Saturday, August 24, 2013

Today's Bountiful Basket

Yup, gonna harp on this one more time.  If you haven't tried it, and are spending time and $$ at the grocery store buying produce, you are not even trying to be frugal!

Here's the list of what I got for $16.50:

1 large head romaine lettuce
2 large bundles spinach
2 1-lb packages carrots
10 Hatch green chiles
3 green peppers
4 ears corn
5 nice large Roma tomatoes
2 medium size yellow squash
4 bananas
4 avocados
4 peaches
4 Asian pears

Then, design meals around your basket like:

- grilled squash and roasted corn with grilled meat of your choice

- garden salad with chile rellenos

- spinach salad with pears, avocados and nuts or cheese

- pasta salad with lots of vegies (save half an ear of roasted corn and a couple slices of grilled squash for this!)

- cereal with bananas

- chunky fresh peach pie (my Mom may have invented this, so recipe will follow )

Chunky Fresh Peach Pie recipe:

Can be made with or without crust. If with crust, start with uncooked crust.

1 cup whipping cream or sour cream
1 cup sugar (I use 2/3 brown, 1/3 white)
2T flour
pinch salt

Cut peaches, leaving skin on, in halves or quarters and arrange, skin up, in pie pan over crust (if using).  It's easier to cut pieces of the finished pie if you use quarters, but looks more spectacular if you use halves.

Pour cream mixture over them, be sure all peach surfaces have been coated even if not covered with the mix. Pire is prettier if the peaches stick up through the cream matrix.

Bake at 400 F for 10 minutes, reduce heat to 325 F and bake until peaches are tender. Cool at least an hour and serve.

Better if you have a few raspberries to garnish each piece!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Product Comparisons for the Ladies' Necessary

Guys, you may want to skip this unless you have a wife or teenage daughters who object to outdoor fun due to baring all when they answer Nature's most frequent call.

These days there are several alternatives to baring your backside when ... urinating. Yup, another subject we rarely discuss, but one that can derail an orderly move to safety. 

The first alternative is the most frugal, but only works in specific circumstances.  I'll call it the 'Sister method,' because she's the one I've seen use it. She hikes in shorts that are baggy, with about a 6 inch inseam.  When she needs to, she adopts a wide stance and with one hand, pulls shorts and undies to one side and lets it rip.  She had to practice a few times to hone the technique and posture needed to miss her shoes and socks, but it works for her.

I prefer to wear long jeans when hiking, so her method won't work for me. What I wanted was a device or method that would work with the jeans on, unzipped but buttoned. I tested these 2 products in a pair of loose but not baggy, medium weight jeans with a 5" fly opening. Otherwise, what's the point? I tested 2 commercially available devices, the GO GIRL and the FRESHETTE. Both are available through Amazon and other camping outlets. Reviews are below.

Price (without postage or tax): $9.99

Material: very flexible silicone plastic

Storage and transport: easy. Weight = 1.02 ounces without plastic bag or toilet tissue. This rolls up and fits in a tube that's 1.5 by 3.5 inches. Stores comfortably in pocket or inside the tube of a toilet paper roll.

Ease of use: failed. The spout was too short and would not extend outside the fly.  You would need to drop trousers at least part way to use. For me, first successful use was with jeans down far enough to expose fanny cleavage.

Ease to clean: moderate.  There are places that hold droplets after shaking dry, so would need to be rinsed or blotted dry to reduce odor during storage for next use. A small plastic zip bag to carry is a good idea

Overall rating: Unacceptable. Failed basic functional requirement

Price (without postage or tax):  $21.99

Material: Semi-rigid/ somewhat flexible plastic and vinyl tubing

Storage and transport: moderate: weight = 1.1 ounce without plastic bag or toilet tissue.   flattened funnel-shape takes up a triangular space of 6 X 3.25 ( single widest area)  X 1.5 inches, WITHOUT the vinyl tube extended. It will fit in a front pocket a little more comfortably than a small firearm.

Ease of use: EASY! Slips right into place, but requires practice to do this with one hand. The vinyl extension tube gives another 3 inches of clearance outside the fly versus the GO GIRL.

Ease to clean: moderate. there are places that hold droplets after shaking dry, so would need to be rinsed or blotted dry to reduce odor during storage for next use.  Retract extension tube before shaking to prevent back-splatter from the tube. A small plastic zip bag to carry is a good idea.

Overall rating: Winner

Both products come with 'carrying case' that are jokes. One is a thin plastic zip bag, the other is thinner and has no zip closure (GO GIRL).  They must figure that you'll replace the bag after the first use anyway, so why add the extra cost. Probably a good bet.

