Saturday, January 5, 2013

Pro-Second Amendment site I recommend

I haven't posted anything here in a long time, but as things are getting quite dicey in this country with regard to the Second Amendment, I wanted to recommend the following site. Please check it out and pass it along:

Monday, April 18, 2011 archives

I am no longer updating as I am choosing to move on to a much more narrowly focused set of activities pertaining to personal and community preparedness for hard times. Over the next couple of weeks I will be transferring the content from the old blog host to this site and will continue to monitor and post responses to the archived posts, but no new content will be posted here. I will add a few sites to the blogroll on here at some point, but other than that I've posted all that I feel qualified to post--food storage is my "specialty," and I think I've given everyone plenty of information to get started and keep going, and now I need to shift my focus to other activities besides coming up with new topics to write about. For those of you who are also passionate about food storage, I'd suggest bookmarking and keep checking back there.

In the meantime, I hope that my posts about food storage and other topics help many of you, and I wish you and your families the best.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Five Walmarts, one can of carrots and de facto food-price inflation

I had a day off last week, two days before Thanksgiving, so I decided I’d do a partial “dry run” of the first of a series of marathon shopping trips I’ve been planning along a 150-mile stretch of a major highway. From one end of this route to the other, there are no fewer than nine 24-hour Walmart Supercenters (and two or three other stores open until midnight). I had enough time that day to travel to five of the stores. What I discovered surprised me, and I hope my experience serves as a wakeup call for anyone who has been lazy with their prepping. Waiting to stock up is the biggest mistake any of us could make.

I work nights so it’s usually easiest for me to travel from early evening to early morning — the hours I usually keep anyway. The first caveat I’ll offer for those of you who do your preps shopping at night is that at most big-box stores, items are still being restocked throughout the night and into the morning, so IF something you need isn’t on the shelf, it might be coming up. Or you might just be out of luck.

Since I was just doing a “dry run” and not a full-fledged shopping trip, at the first store I decided to get just one package of each item I had on my list to see how long it would take on average to navigate the aisles I needed to go to, then extrapolate that time over the number of stores I planned to visit — since food items are clustered together, I figured that the time spent picking up assorted non-food items around the store would be a better indication of how long it would take to navigate each store, then once I had picked up those items I would finish my shopping in the grocery section.

In the health and beauty section, I picked up a toothbrush, a bottle of Great Value brand amber mouthwash (a great oral disinfectant in addition to brushing), a package of dental floss and a package of Lava soap. In the sporting goods section, I picked up a box of ammo, a bottle of gun cleaner and gun oil and a magnesium fire starter kit. In the men’s clothing section, I picked up a pair of gloves and a package of socks.

Then I headed for the grocery section. And a lesson in both de facto food-price inflation and just-in-time inventory procedures.

To keep things simple on this test-run, I planned on grabbing just four grocery items–a case of Great Value canned salmon, a bag of Great Value pinto beans, a container of Great Value oatmeal and (my exception to my one-item rule) a case each of Great Value canned spinach and Great Value canned sliced carrots. I use each of these items on a regular basis, so of course I thought everything would be right where it always was. Boy, was I wrong. And I didn’t realize how wrong I was until I got to the fifth Walmart.

At the first store, I found everything I was looking for, and in fairly ample supply. Except for the canned carrots. There wasn’t a single can of Great Value canned carrots on the shelf. So I flagged down an employee, apologized for the trouble since everyone was trying to keep the shelves full in the leadup to Thanksgiving (this was about 10 p.m. on Tuesday, and Thanksgiving of course was Thursday) and asked the employee if they could check to see if there were any cases of Great Value carrots, and if not, could they tell me how many might be in stock elsewhere? The employee came back, said that according to their computerized inventory they were totally out of Great Value carrots at that store, but that there were 96 cans–a mere eight cases–at the nearest warehouse. I thanked the employee for all of his help, picked up another case of spinach in lieu of the canned carrots and headed for the checkout.

After loading my stuff in the car, I drove to the other 24-hour Walmart in town, with a nagging thought in my mind: What if the second store was out of carrots as well? How far was I willing to drive to find Great Value carrots? Wouldn’t it be a lot less trouble if I just settled for the name-brand carrots that were in ample supply on the shelves, instead of insisting on the Great Value brand? Well, yes, but if the less-expensive generic brand is out of stock and I have to settle for the more-expensive name brand, I’d have to pay more if I really wanted carrots.

And THAT is another angle of food price inflation: Great Value carrots didn’t get any more expensive. I just didn’t get there in time to get the cheaper brand. And so it would cost me more because someone else beat me to those carrots.

But hey, there are 96 cans at the warehouse, right?

ONLY 96 cans of carrots in the local warehouse of the largest retailer in the world. How many other shoppers are looking for Great Value carrots at this moment? But it didn’t really matter–because the carrots were at the warehouse and not on the store shelf. I was flat out of luck. So on to the next store I went.

I hit pauper’s pay dirt at the second Walmart–I got the LAST CAN of Great Value carrots on the shelf! Seeing a manager nearby, I flagged her down and asked her if she could tell me if there were any cases of carrots in the stockroom that weren’t yet on the shelf, and upon checking her computer she also told me that there were 96 cans of carrots at the nearest warehouse, but that I had apparently gotten the last can of Great Value carrots in the store.

Flash back to the mid-1980s when parents were literally fighting in the aisles of toy stores to get the last Cabbage Patch Kids right before Christmas. I felt that lucky. But suddenly I had a sense of vulnerability — what if this was the last can of food in the entire store? I’d be at ground-zero for a mob of hungry, angry people. But you know that moment is coming at some point — and someone will end up getting the very last can of something. And they’ll be in the crosshairs of everyone else who feels entitled to THAT last can and who will do anything to get it. Some of you may have seen this video ( of a mob trampling people to get into a Target store at 4 a.m. on Black Friday. How bad will things be when mobs trample people to get into grocery stores at 4 a.m. because they didn’t stock up when they should’ve because they blew all of their money on expensive toys?

At the third Walmart, again there were no Great Value carrots on the shelf. I flagged down the stocker at the end of the aisle and asked him if he could tell if there were any carrots waiting to be stocked. He walked over to a pallet that was about a 5-foot cube on each side, walked around it while looking at it up and down, then shook his head and apologized that he didn’t have any carrots.

Stop and think about this scene for a moment: I’m average height, about 5-foot-9, and I’m taller than this pallet of canned goods that’s being unloaded for this particular aisle for this day. That’s not a lot of food! Statistics show that grocery stores rotate through their entire inventory in about three days–Google the phrase “nine meals away from anarchy”–but if there’s a sudden surge in business, whether it’s an unexpected weather event (remember “Snowmageddon” last winter?), a natural disaster (look at the looting that occurred after Hurricane Katrina) or a sudden economic panic that sends everyone running to stores before prices spike upward (like gas prices after Katrina), you aren’t going to have stuff on the shelves very long at all, much less when you want those things at your fingertips at any time. Maybe this wasn’t the only pallet of canned goods being unloaded for this particular aisle. But then again, I wasn’t going to be the only shopper! And if the guy in front of me decided he was going to buy everything I wanted, it didn’t matter what was going to come in tomorrow, or next week, or maybe not at all. I was just plain out of luck.

So then it was on to the fourth Walmart — and again there was not a single can of Great Value carrots on the shelf nor in the stockroom, according to a store associate. So I picked up another case of canned spinach and, for variety, a case of fruit cocktail, paid for my items and set off for the fifth store. I forgot to ask the associate at the fourth store if there were any carrots in the warehouse (although this store was two counties away from the first store and may use a different warehouse).

I got to the fifth store, again finding no Great Value canned carrots on the shelf, so I flagged down a manager and asked if they could tell if there were any carrots back in the stockroom. He checked his computer and said that while they were out of the carrots at this store, another store in the next town (a store I had previously not known about) had 63 cans of carrots in stock — but they were not a 24-hour store, didn’t open until 7 a.m., and in fact had to close early the previous evening because a semi had hit a major power line and knocked out power at the store. The fact that there were 63 cans of carrots SOMEWHERE did me absolutely no good because there was no way to obtain them at that time.

The thing about “just-in-time” inventory is that it’s just-in-time for the store–not for the customer. You have absolutely no guarantee that you’ll be able to get what you want if you don’t get it now, and even if you want to wait for something, how long will it be before an item is back on the shelves? At a couple of the Walmarts, I asked the manager if they knew how long it might be before they got more carrots in stock — but they said they had no way to tell. Four stores had no Great Value canned carrots at all. I got the last can at another store. Another store had 63 cans, but they were out of reach until the next morning — and who knows how many other people might be waiting for the store to open and rush to get that very product because every other store was out of it? It doesn’t take a major leap of logic to realize that this will happen when items are in short supply — and how impolite, unruly or even violent will people get when they clamor to get the last item out of your hands because you have it and they want it?


