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Archive for January, 2012

The Q10 Temperature Coefficient and Food Storage, and How The Internet is Sometimes Wrong

I know, I know…the Internet is never wrong!  Which may be true, if you know where to look.  I indicated back in this post that I was going to do my best to broaden my knowledge-base in the packaging field, and in particular in regard to products we sell.

As part of that effort, I recently attended a seminar put on by MOCON, the acknowledged experts in permeation testing (what passes through my bag?), shelf life studies (how long will my stuff last?) and other atmospheric packaging analysis.  The subject was the Q10 temperature coefficient and its ability to help predict shelf life.  It sounds complicated, but it isn’t really.  What was really interesting about the seminar was the fact that it demonstrated the basis of an ‘Internet Fact’ about Food Storage, and how some folks may be using that information incorrectly.  I’ll fill you in on the rumor and how it likely came to be in a few paragraphs.

Put simply, it is cost-prohibitive to study the shelf life of products by simply waiting.  What if a product has a 10 year shelf life?  You’d never be able to get it to market.  Often, even 6 months is too long to wait to bring a product to market.  So food and drink companies hire testing companies to help them determine the shelf lives of their products.  And testing companies, such as MOCON, use methods that mimic longer shelf lives through the use of temperature.  Companies can then use that information to decide on what type of packaging they will put their products in for retail sale.  For example, as part of the seminar, they walked us through a shelf life study of potato chips.  A snack company was thinking of changing packaging to extend the shelf life of their chips, and they wanted to know which material would let them do that.  MOCON, using temperature, was then able to mimic 6 months of bio and enzyme activity (spoilage essentially) in several weeks time.  By using a baseline of 20 degrees Celsius, for example, they could mimic 6 months activity in 3 months by raising the temp to 30 degrees, in 1.5 months by raising the temp to 40 degrees and 3 weeks by raising it to 50 degrees.

Now, the Q10 rule doesn’t specifically state there will always be a 2:1 relationship between temperature and shelf life, but that there is a relationship, whether that is 1.2:1 or 1.5 or something else (so they might simulate 6 months of activity in 4 months with a 10 degree increase in temperature).

I am sure many of us have heard a wise-sounding Internet meme regarding food storage that goes something like this:  For every 10 degrees warmer your food storage becomes, you cut your shelf life in half.  I believed it myself.  While the gist of the message is true, the math is off by 80% or so.  And that is because most of us are stubborn Americans.  To our Canadian and British and French and Armenian friends, the rule is essentially correct.  It is only wrong for us because we measure in Fahrenheit instead of Celsius.  The principle of the Q10 Coefficient has to be measured in Celsius to be accurate.  Thus the rule for Americans should be “For every 18 degrees warmer your food storage becomes, you cut your shelf life in half.”  Interesting, yes?  To many, the difference between keeping our food storage areas at 70 vs 78 degrees is significant (Using a baseline of 60 degrees as the ‘standard storage temperature’), and those that may have based food storage decisions off of this particular piece of information could well find themselves in trouble.

‘You get what you pay for warning’:  I am not a scientist, nor do I pretend to be one.  If this post touches something you are working on, please research it further, as my terminology may not be exact, and I haven’t gone into all the details we covered in the seminar.

11

01 2012

Crazy Prepper Non-Spending Challenge 2012

I remember reading Robinson Crusoe as a child, and being fascinated by the constant counting of things.  The protagonist (the way I remember it) kept perfect track of his supplies.  Bullets, food, nails, boards, everything.  He realized the rationing of his goods was the key to his survival.  I think many of us probably feel the same way, and it is one reason we are drawn to survival fiction, post-apocalyptic movies and the like.  We live in such a time of abundance, that even our poorest could be ranked as royalty in many places of the world today, let alone among our forefathers.  A little bit in the back of our heads, we wonder if we could survive in such bleak situations with just what we have on hand (or worse still, without anything on hand).  And perhaps we even wish to (not realizing the privation many of our ancestors really faced):  to be able to turn off the iPods, throw out the cell phones, the computers, and just exist with nature without all the noise of a 21st century existence.  While my wife and I won’t be going to any Crusoe-esque extremes, we are going to extremely limit our intake of new goods in the first half of 2012.

So what spurred this?