Both products are made in the USA.

Despite the price, the FRESHETTE is my clear winner using the off-the-shelf product as-is.

HOWEVER, I did not try to re-engineer the GO GIRL. I think that 4 to 5 inches of appropriate size vinyl tubing from the hardware store, cleverly engineered for a snug fit in the spout (rubber O ring?) , may extend the GO GIRL sufficiently to pass the test. It would raise the cost by a couple of dollars, but would still be less expensive than the FRESHETTE.

Disclaimer: Both products require some practice to learn placement for a good seal. I did not try in a skirt for tourist use.  Some landscaping may assist in reducing residue. I purchased these products myself. Neither company was informed or aware of my test in advance. Or after, come to think of it!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

We're Jammin'

Sorry, this post is not about some of my favorite music. It is another look at daily frugality.  Yup, it's  not just for shopping day.  I was reminded of this today as I cracked open a jar of 'left-overs jam.'

No, it wasn't stroganoff and broccoli flavor.  It was strawberry-blueberry and it is sooo good. A week ago I had a dinner party.  Dessert was a caramel custard with whipped cream and berries on the side. It was set up so people could select low, medium or full tilt fat and calories.  This planning left me with berries for the next day's breakfast.  After that, the berries would be worn out, so they went in the pot with a little sugar, lemon juice and eventually pectin. I sterilized a jar and lid and hot packed one jar of jam.  No waterbath for this one. It cooled and went in the fridge for immediate use. It must kept in the fridge, used and gone in 3 weeks or less using this method.  If you can't finish it in that time frame, put it in the freezer after cooling in the fridge for 24 hours. When needed, thaw and use within 2 to 3 weeks.

That's one less jar of properly canned jam that leaves the shelf, or one less to buy if you aren't a canner.

In the unlikely event of having some berries left over from a shortcake treat, just cook and use. Serving a fruit salad? Plan the fruit mix for canning leftovers. Berries and apples are good.  Peach, pineapple and mango will work, too.  No ambrosia sauce, though. Keep it to citrus and sugar, like lemon juice or orange liquor. This will keep from having to toss the leftovers and set you up for a jar or two of left-overs jam.   

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Outline for Community Emergency Support Plan

A Community Emergency Support Plan (CESP) can be developed for small towns (400 or fewer) or unincorporated villages to take care of the many things that do not fall into the Emergency Response Team's responsibilities.  These suggestions assume a local volunteer fire department and no civic structure i.e. no mayor or city manager beyond the chief of the volunteer fire department.  This post will start an annotated outline for a CESP for small communities ( I'll use "Star City" as a generic town name) which do not have paid professional emergency management staff.

Your plan should be drafted by a small team, 8 or fewer people, and then reviewed and improved by a larger group.  How you do this will be based on your community dynamics. Keep your fire chief informed and, if he/she requests to be involved, please say YES!  If you ask for fire department/ EMS team member, ask by name. You may otherwise encounter the person who says "we don't need a plan. Everyone knows what to do." Kiss of death, potentially literally.

These sections should follow in order:


PURPOSE OF PLAN: should be a short delineation of what the CESP proposes to do.  Example: The purpose of this plan is to provide lodging, food and [fill in the blank] support to persons affected by local emergency operations and to provide support such as meals to local EMS personnel during an extended emergency situation. This plan augments and does not replace the Emergency Response Plan of the Star City Volunteer Fire Department and the Star County Emergency Services Department.

DEFINITIONS: This is where you start to clearly define the meaning of words used in the purpose and elsewhere. Include a definition of 'local,' 'emergency', etc. This or the purpose may also be the place to identify a threshold for activation of the plan. Does this plan go into effect for a single house fire, or only when 10 or more people or 3 or more households are affected?


LOCAL: this plan covers people living in or otherwise unable to depart the area from the Forest Service boundary at XYZ to mile marker 111 on AK highway 222 and to the Star City turn off on AK HWY 333.

EMERGENCY: displacement of more than 10 residents or other local people caused by fire, flood, prolonged electrical outage, earthquake, or [name your potential emergencies here].

ASSUMPTIONS: This section is VERY important. For example, if the plan depends on the Star City Community Center ( or John Smith's pole barn) being available for operations and unaffected or minimally affected by the emergency, state that. Additionally, work with your EMS lead (fire chief, or whatever is local) to ensure that they will refer ALL support issues to the support team, once formed. Recent experience is that failure to do this just increases the chaos in an otherwise fluid situation. (Team lead accepted donations of hamburgers for lunch (form local provider) on same day EMS dispatcher accepted donation of hamburgers for dinner on same day.  Dinner hamburgers were from 70 miles away and should not have been even considered due to food safety issues)

Roles and Responsibilities: This section should name the roles and responsibilities of the team members, who should include the overall plan manager and vice, functional team leaders and vices,  liaison with the local Emergency services provider and designated spokesperson for media inquiries.  Some team members or leaders may need to have specific experience or training.  That should be included here.

