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?

Click here to go to our food-prepping videos

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.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Selling your “unwanted gold” is about the stupidest thing you can do

So I’m watching TV tonight when one of those stupid commercials comes on telling people that they can get cash for their “unwanted gold”? Not to sound incredulous…OK, I AM incredulous…but what the heck is “unwanted gold”? And who in their right mind doesn’t want gold??

Sure, I understand that times are tough and a lot of people are struggling to get by. But selling your gold IF YOU HAVE OTHER THINGS YOU CAN SELL INSTEAD is about the worst possible financial decision you can make under most circumstances I can think of. Let me tell you why.

Back in less-modern times, people would put their gold and silver (let’s not forget gold’s little brother) on deposit at banks so they wouldn’t have to carry their precious metals with them, and banks would give people promissory notes for the gold and silver. Banks would then lend out what they had on deposit and earn their money from interest on those loans. Huge problems started creeping into the banking system when banks started lending out more money than they had on deposit at any given time–this is called fractional reserve banking–and if there was a sudden panic and all of the people who had deposited their money in the bank tried to withdraw it all at once, then because the bank had loaned out on paper more than they had in deposits, it didn’t matter what the face value of the promissory notes was that the depositors had on hand. If the bank didn’t have gold or silver on hand, the depositors were left holding worthless paper.

The paper “money” that these slick cash-for-your-unwanted-gold businesses are offering you only has value as a medium of exchange because the U.S. government says it has value. More properly called Federal Reserve Notes (FRNs), these green pieces of paper have no value if nobody wants them. Gold and silver have been used as a store of value and a medium of exchange for thousands of years in countless civilizations. The LAST thing you should be doing is selling what has been accepted as real money or as a store of value for thousands of years for pieces of paper that have lost 97 percent of their purchasing power since the creation of the Federal Reserve in 1913.

Until 1933, U.S. citizens could exchange their paper “money” for real money — gold — until FDR banned private ownership of gold (a ban which was repealed in 1974). Richard Nixon severed the link between Federal Reserve Notes and gold in 1971–the Federal Reserve had issued a greater face value of Federal Reserve Notes than the U.S. government had in gold deposits, so to keep the government’s gold supply from evaporating when the British ambassador showed up at the U.S. Treasury wanting to exchange $3 billion in Federal Reserve Notes for gold, Nixon permanently cut the ties between Federal Reserve Notes and gold–there wasn’t enough gold remaining for all of the paper promises from the U.S. government to be fulfilled.

I’m a multitrillionaire…in Zimbabwe

Last year I shelled out a whopping $9 in FRNs to become a Zimbabwe multitrillionaire. Not that I’m going to be able to buy much with it:

While that country’s dictator, Robert Mugabe, flips the bird at the international community over his long rap sheet of human rights abuses, he also flips the bird at his countrymen by having rendered their currency absolutely worthless. According to the Cato Institute, prices in Zimbabwe double approximately every 24.7 hours. Last year, to keep people from having to carry around 1,000 $100 billion notes for the same purchasing power, the country benevolently started printing $100 trillion notes. I got one for $9 on eBay. And even if I was in Zimbabwe with this cool $100 trillion in hand, there wouldn’t be anything left to buy, because all of the other trillionaires there (which is to say, the entire population) have already bought everything in the marketplace because they want to get things before the prices go up even more.

Which brings us back to why selling your gold and silver for paper money is about the worst financial move you could make at a time like this.

I’m not a fan of big government, but I’m even less of a fan of a government that rapidly takes on so much debt on top of what it already owes that it will have no choice but to print worthless paper money to technically meet its financial obligations that it’s gotten itself into around the world. At some point, foreign countries and other investors are going to stop lending money to the U.S. government because they know that the only thing the U.S. government can repay them with is paper promises that are inherently worthless.

One of the stupidest things I’ve ever done happened about 10 years ago. I was going to college, and driving a taxi to pay the bills. One day this guy flagged me down and asked me if I’d take him from where we were in central Alabama to northern Georgia for $250. I was eager for a lucrative fare and told him I’d take him, but I should’ve had second thoughts before I agreed to take a check. Nine hours and 530 miles later, I was back home and deposited the check in my account. Imagine my surprise, then disgust, when I got a call from my bank that the check had been returned because the account it was written on was closed.

What kind of an idiot was I??

A pretty big one. Lesson learned the hard way. Even though this check had a technical face value of $250, it was worthless because the only place where that promise to pay could be redeemed refused to pay. I was left holding a worthless piece of paper.