So as I noted above, there are nine 24-hour Walmarts along a 150-mile stretch of highway leading to my town. It could take anywhere from 8 to 12 hours to go to the other end of the route and then go to each store one by one, picking up all of the items I’m trying to stock up on, and finally unloading at my house at the end of the trip. But since we’ve already seen that just because there’s a 24-hour Walmart that there’s no guarantee something will be on the shelf, what kind of fool would I be just to give up and go home? I’d be a hungry fool! But let’s do the math on best-case scenarios on what I COULD get, if everything (including Great Value canned carrots!) is on the shelf. Let’s say that at each of the nine Walmarts, I’m able to get at least a case of carrots or other canned vegetables, a case of canned fruit, a case of canned salmon, 10 lbs. of dry beans and five 42-ounce containers of oatmeal (an average shopping trip for me, not counting refrigerated or frozen items). If I’m able to pick up at least this much of these items at each of the nine 24-hour Walmarts on my route, I’ll arrive home with 108 cans of vegetables, 108 cans of fruit, 108 cans of salmon, 90 lbs. of dry beans and almost 119 lbs. of oatmeal. That’s a pretty good start, and not bad for a day’s work! How long will it take to get a single sandwich or bowl of soup — if anything — if I have to wait in lines at soup kitchens or FEMA centers if I’m foolish enough to keep waiting instead of stocking up now?

And I wonder how many preppers lose sight of the big picture: It’s not how much food or water or ammo or anything else you have that’s important. What matters is how long you and your family will be self-sufficient and not dependent upon the government or other cash- or resource-strapped entities when disaster strikes. Unless a disaster strikes my neighborhood in a manner that directly impacts my house or my family’s lives, I don’t plan to leave my house in search of resources in the event of a disaster. I will either make sure I have as close to everything I need before disaster strikes, or I and my family will find a substitute or do without. If you’re not working on becoming self-sufficient, you’re missing the whole reason you should be prepping. Not only do self-sufficient people ease the strain on scarce or nonexistent resources, but they are in a position to help others during those stuff-hits-the-fan events. It doesn’t take a lot of time or effort to stock up compared to the amount of time wasted in line waiting for help when you could be at home with your loved ones taking care of each other, or helping others. If you plan to wait on stocking up or otherwise becoming self-sufficient because everything looks fine right now, you could be the next disaster waiting to happen.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Attention, grocery shoppers: Empty shelves on aisle 8!

An open letter to a random grocery customer:

I'm the guy who was in line in front of you yesterday with 10 cases of canned vegetables in my cart. I'll admit that I was slightly amused at the look on your face -- it's not every day that someone clears out all the canned spinach, tomatoes and carrots and then ends up in front of you in the checkout lane. But I hope that what I said to you during the three minutes or so that we chatted will sink in and that you'll realize that I could be the person in front of you at the store next time, with the last canned goods or other food items in my cart, and because I got there first, you're too late. Again.

Now, I'm not saying that I want to have all of the food for myself and leave nothing for everyone else -- I'm not saying that at all. What I'm saying is that SOMEONE has to get the last can or box or jar or bottle of something. And if for whatever reason the trucks can't make it into town, or if they stop rolling altogether, then you'll wish you'd stocked up before I did.

Think back to when you saw me yesterday. It had snowed the day before, and I'm sure there were dozens of people, maybe even hundreds, on their way to get food AFTER the storm started. But there were probably a lot more people who stocked up BEFORE the storm hit, and so there was a lot fewer items on the shelves when the snow finally came. That's just the nature of business in general -- stuff gets bought up, then gets restocked eventually...but depending on any of various circumstances, you might be waiting a day. Or two. Or seven. Or longer. If you want tomatoes, carrots or spinach, I left a couple dented cans on the shelves...if you want to take a chance.

People who'd been paying attention realized that a storm was coming, so they acted accordingly and bought what they needed before the storm hit. I wasn't at the store yesterday because I was among the stragglers; rather, I'd seen the ads for 50-cent canned vegetables and hoped that nobody else would've bought all of them in the pre-storm rush. And sure enough, I hit the jackpot -- 120 cans of spinach, tomatoes and carrots for just over 65 bucks. Not a bad deal while there was still anything left. You might be thinking that it's not fair that I got the last cans of certain things and that I left certain shelves with nothing on them. Well, if everyone else was wanting what I was buying, why didn't they come in and buy everything before I got there? Nobody else seemed to want canned tomatoes, spinach or carrots, or else they would've been there getting the cans off of the shelves before I did. It's not my fault that I got there first; maybe others should've gotten to the vegetable aisle a few minutes earlier. Or maybe they should've stocked up even sooner.

If I'm worried that someone else might acquire the last of something before I do, I'll head to that aisle first, pick up what I want from that aisle, then go on with my other shopping. I wanted to get a few cans of vegetables to add to my storage pantry that I've been steadily filling for some time. But I had to start somewhere, right? I had to buy that first can...or case...or cartful...of vegetables at some point. You can do the same thing...after the store shelves are restocked. Unless I get there sooner and buy what you plan to get later.

But don't worry! Most grocery stores know what's on their shelves at any given moment. Automated "just-in-time" inventory systems let stores know exactly when they are out of a product, so they'll know when it's time to order more. But the problem is that what you want might not get there as soon as you want it. I don't know if you had to shovel much snow to get your car out of your driveway to get to the store yesterday; I'd listened to the forecast and put salt on my driveway early to prevent the snow from building up in the first place. But just because I planned ahead to keep snow off of my driveway and got to the store first, I had no guarantee (nor did you) that anything would be on the shelves. The northern part of the state has gotten walloped with 10 or more inches of snow in many places -- and if the storm hits fast enough and hard enough, then delivery traffic grinds to a halt. It doesn't matter how quickly the warehouse knows that the store is out of something if the conditions on the road keep the trucks from being able to deliver the groceries. I might be prepared to go to the store at any time, but if conditions aren't conducive to allowing the trucks to get there with the goods, it doesn't matter how prepared I am to go shopping.

That's the problem with just-in-time inventory: Everything depends on the strength of the weakest link in the system. And if that weakest link goes down, all other links are useless. I've got cash to buy food, and the grocery store has plenty of shelf space...but the truck is stuck in a blizzard 200 miles away. Not much I can do at that point if I haven't already done something.

Which brings me back to my earlier point. I've got one relative who started saving up for retirement 40 years ago. I've got another relative who has been saving for only 10 years. You can guess which one of them probably has a few more dollars saved up, precisely because they started much earlier and kept on saving. I don't know how much food or other necessities you have stocked up on at home in case emergencies hit and the store shelves are empty. I didn't see any spinach, carrots or tomatoes in your cart. Maybe you already had those items at home. If so, congratulations -- and thanks for leaving me a few cans. On the other hand, I might have more of certain things in my pantry because I started stocking up on food before you did. But I had to start somewhere.

It's great to have plenty of food and other necessities on hand at home so that when a storm comes, I don't have to choose between being hungry at home and hoping there's food left at the store. I bought what I needed early, so I didn't have to go out when the storm hit. I'm not saying you should buy everything all at once -- this isn't the first time I've bought a few cans of vegetables. But you might want to start stocking up on what you need as soon as possible for your and your family's sake -- and keep on stocking up. You don't know when the storms are coming or how long they will last. And the last cans of food could be about to leave the store.

Black Friday mobs trample people at Target, AKA stupid shoppers miss the point

Here’s a video from yesterday — “Black Friday” — showing mobs of shoppers trampling people to get inside a Target store at 4 a.m. for pre-Christmas sales of, well, stupid stuff. If stuff was really important, smart people would have gotten it already and wouldn’t let themselves run out of it (stuff like food, water, etc.). This video is exactly why you need to stock up NOW. In the event of a major (or even minor) disaster, when everyone panics and runs to the store, it doesn’t take long at all for the shelves to be stripped bare of everything important. And if the event (or multiple events) has enough of a ripple effect across the country, there’s no guarantee that the shelves will be restocked anytime soon.

I don’t know about you, but there has been at least one time in my life when I’ve been hungry — VERY hungry — for several months. And it really sucked. I was much worse off financially at that time than I am at the moment, and at that time in 1998 I didn’t have the foresight, much less the financial means, to stock up on food and other things so that I’d have a comfortable cushion to hold me over during tough times. If you’re throwing your money away at 4 a.m. “door-buster” sales for junk you don’t need to survive and failing to use your money WISELY to buy things you really need to survive when the going gets tough — and I don’t think we’ve seen anywhere near tough times yet — then there’s nothing I can do to convince you of a prudent course of action. If you have money to blow at sales like in the video above, then you have PLENTY of money you could otherwise use for food and vital necessities. You’re just spending your money on the wrong things. And you’d better switch gears before it’s too late.

