How to preserve blackberries

I love to preserve blackberries.   It’s so easy to insure the great taste of summer in your food preps with just a small amount of work.  Rich in bioflavonoids, vitamin C and antioxidants, blackberries are nutritional power houses perfect for long term food storage pantries.   Here are my favorite ways to preserve blackberries.

How to preserve blackberries.

Preserve blackberries by freezing them.

One way to preserve blackberries is to simply wash them using a 4:1 solution of water to vinegar, allowing them to air dry and then ‘flash freezing’ them.  To flash freeze,  simply lay out the now dry berries on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Pop the tray into the freezer until the berries are frozen, then  package them in a  freezer safe container.   By ‘flash freezing’ the berries first, you’ll be able to simply pour out the amount of frozen berries you need.

simple-ways-to-preserve-blackberries

Preserve blackberries without the seeds.

I prefer my blackberries in a seedless form, especially in smoothies, or my son’s blenderized diet.  First,  rinse the blackberries with the 4:1  water to vinegar solution and puree them in a blender.   With the back of a spoon, push the blackberry puree through a sieve into a clean container. Easy!

how to deseed blackberries

Fill ice cube trays with the blackberry puree, and freeze. Frozen blackberry ice cubes are a fun way to preserve blackberries.    The result is a whole bunch of frozen blueberry puree ice cubes that  can be added to smoothies, to thawed to flavor yogurt,  or as  base for popsicles and more!

How to use blackberry 'ice cubes'.

Preserve blackberries with a dehydrator.

Dehydrated blackberries last for years when stored properly.  Rinse berries in a 4:1 solution of vinegar water  and  allow to air dry in a dehydrator set to Cool.  Dehydrating wet blackberries makes them flatten out.

Once the blackberries are dry,  set the temperature of the dehydrator to 125F and allow them to dehydrate for 18-20 hours.  Blackberries are done when you can easily crush a berry into powder with just your  fingers.

How to dehydrate blackberries

Make Blackberry Powder

Fill a sieve with dehydrated blackberries and crush them with the back of a spoon, catching the powder in a bowl.  You’ll be left with just dehydrated blackberry seeds in the sieve which you can throw in your compost pile.

Sprinkle blackberry powder in  teas and juices.   Shake some into  your daily water intake.  Spoon blackberry powder over your morning oatmeal or yogurt.  Toss some into your smoothie for a ‘grit-less’ drink.

Too busy to preserve blackberries yourself?

I  store cans of freeze dried blackberries in my long term food storage.   A quick trip to  Thrive Life  and you could do the same!

Need more information on how to dehydrate foods?  I recommend Dehydrate2Store.

What foods are you preserving this harvest season?

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5-Gallon Food Grade Buckets

I received a bit of a jolt when entering a local food storage store in search of 5-gallon food grade buckets for several bags of rice and beans I recently purchased for emergency prepardedness.   Over SEVEN dollars for a bucket and lid.  And we aren’t talking gamma lids, here.  Nope.  We are talking just the plain old hammer it down with a rubber mallet type of lid.

As I stood there doing the math for the 10 buckets, mylar bags and oxygen absorbers I would need for the long term storage of my vittles, I also thought of how many more bags of beans and rice I could purchase for that $70.00 I would paying for buckets.

Where To Find CHEAP 5-Gallon Food Grade Buckets For Long Term Food Storage

You can’t eat the buckets, boys and girls.  And then, as if to add insult to injury, I turned the buckets around only to find the store’s logo covering the bucket from top to bottom.  It has always been a pet peeve of mine to have to pay for stuff that serves as advertising for a company.  Think about it.  If I’m going to be advertising for them, shouldn’t they be paying me?

But I digress.

I’ll admit.  I did purchase 4 of the overpriced, logo blasted, desperately needed buckets.  With my medically fragile son, I’m not able to get out as often, and I really needed those buckets.  I justified my purchase by telling myself I only purchased four instead of the ten I truly needed.

And, as I walked out of that store, I proclaimed to all who could hear, that I would never, ever pay through the nose for a plastic bucket again.  While I consider myself pretty lucky that my Mom was the only person close enough to hear my proclamation, once uttered, it still needed to be fulfilled.

