How To… prepare a first aid kit.

This is going to be the first in six installments where I will explore six kits we could use in various situations as housekeepers. It falls on our heads to be ready for most eventualities, especially when they happen on our threshold and a small, easy to locate, well-organized, well-stocked box will really come in handy when you need to think fast and save the day!

The first kit is a first aid kit. This is an essential in any household, but few people go beyond the basic sets you can buy in the pharmacy, a box of plasters and a few painkillers. But even if you find it hard to think ahead when it comes to illness and injury, there are some simple measures you can take to make an awesome first aid kit.

1: The container.

The first step is to prepare a suitably sized container for your kit. None of that tiny, easy, cutesy nonsense. That was fine for your first scout camp, but when you have a real problem on your hands, you need to be well stocked. We actually have an entire shelf in a cupboard dedicated to our first aid gear. That’s how big we’re talking. You will want to stockpile the basics and be storing heavy-duty things, like heatable and coolable packs, compresses and emergency surgery kits. You need the space.

If you can’t take over a cupboard, consider a child’s suitcase, a storage box or even assorted tupperware boxes, all properly marked and organized, of course.

2: The grab-bag.

But what about those times when you need something soon or often? For that we will create a mini-kit, a grab-bag of assorted items you may need in a pinch. This should be the size of your standard household first aid tin or small lunch bag.

It will contain antiseptic wipes and/or spray, a small selection of plasters and sticky bandages, a nail kit and anything else you may need suddenly or urgently, such as an adrenaline shot if your daughter is seriously allergic to beestings.

3: Basics.

The basics are what we first think of when we talk about first aid. You will want two stashes of these: a stockpile in the main cupboard/container and a small selection in your grab bag.

Antiseptics. For any small cuts or animal bites.

A nail repair kit. Tweezers, nail file, small scissors and clippers. All very useful in the event of torn or damaged skin or nails.

-Simple painkiller. Paracetamol is wiser, as too much aspirin is a blood-thinner. But do make sure to have a selection.

Plasters. Everything from those tiny dots to a huge roll of plaster tissue.

-Sticky bandages. For more serious cuts than plasters can help with.

And those are your bare essentials.

4: Cold and Flu.

Colds and flus are inevitable. Sure, if you look after yourself you may get to a point where you get one a year and all it feels like is a stuffy nose, or even where you don’t get ill. But not everyone will or can get their immune system that strong and these people wander in and out of your life and home fairly regularly. Therefore, we need to be stocked in case of cold and flu.

-Congestion relief. Inhalers are very good, but nasal sprays can also help.

-Throat relief. Soothers and cough syrup.

Vapor rub. Good for handkerchief rubbing and for little ones with blocked sinuses.

Spare packs of tissues. Nobody ever has enough.

Vitamin chewies. To help prevent them from catching anything else whilst they recover.

5: Sports.

Again, you may be one of the least physically active people in the world and still get tennis elbow. And others around you will almost certainly get sprains, tears and twists even when you don’t. So you will need to be prepared for them.

Freezable pack. This could be as simple as that sponge-in-a-Ziploc trick or even a camping freeze bag.

Warmable pack. Rice bags are really easy to make and helpful.

Cool and heat sprays. For instant relief.

-Compress bandages. Usually just two long ones are enough, but you may want a specialized knee, ankle and wrist one too.

Ibuprofen gel. For swelling and pain.

Rehydration salts. Great for recovery, also usable in cases of extreme enteritis.

6: Bandaging.

Anyone can get cut or injured. Anyone can fall over, have a piece of furniture land on their foot or be bitten by a large animal. So bandaging gear is an essential.

Simple sterile gauze. These bandages come in little sterile packets and are very useful.

Bandaging. These come in rolls and are used for compressing wounds or broken parts into place.

Butterfly stitches. Little sticky stitches, good for holding things together as a temporary fix.

-Sewing kit. Sterile needle, proper thread, sterile tweezers and scissors.

Dissection kit. Sterile scalpel, tweezers, scissors, etc. Good for cleaning up messy wounds before bandaging or stitching and removing glass or deep splinters.

7: Epipens.

If you or a member of your household has a serious allergy, you will probably have an epipen anyway. These are measured adrenaline shots to keep people alive through an allergic reaction.

