Saturday, November 26, 2011

Some good news: Learning to use food storage

Some of my food storage is the longer-term stuff, like if you were in CT and didn't have power for a few weeks, and then lost it again!  This stuff comes in #10 cans, so opening one is a major commitment, not to be taken lightly!

One of my favorite sellers has started selling smaller cans (real metal cans) of some of the most popular ingredients.  They average $5 a can, which is not a bad price to learn how to use the stuff and to have some on hand without the major commitment of buying a #10 can.  I have experimented with a couple of products as a result.

First one was chopped dehydrated onions.  They are great. Unlike the ones in the grocery store that cost about$5 for half an ounce, these are not as dry and rehydrate into pretty regular chopped raw onions. They saute and turn golden brown just fine. I'm sold because they also don't make you cry.

Second item was 'butter powder.' Sure, powdered butter -- or so I thought.  No juke, this stuff is great but you must follow directions!  After my first try I read and followed the instructions.  It was butter! It even MELTED on a hot biscuit, unlike even some of the grocery-store products.  I would NEVER have bought or opened a $20 dollar can of butter powder to find out thislittle fact, but could afford $5 worth of experiment.  I now use both opened products in my regular cooking, or will until the cans are empty. It's nice not to have onions that are too far gone (surprise!) or butter that has taken on new flavors after sitting in the fridge a while. I'm thinking these cans may actually be more 'frugal' than I thought at first, as they may reduce the wasted regular items that sat too long on my shelf.

Recent lessons learned

There is such a thing as being too frugal. I crossed that line recently, but was fortunate that I did not pay dearly for it.  I bought a product over the internet that was a great deal for what was described.  The 'cans' of product were about half the price of other similar items.  $40 plus postage later, I had the items. I could have lived with the fact that the pictures on the internet made the 'cans' look a lot like #10 cans, which they were not.  What I couldn't live with was that the 'cans' were cardboard sleeves. Not exactly a long-term food storage item.

Even in our low humidity, the product may have lasted a year. That did not fit my needs.  I e-mailed the seller, who stood by the merchandise and provided a full refund, including the cost of  return shipping. What I learned is to stick with my tried and true suppliers, be patient and wait for their sales and specials, and not go through this type of discovery to save a few bucks.  I wasted a couple of hours of my time, some gas for the truck, and didn't save a nickel -- which was not what I planned.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

What have I done to prepare this YEAR?

Yup, National Preparedness Month reminds us to get with or stay with a program that will allow us to be somewhat self-sufficient while waiting for FEMA or other assistance in the event of a natural or man-caused disaster.

If you are new to home or family preparedness, FEMA and your state or local preparedness websites provide the basic information for getting started. My pages also have a guide to identifying priorities, setting goals and starting your process without breaking the bank.

So what did I do? First, I learned from my mistakes. We had two small but meaningful emergencies in my part of the world. One was a record-breaking cold-snap. We live in a community whose natural-gas was shut off to keep other lines pressurized so that other commmunites could have gas. We are near of the 'ends of the lines' so probably would not have had ehough pressure to heat anyway. Temps were below freezing for more than 36 consecutive hours, which is very rare in the desert southwest. Oops. Not prepared to heat my house without gas. Oops, during the process I realized I needed the electric too -- which we had but it was a good realization that without both, no heat. With no woodstove or fireplace, we bought a Buddy indoor portable propane heater. Not the best solution as it will heat about 2 of our rooms, but it will help keep the pipes from bursting next time and it was under $100 including a few small canisters of propane.

Second emergency was a world-class forest fire. Unlike most of us locals ever imagined, it jumped the highway and burned down in-town homes. We were briefly under evacuation order, but the Feds got the fire under control before we finished packing the car. OK, needed a new plan for that contingency!

We also paid off all our credit card debt! There wasn't much left, but it still felt good. That leaves us with just the mortgage. Then we can start saving for a new or newer vehicle.

I rotated my supplies (oops, some peanut butter with over due 'best by' dates). I bought a telephone that works without being plugged in to the 110 outlet. I packed an emergency kit in my car trunk (during the fire!) -- especially a pair of walking shoes and water jug to get home from work if there is a problem on the roads. I also had my office pay for enough jugs of water for each employee to have 72 hours of drinking water. I also sent an e-mail suggesting that each of us keep several meals of non-perishable food (mouse-proof, of course) in our desks, just in case.

Those are my highlights.

How about you?

What have YOU done to prepare this YEAR?

It's National Preparedness Month once again! What have you done since the last one? Reduced your debt? Stored some provisions? Made a contingency plan based on your most likely emergency situations? Increased your rainy-day fund? Moved from a place that has a high occurrance of natural disasters?

If you read this post, please comment on your accomplishments.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Get ahead of the game

September is National Preparedness Month. If you are new to having a prepared household, start by reviewing my 'Preparedness 101' page on this website. Visit some other beginner sites on the web as well.

Once your specific emergency has started, all you can begin to count on is what you have at the time. Make sure you have at least enough to get you through the reasonable expectation of time to restore normalcy. If your likely emergency is a power outage and it usually takes a day to repair, maybe have 2 days' supplies on hand -- stuff that doesn't require POWER to use. If all your cooking capability is electric, make sure you like cold canned food or have a BBQ grill AND charcoal or propane. Don't count on buying it after the fun begins, because several hundred or thousand people got 'there' first and bought it all.

Get the picture? For now, read and think so you can act and do. Take care of yourself and your family by thinking ahead.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Phone Home

These days, most land-line telephones have extra bells and whistles that require them to be plugged into power as well as the phone outlet. Some are remote cordless units that transmit and receive with a base unit. The original, plain old telephone service (POTS) requires no extra power. These simple phones get all the needed power from the 12 volts coming from the central office. If you have a POTS landline, be sure you have a plain old telephone to go with it! A plain old telephone is obvious because you only plug it into the phone jack and not also into the electrical outlet. If the power goes out, it still works. My preference is to buy an older but working AT&T or Western Electric on eBay because they were built to last. The local Big Lots or Target should have newer versions for less than $20.

During the first hour or two of an widespread emergency it will seem line the telephone service is 'out.' Simple explanation : central offices are sized to the population, using formulas for how many people will be on the phone at an average time. In an emergency, everyone picks up the phone at the same time and vastly exceeds the 'formula'. You don't hear dial tone because the switch is too full to provide it instantly. If you stay on the line, you will get Dial tone, possibly in a few minutes as others hang up. Unless you need 911 service immediately, hang up. Try again in an hour or two. By then the real emergency calls and general 'DID YOU FEEL THAT!?!' calls will have subsided and you should get dial tone fairly quickly.

Yes, I worked for the phone company at one time in my life... I also lived this phenomenon after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake in the sf bay area. In a wide-spread emergency, be patient and HAVE A PLAN (that you have practiced) so you don't need to rely on cell phones or landlines to have some certainty about where your family members are.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Preparedness Month Give Away Blow-out!

Emergency Essentials has their 2000 calorie/day Year Supply food storage package in this giveaway! See this link to find the details about the food storage package, and this link to find out how to enter! Good luck!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Prepared for Odd Emergencies?

There's a saying in the preparedness community: You're always preparing for the last emergency." Well, to me that has 2 meanings: 1. you are improving on what you weren't ready for in the previous emergency OR 2. It really is the LAST one and you're stuck with what you have.

Our recent experience with the Monument Fire was a doozie. Whether you were evacuated or in a 'pre-evacuation' warning area, your mind wasn't on work. That meant that about 5,000 people may have left their homes, but the largest employer was not fire-affected yet, so work went on. Sure there was some special assistance for the family members who were displaced, but the actual employees were expected to be at work or on leave.

My GO! bag did not include high heels and a few office-appropriate skirts and jackets. Whoever heard of an emergency where you need to scrounge to find a place to stay or stay in a shelter, and report to work as though nothing odd was happening! It was a new one on me, but apparently it happens!

See -- I had to do some new planning for this twist on an emergency, which frankly could happen every year around here. So I now know what 8 pieces of clothing, plus 2 pairs of shoes, I can shove in to a small duffel bag to have 14 outfits for a work wardrobe. Pretty goofy, eh?

