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Monthly Archives: December 2013

Our 3-Layer Approach to PreppingIn just about every area of prepping, we like to use a three-layered approach, moving from simple and easily available preps to more serious long-term solutions. This approach keeps us from being overwhelmed by the enormity of purchases we need to make or knowledge and skills that we need to acquire. It also moves us forward in our preps in a logical and balanced way.

Our three-layered approach maps out like this:

  • Preps for immediate use
  • Preps for medium to long-term use
  • Preps for when things really get bad

Preps for Immediate Use. Usually, the things that fall into the immediate use category are also the easiest to purchase and least expensive. For the most part, these first-level preps are the things that we are already using in our everyday lives. The only difference is that we have more of them on hand than what our current daily needs would require. For example, in the area of water, our immediate use water is store-bought bottled water. We use some bottled water on a routine basis, but we have a bit more than we really use stacked up under a work table in our basement for when special needs arise. You can easily build up this kind of water supply by purchasing a few cases when you go shopping over the next couple of months. We’re in the process of building up to about a week’s supply of water in bottled water.

In an emergency or any unusual situation, this first layer of prepping buys you time to evaluate and adjust to your situation before you have to begin living in a way that you are not so familiar with. In a true emergency, everything changes. Anything you can do to add normalcy to your life brings a level of calm to your world. Grabbing a bottle of water is something we do every day. Having extra bottled water stored away allows me to continue living as I have been while I figure out how to live in a new way — and I don’t have to run out and buy anything because I already have it on hand.

5-gallon-stackable-water-containersPreps for Medium to Long-term Use. This second level of preps are things that you don’t typically use every day under normal circumstances, but they can help you sustain a normal lifestyle when your normal lifestyle becomes disrupted for more than a few days. These types of prep generally require a bit of thought and planning to determine what your needs are and what your best approach is to meeting those needs, and they usually cost a little more than the things you buy for day-to-day use.

This is the level where prepping really starts to become an intentional lifestyle. Buying extra bottled water is a no-brainer for someone who typically uses bottled water as a convenience product, but this second level of prepping is where you start to acquire things that you won’t be using on a routine basis. These are things that you will have on hand in the event that you find yourself in a situation in which your normal way of life is disrupted and the stuff you keep in your cupboard isn’t enough to get you through it.

Sticking with water as our example, we have purchased a set of five-gallon, food-grade, stackable water containers that we fill and rotate regularly. We don’t drink from them during normal times. That’s not what we bought them for. These containers required a little more investment than the cases of water and it takes some time to fill them, but if we find ourselves in a second-level situation that requires more than just a couple of spare cases of bottled water to get us through it, we’ll be glad that we have this on hand ready to meet our hydration needs.

Katadyn_Combi_water_filterPreps for When Things Really Get Bad. Then there’s the third layer of preps – those we make for when things really get bad. Those preps are the ones that will sustain you for a longer time. In the area of water, we recently invested in a small, portable Katadyn water filtration device that can purify up to 13,000 gallons of water to safe drinking standards. We’re talking about water from a stream or pond or rain barrel. This device is about the size of a tall thermos jug and could be easily carried in a backpack. 13,000 gallons of drinking water is enough to meet our needs for a great long while. We have plans for installing a rain barrel system on our house this coming spring that will provide free water for watering our garden and could help supply drinking water in the event of a level-three emergency.

I Love It When I Get To Use My Preps!
We recently experienced a boil alert in our community. The city put up signs at intersections in our neighborhood that told us they were working on the water lines and that we would need to boil our water to make it safe for drinking. That was an understatement if there ever was one! The stuff coming out of our pipes (I’m not sure I’d call it water) was brown and nasty looking. How brown was it? Think strong iced tea. Yeah, that kind of brown. Phil left for work shortly after we learned of the alert and noticed the alarming color of the water coming out of our tap. That left me home to deal with living with no water.

Intrepid prepper that I’ve become, my first reaction was to wonder what in the world was I going to do for water over the next indefinite period of time. All of a sudden, I wanted water. I don’t drink nearly as much of it as I should on a regular basis, but knowing I couldn’t have any really increased my desire for it. I mean I couldn’t drink Diet Coke exclusively for the next few days, so what was I going to do? Tea was my next option, but the water was so yucky I really didn’t want to drink any of it even if I had boiled it! Boiling this stuff wasn’t really going to make it clean and safe — just hot.

Yeah, I’m still new at this. My prepper instincts didn’t kick in right away.

But it wasn’t long before my newly minted prepper training kicked in. I remembered those cases of bottled water we have stored under the work table in our basement. For the three days that our water was questionable, I had all the water I could ever want available in those cases of bottled water. And if it went longer than those three day, I could refill the bottles of water from our five-gallon jugs. And if we started to run low on that, we could refill the five-gallon containers with water from our Katadyn water filter.

I went from being a bit worried to totally confident we could take care of ourselves. No running out to the store hoping they still had bottled water on the shelves. No rationing here. (Obviously, in a true emergency there would be rationing.)

