Monday, February 25, 2013

What a hoot!

Today I was going to write about my big score at Target -- Kool-Aid for 10 cents a package.  The deal was 15 cents a pack, or a 5-pack for 50 cents.  What a no-brainer.  I stocked up with 5-packs, as I consider K-A to be one of those food-fatigue-fighters that should always be kept on hand.

On my way to the blogger, I saw Connie's post about her similar big score.  Her post is much better than mine was going to be, so I'll defer to her.  I had no idea you could do so much with Kool-Aid!

 Thanks Connie!!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Check your supplies

I strive to be non-political in my posts, but today is an exception. Recent news posts about how the national administration is positioning the impending reduction in the rate of government spending are bothersome.  Rather than absorbing the cuts through rational means, these cuts are being strategically positioned for maximum impact on the middle class and poor. I believe these choices to be politically motivated to bring pressure on conservative elements in Congress to abandon their cries to reduce federal spending, and to increase taxes on the middle class. The rhetoric has shifted from punishing the 'rich' or 'wealthy' to impacts on 'the well-off and the well-connected.'  The placement of the second 'the' changes the grammatical context so that it really means well-off OR well-connected.  So, if you make more than the poverty line, you may also be 'well-off.'  If you are part of the 50% of the adult population that pays taxes, YOU are the 'well-off.'

I urge you to concentrate on your food preparations. If it means adding a bit more more rice, beans or Chef Boyardee in your next few week's shopping lists, please do so. Remember that transportation of food is usually INTERSTATE and can be regulated (i.e. delivery to your area can be slowed) by federal executive agencies such as the Department of Agriculture or Department of Transportation. Additionally, the Interstate Commerce Commission has powers to regulate interstate commerce including haul rates, is appointed by the Executive, is independent of the executive departments (i.e. does not report to a Cabinet Secretary), and its directives have the force of court order.

I apologize for going off my usual message to this dark place.  When the hair on the back of my neck stands up during TV interviews with various Secretaries of executive agencies, it's hard to keep it to myself.  Don't go overboard, just consider have a cushion of a few days or a couple weeks basic nutrition for your family, if you don't already.  There is some, albeit low, potential for shipments to be 'slowed' if the sequester proceeds.

Remember, my past jobs were as planners. We always had to examine the 'worst-case scenarios.'  My mind just includes these, whether I want them or not. This is one of them.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Inventories save money? time? lives?

Yes, they can, especially if you have more than one kit, bag or location to stock for emergencies.  Certainly there are a few things that fall into the "can't have too many" category.  Many other things, in excess, waste your resources and may even deprive you of an important, potentially life-saving item.

Having too many of an item that easily degrades or is actually unusable after the 'best by' date is the same as throwing money away.  Having an inventory and rotation system can make managing your preparedness supplies easier and less expensive. These feed your preparedness shopping list and help you prioritize how to spend your preparedness funds (or help you answer the "what do you want for Christmas" question from your wealthy relatives!).

So what does that mean? The inventory is the actual list of items. Using a program like Excel or another spreadsheet, you can even list the locations of the items. Let's take "3-wick candles."  It's good to know you have 4 of them, but if you can't find them when you need  one, then you may as well have none. A physical copy of your inventory can provide that information when the electricity is off and evening is closing in: one each in the bottom drawer of both bathrooms, one behind the TV and one in the kitchen cabinet next to the mugs.  Hopefully you have matches or a lighter taped to each, so maybe the listing becomes '3-wick candle with lighter.'

Your rotation system is, of course, how you manage and use those items with a defined shelf-life. Better to use them before they go bad and replace them than to throw them away. Examples of defined shelf-life preparedness items may include canned food or a variety of fuels.

How can these inventories make being prepared easier and less expensive? Have you ever been in that favorite store and thought "What a great special on these boxes of candles -- can't have too many!"  Well, you could actually have too many.  If you have 10 boxes with a dozen candles each, and you spent $10 on each, you have $100 invested in candles. If your preparedness plan indicates 4 boxes will provide the light you need for 2 weeks then you have $6 dollars tied up in candles you may never need. You may also have put off buying that solar wind-up radio because $50 seemed expensive.  You could have bought the needed radio for what you have tied up in excess candles.

