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Monthly Archives: September 2013

a cord of two strands is not easily brokenI was listening to the radio in the car today and caught a snippet of a message by Chuck Swindoll. The title of it was “1 + 1 = Survival.” That will get a prepper’s attention! I only caught a couple of minutes of it, but it was enought to inspire this total rip-off of Chuck’s message. Thanks, Chuck.

Chuck’s was teaching from the book of Ecclesiastes, one of the “wisdom books” in the Bible. Bible scholars attribute much of Ecclesiastes to Israel’s King Solomon, who was reportedly the wisest man who ever lived. Wise, but not perfect. He screwed up a lot, but he learned from his mistakes. I’m glad he had the humility to share his mistakes and the lessons he learned from them with posterity.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible translation)

Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. 10 For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up. 11 Also, if two lie down together, they can keep warm; but how can one person alone keep warm? 12 And if someone overpowers one person, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not easily broken.

Trying to go it alone isn’t wise. It’s not easy, either, as you well know if you’ve been trying to do it all by yourself. America was built upon the concept of “rugged individualism,” but that doesn’t mean isolation from others. Your survivability will increase if you can find even one other like-minded person to band together with you.

Prepping can be a lonely pursuit. I recently saw a stat that said it’s estimated that somewhere around 3 million people in America are prepping for a coming emergency. Think of it — millions of preppers! It sounds like a lot, until you consider that there are over 300 million people in America right now. That reduces the stat to just 1 in 100. One percent. And how many of those are really pursuing it as actively as you are? Being a part of a prepper community, even if it’s just a community of two, can help you stay focused and fill in the gaps in your preps.

“If either falls, his companion can lift him up.”

Ecclesiastes points out the benefits of being in a mutually committed partnership. Falling can be a metaphor for a lot of things — failing, becoming discouraged, giving up, or literally being physically unable to do something by yourself. Having a committed partner to help you up when you’re down can be the difference between achieving your goals or joining the ranks of the 99% who aren’t prepared. The 99% not only won’t have the resources or inclination to help you in an emergency, they’ll be coming to you for help. And they’re also to likely be the ones who discourage you from prepping now. Having a committed partner is good, but it’s even better to be a committed partner for others. Living out that kind of character will get you through situations that you wouldn’t think possible until you’re tested.

“If two lie down together, they can keep warm.”

This isn’t about cuddling or sleeping together. This is about synergy. There is an efficiency that comes from partnership. A team of two can accomplish more than two individuals working separately could ever do. Is it possible to do a lot of things alone? Sure, but it’s much easier when you have a helping hand. It also tends to be more fun.

“If someone overpowers one person, two can resist him.”

There’s safety in numbers, even if the number is only two. We all need someone to watch our back. We all have blind spots that others see in us, but that we don’t know about. That’s why they’re called blind spots. Having a trusted partner to clue us in on what we’re not seeing is a real plus. It requires humility and a teachable spirit on our part, and it requires gentleness and tact on the part of the one bringing the correction. (Note: If gentleness and tact don’t move your partner in the right direction, try a swift kick in the pants. One or the other should do it. Different strokes for different folks.) And of course this passage could also be literally applied to the area of personal security. By myself, I could be an easy target for those with bad intentions. It’s nice to have a wingman. I’ve got to sleep sometime. I need someone to stand guard while I’m getting some shut-eye.

“A cord of three strands is not easily broken.”

If two is good, then finding a third like-mind, committed prepping partner is the hot-diggity bomb. One or two people still have to do it all themselves. Bring more committed folks on board and you can start to specialize. Capitalize upon one another’s strengths and expertise. Do more of the stuff that you really like to do and do it better. You’ll still have to do some nasty tasks that no one wants to do (and it will inevitably feel like you do more of them than anyone else), but being part of a unit will supercharge your preps. Shoot, you might even qualify for bulk discounts when you buy supplies.

In a subtle way, Scripture is nudging us toward inviting God to be our “third strand.” Faith can be a strong motivator. It can give you a sense of purpose that transcends the struggles of this life and reaches into eternity. It can teach you to persevere against overwhelming odds. Scripture teaches us that through faith in God, “one can put a 1,000 to flight, and two can put 10,000 to flight.”