This short-term inconvenience allowed me to use some of my first-level preps in a real-life (albeit non-emergency) situation. And it reinforced one of the main reasons we prep – so that we can take the “emergency” out of the emergency. My emotional state changed from nervous to totally calm and even confident – simply because I had stored water.

In a true emergency, knowing that you have what you need to survive allows you to remain calm and puts you in a position to help others. That’s why we prep.

Christmas_Depositphotos_31073449_smallThe holidays are jam-packed full of things you need to do, right? Yeah, ours are, too. Still, now is a great time to save some money and put aside some things for the future – you know, that time when you may not be able to celebrate the holidays as you’re able to this year. In times of crisis, being able to maintain some degree of normalcy and tradition can go a long way to healing your spirit, and prepping this year could help you maintain that sense of normalcy in years to come.

Our holiday prepping ideas include suggestions to increase your general emergency preparedness as well as holiday-specific preparedness.

Food Prepping

  • You know the rule – store what you eat and eat what you store. Well, the holidays are a time of “special foods.” That means storing medium to long-term items that will help you make or at least approximate your special foods. Are you a fan of fruitcakes? Phil is. Properly stored they can last a very long time. (Google how to store them properly.) What other foods are on your holiday table that can be stored? Now’s a great time to think about it and begin to purchase those items as part of your long-term food storage plan
  • Experiment with recipes that use your food that is stored (both medium and long-term) to approximate your holiday faves. How about cheesy potatoes? That’s always on our table at Christmas, so this week I’m going to experiment with recreating the recipe using the medium-term storage potato pearls that we bought from an LDS Cannery. (The Mormon church  graciously allows non-church members to buy from their canneries. It is the most cost-effective source of long-term storage food you can find anywhere. Click here for a list of U.S. cannery locations.) Of course this is a task you can put off until January if you’re slammed over the holidays.
  • Make holiday meals-in-jars from your own recipes and long-term food storage supplies.
  • Thanksgiving and Christmas are when baking supplies are on sale everywhere. Buy all the sugar, flour, spices and other baking ingredients you’ll need for the coming year (and perhaps beyond).

Holiday Decorations and Gifts
Assuming you’re in a “bug in” situation, most of the holiday decorations you’ve accumulated over the years can be used in more sparse times. Perhaps not all the electrical decorations, but there are probably plenty of items that will help you experience the traditional Christmas season. Here are some items you might consider storing:

  • If you’re a “live tree” kind of family, you might consider buying a fake one after Christmas, when they all go on sale. We’ve found that a reasonably priced 4-foot tree placed on a draped card table fills the space of a large Christmas tree nicely with plenty of room for decorations and presents underneath it. If you can’t spare the money or simply aren’t able to get a real tree, these come in mighty handy, and when it comes time to pack it away it takes very little space.
  • Consider purchasing and storing small gifts for each person in your family. You can buy them before or after Christmas – whenever you think they’ll be available at the best price. Then store them away. If something happens between this Christmas and next, you’ll have something special to give.
  • Buy some extra gifts to share with others who didn’t plan ahead. What a blessing to be able to make someone else’s Christmas special during a difficult time! It will make your Christmas more special, too.

Emergency Preparedness

  • Some emergency preparedness items go on sale during this time. Do you need a dehydrator to help with preserving food from your garden or food you purchase in bulk? How about a pressure canner? Or a vacuum sealer? Now’s a great time to buy them. The Christmas season is also the best time to buy tools. They may or may not be manual tools that you’ll use during a catastrophic event, but you can use them in preparing for that time. For example, we want to build a cold frame to extend our gardening season into the fall and winter months. We’ll need a couple of tools that we don’t currently have, so now is a great time for us to buy them.
  • Extra blankets and warm clothes are also on our “need to buy” list. Christmas — and after-Christmas sales — can be a great time to do that.
  • Check out the sales at your favorite sporting goods store. What items are on your “preparedness wish list”? You might find fishing gear, hand guns and accessories, camping supplies, cast iron cookware, knives and hunting gear on sale. I was surprised to find that wood stoves are even on sale. Hmmm…time to decide what we’ll splurge on!

You can make these purchases as part of your regular preparedness plan or…save more money by asking for them for Christmas or making them your gift to other family members. Don’t be shy about putting preparedness items on your gift list – for yourself and others. For example, Phil’s been wanting a specific knife. He just might find it under our tree.

Buying things you need when they’re on sale enables you to buy more…and that means being more prepared.

When most people start prepping, they go on a buying spree. I know we did. There were just so many things that we needed that we didn’t have. We started buying things that I thought we’d never had any use for before — things that weren’t on our radar before we became aware that the lifestyle that we enjoy right now might not always be available. We bought long-term storage food and stackable water storage containers. We bought hand crank powered appliances such as a radio, grain mill, and lights. We bought a couple of knives that we had no intention of using in the kitchen or dining room. And we still have a list of wants and needs that’s as long as my arm.