Because you do not know who will be affected by the emergencies, always have a provision for teams having a qualified vice chair.

Media or the public will have questions. Only specifically designated roles should speak for the group.  Individuals may be interviewed about their specific duties but should not speak for the broader process.

This section should also outline meeting schedules before and during an emergency. A plan for an After-Action Review and documenting plan improvement should also be covered here.

DUTIES AND FUNCTIONS: This part of the plan outlines what aspects of support the plan covers, which Management Team Role is responsible for that part of the plan, and WHEN the duties and functions are to occur. The role of the Overall SMT Chief is to ensure integration. At minimum, consider sections on lodging, food service, sanitation, cooling or warming centers, communications, and first aid station. Obviously, close coordination with local EMS or volunteer fire departments is required.

Much of the work for the plan must occur before an emergency.  This includes lining up potential lodging, sources of sanitation equipment such as portable potties and potable water tankers, certification of potential feeding venues, training of personnel in food or field sanitation,  coordination with regional officials, discussions with supply sources for donations in advance or at the time of the emergency, etc.  All this will be incorporated in the plan in APPENDICES. Coordination with the respective County EMS coordinator should be part of developing many of these appendices to include what is available from them and when.  Some services may not be available until the emergency has been in effect for 72 hours, so plans should bridge any identified time or support gaps.

The plan should also include HOW and WHERE evacuee processing will occur. Ideally, one integrated process at a single location with minimal registration requirements should be established. This does not mean that all lodging and meals will be at that location, just that getting assignments and information is a one-stop process.


The Lodging Team Lead will ensure that at least 3 alternatives for lodging up to a total of 50 people will be documented in Appendix A. Alternatives should include combinations of commercial and willing private accommodations, and at least one alternative will include dormitory-style accommodations in the Star City Community Center.

Details including maps, points of contact, number of people who can be supported and whether meals are included will be provided for each lodging location offered. 

The team will develop a system for assigning lodging and tracking the whereabouts of evacuees once processed through lodging. 

The team will also provide instructions in advance to community members on how to maintain their personal accountability to the team during an emergency (this is to account for people who have gone to stay with friends or relatives and will prevent potential injury to EMS personnel who may go into an unsafe area to account for those people)

The lodging team will be available with copies of the Appendix at the Star City Courthouse within 3 hours of a call from the Emergency Management Lead  or Emergency Support Lead and will assign lodging based on need. 

The lodging team lead will coordinate with the food management team to let them know how many evacuated people will require meals.

That's it for now and should provide food for thought. 
More soon!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Embracing the SLOW

For some emergencies, there will be times that you are just waiting.  After you've cooked everything in the fridge, hauled water, done other chores and started the wood stove, what do you do while waiting for the power to come back on? If you have digital-age children, it may be even more difficult for them.  Consider 'embracing the slow' as another skill for you and your family members to practice.

So how do we embrace the slow?  If you have children, remember when they were very young and you just watched them? Especially when they were babies, that sense of wonder filled you so full that it was all you needed? There's one.  When was the last time you did that?

Your list for practicing the skill may be longer than you think.  Giving the dog a good ear-rubbing, reading a book, playing a non-electronic game (board or cards) with the whole family are only a few of the activities to cultivate.  Learn that "there's nothing to do" is not a valid statement. Just pondering the beauty of the natural world is something to do.

Some of the slow skill-set can be productive, such as needlework, knife sharpening or woodcarving. The point is that it is done when the task is not desperately needed, like knitting Christmas gifts in July.

How do we practice?  Pick a date and time, turn off all the electronics and do something. If you aren't accustomed to practice or want the family to do it together, you may need to plan ahead!

Given the stimulus most of us receive daily, start small. Read for half an hour or as a family take turns reading aloud. Learn to play cribbage together. Write a letter or card that will go by snail mail. Knit some mittens. Play an instrument. Savor the quiet.  Embrace the slow!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

More about your GO Bag

A recent question on Rural Revolution has inspired this post. The question was from someone just starting to put their Bug Out Bag (BOB) together and wanted to know what 5 things she should start with. From the responses, it was apparent that we all live in different parts of the country!  There were many offerings of water purification tablets.  Well, where I live you may have lots of tablets but no water !  So here are my latest thoughts on your BOB or GO bag or whatever you call yours.