Where are the preppers?

So how do you go about finding like-minded folks in your area? It’s not easy. I drop an occasional vague comment about something related to prepping in casual conversations (striving to maintain some degree of OPSEC and to not look like a card-carrying member of the Tinfoil Hat Society) and see if anyone takes the bait. To be quite honest, I haven’t gotten good results with that approach, but I still feel like it’s worth trying.

So how else can you hook up with like-minded folks? Here are some web sites that can help:

  • PrepperGroups.com/  Prepper groups and only prepper groups. Or people who want to find or form a prepper group. There’s a box near the top left corner that says “Preppers by location”. Right under that you can click on “Select category” to open up a drop down box of locations across the U.S. and around the world.
  • AmericanPreppersNetwork.net/  Besides having a forum that is a wealth of information, there is a map on the home page where you can select Prepper Meetup Groups and it will display what they have listed in your area. I didn’t find some of the groups that I located through PrepperGroups.com/ here, so I don’t know what their criteria is, but it’s worth a shot.
  • Meetup.com/find/   This site isn’t just for preppers, but you might be able to find prepper groups in your area on it. Just enter your zip code and the number of miles you’re willing to travel to meet-up with folks and it will do the rest for you. They list all kinds of groups, so you can specify “prepper” in the search box to narrow it down to just those. They have lots of groups for all kinds of non-prepper related special interests, if you’re into something else. My wife and I participate in a number of meet-ups, some for business and blogging, others just for fun.

Finally, stick around. We hope to form our own virtual prepper community through this blog soon. No telling who you might meet.

Tasting Long Term Storage FoodOur first taste test competition was a classic David and Goliath battle where we pitted industry giant Wise Foods against the relatively unknown eFoods Direct. No contest – eFoods ran away with it, surprising and delighting us with its restaurant-quality Tortilla Soup. I could go for a bowl of it right now.

Round #2: The Competitors

We wanted to do another head-to-head taste test using the same general format of an industry leader compared to a lesser known food provider. The industry leader we chose for this match-up is THE industry leader, Mountain House. Mountain House is the best known name in the food storage business and has a reputation for good taste and high quality. They also tend to be on the expensive side.

The “David” that we chose for this comparison testing was the winner of an 8-vendor cook-off that a select group of preparedness bloggers was invited to earlier this year. Yours truly was not one of the invitees, but I have an “in” with one who was there and I learned that the winner of the competition was a little outfit called Food Insurance. They also market their products under the brand name of Daily Bread. This promising young upstart seemed like the ideal candidate to take on the 800-pound gorilla known as Mountain House.

The Entrées

I bought a pouch of Mountain House Chicken and White Bean Chili from my favorite sporting goods store. I didn’t have the presence of mind to retain the receipt, but if memory serves me correctly (a dicey proposition at best) it was in the neighborhood of $7.95 for a 4.8-ounce, 2-1/2 serving package.

The Food Insurance entry was purchased as a “free” sample, where you pay only for the shipping and handling. $5.95 for shipping of a 2.5-ounce one-serving sample makes me feel like it wasn’t so free after all. They chose which entrée we got. I was less than delighted to see that it was Chicken Teriyaki with Rice, “a sweet combination of oriental flavors.” If I had my druthers, I would have picked something else.

The Winner

I’m going to cut to the chase and let you know who won. You can read more about why each product scored the way they did after the results. And while we’re letting the cat out of the bag about the winner right here, there’s still a surprise to be found below.

The winner was the Food Insurance Chicken Teriyaki with Rice.

Eye Appeal

I opened the Mountain House Chicken Chili first. It was beautiful. A nice balance of white beans with chunks of freeze-dried chicken, and some red bell peppers. This is my kind of food. This was going to be hard to beat.

The Food Insurance Chicken Teriyaki looked about like expected. Lots of rice, a mixture of freeze-dried Chinese vegetables, and small pieces of chicken in a brown powder.

Preparation

Preparation instructions for both products were exactly the same. Boiling water was added to each, stirred, and allowed to sit covered for eight or nine minutes. Both of the products gave the option of preparing the food right in the pouch that it came in by adding the boiling water directly to the pouch. Not only does that say a lot about the quality of the pouches, it’s also a potentially huge convenience factor. This means that you can travel light and don’t have to take a cooking pot with you when you’re backpacking, bugging out, or just on the run from the law. We didn’t take them up on their offer of cooking and eating out of the pouches for this taste test, but opted to prepare them in bowls.