My selections include 4 tops, 2 soft solid-color (Chico's travelers collection) jackets that I often wear in summer, and 1 each black trousers and skirt. One more top would be really nice, as you wouldn't need to repeat or wash one during the week. One of the tops only goes with one jacket rather than both, so it gives me 7 top-and-jacket combo's that can be worn with the trousers or with the skirt, so 14 outfits. Everything is washable except the skirt.

Are you ready to go-but-not-go?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Random Post-Fire Pictures

The third of three major canyon 'blowouts' caused by fire storms shooting out the mouth of the canyon, taken about 4 miles from the area.

Not much left but ashes

When wildfire gets too close for comfort....

The corner of this house caught on fire. Debris was thrown out the window (boarded over in photo) by the Hot Shots trying to put out the fire.


Another few minutes and the entire house would have been lost.
Bare wires show where the insulation melted.

Opportunites to update the landscaping!

Go out and try new restaurants because the best fajitas in town won't be available for a while.

And then there were three....

Sunday, June 19, 2011

It's never what you prepare for!

It is good to be prepared for a number of potential emergencies. Again, despite my significant preparation, we are in a slow emergency that is unlike anything I imagined. The Monument Fire is slowly creeping toward a population center of about 40,000 people after already affecting about 8,000 people. We've already had a houseguest whose home survived, but they can't go back yet due to the road and canyon closures. They decided to get away from All-Fire-All-the -Time and went to visit friend who live beyond the line of sight of the smoke.

Hotel rooms are already filled for miles around. Some shelters are already filled. By the time we get evacuated we may need to drive an hour to find a room. Until we are formally evacuated, my employer expects us to be at work -- possibly after that as well.

This was not in my wildest dark fantasy of what I needed to prepare for. We live in town for goodness sake! We don't have forest fires! Live and learn!

So, my work car is packed and so is my husband's truck. Last minute stuff that can't take the heat is next to the door. Just got word we are in the recent update to the 'pre-evacuation' zone. Here we go!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Big Savings at Big Lots

If you have a BIG LOTS near you and haven't been inside, you are missing an opportunity to save on dry and canned foods, and some other staple items. Contrary to what many people think, many of the items at Big Lots, including food, are name brand products, including US, Canadian, European and Mexican. Savings on dry goods can be 50% to 60% less than even some of the 'discount' stores like WalMart and Target.

Several categories of name brand products are available for only short durations. These include the discontinued products and the annual rotation of seasonal stock items, like Gatorade powder. If your favorite shampoo is discontinued at Walgreen's, keep checking Big Lots. It may show up there for clearance as much as 6 months later. For seasonal products, say on regular store shelves between March and September, you may find them available at a discount at Big Lots in November until it sells out.

Another category of items are the packaging changes. When crystal light changed from little plastic cups to Mylar pouches, the outgoing cup-packages were at Big Lots for about $1 under the Target price. I have seen this with other products, including when they reduce the volume of a product in essentially the same container.

Overstocks and near-expiration items can also be found there. Consumables like cereal and crackers abound, and tend to be about 50% of the WalMart price, but these are often within 6 months of their 'best by' dates. I list them because if you normally eat these products, you can use what you save to help fund your other preparations.

The last type of product that is really interesting to me are the market trials. When a new product or new variant of an old product completes a market trial, left over stock often heads to Big Lots. You may never see it again if the trial was a bust, but you can enjoy it while it is available.

Brands I have seen there over the years include most of the national coffee brands; Yogi, Good Earth, Twinnings and Bigalow Teas; Swiss Miss cocoa; Del Monte fruits and vegetables, Progresso soups; Gatorade; boutique beverages like Hansens and Jones; most national brands of cereal, crackers and cookies; Reach, Crest, Colgate and Oral B dental products; Hanes undergarments and socks; Northern paper products, most major national brands of cleaning products, etc..

So why list this on a frugal preparedness site? Some of these products are packaged to support longer-term storage. Some of the BL products in my prep stash include salmon and Danish canned hams with expiration dates in 2015, individually packaged coffee or cocoa products, crystal light, toothbrushes (I have both Reach and Oral B from BL in my storage) and a couple of really nice Nalgene bottles. Most of these items cost about half of the price at the 'discount' chains across the highway.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Don't forget the pet

What are your potential emergencies? Have you made a plan for your pets for each of the possible scenarios? If you shelter in place, do you have a few weeks of their special food or other needs on hand? Great to have an indoor cat, but not so pleasant after a few days if you have no litter for their inside box.

What if you need to GO! due to flood or gas leak? Will your pets fit in your escape vehicle? Do you have room for Fido, his food, the kids and your stuff? Do you need a special carrier to keep the iguana from being crushed under the accelerator as you get out of Dodge? Do you have a place to land that will welcome your 12 foot Boa constrictor with open arms?

If you plan is to leave them behind and let them fend for themselves, you are either naive or cruel. If you do this, their future is between short and bleak because they have no skills or are not native to your area. Small pets will probably be eaten alive by larger predators. Tropical reptiles may freeze to death or find others and multiply, like the brown snakes of Guam. Larger dogs may find one another and form packs to attack and eat the smaller animals or attack people when they return. For that, Fido will probably be shot if he doesn't starve to death first.

If you haven't included these trusting creatures in your plans, and thought about the least-cost way to manage them, start now. If you do not have pets now, be sure to think though these issues before you get a special friend.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Another Great Giveaway!!

Check out the great giveaway, and other informative postings, at Preparedness Pantry : or to get right to the giveaway page, use the button on this blog!

Their great new Mexican Food combo is the featured item-- a full case of fiesta goodness, including rice, refritos, beans, onion, corn and a delicious TVP taco filling! Even if you don't win, this high-protein combo is a bargain for long-term storage at this price.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Cache O'Le

The recent scenes of tornado devastation reminded me of a past post at survivalblog. There are other posts on the web as well that provide information about packaging preparedness supplies and burying them in a location that allows you to find them when you need them. In tornado country, that could be as simple as your back yard.

You need to be a bit inventive about how to find them again if all the local landmarks, including trees, are blown away. In addition to a waterproof and vermin-proof container, you will probably need to have them in a shallow spot in some sort of non-degradable mesh bag (like a big bag from oranges or a large nylon mesh laundrybag) that will allow you to find the mesh with only hand digging, then pull the bag, with the container inside, up to the surface. Hey, it's your yard so put a couple of stepping stones over it to hide the disturbed soil and call it done!

Imagine if you find yourself with absolutely nothing but the concrete foundation of your home (Oohh!! landmark!). Many people in the southeast and mid-west US have had this experience in the last month or two. Wouldn't it be lovely to have easy access to your recycled bakery 5-gallon bucket (with the water-tight screw-on Gamma seal lid) containing a change of clothes and shoes, toiletries, freeze dried food, a water filter and collapsible container, and $200 in cash! It doesn't need to be quite as fancy as the one described in the post, and the contents could be enough to give you the strength you need to persevere.

Institutional food, Yes or No?

We don't have the big warehouse stores around here, like Costco or Sam's, but one of the local chains has an aisle with #10 cans of 'institutional' food, like beans, fruit, spaghetti sauce, strawberry gelatin mix, beef chunks -- you get the idea. Depending on your situation, a few of these may be a reasonable option for your preparedness stores.
These provide several benefits. They are usually ready to eat, provided you don't mind them at room temp. There is usually no need to re-hydrate or cook unless it is a dessert or gravy mix. Two immediate downsides arise: 1. they are heavy and 2. You will probably need to eat the contents of a #10 can of ready-to-eat food -- possibly as much as 6 pounds -- within a few hours, as refrigeration may not be an option.

If you anticipate that 'shelter-in place' is a likely scenario, and you have a large family or a neighborhood preparation group that would share the meal, ready-to-use institutional canned food may be a good low-cost option.

