Sunday, July 29, 2012

What did you do to prepare in July?

Lots to do here every July.  Drain and clean the rainwater harvesting system to prepare for the Monsoonal bounty,  check and rotate those wet canned food items (January and July for me), test the emergency radio and flashlights (last month of each quarter), adjust the auto emergency kits for monsoon flash flooding (add more food and water in case we can't get home for a day), etc..

How about you?  Regular maintenance of what you have is as (maybe more!!) important as getting the next item on your list.  Sure would be sad to finally have that second new 20 lb propane tank if the stove or heater you need it for isn't working due to lack of maintenance!

Part of your plan should include what items need to be checked, cleaned, tested, etc. and how often.  IT's just a paperweight if IT doesn't work when you need IT -- whatever IT is.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Observation on clearance items

Since retiring, I've been able to shop during the week -- it's a whole different world! Pardon me if you already know this, but there's something happening at Target that needs mention.   They regularly have items on the shelves with big red CLEARANCE tabs under them.  I'm not talking about the end-cap clearance items that are usually useless fluffy stuff.  Maybe this was happening before and I mentally edited out the red tabs with empty shelves behind them -- these items tend to go fast. Perhaps this is only local because they just remodeled to add a bigger food section.  Maybe they are still adjusting their inventory to the local buyers. Whatever it is, there are some good deals if you can catch them, so please look for them if you have a Target nearby. 

Here are some bargain prep food-storage items I found last week:  the last can of fat-free Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk, 10 ounce cans of Italian espresso in real cans with hard tops for $2.18 ($3.48 per pound), and 39 ounce cans of Chef Boyardee spaghetti w/meatballs for $2.15 (that's 4.5 generous servings @ 9 grams of protein and 12 of fat per).  NONE of these has a BEST BEFORE date in 2012, the Spaghetti date is Jan 2014.  Dang, that's the stuff of home preparedness kits -- edible cold and chocked with fat, carbs and protein for those grid-down moments. For $10 you could add real substance to your larder -- in this case a meal with sweet, creamed coffee.  If you have some left-over biscuits and coconut, add a classic Eagle Brand dessert.

 Happy hunting!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Great Article on Bakery Buckets

If you would like to know more about a great, and often free, resource, hop over to:

There is a great guest post about the many uses and possible sources for bakery buckets. 

If you have young children, go HOME while you are there and see the 72-hour checklist for your infants!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Solar power backup

We don't have a backup generator. We probably should, but we don't.  Part of the 'we don't' is related to the idea of storing bulk fuel in a residential area. 

This month, Emergency Essentials has a rechargeable battery pack with a solar cell and LED light on sale for about half the usual price. It is normally $409, is on sale for $259 AND you receive a $50 giftcard which brings the longer-term price down to $209.  This is not going to run your air-conditioning or your washing machine. It will bring you light, recharge your cell phones and allow you to use a small fan, your laptop or other small electronics.  If the power outage is longer that one night, stick the solar panel out in the sun the next day to prepare for another night without juice. Maybe it won't seem so long if you have a few comforts working!

Cold coffee comparisons

Coffee has become more than just a beverage for Americans.  Many of us rely on the caffeine as well. If you haven't or don't plan to wean yourself off the stuff, then you'll need to prepare for emergency coffee! For this blog I will compare a few 'cold water' recipes for making coffee and compare taste with the hot stuff.  Obviously with a panel of 1, this is highly subjective.

The experiment included a couple of leading brand instant coffees and a leading brand of ground regular coffee prepared with cold water. I used distilled water to avoid the water being a significant factor.  Other than using cold water, I followed the ratio of coffee per cup in the directions on the packages.

The good news is that for both of the instant coffees, adding cold water WILL dissolve the granules. It just takes a little longer than hot water -- maybe 30 seconds or more.  Both were cloudy for several minutes after mixing.  I tried  Folgers Classic Roast (FCR) and a Nescafe Tasters Choice (NTC) instant coffee. Both of the initial coffees have been in my preparedness supplies. One was within the BEST BEFORE date, the other was not. I checked aroma, clarity and flavor on both instants immediately after mixing and again about an hour later.