But as long as you know someone who has a serious allergy, it may be best to keep an appropriate epipen at hand at all times, just in case. Be warned, they expire. So keep an eye on them.

8: Gadgets.

Anything technological that may need batteries recharged, to be kept dry and safe or replaced after a few years.

-Assorted thermometers. Oral, ear, rectal, baby.

-Massager. A godsend when you need one. Just get something simple, like those insect-like ones.

Blood pressure monitor.

Blood glucose checker and strips.

9: Specials.

These are assorted items you will use rarely and that aren’t part of a treatment program, but that it’s best to keep in the back of your kit, just in case.

-Heavy duty painkillers. Codeine, for example.

-Headlice killers.

-Worming pills.

-Something to induce vomiting. When you need someone to vomit, this is vital.

-Fire blanket and burn cream.

10: Personals.

Anything you need that other people may not. Have a look at whatever illnesses or disorders run in the family. Some homes may need a defibrillator, some may need omega oils, some may need a couple of epipens handy. Make sure you have everything you need and put it into the right area.

11: Information.

All the literature you might need. I’d recommend a clipboard with a sheet of expiry dates for easy access, a first aid book for all emergencies and any books on the local wildlife and what may be poisonous where you live.

Once you have collected all of this, be sure to keep it organized. Tupperware boxes or makeup bags make great mini-kits, so that all your bandaging, painkillers or flu treatments are together. When you use it, make sure to put everything back where it came from and make note when something needs replacing or restocking.

And that is your first kit! Be sure to check in next week to find out how to design a kit for when you are depressed or otherwise “down”.

Until then, feel free to share your suggestions for the kit in the comments!

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

Essential Kitchen Utensils and their Uses.

Everyone has an assortment of different utensils, gadgets, gizmos and tools in their kitchen. Some just have a single, generic frying pan, a single, generic pot and a few stirring and serving utensils. Some have an entire armoury of kitchen paraphernalia. Some have a number of items passed down generation upon generation. Some have everything right up to date. Some have a kitchen full of new and interesting gadgets. Some try and stick to what they can work with their own hands.

So, what’s my kitchen like, then? Well, like most people’s, it’s a bit-of-this and a bit-of-that. Pretty much everything I have is used regularly or becomes vital whenever I use it. I’m not a big one for gadgets and generally like to stick to the good old fashioned stuff.

So, here’s some of the things I have in my kitchen and what I use them for.

 

1: Electrical Goods.

-Microwave with actual settings. A step up from just a heat dial and a timer. For porridge, reheating drinks and reheating food, largely. Really good if you want to warm gelatine right through, reheat a coffee or help something defrost. Far superior to a microwave with five settings and a timer you can’t actually set to anything precise.

-Hand-held blender. Whenever I make soup, ice-cream or smoothies, this bad boy comes out. Perfect for everything, easy to clean and brilliantly quick to get ready for use.

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2: Slicing.

-Several sets of knives. You never own enough knifes. At the least, you should have a heavy chopping knife, a long, thin, sharp knife, a paring knife, a coring knife and a serrated knife. I’m still missing a very heavy Chinese cleaver, which I’ll have a look at getting soon. But by having all of these, you will always be able to slice up anything you need doing. And, trust me, having cut steak with a vegetable knife and carrots with a fish knife, there’s a difference. Also make sure to have a sharpener handy. Rule of thumb: the better the knives, the better the sharpener should be and the less frequently you should need to use it.

-Rolling grater. Seem to have died back in popularity since the 90s, but infinitely useful. Just put the grater you’re using into the hole, attach the handle, press the food you’re grating into the top and turn the handle until it’s all grated. So much less mess and less risk of cutting yourself than a normal grater.

-A vegetable peeler. I use mine largely for slicing hard vegetables like carrots and potatoes into thin slices. If you want to make a stir-fry, courgette noodles or home-made crisps, a hand-held vegetable peeler does a better job than most mechanical slices.

-Strong-handled multipurpose scissors. I can’t count the ways I use these, even in one day. They open thick or thin packets, crack chicken bones, slice bacon, cut up herbs and greens, remove twine… Anything you need to cut up quickly and neatly, they can do the job.

 

3: Pots and pans.