People who are selling their “unwanted” gold and silver to all of these slick marketers across the country are getting pieces of paper that could soon be worthless. As I noted above, that paper “money” in your purse or wallet has lost 97 percent of its purchasing power since the creation of the Federal Reserve in 1913. If you need funds to pay bills, or worse, if you want funds to be able to buy items that are not essential for your long-term survival — remember, you can’t eat a plasma-screen TV — sell off items that you don’t need and can do without. Sell that motorcycle, that boat, your old dusty LP collection or other antiques. But DON’T SELL YOUR GOLD. If, as expected, the U.S. dollar soon goes the way of every other fiat currency and becomes worthless through hyperinflation, nobody is going to want all of the junk you’ve bought with the FRNs you received for your gold. But gold and silver have always been accepted worldwide as something of value, and I think it’s safe to say that they always will. Nobody is going to want your plasma-screen TV after the dollar collapses, so save yourself the trouble and don’t sell your gold to buy that TV in the first place. If Weimar Germany were here today, nobody would want your plasma-screen TV. But gold and silver have always been accepted as a medium of exchange and a store of value when one currency dies and another one takes its place. I think it’s safe to say that we’re following Weimar Germany’s footsteps. Sell your REAL junk now. And don’t buy more junk that you don’t need and won’t be able to use later. But most importantly, don’t sell your gold. But if you decide to sell it, I’ve got a $250 check I’ll give you for it. I promise.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Nine meals from anarchy, part 5: Cheap eats, coming right up!

As I said yesterday, in general it’s a lot cheaper to dehydrate and store your own food than to buy prepackaged dehydrated or freeze-dried foods. It takes a little more effort than just entering your credit card number on a website and waiting for the package to arrive, but it’s typically a lot cheaper. And putting together your own food storage from home-grown or store-bought items also allows you to know exactly what you’re buying and storing.

For the sake of full disclosure, however, I will admit that there are certain kinds of foods I prefer to order from certain companies because those particular foods can be a bit challenging to dehydrate. In particular, foods that are high in naturally-occurring sugar will, of course, get gooey and sticky when they are heated. I dehydrated a batch of apples a couple years ago that were darn near impossible to pry off of the dehydrator tray, a problem that didn’t get solved until I bought food-grade plastic mesh sheets to put on the trays first to keep high-sugar foods and other items from sticking to them. (More on those sheets in a moment.) And in calculating how much or how little end product I was ending up with for the time I invested, apples (which had to first be cored, diced and dipped in lemon juice to prevent browning) ended up being more labor-intensive than I wanted to deal with (your mileage may vary), so I decided to order a can of dehydrated apples from and have been very happy with the quality and the price. I’m planning to order a case of banana chips and a case of tomato powder from them very soon as well. (Editor’s note 8-26-10: Since I first posted this thread back in March, I’ve found much better shipping prices — $5 for orders over $75 — at

Having said that, though, I’ve found that most other foods are much less problematic to dehydrate, so your options are pretty wide-open as to what you can make with relatively little effort. And one thing you want to aim for as you’re putting together your food storage is to make sure you’re getting the biggest nutritional bang for your buck. I promise I won’t “preach” too much on the merits of making and storing food that is “good for you,” but it just makes sense: Healthy eating is especially important in high-stress situations, and if you’re in a situation where you’re having to rely primarily on your food storage for a while, I’m guessing that the situation itself will be stressful. So let’s use my favorite vegetable to illustrate how easy it can be to dehydrate and store food for your long-term survival and health:


Mmmmmmmm, spinach!

Now, I’m not suggesting that YOU should like spinach, I’m just saying that as far as vegetables go, besides being my favorite, spinach is also packed with vitamins and flavor. And it’s pretty darn easy to dehydrate. So let’s start with the dehydrator.

A few caveats before we begin: I’ve had several of my ideas criticized online by people who tell me I’m not using the “best” dehydrator or that I should buy only fresh vegetables instead of frozen or that I shouldn’t buy my food at Wal-Mart or other big-box stores or that THEY do other things differently and so I should try to do things their way. You might hear the same things from people as you proceed with your own food storage. I’ll offer these few thoughts to the few points above and let you decide for yourself what is best for you.