I’ll post an update in the next couple days on a recent multi-Walmart shopping experience that perfectly illustrates why “just-in-time” inventory procedures give you absolutely no guarantee that you’ll be able to find what you’re looking for, when you’re looking for it. If you don’t stock up on what you need now — and stock up on MONTHS worth of it at the very least — there’s absolutely no guarantee you’ll be able to get it when you need it most. Especially if you have to fight mobs at 4 a.m. to get it.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Failure to prepare on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part

I just found this story which seems to paint a pretty balanced picture about what is becoming more mainstream — preparing for whatever most-likely disasters any of us might incur (Californians have earthquakes; Kansans have tornadoes; the Gulf Coast has hurricanes…not many of us escape the path of at least something major). I’m a bit dismayed — but not surprised — at some of the snide comments being made about preppers, but I’m just guessing that most of these people just haven’t yet had major occurrences in their own lives of everything hitting the fan. Here are just a few links on various disasters that left collectively millions of people unprepared — but I dare say that in a lot of cases (Hurricane Katrina comes to mind) — people made very poor decisions both before and after disaster hit. If you live in a hurricane-prone region, not having a bug-out bag is foolish. If you live in earthquake-prone areas, not having extra food and water stocked up is foolish. I saw a quote on another site that a lot of willfully unprepared people might hear from others who did prepare:

Failure to prepare on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.

Notice that I referred to people who are willfully unprepared. These are the people who disdain the efforts of those of us who are trying to prepare to become self-sufficient yet who will expect us to help them when disaster strikes — and who may react violently if we refuse to help them compensate for their foolish decision not to prepare. The links below should make for some interesting reading — and I hope it will inspire a lot of you to pick up the pace with your prepping.

** Diary of a medic after Hurricane Katrina:,46497.0.html

** Tips from Katrina survivors:
** More on Katrina’s aftermath:
** Lessons learned from Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Ike:
** Lessons from the January 2009 Midwest ice storm:
** Lessons from another ice storm: and

** (hygiene, especially in large public gatherings, will be a huge problem–plan now)


ECONOMIC DISASTERS (hyperinflation, etc.):

** Lessons from Peru on Third World living:
** Tips from the Argentine collapse:
** More on the Argentine collapse:


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Stocking up on spices to keep food preps lively

Both of my brothers are chefs, but I got the short end of culinary training. Some of the things I’ll mention below would be considered sacrilege in high-cuisine circles, but this thread is about spicing up your survival food preps, not making sure your spices are necessarily as fresh as you would find in restaurants.

For one thing, when I mentioned to my youngest brother that I had several dozen quarts of spices in mason jars, he chuckled and said, “You know those will go bad after six months, right?” I replied that first of all, the spices will only go “bad” if they’re left exposed to air for an extended period of time–but the seals on my mason jars are much more airtight than the containers which the spices came in at Sam’s Club. And I’d rather have “too much” spices than to not have enough and to have to deal with “food fatigue”–as I noted in another post, you can have the same basic ingredients–rice, beans, vegetables and meat–but depending on what spice combinations you use, you can create literally thousands of different dishes.

And while spices may “go bad” according to restaurant standards after six months, I’ll take “stale” spices any day over bland food. I’ve got at least 10 quarts of cayenne powder in my pantry at the moment, and I’m guessing it’d take a couple years to go through just what I’ve got at the moment, but having “too much” spices could literally mean the difference between people eating or not eating. The danger of “food fatigue” is well-established–people can have plenty of food on hand, but if they’re eating the same thing over and over and over, they may literally starve themselves rather than eat more of the same thing. Here’s an article I just came across:

I make it a point every week to buy a couple pounds of various spices at Sam’s Club and seal them up in mason jars when I get home. It’s going to be months, maybe even years before I go through some of the spices I have, but again, “too much” spices is much better than not enough. Parents, consider the danger of food fatigue if your kids refuse to eat the same thing another day. If you make it taste like something else, they’re much more inclined to eat it.

I prefer the spices that will give me the most bang for my buck taste-wise. Take a look at what you can get in bulk quantities:

I’d suggest including mint, cloves, etc., in your preps not for their addition to food per se, but to make your own tea with these. (Get 5-lb. containers of honey at Sam’s Club for less than $11 to top it off.;)) And there are many other sites besides the one above where you can buy bulk quantities of spices, or if you live in larger cities you should have plenty of retail establishments (especially ethnic grocery stores) where you can buy them or order them. I’d be interested in hearing your own stories or recipes using spices to help keep your food storage from getting boring.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Don’t lose your common sense while prepping

At my fiancee’s insistence I watched the show “Wife Swap” with her last night (the show was better than I expected and not like the name sounds), and actually I was intrigued when I heard that one of the families on tonight’s episode was obsessed with 2012. Unfortunately, that family IMO gives a bad name to those of us who are trying not to leave our common sense behind as we stock up and prepare for pretty rough times ahead. The parents made their kids come home immediately after school every day “just in case something happens.” They wouldn’t let the kids participate in sports because 2012-oriented tasks were much more important and made them participate in regular hazmat-suit drills in the backyard. They even had a dry-erase marker board in the kitchen counting down the number of days until 12-21-12!! These people really didn’t seem to have much of a connection to what was right in front of their faces. I mean, sure, they have their survival food stash (which looked like cases of MREs) under the stairs, but really, making your kids wear “survival packs” with them everywhere they go?

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nearly a year’s worth of food on hand for both me and my fiancee (trying to add a month’s worth of food every two weeks), I’ve got a steadily growing ammo stash (need more range time, though) and I hang out online with really smart people at GIM and a couple other sites and read stories on a couple dozen news sites a day to try to read between the “official” news stories and see what’s really happening, but c’mon, what are the odds of a particular family in a particular neighborhood needing hazmat suits for the entire family on any given day? You’re more likely to encounter hungry, angry mobs ransacking houses for food in most SHTF situations that I can imagine, because most people like to eat every day.

Until this past year, there was a Cold War-era stash of VX nerve gas at a military depot about 40 miles away from where I live. In the event of a VX leak (not to worry, all the VX at that location has now been neutralized), residents in close proximity to the depot received an automated warning and were expected to have enough time to seal up the doors and windows in their residences with, I’m guessing, plastic sheeting or other such material. But being 40 miles downwind, there would either be a lot of dead people between my house and that depot by the time the VX reached me, or the gas would dissipate into a dilute-enough concentration that it wouldn’t be an issue outside of the immediate area of the depot. I can’t imagine what any one family imagines it might encounter that it needs hazmat suits and drills for their entire family…unless they all had bad bean burritos for dinner.

But seriously, that family on TV tonight really give a bad name for those of us who haven’t lost our common sense and are trying to prepare for the most likely SHTF scenarios based upon our life situations. Since my fiancee is disabled, I’m not in a position to bug-out except in the most extreme circumstances, so we’re going to keep prepping and keep stocking up right here while keeping our jobs and not losing our minds.

Click here to search for this episode of "Wife Swap," if for no other reason than to know what NOT to do.

EDIT: I almost forgot another very important detail–this family had bought everything on credit and didn’t plan to keep on paying after, of course, the world ends in 2012. WHAT KIND OF PREPPERS BUY EVERYTHING ON CREDIT????

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Are you just planning to prep? Or are you actually prepping?

It just occurred to me that I hadn’t posted anything new on here in well over three weeks. Quite frankly, I’ve been so busy prepping that I haven’t had time to write. But how many of you are so busy PLANNING to prep that you don’t actually get around to prepping?

In the past few weeks I’ve dehydrated about 40 lbs. of carrots, added about 10 lbs. of spices to my pantry stash and found out that blueberries can be rather tricky to dehydrate. (More on that in a future post.) I’ve also added a couple more cases of canned mackerel to my storage pantry and am about to place a large order (probably more than 50 lbs.) for dehydrated banana chips which I can order more cheaply than I can make them myself.

Are you planning to prep? Or are you actually prepping? What are you waiting for?

Friday, May 28, 2010

You really, really don’t want to live under martial law…or do you?

