Monday, October 29, 2012

Your Unique Hygiene Responses

Everyone's body chemistry is unique. Most of us shower or bathe daily to prevent others from knowing just how unique we are! So how does your body respond to a rapid change in that routine? When was the last time you went more than 48 hours without a bath, shower, hair wash, etc.?  Finding out is essentially free -- in fact you may save a buck by not using the soap and hot water for a day or two.

I regularly skip one day a week just to give my dry skin a little break. Recently I stretched it and went 72 hours. Wow, did my body react!! It wasn't just the sticky feeling on the skin or some odors I wasn't accustomed to noticing.  My head, which had some hair styling products on it, broke out with  a tender, lumpy rash. Didn't see that coming!

So how can we get our bodies to the point that, if necessity dictates, we can feel comfortable without that daily shower?  What is the point that we go from fragrant to unhealthy in the process? Skin is our largest organ and our primary protection from infection and disease. It's relatively easy to care for it during 'normal' life, but what expedient products can help us during emergencies? Bucket bath?  Baby wipes? Baby powder in your hair? What other methods have you tried? Is there a way to accustom our bodies to doing without a shower or bath a little longer and perhaps beef-up our immune systems without ending up with the head-rash or worse?

Because everyone's skin is different -- how dry, how oily, how sensitive to specific chemicals -- each answer will be a little different. You may be one of the lucky people who can go a week without noticing any differences, but eventually it will catch up with you. Now's a good time to experiment with how your body reacts to a change in hygiene routine. If you're married, you may want to synchronize with your spouse!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Do Not Delay

If you are in the path of the converging storms on the east coast of the U.S., decide what you're doing and do it quickly if you haven't already.  If you can pack a bag and head west, it may be a good idea. If you can't, then assess your situation and make a plan if you don't already have one.

 Are you on low ground, subject to flooding? If so, you may want to call a friend on higher ground to see if you can stay there until the storm passes.

Do you have some cash and food? If not, try to get to an ATM for cash and get some food that can be eaten without cooking, like my old standard Chef Boyardee. If you have canned food, be sure to include a can opener! If the power goes out for a while, you may not be able to get cash, so do it now if you're low.

In some areas, water distribution requires electricity.  Back up generators could fail if flooding or freezing are wide spread. Be sure you have a few days of water stored for this one, in clean bottles (like 2-liter soda bottles) if possible.

If the power goes out and the cold front lingers, can you stay warm? Line up your fleeces and blankets.  If you are low on these, get to Goodwill or the Salvation Army store and get a few. They don't need to be pretty, just warm. Don't forget warm socks. How about a tarp? If you roof goes in the strong winds, it may be nice to have a spot you can 'camp' in your home until you find a place to stay that has a roof.

It may seem silly, but do your laundry if you have a big pile. Clean clothes are warmer than dirty ones.  If your power goes out, it may be a while before it comes back on so clean clothes may be in short supply. This may be a good job for kids who are out of school awaiting the storm. You start the loads, they can babysit them and transfer to the dryer while you are doing other things.

Once the storm hits, don't underestimate its potential to kill. Sandy has already proven its ability to kill, and that was without the arctic front component. Be extra cautious. Don't just head out to work. Have a plan to be able to know whether your place of business will be open, especially if you have along commute. Pick a website where info can be posted if possible. Convince your employer to have a voicemail box where the 'greeting' can be changed and employees can call in for the thumbs-up or down.  Commuting a long way into worse disaster conditions, only to find yourself stuck and your business locked could be the start of an ugly day.

Above all, take this last 12 to 24 hours to plan who's going where, what you need and how to get it, and what your trigger points are to leave your chosen location. If there are millions of people in distress asking for emergency services, you may not be near the top of the list.  Be your own best rescuer by smart planning and action NOW.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Purse Pack Every Day Carry

This is mostly for the ladies, but I can always use input from you experienced guys and gals, especially on anything missing or too much redundancy. The subject is every day carry items for the purse.  If any ladies are reading this and not familiar with this level of preparedness, this article provides descriptions of lots of types of preparedness 'kits.'  Not everyone needs each type of kit, but a few may make sense for you.  The purpose of the EDC is to get you to the next level of supply or safety.  If you have a kit in your car, home or office, your EDC should help you get to the closest one.  If caught in a 'shelter in place' situation, some of the items may make you more comfortable, but that is not the primary purpose of the 'kit.'