The most important thing about your BOB is to have one and fight the temptation to pilfer from it. Remember it is part of your emergency PLAN and your SYSTEM to execute the plan.

If your emergency plan is to drive north away from the hurricane, you may have a BOB that is more heavily geared to cash and clothing. Do have some water and quality snacks for the trip, as you may spend part of that time in a long parking lot and pulling into McD's may not be an option....

Even if, to start, your 'bug out bag' is a box of what you have on hand just kept in a handy spot for a while, that's a great leap forward. I tend toward minimalism and miniaturization, so I have lots of things in empty pill bottles to keep them from getting lost or accidentally discharging, like small bic lighters, P51 can openers and over the counter meds.

I'd offer that your BOB should be tailored to WHERE you are and where you'd be going if you had to leave home for a while.  I live in the desert, so #1 for me is that the actual bag needs to have away to carry a fair amount of water. The BAG design and getting the right one is #1 for me. (I am currently saving up for that one, but am using an OK bag with 2 water bottles in the mean time). It also supplements what's in my car if I have the luxury of leaving in my vehicle.

It rarely rains here, so my poncho is a cheap plastic disposable and wasn't in my top 5. Think Maslow's hierarchy. Water, food, shelter, security.  I have 3 ways to start a fire (matches, lighter, Firesteel) you may want to start with one or two ways. I have multiple ways to get water. Because it is so scarce here, these include getting it from small or unconventional sources (like the Hydropack pouches). If you have abundant water, you may only need water bottles and ways to strain and purify, like a bandana and purification tablets.

Food and a way to eat if are a high priority.  If you take dehydrated of freeze dried, you'll need more water and a way to heat water.

Rather than 5 'things' I'd suggest 5 capabilities that are most important to you. Staying hydrated, sleeping without pests or rain on you, protection from bad things, light and or heat, something to eat.
After that you can work on luxuries like a good first aid kit, personal hygiene and a change of clothes (maybe a couple changes of socks and undies).

When you get down to the actual BOB in a backpack or duffle, miniaturize to keep the weight down.  I try to keep my pack at about 16 pounds so that with water, protection and my hiking stick I don't exceed 30 pounds. For a man, I would do the same, but allow more weight for some items not in the pack, like a small shovel or larger weapon and extra ammunition.

Also, have a pack for each member of the household, according to what they can bear.  Once a child is 6 or 7, they can carry a change of clothes, a few snacks and a pint of water. My dog has a pack and carries a supply of her food, a bowl and about a quart of water.  No free rides for those with 4 good legs! I don't have a cat.  If you do, you're on your own!

Earlier I mentioned SYSTEM. My BOB is bare bones. If I go in my car with my BOB and what's in the car, it elevates my capabilities because of what is in the vehicle kit. The heavy and full-size things are there. An inflatable sleeping pad, a full-sized lantern, tarp, pot and pan, etc. More and better food to last a couple weeks, etc.  If I have time to do more than  jump in, I have a few more bags to load for a better journey.

Last item is that your BOB should not be a static thing. We have essentially 3 seasons here, so I unpack and review my bag about every 4 months. For the monsoon season, I add extra DEET and some mosquito netting. For winter, I add a few items to keep me warmer and extra fire-starting material but take it out in the spring. For Spring, it's extra food because the already scarce natural resources are tapped out until the monsoon.    

Monday, August 5, 2013

Thoughts on where to GO when Bugging Out

This may seem really mundane, but here goes.  Do you live in an area where a regional natural disaster may occur?  If so, some thoughts on evacuation and... personal needs.  What if you were part of a regional evacuation, a la Sandy or Katrina? Traffic is slow but moving. Or if you find yourself in another situation where stopping just is not an option, are you prepared if nature calls?

For men, gizmos like the 'autojohn' may be useful.  If it is even still available, it's basically a funnel and container to allow you to urinate without leaving your seat in the car.  For the distaff, it's a little more complicated.  What if you also have several children in the car for a day's drive?

For this potential (and given a small bladder), I added Depends or similar product to my preparedness shopping list. I eventually bought a package of 10 Tena brand pull-on underwear when I found them on special for about 60 cents a piece.  If we need to leave, I plan to unie-up so  I'll be able to go on the go without the hassles of stopping, or the pain of trying to get back in the seemingly infinite line of cars. 

Especially from the ladies, what's your plan or solution?