The FCR instant coffee dissolved well and was not as 'cloudy' initially as the NTC. It had an aroma I can best describe as 'carmelly.' The flavor is also like roasted sugars or grains, more like Postum than brewed coffee.  It is very drinkable cold with no additives but does not have a flavor that screams COFFEE.  After sitting for an hour, it had slightly more coffee-like flavor.

The NTC, not so much. In all fairness, the first cup was past its BEST BEFORE date. So I went to Target and bought the 7-individual serving pack with a BEST BEFORE date in 2013.  It was noticeably better upon first taste and had a much better aroma than the old coffee granules. It was not as palatable as the Folgers. The aroma was more like brewed coffee at first, but had an undertone I can only describe as 'skunky.'  This scent increased at the later tasting.  It was the skunkiness in the outdated NTC that caused me to go buy the newer stock. In both cases, the taste was coffee-like, just don't breathe once your nose is near the cup. 

The last item I tried was regular Starbucks House Blend ground coffee mixed with cold water in a glass container, allowing it to stand for an hour or more, then filtering into a cup and drinking cold.  I checked on the 'brew' and stirred it about every 30 minutes.  At an hour it looked strong enough to try.  It was OK, but weak.  After another half hour it was better. It tasted more like coffee than the other two, but not so much better that it overcame the mess and long lead time to drink.

So of these three, I would recommend the instant Folgers or the cold-method preparation of regular coffee but not the Tasters Choice for those emergency mornings when coffee is a must-have and hot water isn't available. If you are not planning to rotate your coffee every year, then go for the Folgers.

P.S. I 'bought' both the original Folger's instant and the recent Tasters Choice with 'rewards currency' from K-Mart and Target respectively.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Remember all ages

For each of us, our level of preparedness is a matter of choice. Some prep for the minimum, some for longer periods. For the people back east who went without power for 10 to 14 days recently, a two weeks of food that didn't require much cooking or refrigeration - and some extra BBQ fuel - would have been a good thing!

For emergencies that bring neighborhoods together, there is another type of preparedness to consider. It's a hard one for me to remember because our household is all able-bodied adults.  Some in the neighborhood struggle to make ends meet while raising their families or maintaining a 'sandwich household' (children and elderly parents).  Children and the infirm elderly may be hit hard psychologically during an emergency. Children usually don't understand the gravity of the situation. The infirm elderly understand but may feel powerless, and even worse may feel like a burden, to their families. Keeping a few comfort or distraction items available may be a blessing to your neighbors.

I don't make these preps a 'budget item' but do consider them when the price is right.  Let me explain:

I keep my eyes open for a few items that could be useful my friends or neighbors.  Some examples include: at the annual work safety fair (last one was conveniently a month before I retired!!) I picked up some of the freebies for kids - a coloring book on fire safety, a bee-shaped squeezy toy.  I also grabbed a few other comfort items to include a water bottle, a paperback New Testament with Psalms, a couple of small sewing kits, a small stuffed toy (the dog pilfered the last one), an educational deck of playing cards, a small flashlight.  I do the same at other 'fairs' around town. When clipping coupons, I clip the huge bargains for applicable products  -- like a tube of name brand dental adhesive for $1 ($1 off manufacturer's coupon and $1 store coupon PLUS on sale -- happens about 2X a year), or a coupon for a free 'trial size' of adult incontinence undies. If I can get a pack of one to three  for $2 or less, they 'go in the box.' Another source is Bath and Body Works. Occasionally they have some 75% off clearance items that  are good candidates. This week they had a 3-pack of small nail files (emery boards) for 50 cents. That worked out to 17 cents per nail file. Travel take you to a hotel? Throw the unopened bottle of mouthwash or shower cap in your suitcase.