Nutritional Info

Nutrition stats are important to me. I read labels and make choices based on it. One of my concerns about many of the freeze-dried long-term food storage entrée’s on the market today is that they are way too high in sodium. I was attracted to the Mountain House Chicken Chili because it had a bright label pasted on the pouch announcing that it had only 260mg of sodium per serving. That’s outstanding for a product of that type. By comparison, Food Insurance’s Chicken Teriyaki had 790mg of sodium per serving, more than three times what MH put in theirs. Mountain House was the clear winner here. (In a small, random sampling of other free-dried entrées, I found sodium content as high as a briny 1200mg per serving. Yuck!)

A key stat for emergency food is calories per serving. Unlike in normal times, you want to consume high-calorie food in an emergency because you’re not likely to be eating as much or as often and you’re likely to be burning more calories through increased activity. Food Insurance came in with 280 calories per serving, while Mountain House was at a tummy-trimming 150 calories. Food Insurance did almost twice as well as Mountain House in this category.

Both entrées had 13 grams of protein, but there was a big difference in carbs — 19 grams for the Mountain House Chili versus 51 grams for the Food Insurance Teriyaki, boosted by brown sugar as the third ingredient. Mountain House also prevailed as the fiber leader with 7 grams per serving versus Food Insurance’s paltry 2 grams.

For me at least, it’s hard to pick a winner in the nutritional value category. I like all of Mountain House’s stats with the exception of its low calorie count. The solution is to doctor it up with a healthy, high-calorie addition, such as a small splash of olive oil.

This brings up a teaching point about long-term food storage. You can’t think of pre-packaged foods like the two in this taste test as being a total solution to your food storage needs. They are a component, but you also need to store staples and ingredients that can be added to an entrée to better meet your needs.
In our first taste test, we found that the eFoods Tortilla Soup mix had so much robust flavor that we could add a small amount of it as a topping to a serving of white rice and extend it far beyond the number of servings of just the soup by itself. Most of the nutritional stats on this Mountain House Chicken Chili are great, but it needs more calories. Having a well-stocked prepper pantry can address almost any deficiency in a convenience entrée.

 

Taste

This is a “taste” test, after all, so how did the two products actually taste? We’ve already announced that the Food Insurance Chicken Teriyaki was the winner. How did it accomplish that?

The Mountain House entrée disappointed both of us. Chicken Chili is my kind of food, but this wasn’t a very good example of it. It was beautiful to look at straight out of the pouch and after it had been rehydrated, but both of us were negatively surprised by a potent tangy-ness that the dish just didn’t need. The list of ingredients includes tomatillos, citric acid, tartaric acid, and lemon juice powder, all of which could boost its sourness. Whatever the culprit, it was just too much. Leave out the tangy overload, find a different seasoning to punch up the flavor, and this would be a home run. I gave it 3-1/2 stars for the overall quality of the product, but had to ding it for the tang.

While Sandy was in total agreement with my assessment of the tangy-ness factor, finding it equally as unappealing as I did, she was much more put off by the level of hot spiciness of the Chili. This was a non-factor for me. I didn’t considered it to be spicy at all, but Sandy is extremely sensitive to hot pepper and its kin. Using this Chili as a stretcher for something bland like white rice would have improved it for her, but we evaluate the products as they come out of the package, prepared according to the manufacturer’s instructions. As such, Sandy scored the Mountain House Chicken Chili at 1-1/2 stars and said that she would never eat it again.

Then we moved on to the Food Insurance Chicken Teriyaki. To be quite honest, it didn’t look all that good when it was rehydrated. The teriyaki sauce gave the dish the consistency of a bowl of oatmeal. It was already something that didn’t intrinsically appeal to me, but now I was even less looking forward to actually eating it.

