Posts Tagged ‘Organization’

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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As we continue building our emergency supplies, a question that comes up frequently in conversations is, “What if nothing happens?”  Would this have all been a waste?

Part of this question is rooted in the whole Y2K experience, where a number of people were expecting a big disaster to happen, only to wake up on January 1, 2000 with everything humming along normally, nothing to see here… move along…  Then the media publicized stories about the folks who had sold everything to move to a retreat only to abandon their supplies a year or two later.  It seemed like one big waste.

I would disagree that this could all be a waste if nothing happens.  Actually, it would be preferable to me if nothing happens and I still have all my supplies.  I personally hope that things stay “normal” and that the s**t never hits the fan!  But I would still continue to prep!

That is because:

  • Prepping actually helps save money.  Because we are buying necessities in advance, we are able to take advantage of sales and can wait it out when the items are not reasonably priced
  • Prepping has helped me save time.  Again, having commonly used items in the house eliminates having to run to the store because something ran out.  When you go by “Two is one and one is none” you always know you have the item on hand and can go back to the store at your leisure.
  • We have become more organized since we started our journey into preparedness.  We’ve eliminated clutter in our home and have become more efficient in our storage efforts.
  • Prepping and frugality go hand in hand.  Though it seems to be a contradiction at first, since you know you have to buy stuff and gear in order to prepare, we have become more frugal in the long run.  Because we examine the value of every purchase, we have gotten better at separating “needs” from “wants.”
  • We are learning valuable skills that help us in the long run.  I picked up some sewing skills and hemmed my son’s “back to school” outfits myself, which saved both time and money.  Learning how to process green coffee beans and brew a fine cup of coffee without electricity was a great experience.
  • We are teaching our children those same skills and learning to “Be prepared always” is a valuable lesson for them.

Emergency supplies will not get wasted as long as you are vigilant about rotating your stocked items.

I consider emergency supplies the same as having insurance.  We have insurance for everything else.  Health, car, dwelling and life insurance are all premiums we pay without worrying about “what if nothing happens.”  The way I see it, better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.

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Since this is a long weekend we decided to do a few extra activities to improve our emergency preparations.

The news is not looking any better, with the mainstream msnbc.com proclaiming “Experts see trouble ahead for developed world” http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/38994476/ns/business-eye_on_the_economy/ and Yahoo outlines “5 Doomsday Scenarios for the U.S. Economy” http://finance.yahoo.com/family-home/article/110581/5-doomsday-scenarios-for-the-us-economy.  Any one or a combination of these scenarios can instigate the dreaded double dip recession.  Then there was the 7.0 earthquake in New Zealand at 4:35 a.m. on Saturday in which many residents ran out of their homes in their pajamas to escape the surrounding chaos.  See  a first hand account:  “We were all screaming – we got the animals and ran” http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/38996925/ns/world_news-asia-pacific?ns=world_news-asia-pacific.  This article just reinforces the need for a bug out bag, because an emergency can happen at any time.

This weekend we are doing the following:

  • De-cluttered one closet and donated unused sheets and comforters that were occupying a lot of space to make room for emergency supplies.   Just a fact of life for an apartment dweller:  while living in a small space, we have to continually de-clutter and move things around
  • Gathered all the non food emergency supplies such as flashlights, battery and crank radios, First Aid supplies and manuals etc. and stored them in the now empty closet
  • Clip coupons and head to Target to stock up on over the counter pain relievers, allergy medicines, cold and flu remedies, toilet paper and other personal care items.  Flu season will be here soon!
  • Checked expiration dates on water stored, noted the dates with a sharpie and rotated those jugs that are soon to expire.
  • Cleaned out the balcony garden.  Everything has withered in the extreme heat.  Today we cleared out all the dead foliage.  I may plant herbs for the fall.
  • Decided on the next project:  to learn how to can, and borrowed books from the library on canning.  Next, I will have start gathering up the materials such as canning jars and utensils as the budget allows.

Have a safe and fun Labor Day!

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Is it just me or is anyone else feeling an urgency to prepare lately?

This past week my husband and I were noticing none of the financial news sounded good.  Today’s report featured a record number of people are raiding their 401k pension plans due to unemployment, foreclosure or just to get by.   I know the country’s financial picture has not been good for a while, but this week seemed worse than before.  Unemployment continues to be high, foreclosures and bankruptcies are also at historic highs and none of the fixes seem to work.  Adding to the unsavory mix is the threat of the double dip recession, with even more jobs being lost, possible inflation, deflation OR both–enough to keep you up at night worrying about the family’s future.  I confessed I was starting to get that insecure feeling that we need to “step up” our emergency supplies.

Then I read Survival Mom’s post, “Prepare Now Like There’s No Time to Waste” http://thesurvivalmom.com/2010/08/16/prepare-like-theres-no-time-to-waste/ and FerFal’s “There Will Be Poor…Don’t Be One of Them”  http://ferfal.blogspot.com/ and I felt like these articles were echoing the conversation we just had about increasing our efforts to prepare.

To allow us to buy more emergency supplies, we need to free up additional cash from the already stretched budget so we are taking the following steps this week:

  1. Re-evaluating each budget expense to determine if we can lower the expenses further.

During my break at work, I called the cable/internet company and spoke to the representative about needing to lower my bill.  We went over each charge and I was honest and  told her we really needed to cut back but that I would go home, think about it and discuss with my husband.  I did not intend to cancel the service but the rep said, “I can give you $20 off for 6 months to retain your account, would you accept that?”  I asked her, what’s the catch, she said nothing was needed from me.   I was really surprised and pleased with this offer so I took it.   I told her we may still lower the services if we decide to, but she still gave me the discount anyway.  We will also try choosing a lower plan with the cell phone company.  We are locked in for another year and do not intend to cancel, but it doesn’t hurt to ask how we can lower our bill.  We also eliminated a couple of magazine and online subscriptions.