1. I typically buy frozen vegetables unless fresh vegetables are in season because I can keep the vegetables in the freezer until I’m ready to dehydrate or cook them, and if the vegetables aren’t in season, I’m not keen on paying high prices now when I can wait for much lower prices when whichever fruit or vegetable is in season. It doesn’t make much sense to pay high prices for one thing now if you can buy other fruits or vegetables that are in season at a given time and which are cheaper as a result.

2. I own several Nesco American Harvester food dehydrators that I’ve picked up for about $25 each on eBay over the period of a couple years. They’re not high-end machines like the Excalibur, but they get the job done. And personally, I’d rather have multiple dehydrators since 1. I dehydrate a lot of food; and 2. if something happens to one machine, I still have a backup. Just my two cents, but these machines can save your life. I don’t think I’m exaggerating in saying that — at the moment, I’ve got about 20 quarts of spinach alone (that’s about 80 lbs. before dehydration) that I can keep in storage for a long time until I decide to eat it. The security of knowing I can prepare food by dehydrating it and storing it for several years until I need it (and to have a lot of food on hand that can feed me and my family for a long time) helps me worry less about food so I can turn my attention to other long-term needs. Having said all of this, Nesco puts out a very good product, and I’m willing to stake my entire food-dehydration process on their product.

3. I realize that buying food from various big-box stores, most notably Wal-Mart, is a contentious issue for a lot of people, so I’ll lay out my case and let you decide what is best for yourself. I buy fresh fruits and vegetables in season from local sources whenever and wherever possible. But as I type this, it’s early March, snow is still on the ground in some areas and not many crops are ready for harvest at this time. There’s no local farmers market selling tomatoes along the highway right now, so I’ve been buying packages of frozen spinach recently for about $1.30 per pound at Wal-Mart. The tradeoff of spending my money at big-box stores for frozen vegetables I can’t get fresh, inexpensive and in-season from other places at the moment is the price I’m willing to pay just for now until the local growing season begins and I can buy from local growers. I’d rather make a regular series of purchases from big-box stores during the offseason and keep building up my food storage year-round than only stock up on food when I can get it fresh and local. Most of us go grocery-shopping year-round, so I think it just makes sense to keep stocking up on food-storage items year-round as well.

Now, having gotten those caveats out of the way, on to the good stuff… ;)
food-grade plastic mesh that keeps your food from sticking

These food-grade plastic mesh sheets available from Nesco have saved me a lot of headaches since my first forays into food dehydration. As I noted above, high-sugar foods get really gummy when heated and can stick like super-glue to the dehydrator trays unless you use these mesh sheets. But since spinach isn’t a high-sugar food, we don’t have to worry about this at the moment. However, I will point out that because of how fine the mesh is, it will also help keep food particles from dropping through the trays themselves.

Let’s start with four quarts of frozen spinach:

I put quarts of frozen spinach into, well, quart-sized containers and let the spinach thaw for 6 to 8 hours. I could theoretically microwave it to accelerate the thawing process, but since I want to keep the vitamin content as intact as possible, I just allow several hours for the spinach to thaw and then put it into the dehydrator.

So I start off by spooning the spinach onto a dehydrator tray…

…and then spread it out evenly and as thinly as possible. You want to have whatever product you’re dehydrating spread out as thinly as possible so that you can have as much air flow through the product as possible:

Then I put the lid on, turn on the dehydrator, and in about six hours (your dehydration times may vary) I take the lid off the dehydrator to check on things.

You can see that after several hours of drying, the spinach has shriveled up a bit as the water has been removed. But you’ll notice that some of the pieces are kind of clumped up, and I can feel that they are still a little soggy, so I break those pieces into smaller pieces…

…and after another 4 to 6 hours, it’s done:

And now things get a little tricky.

These dehydrator trays are about 12 inches across and obviously not flexible. The plastic mesh sheet are flexible, but they have little holes all over and a big hole in the middle. The challenge is how to get the spinach from the tray and into a mason jar without spilling it all over the place. The first time I tried to figure out how to do this, I remembered a large, flat box in my office…

Don’t laugh…because it works. :P

I opened the box flaps, turned the box on its side, stuck the dehydrator tray into the box, inverted the box and then poured the spinach slowly from the box into a quart-sized mason jar, compacting it as much as possible until I couldn’t fit any more spinach into the jar. About 4 lbs. (pre-dehydrated weight) of spinach will fit into a one-quart mason jar if you pack it in tightly.