But it was good. Yes, it really had the texture and mouth-feel of a bowl of oatmeal, but it was good. How did they do that? The sweetness that I was dreading was well balanced, not overpowering. The oriental vegetables tasted fresh and didn’t get lost in the crowd of flavors. It wasn’t like getting Teriyaki Chicken at a good oriental restaurant, but for something that was a chunky freeze-dried powder eight minutes ago, it was darned good. We both gave it 3-1/2 stars. While it was very decent for a freeze-dried Chicken Teriyaki, it still had that baggage of being not the kind of food that we would normally choose for ourselves, so we gave it a just slightly better-than-average rating. But given our prejudices against this type of dish, that was a triumph.

Just like the group of preparedness bloggers had determined in their taste test of eight different food storage companies’ products, we proclaimed Food Insurance to be the winner over industry giant Mountain House. At least in this random pairing of entrées. But like they say in football, “On any given Sunday..”

In Conclusion

There are a few “bottom line” lessons to be taken from this:

  • It’s not easy to find the perfect survival food. Mountain House did better on some measures while Food Insurance was the clear winner on others.
  • What’s good for the goose isn’t always what’s good for the gander. Mountain House’s spiciness wasn’t a factor for me at all, but it was a total deal-breaker for Sandy. You have to store foods for every palate in your family.
  • Try a small quantity before you buy in bulk. On the face of things, I would have tanked up on the Mountain House Chili. Low sodium, low fat, low carb, decent fiber, all baked into a Chicken Chili. Sign me up! But it had something in it that neither of us liked.
  • Even something that doesn’t have a lot of immediate appeal for you could be a surprise winner. Mountain House got downgraded for a negative surprise. Food Insurance got upgraded for a positive surprise. Keep an open mind. Try anything once. Maybe twice.

The Bonus Surprise

I said above when I announced the winner that there would be a surprise below. You’ve persevered and found it.

It should be clear by now that I read labels carefully. That’s where I got the info on the nutrition stats and ingredients. The surprise came when I read on the label that Food Insurance, which also goes under the brand name of Daily Bread, is actually manufactured by a company called Oregon Freeze Dry, Inc.

The same Oregon Freeze Dry that makes Mountain House.

In the words of the late, great Paul Harvey, “And now you know the rest of the story. Good day!”

For the month of September, Mountain House has done something it’s never done before. Apparently, they have a contractual agreement with their vendors where Mountain House controls the minimum price its products can be sold for. For this month only, Mountain House has lifted that restriction and is letting their vendors set their own prices. As a result we’re seeing Mountain House foods selling at the lowest prices ever and competition between vendors is fierce. I don’t know if Mountain House will ever do this again, but I’m not going to let it get past me without taking advantage of it. (We’re ordering a couple of cases of free-dried meats to use in “meals-in-a-jar” recipes. More on that later.)

Below is a short list of reputable Mountain House dealers. All of them are running specials on Mountain House products. I’ve listed a number of them so that you can comparison shop. I don’t know of any one vendor for whom all their Mountain House products are cheaper than all other vendors. They might all advertise “40% off!”, but off of what starting price? Sorry, but you’ll have to do a little homework on this one, but whichever vendor you go with, you’ll save a bundle if you jump on this deal before the end of the month.

Emergency Essentials: Mountain House SUPER SALE! 40-50% off all cans!

The Ready Store: Shop Mountain House Freeze Dried Foods

Freeze Dry Guy: 40% off all cans or cases of Mountain House

EDIT: This bundle is no longer available. It was a great deal, but the consortium of prepper authors who put this together were true to their word about this being a very limited time offer. They’re talking about some other products in the future. We’ll let you know of any worthwhile specials that we find.

We don’t do a lot of selling on this site. That’s not what we’re about. The purpose of this site is this:

  • To inform people of the potential dangers we all face in these unstable days we live in
  • To motivate people to take steps to prepare themselves for an emergency
  • To educate people about what they can do to make those preparations

But sometimes the best way to accomplish one or more of those goals is to recommend a product. This is one of those times.

A group of preparedness authors have banded together to offer a package deal of their books and instructional materials at a discount so deep it’s too good to pass up. It’s only $29, but that price is only good until this coming Monday (September 23, 2013). I don’t know what the price will jump to then, but it is an absolute steal at this introductory price of $29. They say the retail value of the package is $700. I haven’t done the math, but a cursory glance at the wealth of materials will confirm that they’re darned close. I bought one for myself right away. It was a no-brainer. I got enough stuff in this bundle to keep me learning and prepping through the cold winter months to come.