For a while I just dropped my basic preparedness stuff into my purse.  Occasionally I'd review it, usually I'd transfer it all if I needed to change purses.  I finally got organized when I realized the 'free' mesh makeup bags would be perfect to keep it all in one place and visible without adding lots of extra weight to my already lead-like purse. I had a choice of red or black.  I picked red.
 It is about 4 X 6 inches and was made to be about an inch thick when stuffed with cosmetics or whatever.  It is a great size for what I carry including my redundant items.  Writing this post gave me a chance to review what was in there, because occasionally I'd just stuff something in because it seemed like a good idea.
The contents pictured are: 2 Mylar blankets, 1 fire steel, 1 Bic lighter, 2 P51 can openers, 1cheap hotel sewing kit (augmented), 1 Princeton tec pulsar II LED white light, 1 small Victorinox pocket knife with pen and red flashlight, 1 small envelope with several silver coins, 1 tool logic card with red light, 1 Victorinox Swiss card and one pair of collapsible scissors. The entire collection and bag weighed 12 ounces. By using items lying around the house, picking up items on sale and buying at the military surplus store, the only thing in the kit that cost more than $10 was the pocket knife. The mesh bag and the sewing kit were free. The Mylar blankets were 4 for $5 at Sierra Trading Post.  Most other items cost between 50 cents and $5.
Two items I added late in the process were the tool logic and the pocket knife.  In reviewing the contents, I found more redundancy that I really need. I did not repack the separate scissors, as there are already 2 pair between the pocket knife and the Swiss card. Both the pocket knife and the tool logic card have can openers, but the one in the card seems easy to lose, so I ditched one of the P51's. I thought about leaving out the tool logic, but the additional light and the larger blade were worth the weight.
Next improvement actions will include adding duct tape or paracord to be able to attach the Ice logic blade to a make-shift handle, and re-evaluate whether the Swiss card adds enough useful items to keep it in the pack. What you don't see is a millennium bar because I go through those often enough that I don't keep one in the mesh bag.  I'll probably reconsider that decision as well.  We don't live anywhere near a source of fish, so no fishing gear.

By leaving the scissors and can opener out, the weight decreased to 10 ounces. By dropping the Swiss card, I can probably add 3 or 4 yards of para cord and some duct tape and stay under 12 ounces. What's missing? What's too much?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Reduce Costs with Multi-tasking Products

I've been doing this so long, I forgot that I do it. So what's a multi-tasking product? One that has multiple uses in your preparedness supplies, of course, to reduce cost and storage space without losing capability. For your GO bag, it can also lighten your weight.  The obvious item is salt. It can be used for flavoring and many medicinal uses. In larger volumes and with some expertise, it can be used for food preservation.

What are some less obvious multi-taskers? My favorite is alcohol gel hand sanitizer. Most of these gels have between 60% and 75% alcohol so they are flammable within warmer temperature regions.  They can also be used, VERY CAREFULLY, as fire-starter. A small squirt on a piece of cotton, fabric scrap or small ball of  dryer lint can help start other tinder or kindling. It is not as effective in very cold temps (near or below freezing) but can be a lifesaver in damp conditions. I just found the 72% in 10 foil pouches at CVS for $1.99. That will help get around the potential leaking bottle issue.

Candles are another multi-tasker. By selecting your candles carefully for composition and size, you may be able to harness them for both light and as back-up cooking fuel.  A short multi-wicked canned candle is more likely to be a multi-tasker, and beeswax a better choice than miscellaneous waxes. These may not cook a raw piece of meat, but may be enough to warm water to warm you up. Short thin candle ends or small pieces with a wick can be harnessed in the fire-starter arena if needed.  By pullin a piece of string or thread across a candle a few times, you can coat it in wax and make it more waterproof and easier to use -- especially thread.  Waxing it makes it tangle and knot-up less when you sew.