Another great item I've found on the institutional aisle: 1 lb yeast bricks. These are compressed and vacuum-packed. They cost about $4. I can cross the street and buy a 4 ounce jar of the same stuff for $7 or more at the unnamed chain grocery. The brick store well at room temp for a year or more if the vacuum is in tact. Once I open a brick, I empty the package into a glass or plastic container, label it, and stick it in the fridge. It will last a long time in there-- again, probably up to a year. Every couple of months, proof it in warm water with a sprinkle of white sugar or flour. If it bubbles up in a few minutes, it's still good for bread.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

What did you do to prepare this week?

Hmmm... What did I do to prepare this week??

My preparations this week were at work. I had a sudden realization that I spend 8+ hours every day away from home and had not reviewed my desk kit in at least a year. In that year, my work group grew from 3 to 6 people. Sure, I have some supplies in my car, but what if we are confined to the building due to some emergency? What if none of the others have a desk kit?

I went through the proper procedures to have my employer pay for enough bottled water (in 5 gallon bottles) for each employee in the building to have 2 gallons of water available. These were placed in a secure area with a sign on them that they were for emergencies only. I took enough space blankets in so that each of my employees could have one if needed. I got these as inexpensive 4-packs from Sierra Trading Post. I also took in a box of freeze-dried food, also from STP on clearance, that would provide at least one meal for each of the 13 of us in the building.

I will put in a plug for Sierra Trading Post here. They carry good stuff and send out e-mails with additional discounts once you purchase from them. I get everything from Austin Reed business suits (at about a 70% discount) to bug-out bag necessities from them. Their inventory changes often, and their clearance prices are impressive. They also have brick and mortar stores, primarily in the northwestern US. Whether you use STP, Wal-Mart or get free stuff at home and garden shows (I got a free mini-flashlight at my employer's safety fair this week!), try not to pay full retail for your preparedness supplies and never go into debt for your basic 72-hour kit.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Re-purposing what you have

If you are preparing on a shoestring, and you have a 'shelter-in-place" plan in addition to your GO! plan, then re-purposing what you have may accelerate your feelings of being ready for an emergency. I'll share some of mine-- most are no-brainers, like using an old gymbag or craft-supply box for your first aid kit. Others a little more subtle and took me a while to have the light bulb come on.

The easiest of all is your hot water heater. If you are without power or water and have a tank-style water heater, there's 40 to 50 gallons of ready water storage. Most tanks have a spigot near the bottom, so just fill your pitcher or kettle from there. I advise that you save this for drinking and potable use. There are some other sources for your non-potable.

Things to carry your water in half to several gallons abound. The 2-liter soda pop bottles are great. If you have room in your freezer, put a couple in there with the top on loosely (upright at first) and freeze them. Screw the tops on tightly once the water inside is frozen. If the power goes out, you will have a few extra hours to decide what to do with your freezer contents! Back to water storage -- Well-rinsed Clorox bottles work. My Dad's hobby was fishing. As long as I can remember, the water bottles he carried in the boat were always rinsed Clorox bottles. Despite the scary stories we hear every day about chlorine, he died at 88 after a brief period of ill health, so I don't think that's what got him!

Of course your BBQ grill, even an inexpensive hibachi, can be your outdoor cook stove in an emergency, just keep some dead wood or charcoal around in an area where it won't get wet. You can probably boil water or cook things in pans over junk mail and newspapers. The trick there is to roll them tightly and wrap with a wire -- even if you save the little twist ties from bread bags and string a few together. By rolling them, you help them burn more slowly. You can make some other fire starters or primary fire sources from re-purposed things like cardboard egg cartons, shredded newspaper, dryer lint and candle ends. Fill the empty cups of the egg carton with dryer lint and shredded or finely torn newspaper. Melt the candle ends in a metal bowl over a pan of hot water and pour over the egg cups of the carton, trying to saturate all that absorbent paper and lint. Leave several of the tips of the paper or lint sticking up out of the wax so you have at least 2 wicks in each. Use kitchen scissors to cut them apart after the wax has cooled and store them in a Tupperware or plastic bag.

If you do it right, you can boil a small pan of water over two of the egg cups. To help, re-purpose a tomato can, preferably the 28 ounce size. After using the contents, rinse the can and remove the label. Using an old-fashioned can opener (the type that leaves a triangular hole), open three or four holes on the side of the can near the bottom. DO NOT OPEN THE HOLES ON THE BOTTOM OR REMOVE THE BOTTOM OF THE CAN!! Then open three or four similar holes on the side of the can near the opened top. Now you have a little stove that will concentrate their heat. Put a couple of the wax cups in the bottom of the can and place it in your BBQ grill. Light the lint cups and let them get started. Put your small to medium sauce pan with about 16 ounces of water on top of the can. It should be boiling before the wax cups are burned out!

What are some of your preparedness re-purposing favorites?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Denial, not just a river in Africa

After my recent planning post, I really thought about what would prevent someone with a week's notice from getting ready to GO. What came to me is the mental roadblock called DENIAL. Getting out of denial requires some work , but luckily it costs very little because your plan should be based on your available resources.

What is denial and how do we win our own mental battle against it? Denial is the voice in our heads that wants desperately to keep the status quo. Our society rewards denial -- you are an odd ball if you think about and plan for emergencies or "let the government handle it, they'll take care of us," etc..

Starting to prepare is the first step out of waking from denial. Planning how to evacuate is another step. There are more things you must do, however, to break through the heavy layer of denial that could get you and your family killed.

Next, you should start to identify the 'triggers' that tell you to put the plan into effect. Example plan with triggers: the news is covered with reports of record flooding 200 miles north of you and you live in the floodplain of the same river. Your plan indicates that this is a trigger to start packing the car and PRACTICE your emergency communications plan because your area will be flooded within the next 36 hours. When the flooding reaches 100 miles north of you, according to plan, you LEAVE and go to your emergency location outside the flood area. Why so soon? Because your research indicated that as soon as the flooding is 50 miles away, the roads you need to travel will be jammed and flooded and you will be STUCK.

You are still not at a point that your denial is manageable. To get there, you must PRACTICE your plan. Make it serious but fun. We pack the car in 2 hours and head for a mini-vacation weekend at our alternate location. We use the routes on the plan, and divert for 'unexpected road outages' along the way. We teach the children how to look out and talk about what they see. By doing this twice or more a year, denial is replaced by preparedness. Fear is replaced with routine. There can be fringe benefits, such as when grandma's is the alternative location, she will be thrilled to see you more often and you may get your favorite home-cooked meal!

The only down side is that you won't get your 5 minutes of fame on Fox news as another one of the victims!

Do you have a plan?

Last night, there was a clip on TV from a resident in the area of the Mississippi spillway that was just opened for the first time in 40 years. The point made by the 'victim' was that there was no notice that the Corps of Engineers was actually going to (and did) open the spillway, so they had no time to prepare. The statement is really telling: record flooding has been moving down the river for more than a week. Someone who has lived in the flood plain for years was surprised and considers himself a victim. Likely, he is a victim only of his own failure to plan and pay attention -- even way out west, I heard about the fact that the Corps was considering opening the spillway 12 hours before they did. Given the week's notice of record flooding moving down the Mississippi, the resident could have had the car packed and a communication plan in effect so his family could rapidly evacuate together.

What is your plan to communicate, regroup and (if necessary) evacuate in case of emergency? If emergency or disaster strike when you and your family are at work and school, where are your rally points? Rally points are where you meet when you can't get home. You should have multiple, which should include at least two physical locations and two call-in locations. Of course, part of your plan is to select speople for call-ins who live outside your immediate area and you have prepared them to knows to be available by phone if the news features an emergency in your area. You may even want to include a free e-mail box that all share, like gmail or yahoo.

Why multiples -- isn't that confusing? What if your only rally point is now in the middle of a flood? If your cell phone or electronic devices works, if you don't have a system, you are still chasing your tail. What if the electronic devices don't work either? Sure would be nice to have an alternate rally point, or two more with some priority order attached.

Don't make it too complicated -- If we can't get to rally point #1, go to #2. Call grandma at 510-555-1313 if both are blocked. If you can get to a library, go to the yahoo account and check the DRAFT e-mails AND leave a draft with your location.

