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Monthly Archives: March 2013

Heating Your Home Off the GridMy house isn’t very old, but it’s cold. I have furnace and ductwork problems that can’t be fixed without throwing a ton of money at them. That’s not an option. Not for me, at least. And the ductwork issue prevents me from just adding a supplemental heat source into the existing system, so I’ve been exploring other options.

Being a prepper-minded individual, I don’t just want something that will supplement my furnace right now. I’m thinking emergency heating. If my power goes out, I lose my furnace altogether and will need a new primary heat source. There must be a decent way of heating your home off the grid.

My house is a two-story, 2300 sq. ft. colonial. It’s rectangular, wider along the front than it is deep. I have a perfectly good wood burning fireplace in my family room, which is in the left front corner of the house. Looks like help is on the way, right? But nothing is that easy.

That’s because my living room, where we spend all of our free time, is on the right side of the house, separated from the family room by the entryway. And my bedroom, which is the coldest room in the house because of the ductwork issue, is directly above the living room. Is there a fireplace solution that would make the whole house warm?

Building a Fire in a Fireplace

It’s been widely reported that using your fireplace actually makes your house colder. How can that be? First, it should be obvious that most of the heat is going to go straight up your chimney. Heat rises and you have a big hole in your house just above the fire. The only heat that you get is radiant heat. Second, the fire requires oxygen, which it sucks from the room the fireplace is in. The fireplace room then replaces the escaping air with air from adjacent rooms. Where to do these rooms replace their air from? Outside. So while your fireplace is making your den warm and cozy, it’s causing the rest of your house to suck cold air in from the outside, causing a net loss of heat and creating drafts. Don’t believe me? According to many sources, including the Canadian government, Mother Earth News, and the cable TV show Mythbusters, it’s true. Google it for yourself.

Does that eliminate my perfectly good fireplace from consideration as an alternative heat source? Thankfully, no.

The Better Mousetrap – A Fireplace Insert

A fireplace insert corrects many of the problems caused by a standard fireplace. A fireplace insert is essentially a wood-burning stove set into a fireplace. It is much more efficient than a plain fireplace because it is a closed combustion system — heat radiates out from the insert, but it doesn’t cause your house to suck cold air in from the outside. You can also add an electric blower that will help to circulate the warm air farther.

You can buy a fireplace inserts that burns a number of types of fuel, including electricity, natural gas, propane, wood, coal, wood pellets, or corn. The type that you buy will be dependent upon what type of fuel you think will be most readily available to you during whatever emergency you are preparing for. For me, that rules out electricity, natural gas, propane, and coal right away.

The Appeal of Pellets

I’m drawn to pellet burners for a lot of reasons. While wood is the most traditional fuel and is still a leading contender, it’s messy. I don’t live on a wood farm, so I don’t have access to my own wood supply. I’m a “townie,” so I’d have to buy my wood, haul it here, and store it outside away from the house. If I were facing a long-term disaster, the acquisition and transportation of the wood would become a problem. Once here, I would have to secure it so that others didn’t steal it from me. The wood has to be split and seasoned properly (allowed to dry for a year or more). It’s heavy, attracts bugs, and has to be lugged into the house every day. Wood is nice, but all of these negatives make it less than attractive to me.

Pellets, on the other hand, come in tidy 40-pound bags. You pour a bag into the hopper of your pellet-burner and it feeds them into the fire box, burns them dumps the small amount of ash that it creates into an ash pot. They are cleaner and more efficient than a wood-burner. Very appealing.

The Problem with Pellets

Except…pellet burners only burn pellets. You can’t convert them to burn wood when your source of pellets runs out. And worst of all, they run on electricity. The pellets are fed from the hopper to the fire box by an electric-powered auger. The ignition system is electronic. The blower is electric. I could run all the electrical stuff from a generator for a short-term emergency, but I’m planning for medium to long-term. Anything electrical isn’t going to cut it. We’ve got to kick it old school. And that leaves me with wood.

The more research I did, the less I was leaning toward a fireplace insert. For starters, there is the issue with where my fireplace is located— at the opposite side in my house of where I spend most of my time. Then there’s the issue of how much heat an insert puts out. As I said, it’s essentially a wood stove that has been inserted into a fireplace opening. It’s cube shaped. A cube has six sides, but the fireplace insert is only presenting one of sides to my room. The other five are covered up.

The Old School Solution

A real freestanding wood-burning stove radiates heat from all six sides. Because of that, it has a much higher BTU rating. That means greater efficiency, which equals less cost to operate. My major gripe about going with a stove is that I will have to vent it to an insulated chimney pipe. I recently priced the cost of the pipe alone at almost $1,800. Cost of the total system installed would be in the neighborhood of $5,000. (Join me in saying, “Yikes!!!”)

But what am I supposed to do? I need something now (or at least by next fall) that will supplement my existing furnace, and I need something off-the-grid for when the lights go off.

