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Posts Tagged ‘Apartment living’

After shopping around for bulk survival food https://apartmentprepper.wordpress.com/2010/11/04/survival-food-shopping/ and storage materials, https://apartmentprepper.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/items-needed-for-storing-survival-food/ I am finally ready to start storing.

First, I gathered up all my supplies on the dining table:

  • Food items such as rice, pasta, pinto beans, etc.
  • 5 gallon food grade buckets
  • 1 gallon size mylar bags
  • oxygen absorbers (300 cc)
  • measuring cup
  • iron
  • masking tape and sharpie marker for labeling
  • cardboard to place over the table (under the iron)
  • airtight jar to keep extra oxygen absorbers
  • bay leaves to ward against weevils

The photo shows the mylar bags, oxygen absorbers, masking tape and jar.

  • A few things to note:  Before you start, set the iron to the hottest setting.  Make sure you set the iron on a covered surface to avoid burning.  I used recycled cardboard from a large pizza box, but you should determine what works best for you.
  • While these steps are doable with one person, it is easier to do them with two people, so you have someone holding the bag while the other person is ironing across.  My husband helped me out on this so it went a bit faster.
  • You will need to set aside a solid block of time to do this:  Oxygen absorbers start activating as soon as you open the package.  If you have to stop and leave them for later, you must store them in an airtight container or they will become useless.
  • DO NOT use oxygen absorbers for storing sugar.  This will cause the sugar to harden into a block.

We did the following to steps:

  1. Place one oxygen absorber in the bottom of the mylar bag.
  2. Pour 12 cups of rice (or whatever you are storing) into the bag.  I used a 2 cup measuring cup to as this was quicker than doing it one by one.
  3. Add another oxygen absorber and one bay leaf on top of the rice.  There should be about an inch clearance from the top edge of the bag to where the rice fills up to.
  4. Line up the sides and across the top of the mylar bag flat.
  5. Carefully iron across the top, leaving a 1 inch space open on the left corner.  Don’t worry, the iron will not stick to the mylar, it actually stays smooth.  Do not try to make a fold across the top and iron it:  we tried this and it does not seal as well.
  6. “Burp” the bag to let any remaining air out.
  7. Now you can iron the remaining space and seal it up.  Careful, as the iron can get too hot.  About an hour after we started, we noticed the bags were not sealing as well, then we realized the iron had gotten too hot and the automatic shut off activated.  Make sure your iron does not overheat.
  8. Label the bag with a sharpie pen.
  9. Place the mylar bag in the food grade 5 gallon bucket.
  10. Keep packaging the same food item into mylar bags following the above steps until the bucket is full.
  11. Seal up the bucket.
  12. Label the bucket.  I used a masking tape and wrote the contents of the bucket with a sharpie market.
  13. Store any remaining oxygen absorbers in an airtight jar.
  14. Store the bucket in a cool, dry area.  I cannot store food in the garage as we live in a hot and humid area.  Heat and humidity will shorten the life of stored food.  For now, the buckets are hidden under the dining table with a long table cloth.

The next day, you will notice the bags look shrunken.  This is the oxygen absorber doing its job.

That’s it, the process was actually easier than I thought.

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In my last post about using less of everything, https://apartmentprepper.wordpress.com/2010/09/19/using-less-of-everything-hair-product-update/, I mentioned the next project was trying to use less deodorant.

The main purpose to these experiments is to try using less of common products to make our supplies last longer.  A side benefit is the money saved from not having to buy new supplies as quickly as before.  Regarding the use of antiperspirants and deodorants, many people are concerned about the aluminum content of these products and the effect this may have on health.  Interestingly, I found the enclosed article on MSNBC, “Great Unwashed Raise Stink about Being Clean Enough”  http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/39937951/ns/health-skin_and_beauty/ Is there a trend here?

I am now ready to post the result of the experiment.

I tried the following on different days:

  • Using no deodorant, but bathing daily.
  • Using a natural Crystal Deodorant.
  • Baby powder
  • Baking soda
  • Rubbing Alcohol

I did the experiment on days when I was working from home.   I was the test subject and I also did the evaluation.  As a backup, my family also gauged whether the remedies were effective or not according to the degree of complaints.  The main variable was the weather on various days;  I also tried the remedies on days with no workout, and on days when I did work out.

