Archive for the ‘Self Sufficiency’ Category

I had read that prices of wheat products may be rising soon, as Russia is halting wheat exports due to the drought and wildfires.  See http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/38594106/ns/business-eye_on_the_economy/ for more details.

According to news reports, Russia will start their ban August 15th and it will last until the end of the year.  Russia is the world’s biggest wheat exporter so the ban is bound to cause a price increase in bread, pasta and other wheat products.  The good news is the price spikes will not be as high as they were in 2008, but this could still have an impact on our wallets.

I was thinking I should stock up while prices are still reasonable, so I am buying a couple extra bags of flour and a few extra boxes of pasta, crackers and other long-lasting wheat products.   I am not hoarding  outrageous amounts — we don’t have unlimited pantry space, but I am making room for these items to last at least until the end of the year when prices (hopefully) would stabilize.  Part of having the prepper mindset is paying attention to what’s going on in the news and around us.  Even if the price increases don’t affect us,  these are items I would use anyway so they will not go to waste.

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Now is a good time to shop for emergency supplies at a discount.

Back to School Sales

While shopping for school supplies, stock up on glue, duct tape, binders for your grab and go binder and informational binder, notebooks and paper for emergency lists.

Late summer sales at discount stores and sporting goods stores

A lot of camping supplies are on sale, since stores are clearing out stock before the summer ends.  We  went shopping at Academy Sporting Goods, and found they were also having a good sale on backpacks.  Their selection of backpacks was better than the ones I found at Target or Wal-Mart.  A lot of tents and sleeping bags were marked down, along with various camping items such as compass, camp shovels, camp stoves, etc.  These items can supplement the bug out bag nicely.


Grocery stores are also having clearance sales at 50% off or more.  These items are not advertised and do not appear on the shelves.   They are usually found at an out-of-the-way shelf in the corner of the store.  I checked the clearance shelves and found a lot of good first aid supplies:

-antibiotic cream



-burn cream



In addition, I found great discounts on cooking oil, salad dressings and other condiments.   When buying clearance items:

  • Examine items closely-make sure they have nothing wrong with them, such as lids that have been tampered or opened boxes
  • Check expiration dates
  • Consider whether item is something you would normally use or is needed for emergency supplies
  • Watch the price scanner at the check-out to make sure the items are priced correctly

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The green coffee shipment from MREDepot mentioned in my last post https://apartmentprepper.wordpress.com/2010/07/22/nothing-beats-the-smell-of-coffee-in-the-morning/arrived and I now have to find space for 12 #10 cans.  The camp roaster for the beans arrived as well.  The boxes have been sitting in our dining area for a couple of days.  Now I have to find room to store them while waiting to buy the coffee grinder and French press when the budget allows.

As our emergency supplies increase, the storage space required keeps increasing as well.

I posted about space challenges in my June 1st post, “Finding Room for Supplies” https://apartmentprepper.wordpress.com/2010/06/01/finding-room-for-supplies/ I thought we were set with free space for a while, but I spoke too soon.  The small pantry is already full to capacity, including the space-saving shelves that we had installed below the pantry.   What’s an apartment prepper to do?  Get creative!  Every available space is now getting scrutinized.

Here is how we are adding space:

  • Build two horizontal shelves in the laundry room above the washer/dryer.   Checked the apartment lease and adding shelving is allowed, as long as we remove it and leave the wall in the same condition when we move out.
  • Also added a narrow vertical shelf in the corner of the laundry area.
  • Store items inside empty spaces in larger items.  For example, empty suitcases can be used to survival supplies.  Large pots can also be used for storage.
  • Items that can be flattened, such as tent, sleeping bags etc.  can be stored under beds.
  • Added shelves in the garage.

One last thing, keep track of all your hiding places by making a master list of where everything is stored.  This way, if you have to rush out of the house in an emergency, you can gather everything up as quickly as possible.

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During Hurricane Ike we had an extended period without electricity.   I had no access to my morning cup of coffee and I was miserable.

That first morning without electricity, I ransacked the pantry and found some old instant coffee left over from a hotel stay.  (Yes, I admit it, I take home those little hotel coffee packets and shampoos that come with the room.)    I boiled water in the camp stove, mixed the instant coffee, instant creamer and sugar and drank it.  It tasted terrible, but I got my caffeine fix.   This may not seem to be a big deal for people who do not need their caffeine in the morning, but it can be tough for us caffeine addicts.  This means a major headache that lasts the rest of the day.  I decided that next time we have an emergency I am making sure I have my coffee supplies.