I'm a big fan of net fabric, by the yard, from Walmart or fabric store. It comes in several mesh densities and a few colors. We don't have no-see-ums here, so I get the slightly larger mesh.  Yardage is about 55 inches wide and can be used as-is with a little help from a walking stick or piece of string for a bug net over a sleeping bag or 'screen door' on a make-shift shelter. With a bit more work, it can become a net around your hat to exclude bugs -- up to  sewing some as a tube and putting a simple draw-string on top and bottom. I keep 3 yards of this, in one piece, in both my Emergency first aid kit and my GO bag. One piece is black and the other is a bronzy medium brown.

So what are your favorite multi-tasking items?

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Best Bargain

Most of our preparedness is in the physical world in response to our understanding of local perils.  Our physical preparedness is certainly important.  No less important is spiritual preparedness.  Adding this aspect and state of mind to having preparedness supplies and knowing how to use them may be what separates the 'prepared' from the crazed hoard.  An important foundation for this is your spiritual clarity -- what you hold to be true at your core.  Our moral clarity often springs from our spiritual clarity.

If you haven't contemplated the difference between intellect and spirituality, now's a good time. Knowledge without wisdom can be empty and dangerous.  The core belief and practical experience of being connected to something beyond yourself is the foundation of hope. Hope without that faith and the resulting charity is child-like fantasy. 

Years ago I watched as a coworker, Curt, transformed for the better over the course of several months. One day I mentioned noticing the positive change and asked him what was going on. He opened up and told me he had finally started going to AA and it was helping. He had resisted it for years because of the 'God' thing. He had a friend who suggested to him that his Higher Power didn't need to be 'God' and maybe he should just think of doorknobs his higher power. Huh? As long as he was on the non-drinking side of a doorknob, he was in the right place.  He teared up and continued. The hope that that this tiny bit of faith brought him opened his eyes to the potential for miracles.  He began to see the good, the beauty and the wonder of the world around him. He started seeing the good in others and finally, in himself. He also started seeing the invisible hand of a power greater than the doorknob and began to trust it. He connected with the universe of good. His Higher Power was now much greater than the doorknob. Curt was becoming a new man. Hope and faith began to fill the gaping gray sucking hole in his soul, the drive to self-medicate it with alcohol was loosening its hold on him. Love and charity began to flow in him. He could finally see beyond himself to make better decisions.  He saw the impact he could have on others, for better and for worse. From that mustard seed came true faith. Wow.

Back in the dark ages when I was in elementary school, the teachers rotated who read a Psalm to get us off to a good start each morning (yes, I'm that old!). Of course, I was always looking for a short one. That's how I found the 121st Psalm. It has become a spiritual foundation passage for me.  I hope to have it read over me when I am laid to rest. It begins with faith and hope: "I will lift up my eyes to the hills from whence cometh my help." It continues (though briefly!) with a message to comfort us in tough times. It gives us confidence that if we keep covenant with our Higher Power, and keep in mind that we must take actions to be our own first source of help, that we are connected to the good within the universe. The Psalm finishes with that promise "The Lord shall preserve they going out and thy coming in from this time forward and even forever more."

I don't believe that my Higher Power (HP) is like a soda machine -- you know, insert prayer and wait for the goods to drop out.  My HP knows I need to grow spiritually and that I'm stubborn as a mule. I tend to learn spiritual lessons through struggle and I struggle a lot.  My greatest continuing struggle is to stop pounding on the door I want to open, stand back and see the open windows inviting me to move forward. It's a great feeling to conclude one struggle, rest a little and notice another one miraculously appearing. What a gift when I am open to receive it.  Not to worry, though. If I decide I'm too tired to wrestle with a spiritual issue now, my HP will present it again fairly soon, only larger and more noticeable so I can't skirt it again. What a bargain!

I'm not a religious person so I'm not advocating a specific one. My Dad was military, so I grew up as a 'general protestant.' You are unlikely now to see me in Sunday service. But my faith is deep. I believe we each will be tested so we can grow in our love and wisdom. We will have opportunities to test our beliefs, these may have started for you--on a daily basis! These may not be easy or simple situations.  Getting started today on learning and living faith is a good way to prepare for emergency situations. It is not easy, especially to bring it into our daily decision-making. Our faith sets our limits of what actions are acceptable, both from us but also from others. It helps us define the difference between good and evil and start to recognize each -- especially in ourselves. It can clarify our responsibilities and what we are willing to die for, or perhaps worse or more importantly, what (or who) any of us are willing to kill for.