My 5 Gallon Bucket Research


Bakeries will usually give out empty frosting buckets.  Yay! for free buckets, but yikes! for cleaning out the greasy frosting residue.  I’ve found that by making a solution of Dawn dish soap and vinegar then spraying it inside the bucket helps clean the frosting out.

Fast Food Joints will often give out empty pickle buckets.  However, the smell of pickles will pretty much forever be in these buckets.  A friend even power washed his buckets out to no avail.  If you are using mylar liners in your buckets though, the smell of pickle shouldn’t be an issue.

Lowe’s carries 5-Gallon Commercial food grade buckets for $4.50 each.

Use food grade 5 gallon buckets to store bulk foods.

My local Walmart carries food grade buckets and lids for $2.97 and lids for under $2.00.  I found them in the paint section, but I looked and they had food grade written right on them.

Look on your Local Classified Ads.  Often people sell 5-gallon food grade buckets and lids they are no longer using.

5 Gallon Buckets Too Much Work?

What?  You don’t want to wash out your own buckets, and the smell of pickles makes you shudder?  Nearest WalMart too far away?  Amazon will deliver your 5-Gallon Food Grade Storage Buckets right to your door step!

Thrive Life: The BEST Freeze Dried Foods

Some of you may not need to store food in the type of bulk that would require purchasing  5-Gallon Food Grade  Buckets.   I get that.   For you  prepackaged freeze dried food would be the perfect option.   Light weight and good for up to 25 years, Thrive Life offers the best quality in Freeze Dried foods that I’ve found.  Through Thrive Life you can create your own food storage pantry, saving both time AND money.

How do you store your  long term emergency food?

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Survival Seeds: Don’t bet the farm on them.

“I bought these survival seeds so that I can grow all my own food when the SHTF”.

I hear this a lot.   Often from people who have never planted  a seed in their entire lives.   Experienced gardeners must be doing a terrific job of making their work look super easy for so many people to figure that if the world were to explode, they could just till up a little bit of dirt, throw out their package of  survival seeds, and viola!, dinner is served.

There’s a whole lot of people in denial out there folks.  A whole lot.

Many of these people couldn’t even tell you what type of seeds are in that survival  seed kit, or if their family even likes those vegetables.

survival seeds

 

How to make the most of survival seeds.

1.  Do your researchHow much land you have will determine the type of garden you’ll create.

Suburban homesteader?   Check out All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew,  Mini Farming:    Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre by Brett L. Markham, and The Backyard Homestead by Carleen Madigan.

Urban homesteader?   Grow what you need in pots!  The years my family spent living in a major city in Turkey we grew in pots on our balcony.  The Vegetable Gardener’s Container Bible will get you started.

Another strategy would be to sprout your seeds for fresh eating.  Ann Wigmore leads the way in teaching about sprouts and their health benefits in The Sprouting Book.

Ready for the Big Leagues?   You’ve got your land, paid your dues and ready to go off grid?  Here’s a few resources to take a look at:  The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery, John Seymour’s The Self-Sufficient Life, and Abigail R. Gehring’s classic, Back to Basics would be good places to start.

how-to-do-the-most-with-your-survival-seeds

2.  Gain some real life, hands on gardening experience……..NOW.

Gardening has always been a part of my life and my husband grew up tending his grandparents  acres and acres of garden. That’s a lot of gardening hours and we still have years that where certain things are total flops.  Let’s face it, you learn from your mistakes.  Take that time to make those mistakes now, rather than in an emergency situation.

3.  Make friends with other gardeners.

Pick their brains for gardening information specific to your location.   Trust me, gardeners love a willing audience.

what-to-know-before-you-buy-survival-seeds

 

Save your own survival seeds!

Every gardener should learn how to save seeds.

The day might come when ordering your seeds on the internet is no longer a possibility.   Suzanne Ashworth and David Cavagnaro’s Seed to Seed:  Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardens., is a must have for any gardener.

 

Want to know my very best advice in regards to creating a plan for using your survival seeds?

HAVE AT LEAST SIX  MONTHS OF FOOD STORAGE ON HAND.
If your personal emergency comes about in the dead of winter, what will you eat?  What will you eat while your garden is making it’s way to harvest?