I STILL can’t figure out why anyone deems celebrities to be authorities about anything except acting like someone they aren’t, but Woody Allen’s comments last week are as far beyond stupid as I’ve heard from the Left Coast:
Woody Allen, the actor and director who’s been no stranger to controversy over the years, has done it again.
This time, Allen told a Spanish language newspaper that President Barack Obama should be given dictatorial powers, Fox News reported.
According to Fox, Allen said it “would be good if [Obama] could be a dictator for a few years because he could do a lot of good things quickly.”
Allen, 75, told La Vanguardia newspaper that he’s “pleased with Obama. I think he’s brilliant. The Republican party should get out of his way and stop trying to hurt him.”
Allen’s latest remarks come on the heels of last week’s reiteration of his support for filmmaker Roman Polanski, who remains under fire for a 1978 sex scandal.
Anyone who EVEN FOR A MOMENT thinks that quelling dissent by force of law is going to solve problems has absolutely no idea what martial law involves — and they’re just asking for even more dissent. You don’t stop a pot from boiling over by sealing it up tightly — you change the conditions that are creating the heat in the first place. Here’s some good reading:

If bullying the other side into submission is the only way to get your views to prevail, then you’ve already lost the argument. I’ll take unrest and dissent any day over the quasi-permanent theft of the rights that our early countrymen fought to give us, and that millions of people around the world are still fighting to obtain. And if you’d rather have “peace” than vigorous debate, discussion and dissent, then maybe you should just plug your ears to what our Founding Fathers said:

“If you love wealth more than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, depart from us in peace. We ask not your council or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you. May your chains rest lightly upon you and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen.”
- Samuel Adams

Saturday, May 22, 2010

How NOT to prepare for TEOTWAWKI (The End Of The World As We Know It)

I cringed when I saw the story Doomsday safe-haven offered under Mojave Desert on the AP wire last week, partly because this sort of slick marketing ignores the fact that most disasters, including but not limited to nuclear war, probably won’t happen when we expect it — not that anyone among us usually sits around taking bets on when nuclear war will happen. But what dismayed me even more is the huge disservice that this slick marketing job is doing for those of us who are trying to take common-sense preparations for hard times (and encouraging others to do the same) while not acting like TEOTWAWKI is imminent — it MIGHT BE imminent, but most of us who are prepping are doing so while going on with LAWKI — life as we know it.

Under the slick slogan “You can’t predict, but you can prepare,” entrepreneur Robert Vicino promises that for a scant $50,000, people can ride out the Apocalypse in a fancified bunker under the Mojave Desert. Take a look at some of the over-the-top accommodations:

At first glance, I can’t help but think of the show “The Simple Life” — how the heck are the kind of people who have more money than common sense (assuming as I am that most people willing to drop $50K think they can just buy their way out of nuclear war or other such scenarios) going to do the grunt work needed to rebuild after TSHTF if they aren’t willing or equipped to deal with what’s going on above ground in the first place?

And you gotta love the rhetorical question “Where would you go with 3 days’ notice?”

Think back to how most travel in general and all air traffic and commerce in particular ground to a halt on 9/11. If we have a major — REALLY major — SHTF situation like, oh, maybe nuclear war, it’s going to make 9/11 look like a Sunday School picnic. And I’m guessing that at that point, all bets are off that anyone will get anywhere on anything even remotely resembling a “normal” schedule.

But the REAL problem with putting all your eggs in one bunker is that it gives yet-unprepared or still-asleep sheeple a false idea or seven about what SHOULD be done to prepare for uncertain times. Most of us who are prepping aren’t digging elaborate bunkers in our backyards (for one thing, it might violate zoning regulations — see this article), but we are stocking up on food, water, medication and other necessities of life while preparing for uncertain times.

For those of you who are already prepping, keep on doing what you’re doing and don’t lose your common sense. For those of you who haven’t yet started prepping, start taking steps right where you’re at to prepare your people and your preps, and bug out only if and when TEOTWAWKI comes to your hometown. And don’t worry about the Mojave. People looking for safety in a bunker under the desert just have their heads in the sand.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Don't wipe out your toilet paper supply!

The idea of stocking up — REALLY stocking up — on toilet paper probably seems ridiculous past a certain level of inventory. After all, storage space is valuable, so how much do we need to stock of just one product? Well, that’s all fine and dandy when it comes to substituting one product for another nearly equal product, but the one thing you really can’t live without is toilet paper. And as anyone realizes when they sit down on the toilet only to find that there’s no paper, if you don’t have it, you-know-what can really hit the fan.

And the lack of toilet paper can, um, wipe out public health as we know it.

There are any number of jokes that could be made about toilet paper or the lack thereof, but suffice to say that not having it becomes an emergency to the person who doesn’t have it. Multiply that times, oh, 6.5 billion people and you have a public health emergency. Even if you have a working sewer system after TSHTF, pretty soon the lack of paper can be pretty dicey. Multiply that personal SHTF situation by millions of people and you have a public health emergency.

“But stores NEVER run out of toilet paper…do they??”

Many of you who are old enough probably remember the bogus toilet paper shortage that Johnny Carson joked about in 1973. The next day, according to reports, stores across the country were stripped clean of toilet paper amid worries of an impending shortage. A few nights later Carson retracted his statement, but it still took weeks for the supply of toilet paper to return to normal on store shelves.

At this moment I have about 120 rolls of toilet paper on hand — probably more than a year’s worth for the average person under normal circumstances — and by “normal circumstances,” I mean a lack of extra toilet paper usage that comes about through, let’s say, intestinal distress. Or long-term guests. Or just plain forgetting to buy more. Or the cat learned how to paw open the cabinet where the toilet paper was stored and turned the paper into confetti. (All of these scenarios have happened to me; don’t think they can’t happen to you.) All it takes for things to hit the crapper is for the so-called “just in time” inventory supply lines to be interrupted to bring about problems keeping grocery items on the shelves. I can (maybe) do without coffee for a day or two if something catastrophic has occurred and there’s no chance of my being able to buy coffee. (But I’ve planned ahead and stocked up, just in case.) But I really can’t imagine what would happen if I run out of toilet paper. The health problems that can arise from contact with fecal matter are even worse than the contact with fecal matter itself.

(If you like being around fecal matter in the first place, you have much bigger problems than just a lack of toilet paper. And almost as much common sense as public-health expert and singer Sheryl Crow, who said people should be restricted in how much toilet paper they are allowed to use.)

To badly mangle a quote by the great patriot Thomas Jefferson, who had his share of SHTF situations, we hold these truths to be self-evident that not all toilet paper is created equal. Just because you have two equal-size packages of toilet paper doesn’t at all mean that you’ll get equal benefit from them. Let me illustrate:

Exhibit No. 1 is the POM 40-roll case of Quality Bath Tissue from Sam’s Club:

Exhibit No. 2 is the Member’s Mark 36-roll package (well, technically it’s 4 9-roll packages in a larger outer-wrapped package) of Ultra Premium Bath Tissue, also from Sam’s Club:

Can you tell which brand is which?

A case of POM as of this writing is 18.88 for 40 rolls, or 47.2 cents per roll; a multipack of the Member’s Mark TP is 14.98 for 36 rolls, or 41.6 cents per roll. So you should get the Member’s Mark TP, right?

Not so fast there, pilgrim. Look at the small print:

Each roll of POM has 450 2-ply 4-by-4.5-inch sheets:

But each roll of the Member’s Mark has less than half of that — a mere 200 sheets per roll!!

Technically, you’re saving 5.6 cents per roll when you buy the Member’s Mark TP. But your savings goes down the crapper because you get less than half of the TP surface area from the Member’s Mark than from the POM. But even more unsettling than the higher per-sheet cost of the Member’s Mark TP is that you use it up more quickly and can deplete your toilet paper supply much faster than you might expect.

And that would be a very, very bad thing.

Plan ahead. Stock up. Pronto. Because your life depends on it.

Three cases of POM toilet paper take up less space than that big-screen TV you made room for. And I don’t think you’ll care about the TV when nature calls and you’re out of paper. And as you sit there at some point looking at the last empty cardboard tube on the roll with no paper left in the house, I’m pretty sure nothing else will matter. Anyone who says you can have too much toilet paper is just full of crap.

A couple notable comments on this post from my old site:

One reader wrote:

If truly without toilet paper, one can wash instead, using a plastic bottle with a top that allows you to pop it up and expel the water by squeezing the plastic bottle. Many women will understand what I am talking about, as they are widely used in hospitals after childbirth for using comforting warm water on the perineal area as well as washing. You could then dry with the flannel cloths–at least then washing them wouldn’t be so gross. Kind of a simple version of the European bidet.

I replied: 
Blogger Kellene Bishop posted a great article a couple months ago about the necessity of toilet paper and the inadequacy of anything else for the task. It’s excellent reading:

And from a purely practical standpoint, it's very, very foolish to think of using potable water for something such as a bidet if you're in a prolonged grid-down situation. I'd rather have hundreds of rolls of toilet paper that I'd have to burn as I used them than to use my only drinkable water for toilet-related cleansing and then suffer from chronic thirst. Prolonged dehydration poses its own set of problems. You don't want to make things any worse than they have to be.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Don’t skimp on your food storage equipment — your life depends on it

I came across a thread in one survival-prep forum recently where someone posted the suggestion that instead of buying allegedly more-expensive oxygen absorbers, why not buy iron oxide hand warmers, they said, since the hand warmers were cheaper and readily available in sporting goods stores and, they said, had the same active ingredients as food-grade oxygen absorbers? Well, that’s all fine and good if the hand warmers are cheaper and if they’re food-grade, but is cheaper necessarily what you want when it comes to food storage?