Late last year I found some Grand Canyon sized holes in our monthly budget.  I noticed toward the end of the year we weren’t able to put as much toward the principal of our home as we had been, and that our savings hadn’t grown at all since autumn.  If anything, it had shrunk.  Part of that was the ginormous COBRA check I wrote in December; I pre-paid it until it expires in September 2012.  I did that mainly because I don’t like worrying about forgetting it month to month and it is such an important item.   Plus, because of my wife’s Fibromyalgia, I have been unable to find other coverage for us, which had been my hope.  (Because it would have provided some tax benefits.  We’ll end up getting an expensive guaranteed-issue policy once our COBRA expires.) Part of it has been additional competition in the marketplace.  While the overall ‘prepping’ marketplace grew in 2011, the number of businesses entering the market far outstripped any new revenue.  (A small warning to anyone who is thinking of entering the market this year.)  And part of it, when looking honestly at our budget, was a large chunk of discretionary spending; things like eating out, going to the movies and the like.  We have always been fairly frugal even in the best of times, but we hadn’t really been controlling our spending well since we have both been working from home.

Coming up next  is tax season, and I really don’t have a good handle on what that will bring.  As a small business owner I’ve been paying quarterly taxes, and I do have some withholding from my previous job.  However, due to having to pay both SS and FICA on top of regular income taxes, I’m worried we’re going to have to write a huge check to the IRS in April and that it could wipe out almost half our savings, putting us right back to where we were when I quit my previous job.  Nearly a year into this, that is the last place I want to be. 

So after some long discussion with my wife, she suggested we try to put our preps to some additional use, and to cut our discretionary spending to $0 for the first six months of 2012.  This will give us a better handle on our overall budget, help us determine what our preps are missing, and force us to re-evaluate our needs in terms of nutrition and entertainment.  For example, we have board games on the shelf we’ve never played, so why are we buying new ones?  We have books we’ve never read, blogs we haven’t written and projects we haven’t completed, and this will give us a chance to get to many things we let slip for too long, while allowing us to spend quality time together.

So the rules of the game are we’re only allowed $20/week for fresh food and random expenses, and a tank of gas every 2 weeks (unless the business necessitates otherwise).   While we still have preps in the basement and anything in the pantry, we’re not to spend anything except for business expenses.  This is made a little more complicated due to the impending demise of our $100 Craigslist dishwasher (it’s lasted 2 years, so I still think it was a deal).  Right now it’s making some horrible racket while it washes, so we’re guessing its only a matter of time before it dies.   Hand-washing dishes certainly won’t kill us, but that is time we won’t have available to do other things. 

More importantly, over the holidays we broke the oven portion of our range (The filament cracked, and we’ve been unable to find another for this make and model.), making cooking a little more challenging.  We still have the use of the top burners.  This might actually be a small blessing in terms of ‘learning to live without’.  We’ll be cooking on our Bubba Keg (probably the best cooking device ever invented), in a small portable camp oven my wife bought at Costco last year (propane), and on our propane grill.  We have 4 tanks of propane and a bag and a half of lump charcoal.  Rationing those two items will probably be the most challenging, and is what made me think of Robinson Crusoe. 

So we’ll keep you periodically updated as to how things are going.  My wife is already doing some crafty stuff while watching TV (she’s making pompom rugs, whatever those are), and I’m working on some business stuff and a little extra blogging.  If any of you have any prepper related goals, drop me  a line, I’d love to hear about them!

09

01 2012

AdviceNews Volume 1, Issue 9, January-February 2012

I’ve decided to put up our Order Insert Mailer up on the blog at the beginning of each month to allow more people access to the deals and promotions we offer.  This year, I’m also going to be running the newsletter for two months instead of one, as I don’t think we were allowing folks enough time to actually take advantage of them.  Any graphic designers who would like to help me with a new design for the mailer, let me know.  I realize it’s very basic and I’d love to give it a facelift.  If you have any simple food storage recipes we could put in future mailers, send them our way (no direct copies from cookbooks or other blogs please) and we’ll give you $5 credit at the store.

  • Thank you for your order; we will always do our best to earn your business!  If you have any questions, please check out our Frequently Asked Questions at Food Storage FAQ.  If that doesn’t answer your question feel free to give us a ring at 615-945-0762 or email us at admin@discountmylarbags.com.
  • Thank you for an awesome year!  Our customers and their stories and comments this past year were amazing.  Please always feel free to share or ask questions!
  • Submit an article about anything preparedness or food storage related to admin@adviceandbeans.com.  Include pictures and links.  If we use it on the blog, we’ll give you a $20 gift certificate to the store! 
  • New ProductsPick up a Mylar Bag Sampler Pack at the store.  If you’re new to food storage or wonder which size bag would meet your needs best, this sampler pack can help you decide! (Edit: The sampler will be available soon, we are currently finalizing the contents!)
  • Jan-Feb PromotionBuy any 50’ Paracord and we’ll throw in a random 50’ Paracord free!  A great way to stock up for bug-out bags or general use.  This is the cheapest you will ever see 50’ Paracord!
  • ‘Like’ us on Facebook by searching for Advice and Beans!  We gave away $50 at 50 Friends and $100 when we hit 100 friends!  After we reach 200 friends we’ll do another random drawing for a $100 gift certificate from the store! 
  • Product Updates:  We will finish up our stocking of 5 mil bags in all sizes in the first and second quarter (In December we added a 5 mil 4″x4″ Zip Seal Bag and a 5 Mil 10″x16″ Zip Seal Bag, both Tamper Evident and available in the store now).   If you’d like to see a size or style of bag that we don’t carry yet, please let me know and we’ll consider it for our inventory!
  • Advice for 2012:  It’s just another year, and we can only do the best we can.  Keep moving forward and you’ll be in the best possible position for whatever life throws at you!