Looks like I’m going to have to have a bake sale or something to raise the money.

More on this, plus an alternative to messy wood for a wood-burner, in a future blog.

Why prep? Well, there are many reasons or potential reasons. All fall into one of these three areas. Here’s the top three reasons to the question “why prep?”

Because the world is a fragile place – Phil did a great job of discussing these in his story. You can read it here. We also discussed it a bit in the article titled What are You Prepping For? So for this short introduction, suffice it to say that the world is a fragile place.

Because you want to be able to care for your family in a disaster – Prepping gives you peace of mind that you and your family will have food, water and shelter in an emergency. It doesn’t matter whether that emergency is caused by an extended power outage, losing your job or a significant disruption in the food distribution chain. Providing for your family by prepping makes as much sense (or more) than providing for your family by purchasing life insurance.

Because you want to show Christ’s love to your community in a disaster – Starting now gives you an opportunity to prep items that will be more than enough for your family – food and water that you can share with friends and neighbors. Disasters are opportunities for the Church to shine.

You can read Sandy’s answer to the question “Why prep?” in her story here. Phil tells you his reasons immediately following Sandy’s story. And of course, you’ll find tidbits of our thinking throughout the site.

Clean water may not be available in an emergency. Storing water now assures your survival because people can only live a few days without pure, clean water for drinking, cooking and hygiene. Knowing how much to store is the first step. You’ll find the answer here. But knowing how much to store and actually storing it are two different things.

Getting Started

An easy way to get started is by making a commitment to keeping a couple of cases of bottled water in your house. It may only be enough to last you a couple of days, but it’s to purchase and it’s easy to use. It’s something you can probably do within the next week. Making the commitment to have extra bottled water on hand

According to the FDAs website:

Bottled water is considered to have an indefinite safety shelf life if it is produced in accordance with CGMP and quality standard regulations and is stored in an unopened, properly sealed container. Therefore, FDA does not require an expiration date for bottled water. However, long-term storage of bottled water may result in aesthetic defects, such as off-odor and taste. Bottlers may voluntarily put expiration dates on their labels. (www.fda.gov/food/foodsafety/product-specificinformation/bottledwatercarbonatedsoftdrinks/ucm077079.htm)

So you really can consider your bottled water a part of your water storage plan. But somehow I don’t feel as good about it as I do my true long-term storage water. So I am more diligent about rotating my supply of bottled water. I don’t drink a lot of bottled water. (Phil and I have done blind taste tests and found that we like tap water as our favorite most of the time!) But I keep several cases on hand and every now and then grab a bottle as I’m leaving the house. That causes a natural attrition to my stored water and as one case gets about half empty I buy another. Easy-peasy start to any water storage plan.

Long-Term Water Storage

What do I store it in? For true long-term water storage, the best option is to food-grade quality containers that have been made for storing water. (OK, I admit it – until a year ago I didn’t know they had such things!) Phil did some research and price checking and we bought ours from TheReadyStore.com.

Prepper Tip 1:  Be sure to buy spigots for your containers. They come with screw-top lids, but they don’t come with spigots that make it easy to dispense the water. They only cost a couple of bucks each and you don’t have to have one for every container. Just one for every container that you’re currently serving from and maybe one or two as back-up units. We didn’t think to add them to our container order and then had to pay separate shipping costs for the spigots. I learned the value of having a spigot when we had a water outage during Super Storm Sandy. Phil was out of town, and I stared at stacks of 5-gallon containers of water with no easy access to their contents. Needless to say I was thankful for my bottled water collection for those couple of days.

Prepper Tip 2:  Phil added this tip when he edited my article about how much water to store – “Large water barrels and tanks are great, but for the sake of mobility, a 5-gallon container is the largest size that most people can move or carry without excessive strain.” You can buy water storage drums and tanks of varying sizes. The Ready Store has tanks up to 500 gallons (if you want to shell out almost $1,300 for one). That’s a lot of water, but you aren’t ever going to be able to move it.

How do I store water? Our containers came with instructions about how to prepare them for use, which was really nice simply because it meant we didn’t have to find that info (even though it’s all over the internet). Basically, you’ll want to wash, sanitize and rinse the containers with warm soapy water and unscented bleach.

  • Wash the container with the warm soapy water, rinse it thoroughly – you’re done.
  • Sanitize the container by adding 1 teaspoon of liquid bleach to 1 quart of water. Pour it in, shake the container vigorously, let it sit for a minute or so, then empty the container.
  • Either let the container air dry or rinse it thoroughly with clean water.

Fill the containers and LABEL them. Be sure to put either the date you filled them or the “expiration date” (or both). That takes us back to our discussion from the FDA. Technically, water doesn’t have an expiration date. But everybody seems to say that you should rotate your water every 6 months. OK. I’ll repeat what the experts say and I’ll even try to follow that rule. But if my water was older than 6 months, I’d still drink it in an emergency. (Don’t tell anyone I said that, OK?) I’d probably purify it first. (See below.)