I’ve tried probably eight or nine different brands of food dehydrators over the years, and the only one I’ve tried that I would recommend to other people (disclaimer: I haven’t tried an Excalibur) is the one manufactured by Nesco, which has an internal fan for air circulation and helps food dry in half the time compared to dehydrators without fans. I like the Nescos so much that I’ve bought a dozen of them over the past several years just so I’ll have plenty of extra food preparation tools if I need them. (Shameless plug: You can usually get a Nesco on eBay for around $30 (plus shipping) if you pick your auctions smartly.)

Now, I could buy a Ronco or other model without an internal fan that would in fact use less electricity during the drying process…but if it takes the dehydrator twice as long to adequately dry food, am I really saving any money? I think it’s more than worth a few extra pennies of electricity to have dehydrators with fans so that I know my food will dry quickly and uniformly…and in the end, I have the security of knowing that I have plenty of food if I need it. (If you’re so worried about a dehydrator with a fan using more electricity than a dehydrator without a fan, maybe you should unplug the appliance in your house that uses the most electricity — your refrigerator!)

Which brings me back to the point about getting what you pay for.

In 1996, I bought my very first car, a 1984 Toyota Corolla. (Yes, a Toyota. The brakes worked on this particular vehicle…but nothing else did.) The car had about 162,000 miles on it, and the dealer was asking only $850 for it. The only warranty it came with was for me not to let the door hit me on the way out of the so-called dealership. More than $1,000 and 1,300 miles later, the car wouldn’t budge out of my mom’s driveway. Well, that’s not quite true…I could drive it three or four miles before the engine would overheat and I’d have to put more (and more…and more…and more) water in the radiator after it cooled down…and watch the water go right through the radiator to the pavement because the bottom of the radiator was rusted out.

I’d spent close to $2,000 and now had nothing to show for it. I was not a happy camper. But at least I could catch a ride on good days and hope I didn’t have to walk very far the rest of the time.

Which brings me back to my first point.

It’s one thing to shell out a couple thousand bucks on a piece-o’-junk car and have the thing eventually stop running altogether and then chalk up the experience to a lesson learned the hard way. But it’s a whole different story when your life depends on something.

And you can’t live without food.

Let’s say for the sake of argument that hand warmers technically do have the same oxygen-absorbing properties as, well, oxygen absorbers. I haven’t been able to try to vacuum-seal a jar yet with hand warmers because (at least according to the sporting goods clerk at Wally World) they are a seasonal camping-accessory item and won’t be available until later in the year. But do I really want something to heat up my food items as they are undergoing vacuum-sealing, and risk denaturing the vitamin content of the food that my life could depend on if TSHTF? Or would you rather use tried-and-true methods and materials that have been proven time and time again to work, so you don’t have to worry?

I’m not telling you not to buy that 1984 Toyota. I’m just asking you if it will get you where you need to go when you need it to get you there. If you’re buying cheaper food storage tools that you can’t be sure will do what you need them to do — keep your food fresh and safe until you eat it — are you willing to risk your health and maybe your life just to save a few bucks?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Oh, carrots are divine, you get a dozen for a dime, it’s maaaaaagic!

Some of you may have caught the Bugs Bunny reference in the title above, which seems appropriate given that I’m about to try my hand at dehydrating carrots. And I’m not imagining it will be too hard, as the only extra step between dehydrating carrots and spinach will be the dicing of the crinkle-cut frozen carrots I just bought at Wal-Mart. For just under $6, I picked up a Mainstays brand food chopper (pretty low capacity — maybe 2 cups?) that I will use to dice the carrots so the bits to be dehydrated will be as small as possible — exactly what you want, as small pieces dehydrate much faster. (Editor's note: No dicing of the carrots was necessary to speed up the dehydration process--which I discovered after my initial posting this article. Just thaw the frozen carrots, spread them out on your dehydrator's trays, and in several hours you'll have perfectly dehydrated carrots!)
Someone pointed out to me that frozen vegetables are already blanched before they are frozen, so that step is already take care of compared to fresh-packaged vegetables, and the frozen veggies are ready to be cooked and eaten…or dehydrated, as the case may be.

The price on the 1-pound package of crinkle-cut sliced carrots at Wal-Mart was 98 cents. Checking a couple different websites to see the going price for bulk dehydrated carrots, at a reconstitution ratio of about 1 pound of dehydrated carrots equal to 2 pounds of cooked carrots, pricewise I’ll be doubling my money by doing this myself instead of ordering an already-dehydrated bulk lot of carrots — one particular site I’ve ordered other items from is selling 20-pound lots of dehydrated carrots for about $3.95 per pound (which would be about $1.97 per pound for the equivalent volume of non-dehydrated carrots, twice the price of my package of carrots from Wally World). As I mentioned earlier, in most cases it will be cheaper to dehydrate fruits and vegetables yourself instead of buying pre-dehydrated products, with the caveats that high-sugar foods (especially tomatoes, apples and bananas) might be a bit trickier and stickier since their sugars will caramelize and get gooey and make it hard for you to remove them from your dehydrator trays. But obviously this isn’t a problem with carrots, so never mind. :)

I’d also like to reiterate the point I’ve made before that the food items I’m dehydrating for my long-term storage are either huge in nutrition, huge in flavor or both. Carrots (and spinach as well) are loaded with beta carotene, which our bodies turn into Vitamin A. Carrots don’t necessarily pack the flavor punch that other vegetables do, but they will add a huge nutritional punch to your food — 1/2 cup of dehydrated carrots (equal to 1 cup of cooked carrots) will give you about 130 percent of your daily recommended Vitamin A. Like Bugs said, it’s maaaaaagic!

I’ll post an update as soon as I get my first couple batches of carrots done.

UPDATE 5-17-10–I’ve gotten off to a later start than expected with the carrots, but the first thing I’ll say is that I’m amazed at the amount of shrinkage in volume once the carrots are dehydrated — but this is a very good thing, as it will give you more carats of carrots per quart! It looks like I’m averaging 8 pounds of pre-dehydrated carrots per one-quart mason jar AFTER dehydration–I’d estimate it’s about an 8-to-1 shrinkage in volume, similar to what I’ve encountered with tomatoes. I didn’t realize how much water was in carrots! But having said that, assuming reconstitution will work on the same water-to-carrot ratio of about 8-to-1, I’ll be able to fit the dry equivalent of 96 pounds of carrots per 12-jar case!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