If you have a plan, review and update it. It will be difficult to move out --possibly until it is too late -- if you are worried because you can't contact your loved ones. If you don't have a plan, NOW is a good time to make one -- even involve all affected by the plan, as they may have skills or info that will make it SIMPLE!!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Major milestone for a great blog

For those of you who want to take your preparedness to a higher level than a few weeks of readiness, THE website for you is

I follow regularly because of the depth and breadth of the issues covered. The site also offers a vast archive of information on virtually all aspects of preparing for a wide variety of age groups, locations and types of emergencies. He posts EVERY day which means it is easy to make it part of your daily routine.

Seems that a lot of other readers share my sentiment, as the site is about to celebrate its 30,000,000 unique visitor. Yup, almost 30 MILLION people have spent time on the site. The main reason is because the site hosts a variety of well-written posts with a strong emphasis on the contributors' experiences.

So why should you be the next one -- possibly THE 30 millionth? My site is for the baby steps to short-term preparedness. If you find that your situation calls for more, or you just want to learn about a more holistic approach to preparedness, I urge you to visit the site. Check the counter on the right side of the blog.

If you are THE 30 millionth visitor, take a screen shot and send it in. You will receive a great book in exchange!

HURRY -- You may have time!

TODAY is the US Post Office's canned food drive. This is one of the largest food bank-fillers nation-wide.

To participate, just put your donations next to your mailbox and they will pick them up!!

How does this relate to preparedness??? You MUST rotate your preparedness food supplies to ensure that your foods have not been expired for YEARS when you need them. Go through your storage and pantry now to donate any food that will expire in the next 3 to 6 months (unless you are in the path of the floods --you may need it before then!) If you are comfortable enough in your food storage, throw in a few cans that are farther out, especially protein items like beans and canned fish.

PLEASE do not donate food with a 'best by:" date that has passed.

Now go do it!!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Bacon bit bonanza

We love bacon, but the kind we really like runs about $6 per lb these days. When I saw the ends and pieces of the good stuff at Safeway, I could not resist. In this post I will illustrate one way to preserve bacon for short term storage (probably less than 1 year) while making it available for immediate use in case of emergency.

I am not yet a canner. I did put up preserves years ago when I had the time and wild fruit was available for the picking, but not lately. I make jams using the recipes that could be canned, but instead I use the Ball freezer containers and thaw when I am ready to use. This bacon preparation will yield a similar product. It will be cooked and ready to use or to add to other food you are cooking. There is a great post on about canning bacon and other things if you want to go that route.

This time, I used the Wright's ends and pieces, 3 lb package, which cost me $4.49 at Safeway. The product is carefully packed so that you see some real bacon slices on the outside. There were about 8 of these in this package, along with another 10 or 12 thinly sliced pieces with a nice mix of lean and fat. These are the sacrificial slices. I cook them first so that my husband and I will not be tortured by the smell of bacon cooking. We eat them within a day or two of this extravaganza.
While the first bacon slices cook, the hard work starts. Separate the lean chunks from the bacon-like pieces from the fatty chunks. You should have three 'piles.' As mentioned, I cook the pieces that are similar to regular bacon first. This will generate enough fat to cook the lean pieces. I experimented with cooking the lean stuff as large pieces. Bad idea. They end up like shoe leather. The flavor is great, but they are tough and string because it takes so long to cook them through. So, I strongly recommend cutting them into bits about half an inch on the longest dimension so they can be cooked yet stay moist. Kitchen shears work great for cutting into this size. The fatty pieces can be about twice that size, as they will be tender and will also lose much of their size and weight in cooking. I strongly recommend keeping and cooking the fatty materials. When rendered, they have a reasonable protein content and bring a lot of flavor to whatever you are cooking.

I cook the lean pieces over medium heat in batches of about 3/4 cup per. In the 10 inch pan I used, this makes one layer with room to stir. When they are looking cooked, I use a slotted spoon to help corral the bits on a spatula and then put them right into the plastic container. Make sure you remove all the bits in each batch. If they burn, subsequent bits will taste burned. I do not drain the cooked bits on a paper towel, for reasons that will make sense later.
When all the bacon-like strips and the lean are cooked, I strain what is in the pan to remove the tiny flakes and bits that will burn. Now I cook the fatty parts, but on lower temp. These will give up lots of bacon fat, which gets hotter over time. Low heat prevents a sudden burning of the product. You will still see the bits suddenly turn golden brown -- seems like they are barely simmering for about 5 minutes and then in about a minute they are all golden brown. Remove them shortly after, using the same method as the other bits. I segregate the lean from the fatty because of the different cooking times. The lean will be too dry of cooked with the fatty bits. Once cooked, you can mix or segragate as you please. This time, I kept one container of just lean and one of the mixed bits. Mixed will be great for salads or vegies, lean ould be better for mac and cheese or a pasta use.

When all are cooked and in the containers, I strain the oil into a glass container -- coffee mugs are great for this. Let the fat cool for about half an hour. For a container that you want to freeze, pack the bits in and then cover with the fat. If you plan to refrigerate some and use within 10 days, covering with fat will not be needed.

Why cover with fat? Two reasons: 1. makes the product more versatile. You can take a spoonful and use it to saute onions for you favorite greens or beans. If you want to use the bacon for a fettuccine carbonara, warm the byproduct and pour the bacon fat back into the container, put it on the dog's kibble (they will love you for that!!) or toss it. Your choice. 2. The real reason for the fat is to reduce the potential for freezer burn. For years, I just repackaged the raw bacon. About half of it was lost due to freezer burn. This will retard that process. If the fat on top looks questionable when you take from the freezer, scrape it off and toss it. The rest will be fine.

Why is this a preparedness item? If the power goes out, much of what is in your freezer will be unusable if you do not have an alternative way to cook it. Your bacon will be available to either use as is, add to freeze-dried eggs or mac and cheese for variety, or to top the salad greens you are trying to wolf down before they spoil. If you have an alternative cooking method (which you should!) you can use them to cook some of those fridge goods before they go south -- again, eggs or add a smidgen to oil or butter for a rib-sticking grill on a cheese sandwich.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Precious metals

One school of preparedness advocates that in addition to having US paper dollars in your preparedness stash, you should have some 'junk silver.' 'Junk Silver' isn't junk at all, but consists of older coins that have no numismatic value to a coin collector. Their entire value rests in the 90% or 40% silver content. In today's market these are worth MUCH MORE than the face value of the coin. For US coins, these include pre-1965 dimes, quarters and half-dollars. There was also a brief period during WWII (approx 1942 through 1945)when nickels had silver in lieu of copper. These 'War Nickels' would also qualify as junk silver.

There's a good list at this website:

You can also check the approximate value of the silver in your 'junk' by looking at the far right column of the table and adjusting it for the current value of silver, found here:

For example, if you have a 1944 mercury dime, the table says that if silver is $10/ounce, a 1944 dime in good condition is worth 72 cents. If silver is now $35 an ounce, then multiply the 72 cents by 3.5 ($35/ounce divided by $10 per ounce) and the dime now has $2.52 worth of silver at current price -- not the $0.10 face value of the coin. A well worn coin would have slightly less value because some of the silver has worn away, so the weight of the coin and its silver are less.

For most of us, buying one ounce silver coins at $30 to $50 each is not in our budgets. Junk silver may be within our means. You may be able to pick up three to four dimes for $10 at a local pawn or coin store. This could give you a few silver coins to tuck into your preparedness supplies in case you need something and the seller doesn't want to take bills (remember the pen to check for counterfeiters?) or your bills are somehow ruined or you run out.

Again, don't go into any debt. You will also need to check the price of silver occasionally so you have a general idea what it is worth before your local emergency so you don't overpay!

Disclaimers: 1. I do not represent or receive any compensation for any aspect of this blog. 2. I absolutely do not recommend going into debt, including credit card debt, to have cash or precious metals in your preparedness supplies.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Great give-away opportunity!!