Friday, August 2, 2013

More about Living Below your Means, a key to preparedness

Apparently, in this new economy, frugality is becoming part of the main stream.  In my last post on Living Below your Means, I discussed a lot of major purchases, like cars and houses.  I also addressed a working wardrobe ( at least for women).  Today I'll discuss more mundane topics, like food and everyday household needs. Most of what follows is for non-perishables but you can apply this to produce that you preserve or freeze. For fresh produce, see my posts on Bountiful Baskets food coop.

One of the major transitions to a frugal lifestyle for us has been getting off the 'just in time' method of purchasing food and supplies. That may sound odd, but there are several points of economic benefit to the 'buy on the dip' method for non-perishable items. The two that I appreciate most are having the items when you need them and being able to buy when they are most affordable. With most savings earning little or nothing, and many consumer packaged item prices still rising, you may 'earn' more by having tangibles than by waiting to purchase as you need them.  I am not advocating filling your garage with toilet paper, but having more than 1 roll per person on-hand may be a good move.

Most consumer products have prices that change over the course of weeks or months.  Most obvious are Christmas or Patriotic theme items, but virtually all products have a price cycle.  Part of the frugality cycle is tracking a few of these and combining the dips with coupons or special offers. This improves your preparedness by having a little cushion of critical or high use items, like toothpaste or toilet paper, on hand.  I'll share a few examples.

Recently I bought contact lens solution for a friend using this method.  Normally, the product was $15.99 for a 2-pack of 16 ounce bottles (about 5 cents an ounce).  I saw it on special for $13.89. There was also a 'bonus pack' with 2 24-ounce bottles for the special price.  A $5 gift card was offered if you bought 2 boxes, AND I had 2 $1-off coupons for the product.  So I bought my friend 2 boxes for $12.89 each and deducted $5 from the total because I used the gift card on my purchase.  The  final price to her was $10.36 per box or 2.2 cents an ounce. By the time she is running low on the product, it will probably be on special again. In the interim, she can spend the $10 not spent on contact solution to take advantage of another cyclical product special, like toilet paper.

To start the transition to cyclical 'stocking' you need to pay attention to what you use and how quickly your family uses it. You may also want to know your first and second choice of brands.  I like AngelSoft toilet paper, but the Target brand is almost identical. I monitor prices and when one dips into my target price range, I pounce. No, I don't fill the garage, but I may buy a 24 or 36 roll package to last a while.

I find my best deals on consumer packaged items at Target or Costco. I won't really discuss Costco because the nearest one to me is 70 miles away, so I only shop there if circumstances require that I go to the BIG city.  The Target is much closer, so I'll share my strategy which usually reduces my cost by about 30 percent. We buy the local Sunday newspaper. I clip the coupons from the enclosure, but only on products I normally buy. These more than pay the cost of the paper.  Next, I go to looking for any new coupons on items I normally use. Last, I go to the Target website for their coupons.  The great thing about target is that they will let you coupon match AND use both coupons on sale and clearance items (many stores won't allow matching, especially on their sale items).  So , another example: I love the Glad handle-tie trash bags. Target had a coupon for $1 off one box (I had 2 of those), I also had a manufacturer coupon for $1.25 off two boxes.  I found 2 boxes of 56 each on clearance for under $6 per box. Final cost was about $4.25 per box. The reason these boxes were on sale was that the new boxes, which cost $8.99, had 68 bags per box. End bargain was 7.5 cents per bag versus 13.2 cents.   Yes, I was fortunate to find them on clearance, but I had about a 3-shopping-trip window to use the coupons, so I waited for a sale or clearance. Because I still had half a box at home, I could AFFORD to wait for a better deal.

The other thing you'll notice is that I calculate the UNIT PRICE.  That is the only way you can find the best price. Example:  recently cotton swabs were on sale in the 300, 500, 600, 750 and 1000 swab packages. Yes, I did the math. The swabs in the 500 swab-packages were about 30 percent less expensive than the 1000 swab-packages. Who would have known without a calculator. Hey, use the one on your phone!

And speaking of your phone.... I have a neighbor who pays an unbelievable amount per month  for their phones and service. I still have my 2006 flip phone.  I don't do a lot of texting, and I don't have Internet access on my mobile. I pay for a fixed number of minutes and they nick me 20 cents if I send a text. My bill is less than $50 per month, and I'm looking for a cheaper provider.  Problem is that not many providers want to do business in this part of fly-over country.  The ones that provide service where we need it, the boonies between major cities in the Western US, charge a premium. If the interstate exits with services were closer together, I'd drop it altogether. I'm just not ready to volunteer walking 20 miles to the next exit when it's 105 outside if the car goes south, unless there's no other option.