To my dismay, we had several days of intense heat and humidity in our area.

  • On cooler days (under 80 degrees), with or without a workout, all the remedies worked well.
  • On very hot days (around 85-100 degrees or more), WITH a workout, none of the remedies work.  At the end of the day, I checked it myself and I felt need to run, not walk, for a second shower.
  • On hot days WITHOUT a workout,  a combination of the crystal deodorant and baby powder worked very well.
  • Baking soda applied under the arms worked as well as baby powder on a standalone basis.
  • Rubbing alcohol under the arms is supposed to be a good substitute, as alcohol kills bacteria; this remedy also only worked well on cooler days.
  • On very cool days (75 degrees and under), without a workout, doing without deodorant altogether, with a daily shower actually worked well for 24 hours.
  • During the experiment, I found I was having to wash my shirts after wearing only once, particularly on the intensely hot days.  Therefore we used more detergent on those days.  This gives me an idea that my next experiment will be to try to make homemade detergent to see if is works as well as store-bought.

As a conclusion, the use of antiperspirants/deodorant is only necessary on intensely hot days, as I did not find a substitute that works as well.  So I am not tossing out the underarm products as truthfully, I won’t feel “confident dry and secure” on those hot and humid days.  However, on cooler days these remedies all work very well.  I actually bought the crystal deodorant for everyone in the family as I was satisfied with the result.  I am pleased that we can actually cut down on using antiperspirants or deodorant depending on the weather and level of physical activity.  Just between us, I think the family is relieved that this experiment is over.  🙂

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Last night my husband was showing me how to handle a rifle.  I have had some experience target shooting with a pistol, but this time he wanted to make sure I know how to hold the rifle and use the scope properly.   The rifle was about three lbs., plus a couple of lbs for the scope.  We practiced positioning it correctly, aiming and carrying it around properly.  This morning I woke up and my arms and shoulders were sore.  We did not spend hours practicing, it was only about 30 minutes tops!  But I was using muscles I did not normally work out on a daily basis so I got sore.

When we were trying out backpacks, the store clerk added weighted pillows to the backpacks to position them correctly, and had us walk around for 20 minutes.  At the end of those 20 minutes, my back and shoulders were complaining–I got sore just testing backpacks.   I did not think I was completely out of shape: my normal work out routine includes 30 minutes of walking a day, or about 1 1/2 mile and free weights for about 15 minutes.  But again, the walk is an easy pace, with no backpack to weigh me down.

Which got me to thinking, how prepared are we physically if the SHTF tomorrow and we had to run out of the city on foot, carrying our bug out bags?  Living in the middle of the big city, we would have to travel at least 20 miles to get out,  more if we wanted to get further away.  Our bags would be at least 20 pounds, and we would likely be traveling in 80 degree weather.  It would be pretty rough!  I know I’d be huffing and puffing, stopping every couple of miles.  I don’t know about you, but how far do you think you can get on foot, with a heavy pack, in either heat or cold?  What if you were being chased?  The reality is, even with my usual daily walks to maintain weight,  I am not in good enough shape for TEOTWAWKI.  I don’t know if there is even a way to get in shape for this sort of thing, but I have to try.

So I am changing my workout routine.  I will continue to walk, but will travel longer and longer distances (only in safe areas, and with a weapon.)   I will do more strengthening exercises for arms and legs.   The rest of the family is also on board about getting in shape.  Once we are in better shape, the family and I will go on extended hikes with our heavy backpacks.  If you are considering adding or changing your workout routine, please remember:

  • Get a physical checkup with your doctor, if you haven’t had one in a while.  We did our checkups over the summer, so we know our baselines for weight, blood pressure, cholesterol etc.
  • Start slow:  Walk or bike 10 minutes initially, gradually increasing pace and time as you get used to the routine
  • Listen to your body.  If you are getting too tired, or the weights are getting too uncomfortable, stop, go slower or use less weight.
  • Don’t forget to stretch before and after your workout.
  • Drink plenty of water to keep hydrated
  • If taking walks, stay in known safe areas;  let someone know where you are going and be aware of your surroundings.

If things continue to stay “normal” as I pray they would, in a few months we’d be in better physical condition, maybe even lose a few pounds.   Taking up hiking would be a fun family activity, and if things in the city were to take a turn for the worse, hopefully this gives us a better chance to bug out and run for safety.