The Preparedness Pantry Blog has a give-away of six #10 cans of food storage -- three of which are freeze-dried fruit! You can use the button on this site to get there. Two entries are easy for most of us. The first is to send an e-mail, the other is to post a comment. GO FOR IT!!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Apologies and What have you done??

I am officially over the mononucleosis that has had me down since February!! My apologies for not posting, but I've been pooped and haven't had a cogent thought in 2 months!

I have, however, done a few things for my preparedness. If the earthquakes, tsunamis, floods and tornadoes haven't caused you to ask "AM I PREPARED???" then what will?? Do you need a mack truck to join you in your livingroom?

I reorganized my food storage and labelled the boxes by type of meal. Example: if the box contains dry beans, dry rice, freeze dried fruit, and wheat to make flour for biscuits, then it is labelled "SLOW LUNCH," based on the most likely type of meal and how long it would take to fix it. A box with ready-made granola, pilot crackers, peanut butter, dry milk and orange drink mix may be labelled "QUICK BREAKFAST."

WHY THIS SYSTEM? If we are in a situation that requires rapid relocation and we just have time to grab two boxes, I will go for the QUICK ones. I'll probably grab a breakfast and a dinner. If we are sheltering in place, and for example, have gas but no electric, I may open the 'slow lunch' and make split pea soup to serve over rice, especially if I don't want to open my fridge and let the cold out.

The point is, just think through whatever organization will work for you, based on how you think, where you live and what the likely emergencies may be. Being able to manage with a system that reflects how you think, so you can react appropriately and quickly, is part of your preparedness.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A weekly investment

I've done the math, and it's worth it. Huh? The lowly Sunday newspaper -- at least ours is. I review each of the weekly sales fliers, which for us includes Safeway, CVS, Walgreens, K-Mart and Target. We also get the Smart Shopper coupon flier. I try to add some of the sale items when I do my normal shopping routine. On average, I can save $10 to $20 on items I would normally purchase by combining coupons or taking advantage of special offers. Example: we have a large dog. I usually have several bags of dry kibble in reserve. I save my $1 off coupon and use it when Target has the product on special, particularly the 'buy two, get a $5 gift card.' They have the lowest price in town, by about $3 a bag to start, so combined with the other offers, it gets down to less than $1 per pound for good quality dog food. At the rate we feed, that's about 75 cents a day and it adds another bag tot he doggy preparedness larder.

Another plus are the K-Mart prescription coupons. (Target occasionally has something similar) There are two available currently. One is for new prescriptions -- a $10 gift card for each. The other is for transferred prescriptions at $20 each. Last time I used these for my annual renewals, I ended up with $60 in gift cards for K-Mart. With them I bought extra toilet paper, 2 large Folger's instant coffees, several crystal light orange drinks (for use now and storage -- to break the monotony of water), 2 bags of sugar, a hand-crank no-batteries LED lantern (about $19), etc. Get the picture? If you need the prescriptions anyway, why not make them work toward your preparedness?

So, if you do not already subscribe to a local newspaper, check out a copy at a local store this Sunday. See what is in there and whether it could make a difference for your preparedness.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Choppers can be stoppers

Ever procrastinated getting that tooth 'looked at' by the dentist and regretted it? Now imagine you've done that, it flares up with a nice abscess, and you are in an emergency situation with no hope of relief. Great planning!

So, after much procrastination myself, today I went and had some dental work. I'm just like most people and would rather do almost anything rather than have my teeth messed with -- especially the drilling. I can feel it vibrate my skeleton down to my toes. But we must BITE THE BULLET (how's that for a bad pun??) and keep our teeth in good shape.

Your plans for preparation items must include toothbrush(es), paste or equivalent, floss and some antiseptic mouth rinse. Doesn't need to be official mouthwash, but should be something meaningful and safe. That could include hydrogen peroxide (the 3% in the brown bottles -- takes some getting used to, so practice with a small amount a few times first and don't swallow it!), an unsugared alcoholic beverage such as vodka or gin, or unsweetened cranberry juice (from concentrate).

You must take care of your teeth NOW as well. Brush several times each day with a SOFT toothbrush and toothpaste or baking soda. At minimum, brush when you wake up so that you don't blow your morning breath on everyone, and again after your evening meal and then don't eat anymore before bed. Floss at least once a day, and after flossing use the mouthwash. Why? Because you have just rearranged the bacterial plaque on your teeth, possibly introducing it into the soft tissue of your gums, so clean up the 'wounds.' Soft toothbrushes are better for your gums and can help prevent gum disease. If you like to use a medium toothbrush to remove more of the 'scuz' from your teeth, use it after a good brushing with a soft toothbrush so you don't shortchange your gums.

Do your homework and find a reputable dentist. I prefer one whose children are grown and whose house has been paid off! If your employer offers dental insurance, buy it and use it. Get your teeth checked and cleaned twice a year if possible. Do not procrastinate getting any pain checked out. Schedule the work as soon as you find out that you need it. KEEP YOUR TEETH. If that means a root canal and crown, it will serve you better than having an otherwise salvageable tooth pulled and getting a bridge. Once the tooth is pulled, you can begin to lose jawbone, and the teeth on either side may be weakened or lost. Implants may be a good alternative if you have them available where you live, and can help preserve the jawbone. Your preparations should also include some items for dental emergencies and even for 'home cleaning' if it becomes necessary.

For dental emergencies, little kits are available at most drug stores. They usually have clove oil or eugenol, little cotton pellets and some temporary filling/cement material, along with some instructions. At minimum, the kit can provide some relief or allow you to temporarily re-set a crown that become dislodged. We have used these more than once, including one time that my husband broke a molar while away on business and was able to get one of the kits and patch it until he could get back and see our dentist. There are also kits with dental cleaning instruments available at drugstores, or some slightly more robust ones over the internet. These should be used with care, and at minimum go on the internet to find some information on how to use them to clean teeth in the absence of professionals if you are in a prolonged emergency.

Why is this a frugal topic? Everything you do to keep your teeth healthy and functional in your mouth will help avoid higher expenses later. An exam and cleaning are usually under $200. If you are really strapped, then only have the cleaning annually, but get the check up. A root canal with the crown can run as much as $1500 each. You can buy a lot of floss and cleanings with that amount of money. No amount of money can help you with that procrastinated dental problem if you are caught in an emergency situation ( think Katrina, Japan earthquake/tsunami) and the nearest dentist can't be accessed for weeks.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Beware of shipping charges!!

There are a lot of websites that sell cans and buckets of 'storage food.' Don't for a minute believe they are all alike! Some have brick and mortar stores (usually in Utah or other areas with a large LDS presence), some don't. Some sell only pre-packaged, just-add-water meals in pouches or cans, some sell the basic ingredients for you to build your own meals. The prices vary significantly. The variance includes different prices for the exact same brand and size of item. What varies even more wildly are the shipping charges.

I performed some cost comparisons among three sites that I believe to be reputable (based on having ordered and received good quality edible food from each). When comparing like items, the one with the least expensive cost for the items had the most expensive shipping. Ultimately, it was about twice the total cost of the items if purchased from either of the other two websites.

When I buy from websites, I stick with the ones that have low fixed shipping costs and occasionally rerun my comparison to make sure that competition has not changed the equations -- or their answers! For some specialty items, like canned butter or green coffee, I will venture out, but it is rare. As an aside, if you are adventuresome and want to can your own butter, the website has some great posts on home canning of butter, bacon, cheese and other such items.

I also usually buy primarily from the 'sale items' for that month and keep my purchase at $100 or less, including the shipping, for each purchase. If your budget can allow for more, then the low-cost shipping sites like and will stretch your dollar even farther.

For items like sugar, baking soda, salt, and a few other dry commodities that I can easily rotate in my daily cooking, I do not buy in the expensive #10 cans. I have some used bakery buckets and several BUDDEEZ containers that I use to store and keep these items dry. I buy the BUDDEEZ at Ross Dress for Less in the household/kitchen area. They are not expensive and are made in America, which is a plus. (to see what these look like, go to I have even found 25 lb sacks of wheat at Wal-Mart on rare occasion, and the price was right! I threw it in a bucket, added a top and started using it. Best shipping rate yet!