A couple notes about serving sizes of dehydrated fruits, vegetables and anything else: Obviously because whatever you dehydrate will take up less space after the water is removed, your serving sizes will be proportionately smaller. Leafy vegetables such as spinach are about one-fourth of their original volume after dehydration, so if you’re wanting to cook one cup of spinach, about 1/4 cup of dehydrated spinach or whatever other leafy vegetable will be what you need. Tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and other fleshier vegetables and fruits will take up about 1/8 of their original volume after dehydration, so measure accordingly. Breaking up the dehydrated pieces into smaller pieces will help you get a more accurate measurement.

Portion size is vital!

Measure your dehydrated foods carefully so you don’t overestimate how long they will last. If a recipe calls for 1 cup of tomatoes, using 1 cup of dehydrated tomatoes will be the rough equivalent of 4 cups of tomatoes, and you’ll burn through your food storage in no time at all. Portion control will help you ensure that your food storage will last as long as you intend it to last, all other circumstances being equal. Measure your dehydrated items carefully. And enjoy them. :)
To help you get started:

Here’s a file on dehydrating vegetables that I found at this link. The one thing that I’d recommend you NOT DO is peel the skin off of your fruits or vegetables before you dehydrate them if in fact the skins are edible. The skins are a great source of fiber and vitamins, and you’d be doing yourself a disservice to peel the skins off even if the instructions on that PDF file calls for peeling.

Got ideas or suggestions? Post ‘em below!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Nine meals from anarchy, Part 4: Start slow if you must, but get started!

I’d say there are two basic rules when it comes to stocking up on food for the long-term: First, stock up what you normally eat anyway. And second, get started!

But how many of us do neither?

I’ll admit, it took me about two years to really wrap my mind around the idea of “food storage” — after all, with so-called “just in time” inventory in grocery stores arriving, well, just in time on a regular basis, what’s the big deal? Food will always be on the grocery shelves when we need it, right?

Let’s recap a video from a few days ago:

On the spectrum of disasters, 30 inches of snow really is a cakewalk compared to a Category-4 hurricane like Katrina — at least with the so-called “Snowpocalypse,” people more or less knew it was coming, and they had a bit of time to prepare for it (although whether they actually did so is a different matter altogether). Yet in both cases, before and during the storms, preparation either becomes just an afterthought, or it leaves you like a deer in the headlights, overwhelmed and paralyzed by fear.

Time to take baby steps. Then more baby steps. And more baby steps. And then pretty soon you’ll be miles closer to where you want to be.

But get started now.

The first thing to do, obviously, is to look at what you normally eat and just buy more of it and use less of it each time you go to the grocery store. It’s the same way with budgeting money — the way you build up a surplus is to spend less than you earn. But to do that, first you need to know where your money is going. And in the case of food, it’s good to sit down, make a written list of what you normally buy — written lists will help keep you on budget and on track — and then build up your pantry from there.

Cheaper is better

It’s a lot cheaper to eat at home than to eat every meal at a restaurant. So why do so many of us think that the “best” way to build up our food storage surplus is to buy prepackaged dehydrated or freeze-dried foods from various companies we’ve read about online rather than preparing our own food storage as much as possible? I’ve perused dozens of sites selling dehydrated or freeze-dried foods for long-term storage — but on a per-serving basis, many of these items being sold through such companies costs just as much, if not more, than what you’d pay for a meal at a decent sit-down restaurant. And just like a lot of “normal” prepackaged foods, a lot of the dehydrated and freeze-dried items I’ve seen listed for sale have all the same drawbacks as the normal American diet — too much salt, too little fiber, not enough vitamin content. Why would I pay a lot of money for those things if I can make them myself for a lot less money? The flip side of the coin, however, is that by not “eating out” via prepackaged food storage items, we can get a lot more for our money and we can tailor our food storage to our own tastes, and we can take steps to avoid the extra salt and (some) fat. Fat and protein will be very important if we find ourselves in a more physically demanding environment for an extended period of time, so we want to make sure we have an ample (but balanced) supply of both in what we’re stocking up on. But by taking control of our food, we can control what goes into our food storage.
Four pounds of spinach, after dehydration, courtesy of my Nesco dehydrator–fits nicely in a 1-quart mason jar:
4 lbs. of spinach, after dehydration, fits nicely in a 1-quart mason jar, courtesy of my Nesco dehydrator


Getting started

Driving a sports car that gets 15 miles to the gallon is great if you can afford to fill up twice as often than if you get 30 mpg. But more often than not, you’re going to want good gas mileage. And how many of us have money to burn anyway? So also with your food storage: You want to get the greatest “mileage” for your food storage dollars. Fat, protein and carbohydrates are the building blocks of our diets. And even though beans and rice has gotten a bad rap at times because, well, it’s “just beans and rice,” the combination of the two is one of the most complete meals in the world. You get all three major nutritional building blocks in this simplest of meals.