Food security can’t be found  in a box of survival seeds.   Experienced gardeners would find it challenging to grow everything  to keep body and soul together for a year.   Factor in the amount of physical work growing all your food would require and, well, you get the idea.

Survival Seeds can be an excellent ‘Plan B’

Keep growing those gardens! Plant those fruit trees and berry bushes!   Gardens are a major  component of your food storage plan.   A wonderful, healthy, financial friendly, much needed component, that helps free up much needed cash  you can use to buy your three months supply of what your family normally eats, and then a year’s worth of longer term food storage.

‘Cause thinking when the SHTF you’ll  rip up your lawn and grow everything you need with that box of survival seeds, simply ain’t  going to keep your family fed.

How do you plan to feed your family in case of an emergency?

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Suburban Homesteading

I was talking with a group of friends, each of whom expressing a wish to buy land to homestead on.  I couldn’t figure out why my friends felt the need to wait until they had a bigger plot of land to begin their journey to self sufficiency.    Why not start homesteading in your own backyard?   Right now!  Suburban Homesteading. It really is a ‘thing’!

Let’s face it.  Not all of us are going to be able to move from suburbia into the wilds of Nowhere, USA.   Postponing self sufficiency until all conditions are deemed perfect, could result in being unprepared in an emergency situation.  I’m of the mindset where you do the best you can with what you have now, while following a well thought out plan of where you want to be.  My in between is suburban homesteading.

suburban homesteading

I live on your average 1/3 of an acre in your average suburban neighborhood.  There is a stream that runs through my back yard from April to October that provides irrigation to the farmers living further out.  It used to run heavy and deep, but we’re in a dry cycle right now and it’s been much more shallow the last several years.

My neighborhood consists of about 60 homes and we are surrounded on one side by a private golf course and on another by a fairly busy road.  Luckily we are tucked deeply enough into our neighborhood that we don’t see or hear the traffic.

A few of my neighbors garden.  A few have a fruit tree or two.  A few have chickens.  My next door neighbor has lots fruit trees and also gardens with an eye to feeding his family by canning and dehydrating his bounty.  Most garden for summer salad and October pumpkin kind of reasons.  I’m hoping to change this mind set around here.   I love the idea of lots of neighbors getting together to plan out who will grow what, and then sharing.  This makes even small space gardening more profitable.

People comment on how large my garden is.  But it couldn’t grow enough to keep my family in veggies or Parker in his blenderized diet.  I’d love to turn my entire back yard into a year round garden, but my husband has made his thoughts clear on that one.  sigh.

basil

My Spring garden includes, kale, mustard greens, swiss chard, broccoli, beets and peas.  My summer garden  includes tomatoes, cucumbers, summer squash, beans, pumpkins, winter squash and peppers.

I was finally able to convince my husband to invest in both an apple an a cherry tree.  My next door neighbor has several of both so I know we’ll be fine pollination wise.  I also have raspberry bushes in diverse places and a large section for blackberries.   I have a half whiskey barrel that is home to a thriving black currant bush.  I have huge hopes in being able to score another dwarf fruit tree for the front yard.  Maybe an apricot tree.  We’ll see.

garden 2

Along one side of my lot I have my herb garden.  It’s also home to a few cabbage plants, lettuce, arugula and dikon radishes.  Herb wise I grow sage, thyme, oregano, parsley, basil, chives, rosemary,  peppermint, spearmint, anise, heal all, horseradish, horehound, comfrey, vervain, and a second half whiskey barrel of chamomile.

garden

Does this meet all of our needs?  Nope.  But I’m doing the best I can with what I have on my Suburban Homestead.  You know though, homesteaders are pretty creative and resourceful people.  Even the ones homesteading in suburbia.  As I drew up a plan of what I would need for a year’s supply of garden produce and fruit, I got to thinking.  You probably were able to smell the smoke as my brain cranked up to speed.  How could I increase my harvest?  And before I knew it, I was planning a Fall garden to go along with both my Spring and Summer Suburban Homesteading gardens.

blackberries

It’s a win-win.  More time in the garden.  More fresh, organic food that I don’t have to worry if there is a recall with it’s name on it down the road.

Self sufficiency.  Homesteading.  Food security.    Part of the fun is in the journey that gets you to where you are going.