We are living in a society where too many dark behaviors now fall into a murky gray area of  "acceptability." In an sustained emergency situation, that is a trap that can kill us or those we love. Now is a great time to decide which side of the doorknob we want to be on. There are lots of free resources out there. What a bargain! We shall find if we seek and act.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Christmas All Year Long

What does Christmas have to do with frugal preparedness? More than you might imagine! Now that savings are earning essentially ZERO interest, and the price of goods is getting higher, starting your Christmas (or Hanukkah) shopping really early might be a good idea. I start mine with the Christmas clearances and continue until the markdowns stop around Halloween.  I do not engage in 'Black Friday' madness. I plan to be done w/shopping and have packages mailed long before that.

 I thought I'd share some of my frugal ways to keep the holidays happy but not break my bank account.  We're still suburbanites, and I'm only a few months into getting back to health after my retirement so I'm not yet geared up to make the gifts, which is usually the most cost-effective method other than opting out.  I'm already thinking about what I can make for next year. Most likely black currant preserves or hardwood cutting boards.  It may not be too late for these this year if you have some nice wood left over from a project.  If you have scraps of maple or oak (at least 4 inches wide, 3/8 or 1/2 thick, and 6 to 10 inches long) square them up, give them a good sanding and wipe them down with mineral oil. These are wonderful.  Even if you buy the wood (solid, clear if you can afford it) they are only a few $$ each. Try to find a cutting board made of solid wood in the stores. Virtually all are laminated scraps these days. I made a three this year as 'gifts' but liked them so well I couldn't part with them.  Perhaps I can do better next year.

For now, this is about conventional holiday giving. We set cost limits for most people's gifts. With the exception of what DH and I exchange and DH's Mother, we have a limit of about $50 per person for close family and $20 for close friends for a projected monthly budget of about $50 per month. If I find a quality gift for less, then I don't keep buying for that person.  With careful shopping I can find nice gifts for much less than the 'limit,' especially when I have all year to shop.

Your List:  Our definition of who is on the list as 'close' is also stringent-- usually immediate family like a sibling or child. 'Friends' are also carefully enumerated and usually are in the single-digit range.  For gifts between DH and DW, we usually defer a higher-cost item for Christmas, often a home improvement that continues to give enjoyment. I've been asking for a dual-pane window on the western side of the house for a couple of years, maybe this year! I have gotten wonderful gifts like my dog-proof 'burglar door,' after our crazy dog broke through yet another mended screen. It lets in the cool air but keeps the dog and the bugs on the correct side of the house. Because DH is very handy, installation is 'free' and part of his gift to me.

Packaging: We've used gift bags, often the same ones, rather than wrapping paper for years. My sister's family gets together with us, usually late on Christmas morning for gifts. Reusing those gift bags has become part of the celebration.  Some go back 10 years or more and are like old friends. We exchange gifts then pack the bags back in the Christmas bin for next year. Tissue that isn't ready for window-cleaning duty is included.  These originally cost 1$ or less at an after Christmas clearance and now $3 to $5 each if bought new.  This practice alone had easily saved us each $20+ every year.

What to give: I try to give useful but consumable items, or very useful durable ones. (I'll address the useful durable items in a later paragraph.)  Rationale is that a gift often creates some sense of obligation for the receiver. I've gotten the occasional gift of a durable item, especially a dust-collector or wall-hanging item that makes me wonder what the giver was thinking.  Must I now hang or place this somewhere that they can see it when they come over??  Not meaning to seem ungrateful those items are usually not 'us' so I try to avoid being that kind of gift-giver.  My sister keeps her 'what to get me for Christmas' list all year, so I usually have no trouble getting her something she wants. I've learned from her and now know exactly what to request for my 'big present' from her: something on my preparedness-needs list. Another consideration is whether I need some of 'that gift item' too? This year is a little different than most, as I've discovered that many people in my small circle of gift-giving also maintain preparedness supplies. One of my favorite supply sources gives discounts, some of which are really large, when you order a case of something. These may or may not be listed as buying-group specials.  Here's an example: If I wanted 4 cans of an items at $11.50 per can (total of $46) and the price is $8 per can if I order a case of 6 cans (total of $48) and the shipping cost is the same, then it's essentially getting 1.8 cans free if I order a case. That's 2 cans that can be considered as Christmas gifts for those friends or family members who will appreciate them, all for $2.  That's $1 per 'gift' can with a retail value of $11.50. Some of the case discounts have break-even prices under 4 cans, but that's about the norm. Useful and consumable gift for $1: SCORE.

