17 September 2011

Prep30: Store Less, Accomplish More, part 3: Baking Soda

Continuing the Store Less, Accomplish More (SLAM) sub-set of posts within the Prep30 series. Each post in the SLAM "mini-series" focuses on a single preparedness item that you can stock and use in many different ways. Whenever possible, we've selected items that store very well, either lasting indefinitely or at least several years.

Use your Prep30 time to become familiar with today's SLAM item, which is baking soda.

As indicated by the name, baking soda (actually sodium bicarbonate) is most commonly used in baking, as a leavening agent. At baking temperatures, or when it reacts with acidic components in batters, baking soda releases carbon dioxide, which causes the batter to rise and gives cakes and breads texture.

You can also use baking soda to make baking powder, by mixing 1 teaspoons of baking soda, 2 teaspoons of cream of tartar, and 1 teaspoon of cornstarch together until well combined. (Both cream of tartar and cornstarch have good shelf lives and alternate uses, making them worth storing too.)

In addition, baking soda is amphoteric, meaning that it reacts with both acids and bases. This leads to a number of other interesting and helpful uses from a preparedness and self-reliant point of view. It can be a fire extinguisher, cleanser, deodorant, or toothpaste, along with many other uses:
  1. Extinguishing fires: Like salt, you can keep baking soda by your stove in case of a grease or electrical fire. Just sprinkle the powder on the fire to safely put it out.

  2. Make toothpaste: A paste made from baking soda and water (or 3-percent hydrogen peroxide solution, if you prefer) can be used as an an effective non-fluoride, whitening toothpaste.

  3. Make your own deodorant: You can simply apply baking soda to your underarms with a brush or powder puff. Alternatively, try mixing four or five tablespoons of baking soda with about 10 to15 drops of your favorite essential oil and then apply it to your underarms.

  4. An alternative to shampoo: In absence of shampoo, try filling a glass with warm water and then dissolving a tablespoon of baking soda in it. When you're in the shower and have wet your hair, pour the mixture through it. Comb your hair well and then rinse thoroughly.

  5. Use as an antacid: Mix a teaspoon of baking soda into a glass of warm water and drink it for a safe and effective antacid to relieve heartburn, acid indigestion, or sour stomach.

  6. Treat insect bites or itchy skin: Make a paste out of baking soda and water, and apply as a salve on rashes, insect bites, and poison ivy irritations.

  7. Make a soft cleansing scrub: Lightly sprinkle baking soda on a damp sponge and to safely and effectively clean most surfaces. For extra cleaning power (such as burnt-on food), make a paste with course salt, baking soda, and liquid dish soap. Apply it to the necessary areas, let it sit, then scour it off.

  8. Clean batteries: Make sure the battery terminals are disconnected before cleaning, and be careful when working around batteries, because they contain strong acid. Make a paste of three parts baking soda to one part water, then apply the past with a damp cloth to scrub corrosion from the battery terminal.

  9. Deodorize trashcans: Sprinkle baking soda on the bottom of your trashcan to minimize trash smells.

  10. Reduce the gassiness of beans: Add a little baking soda to the water before soaking your dried beans to make them more digestible.

  11. Remove the "gamey" taste from wild game: You can minimize or remove the distinctive taste of wild game by soaking it in a baking soda solution before cooking.

  12. Easier processing when preparing a chicken: When scalding a chicken, add 1 teaspoon of baking soda to the boiling water to make the feathers come off easier. It will also make the bird's flesh clean and white.
If you'd like to read more tips on using baking soda, you can find 7 here, 51 here, 60 here, and 75 here. For offline reading, you may be interested in picking up Arm & Hammer Baking Soda: Over 100 Helpful Household Hints by Christine Halvorson.

Baking soda stores fairly well, and the expiration date for unopened packages is typically 1 to 3 years. Like many products, it can quickly lose its efficacy once the package is open. It may only last a couple months, depending on the environment. Keeping your baking soda in an airtight container will prolong its life.

If you have some open baking soda and you question whether it's good, you can test it by mixing 1/4 teaspoon baking soda with 2 teaspoons of vinegar. The mixture should bubble immediately; if it doesn't you'll need to replace it.

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