your stove/oven goes out.  What can you use for cooking?  Perhaps an easy solution is to have a small savings of cash so you can just go out to eat 3 meals a day for a week.  But we need an alternative to shelter at home not busting our savings until the emergency passes.  That money could be better spent, like fixing the stove or buying a new one.  So look at the appliances you have.  Consider all scenarios: have electricity, no electricity, etc.

2.  Try it: Consider how these alternative appliances will help you or hinder you from regular meal preparations.  Can you quickly adjust to not having your stove/oven to cook on?  Perhaps even try a couple days to not use your stove/oven and see how you do and where you fall short.  Practicing for an emergency, even a specific one like this type is effective in showing you what you need and how you need to prepare.

3.  If you meal plan: look at your existing plan and think about suddenly not having your stove/oven.  Can you adjust your existing plan to accommodate not having that appliance?  How will you adjust it?  Do you need to scrap your plan altogether and replan?

Our grill with my cast iron pan and 2 qt. pot on the side burner.
4.  Stock up:  If you have alternative cooking methods, start to stock up on a week's worth of meals that will use only those alternative cooking methods.  I try to keep several meals in the freezer that we can just thaw and throw on the grill if we lose electricity.  I keep an alternative plan for when the electricity goes out and we only can use our grill.  I keep extra aluminum foil for this emergency so I can cook veggies easily wrapped in aluminum foil or be able to put a "top" on my cast iron pans that don't have a top and continue to grill.  Plastic handles melt on the grill so pans with plastic parts can't be used.  Consider everything when you are stocking up.  It doesn't help to use your grill if your existing pots and pans can't be used on the grill.  Or better yet, if your utensils can't be used over an open flame.  You need metal utensils with handles that don't get hot or pots and pans with metal handles, not plastic.  Stocking up doesn't have to be expensive.  You can typically pick up cast iron pots and pans in thrift stores.  They may look ugly but can be cleaned and reseasoned with a little elbow grease.  There are great tutorials online for doing this. Practicing your plan will also help you with creating a list of things you will need.  Everyone is different so by practicing you will find what your individual family will need.

5.  Additional resources:  If you own and can use your grill, make sure you keep a full tank of propane or a few bags of charcoal.  If our grill isn't available to us we can always start cooking over an open flame in our firepit.  We have a grill rack that we can put over a fire using bricks or rocks to prop it up and use our cast iron pots and pans, but hopefully it won't come to that. We always have a pile of firewood stacked for our fire pit, mostly for enjoyment in seasonable weather but if we had to we could cook on it.  You can even use your oven rack over an open fire if you had to in a true emergency.

Most emergency prepping discusses major events and natural disasters and they are great things to prep for but typically those events are rare.  It is these smaller emergencies that we have occur more often.  If you prepare for these little things along with the bigger events then you won't find you have an emergency when these little events happen.

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