So your inventory list feeds another 2 lists: the WHAT WE NEED list and the DON'T BUY ANYMORE OF THESE lists.  Yes, I keep a DON'T BUY list because I have favorite items that I tend to pick up, too.  P51 can openers are my major weakness, and yes, you can have too many! Buying items with your preparedness dollars that are not on your NEEDS list will deprive you of something you acknowledge you need.  Only you (or you and your spouse) can decide on what should be on the NEED list, which should also be prioritized.

Your inventories can also help you build kits for car or bug out bags that are either additive, or that have known redundancies. As an example, if you believe you'll most likely evacuate in your vehicle, then you may plan to only have 2 ways to start a fire in your car kit to go with the 3 ways in your GO bag.  In my case, streamlining kits and GO bags based on the inventories allowed me to make room for some other items, such as a heavier sleeping bag in the car kit.

These techniques may not work for everyone, but as you build your supplies they should help.  I can't think of anything worse that discovering after the emergency has started that you have too much of something but not enough of something else.  In 1989 I stood on the roof of my building with neighbors on the evening of the Loma Prieta earthquake, watching the San Francisco Marina district burn. As we got ready to go back to our apartments, I asked if anyone needed a flashlight. To my surprise, 2 of the 4 couples told me they didn't have flashlights or batteries, just candles. They had never really considered the threat of post-quake natural gas leaks.  I had a couple of spare flashlights and helped them out. Don't be like my neighbors were. Think ahead, know what you'll probably need. Know what you have and where IT is. Maybe you'll never need IT. Maybe you will and won't have a neighbor who can help you out when you aren't sure if you have IT or where IT is.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Prepare for the worst, Hope for the best

This is about a touchy subject -- one I rarely see covered.  My reading reminded me that not everyone survives regional emergencies.  Tornadoes, floods, hurricanes and earthquakes kill people.  If the usual commercial funerary methods are not available, families will need to bury their own, at least temporarily. This may sound macabre, but for sanitation and peace of mind, it is necessary. When life returns to normal, the bodies can be exhumed from backyards and properly interred.

I'm pushing 60 and my spouse is older than I am. We won't live forever, and disasters take a toll on us 'elderly' and on children. I don't plan to have coffins for both of us handy.  Cremation is probably not going to be an option in an emergency, as it requires very high heat to do properly and fuel may be at a premium. Initially, I bought enough heavy canvas from Walmart to make shrouds for both of us. I already had the heavy needles and upholstery thread.  Recently, I found something I think is better -- which I'm sure all you hunters will recognize immediately: an elk bag.  These are heavy canvas game bags just the right size for a tall person's body.  (Elk quarter bags may be sufficient for smaller people.) They are already sewn and have ties on one end, like a big pillow case.  They are not expensive compared to other solutions (most I've seen are under $20) and are common enough to comparison shop. They take up little room -- each folded, packaged large bag is about the size of the Carla Emery Encyclopedia of Country Living (which I recommend!). They can also double triple as a mattress cover.  This leaves me 7 yards of nice heavy canvas for other purposes, and relieves me of explaining a new sewing project to my spouse.

If the need arises in an emergency and the local processes are not available, check with local law enforcement (if it is functioning) for their recommendation.  If not available, remember that the speed needed to inter human remains is directly related to the ambient temperature. If you can store your loved one in a shed or garage below 32 degrees Fahrenheit until order is restored, that may be all you need.  If, however, it is 90 degrees outside and there's no power, time is of the essence. It may not be practical to dig the classic 6 feet deep. This is probably the depth below which animals can not detect the scent of the deceased.  If you have a walled or fenced area, you can probably use a shallower grave. The classic western rocks ( up to basketball size) on top of an earthen grave serve several purposes. They deter folks or critters from digging in the spot, they remind you where to remove the body for other burial when order is restored, and if that takes a long time, they help level the ground as decomposition occurs.

If faced with this task, remember that grave site selection must take the living into account. It may seem romantic to bury someone by their favorite stream, but don't! Products of decomposition are not good for the living, which is how the burial customs and practices originated.  Graves should be far from water sources and not located in swampy land (decomposing bodies will float up).  Floods can occur without notice and disinter burials.  You really don't want to see your loved one in this type of event, or have to move and re-inter them.