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I happily won ModernSurvivalOnline.com’s Cansolidator Giveaway a couple of weeks ago.  The item is the Cansolidator “Pantry” which fits 40 cans and is available from Shelf Reliance (http://www.shelfreliance.com/food-rotation-systems).   I’m not a paid sponsor, just reviewing the item since I have never used a food rotation item before.  As you know, I am always on the hunt for an efficient way to store our supplies, since we are always so short on space in our apartment.

We finally decided on a spot to place it and were ready to assemble the Cansolidator.

Here is what it looked like while sitting on our countertop, right out of the box:

The instructions are pretty simple and I was starting to assemble it when my son got interested and decided he would do the assembly.   I was happy to oblige, as this gave me time to empty out the designated pantry shelf.  I actually found a few cans of chicken stock in the back that I had forgotten about.

Here is the way it looked getting assembled on the floor.

We started inserting canned goods into the Cansolidator and enjoyed seeing the cans slide down the path.  We then emptied it out and tried moving it to the shelf and found that… it didn’t fit! Oh no!  By now my husband was home and wanted to know what we were fussing about.   He measured the shelf and found it should all fit, it just needs to be assembled INSIDE the shelf instead of outside.  So they took it apart again and re-assembled.

Here is the first version:

This configuration was okay but we found a lot of cans were left out.  So they took it apart and again and reassembled into the final version below:


We still had a few cans left over so we stored them in the corner of the shelf.

Overall, the Cansolidator is a good item for organizing your pantry shelf.  I originally had the mistaken notion that it is a space saver.  It is not so much a space saver as it is a shelf organizer.  We checked the expiration dates and positioned the items with the closer expiration dates so it is in front of the shelf.   As far as the number of cans it can fit, it actually fit the same number of cans as when the cans were stacked on top of each other.   However, because you can see more of what you have, it will help avoid waste. It performs well as intended:  a food rotation system.  I found a few cans were close to expiration, so this makes me aware that they need to be used soon.

A few tips if you are planning to use the Cansolidator:

  • Measure your space before assembly, or you will find out the hard way, as we did.
  • Group your cans by brand, size and expiration dates ahead of time
  • The cans you have the most of will likely be housed in the Cansolidator to maximize the space
  • Assemble the Cansolidator in the space it will be housed in.

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My favorite survival cookware are cast iron pans.  For anyone who is unfamiliar with cast iron, they are the black heavy iron pans that have been around for hundreds of years.  They must be “seasoned” or coated with oil or they can rust.  But a pan that is used constantly and kept dry after use will last for generations.

My mother-in-law actually introduced me to cast iron pans.  Whenever I helped her cook anything in her kitchen, I marveled at how the cast iron pans cooked everything so well, retained heat evenly and performed like nonstick pans.  In those days, I used teflon pans, but they peel and shred after a while.  Teflon pans were also found to pose a health hazard.  If overheated, they release a chemical:  perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), known to cause cancer and birth defects in animals, according to a Consumer Reports article.  I tossed out all my teflon pans and asked my mother-in-law to help me find some cast iron pans.

She did not take me to a cookware store; instead she took me to Goodwill.  She said she found the best seasoned cast iron pans there.  In those days, new cast iron pans were not pre-seasoned and you had to work on it a while.  But people would toss them out thinking they were inferior to Calphalon or other name brand cookware.

If you are in the market for one, try second-hand stores like Goodwill first.  Only buy it is if you find a slightly rusted cast iron pan, all it needs is a little TLC.  The same process to salvage it, is the same process to season a new pan.

  • If you have a new pan, just wash and rinse, no scraping needed.  If you are working with a used, slightly rusted pan, wash with a strong dishwashing liquid and scrape out the rust with a steel wool.
  • Dry completely with a dish towel.
  • Coat the pan with cooking oil all over.  I have used vegetable oil, olive oil or peanut oil
  • Turn the oven on low heat, around 250 degrees and leave the pan in the oven for 4 hours.  Do not leave unattended.  It may get a bit smoky if the heat is too high.
  • Turn of the heat and leave the pan in while it cools.
  • Repeat the process over a few months until the pan turns black.  You now have a well-seasoned pan.