Prepper Tip 3:  Store unscented liquid bleach near your water to use in purifying it if necessary.

Where do I store water? A cool dry place. Think basement. It’s not so much for the sake of the water as it is for the protection of the plastic container that the water is kept in.

Other storage options: If buying containers is out of your price range, you can store water in any food-grade plastic container (like 2-liter soda bottles) that can be sealed. If you are using containers not purchased for the purpose of storing water, be sure the containers you use:

  • Can be tightly sealed.
  • Are not made of glass (they break too easily and they’re too heavy).
  • Have never held a toxic substance (if you’re not sure, don’t use it).
  • Are not milk cartons or bottles (they’re too difficult to get clean and they may not seal tightly).
  • Do not have a #7 recycling symbol (these bottles are made with polycarbonate plastics and should not be used for water storage).
  • Are not used pre-packaged water bottles (these bottles are made for one-time use).

In the realm of prepping, storing water is not only the most important, but also the easiest and least expensive part of your emergency preparations. Set aside a few dollars and a few hours and you’ll be able to store enough water for you and your family for most emergencies you’ll face. In the future, we’ll blog about more intense water storage, but this will get you started.

Click here for an article on finding water in and around your house.

Click here for an article on purifying water.

It’s being widely reported today that major banks and broadcasting media companies were simultaneously hit by a cyber attack that crashed their computer networks. Some systems were down for as long as six hours. Here’s a link to a story from the Washington Post:

Computer networks crash at South Korean banks, media companies; North Korea attack suspected

The number of cyber attacks worldwide has spiked in recent times. We’ve all become heavily dependent on digital media. (You’re using it right now. So am I.) The bad guys know that the best way to cripple an opponent is to take out their computer systems.

And it’s not just the bad guys. Our side is doing it, too. It’s been speculated that the only reason that Iran doesn’t already have nuclear capability is because we (or Israel, or both of us working together) cyber attacked Iran a couple of years ago and caused a major set-back in their development program.

A successful cyber attack on American banking or defense or communications systems could make a real mess of things in a hurry.

Firearms are a basic tool for self-reliance and home or personal defense. Today, I’m going to speak to readers who don’t know much about firearms, but have a growing awareness that having one and knowing how to use it might be a good idea.

Let’s start with handguns — revolvers in particular. This might not be the best place to start from a training perspective, because handguns are much more difficult to shoot well than rifles, but they have a number of benefits going for them that lead many people to acquire a handgun before they move on to rifles.

Many of the advantages of a handgun have to do with their smaller size and weight. Handguns are lighter, more portable, and more concealable, meaning that they can go with you wherever you need to go. You can carry a handgun on your body or store it away in places that a long gun wouldn’t fit.

The Pros and Cons of the Revolver

Photo credit: Mitch Barrie on Flickr.com

Photo credit: Mitch Barrie on Flickr.com

There are two basic styles of handguns: revolvers and semi-automatics. So what is a “revolver”? I’ve included a picture of one here. Think of the old-style cowboy handguns. A revolver has a big cylinder in the middle of the gun that holds all the bullets. When you cock the hammer, the cylinder rotates (or “revolves”) and puts the next bullet in line with the barrel, ready to be shot. There aren’t a lot of mechanical things going on with a revolver, which contributes greatly to its reliability.

Between revolvers and semi-automatics, revolvers are generally regarded as being more reliable. That means they go “bang!” every time you pull the trigger. Revolvers are also easier to operate. With a revolver it’s just point and shoot. You don’t have to fuss with a manual safety. (Is it on or is it off? How can I tell?) You don’t have to “rack” the gun to get a bullet in position to shoot like you do with a semi-auto. Revolvers don’t jam like semi-automatics do. Semi-automatics have to mechanically feed a bullet into the chamber to get it ready to fire, then eject the empty cartridge after the bullet has been fired to get the next bullet ready to shoot. When the gun fails to do either of those functions properly the gun “jams.” You have to fix the problem before you can fire the next shot with a semi-auto. Revolvers don’t feed and eject bullets like that, so they don’t jam.

The disadvantages of a revolver are that they’re thicker than a semi-auto (and thus harder to conceal), they don’t carry as many bullets as a semi-auto, and they can be much slower and more difficult to reload.

Cocking a revolver

Cocking a revolver

How Do These Things Work?

Revolvers come in two different designs, “single-action” and “double-action.”

A “single-action” revolver requires you to manually pull the hammer back with your thumb to cock it. Once the hammer is cocked, pulling the trigger performs a single action — it releases the hammer, causing the gun to fire. This design is very safe because you can’t pull the trigger at all until you have cocked the hammer. Once you’ve cocked the hammer, it only requires a light pull of the trigger to fire the gun, but the process of cocking the hammer is a very deliberate one, not likely to happen by accident, making a single-action revolver a very safe device even though it doesn’t have a manual safety like many semi-automatic handguns.