Someone might say, why not just give up coffee?  I have considered that, and have cut back on my coffee consumption since then.  I used to drink around four cups of coffee a day, and have gradually cut down.  Now I am down to two cups.  My husband who is a tea drinker, says I would have to learn to give it up, but I am not prepared to do so right now.  Tea is okay, but it is not what I crave.  I know people who like caffeine pills such as No Doz, but those make me jittery, and popping pills is not appealing to me.   A big reason I have not given it up is I like my morning ritual of starting my day with a good cup of java.   I need a little jumpstart to my mornings and the fresh smell is unbeatable.

If there is another emergency, I want to make sure I can brew my cup of coffee even without electricity.

I started to research about long term coffee storage and brewing without old Mr. Coffee.

The first thing I found out is I would need whole green, unroasted coffee beans.  The roasted coffee beans you normally found in the store do not have a long shelf life.  Once it is ground, the shelf life is even shorter and the flavor degrades a couple of weeks after opening.  Keeping coffee in the refrigerator to increase shelf life is a myth-the refrigerator is the worst place.  Freezing does extend shelf life but once you take it out, it is not a good idea to store it back in the freezer as the instability will also degrade the beans.  Once opened, you will need to store in a cool, dry place like the pantry, and use as soon as possible.  To maximize flavor, grind the beans right before using.

I am partial to Kona coffee and was going to order the green coffee beans from a distributor but it was too expensive.   After researching suppliers, I decided to purchase Costa Rican green coffee beans from MREDepot http://www.mredepot.com/servlet/StoreFront.  They are packed in cans with oxygen absorbers and can last up to 20 years.

The next thing needed is a way to roast the beans.  I read that an ordinary popcorn popper would work, but for our purposes, it must work well over a camp fire or propane stove.  I ended up ordering a camp popcorn popper,  from Wisemen Trading http://www.wisementrading.com/outdoorcooking/popcorn.htm.  If you have any suggestions, please let me know and I will test it.

Even if no emergency happens, I will save money on coffee beans, since buying green coffee beans is cheaper than roasted.   An added bonus of having coffee in your emergency supplies is caffeine staves off hunger and helps make you feel more alert when you need to be at your peak.  Coffee is also a good barter item should the need arise.

Next, I will be researching about hand crank grinders that are light weight and sturdy.    I will post on my progress.

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Today we checked our emergency equipment to make sure they will work when we need them.

Emergency lighting

We gathered all the battery-powered flashlights and tap lights from all the rooms and tested them to make sure they work.  Found that several of the batteries had drained and replaced them.  We had bought a crank flashlight a while ago; cranked it a while and found that it works well.


We had bought a hand crank radio and retested it to make sure it functions–it works.  Checked the other battery powered radios in the house that we hadn’t used since since Hurricane Ike and found that the batteries need replacing.

Battery chargers

Plugged in the battery chargers with rechargeable batteries and found they are working well.  We would like to buy a solar battery charger, so we added it to the “To buy” list.


My husband’s and my compass worked fine, but found my son’s compass had a crack in it, so now we need a new compass for him.

Camp stove and propane

We had not used the camp stove in a while, so we dug it up, reassembled it and hooked it up with a portable propane tank.  It works just fine.  Checked the other propane cylinders and found some that did not work at all.  These were brand new from Lowes, so they now need to be returned.


My husband made sure all the guns were cleaned and oiled, also checked the ammunition supply to make sure there is no corrosion or moisture.   Once every two months, he test fires them in a firing range.  Also, he makes sure no ammunition is left in the magazines as this reduces the tension of the spring.  There was a temporary ammo shortage in our area earlier this year so we are low on .380 bullets.  Now is the time to replenish the supply since stocks have been restored.

Checking the equipment today was an eye-opening exercise for me.   A disaster situation would be the wrong time to find out your equipment doesn’t work or you are low on something essential like batteries.  Buying supplies is not enough, they need to be maintained as well.

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Summer is in full swing in Texas.  We wake up to a balmy 80 degrees, then move up to the mid to high 90s later in the day at about 50% humidity on a good day.  I check the balcony garden almost daily.  As this is my first balcony garden, the developments continue to amaze me.