A Measure of Value. When I see an item on clearance or sale that is a really good bargain, I will consider whether it's a good match for someone on my short list. Often, it is a very useful durable item as mentioned above. If there's a match, I buy it and put it away with their name on it with a sticky note. Local shops going out of business or seasonal markdown? Could be something there. This year's top item was from Sierra Trading Post. I found a high-end kitchen knife with sharpener (not made in China!) during a special discount offering ( they send via e-mail about once a month, if you sign up) that cost about $26 each, with a 'retail value' of over $100, slashing the $50 limit gift in half. I also found some Smartwool socks at STP for about $4 a pair early in the year.  I bought myself 2 pairs to try them out. They were great, so during a later discount window I bought some for gifts for the ladies who I know will wear them. That's $9 (pro-rated shipping included) for 2 pairs of socks that would normally cost upward of $15 a pair, also cutting the $20 dollar limit gift in half. By the way, with socks as gifts I always buy at least two identical pairs. That way if one sock gets lost or worn out, you still have a pair and a spare. (Remember that when packing socks for your GO bag.)

One more thing: If you have a friend or family member who is struggling financially, consider a token gift and cash or a gift card to a discount grocery store (I'd go with Target, of course!). I usually write something like "I hope this is the right size and color! Merry Christmas!" on the card. A gift card to a store where they can purchase groceries can free-up their cash for other necessities.  A gift card to an expensive store or one that only has specialty items (Victoria's Secret?) may leave them wondering what universe you're living in.

Today is the 20th of October. I'll need to double check my list, but I think everyone except DH is covered for this year. It's a good feeling. Gifts are ready to be bagged or mailed, I have no credit card bills to greet me for the new year, I haven't overspent or reduced getting what we really need, and everyone is getting something useful or edible.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Frugal Ounce of Prevention: Pneumovax

True confessions: I'm not a big fan of flu vaccine. I am, however a huge fan of the pneumonia vaccine (pneumovax). Huh? What's that? How does it relate to preparedness? Well, let me share my experience and explain.

DISCLAIMER: This is not medical advice. I am not a physician. I was a long-time sufferer of chronic bronchitis and frequent sinus infections and this is my story about something that made a real difference.

From the time I was about 24 until I had my first pneumovax at about 40, I experienced 3 or 4 cases EACH of bronchitis and sinus infections every year. Occasionally I would have the bronchitis symptom first and then the cold symptoms would start later that day.  That's how puny my lungs were.

My brother's youngest child had chronic ear infections and was a candidate for 'tubes.'  Their pediatrician asked if they would consider giving her a pneumovax to see if it would help, with the surgery still available later if the vaccine did not help. The vaccine worked. The ear infections stopped within six weeks after taking it. About 6 months later, they noticed she wasn't getting sick when everyone else was, so the rest of the family got theirs. My brother raved about how much healthier they all were.

So I got one. The next year, no sinus infections, one case of bronchitis. Fluke? Similar fluke the following year with one of each type of illness. Same the next for almost 10 years.  The illnesses started increasing again in 2008, so I had another. Boom, back to 1 and 1 or less.

The pneumovax helped me build immunity to multiple (I think more than 20) of the common pneumonia-causing organisms. The rules for the pneumonia vaccine are a little different than for the annual flu shot, so do your homework if you are interested. It really worked for me. Possibly saved me from developing the emphysema often associated with chronic allergy-related bronchitis. Don't be put off by the 'recommendation' that you should take it if you are over 65. Younger works too.