A “double-action” revolver doesn’t require you to cock the hammer as a separate step. Pulling the trigger will perform two actions — it cocks the hammer and then releases it to fire the gun. This design is also very safe because the trigger pull on a double-action revolver is much longer and stiffer than with a single-action revolver. The long, stiff trigger pull is a deliberate action that becomes the built-in safety.

At the risk of confusing someone who hasn’t used any revolver, a double-action can be used in either double- or single-action mode. You pick ’em. Just pull the trigger and it will cock and fire the gun (double-action). But the trigger pull is long and stiff, so it’s harder to keep the gun aimed while you’re pulling the trigger. So if you want a lighter trigger pull, you can cock the hammer with your thumb and pull the trigger to fire it (single-action). The trigger pull in single action mode is always much lighter, making it easier to stay on target.

[ FYI — Any idea why we used a drawing of someone cocking the hammer on a revolver rather than using a photo? We purchase and use professional “stock” photos for these blogs. In every photo of someone cocking a revolver hammer, they also had their finger on the trigger at the same time. Unless you are in a combat situation, DON’T DO THAT! It’s not safe. The photographer may have been a professional, but the model that they used to hold the gun wasn’t knowledgeable of safe gun handling habits.  We don’t want to show improper safety practices, so this drawing was the only image I could find where the shooter had their finger off the trigger. ]

Suggestions for Buying a Revolver

  • As with all guns, get one that fits your hand. I good fit will feel comfortable in your hand and allow you to reach and operate all controls (trigger, hammer, cylinder release) easily.
  • Revolvers come in many different calibers. The higher the caliber, the more powerful the gun. The most common calibers for revolvers are .22, .38, .357 magnum, and .44 magnum. There are several others, but these are the most common, and therefore the most practical to consider.
  • If you’re buying a revolver for  personal defense, don’t even consider a single-action gun. The process of cocking it with your thumb before every shot takes so long that it will get you killed. A double-action revolver can be operated in either single- or double-action, giving you the best of both worlds. When you need speed, just pull the trigger and shoot (double-action). When you have the luxury of time to take a carefully aimed shot, cock the hammer with your thumb and pull the trigger (single-action).
  • Determine how you are going to carry it before you commit to buying it. Will you do concealed carry in a hip holster or purse? Barrel length may become an issue.
  • The shorter the barrel, the more difficult to aim accurately. Snub-nosed revolvers are “cute,” but they’re only practical for shooting at very short range (as in about 10 feet or so). But they make great back-up guns if your primary piece jams or runs out of ammo.
  • The lighter the gun, the greater the recoil. Recoil makes a gun hard to control. It will buck after every shot and you will have to re-acquire the target. That takes time that you may not have. Excessive recoil can also make the gun very uncomfortable to shoot. If your gun is uncomfortable for you to shoot, you are less likely to practice with it. If you don’t practice with it regularly, you won’t be able to deploy it competently if the need arises. So a light-weight gun will be easier to carry and conceal, but it has the serious trade-offs of controllability and increased recoil that have to be considered. Find a gun that does the best job for you of balancing weight, control, and recoil.
  • What about brands? Go with a good one. In my opinion, you can’t go wrong with a Ruger or a Smith & Wesson (if you keep the considerations of the previous point in mind). Both are great brand, but I think the Rugers are a better value. If you don’t find a Ruger that meets your needs, look at the Smith & Wessons. They’re more money, but they make great guns. Colts can be nice, too, but they’re prohibitively expensive (for my pocketbook, at least). Taurus makes a broad line of popular revolvers, but there is a long-running debate about the reliability of Taurus products. Those who have had a good experience say they’re great. Those with a bad experience perpetuate the notion that Tauruses are junk. Personally, I’ve never used a Taurus, but if I found one that had everything I was looking for in a gun, I’d buy it.

Having just laid out the case for a revolver as an excellent choice for a beginning handgunner, I must now confess that I’m not a revolver kind of guy. I own one and I love it. It’s an old .22 that was made in the 1960s. I bought it from a friend at church. (That kind of transaction would be illegal if the newly proposed gun control legislation gets passed which would require a background check for every sale of a gun. Since private owners don’t have the ability to run background checks, the sale of guns between friends and family members would become a crime.) I have a wish list of future guns and I have a revolver on the list. It’s a Ruger GP100 in .357 magnum. That’s the gun in the photo near the top of this blog. Ain’t she a beauty? If you’re in the market for a good revolver, this is a fabulous one to take a look at. Or if you just really, really want to be nice to me…

If you’re brand new to food storage, you might want to read the following two articles to help you understand how to implement the two simple rules.