As a benefit for us preppers,  they can be used over an open flame in an emergency, and will cook evenly.  Also, use of the pan adds iron to your food, which helps avoid an iron deficiency.  Because they will last a lifetime, you don’t need to spend money for replacement pans.

Cast iron pans are now available pre-seasoned.  You don’t have to go through the process if you don’t feel like it.  Just remember the pan should not be left sitting in a sinkful of water.  It should be rinsed and dried after use and coated with a thin layer of oil.  They are still fairly inexpensive, around $10 for a non-seasoned pan, and about $20 for a pre-seasoned one.

Since I am still new at prepping, I know I still need a few more items to round out the survival cookware.  Leon over at Survival Common Sense has an excellent article about Dutch ovens.  Check it out at http://www.survivalcommonsense.com/2010/09/27/dutch-oven-survival-kitfeed/ .   I have not tried Dutch ovens but will not add it to my list, along with the sun oven.  Once I try them, I will be sure to post about my experience.

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One of the recent comments on one of my postings, from Madmax808 (thanks!), mentioned stocking up on Spam-the canned meat kind, which got me thinking about it so I picked up a couple of cans that were on sale.

For anyone who has never tried Spam, it is a canned meat by Hormel, made of pork shoulder and ham.  It looks like a pink brick when you first take it out of the can.  A lot of people hate it, but there are a great number of fans out there.   My parents actually introduced me to Spam.  Since they were kids during World War II, they grew up eating Spam as a special treat.  Meat was scarce back then so having a little meat, even from a can, was a good thing.  My Mom made me Spam and cheese sandwiches with mayonnaise on white bread up until high school when I got too “grown up” to bring Mom’s lunches to school.

When our family visited Hawaii a few years ago, we found fast food places like McDonald’s actually served Spam, egg and rice for breakfast.  Not sure if they still do, but we tried it and it was pretty good.

Here is the quick recipe:  Slice Spam into thin slices.  Fry in a bit of oil until browned and sprinkle sugar on top.  Serve with scrambled eggs and white rice.  Or, make a breakfast sandwich with Spam, a fried egg and American cheese between two pieces of sliced bread.

There are lots more ways to cook Spam, but these are my favorites.

This is not a paid endorsement and I have no connection to Hormel.  I am always on the lookout for inexpensive foods with have a good shelf life that the family likes.  I think Spam is a worthy addition to the larder, as it is actually pretty tasty if you cook it the right way.


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Last week we heard the Great Recession which began in 2007 actually ended in June 2009.  Just a few days before that declaration, we also read that 1 in 7 Americans lives in poverty.  I am not an economist and don’t claim to be an expert in these matters, but this sure does not feel like a recovery to me.

I have a feeling it can still get worse.  These are already happening (in no particular order) and are likely to continue:

  • Commercial real estate foreclosures
  • Increased unemployment
  • Continued residential foreclosures
  • Increased homelessness
  • Increasing food prices
  • Increase in crime
  • Bank closures
  • Store closures
  • States slashing funding for public programs

Which got my husband and I having a conversation about:  “How bad can it get for us personally if the economy gets even worse?

I had not actually thought about the nitty-gritty details.

First a definition of what is “worse?”  Worse to us would be if we both lost our jobs at the same time, and could not find new jobs right away.  We rent, so there is no house to lose.  We do still need to pay rent on time, or we would get evicted.  So, let’s say we’re both out of a job, that would mean cutting all expenses except food and utilities.  That means no more cell phones or basic cable; our budget would be bare bones.  If we get unemployment checks, we may be able to continue living in our current apartment, but what happens when unemployment runs out too?  We don’t have a lot of family in the area.  If there were no jobs out there, and unemployment benefits are no longer available, we would have to sell everything we own, and move to a one room apartment.  We’d be cramped, but have a roof over our head.  But once the money runs out, then what is left?  That is how families become homeless.

I don’t think I had ever considered the possibility that we could become homeless if things got bad.  But homelessness is happening to many families who have already had the bottom fall out from under them, so I have to think it can happen to anyone.

All the more reason to continue prepping for an uncertain future:  continue to save, store food, water and other necessities, take care of security and acquire a few skills like canning, fishing, etc.  I am grateful we are able to prepare now, to hopefully protect us from this possible worse case scenario in the future.

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