What goals have you set to become self sufficient?   Is suburban homesteading something you might try?

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15 Minute Prepper: Black contractor bags

15 minute Prepper.  Yup, it’s a thing.  At least around here it is.   We believe in simply preparing.  You won’t find info on how to dig your own bunker here.  Or how to survive a zombie attack with just your toothbrush.  What you will find are solid, simple, tested by us, ways to get your family through an emergency.  Our 15 Minute Preps series will focus on things even the busiest of people can implement within their personal preparedness goals.

15 minute prepper

Today we are talking about why you’ll need  black  contractor bags an emergency as a 15 minute Prepper.  Not just regular trash bags, but contractor grade trash bags.    These bags are 4mils thick and are made to withstand uses normal trash bags would balk at.  Contractor bags take up very little space and have unlimited possibilities.

1.  Make a poncho.

2. Use as ground cover.

3. Seal windows, doors and vents. (You’ll need some duct tape too!)

4. Cut down to size for a make shift diaper cover.

5. Layer between clothing to help keep in body warmth.

6.  Barter item.

7. Dig a hole.  Put a bag in the hole, now you have a make shift sink.

8.  Using duct tape, tape the bags around your pants for snow pants.

9.  Water proof your shoes.  Cutting the bags down to size, cover your shoes with the plastic, using duct tape to secure them around your ankles.

10.   Use as an emergency potty.  Line a 5 gallon bucket with a bag, stick a toilet seat on top and viola! a place to do your business!

11.  Create a wind break, or a bit of privacy.

12.  Using a black contractor bag you can determine wind direction.

13.  Fill with air and tie off to create a simple flotation device.

14.  Use  black contractor bags in an emergency to cover broken or blown out windows from earthquakes, etc.

15.  Fill a black contractor bag up with water, sit it in the sun for a while and then hang it from a sturdy branch to use for a shower.

16.  Use a black contractor bag in an emergency to collect rain water.

17.  Cache your food scraps out of an animals reaching by putting them in a contractor bag and hanging it from a tree.

18. A black contractor bag can be used as a rucksack  to haul clothes, food or whatever else you need.

19. After bandaging a wound, cut out an appropriate size piece of a contractor bag and tape it over the bandage. This will keep it from getting dirty or wet.

20. Use as a ‘wet bag’ for dirty diapers.

Elderberry Syrup Recipe to Boost the Immune System

Elderberry Syrup is one of our family’s go to during the ‘sick season.’   Not only can Homemade Elderberry Syrup help your body  fight off potential colds and flu, it can help jump start your immune system even after you are sick.

Elderberries are naturally high in immune-boosting compounds that are shown to help stimulate the immune system and help you kick the cold and flu more quickly.

We are in the midst of flu season where I live, with the worst months being March and April.  It’s time to make sure we are well stocked up on Elderberry Syrup.  Since I needed to make a batch anyway, I thought I’d take the time to share the recipe with you and show you how easy it is to make.

How to make Elderberry Syrup at home!

Homemade  Elderberry Syrup is cost effective.

Easy Elderberry syrup ingredients!

For the same price as a bottle of Elderberry tincture, I can make several cups of Elderberry syrup, that tastes great!    I’ve purchased Elderberry tinctures that nobody in my house would touch with a ten foot pole they tasted so bad.  This recipe not only tastes fantastic, it will make your house smell heavenly.  Score!

 If you’re under the weather now and need an immune system jump start,  I suggest trying the Black Elderberry Syrup by Nature’s Way.

 

Elderberry Syrup Recipe

Let’s get to it, shall we?

2/3 cups black elderberries
4 cups filtered water
Juice from 1/2 a lemon
2T freshly grated ginger
1t cinnamon
1 cup raw honey  My parents rent out some of their land to a bee keeper in return for fresh honey.  It’s what I used.

Bring the water, black elderberries, ginger and cinnamon to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer and allow contents to simmer until reduced by about half.  This will take about 30-45 minutes.

You do NOT want to add the honey while the other ingredients are still simmering.  You’ll destroy all the benefits of the honey.

Remove pan from heat and allow to cool until it is  lukewarm.  Strain the juice into a bowl.  Toss the used berries into the compost heap.