 

Now, on to the “2 Simple Rules”

I like to keep things simple. When it comes to food storage, there are two simple rules:

  • Store what you eat Just because it’s an emergency doesn’t mean that you have to eat things that you don’t like. You may have heard somewhere that pickled squid stores well, but that doesn’t mean that you have to eat it (or try to get your kids to eat it). Too many people buy things that they really don’t like because they’re on sale or whatever, with the mindset that during an emergency they’ll be grateful to have anything at all. That may be true, but only up to a point. If all you’ve got to eat is slop, it will wear away at you at a time when you don’t need anything else to be a hardship. You might start skipping meals rather than eat slop again at a time when you need fuel to keep your body running well. During stressful times, we often gravitate toward foods that we like especially well. We call these “comfort foods.” You shouldn’t deprive yourself of comfort food during an emergency. Play your cards right and mealtime might be the best part of your post-apocalyptic day. So plan on storing the kinds of food that you actually enjoy. And be sure to stockpile a wide variety of foods. Fatigue sets in quickly when you have to eat the same thing day after day.
  • Eat what you store Even if you store a variety of foods that you like, it’s a virtual certainty that your food consumption will be different during a long-term emergency from what it is right now. Goodbye McDonald’s and Pizza Hut. Hello rice and beans. Since changes will have to be made, don’t wait until the situation is forced upon you to begin to make those changes. Do it now. Learn how to use the foods that you’ve stored, including your really long-term storage foods. This means that you will have to break down and open some of those 25-year shelf-life cans of dehydrated or freeze-dried foods and learn how to make meals with them. You might need to learn to make more one-dish casserole-type meals to conserve fuel. Practice now. Learn how to do it so you don’t have to throw out or eat your mistakes while you’re in crisis mode.The other aspect of eating what you store has to do with rotation. You don’t want your food to go bad sitting on your shelves. Practice “first in – first out” inventory management. Be aware of the expiration dates of your food items and use your food before it goes bad.

We want our readers to participate in this blog. If you have a good recipe that used food storage items, share it with us. We want to be a clearinghouse for good ideas. If we publish your recipe, we’ll give you all the credit! Just email us – Recipes@TADPrepper.com or comment on our Facebook page.

In my previous blog we looked at the types of food that are available for medium to long-term food storage. These included canned, dehydrated, and freeze-dried foods. As you can well imagine, each on has its pros and cons. That’s where this blog comes in. Read on…

Canned Food
Canned food provides the widest variety of types of food products. You can buy everything from soup to nuts in a can. I once heard that you can even buy beer in a can. There are a lot of heat-and-eat or ready-to-eat entrees in cans (this can be a critical factor in an emergency situation), or you can buy individual recipe components in cans and whip up your own concoction. Canned goods are familiar and readily available. One huge plus for canned food is that you almost never have to add water to prepare them. If anything, you’ll be draining water out of them, rather than adding it in.

The downside with canned goods is their relatively short shelf-life, as compared to dehydrated or freeze-dried foods. Use it or lose it, baby. Although canned goods can be still be usable for years past their printed “best by” dates if stored in a cool location, those “best by” dates are often just one to three years out. People who base their food storage plan on canned goods need to practice rotation religiously.

Other downsides to canned foods are their size and weight. You don’t find many backpackers who lug canned goods with them on mountain trails. In the same way they make for a poor option for bug-out bags. Canned goods are fine for being stored on a shelf in your basement or stashed under your bed, but if you need to pack up and go, canned goods are a major burden to bear.

Dehydrated Food
Dehydrated food is the best value among long-term storage (LTS) foods. As of this writing, Emergency Essentials, one of the leading vendors of emergency food and supplies, offers a 2,000-calorie-per day one-year food package for $1,300. By comparison, their 2,000-calorie freeze-dried kit sells for $4,500. (Let’s see — do I want three and a half years of dehydrated food, or one year’s worth of freeze-dried?) If you’re on a budget you’ll want dehydrated foods should rank pretty high in your long-term food storage plan.

Long shelf-life is a huge advantage – many LTS dehydrated foods are rated at 20-25 years. The food you last today can safely stored for longer than you’ll live in your current house, most likely.

Small storage footprint is also an advantage for dehydrated foods. Because the water’s been removed (and removed in such a way that reduces the size of the original product), they take up lots less shelf-space. You can fit a lot of food in a #10 can. That makes for the most compact storage option among the three types of food.

Another factor with dehydrated food has both pluses and minuses. You won’t find many, if any, dehydrated food entrées. (Well, there are a number of dried soup mixes, but I don’t always count that as an entrée.) Instead you’ll find separate ingredients. The bad news is that this means that you have to cook. No “just add water” and have a meal. The good news is that you can cook anything you want, any way you want. You can add things to a ready-made entrée to customize it to your liking, but you can’t take anything away from it that you don’t like. I’ve always marveled at Taco Bell. They’ve got something like 30 items on the menu, but they’ve only got about five ingredients in the kitchen. It’s all just different combinations and preparations. Same thing with dehydrated food. You can make anything you want, but you’re the one who has to make it. I’ve always felt that the flexibility provided by dehydrated food gives it the greatest potential for assembling the healthiest meals.