Great food storage website

I've provided a web address below to help with food storage and other preparation. She practices with a lot of products and has short videos on how to use many of the basics, like whole egg powder and dry milk. At one point in mousing around her website, I saw some information that I want to pass echo, because it is REALLY important.

Being frugal in your life so you can allocate resources to family preparedness is NOT the same thing as having cheap, low quality preparations. You don't need to have the 'top of the line' of everything, but don't buy or store things that you cannot rely upon, or that will not nourish you. Having a three month food supply doesn't mean a closet full or saltines or ramen. You need to store healthy food that will give you a variety of nutrients. The food storage analyzer can help you with this, even if you never buy the products they sell. Just transcribe the nutritional info into the section for your own groceries. Then look for reasonably priced items to fill in the voids.

You may not be able to afford the freeze dried juice of hand-squeezed blood oranges, but Tang or crystal light may provide the vitamin C and 'change of pace' flavor you are looking to find for your storage. Remember, if you are in a position to live from your food storage, you will probably want more variety than 'bread and water' as well. Plan it in advance, while trying to duplicate or at least come close to what your family might normally eat in the process.

The same goes for non-food. You need toothbrushes and toothpaste, and a way to stay clean if there is a water shortage. Don't forget the toilet paper, either!

So here is the website:

Go nuts!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Living below your means

My parents were fairly frugal. So am I, though my husband would occasionally disagree (but only because he is exceptionally frugal!). We have never had the need for conspicuous consumption and instead have saved or otherwise invested much of our discretionary income. What does this have to do with preparedness? It goes to one of the fundamental steps in preparedness: being debt free. If you review my 'Prep 101' page, or that of many other preparedness blogs, this is a common thread. You cannot be truly prepared if someone else owns your house or car.

Our home is significantly smaller and more modest than those of our 'peers,' and well below the maximum mortgage we could have gotten. We drive older cars. One is 21 years old, the other is 10 years old, and we have a newer truck that is used only when needed. We do not have a pool (think wet money pit), hot tub, club membership, etc. We wait until a technology has come down in price significantly before we buy a new ... whatever. My husband does not have a cell phone. I have one, but it is old, cheap and with minimal minutes. It is for safety and emergencies. We have a dog, but that is one of our few luxuries. We eat well, but usually at home. As a result, we pay extra principle on the mortgage, which is almost paid off after 15 years of a 30 year mortgage. We decided rather than refinance, just accelerate. Most mortgages have a clause that ensures no penalty for paying off early. By paying extra principle early, you get the tax deduction AND save years of interest later.

Figuring out how to live below your means when you are accustomed to living above them can be tricky. The process requires really paying attention to where your money goes. Using the Debtors Anonymous spending record process can be a real eye-opener and great tool toward understanding where your money goes. You start by writing down every cent you spend for several months, and tallying and reviewing by categories about every 2 weeks. This is not guess work -- you need to carry a small pen and book to write it down as you spend. DA has a great 'tally sheet' that I have not been able to find this on the web, so you may need to find a meeting to buy a copy -- it will probably cost the price of copying it. The first time I did this I found that I spent a lot on clothes and little on entertainment -- all dressed up and no where to go!! By looking at how much you spend and where it goes, you can make choices about which habits can be changed to start living first WITHIN your means, and then below them.

If you do not own your own home, and especially if you live in a cost prohibitive area (like San Francisco), I suggest the following steps:

1. Really determine your disposable monthly income level using the above process. Part of this is getting a better understanding of your WANTS versus your NEEDS. Examples: Do you really NEED to buy lunch every day or could you brown bag most days? Do you really NEED to get your nails fixed for $100+ per month? Hair dyed for $80 per month? Does you teenager really need name it?? How about that vacation -- is it actually a real source of usable cash?

2. Start a credit union savings account. I mean one that is NOT associated with checking or other source of easy use. Start making regular deposits. Put your TAX REFUND in it, unless it is needed to pay off credit cards (the ones you have otherwise STOPPED USING) and student loans. Think of this as your HOUSE fund.

3. Start looking for a piece of land. It should be outside any major metropolitan area, be near water, possibly a few nice trees, and capable of supporting a garden. If you want to be on the grid, it should be near power lines. Extending lines very far is really expensive, so think this one through. Also, think acreage, and not on a main road.

4. When you have enough saved up, buy the land. Welcome to your new vacation spot!!

5. Put that vacation money/disposable income toward some type of basic structure. Doesn't need to be fancy, but could be a place to come if your rental location becomes unusable, you get laid off, etc. You could start with a used motor home or 5th Wheel (these get really cheap when the price of gas goes up!!), YURT, or a garage or house kit (Sutherland's has these) and go from there.

This is essentially what my husband and I did 15 years ago, living well below our take-home pay even then. Since then, all but three of our vacations have been at our 'other place.' We now have fruit trees, a well, a small home with a nice porch (the porch should have been our first structure -- we love it!!) and a small garden. It is our refuge in good times and bad. We are now even thinking of retiring there!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Simple rules to save your life

Yesterday's devastating earthquake and the following tsunami are a reminder that stuff happens when we least expect it. If you live in earthquake country or near a coastline, let's review the simple rules for survival. There aren't many of these rules, yet we have at least 1 US Darwin Award winner today who could not manage to follow them when the wave hit us.

1. The natural elements are very powerful. DO NOT underestimate them.

2. When water is involved, whatever your estimate of caution is, exercise approximately 10 times as much. Example: If you think you can drive through a foot of fast moving water in a flood, don't drive through more than 2 inches. This is because once water is unconstrained and you add energy to volume, there is little that can withstand this force of nature.

3. If you are near a coast line and the water starts to recede -- do not think "oh cool" and wander out on the flats to collect shells. RUN or drive as fast as you can toward high ground. If there is no high ground, try a tall, well-built structure. Remember the warning that when the tide goes OUT in an unusual way, it comes back IN in an unusual way -- most likely a tidal wave that will kill you. Do not be deluded that you can swim it out. The top 10 to 20 feet of the wave and trailing surge is a twisted mass of wreckage being shoved along by monumental forces. Once you are engulfed by it, you are swept away, broken, battered and trapped. It will kill you and you will suffer a lot for at least a few minutes before you die.

4. If you hear that your area is under tsunami warning, do not go down to the beach to take photos. Yes, we have experts who estimate the size of the surge, but the estimate is usually a general one. Your location may experience more or less than the estimate. Is it worth your life to test which side of the estimate is reached? If you want to see or document the event, see items #1 and #2 above.

5. If it's not already too late, do not buy or build a home right on the beach at sea level. Geologically, beaches tend to be short-lived and move around rapidly. Anything built on it will probably fall apart or be washed away within your lifetime. This will be assisted by WEATHER such as storms up to hurricanes, along with the more gradual tides, currents and normal daily winds.

6. If you choose to live in earthquake country, do some research. Make sure your living situation is on solid rock in an area with minimal historic disturbance. I did this when I lived in San Francisco -- lived AND chose my employer based on the USGS report on the 1906 earthquake. In the 1989 quake, I suffered a broken butter dish. Period. That evening, my neighbors and I stood on the roof and watched the Marina District (built on unconsolidated fill) burn. I moved out of the city several months later -- decided I did not want to be there for the real thing.

7. Make sure you are prepared to leave or stay (see my other pages) and to make the decision to do one or the other and live with it. You life will likely depend on it, so think about these things IN ADVANCE so you can act when it happens.

8. Do not ignore all the above with the thought that someone -- your friends, the government, etc. will save you if you get in trouble. That's just irresponsible and annoying.

Part of being prepared involves the space between our ears. Let's use it!!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Two helpful articles for low-cost preparation

First, an apology for not posting recently. I am, and have been, ill. I anticipate spending another 10 days mostly in bed. For the next week posts will be sparse, so continuing apologies.