Homemade Elderberry Syrup jump starts your immune system!

Add the cup of honey and the lemon juice and stir until it has dissolved.  Store in the fridge in a lidded glass jar.  It should stay good for about 2 months

Our family takes the standard daily dose which is 1/2-1 teaspoon for kids and 1/2-1 Tablespoon for adults.  If we do get sick then we up our dose to every 2-3 hours instead of just once a day until we are better.

Do you make your own Elderberry Syrup?

 

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Preps to Look for Each Time You Go Shopping.

I have my long term goals for preparedness items.  These preps include  expensive stuff I’m  saving up for. Preps that will take time for me to reach my goals on, like freeze dried foods.  Then I have the preps that I look for  as good deal on  each time I go to the store.  Preps I wind up making my way through quickly, or want to make sure are as fresh as possible, or might have an extra few bucks to purchase that month.

Canning jars and lids.  About now I’ve used every single canning lid I owned putting up the latest season’s garden goodness.  Purchasing a few hundred canning lids at once isn’t going to fit the budget, so from now until I’m restocked, I’ll pick up a box or two of wide mouth canning jars.  Maybe it’s time to check out the reusable Tattler lids!

Matches, lighters, stuff to start a fire.  I have this fear, in the back of my mind, that I’ll have every prep known to man…….but I won’t be able to start a fire.  Hey.  We all have our weird.

Over the counter medication.  It may be aspirin, AlkaSeltzer, cold medication, or something else.   This helps make sure I’m not only well stocked, but things stay rotated as too.

Preps

Something First Aid.  BandagesAntiseptic Cream.  Coban. Boxes of surgical gloves.  Sterile guaze.  Butterfly strips.  Trauma scissorsMedical reference books.  Fish Antibiotics.  Travel Wipes.

Socks

Bottled Water.   Cause, seriously.

Toilet Paper

Crisco.  The three brick pack to be specific.  No, it’s not the cheapest way to procure the stuff.  *blush*  HOWEVER, I fill a half gallon canning jar up with the pricey little gems, vacuum seal it, and it lasts WAY longer than the cans of Crisco last on my shelves.  And while I’ve read can burn (even rancid) cans of Crisco in an emergency for light, I’d rather not.  Shoot me.

Flashlights and light sticks

Batteries

Maps of your area.

Compass

Sewing supplies.  Needles.  Thread.  ElasticItems to make  repairs with, and items to create new products too. 

Baggies and Garbage Bags

During the year, I’ll switch things up.  If I’ve met my goal in one area, I’ll replace that with a new one.    None of these things are expensive and there’s always something from each category on sale.  You’ll list of things will look different from mine, as we each work to meet the needs of our families.

It really IS possible to prep SIMPLY and a little bit at a time.

*Affiliate Links have been added to this post. 

Renegade Survivalists

It seems as though one’s dedication to prepping is directly proportional to how far out in the boonies one is willing to hide themselves away.  You can’t reach the gold star level of prepping until you’ve removed yourself from a city setting and relocated to an area that is a few warm bodies short of being a  ghost town.  With a medically fragile son, our family will never be able to pack up our wagons and head into the final frontiers of Idaho, Wyoming, or Montana.   We’re adapting in place.  Suburban homesteaders that, if necessary, could put our son in his adaptive wheelchair and transport him on foot to the nearest medical center.  We’re renegade survivalists.

Where I live there a belief in a  ‘Call Out.’  A large group of people  believe that one morning there will be a knock at their door telling them to load up their go bags, foam clothing, white tents, cook stoves, water storage, medic bags, and  years of vittles, into  their trailers and follow the buses up the mountains where they will be hidden from the armies invading from the East and West.

Renegade Survivalists

Nope.  Our family of Renegade Survivalists are working on creating a bug in plan.   We’ll continue to pay off our debt while working to prepare for a variety of emergencies.  But we won’t do it alone.  We’ll do it within a community of like minded neighbors will also be bugging in.  Neighbors that will watch each others backs.  Friends that believe in prepping for a few extra that might not have had the opportunities to prep for themselves.  I’m fortunate to live in a community that has been taught the importance of being ready for the unexpected.

