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Posts Tagged ‘Self Sufficiency’

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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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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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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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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A while ago I posted about trying to use less product to make our stored items last longer.  See https://apartmentprepper.wordpress.com/2010/05/30/using-less-of-everything/.  We can only store a limited amount of everyday items, due to our lack of space, so our challenge is to make each item lasts as long as possible, so we don’t have to keep using up and buying more.  At the same time, we can figure out inexpensive substitutes for commonly used items.

Shampoo

Shampoo is one item I use everyday.  We live in a hot and humid climate, so I have to wash my hair daily to keep it clean.  And I have allergies, so I need the daily shampoo to keep dust and pollen from sticking to my hair causing sneezing attacks.

First I tried using less and less shampoo.  I reduced the usage from half-dollar size, then to nickel size and even less to a dime size and the shampoo continued to work.  Wet hair thoroughly first. then lather up the dime size drop on your palm and rub on the scalp area.  Work the shampoo down to the ends and rinse.  There is no need to “Lather, rinse, repeat” as direction says on many shampoo bottles.  The hair comes out pretty clean with very little product.

The next day, I tried just washing the hair and not using shampoo at all.  Just wet the hair thoroughly, massage water into the scalp and that’s it.  Since the hair is washed daily, it is not that grimy to begin with.  After all. I don’t roll around in dirt or cobwebs,  I just need to rinse off the dust and allergens.   My hair still came out clean without shampooing!

The last thing I tried a few days later was baking soda.  I mixed a 50% solution of baking soda and water in an empty shampoo bottle.  I shook it up to mix it.  First I thoroughly wet my hair, then rubbed the baking soda and water mix into the scalp and hair.  I then rinsed it off thoroughly.   The result?   My hair felt clean and fresh.  Baking soda is actually known to remove build up of other hair products.  I have to admit, I missed the sudsing action of shampoo, and the hair is not as soft, but it was clean.   I had read that apple cider vinegar can be used as a rinse to soften the hair.  I purchased apple cider vinegar and as I was about to try it.  But as I caught a whiff of the vinegar smell I decided against it.  Smelling salad dressing in the shower, even if it rinses off, just did not appeal to me.

I will stick to baking soda as my shampoo alternative.

Conditioner

I used to condition my hair every time I shampoo.  I used the “use less” principle and found that very little is needed to prevent static.  Now I only use about a dime sized portion and only apply it to the ends of the hair.  It rinses out quickly but  is enough to prevent tangles and static.

Another alternative is not to use conditioner at all, but mix water and conditioner in a spray bottle and spray on dry hair before blowdrying and brushing.

The next substitutes I will be testing will be for underarm deodorant, but I will wait until I am feeling bold enough and when I won’t be around a lot of people!

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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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