You’ve got to be kidding…

Even casual car buffs know that there’s a HUGE difference between an Edsel and a Lamborghini. But they’re both cars, so what does it matter?

That’s like saying that Steak’n Shake must be just like Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse because they both have “Steak” in their name.

And so it is with beans and rice–your food storage can be really cheap but really good. Googling beans and rice recipes brings up more than 1.3 million results, enough recipes to last you at least a few weeks.

We frequently eat the same type of bread when we make all kinds of different sandwiches–pastrami, peanut butter, ham salad, grilled cheese–so what’s unusual about the thought of making hundreds of different beans-and-rice dishes out of, well, beans and rice? What kind of beans do you want? Pintos? Light red? Great Northern? Lentils? Split peas? Garbanzos? Black beans? Do you want white rice, basmati, brown rice, parboiled rice, medium grain, long grain?

I remember being amazed as a kid when I heard a commercial that said I could have a Wendy’s hamburger 255 different ways. Did I want ketchup? Mustard? Pickle? Mayo? Mustard and pickle? Cheese only? Tomato, ketchup and mayo? Onion? Everything except ketchup? Plain? Only tomato? It’s the same hamburger. But I could eat a hamburger a day for 255 days and not have it made the same way twice. So why can’t we do the same thing with rice and beans?

What it all boils down to is how long you want to be able to eat with the limited money you have, and starting now to stock up you beans, rice, veggies, spices and everything else that will make your food storage anything but boring. I’ll post photos and more tomorrow to show you how you can get started making your own food really cheap and making it just the way you want it.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Nine meals from anarchy, Part 3: You really DO have enough space for food

Before I started stocking up on months worth of food and other necessities, just like a lot of you I greatly overestimated how much space all of my food, water and other things would take up. And overestimating how much space you need for important stuff like food and water (is there anything more important to your physical survival?) will probably make some people not start stocking up in the first place because they think it can’t be done, so why try? So to help shoot down misconceptions that stocking up on food takes up too much space, let’s take a look at some photos.
Probably the most ubiquitous item among prepared people is the five-gallon bucket. They don’t take up much space, and they’re very useful and versatile. And so are the buckets:
Your typical five-gallon bucket
The box in the picture is from an office-supply store–just your average case of 8-1/2-by-11-inch printer paper. The box itself is just over 11 inches wide and 17 inches high as it appears in this picture. And you can see from the photo that the bucket is smaller than this particular box. I don’t know about you, but I have at least a couple dozen boxes this size in various places around my house. One of these five-gallon buckets can hold about 25 pounds of rice, beans or similar bulk foodstuffs (sealed up in food-grade mylar storage bags with oxygen absorbers inside–more on that soon). So if I have a couple dozen boxes this size in various places around my small-ish house containing stuff that might not be as useful for my survival as, say, food, couldn’t I very easily find someplace to put important stuff like lots of food and move the boxes of paper, books, Christmas ornaments, etc., somewhere else if I really wanted to be able to eat for a while? I kind of like to eat every day, so I couldn’t see myself not making room for extra food, especially with the economic uncertainty in our country and around the world right now. I could lose my job tomorrow…you could lose yours, too…but at least I wouldn’t have to worry about food for a little while if I started buying and storing it right now.

“But I’ve heard that eating food-storage stuff gets boring…”

Yeah, I’m not much for boring food, either. Which is why I stock up on what I like to eat anyway, with a lot of spices and other accoutrements to keep my food from getting boring, bland or blah. Take a look at my latest, um, “cabinet meeting”:
I've got spices and other goodies coming out my ears...
These quart-sized mason jars are one of the handiest kitchen accessories around, and pretty darn inexpensive–about $9 for a case of a dozen jars. And buying spices in bulk quantities and storing them in mason jars will help carry your food a long way away from boring and will last you for a long time–just how long do you think it will take to go through a quart of cumin or garlic? Speaking of which, on the top shelf in this photo are (left to right) red pepper flakes, dehydrated tomatoes (which I dehydrated myself in one of my handy Nesco dehydrators), garlic powder and chicken (also courtesy of my Nesco). Visible on the bottom shelf are jars of cinnamon, cayenne, dehydrated spinach (back right) and cumin.
And to give you a top view of how little space you need in your cabinet for lots of flavor, here are a dozen mason jars in the box you saw in the photo at the top of this page:
Lots of flavor, not a lot of space
I’ll continue tomorrow with this notion that you can cram a lot more food into a much smaller space than you think.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Nine meals from anarchy, Part 2: Don’t worry, the government can help!