The most significant downside for dehydrated (and freeze-dried foods) is that they’ve been dehydrated — you have to have a supply of clean water to reconstitute them. When trouble comes, water may become a precious commodity. You need a minimum of a gallon per day, per person. That seems like a drop in the bucket now when the water is flowing freely. You leave the tap running while you brush your teeth. You throw a piece of tissue paper in the toilet and feel like you have to flush it. You take long showers. All of that goes by the wayside when water no longer flows from your faucets at will. So whether you’re bugging-out or bugging-in, the availability of clean water for re-hydrating these foods becomes an issue. Score one for canned food.

Here’s another related downside to dehydrated food. Cooking them is energy intensive. Do you ever cook with dried beans? (If you don’t, you should start now.) They take forever to cook. You soak them overnight, but they still want to simmer in your crockpot all day or cook on the stove for a couple of hours. That’s what I mean by energy intensive. Besides having enough clean water, you also need to have a sufficient energy source to cook dehydrated food. Dehydrated food is the worst of the three types of food in this respect.

Freeze-Dried Food
I’ve already pulled this one into the discussion in the comparisons above, but more can (and will) be said about freeze-dried food. I pointed out that freeze-dried food is 350% more expensive than dehydrated. So why would anyone want to shell out that kind of money for it?

Because it’s good. Almost all the best features that you want for long-term storage food can be found in freeze-dried. The freeze-drying process retains the appearance, texture, color, flavor, and aroma of the original food it comes from. By comparison, some dehydrated food gets shriveled, loses its fresh color, and can be a bit tough or chewy if you don’t cook it thoroughly. When you add water to freeze-dried food to reconstitute it, you can’t tell it from fresh.

It’s also lightweight and portable.

And there’s plenty of variety. Freeze-dried can take you places that dehydrated can only dream of. Dehydrated cheese? You have to settle for powder, like the packets that come with Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. You can make a cheesy sauce from it, but that’s it. With freeze-dried, you can have real shredded cheese. Or cottage cheese. Or blueberry cheesecake. Or freeze-dried ice cream sandwiches. Starting to catch the vision?

Freeze-dried fruits and veggies are very good, but one area where freeze-dried really shines is with just-add-water entrées. The leading brand of freeze-dried entrées is Mountain House. Their products are available from a lot of emergency supply vendors. They offer such family favorites as beef stew, beef stroganoff with noodles, pasta primavera, teriyaki chicken and rice, lasagna, and so forth. And it tastes good. Like real food. BTW, Mountain House has a sale twice a year. Watch this space and we’ll let you know when it’s happening.

Freeze-dried meats are good, too. You can buy cans of diced chicken, turkey, beef, pork, or ham. (Yeah, I know ham is pork, but it’s different.) You can get crumbled sausage or ground beef. You can’t do that with dehydrated. The closest that dehydrated can come with meat and poultry is TVP (textured vegetable protein) made from soy beans and gussied up to vaguely resemble bits of meat. I’ve had some TVP that wasn’t bad, but I’ve had some that was. The freeze-dried stuff isn’t TVP. It’s the real deal.

Like with dehydrated food, freeze-dried needs water to reconstitute it and energy to cook it, but it requires a lot less energy than most dehydrated food. For fruit, you just soak it in water. No heat required. For many entrées, you bring the needed amount of water to a boil, stir in the dry mix, cover it, and let it sit for 10 or 15 minutes, and presto! Hot and tasty food.

The two biggest downsides to freeze-dried are cost and size. We addressed cost above. Freeze-drying doesn’t shrink the food, so it takes about the same amount of space as fresh, even though all the water has been removed. For example #10 (gallon-sized) can of sliced strawberries weighs only 7 ounces (less than half a pound), but it takes up a gallon of space. When reconstituted it provides more than 9 cups of sliced strawberries, but it takes up a lot of shelf space during storage.

So what type should you buy and store?

I’m not an “either/or” kind of guy. I’m much more of a “both/and” kind of guy. Why limit yourself to just one type when all three have certain advantages? I have canned goods on hand for short-term emergencies like a power outage after an ice storm. They would also make for good comfort food during a longer emergency. Freeze-dried can offer a lot of comfort food capability, but it’s also great for situations where you need mobility. Its light weight makes it a grab-and-go winner.