What does this have to do with being prepared for emergencies? LOTS. Imagine your local worst-case emergency scenario.  Does it include having full medical care available if you get bronchitis? Does it include caring for yourself and family when you are too tired to move, breathing hurts, and can't get enough oxygen? Bonus round: Guess what happens if your weakened body can't fight off the bronchitis? Pneumonia. This great post from the Harried Homemaker Preps takes the discussion from that point.

So I view determining whether you are a pneumovax candidate and paying a few bucks at Walgreen's, Target or your favorite pharmacy as a smart and frugal way to avoid lost wages, doctor bills, the cost of antibiotics, wear and tear on your aging body AND possibly worse in an emergency situation.  For me, 8 illnesses per year reduced to 2 at most and even with insurance, I saved 6 sick days from work, weeks of feeling lousy and about $400 per year by spending $30 on a pneumovax (Now $80 if your insurance doesn't cover it or you can't get through your county health department) that lasted almost 10 years. Spending less than $10 a year (amortized cost) to save over $400 each year?   What a frugal bargain! Spend $80 now to keep from being a casualty and liability during an emergency? PRICELESS!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Frugal Tips

Two of my pages at the top of this blog, Resources and Favorites, have some tips on frugal ways to increase your available cash for preparedness.  Yesterday's great post by Patrice Lewis provides 25 home and lifestyle tips for reducing your cost of living.

During uncertain economic times, reducing your overhead and increasing your prudent reserve with cash, food or other operating supplies is a good idea.  If you are employed in a business that is hard-hit by the soft economy, the extra preparedness supplies will provide peace of mind about possible wage reductions or temporary layoffs.  In case of personal emergency, you will be able to feed your family from food storage.

What are your big recurring expenses? Is there something you can do to reduce them? Do you have homeowner and car insurance? If you are a active duty military or a veteran, check out USAA.  If you were listed on a parent's USAA policy when you first drove, you are also eligible. Ask for quotes for the same coverage you have now with your current insurer.  We saved several hundred per year when we switched our policies to USAA.

If not buying in bulk from Costco or Sam's, don't forget to cycle your buying and comparison shop (Patrice mentions the price book method). In my town, Target and Walmart are the low cost grocery stores.  On many items under $5 each, these stores can cost as much as $1 less PER ITEM than the national chain groceries. The combination of buying on the low cost point of the quarterly or annual cycle, at the lowest cost seller in town AND using coupons when possible, can reduce your grocery bill by 20 to 30% without becoming a crazy coupon lady.

For example, last week I bought toothpaste on special. It was $3.08 per tube and you would receive a $5 gift card if you bought 3 tubes. I also had a coupon for the product from Crest. The combination would result in a price less than $2 per tube, and we were low on toothpaste, so it was time to buy.  When I buy the specials with the Target $5 gift card incentive, I make 2 purchases.  I buy the items providing a gift card(s) incentive FIRST as a separate purchase from the remainder of my cart. (In this case there were 3: the toothpaste, Advil and toilet tissue for $15 worth of gift cards.) I then immediately apply the gift cards to the second purchase of the remainder of the items in my cart. That method, along with other coupons and using product price cycles, saved me almost half of that second purchase total.  It is important to buy only what you normally use, not get sucked into buying just to get a 'bargain.' 

UPDATE: I forgot one $ saving tip that I use everyday.  I keep a big bag of USA-made size 64 rubber bands that allow me to reuse bags and containers that fruits, nuts, etc. come in. They reduce the need for plastic zipper bags, 'tupperware-like' containers, etc. by a significant amount. These cost a fraction of a cent and until they break or you just plain wear them out, they last a long time.  I wash and reuse them.  I got the idea from saving the grocery store rubber bands on broccoli.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

GO bag insight: keep them light!

I read an article recently by a man who hiked the Appalachian trail.   He made a really great point about pack weight. There is a relationship between how much your pack weighs and how much ground you can cover in a day. The heavier your pack, the more energy goes into carrying the pack rather than moving forward. I thought I was the only one who kept my actual GO bag under 20 lbs, but I guess not.  Mine is light because I wrecked my back running for many years in the Army, not because I'm a genius. The author of the linked post, however, could be the genius.