Yes, I keep one cardboard 'banker box' (about 1 cubic foot in size) of these items in my preparedness supplies.  My total expense for the contents was less than $10. In a shelter-in-place emergency, these are available if needed.  Our last such emergency was the Feb 2011 deep freeze and loss of natural gas (heat and stove) for about 25% of the local population. Mercifully, it was only three days and didn't require breaking out these items.  Who knows what the next one will bring?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Your Summer Kitchen

I've heard lots of reasons for not canning. One of my own was "last thing I need is to heat up the kitchen when it's already so hot."  Last year I realized I have a summer kitchen!  Of course, I'd had it for years, just didn't recognize it.  You may have one too!  It's your grill, if you have a side burner. Use both the side burner and grill surface of your regular BBQ grill to make your product!  Why/how does this relate to frugal preparedness?  Well, if you have fruit in your yard and containers to can, you can make your own jam. From there, you can save the cost of commercial product either for your current use, future use or for gifts. Wow, that's a lot of opportunity to use this resource!

If you plan to can, please do your research to ensure you are using a method that is safe for the type of storage you plan for your product.  Failure to do so could result in illness or death - seriously!

I'll just share how I made the actual jam. This was a lazy-canning. After I finished, I put the jam into  freezer containers (sterilized, of course).  We take them out of the freezer, thaw in the fridge and use immediately.  The jam shown is a mix of black currents and serviceberries (also called saskatoons).  I do not strain my preserves, but cook them long enough for the seeds to soften. Free protein. Aditionally, before I can them, I give hit them with a stick blender to chop up the skins a bit - which also releases a little extra natural pectin.

Here is the start of my meager early harvest.  I was really craving some black current jam! Because I was planning to freeze and not put them in shelf-storage, I use about half the suggested sugar.

Even on LO, my burner was very hot, so I was careful to watch, put the top on, take it off, etc. to prevent burning or boil over.  I was somewhat successful.  Since this batch, I've gotten one of those cast-iron flame spreaders to even the heat.

To save propane, I let the mixture 'stew' a couple of times on the cool grill. It also absorbed some of the residual heat from the heavy steel pan, reducing boil-over.

Looks ready for the stick blender.  Then the lemon juice and liquid pectin! Since this batch, I've started using the bulk BALL dry pectin.  I like it a lot and it's much less mess and expense. I usually try to use whatever pectin has the least dextrose or other sugars in it.  If I have apples, I'll throw in a couple (peeled and chopped small) to improve the natural pectin content.

Ahhhh. Ready for the containers and my current jam fix!! This made about 5 (with some leftover) 8 ounce freezer containers of jam.  If you are a serious canner, you'll need to decide how to set up the waterbath -- perhaps a 2 burner grill or actual propane stove on your porch would be better. That is if you are REALLY serious about your summer kitchen!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

See other blog

Today's post on my other blog Being Awake is also applicable to frugal preparedness. If you save money on pest management around your house or homestead, it can be used for other things, like your FEMA-suggested emergency food or water supply.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Pages have been updated!

The  ABOUT, RESOURCES and FAVORITES pages of this blog have been updated.

New sources were added to RESOURCES and FAVORITES.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Frugal filter for clean water

In being prepared, there's a saying: "three is two; two is one and one is none."  It means that for the REALLY important things, like food, clean water, light and fire you need backups.  You also need backups to your back-ups.  For water, that may mean having several sources: rain barrel, pond, well, neighbor's pool. Great sources, but would you want to drink it without some process to clean the water?  Sure, chlorine will disinfect it (usually), but it may still look and taste scummy.  That's where filtration can be very useful.

I read about this filter and then bought one. It works like the expensive filter set-ups from a company that starts with a "B" but costs about 10% of the price --or less. If you can supply the 2 food-grade buckets, you can have a water filter that gets out the nasty stuff for about $35 including shipping.  This website seems to be the least expensive for the same product I bought -- a set that includes the filter and spigot. The site also has assembly instructions.  I bought from a different company and paid $10 too much. Got too excited and bought before I finished my research. DUMB.

This site also has the pre-made systems that include the buckets for under $50,  so you don't need to buy or scrounge them.