Acquiring all of these new tools and necessities is fun and exciting, but one of the keys to prepping is preserving the things that you already have to protect them and make them last longer. A great tool that I’ve found for helping to preserve stuff that I want to keep is a vacuum sealer.

I’m sure you’ve seen the infomercials on TV for these things. They show you how the vacuum power is so strong it can crush a beer can and they deliver the long awaited good news that now you can buy a big block of cheese on sale at the warehouse club store and vacuum seal it so it won’t go all green and fuzzy on you. All of this is true! It’s also a great prepping tool. Two of the worst enemies of preservation are air and moisture. A good vacuum sealer can help you with both of those problems, opening up a nice range of prepping applications.
FoodSaver_GameSaver

Food Storage

  • Most obvious is the fact that you can use it to keep your everyday food fresh for a longer period of time. Use vacuum sealed plastic bags to keep meat, cheese, or any kind of dry food fresh longer, especially if you freeze it. One of the biggest benefits pointed out in the vacuum sealer infomercials is that sealing your food means that you save a lot of money because you’re not throwing away food that has gone bad. Saving big money on food means more money to spend on preps.
  • Many vacuum sealing systems have an optional accessory that lets you vacuum seal canning jars. This opens up a whole new realm of possibilities, including vacuum packing wet foods.  You can’t use the regular vacuum sealing plastic bags for wet foods, but now you can put them in a jar and vacuum seal them for longer freshness.
  • Preppers are known for having a stockpile of the gallon-sized #10 cans of dehydrated or freeze dried food. In the past, you once you opened a big can you had to use it up quickly to keep the food from going bad. Now you can vacuum pack the leftovers in canning jars. The shelf life of food in a vacuum sealed jar is only five to ten years, far less than the 25 years for an unopened can, but hey! — you’ve already opened the can, so you’re going to use the contents sooner than that anyway. Keep it fresh for years by vacuum sealing it in canning jars.
  • Freeze dried entrées are good, but they’re really expensive, and many of them are loaded with sodium or other ingredients that you might not want. You can save money by assembling your own entrées from individual freeze dried and dehydrated ingredients and vacuum sealing them in canning jars. When you assemble your own meals, you can customize the recipes to your personal taste and dietary requirements. There is a wonderful website run by a lady who calls herself Chef Tess that has many good recipes for putting up meals in vacuum sealed jars. Highly recommended.
  • In case of an emergency, I want to be able to share what I’ve stored with others. I’d rather be able to give someone a couple of jars of entrées that I’ve vacuum canned than a bunch of dehydrated ingredients that they wouldn’t know how to use. These meals in jars are very simple to prepare. For most of them, you just add the contents of the jar to boiling water and simmer for 25 minutes or so. This is a great option for sharing your food with others.
  • When times get tough, you can also use food as a bartering item. It’s so much better to be able to barter a meal in a jar than ingredients to make a meal – easier for you and whoever you’re swapping with.
  • The bad news about canning jars is that they’re breakable and relatively heavy. No one is going to go backpacking with quart-sized glass jars of entrées. The good news for all you bug-in types is that canning jars are reusable. If you’re careful when you pry the lid open, both jar and lid can be reused over and over and over again. Take out half of what you’ve sealed in a jar and seal that bad boy once again.

Are you catching the vision for this? Let me widen it just a little. While not a prepping application, we also love meals in jars as our homemade quick dinner option. Having one of those days when the last thing you want to do is cook dinner? You know – one of those days when fast food or eating out is so tempting it’s about all you can do to steer your car toward home instead of the nearest establishment that will put food in front of you. Knowing you can go home, put some water on to boil, change into comfy clothes, grab a jar and throw the ingredients in the boiling water, relax for about half an hour in your comfy clothes and favorite chair and then enjoy a tasty dinner curbs that temptation.

Vacuum Packing Other Items

OK, like I’ve said, food preservation — both short-term and much longer-term — is the first and most obvious use for a vacuum sealer. What else can I vacuum seal?

  • Vacuum seal important documents or books in plastic bags (again, not a prepping application, but we’ve vacuum sealed Sandy’s grandmother’s Bible that has all her personal notes in it – what a treasure!)
  • Vacuum pack your medications and first aid supplies, either in bags or jars
  • Personal sanitation supplies
  • Tools or small parts
  • Matches and fire starting supplies
  • Cash

SpaceBags

Think Bigger

There are much larger bags that you can buy (“Space Bags”) that allow you to vacuum pack clothing, blankets, pillows, etc. The vacuum sealing process squishes these items so that they take up a small fraction of their normal space and keeps them dry to boot. Once you open the bag, the air fluffs your stuff up again and it’s back to normal. These space bags are generally reusable, whereas the smaller food vacuum bags are generally not.

Vacuum sealers really suck  – sometimes that’s a good thing. Put one to work in your prepping plan.