Posts Tagged ‘Preparedness’

If you are noticing the prices of your usual grocery items are creeping up, you are right.  Commodity prices for such items as wheat, corn, coffee, sugar, etc. continue to increase; we will soon see even higher prices at the grocery store than we are already seeing now.   At the same time, incomes are either getting slashed or staying flat, causing more pain in the pocketbook.  Just look at a few of these links:  Global Food Crisis Sweeps Commodity Markets http://www.shtfplan.com/commodities/global-food-crisis-sweeps-commodity-markets_10112010; Spill the Beans:  Coffee Prices on the Rise http://www.htrnews.com/article/20101006/MAN04/10060629/Spill-the-Beans-Coffee-prices-on-the-rise; This is Starting to Get Very Real http://endoftheamericandream.com/archives/this-is-starting-to-get-very-real-agricultural-commodity-prices-have-exploded-and-now-the-price-of-food-is-beginning-to-rise-substantially-in-the-united-states-and-all-over-the-world

What shall we do to deal with this?  We wanted to increase our food storage for staples such as rice, beans and sugar while prices are still fairly reasonable and not out of control.  We checked out the food storage stores online and there are some deals, but the budget is limited.  I did some calculations and figured it would be cheaper to buy in bulk and pack it ourselves.  So this week we are going to try our hand at “do it yourself” long-term food storage.  We will buy rice, beans and sugar in bulk and purchase five gallon buckets, mylar bags, oxygen absorbers, for storage.

Once I’ve actually done it, I will post about the process in a later article.

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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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Just as flu season is about to start we hear about a new “drug resistant superbug” in the news today.

The bacteria were found in three patients in California, Massachusetts and Illinois; a couple of cases were reported in Canada.  All cases involved patients who got treated in India.  The article implied it was a stomach type bug, that causes diarrhea or urinary tract infections.  The bacteria were resistant to widely used antibiotics and the CDC warned that patients who may have caught the bacteria be placed in isolation.   See Fox news “UPDATE: New Drug-Resistant Superbugs Found in 3 States”  http://www.foxnews.com/health/2010/09/14/update-new-drug-resistant-superbugs-states/

I worry that this types of bacteria can easily spread as people travel by plane all over the world.   The only two recommendations found in the article were:

-Wash your hands.  The bacteria are known to spread via hand to mouth.

-Don’t take antibiotics if you don’t need it, in viral infections, as you body becomes immune to antibiotics the more often you take them.

I am not a doctor, but common sense tells me that we should all try to keep our body’s resistance strong by eating right, taking vitamins, getting enough exercise, and taking care of ourselves the first sign of any illness.  And, this is all the more reason to stock up on supplies such as flu and diarrhea medicines, food, toilet paper, water, antibacterial wipes and other commonly used items so you can avoid having to run to the store if you get sick.

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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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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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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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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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We were watching TV and switching channels last night and a feature on ABC Nightline caught our eye. It had the words “Apocalypse Real Estate” The segment featured a couple of developers selling nuclear war bunkers/retreats out in the desert. I had read about the one in the California desert in a survival blog months ago and now it has hit the mainstream news. The other developer in Florida was selling underground condos deep under the earth, also in a desert I think it was the Mojave, priced at a minimum of $900,000. The interviewer actually brought up the question, “How do you get to the underground condo during a worse case scenario?,” but the answer was a little vague, mentioning it could be by flying, driving or walking.  The newscaster also interviewed a “regular guy” who has been acquiring supplies and has already bought into the California bunker project.

Now I don’t know about you but I don’t have $50,000 to invest in a bunker. Nothing was mentioned about the sustainability of the places, how much food/water stored etc., so I am not even sure I would want one if I had the cash. I think just plunking down some cash does not fully prepare anyone for a disaster, such as acquiring skills, having a survivor’s mindset etc. For example, how would someone who was completely unprepared get to the bunker to begin with? It would just give a false sense of security. Still, if someone could afford these places, and be self-reliant and knowledgeable with skills all at once, then more power to them.

The rest of us will continue doing what we can in our own circumstances to learn, prepare and survive.

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