I have come across two articles, within days of each other, that point out some inexpensive and useful items that you can buy once and not worry about rotating --assuming you store them with a modicum of care. What's great about these items is that some/many of these, like salt and sugar, have many uses beyond our current inclusion in cooking and baking.

The websites that provided these articles are also great for preparedness, though not as basic or frugally-focused as this site. If you enjoy and learn from these referenced articles, I urge you to explore these sites, especially as you become more sophisticated in your preparations.

This article:

references 9 'forever foods,' while this one:

references 15.

Not all of these are inexpensive, but items like sugar, salt and vinegar certainly qualify.

In addition to these, I would add several yards of unbleached muslin, in case you need bandages or slings -- or a host of other items that can be made quickly, without sewing, from this wonderful fabric. Because we do not have a locally-owned fabric store, I buy mine from the sewing and crafts department at WAL-MART, and try to buy whatever size is MADE IN USA. Prior to storing, I wash and dry without fabric softener. Should you ever need to tear pieces to wrap up and make impromptu feminine products, you would want it to be absorbent. Washing will improve that quality in the fabric.

I hope this information will help you decide on some low-cost items to put away for a rainy day.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What did you do to prepare this week?

Sorry about the writer's block this week, but I did a few things to improve or at least practice my preparedness skills. Huh? Skills? Yup, skills are very important and practice helps. I have planted a few cold-tolerant vegies and nursed them to sprouts in preparation of planting outside in the near future. Even if we just eat the sprouts, they will be less expensive than buying fresh vegies. I've found that getting them outside during the day for sun and bringing them inside at night is proving difficult. I leave for work before it is really as warm as I'd prefer (above 40 degrees) and get home after dark. As a result, they are a little leggy. If you start your vegies early -- things like rutabagas, onions and broccoli that can take a little extra cold in the Spring -- remember to factor in the sunlight part of the equation!

I also made some Jerky with a different cut of beef. I am trying to work that optimization between cheap and good jerky. My most recent comparison began when my local Kroger affiliate grocer had a buy-one-get-one-free on slabs of beef. I bought a bottom round roast and a top round roast, one of which was 'free'. ( I tried to get them within half a pound of each other to optimize the deal, so it worked out to about $2/pound) I made the bottom round jerky a few weeks ago and am finishing up the top-round as I write. So far, my vote is for the bottom round. It was easier to slice, took the marinade better and has less fat to deal with. I've only tried one small piece of this batch, but I think the bottom round is less tough once jerked as well.

My last thing was a splurge. Northern Tool had a sale on portable indoor propane heaters (Mr Heater brand). The one I chose was about $40 less than the nearest competitor, so I bought one for less than $100 including the tank adapter and shipping. The loss of heat for 3 days may have been a fluke and may not happen again for years, but if it happens sooner I will not be caught without again! Who knows, next time we may lose the electric as well, so this should be fine. The description indicates that it can operate at around 4000 BTU's for a week on a 4 gallon propane tank. That should do.

Hope you had a great week and put just a little something by or developed a new skill that will serve you in tougher times.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Little things add up

Like many families, we keep a container on the hall table for stray coins. When I clean the pennies out of my purse, they go in, along with pocket change from my husband's trousers. I've never been fond of rolling coins, so here is my strategy: Coin Star.

BUT WAIT!! you say, COIN STAR machines charge a huge percentage to count your coins. Here comes the hard part: you must search out the special machines that also dispense gift cards or gift receipts. These do not charge a percentage -- it is funded by the companies who are trying to sell you their gift cards. There is a catch -- you take the card or receipt to use only with your specific selected merchant. The one in our town has about 5 card choices.

When I do this, I select after I have identified what I want and have done my comparisons to ensure that Amazon is competitive with the best price after shipping charges have been factored in.

Here is an example: I would like to have a back-up to my BACK TO BASICS hand grain mill. This brand is inexpensive and produces flour rather than just cracked grain. They cost between $49 and $79 for the same model, depending on where you buy and who has a special. Right now, Amazon has them for a good price with low shipping costs.

My next move will be to drag my bag of coins to the grocery store that has the special machine. After ensuring that the deal hasn't changed, I will drop my coins into the mechanism and see how close I am to a grain mill. I anticipate that we've collected enough to be more than halfway there.

With a grain mill, you can buy bulk wheat, store some and use some to bake your own bread. Nothing quite as yummy as fresh-ground whole wheat home-made bread. Until your family gets used to it, it can disappear really fast! Not bad for pennies, nickels and the occasional dime.

Monday, February 7, 2011

What is the 'food storage analyzer' button?

This is a really neat tool. You can create an account with minimal personal info. Sure, the business would like you to use it to buy stuff from them, but you do not need to do that to use the tool. The first time or two that I used it, I did not set up an account. Fine, but when I closed it, all my info disappeared. The third time, I set up an account. All I needed was a user ID that I made up, a password and to give them an e-mail address. If you are uncomfortable with that, consider getting a GMail or Yahoo account to use for such situations. These are free and also require little personal info.

When you first enter the tool, it will ask you a few simple questions, like how many people in the household, their ages and sex. The calculator uses this to form the baseline of how many calories are needed to feed the household each day.

Once into the main part of the program, you can choose to enter your food storage items to see how long your stored food will feed your brood. You can choose from the drop down to go to categories like dairy, fruits and vegetables, etc.. Once in a category, you enter your quantity of #10 cans, pails or other measurement units of staples, like wheat, dry beans and dry milk. There are also some pre-loaded grocery-store items. For all of these you enter your quantity on hand. There is also a spot where you can enter your storage items that are not already on the list. You will need to have the item at hand, as you will enter the nutritional info from the label on the product.

Each page has a 'calculate' button at the bottom. When you calculate, it tells you several things in a panel near the right side of the screen. First is how many days' worth of food you have. Then it shows the major nutrients -- carbohydrates, fats, protein AND some of the really important vitamins and minerals, like calcium, Iron, vitamins A and C. Some of the nutrients become limiting factors. If you have a month's worth of protein but only a week-worth of fats, it will not show as a month's worth of food. Anything below about 75% of the requirement could limit the # of days' food until you address the shortage.

When I first used it, I discovered my supplies were very low on fats, calcium and vitamin A. I used the 'next order' feature to see what I would need to bring these nutrients nearer to 100% of the recommended daily value. I did buy some of the items from this company, but bought the ones I knew were available from the LDS warehouse during the next canning session. I also bought a 5 gallon jug of peanut oil and a pail of lard from the local grocery store (on sale and 10% off for being a Senior on the first Wednesday of the month).

What I like about this analyzer is that it is essentially anonymous, FREE, and takes some of the guess-work out of knowing what you have set aside and whether you will get the basic nutrition you need when you use it. It would be terrible to lose a job, feel safer because you have a couple of month's food stored, and then find there isn't enough protein or calcium to keep the gang going!

Preparation is about doing things right and doing the right things. As I learned the hard way recently, we can all use a little help in making sure we have all the basics covered. Learning it without hard lessons is better than learning through hard lessons, but hard lessons are better than not learning at all!!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Canned vegies, and a recipe to go with, anyone?

The Kroger/Fry's chain has a special on canned vegies. When you buy at least 10 participation items, the selected Del Monte vegies are 49 cents a can. I can't remember them all, but choices include both regular and reduced salt versions of green peas, green beans and corn (including regular and creamed style). There are a few other deals in the 10 for 10, including some Hunt's tomato products and some Kraft brands as well. Most of the canned vegetables have 'best by' dates in 2013, so are suitable for short-term food storage.