Maybe you saw this story on Sunday about the rescue and relief efforts in Chile following Saturday’s magnitude-8.8 earthquake. At first glance, it’s just your average recap of a major disaster: what happened, how many are dead, how bad the damage is and various accounts of those who made it and those who didn’t. But as I read the article further, several passages jumped out at me:

Paragraph 7: “Virtually every market and supermarket had been looted — and no food or drinking water could be found. Many people in Concepcion expressed anger at the authorities for not stopping the looting or bringing in supplies. Electricity and water services were out of service.”

Paragraph 13: “To strip away any need for looting, [President] Bachelet announced that essentials on the shelves of major supermarkets would be given away for free, under the supervision of authorities. Soldiers and police will also distribute food and water, she said.”

And beginning with paragraph 25: “One woman ran off with a shopping cart piled high with slabs of unwrapped meat and cheese. A shirtless man carried a mattress on his head. Some of the looters pitched rocks at police armored vehicles outside the Lider market, which is majority-owned by Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

“Across the Bio Bio River in the city of San Pedro, looters cleared out a shopping mall. A video store was set ablaze, two automatic teller machines were broken open, a bank was robbed and a supermarket emptied, its floor littered with mashed plums, scattered dog food and smashed liquor bottles.

“‘It was a mob. They looted everything,’ said police Sgt. Rene Gutierrez, 46, who had his men guarding the now-empty mall. ‘Now we’re only here to protect the building — what’s left of the building.’

“He said police had been slow to reach the looted mall because one bridge over the river was collapsed and the other so damaged they had to move cautiously.

“Ingenious looters even used long tubes of bamboo and plastic to siphon gasoline from underground tanks at a closed gasoline station. Others rummaged through the station’s restaurant.

“Thieves attacked a flour mill in Concepcion — some toting away bags on their shoulders, others using bicycles or cars. One man packed a school bus with sacks of flour.

“Many defended the scavenging — of food if not television sets — as a necessity because officials had not brought food or water. Even Concepcion’s mayor, Jacqueline van Rysselberghe, complained that no food aid was reaching the city. She said the federal government should send troops to help halt the looting.”

Now let’s break this down:

Markets have been looted after the earthquake. No food and water can be found. People are mad at the government for not stopping stuff from being taken or bringing in more stuff (which could also theoretically be stolen by looters). So to make sure would-be looters don’t “need” to loot, the government does the looting for them–confiscating goods from merchants to give away free to hungry, thirst, angry people.

I’m sure the shop owners whose goods have been appropriated away aren’t happy about their losses, even though the confiscation of their goods was legal as long as the government did it. And even though there were a lot of people made happy by the freebies the government gave them, I’m guessing there were a lot more people who went away unhappy when the government ran out of free stuff to give them, after which the unsanctioned looting continued.

And police and other authorities continued to be overwhelmed and unable to do much that mattered. And hungry, angry people continued their looting.

There were probably freeloaders whose survival didn’t depend on what they were stealing. A lot of people were probably stealing just so they could make a few bucks. But what if there were people who didn’t need to wait for a government handout, while supplies last, because they had stocked up on food and water and had personal protection and other vital items, just in case?

Mobs of hungry, angry people don’t do much to ensure one’s personal safety or peace of mind. It’s always a good thing to stay away from those mobs unless absolutely necessary. And quite frankly I can’t think of a compelling reason at the moment to join a mob of hungry, angry people. In fact, I’d like to do everything I can to make sure I (legally) obtain things I will need to take care of myself and my family and the means to protect what I have. Or I could take the easy way out and just wait for FEMA to show up and repeat the stellar performance they had after Hurricane Katrina. It’s free. Courtesy of the U.S. Government. How long it will take help to arrive, and how much or how little they can do for you…yeah, good luck with that.

You can wait with all of the other hungry, angry people who get hungrier and angrier as they wait for the government to take care of them. Or you can start now to prepare your family for any emergencies that you might encounter. When the next disaster hits, wouldn’t the biggest disaster be if you weren’t ready?