2.    Cutting back on eating out.

Being working parents, there are occasional nights when things get busy and we end up eating out.  Now we will cook several meals in advance during the weekend to have enough to cover week nights.

3.     Clearing up clutter and selling off unused items.

We hope to sell off books, computer games etc. and add to the emergency fund.

4.     Reviewed our 401k statements and moved the funds to “safer” types of investments such as money market funds.  The interest rate in the safer funds is minimal, but I can sleep at night knowing the value will not sink any further.  This is not investment advise, please evaluate your own situations or talk to a trusted financial advisor before making any changes.

5.    Avoiding waste in electricity, water and food consumption.  We unplug “vampire” appliances such as TV, DVD players etc that continue to use power even when turned off.  This should lower our bills and free up more cash for the emergency fund.

Our local paper today reported on the increasing number of homeless children in Houston.   Many of these families lost their homes to foreclosure, stayed with family and friends for a while until they ran out of places of stay.  It breaks my heart to hear about children having to suffer like this and hope to continue or increase our donations.

I’d like to be optimistic by saying “Things will be better soon.”   But saying it will not make it so.  It is my hope that we all prepare now rather than regret doing nothing should things take a turn for the worse.

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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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It’s already happened to me twice.

A couple of years ago, on July 4th weekend, we were doing some grocery shopping for a family barbeque.  To pay for the items, I used a debit card and it was turned down.  I was mortified and mystified at the same time, since I knew the account had funds.  I ended up paying with cash.   When I called the bank, the security department informed me that several charges had appeared against the account all at once from all over town so they had frozen the account. I checked online and I found about 30 miscellaneous charges, ranging from $30-$70 from different stores.   The account indeed, had been hacked.  That weekend, we had no funds available, as we only had that one bank account, and the credit card was with the same bank and they shut that off too.  We only had around $40 cash and that had to last til  the weekend was over.  I believe the account was compromised by a PayPal transaction after an Ebay purchase we had made.  We ended up closing it and opening up a new one when the branch was open.

We had learned from our mistakes and established multiple (free) checking accounts for various purposes:  online bill pay, online purchases, and a separate one for fixed expenses such as rent.   The account that is used for online purchases does not have a lot of funds.  Our other accounts are NEVER used for debit card business.  I know credit cards are better for online shopping or travel but we avoid credit cards since are trying to pay off debt.

Fast forward to the present…  This past Fourth of July weekend (again!) I was checking over the bank accounts online and found a suspicious transaction.   A payment was made to an online dating service, UK branch, against my debit card, along with international transaction fees.   Now I know I did not make that charge, and never have had any dealings with any online dating service, now or in the past, much less the UK branch.  I believe that some hacker is testing to see if they can make transactions against our account unnoticed, so they can make further withdrawals.  I called the bank’s security department and they immediately shut down that debit card.  I am now checking daily to make sure no further transactions occur.  So far so good.  I am not too worried this time, as very little cash is in that account, and the bank indicated they will restore any funds missing.  I may never know for sure how they got into the account, it could have been from an online transaction.

The bottom line is, anyone can be victimized by these identity thieves, and they can come from anywhere, even internationally.

Take steps to protect yourself:

  • Use only one designated debit or credit card for online transactions  so you can easily track your purchases.  If using a debit card, do not keep a lot of cash in that account to minimize damages.
  • Make sure the site you are buying from is secure.
  • Monitor your accounts every couple of days, or at the very least once a week to catch any suspicious transactions.
  • Contact your bank immediately if you spot any discrepancies.
  • Shred all documents, pay stubs, letters, statements that have your name or account numbers.
  • Be very selective about giving your social security number, birth date, phone number.  Unless the requestor gives a valid reason, just say, “No I don’t share that information.”
  • Keep enough cash in the house to cover a few days worth of expenses such as food and gas
  • Order a free copy of your credit report annually to make sure no new accounts have been opened in your name

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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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It is getting trickier to find room in the apartment to store supplies.  So we have started organizing our space to make more room.  We can’t keep buying more preps until we find a place to put them.  Here are a few things we have done:

–Bought a small inexpensive shelf to take advantage of empty space under the pantry.

–Cleaned out the garage by donating stuff to Goodwill and throwing out old files.  Sprayed insecticide in the corners to keep bugs away.

–Sold off our old washer/dryer which freed up a lot of space and generated extra cash.

–Now that the garage is clean, we were able to move camping equipment down to the garage.

–Checked through our closets for clothes we hardly use.  I was able to return a gift blouse to the store and got store credit.  Giving away some hand me downs to the cousins, and donating the rest to Goodwill.

It felt good to un-clutter.  Now we can move forward in supplementing our supplies.

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I was talking to my brother recently and buying supplies for emergencies came up in the conversation.  He said he has the usual 72 hours worth of supplies.  I asked him, “Don’t you want to stock up more?”  He said, “As long as it doesn’t cost me more money.”  Money is tight for everyone and it is not easy to come up with extra cash.    Plus, we avoid credit cards like the plague, so we have to be creative.

Here are a few ideas:

–Set aside $5-$10 of the weekly grocery budget to buy extra cans of soup, canned meats or extra gallons of water.  Use coupons and take advantage of sales to get the best deal.

–If you have tax return coming up, then save some of that for supplies.

–Sell your used stuff on Ebay or Craigslist.

–If you receive any store gift cards such as Target or Walmart, or birthday cash,  use them to buy extra supplies.

–Cut down on some of your regular controllable expenses such as eating out or entertainment and apply toward prepping.

Now that  preparedness is a new priority for us, we are always on the lookout  to find ways to raise up some cash to buy supplies.

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