Ultimate Survival BundleThe Ultimate Survival Bundle is a collection of downloadable books, videos, and audio presentations that covers most of the critical areas of emergency preparedness or survival. Included in the package are a couple of books that give a comprehensive treatment of preparedness and it is well worth the bundle price of $29 just to get those two books. They are Making the Best of Basics (edition 12.5) by James “Doctor Prepper” Stevens, which sells on Amazon for $28.99 (one cent less than this entire bundle); and The Untrained Housewife’s Guide to Getting Prepared (also sold on Amazon).

Topics covered by resources in the Ultimate Survival Bundle include food storage, gardening, alternative energy, security, homesteading, medical preparedness, raising animals, and ethical issues. A total of 46 resources from 36 different authors. Some are very broad while others are highly specialized. Here are some examples:

  • A 150-page book on dehydrating food, written by the author of a book on the same topic for the “Complete Idiot’s Guide” series that you’ve seen in bookstores
  • A 101-page guide to herbal medicines, which sells for $29.67 on Amazon (I’ve looked up all of these Amazon prices myself to get a sense of the value of this package)
  • A 266-page book about wind power from a consumer’s point of view
  • A 106-page book on “apartment gardening” – growing your own food in limited spaces
  • A book on solar energy that sells for $19 on Amazon
  • A 40-page booklet on how to build a fire
  • A 228-page book on raising goats
  • A 62-page book on building and living in a yurt (after browsing this bad boy I am really wanting to get me a yurt!)

Click on this link to go to a page that gives details about all of the many products included in this package.

Besides books, there are also a few videos that you can download. Two of them are instructions on how to build a greenhouse, companion videos to a book on that topic that is also a part of the package. These video files are very large and will take a while to download. One is two hours long (2 gigabyte file size) and the second in a little over an hour long (1 gigabyte). Another video is a half-hour presentation on hand-to-hand self-defense techniques.

I could go on, but I’m going to try to contain my enthusiasm. The bottom line is that if there’s not something in the Ultimate Survival Bundle that gets your juices flowing, you’re not a prepper. At $29, this is one of the biggest bangs for the buck that I’ve encountered in a very long time. I can blow that much on pizza in a week. This is a deal that will give me something to chew on for much longer than that. When you’re ready to order, click here. Get it while you can get it cheap.
UltimateSurvivalBundle.com

gasoline shortageI read a lot of prepper and survivalist websites and have email subscriptions to a several related newsletters. They provide ideas and inspiration for many of the blog postings that I write. One of my favorite readiness sites is Jeff Anderson’s Modern Combat and Survival. I like Jeff’s site because he provides practical, real-world tips in articles that (unlike mine) are short and sweet. As Bill O’Reilly would say, Jeff “keeps it pithy.”

I recently got an email from Jeff in which he talked about four places you don’t want to be during a disaster. These are places that the unprepared flock to in order to address problems that they could have prepared themselves for far in advance. Here is Jeff’s pithy list with my verbose commentary and addendum:

  • Gas station. Amen to that! I’ve lived through a couple of gasoline shortages in my lifetime. I’ve seen the long lines of cars that extend down the block and the news reports of shootings as tempers flare out of control. In a disaster, everyone is going to want to fill their gas tanks. Fuel storage is one of the most challenging aspects of prepping. In a collapse scenario, acquiring fuel of all types will be one of the biggest problems most people will face.How many of us have the means of safely storing a significant amount of fuel, keeping it stable for long-term storage, and keeping it secure from those who would want to take it from us? I know that I don’t. I don’t have a place to put a tank like that on my property that wouldn’t be a huge fire hazard. Nor do I have a way of protecting it 24 hours a day from desperate, determined thieves. So what can we do? For those of you who live in a location where you could store and secure a reasonable amount of gasoline, I urge you to think about doing so. For the vast majority of the rest of us, I would encourage you to never let the gas tank in any of your vehicles to go below half full. I would also recommend that you have at least one vehicle that gets good gas mileage. And you should also consider acquiring a bicycle for every member of your family. They’re fun and good exercise right now. Down the road, they could become your primary means of transportation.
  • Grocery store. This one should be obvious to all. While I’ve been a witness to gas shortage lines, I’ve had the good fortune to never be in a place where there was a run on the grocery stores. But I’ve seen pictures of stores whose shelves have been picked clean by people stocking up on anything and everything they could get their hands on in advance of a coming storm. Food storage is so basic that I don’t feel a need to beat that drum again in this article.
  • Hardware store. I’ve also seen pictures of people standing in endless lines to buy plywood and supplies for boarding up their windows as a storm threatens them. These are people who waited until the last minute to make any preparations to ride out their storm. They could have taken note of the natural disasters that their area is prone to and prepared for them in advance. They could have observed the season that they were in (tornados in the spring, hurricanes in the summer and fall, ice storms or blizzards in the winter) and equipped themselves in advance to deal with it. What do you lack for surviving in the location where you live?
  • Hospital. I work in the Emergency Room of a small, rural hospital. My hospital is a 50-bed facility next door to a cornfield. Even a place like that can get really busy on any given night. A nurse does an assessment of every patient as they come in before they are put in an examining room to be seen by the doctor. On busy nights when we fill up all the examining rooms we have to bounce patients back out to the waiting room until an examining room opens up. Patients are admitted to an examining room in the order of the severity of their ailment. On busy nights, patients with relatively minor conditions can wait for hours to see the doctor. Some patients decide that they can deal with it on their own, rather than wait all night to be treated. And this is what it’s like in a rural hospital, in a non-emergency situation. I’ve often wondered what it would be like to work at a much larger hospital in a big city. And then I take a moment to thank God that I live and work where I do. Medicine and first aid supplies are often overlooked or assigned too low of a priority by people who are beginning to prep. What medicines (both over-the-counter and prescription) do you take now? You need to lay in a supply of them and rotate your stock. Do you know how to perform first aid? You probably need to take a class or two, and stock up on first aid supplies. Trust me. You DO NOT want to find yourself at a hospital during or after a disaster of any sort.

That rounds out Jeff Anderson’s list of the places that you don’t want to be during or after a disaster. As I pondered his list, I came up with a couple of other locations that I thought should be added:

  • Sporting goods store. No, I’m not talking about stocking up on soccer balls and catcher’s mitts. How about camping equipment, sleeping bags, outdoor cooking equipment, lanterns, fishing gear, knives, firearms, and ammunition? Sporting goods stores are chock full of things that people will need to live in the aftermath of a disaster. You should plan a trip to a sporting goods superstore and spend some time there. As you browse the entire store, including areas that you have never had any interest in before, consider it from a prepping point of view and make a list of items that you will need or want in an emergency. Incorporate this list into your priority ranking of things you need to buy.
  • Bank. The late, great, motivational speaker Zig Ziglar was fond of saying, “Money isn’t the most important thing in the world, but it’s reasonably close to oxygen.” Zig was right about this, as he was about most things. There are many other things that we need more than money, but money still has a prominent place near the top of the list. You need to have some cash that you can access quickly in an emergency, without going to a bank to get it. It should be enough to tide you over for a while, and much of it should be in small bills. You don’t want to have to give someone a $100 bill for something that you could have bought for $5. You might want to buy a couple of small, fireproof safes or boxes that you could hide in your house or elsewhere. As with all aspects of prepping, you need to take a balanced approach with the stockpiling of cash. You need to have a supply of cash, but it needs to be proportional to your other preps. You shouldn’t set so much cash aside that you deprive yourself of buying other things that you need; but you also shouldn’t go on a shopping spree and leave yourself with no cash reserves. As your stockpile of material goods increases, you can increase your cash supply as well. Balance and proportion, people! Balance and proportion!

The bottom line on all of this boils down to forethought, planning, and action. A real emergency situation will find the establishments list above to be mobbed by desperate people. They will become violent. You don’t want to be where they are. You must address your needs in advance to the best of your ability. What will you need first? What will you need most desperately? What do you use the most of? Think about what you’re going to need before you need it, and buy it now. Make a list, prioritize it, and start shopping. And don’t just think in terms of material goods, but also skills. What will you need to do? What will you need to know? What skills to you lack? Learn them and start practicing them now.