100 items that disappear first in an emergency

Those of you who frequent other prepping sites know that this list appears all over the Internet, so in the interest of spreading it even further… :D
Some of these items might not necessarily be applicable to your particular situation, but keep in mind that this list doesn’t necessarily reflect what particular people might need, just what tends to get bought. Do your own due diligence in considering your particular needs and prep accordingly.
The first 100 items to disappear in an emergency, disaster, WTSHTF type situation:
1. Generators (Good ones cost dearly. Gas storage, risky. Noisy…target of thieves; maintenance etc.)
2. Water Filters/Purifiers
3. Portable Toilets
4. Seasoned Firewood. Wood takes about 6 – 12 months to become dried, for home uses.
5. Lamp Oil, Wicks, Lamps (First Choice: Buy CLEAR oil. If scarce, stockpile ANY!)
6. Coleman Fuel. Impossible to stockpile too much.
7. Guns, Ammunition, Pepper Spray, Knives, Clubs, Bats & Slingshots.
8. Hand-can openers, & hand egg beaters, whisks.
9. Honey/Syrups/white, brown sugar
10. Rice – Beans – Wheat
11. Vegetable Oil (for cooking) Without it food burns/must be boiled etc.,)
12. Charcoal, Lighter Fluid (Will become scarce suddenly)
13. Water Containers (Urgent Item to obtain.) Any size. Small: HARD CLEAR PLASTIC ONLY – note – food grade if for drinking.
16. Propane Cylinders (Urgent: Definite shortages will occur.
17. Survival Guide Book.
18. Mantles: Aladdin, Coleman, etc. (Without this item, longer-term lighting is difficult.)
19. Baby Supplies: Diapers/formula. ointments/aspirin, etc.
20. Washboards, Mop Bucket w/wringer (for Laundry)
21. Cookstoves (Propane, Coleman & Kerosene)
22. Vitamins
23. Propane Cylinder Handle-Holder (Urgent: Small canister use is dangerous without this item)
24. Feminine Hygiene/Haircare/Skin products.
25. Thermal underwear (Tops & Bottoms)
26. Bow saws, axes and hatchets, Wedges (also, honing oil)
27. Aluminum Foil Reg. & Heavy Duty (Great Cooking and Barter Item)
28. Gasoline Containers (Plastic & Metal)
29. Garbage Bags (Impossible To Have Too Many).
30. Toilet Paper, Kleenex, Paper Towels
31. Milk – Powdered & Condensed (Shake Liquid every 3 to 4 months)
32. Garden Seeds (Non-Hybrid) (A MUST)
33. Clothes pins/line/hangers (A MUST)
34. Coleman’s Pump Repair Kit
35. Tuna Fish (in oil)
36. Fire Extinguishers (or..large box of Baking Soda in every room)
37. First aid kits
38. Batteries (all sizes…buy furthest-out for Expiration Dates)
39. Garlic, spices & vinegar, baking supplies
40. Big Dogs (and plenty of dog food)
41. Flour, yeast & salt
42. Matches. {“Strike Anywhere” preferred.) Boxed, wooden matches will go first
43. Writing paper/pads/pencils, solar calculators
44. Insulated ice chests (good for keeping items from freezing in Wintertime.)
45. Workboots, belts, Levis & durable shirts
46. Flashlights/LIGHTSTICKS & torches, “No. 76 Dietz” Lanterns
47. Journals, Diaries & Scrapbooks (jot down ideas, feelings, experience; Historic Times)
48. Garbage cans Plastic (great for storage, water, transporting – if with wheels)
49. Men’s Hygiene: Shampoo, Toothbrush/paste, Mouthwash/floss, nail clippers, etc
50. Cast iron cookware (sturdy, efficient)
51. Fishing supplies/tools
52. Mosquito coils/repellent, sprays/creams
53. Duct Tape
54. Tarps/stakes/twine/nails/rope/spikes
55. Candles
56. Laundry Detergent (liquid)
57. Backpacks, Duffel Bags
58. Garden tools & supplies
59. Scissors, fabrics & sewing supplies
60. Canned Fruits, Veggies, Soups, stews, etc.
61. Bleach (plain, NOT scented: 4 to 6% sodium hypochlorite)
62. Canning supplies, (Jars/lids/wax)
63. Knives & Sharpening tools: files, stones, steel
64. Bicycles…Tires/tubes/pumps/chains, etc
65. Sleeping Bags & blankets/pillows/mats
66. Carbon Monoxide Alarm (battery powered)
67. Board Games, Cards, Dice
68. d-con Rat poison, MOUSE PRUFE II, Roach Killer
69. Mousetraps, Ant traps & roosterroach magnets
70. Paper plates/cups/utensils (stock up, folks)
71. Baby wipes, oils, waterless & Antibacterial soap (saves a lot of water)
72. Rain gear, rubberized boots, etc.
73. Shaving supplies (razors & creams, talc, after shave)
74. Hand pumps & siphons (for water and for fuels)
75. Soysauce, vinegar, bullions/gravy/soupbase
76. Reading glasses
77. Chocolate/Cocoa/Tang/Punch (water enhancers)
78. “Survival-in-a-Can”
79. Woolen clothing, scarves/ear-muffs/mittens
80. Boy Scout Handbook, / also Leaders Catalog
81. Roll-on Window Insulation Kit (MANCO)
82. Graham crackers, saltines, pretzels, Trail mix/Jerky
83. Popcorn, Peanut Butter, Nuts
84. Socks, Underwear, T-shirts, etc. (extras)
85. Lumber (all types)
86. Wagons & carts (for transport to and from)
87. Cots & Inflatable mattress’s
88. Gloves: Work/warming/gardening, etc.
89. Lantern Hangers
90. Screen Patches, glue, nails, screws, nuts & bolts
91. Teas
92. Coffee
93. Cigarettes
94. Wine/Liquors (for bribes, medicinal, etc,)
95. Paraffin wax
96. Glue, nails, nuts, bolts, screws, etc.
97. Chewing gum/candies
98. Atomizers (for cooling/bathing)
99. Hats & cotton neckerchiefs
100. Goats/chickens

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Another good reason to stock up: Looting will get you shot

I’d had the thought above running through my head for some time, but I hadn’t really put the concept on paper (or in this case, on screen) because I thought it’d be obvious to most people. But since you can’t cure stupid, I’ll waste a breath and state the obvious:

1. You need to stock up ASAP on food and other important things.
2. Looters will probably get shot.
3. If you eliminate your “need” to loot for food or other things, you’ll greatly reduce your chances of getting shot.
4. If your only plan for stocking up on what you need after TSHTF involves bullets, then you’re probably going to be stocking up on other people’s bullets…at about 1100 feet per second.

I think the excellent article “The Art Of Not Getting Shot” at the link below pretty much speaks for itself:

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Stocking up on medications before TSHTF

In the event of personal, local or national emergencies or other natural or manmade disasters, if you’re like millions of people who must take various medications on a regular basis, you might be out of luck if something happens and keeps your medicines from getting to the store shelves. Many people’s quality of life would be severely diminished if they couldn’t get their medicine, so having an ample stockpile of drugs that aren’t controlled substances is just common sense.

I realize that a lot of people either don’t have insurance and have trouble paying out-of-pocket for more than a month’s supply of any particular medication at one time, or whatever medications they take might be subject to DEA restrictions on how much of the drug they can be prescribed within a particular time frame. So for what it’s worth, I’ll share my approach to stocking up on the meds I need every day and hope it might help you as well.

Rule #1 should be obvious: Talk to your doctor. Depending on the medication you’re on and your drug plan, your doctor may be able to increase the authorized dosage and/or number of pills for certain medications that aren’t controlled substances to allow you to build up a surplus.

I’m on an old-school antidepressant (nortriptylene) as a migraine preventive, which works rather well — I’ve been on it for about two years. I take 50 mg. at bedtime. My neurologist had originally written the prescription for up to 100 mg. Once I realized that 50 mg. was keeping my migraines in check, I kept getting refills on the same day each month and just put the new refills behind the older ones — first in, first out. At my six-month followup appointment, I told my doctor that 50 mg. was doing the trick but asked her if she could keep my prescription written for 100 mg. so that I could build up a surplus just in case of job loss or anything else, I told her. Since nortriptylene isn’t a controlled substance, she said she’d be willing to do that. I have 13 months worth of nortriptylene in my medicine cabinet at the moment.

The only other meds I take on a regular basis are Claritin for allergies (I’m allergic to cats but have two cats anyway — they adopted me) and I take 800 mg. of generic Aleve every night at bedtime for my fibromyalgia. I got four 60-tablet bottles of generic Claritin at Walmart for about $25, enough to last about eight months, and I don’t remember exactly how much the generic Aleve was at Sam’s Club, but I got three 400-count bottles for less than $50, and that’ll last me about 10 months. I also take 1000 mg. of Vitamin C every night at bedtime and got a big bottle of that as well at Sam’s Club (gotta keep my immune system in good shape).

I’d be interested in hearing from any of you who’ve also talked to your doctor about stocking up on medications. And be sure to ask your doctor or pharmacist about the shelf life of your medications, to make sure they will be safe if stored for an extended period.

For those of who who are medical practitioners, I’d be interested in hearing your ideas and perspectives as well.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Don’t be a chicken — dehydrate one instead!

Protein is central to human survival–you can’t live without it. And one of the least-expensive forms of protein in the American diet is chicken. As I mentioned in a previous post, food dehydration is one of the simplest ways to prepare food for long-term storage, as dehydrating it, by definition, removes all the water, which greatly extends food’s storage life. So to help you in your food prep efforts, I thought I’d post a few videos showing how to dehydrate chicken.

Having said that, don’t get hung up on the idea that only certain types of meat or poultry are amenable to dehydration. ANY type of meat or poultry can be dehydrated (or possibly turned into its own form of jerky) if it’s thoroughly cooked, thoroughly dehydrated and then stored in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dark place for longest possible shelf life.

The three video links below (click on each of the photos and it will open a new window with the corresponding video on YouTube) will walk you through the process of dehydrating chicken, and by extension any other form of meat or poultry. I personally prefer chicken because it’s inexpensive, and if thoroughly cooked and dried it can be stored for years in a sealed, airtight container, as is the case with beef jerky and other such dried meats you see most commonly.

A couple caveats: In the second video, a couple slightly misleading comments didn’t get edited out of this final version of the video. First of all, ignore the comment about adding textured vegetable protein as a texture enhancer with your dehydrated meats or other items. TVP isn’t a nutritionally dense food and really won’t get you much mileage at all in your food storage. Second, a comment was made about problems in the dehydration process with the chicken becoming “too dry” — this is incorrect. Dehydrated food items cannot become “too dry” in the sense that “too much” water is removed. What should’ve been said with regard to the chicken is that, because chicken is actually a naturally greasy meat source, as the chicken is dehydrated, at least using this model of dehydrator without a built-in drip tray, there was a problem with grease buildup that was not realized until a couple batches of chicken had been dehydrated, and without a catch tray the grease buildup actually ruined the motor in one of these Nesco dehydrators. Don’t let this worry you! Lining the bottom of this particular model of dehydrator helped catch much of the grease buildup, although we later figured it’d be easier with chicken to dice it into very small pieces and put it on a broiler pan on the top rack inside the oven until it is thoroughly dry. About 200 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes should do the trick, although your own oven’s drying time may vary. The chicken should be almost brittle when it’s thoroughly dehydrated. Adjust your own oven temperature or dehydration time as needed, but just make sure the chicken is dry to ensure maximum storage life.