On my budget, dehydrated foods make up the mainstay of my long-term storage food plan. For the best value, go with the big six-gallon pails of staples such as wheat, rice, dried beans, and oatmeal. (After you’ve opened a pail, you’ll need a plan for using it all within a reasonable amount of time to keep it from going bad, or have a way to reseal it for later.) Round out your collection with #10 cans of dried veggies and fruits, powdered milk, soup and sauce mixes. And store more than you think you’ll need for yourself and your family. When it’s crunch time, you’ll want to be able to reach out and help others who weren’t as well prepared as you are.

There is a lot of confusion among prepper newbies about what types of food to store for emergency use. Canned? Freeze-dried? Dehydrated? Yeah, I can understand being confused. Been there – done that.

To help sort this out, we need to look at the different types of food preservation available. You can’t develop a food storage plan that works best for you until you understand these basics.

Canned Food
Everyone knows what canned food is. We’ve eaten it all our lives. I’m mainly talking about the stuff that you get at the grocery store:

  • Canned vegetables, such as garbanzo beans, creamed corn, pickled beets, and sauerkraut. (Have I hit everyone’s favorites?) Also think tomatoes in all their forms (whole, diced, crushed, sauce, paste, juice). Some vegetables seem to can better than freeze. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a package of mushrooms or beets in the freezer at the grocery store. Beware of the sodium content in canned veggies.
  • Then there are canned fruits, which include peaches, pears, fruit cocktail, and apple sauce.
  • Don’t forget canned meats, like tuna, sardines, Vienna sausages (do they really count as a “meat” product?), and the ubiquitous Spam. OK, some of those are fish, not meat, but you get the idea. For that matter, you can buy canned poultry, too, in a variety of sizes. If you shop at the right places you can get canned bacon, too, precooked and ready to rock, but I find it to be a bit spendy for my budget.
  • Ready-to-eat canned entrees include things like beef stew, chili, soup, La Choy Chinese dinners, and everything that Chef Boyardee has ever made.

That’s just hitting the high points of canned food. There are many others. I once bought a can of Pork Brains in Milk Gravy, just because I could. Let’s just say that you don’t want to be in a white elephant gift exchange with me. But I digress.

The shelf life of store-bought canned foods varies a lot. In most cases it can be from one to three years. Meat and fish seem to have a longer “best by” date than fruits and vegetables. Almost everyone has found that canned foods are still good for long past the stated “best by” dated found on the cans, provided that the cans are not dented and are stored at a cool temperature.

There is another broad category of canned food that we will cover extensively in an on-going series of blogs. This is home-canned food. Home-canned food that is properly prepared and stored can have a longer shelf life than store-bought canned goods, up to about 10 years. Watch this space for future blogs on do-it-yourself canning.

Dehydrated Food
We buy more of these than we’d think. If the instructions say “just add water,” it’s a dehydrated food. Common store-bought dehydrated foods includes rice, dried pasta, dried beans, dried soup mixes, meal kits like Hamburger Helper, and spices.

But when preppers talk about dehydrated foods, more likely than not they mean the stuff from specialty vendors that comes in the big #10 cans (roughly one gallon) and is designed to have a shelf life of 20 years or more. These long-term storage (LTS) dehydrated foods include fruits, vegetables, grains, cereals, pasta, powdered milk and other drink mixes, sauce mixes, and baking supplies.

As with canned foods, you can also dehydrate your own foods at home. More on this in a future blog.

Freeze-dried Food
Freeze-dried is the new kid on the block. The process was invented during WWII to preserve medical serums that were being shipped to the troops. American astronauts were eating freeze-dried foods as early as Project Mercury in the early 1960s. Freeze-dried instant coffee was the first product that was available commercially.

They’ve gotten really good at freeze-drying foods now. All the water is removed from the food while it is deeply frozen. The resulting product looks like the original, retaining the same general size, color, flavor, and smell, but is much lighter. When properly packaged and stored, freeze-dried foods can have a very long shelf-life. We’re talking 25 years here.

Just about anything can be freeze-dried. For some foods (whole wheat, rice, pasta), dehydration works just as well and is much less expensive, so they don’t bother to offer everything in freeze-dried form. But you can buy long-term storage cans of freeze-dried vegetables, fruits, meats, and more. Anyone up for some yummy freeze-dried ice cream?

Freeze Dried Ice Cream

My next blog will discuss the pros and cons of each of these different methods of food preservation and where they fit into your food storage plan.

In the meantime, if this article has been helpful for you, we’d love for you to share it with a friend. Click on any of the buttons below.

Because I’ve always been a city girl, the concept of drinking directly from a stream has never held any appeal. In fact, I’ve always been a bit amazed at those scenes in old westerns where the grizzly men dunk their faces in the stream and take deep, refreshing swallows of crisp, clean water. I’m from a generation and lifestyle that I can’t imagine the water being crisp and clean enough for me to want to drink it. That’s probably a good thing because there are few (if any) places where that’s a safe practice these days.

I’ve always had the luxury of getting clean water from a faucet. Should the world change suddenly, that may no longer be the case. That makes it important to store water for that time, and to know how to collect water and then how to purify it. How to purify water is where this blog comes in.