Each Wednesday I meet with a neighbor and  sweet friend,  to work together to build our food storage and other items of self reliance.   We’ve calendared out our year month by month by topic starting with our greatest needs.  We work independently during the week, then meet again to compare progress, go on purchasing trips, and encourage each other to keep going.  We help each other prepare bulk purchases for long term storage.  We run through possible scenarios and bounce ideas off of each other.

My married kids, and parents all live close.  We have our plans in place for what to do if the SHTF at a time that everyone is at work.  My parents have everything at their home that Parker would need during a long emergency.  They are also Renegade Survivalists.

When I read about WWII what stands out to me is that there wasn’t just one way families survived.  There were many individuals through their own ingenuity made survived the war.   Making use of what they had available and relying, if needed, on trusted family and friends, they were able to hold on and find themselves still alive when the war ended.

Interestingly, as I’ve read stories of survival within concentration camps during World War II, the survivors talk about the importance of community in keeping them alive.  Others that had their backs.  Networking.  Sharing.  Yup, even within the hell that was Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, Dachau, Buchenwald, community often meant the difference between life and death.

Not everyone will be able to bug out. Not everyone can simply put together an off grid utopia where no other man dare venture.  In the boonies, with no other support systems, means that you must be able to do it all by yourself.    This is why being prepared to hunker down in a home is not only an important, but viable option as well.

What are your plans for a SHTF situation?

Food Freedom

Food Freedom.  There is a growing movement by farmers and consumers in Utah that believes people should be able to buy and sell their foods freely.  I agree.   Especially as Michigan’s residents just lost the right to  keep chickens, bees and small animals.  Anyone else notice a theme with Michigan lately?  Holy cow.

I’ll admit that I’m not often found on the same side of an issue as  the Libertas Institute.  But this is one issue I support fully.

Protect Food Freedom
Image used with permission:  FoodFreedom.org

What does the Food Freedom Act do?

  • Restores your right to buy and sell local foods.
  • Provides greater access to fresh, local, healthy food.
  • Removes all state oversight for direct producer to informed end consumer food sales.
  • Any food may be sold as long as there is only a single transaction between a producer and an informed end consumer (except for meats as described below).
  • Producers must inform the end consumer that the products sold under the Utah Food Freedom Act are not licensed inspect or certified.
  • Raw milk, or any milk products are allowed.
  • Poultry is allowed, all other meats must follow existing laws and regulations.Food FreedomImage used with permission.  Libertas InstituteIf  you live in Utah PLEASE take the time to sign the petition, which will then take you to a link letting you know how to reach your local Representative and Senator to ask them to also support this proposed legislation being sponsored by Representative Marc Roberts.   It takes all of 2 minutes.What is it like in your state in regards to keeping chickens, bees and small animals.  Does it support your right to buy and sell local foods?

How to tell if your baking powder is still good.

You are right in the middle of creating a culinary master piece.  Your mouth is watering as you reach for the last ingredient your recipe requires.  In your hand is a container of baking powder, recovered from way in the back of your cupboard.  You wonder when you used this last.  Heck, you wonder when you bought this.  How long does baking powder last, anyway?  All you need is to put dead baking powder in what you are making and have the entire thing flop.

baking powder

You sniff the baking soda.  But what is baking soda supposed to smell like, anyway?   You taste a bit.  That’s didn’t help.  How do you know if baking soda is still good?

Well, lucky for you, Simply Preparing can help!   To find out if your baking powder is still good, simply drop a teaspoon of the stuff into a cup of hot water.  If it bubbles heavily, you are good to go!  If not, it’s time to get a new can of baking powder.

But, you’re in your favorite holey jammie pants and that messy bun of yours is hiding more than just a bad hair day?

We’ve got ya covered.  Here’s a simple replacement recipe:

Mix 1 teaspoon baking soda with 2 teaspoons cream of tarter.  Ta-da!  Problem solved!

Want to make a big batch and store it?  Just stick to the ratio of 1 part baking soda to 2 parts cream of tarter.  But now you’ll want to add one part of corn starch or arrow root powder too.  The corn starch/arrow root powder will absorb any moisture and keep your new created baking powder from clumping.  Plus, there will be NO aluminum to worry about!

What culinary delights do you use baking powder in?  When was the last time you checked to see if yours was still good?