The tomato plants in the Topsy Turvy planter continue to bear fruit.  Although I did notice the tomatoes are much smaller for the mid summer harvest, but they are just as tasty.  I suspect the heat and humidity are causing the fruit to mature at a much faster rate.   The netting I placed around the plants are holding up well, and no birds have eaten any of the tomatoes.

The zucchini plants are flowering quite actively, but I have yet to see actual zucchini growing.  The flowers just dry up and fall off.   This could be because of high humidity or poor pollination due to lack of bees or butterflies.

The mint plants are growing taller but the leaves are quite small; flowers are now turning to seed.

The basil and rosemary plants are doing well.  Other herbs like parsley and green onion are still alive,

The jalapeno and bell pepper plants got flooded in the planter when the tropical storm hit a couple of weeks ago; the pot did not drain well.  I moved the pot to another location to see if they improve.  The stevia seeds that I planted did not grow at all, but I heard that these seeds don’t thrive in the heat, so I will have to try again in the fall.

I feel lucky we have not had too many bugs in the balcony garden, except for a few mosquitoes.  Too avoid getting mosquitoes in the house and attacking the family, I do not go out in the early morning hours, or too late in the day when the mosquitoes are abuzz.

With this week’s  “garden bounty” I was actually able to make bruschetta using a day old  french baguette that got hard and crunchy.  I mixed five chopped tomatoes with chopped basil and parsley leaves, a clove of garlic and olive oil.

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One of the challenges of building up food storage is just getting started and taking action. Just thinking about collecting all that food can scare someone into putting it off. It is easy to come up with excuses, like:
“It cost too much money.”
“We don’t have storage space.”
“It too much time,” OR
“What if nothing happens?”
Unfortunately, there is no denying the need to get started storing up some food, if only for practical reasons such as possible unemployment, not having to run to the market for common ingredients, and short-term emergencies such as a hurricane or a bout with the flu.

I think the easiest way to get started is to start buying multiples of things that family likes to eat. Canned food seems to be a painless way to start: just buy an extra can of a few items such as canned corn, canned peaches or tuna each time you shop. Also buy extra breakfast items such as oatmeal, or cereal to get started.  Before you know it, you have a week’s worth of food. Later, as space and budget allow, other forms of emergency supplies can be added such as MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) and dehydrated food. Just remember to only buy foods that the family will eat to avoid waste. Examine the expiration dates while at the store, and reach in the shelves to find the packages with the latest expiration dates. Rotate the items and use the ones whose expiration dates are approaching.  Once you have a week’s worth of food, then move up to two weeks, then a month, then go from there.

Mark over at Everydaysurvivalguy came up with a good system for building up a year’s worth of emergency supplies, including food storage.   Follow the link on my blog roll.  The series is called “Must Have Preps for the New or Less Committed.”

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Being prepared and becoming self-sufficient is not only about buying emergency supplies.  Learning survival skills if a big aspect of the preparedness mindset.  Since we started our plan to prepare for emergencies, I’ve acquired some new skills:

  • Plant a garden – We have a small balcony garden.   I first planted seedlings bought from Lowe’s, then moved on to growing plants from seed.  NEXT STEP:  acquire heritage seeds and grow a larger variety of plants.
  • Use a gun – My husband has owned a gun for a while; we recently bought a gun for me then went to the shooting range so I can learn to load and fire the new gun.  NEXT STEP: obtain a concealed carry permit
  • Bake cakes and muffins from scratch – I previously used baking mixes, but now bake muffins and cakes from flour, butter, sugar etc. instead of relying on pre-made mixes.  NEXT STEP: Bake bread from scratch
  • Basic sewing – I previously took clothes to the tailor for sewing needs, now I can sew buttons, shorten or lengthen hems, repair a tear, etc.  NEXT STEP: Create an article of clothing.
  • Change a tire – Watched my husband change a tire and practiced doing it after.   NEXT STEP: Change the oil
  • Cut up a raw chicken into serving sizes – I used to be intimidated by those whole chickens and only bought pre-cut pieces.  Now I buy the whole chicken and cut it up myself.   NEXT STEP: Kill and skin a chicken.  I watched my Dad do it, but need hands on practice.
  • Read a map – I previously relied on the GPS, but have since learned to read a map. NEXT STEP: Learn how to use a compass

This is a very small list since we just started our journey.  There are a lot more survival skills we still need to acquire such as building a fire without matches, hunting, fishing, building a shelter, just to name a few.   Learning about survival has shown me how much we take for granted and rely on others to do basic living activities.  It is not easy to give up old habits, but I did find that you save a lot of money by doing things yourself.  Another benefit is I found out that it is fun!