There are basically two methods for purifying water: boiling and adding bleach. (Yes, I had to get over the idea of drinking bleach.) If the water is cloudy, it should be filtered before using either method.

Filtering Water

Always filter water that is cloudy before you purify it either by boiling or by adding bleach. Filter water by pouring it through coffee filters, paper towels, cheese cloth or some similar item. Prepper Tip: Coffee filters are great for lots of things and should definitely be on your prepper supplies lists.

Purifying Water by Boiling

Boiling is the safest way to purify water. If you have the ability to use this method, use it. However, don’t assume that you will be able to boil water. Be prepared for boiling or using bleach (as described below).

  • Bring the water to a rolling boil and maintain it for one minute.
  • Let the water cool before drinking.

Purifying Water by Adding Liquid Chlorine Bleach

  • Use liquid household bleach that has no perfumes, dyes or other additives. It should be between 5% and 6% chlorine.
  • Place the water in a clean container.
  • If the water is clear, add 3 drops of liquid chlorine bleach for one quart of water or 8 drops (1/8 teaspoon) for a gallon of water. (There are likely to be instructions on the chlorine bleach bottle that you can follow.
  • If the water is cloudy (even after filtering), use 5 drops for one quart or 16 drops (1/4 teaspoon) for a gallon of water.
  • Mix thoroughly.
  • Let the water stand for at least 30 minutes before drinking. If the water is cloudy or very cold, let it stand for 60 minutes.
  • If the water doesn’t have a slight chlorine smell, repeat the process. If the water doesn’t have a slight chlorine smell after repeating the process you should probably find a new source of water. The water you’re using may not be safe enough to drink even after purifying it.

Prepper Tip: To make the water taste better, you can pour it back and forth between two containers a couple of times. Or you might want to add a little flavor to it. Tang is a good prepper supply, but you can experiment with adding some of your dried fruits.

Other Methods

There are other methods for filtering and purifying water, but these are the easiest. We’ll write about other methods in future blogs. In the meantime, if you’re into more intense survival water purification, check out this blog.

As many of us learned in the eighties, we humans might be described as “ugly, ugly bags of mostly water” (from the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Home Soil” which aired on February 22, 1988 — Stardate: 41463.9). (Watch a replay of the moment here.) With that being the case, water is critical to our survival. Without it, a person will die in less than a week – typically three to five days. When our bodies don’t receive the fluids they need, our cells and organs quickly begin to deteriorate. (There’s a reason nurses often begin IV fluids immediately when patients arrive in the Emergency Room.)

In an emergency, clean water can be hard to come by. That means storing water now is where the water you’ll need then is going to come from. In addition to needing it for drinking, you’ll need it for food preparation and to keep yourself and everything you use clean. According to U.S. government sources, you probably use about 100 gallons of water a day in your everyday life! That’s a lot of water. It’s heavy and it takes up a lot of space. Imagine 100 one-gallon milk jugs stacked side by side! That’s how much water the typical person uses in one day!

Having said that, the government recommends (and you’ll find that most prepper sites agree) that you should store one gallon of water per person (and pet) per day. Plan on more if you live in a hot climate or are pregnant or sick…or if you want water for more than the barest minimum use. One gallon per day will be the minimum for drinking and food preparation only. It won’t include a hot shower or bath and it won’t include much washing of dishes or clothes.

The government recommends that you maintain a 3-day water supply in storage. Here at The Approaching Day, we’re not doctors or experts in much of anything, but we’re not at all comfortable with that minimal level of water storage. In any of our scenarios, a 3-day supply isn’t nearly enough water for us to feel prepared. We started with 45 gallons — nine 5-gallon storage containers. (Prepper tip: Large water barrels and tanks are great, but for the sake of mobility, a 5-gallon container is the largest size that most people can carry without excessive strain.) We’ve supplemented our initial water supply by typically having another five to ten gallons of bottled water on hand at any given point in time. According to the one gallon per person per day guideline, that’s about 25 days. We figure it’s closer to only 18 days of real usage. That’s still not enough stored water for us to feel comfortable — we’re building up to a greater supply. But it’s a start.

You can base the amount of water you store on the scenario you are prepping for and how that event will impact the water supply. Use the following formula to calculate the amount of water you need/want to store: (water storage calculation.jpg)

Formula for Calculating Water Storage Needs

As I said in the first paragraph, our bodies are largely made up of water (weird, isn’t it?). With that being the case, it’s important not to risk getting dehydrated. Drink at least two quarts of water a day. If you’re in a hot climate, pregnant, or sick, drink even more. When the need arises, work on getting more water, but drink what you have on a regular basis or you’ll quickly become physically unable to get more.

Click here for instructions on storing water.

Click here for an article on finding water in and around your house.

Click here for an article on purifying water.