When you make your emergency plans, leaving on foot is usually a last resort, but it should be in your plans. Your first and/or second level of preparation should be suitable for easy adaptation to leaving on foot. I include both levels because some people have a first level of preparation, called 'Every Day Carry' (EDC) that usually fits in their pocket or purse. It may include simple items like a small lighter, a pocket knife, a Mylar blanket and something to disinfect and hold water --possibly even a Ziploc bag and one disinfectant tablet. The EDC should be sufficient to get you to your next level of preparedness, which would either be home, your desk at work, your GO bag (other acronyms for this bag include GOOD bag or BOB) or whatever you regularly carry in your car. Remember that your car kit may become your GO bag if traffic or other conditions render your car useless. Always have a day pack with your car gear, even one that is not the greatest, in case you need to pack up your car kit and leave on foot.  My next level up includes a plastic box with more food and a small duffel bag with more clothing and a sleeping bag. If it comes time to abandon the car, I can grab another layer of clothes and maybe a few more food pouches for the next meal only and head out with the light pack.

So how do you do this -- keep to 20 lbs or less AND have some redundancy in the most important items? First a little aside on redundancy. Redundancy means have at least 2 ways to cover the most important basics. An example is how to provide fire.  I keep a small Bic lighter, a waterproof match case with strike anywhere matches, a small plastic magnifying glass (which has a lot of other uses) and a fire steel.  Somewhere in there is a method for virtually any conditions I may encounter. I consider fire to be a preparedness imperative, so I go a little overboard. I also have 4 ways to purify water -- here in the desert southwest, if you are lucky enough to find standing water, it's probably disgusting stuff, so more ways are better. The main way to keep the pack light is to miniaturize and remember that this pack is for getting out of the immediate danger.  You don't need a whole box of tissue, but a pocket pack may be useful.  You don't need an entire wardrobe, but clean socks and undies may be a welcomed relief. You should have enough to keep you going for 72 to 96 hours. Not your whole family or neighborhood, and not forever. It is a supplement to what you are wearing. If you are at work in a suit or high heels, you should also have a change of clothes and shoes in your desk or car before venturing out with your GO bag.

There are lots of inexpensive but reliable products that are small. The Princeton Tec lights at Sierra Trading Post are small and inexpensive (especially when on sale), but powerful enough and are available in white and red light. I also keep a small, cheap solar flashlight that has a caribiner clip, so it can be charging while I walk when I hook it to my pack strap or back. You don't need the premium sleeping bag.  One of the emergency bags could last you and are small and cheap. Instead of a huge tent, try one of these or get the heaviest (in mils) plastic drop cloth from Home Depot and some parachute cord. You can make your own wind and rain shelter for about 8 ounces.

Personal hygiene? Use Wisp toothettes or a pre-filled tooth brush. Include a small hotel soap and a few pre-moistened wipes. I have a small microfiber towel, which can do double duty as part of the 'keep warm' stuff when dry. Small Tupperwares (about 1.25 inches in diameter) of your meds, salt, sugar are smart to have. A change of socks and undies are good. Cash and ID are very important. A pocket knife and a spork, a metal canteen cup (Army surplus) and some food are also a good idea. Think BASICS, small and short duration.

For children, don't make it too austere. They may not be able to take their favorite quilt and stuffed animal, but include a small comfort item.  If there is a light weight stuffed toy, especially one that can double as a pillow, throw it in for the little one. For an older child, a pack of cards for a game of Go-Fish or rummy may lighten the mood as you prepare to bed down. If you have an infant, you must research how to balance their sanitary requirements with weight -- cloth diapers and liners may be the answer, but technology has changed a lot since I last researched that one! You can wash a diaper and hang it on the back of your pack to dry while you walk if need be. Not so much with disposables.

I'm about to change from my 'summer' pack list to my 'winter' list.  My pack will go from 16 lbs to about 19 to allow for extra warmth items and a few more calories.

What about your GO bag? Is it obese? Can you carry it for 10 hours? If so, how much ground can you cover? If you aren't an Army Ranger or super athlete, check your emergency GO bags for everyone in the family and see if any of them need to go on a diet!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Calorie and Nutrition Density

Decision-making for your food storage should include multiple considerations that span the emergency possibilities for your situation.  If your scenarios are primarily shelter-in-place emergencies then you have different concerns than if most require leaving your home to put distance between your family and the adverse conditions.  If you have determined that you need more than 72 hours of food, then transportation or in-home storage space may also be a consideration.  How do you balance variety, convenience, nutrition, weight, volume and cost?  Here are a few thoughts on the selection process.