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A few weeks ago I posted that due to hurricane season I added a few more water jugs to the stash, in addition to water purifying methods such as Big Berkey and chlorine tablets. I stored one of these gallon Sparklets containers on top of the fridge.  It seemed like a good idea at the time, since it was easy enough to reach up when needed.   Plus I thought it was secure up there, until today when I opened up the fridge and the water jug came crashing down. Luckily it did not fall on top of my head, but on a kitchen shelf that stored oils and spices. Boy what a huge mess it made: water everywhere, oil, spices and soy sauce spilled all over, and a glass canister filled with sugar exploded on the floor.  I think that repeated opening and closing of the fridge door slowly pushed the water jug out-of-place until gravity took over and down it came.

I was irritated by the whole incident as it took me a while to get it all cleaned up, not to mention the stuff that was broken and wasted.  What a stupid mistake.  Oh the perils of being a newbie prepper.  Well, I might as well learn from it and move on.

  • The spice shelf was cluttered since I basically hate throwing stuff away.  Being a frugal person, I try to hang on to things I rarely use thinking I may need them later.   The truth of the matter is, clutter is the bane of the apartment prepper.  Space is such a premium for us, and clutter takes away space that we can use for emergency stores.
  • Clutter fools you into thinking you have some needed items but you actually don’t.  When I went through the items on the shelf, I thought I had more of some frequently used items such as pepper, but actually did not have much left.  This can be bad if you overlook getting something essential to your daily life and an emergency happens and you are actually out of needed items.
  • I will need to really re-think and evaluate the areas where I store things.  I will store water lower to the floor, possibly in another room.  It will be more inconvenient, but at least it can’t fall down and spill.
  • To free up more space, I am checking other rooms for un-needed items to sell or donate.

Finding space for supplies continues to be a challenge in our small apartment space.  Today’s little mishap reinforces that we need to continue to eliminate clutter and store things more efficiently.

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What would you do without toilet paper?  We have been pondering what alternatives could we possibly consider if a disaster occurs and all supplies of toilet paper ran out.  Being in an apartment, we do not have a lot of storage to be able to accumulate a large amount of any one item.  Also, a large stockpile of toilet paper is not exactly portable in a bug-out situation, and in a shelter in place scenario, the TP supply is bound to run out.  I did some research and found a few alternatives.

1.  Wet wipes or baby wipes

These would work just like toilet paper, but again, a large stockpile would have to be accumulated.

2. Paper Substitutes

I saw a lot of references to using various types of paper.  Newspaper may work, but the ink would turn everything black.   I read other people prefer The Yellow Pages or store catalogs, since the pages are thinner and would not transfer ink to the skin.  Just crumple up the sheet until it softens up, then wipe.

3.  Cloth

Some of the “green” sites recommend using cloth, such as wash cloths, terry cloth or even cloth diapers for wiping.  The method would be to wet the cloth, wipe, then launder the cloth.  Supporters of this idea feel that most people would have nothing against rewashing cloth diapers, therefore personal washcloths should be okay.  I would think it would be a good idea to throw the soiled wash clothes into a bucket of water with some bleach before washing.

4.  Plant material

Some survivalist sites mention using mild or medicinal plants.  Sage leaves were mentioned in some sites, others mention corn husks or banana leaves.  The trick would be to know in advance which plants are safe; you would not want to use something like poison ivy by mistake!

5.  Water

Many countries already use a spray water fountain called a “bidet” which is part of their bathroom facilities.  Since this is being considered in an emergency scenario, we would need an alternative to that too.  In many countries, use of the left hand in combination with pouring water with the right hand is the way to clean up.  The idea would then be to clean vigorously using either a small can, like an empty coffee can or a spray bottle, then dry with a towel.  To avoid disease, one would have to wash the hands well with water or antibacterial gel right after.

Now I am not saying the choices are great, but you gotta do what you gotta do to stay clean.   An informal poll of family members did not result in a majority vote for any of the choices.  The “gross” factor is definitely present, but would have to be overcome in an emergency.  We will keep stockpiling toilet paper for now, and store them efficiently by flattening them for maximum use of space.   Another idea would be to decrease the use of toilet paper by combining with the methods above, thereby extending the life of the stockpile.   In the meantime, we keep our fingers crossed that any TP shortages are temporary, keeping in mind the alternatives above just in case.

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