If you are in a location with other families, decide on a 'cemetery' location and use common methods. Don't use the best farming spots either, just in case order is farther away in time than originally estimated! In cities, an existing fenced park area (like a dog-park) may be a good solution.

Sorry to bring the subject up, but especially in regional or prolonged disasters with law enforcement focused on restoring order, this aspect of reality may confront us.  Better to be prepared than caught short.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Mennonite Stores

No, they aren't named this. But they are out there. On my recent trip to western Montana, my friends took me to two groceries that are operated by Mennonite families.  The first had an incredible array of real food. Not processed and not expensive. You could buy in bulk or prepackaged. They had spices, lots of dry items including grains, pastas, beans, flours with amazing diversity.  They are also a full-service grocery, so had fresh meat and vegetables. Other practical items for sewing and housekeeping were on the shelves. The store we visited (and shopped like mad-women) also had a vast assortment of local preserves (including pickled vegies and eggs!!), jellies and jams.  The jams were the kind with a short ingredient lists, like "fruit, sugar, pectin, lemon juice."

My friends referred to the other store as 'the bent-can store." Most of the items weren't in bent cans, but appeared to be odd lots of higher-end products that were really heavily discounted. A few were a slightly past their 'best by' date, but most weren't.  So here were some of the weird bargains we found: Folger's instant coffee at 50% of the grocery store cost, Altoids at 40% of the cost,  3.5 ounce Lindt and Godiva chocolate bars for 99 cents, organic peanut butter 18 ounce jars (ingredients: peanuts and salt) for $1.59 (about 60% of Kroger price). They also had fresh items, like 2 lb rolls of fresh butter (ingredients: cream, salt -- no salt in the unsalted, of course!) for $8. If you live in a community in areas with a Mennonite presence, see if there are shops like this near you. They offer good merchandise at a reasonable cost and are usually members of your local community -- good for keeping your shopping $$ in your area.  They also had resale of a few lightly used items like shoes and jackets. My brother found a pair of shoes with almost no wear that he recognized - about $90 retail on resale for $5.

If you are not familiar with the Mennonites, they are a Christian denomination that broke away during the time of the Protestant reformation (1525, Switzerland), but embrace beliefs from both the Catholics and Protestants. They believe in adult baptism. FYI, the Amish broke away from the Mennonites in the 1600's by those who considered the Mennonites to be too liberal.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

More visits on the way home

This time to the Honeyville store in Brigham City, UT and the Emergency Essentials in South Jordan, UT.
Brigham City is in a breathtaking spot, right up against the mountains. It was a treat just to get off the highway and see the town. The store is a couple or so miles from the highway at the highway 13 exit. They had lots of goodies in the small retail space, but it was not as robust a store as the one in Mesa. The homey feeling and personal attention from the employees made up for it. They have depth of stock in their store room despite only a few of each item being displayed. I planned my trip so I would head from there around closing time and go right to lodging. The nice lady at the check out gave me a recommendation for a restaurant -- it was great and I never would have found it without her. The nice part of the retail stores is that they have some local items, some specials that are not on the net, and you can see the products.  This store had lots of different kinds and sizes of Utah honey, along with some other locally grown items.  It just felt homey.

Emergency Essentials retail venues are a whole different concept.  They are much slicker, more marketing goes into the layout and product placement, but they are smaller than I expected. I was imagining a big store like Cabela's but it was more like the size of a GAP in the mall.  Despite that, they cram a lot into a modest retail space. The South Jordan store was beautiful - clean with a nice layout that made it too easy to shop. It's about 1.5 miles from the interstate at the 10600 exit.  If you don't understand the grid system in the Salt Lake area, you will be bumfuzzled. There were plenty of signs for the numbered road, but only one small one for the road NAME, South Jordan Parkway. Call ahead for directions if you haven't earned your SLC navigation badge. 

This store had some in-store specials that were hard to resist. The ones I saw were the last ones of recent specials or items being closed out. I picked up a package of 25 MRE peanut butters left over from a recent group special for about $10, or 40 cents per packet.  Some higher-end items were also on close out for 25+% reductions, including  Goal Zero solar collector. This store also had samples of several items I've thought about buying -- including the apple and orange drink mixes and freeze-dried peaches. The apple drink really tasted like apple juice, which amazed me.

I hope this info is useful to any of you who may be in Utah in the near future.