Having noted the problem with grease from the chicken, I am beginning to instead dehydrate canned mackerel and salmon as an alternative source of animal protein. Why canned fish?? Because it’s a relatively cheap source of protein, it doesn’t have nearly the problem with residual fat that chicken has during the dehydration process and because dehydration will extend the shelf life even more. And canned salmon and mackerel have less necessary prep time than fresh-from-the-market fish and are usually packed fresh anyway.

As a side note, some of you are probably wondering why I don’t just leave the salmon or mackerel in the can, since it has at least a three-year shelf life in the can anyway. Well, there are three considerations. First is the relative lack of shelf space I have available, and the fact that dehydrated items take up only a fraction of the volume of their pre-dehydrated state. (See my earlier thread about how much less space dehydrated food takes up–check out the before-and-after pictures of the spinach.) I can fit three to four times as much product into a given space after it’s dehydrated.

The second reason why I dehydrate canned fish instead of just leaving it in the can is because if, for whatever reason, I need to grab my bug-out bag and hit the road on very short notice, I can carry a lot more food and can just rehydrate it as needed. Carrying around a vacuum-sealed mylar pouch of dehydrated meat/fish and vegetables, plus water, is easier than carrying around an unopened can of mackerel, unopened can of vegetables and a can opener. Think of dehydrated meat/fish, vegetables, etc., the same way you’d think of trail mix–just grab the bag, grab a container of water, and go.

The third reason why I dehydrate canned fish instead of just leaving it in the can is something that might not be on your radar at the moment, but could be an issue if you have nosy, Dumpster-diving neighbors: operational security. Let me illustrate: Let’s say you’ve just gotten a huge new big-screen TV or some other expensive item that someone might want. If they find a box for such an item in your trash, they might target your house later for that item because, they figure, the packaging for the item probably means that you have that item in your house!

Now think back to the reason you have food storage: First, because you want to be able to feed your family if times get really tough, the economy totally tanks, you lose your job, etc. And obviously you won’t want people to know that you have a lot of extra food on hand just as you wouldn’t want them to know if you have a lot of money or other valuables in your house. By getting rid of the original packaging such as can that some of your food preps come in (this won’t apply in all cases, obviously, I’m just using the canned fish as an example), if things get bad enough that your nosy neighbors are foraging around in the trash for things to scrap, or even for food, by getting rid of cans and other things now, you’re going to eliminate any trace of evidence after the fecal matter hits the fan that your house is where all the food is.

Hungry yet?

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Friday, March 19, 2010

Pay more for food later, if you can find any…or stock up now while you can

Maybe in some ways I might seem like a broken record when it comes to continually prodding people to stock up on food and other necessities before extended crises come for a visit, but quite frankly, I like to eat and hate being hungry, and figure most other people like to eat as well.

When people are hungry, they can do very destructive things that make a bad situation much, much worse. Given the unrest that usually follows an extended lack of food, and the breakdown of social order into very ugly scenarios none of us should want to see, I hope the article below will help compel you to at least start making a list of things you use now and will need later, starting with food.
And I’ll make a plug right here for some of the best money I’ve spent in my preparedness activities, the “Rawles Gets You Ready” preparedness course by Jim Rawles of It’s worth every penny. It’s worth being able to ensure your safety, security and lack of hunger when everyone else is rioting in the streets because food prices have skyrocketed and there’s none left on the store shelves. It’s happening right now:
It doesn’t matter how many meals away from anarchy we are or what particular event sparks unrest over a lack of food. Even the perception that a food shortage is coming could start a chain of events that would make it dangerous to go anywhere near where unprepared people are mobbing each other to get food or other supplies. Remember the Wal-Mart worker who was trampled to death on Black Friday 2008? The man was killed by people wanting to get marked-down TVs and computers at 5 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving. How much more will people be desperate and dangerous if and when food panics start?

You can’t eat the money in your wallet. And that money won’t help curb your hunger if no food is left on the shelves. Like I said above, I don’t want to keep harping on the same point over and over and over, but since most of us like to eat every day, and since more and more stories about the prospect of food shortages keep showing up in the news, I’d really hate to get caught up in mobs of hungry people who didn’t plan ahead. And I hope you don’t become one of them.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Yet another reason to prep: Venezuela tightens controls on food

The article below is yet another reason why relying on ANY government to “help” you in times of crisis isn’t the brightest idea…unless you like price controls, which lead to shortages because private suppliers aren’t usually inclined to sell products at a loss, and then you have to wait in line with thousands of your closest friends while they also wait for government “help.” Don’t think this couldn’t happen here. We could be closer to Venezuela than you think.

Stock up while you still can!

Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez tightens state control of food amid rocketing inflation and food shortages

Monday, March 15, 2010

Stubborn and starving: The danger of not stocking up on food

I’m simultaneously amused and dismayed at some of the comments at the bottom of this article by people who think that those of us who are stocking up on months, even years worth of food and other necessities of life are paranoid nutjobs with no connection to the real world.

And y’know, I think they’re exactly right.

Why be prudent now when the government can provide for us later?

Why scrimp and save and buy things that are useful when buying that Chinese-made plasma-screen TV will do more to stimulate the (Chinese) economy?

Why buy extra food and build up a substantial reserve pantry when we can rest assured that, no matter what, food will ALWAYS be available at the grocery store? (except when snowstorms, strikes, food riots, crop failures or other disasters strike)

Dang that I didn’t buy food when I should’ve stocked up, because the wife and kids are hungry right now and not too happy that we bought a much bigger house than we could afford on an adjustable-rate mortgage, and now our payments have skyrocketed, we owe more than the market value of the house and my industry is laying off people like blood gushing from a trauma patient.

Each one of us has choices as to how we spend the money we earn. It’s just that some people choose to spend money on really stupid things.

I’m having a hard time understanding what’s stupid, paranoid or disconnected from the real world when it comes to having a year’s worth of food for myself and my family. Is our collective memory as a society so short that we forget that little over 100 years ago, most families had at least several months worth of food in their pantry or at least easily obtainable in their communities? But now most of us are so far removed from the source of our food that if something — it could be multiple things — interrupts the supply chain that fills our grocery stores, we could be days…maybe weeks??…without food or other items. If having several months worth of food on hand made sense 100 years ago, how has it somehow become a ridiculous idea today?

Or to look at it another way, what good is it to have a 24-hour grocery store nearby if their shelves are empty? SOMEBODY obviously bought food and emptied the shelves, so why weren’t you among them?

Because they’re open 24/7. You didn’t “need” to go to the grocery store when you should’ve gone, just in case. Now you’re hungry.

But because the store is open 24/7, I’m sure they’ll have something on the shelves.



Well, there’s always Dumpster-diving.

Or you could stock up now while you still can.

What’s your excuse?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Why should I stock up on stuff? Part 2: Buy it, then hide it!

I tend to think that if something is worth having, it’s worth hiding and protecting. Think about it: Burglars don’t break into places to steal stuff that nobody wants. And who in their right mind (especially with the economy in the shape it’s in right now) would waste their money on stuff that nobody wants?

So it’s a pretty good chance that you’re buying what you want…but it might also be what someone else wants. As I noted in my previous post, not buying food, precious metals, firearms/personal protection or other important things because someone might (or might not) steal them just doesn’t make sense, because if you’re expecting the government to take care of you after everything hits the fan, I have a four-letter F-word for you:


If the FEMA debacle after Hurricane Katrina doesn’t haunt you to this day, it should. Because it perfectly illustrates the mess that can occur when people can’t — or won’t — prepare for their own safety, sustenance and survival WTSHTF and instead wait for the government to take care of them after the fact. (For you neophytes, “WTSHTF” stands for “when the fecal matter hits the oscillating rotary blade.”)

So if you’re not content with waiting for the government to “help” you after TSHTF…well, if you ARE waiting for the government, you might as well stop reading this now…but if you’re intent on becoming self-sufficient and stocking up on the things that can get you through whatever economic, natural or social disasters you’re most likely to encounter, here are some thoughts on how you can keep your proverbial “beans, bullets and Band-Aids” from being discovered by thieves.

What got me started thinking about how to hide food and other personal preps was a conversation I had with someone who was aghast at the thought of buying gold because they didn’t think they’d be able to put it in a safe enough place. After all, if you have an ounce of gold, which at the moment has a spot price of just over $1,100, WHAT IF SOMEONE STEALS IT???