-Two pots, two frying pans. One big enough for 2-3 servings, the other for 4-5. Also helps when you need to fry or boil multiple things. It makes a massive difference, being able to make a dinner and a lunch in one pot, or a properly sized paella or tortilla.

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As a side-note, I love the layout of my pots and pans. Kind of abstract and artsy. Also saves space. A lot of space. 🙂

 

-One huge cooking pot. Our bad-boy can hold up to 12 portions of any given dish. The use is typically for perma-stews. We have two around this size, but one is sufficient.

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-A wok. Woks are brilliant. The shape of them transfers the heat and interacts quite differently with the food than a normal pan would. It makes them perfect for dry-frying things, steaming things and stir-fries.

 

4: Baking trays.

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-One deep one (not depicted) for meatloaves, breads, jelly, etc.

-One cupcake one, for quiches, mini-tarts and pies. You can also use it to set chocolate in.

-One flatter tray, for normal-sized tarts, flat cakes and flat breads.

-A couple of entirely flat trays for cookies, bread, baked potatoes and other things where you want to minimize difficulty in removing and risk of sticking.

-A very deep tray, for roast dinners and vegetable bakes.

-Something with a grill attachment on it. For grilling and cooking things you REALLY don’t want to stick.

 

5: Assorted cooking utensils.

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Try and have a copy of everything in metal. So I have my wooden spoons, but also metal spoons; a plastic potato-masher, but also a metal one.

-Stirring spoon/s.

-Serving spoon/s.

-Ladle/s.

-Potato masher.

-Tongs.

-Spatula/s.

 

6: For eating.

-An endless supply of cutlery. Trust me, forks and teaspoons do a disappearing act when you least expect it.

-A pint glass and a 250ml glass for every person in the household.

-At least two dishes per head in every size. This is to guarantee that you’ll have one if one breaks, or is mislaid, or if you have a guest. There’s two of us, so we have four giant plates, four big plates, about six small plates, two small bowls, four large bowls, two rimmed bowls, two sushi bowls and two terrines. (Not all depicted.) As you can see, we could do with a few more of some of them, but we rarely have guests who we wouldn’t just serve a giant plate of food to (we rarely have guests that would want anything more [or we rarely have guests, full stop]).

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-A nice dinner service. For parties and guests who want that sort of service. Doesn’t need to be expensive, just nice.

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7: Random kitchen paraphernalia.

Things you never imagined you would need, but that take the strain off so many jobs that they’re worth having.

-At least two sizes of funnel. This saves you so much time with bottling and jarring things.

-Measuring spoons. They’re not used too often, but when following a recipe or dosage they’re very useful.

-Assorted chopping boards. I have one in wood, one in plastic and one in glass. This is to minimize damage to each. Heavy cleavers are best used on plastic or wood, bread is best sliced on wood, glass is more hygienic and easy to clean…

-Many assorted tupperware boxes and water bottles. Two in every size you use would be optimal.

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-A pestle and mortar. Better than buying grinders for every spice you need to grind.

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-Scales. We have one small and one large, but having one that goes up to 2kg should be all you need. Also, digital scales can be better, but I prefer the old ones that don’t need any electrics to run them.

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-Save all decent glass jars for pickling, brining and canning. That way, whenever you want to make a jam you don’t have to buy/find/borrow one.

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-Keep a small jar or pot for every type of fat you cook with and every type of thing you cook that produces fat. This way you can save the various fats and use them for frying, flavour and gravy-making.

Lamb fat, lard, olive oil, tallow, chicken fat. Cutesy animal faces optional.

Lamb fat, lard, olive oil, tallow, chicken fat. Cutesy animal faces optional.

 

Of course, I’m missing some of the things I consider essential and am trying to get my hands on some. You can do without them, if you must. In fact, one deep pan, a plate each, a teaspoon, dinner spoon, fork and knife each, a chopping board, a small knife and a wooden spoon could do you if you try hard enough. But having all of these makes life easier and they’re not particularly expensive.

And I also own random things I rarely put to good use or plain don’t need, such as my slow-cooker, salad mixers and pint-sized coffee mugs.

 

What other essentials would you add to the list? What ones would you take away? What kitchen gadgets did you buy on a whim are now sitting in your cupboards? Or perhaps you’re a proud owner of a banana slicer or have a travel mug that actually works? Please share in the comments. 🙂