When cost and convenience are important but weight or volume are not a problem, i.e. you don't anticipate needing to move to another location, then conventional canned food may be your best option.  Take the humble Chef Boyardee products.  A 39 ounce can of spaghetti and meatballs ( under $3.00) provides 4 generous or 5 not-so-generous servings between 200 and 300 calories each with lots of fat, protein, reasonable fiber and non-sugar carbs along with some B vitamins and odd minerals like iron, phosphorus and manganese. It packs a punch for one 4 X 6 inch can and 60 (5 servings) to 75 (4 servings) cents per serving. You can eat it cold or hot and won't need to purify water to make it palatable. It may not be gourmet, but it'll stick to your ribs.  That is what I mean by nutrition dense.

Another product, this time in the calorie dense arena is a freeze-dried, cooked and crumbled sausage packaged in a #10 can. Weighing 29 ounces, it provides 16 servings at a whopping 320 calories each, all in fat and protein.  The down side is you need hot, clean water to make it according to the directions.  We have tried it straight from the can and it is palatable, but might be better as a 'gorp' with raisins and nuts if used when you need to move locations in an emergency.  I cheated and bought this on sale, so it cost me $1.62 per serving, but the price trade was for much less weight and 4 times as many calories.

More practically, you can shop at Target or Walmart and compare the NUTRITION labels and the price.  If a 1 lb box of saltines is the same price as a 1 lb box of enriched dry pasta, you need to think through which makes more sense given your criteria. If you need ready-to-eat food,  the saltines and a jar of peanut butter may make more sense that the pasta and some sauce.  Both will provide carbs and protein, but you may anticipate a situation where cooking may not be realistic for several days. In that case, the peanut butter provide the fats and protein density and the crackers give some carbs to get you to the point you can fire up the pasta.

Some foods may fit both the shelter-in-place requirements and an evacuation scenario. (Preferably you will pre-evacuate and head out long before the masses hit the road!!) To make these decisions, you will need some clue about where you are going.  If it's 200 miles to Granny's and she's out of the evac zone, your food storage needs are different than if you plan to drive until you find a place to camp out and decide what to do next.  Once you make these decisions and as you buy your preparedness food supply, you need to package your evacuation supplies for a fast 'get away.' The advantage of having these foods set aside, boxed and ready to load could translate to fewer hours stalled in traffic because you beat the crowd leaving town.

I use a labeling system to help me make quick decisions.  I use boxes (some people use plastic tubs)  labeled with the meal and relative preparation requirements. So I can choose 'fast breakfast', 'fast snacks' or 'slow dinner' when I pack up.  Each box has EVERYTHING except the water and pan needed to prepare the meal. Each carton has at least 2 cans with a flat P51 can opener taped to the top or under the plastic lid. Each carton has some beverage powder with vitamin C (usually Crystal Lite orange), matches and a small can of butter. Even within the 'slow' boxes, I try to have at least one component that is palatable right from the can, just in case! (example: 'slow dinner' may have a can of dehydrated -- not freeze dried-- apple slices for the dessert. These can be enjoyed right from the can and will provide some good carbs and fiber.)

Anyone who has read my blog a few times understands that I'm a little ... odd. One of the little games I play when I've nothing better to do takes advantage of the Food Storage Analyzer (button on the right side, use the TRY IT option if you are concerned about your privacy). I see how many days of nutrition I can make out of one case of 6 #10 cans of freeze dried or dehydrated food. The analyzer will tell you what percentage of the essential nutrients you have accounted for-- my goal is 85% or better on all. This 'game' is to teach myself about nutrition and calorie density. My max to date is 21 days at 1800 calories per day for one person from a six can case of freeze dried and dehydrated food and beverages. Meals would be really bizarre, but you could stay healthy.  See if you can beat my max.  I'll even give you a hint: a can of orange drink mix provides carbs and takes care of a lot of the vitamins and mineral requirements!