Rest your brain for a moment.

There are two issues to consider: What you can do to hide what you have, and whether what you have is worth extensive efforts to hide it. But if something isn’t worth hiding, why do you have it in the first place? And if it’s worth hiding, why not go all-out to protect it?

A troy ounce of gold weighs 31.1 grams. If that amount of gold were put into a cube, it would measure less than half an inch on each side.

And if you can’t figure out a safe place to hide something that’s less than half an inch on each side, you really, really aren’t trying hard enough.

But if it’s as valuable as gold, isn’t it worth doing whatever you can to make sure it’s well-hidden?

So let’s talk about something that’s even more important than gold.


I don’t know many people who enjoy being hungry. And it’s well-documented that when people get really, really hungry, they will do stupid, destructive things to get what they want. So if you want to become as self-sufficient as possible right now so that you won’t be hungry soon, after several years of trillion-dollar U.S. budget deficits and the resulting hyperinflation leaves store shelves empty as desperate shoppers try to get whatever they can find while they can still afford it — look at what’s happening right now in Zimbabwe — here are a few simple things you can do to hide your family’s sustenance from would-be thieves.

Disclaimer: I am not a professional security consultant. I take no responsibility for any losses anyone incurs if they follow my advice. I’m just offering general suggestions based on the well-documented fact that most thieves want to get into a building, grab stuff quickly and then get out before they’re discovered. Putting a few food items or $20 bills or a few silver coins in plain sight might be incentive for the perp to grab what’s right in front of them and “get out of Dodge” now that they’ve gotten something they deem desirable and before the owner of the house gets home.
Buy it. Hide it. Protect it.

As I noted in this post, you probably have a lot more space than you think when it comes to storing food and other very important items. The issue isn’t really what space you have, but how well you use the space you have available and how well you can hide stuff where you’ve stored it. And what’s most important is not the hiding place itself, but how inaccessible or well-concealed the hiding place is so that people who shouldn’t find stuff won’t find it.

Think of the boxes of Christmas ornaments and other miscellaneous items that probably most of us have piled up in our garage or attic but that we rarely access. What thief in his right mind is going to go through boxes of Christmas ornaments or piles of junk to find valuables that may or may not be there anyway? Now take this idea one step further: If you have a safe installed in the far back corner of your house, or in the back corner of the basement if you have one, who’s going to go digging through boxes and boxes of Christmas ornaments to see if they contain valuables, or move those boxes of Christmas ornaments to see if you’ve installed a bolted-down safe in the concrete floor under all the boxes of your Christmas ornaments or other stuff you never use? Thieves aren’t going to waste their time picking through every last box in the house unless they have all the time in the world. All the more reason to make it as hard as possible for them to find in case they do have a lot of time.

So picture the far back corner of your basement or other spot in your house that is rather inaccessible and made even more inaccessible when boxes of all kinds are piled up on top of and in front of that space. (Hint: This might be a good place to install a bolted-down safe in the concrete floor. Just make sure your basement is dry.) Pile up furniture, boxes of Christmas ornaments and all the other rarely-used junk in your basement in front of the area you’re wanting to keep safe. Chances are good that most burglars won’t bother moving all of that junk because, well, it’s junk.

Now let’s get back to food (because you can’t eat gold). As I noted at the link above, you probably have a lot more space than you think to be able to store food. And since you need food, and since large amounts of food can be stored in a relatively small area — 27 5-gallon buckets — 3 rows of 3 buckets stacked 3 high — can hold approximately 675 lbs. of beans and rice (about 25 lbs. per 5-gallon bucket) and take up an area less than 5 feet wide, 5 feet deep and 5 feet high. Or you could store a few buckets in your kitchen closet, a few buckets in your bedroom closet, even a few under your workbench in the garage. It might sound odd storing buckets of food in places like the bedroom closet or your work area in the garage, but that doesn’t matter!! What matters is that you utilize all the space you have and store things where nobody will bother them. If I’m looking for valuables inside a stranger’s house, the last place I’m going to look is in a 5-gallon bucket in the garage unless I’m really hungry. But if I’m really hungry, I’m also probably not going to dig through piles of Christmas ornaments in the basement to see if buckets of food might be behind all of those boxes.

I had one person point out that it would be a pain to try to get to the food or other items they wanted if they first had to dig through dozens of boxes to reach it in the back corner of the basement or other such places. Well, would you rather put all of your stuff where you can reach it easily, but where thieves can reach it just as easily? I don’t know about you, but I’m going to do all I can to protect my food and other supplies, especially as the economy gets worse and people do more and more desperate things to try to get what they want. I don’t care if I have to work a little to be able to reach my food. I just don’t want thieves to NOT have to work to get it because I left stuff where anyone else could get it as well. How badly do you want to be self-sufficient and protect those supplies and tools that will help you maintain that self-sufficiency? Your answer to that question will determine whether you’re willing to put very valuable things — food, ammo, precious metals and many other items are valuable things — in places that are as safe as possible because they’re a pain for thieves to get to.

Happy hiding!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Why should I stock up on stuff if people will just steal it anyway?

I’ve read this argument far too many times, that stocking up on food, ammo, precious metals or anything else probably isn’t worth it because people could come in and steal your stuff — so why stock up in the first place?

So let’s take this thought one step further.

If I stock up on food or anything else to help sustain me and my family in the event of a long-term economic downturn, the possibility exists that whatever I’ve stocked up on could be stolen. But I could also be mugged on my way home from work, carjacked while stopped at a red light or robbed at an ATM. So should I stop going to work, driving or using an ATM?

Or should I just wait for the government to take care of me and protect me in any and every situation?

Most Americans are well-aware of the federal and state governments’ stellar job in coordinating “relief” efforts after Hurricane Katrina. Quite to the contrary, it was an absolute disaster. Coordination among relief agencies and organizations was overlapping or nonexistent, food and other necessities were in short supply and those people who either couldn’t or wouldn’t leave the affected areas severely strained the available resources.

Oh yeah, then there’s another annoying little detail that seems to come up a lot these days: Congressional budget analysts are predicting nearly trillion-dollar deficits each year for at least the next decade. TRILLION. One thousand billion. In red ink. Every year.

And I’m thinking about trusting these bozos to take care of me when they not only can’t get stuff to the right places when the stuff needs to get there, but they’re spending themselves off a cliff at terminal velocity??

It’s like those ghastly videos around the Internet showing skydivers whose parachutes didn’t open. The fall didn’t kill them — hitting the earth at 180 miles per hour did. These people looked like the epitome of perfect health until the point of impact. But the impact ruined their day. Having a properly packed backup parachute would’ve been a good thing before it was too late.

Your food storage, water storage, precious metals and personal protection are your backup chute. YOUR food. YOUR water. YOUR PMs. YOUR personal protection.

Not the FEMA rations, trucks of potable water (if there are any) and absolutely no personal protection if you wait for the government to “take care of you.” And if you didn’t bother with the first three items, you probably didn’t buy any precious metals in the first place.
“He looks so natural!”

Depending on who the deceased is at a funeral, I’m either mildly amused or somewhat disturbed…sometimes both…to hear someone proclaim that the dearly departed “looks so natural.” We’ve seen pictures of the 50-year-old who looks 15 years younger because they’ve taken care of their body, exercised and done other things that promote good health. Then there’s the other 50-year-old who looks like he’s about 70 because he’s been chain-smoking for decades and lives on a steady diet of Mickey D’s. I wouldn’t trust the chain-smoking McConnoisseur to give me advice on how to live a healthy life. Yet too many of us implicitly trust that the government will take care of us if disaster happens. So we do nothing. And hope our parachute will open in time.

I don’t remember putting on a parachu…KERSPLAT!!

Which brings me back to my first point.

The worst-case scenario isn’t that you prepare for emergencies by stocking up on food, water, personal protection and everything else and then have people break in and steal everything — if you’re well-prepared, you’ll have your preps well-hidden and you’ll have protection to defend yourself, your family and your property. The WORST-CASE scenario is waiting on the government to help you.

So what if you prepare, only to have someone break in and steal everything?

But what if nobody breaks in? What if everything you’ve stocked up and stored for yourself and your family is well-protected and stays right where you put it?

Then you have the things you’ll need for your and your family’s well-being in the event of possibly long-term crises.

Do you have life insurance so your family will be provided for in case of your death? Do you have car insurance in case something happens to your vehicle? Do you have health insurance to help cover medical expenses in case of illness? If so, then what’s your excuse for not stocking up on food, water, personal protection and other vital necessities in the midst of economic turmoil, high unemployment, political uncertainty, natural disasters and other situations you can’t predict?

Your well-being is in your hands. Don’t wait for your terminally ill, bankrupt Uncle Sam to take care of it for you.