I use some of the canned vegies, especially the sweet corn, in a baked dish I call 'Prepper's pie." It is like shepherd's pie, but may or may not have meat in it. It starts with about hald a cup each of reyhdrated onion and carrot dices (fresh works too!), sauted until the onions are transparent and starting to turn golden. Toss into a shallow baking dish (needs to hold 6 to 8 cups) with the drained corn (reserve the liquid as well as any that is squeezed out of the rehydrating of the onion and carrots), 1 can of rinsed canned or 1.5 cups of prepared pinto or black beans (green peas would work in a pinch) and the optional 1 cup of shredded or ground beef . The 12 ounce can of hormel roast beef with gravy works well. It is about 8 ounces of meat and 4 ounces of gravy. Mix half the corn water with the gravy and/or rehydration water and/or broth. You need about a cup of liquid in the dish. (I rinse the canned beans and do not use the 'water' because the sludge in canned beans tastes like cans to me)

If you do not have prepared beans, you can make a thickened gravy using dehydrated refried beans. Bake the mix for about 20 minutes at about 300 degrees. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Make up about 4 cups of mashed potatoes (I use the Excel potato pearls) with hot water and the other half of the corn water. Should take about 1.5 cups of the pearls and 3+ cups of liquid. They should be thick but not dry when you put them on top of the mix. Bake for about 15 minutes at 350 degrees.

Cost for this runs about $5, less if you do not use the canned meat. With no side dish except bread, it feeds 8 meals (6 adults, a teen and a child). It is low fat (about 2 grams a serving) if you want -- just a little oil to brown the onions and carrots. If you need the extra fat, put some butter in the mashed potatoes or use a less lean meat, like a fattier hamburger meat. Leftovers should keep for about 3 days in the fridge.

This is a good 'rotation' meal to use some canned items before they expire or to help rotate dehydrated or freeze dried products that need to be moved out of storage. It should work well in a Dutch oven. There are some great websites on how to use Dutch Ovens. My favorite is:

Saturday, February 5, 2011

What did you do to prepare this week?

After being cut off from our natural gas supply for more than 48 hours, along with about 20,000 other homes in Arizona and New Mexico, we have gas again. This 'emergency' was a management decision on the part of our supply company -- deprive some so that others may have enough. They were slow in notifying us thus making it more difficult to plan and manage. It was at least 8 hours after the gas was discontinued before we found out on the news. Today, we saw a lot of people at the hardware store getting repair items for frozen pipes, now thawing.

We thought about going to our alternate location, which has propane heat, but it is a few hours' drive away. The gas company, when they finally did communicate through the media, indicated that we MUST have someone home for them to restore service at our houses at undisclosed times this weekend. Guess that was to ensure everything was off and we don't come home to a fiery explosion or several inches of water in our houses (Oops, too late for my boss, who wasn't notified and came home to a broken pipe in his ceiling. Nice job, Southwest gas! Proper notification and he would have turned the water OFF and drained a pipe or two before coming to work.)

So, to prep I picked up a couple of hot water bottles which were very useful because we had electricity and could microwave the water outside the bottle and pour it in. DO NOT heat or re-heat the filled hot water bottle in the microwave!! If the water starts to boil in the hot water bottle, you could have a devastating explosion of scalding water as the bag ruptures.

I also started researching portable heaters that do not require electricity. I will probably buy one that works with a 5 gallon propane tank. That way we are covered for Southwest Gas's management decisions or a power outage that would keep the furnace fan from working.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

It's never what you think!

Well look who's caught with her pants down! I have food, light and cooking preparedness, but NEVER thought we'd need HEAT backup as part of everyday non-disaster planning. I live 10 miles north of the US-Mexico border in the SW US. Newsflash: It is supposed to be WARM here.

Last night got into single digits. Forecast says we will not break freezing today. It has been so cold that we are having natural gas outages. I think they started last night. I noticed my thermostat was set to 70 but it was only 64 degrees as I left the house this morning. I just called my neighbor and her house is 60 degrees and falling. Stove is gas too, so dogs and microwave tea are the sources of heat. Darn, I was just thinking about putting hot water bottles on my list of things to have on hand....

The gas company is asking employers to curtail business and turn thermostats down so they can provide enough gas to keep houses from freezing. My boss mentioned that we should stand by to telecommute. For half of us that would be from a cold house. Some days this preparedness stuff feels like whack-a-mole!

Let's all learn from my experience: better to have broad coverage for your 72 hour preparedness kits, and then concentrate on the most-likely scenarios for the in-depth preparations.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

One area of preparedness where we can SPLURGE!

Preparedness is not just about having the 'right stuff' or enough stuff. The most important 'stuff' to have is having your mental and spiritual stuff together. The good news is that this is a resource that is given freely through churches, the Internet and our friends and family. Whether we follow Biblical teachings and/or other, being firmly rooted in our connections within the universe and our purpose in living is an incredibly important part of preparedness.

Without a firm foundation that explores what we believe and why, we cannot make the type of life-saving decisions that may come our way. True compassion is a difficult concept to understand and even harder to practice. Many teachings lead us to understand that compassion may feel cruel, but as we all heard our Parents mention (at least once) it may hurt the 'giver' as well as the receiver. We may be forced to make decisions that leave us in agony to ensure that we keep to our plans of taking care of our families.

Compassion is about providing that which is within our power and enables the receiver to learn what they need to learn at the time. If we do not show compassion for the man or woman that our child will become, we would never force them to walk, go to school or accept the consequences of their actions or decisions.

So how does this apply to being prepared? We must keep counsel with those we trust. We may offer suggestions to our loved ones, but we cannot prepare for all of them. They have responsibility for their families as we have for ours. Someday, we may find that we must be compassionate by not giving to those who would not prepare.

This is not to say that we may abandon charity and call it compassion. Part of our preparedness must include a little extra for giving to others who may have real need and could not prepare. This may be due to physical or mental limitations, or to the good fortune of surviving an attack that stripped them of everything but their lives. Our spiritual preparedness will guide us in how much we can do to help in such circumstances, and be as generous as possible.

To be able to decide where the line of charity and compassion lie, and do this in the kindest and most loving of ways will take incredible preparation and soul-searching. It is something I do not look forward to with any joy, though it may come. If you haven't become acquainted with your God or your soul before then, you may be unprepared for making good decisions.

My sincere thanks to Jane for reminding me of this important part of our preparation, growing our spiritual fitness and cultivating our daily communion.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Another way to add to your pantry!

The Cooking Cousins at Honeyville Grain are having a give-away. Just leave a comment, but include your e-mail address to be in the drawing for a #10 can of hot chocolate mix.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

What did you do this week?

Doing at least one small thing to improve or maintain your personal or family preparedness is a good habit to start. It could be something simple, like buying a couple of extra cans of your favorite soup while it is on sale (and putting them in the 'prudent reserve' spot) , or taking a grocery bag and putting a pair of jeans and some walking shoes in your office.

My 'thing' this week came after the reported 'lock-down' at a military installation. Some people were there overnight. Did they have toothbrushes? A blanket? So I took some old clothes -- comfortable ones that still fit but that I don't really wear anymore -- except for yard work-- and a fleecy throw, put them in a 'free' recyclable grocery bag and stuck them in my car trunk. At least something clean and comfy, especially if there is an overnighter. Sure, it's unlikely that I will get stuck at work overnight, but that was probably the farthest thing from the minds of the people who DID get locked in overnight. Other, more likely reasons to use the stuff include ending up with a flat tire and not wanting to change it in a skirt and heels.

It is a small thing, but over time, one action every week will add up.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Welcome to Frugal Preparedness!

The purpose of this blog is to assist the novice and moderate income households in maintaining family preparedness for whatever potential emergencies may come your way. It is a work in progress, but the 'basic steps' page is available now.

There will be no attempts to sell you or entice you to buy ANYTHING.

There will be no attempts to scare you into anything.

There will be no political blame or rhetoric.

You can find plenty of websites that provide all that.

This one is about reasonable preparations and LEGAL ways to come up with 'OR' to fund at least part of your preparedness.

What does 'OR' mean? It means 'Outside Resource.' Money or goods that you can earn in addition to your family income. I don't mean weird Internet envelope stuffing scams. I mean ways to shop and do business that will reduce your cost of living just a smidge so you can collect the preparedness supplies you decide you need. This OR can be anything from earning gift cards to healthcare spending/savings accounts to carve out $100 a month or a quarter to put into your preparedness plan.

I will provide my favorite websites for purchasing and my rationale for using them. I will also provide links to sites that can provide more technical insight if you want to delve deeper into any of the subjects I mention.