Oxygen Absorber Answers:  How do I know if my oxygen absorbers are good?

1:  Check the vacuum seal of the package.  If it is intact, your absorbers are guaranteed to be good if within the shelf life of the product (6+ months after you receive them).

2:  Pinch the absorbers before you use them:  fresh absorbers will feel soft and powdery inside, while used absorbers will feel hard or crunchy, or like a single solid wafer.

3:  Oxygen absorbers will get warm as you work with them.  This can take from 30 minutes to a couple of hours (they will work faster in a humid environment).

06

01 2012

Thoughts on the Year Behind and the One Ahead

Wow, what a year that was.  It was a year of milestones, and I have every one of our customers and readers to thank for it.  So I do that.  I thank you, sincerely and with great humility.  Without you I’d probably be getting a ‘bad attitutde’ on my annual performance review and fuming at my boss.

Poncho

I saw my 40th birthday (with my 41st only a week away!) and spent the day with the favorite people in my life.  I reached the end of one career and the beginning of another.  I accomplished many goals, and missed some as well.  (AT anyone?)  My wife and I worked a lot of 16 hour days, with a few days like today where we take a little break during the day (We watched Green Lantern today during lunch- 3.25 stars; he was my favorite superhero when I was a kid, with Iron Man a close second.)  While the business has required a huge amount of effort, the rewards it has provided have been immense as well.  I love spending the days with my wife and dogs.  I love having the freedom to work in comfortable clothes in a comfortable environment.  Listening to the Cat Stevens channel on Pandora today while building orders has been a nice reminder of why we decided to take a huge risk with our future.

It has been a little wistful as well.  I wish my brother Todd were here to see what we’ve done; I think he’d be proud.   I wish our insurance didn’t cost as much as our mortage.  (We’ll be looking for a cash only physician in Nashville once our COBRA runs out this year if you know one!)  And I wish I could find a Mylar bag with a spout!  (Still trying!)

Like many, my wife and I are setting some goals for the year ahead, both personal and for the business.  On the personal side, many might be the same as some of y’all are setting.  I had a physical a few weeks back and I lost 9 lbs this year just because I haven’t been sitting in an office environment all day.  Instead, I’ve been slinging 50 lb boxes and Postal Totes, something I haven’t done since I was a much younger lad.  So I’ll try to lose another 9 this year.  So why not 50?  At my former job at Dollar General, we did ‘SMART’ Goals.  Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timebound.  Often, when we set ‘New Year’s goals’, we are Specific, but less than Realistic.  Sure, I’d love to lose 25 or 50lbs…but I know for myself, with all we have going on, it would put too much pressure on and I’d be more likely to give up than accept something more reasonable.  So why not just pick something Realistic to start with?

Arnold and our friend Meg

It’s kind of like that with everything in our lives, and I’ve always preached it to anyone I mention prepping to.  It’s better to set a goal of 1 month’s food storage if you won’t ever realisitically hit one year of food stored, whether it is due to space, time, or money.  Accomplishing a small goal makes us more likely to strive and succeed on a new one.  Failing at a goal makes many less likely to try again.

So this year, instead of the huge goals I attempted (and with more than a few, failed at) in 2011, I will be putting ‘Realistic’ at the forefront of our goal-setting. (Unless of course you are a venture capitalist and will grant us $300,000; I’d love to talk to you about some ‘Home Run’ ideas we’ve had kicking around!)  I still have some great things in store for those who have stuck with us (and another thank you!), but I won’t try to do so many at once I burn out and don’t get any done at all.

In my next post I’ll talk about the state of the business, where we are, and where we want to go in 2012.  You’ll also start seeing some guest posts from the AdviceWife later this month; she has some great things going on this year and I hope she’ll provide another perspective as to what goes on in our house in terms of prepping.

Again, thanks to everyone for a fantastic 2011, and we look forward to an awesome 2012 as well!

 

 
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04

01 2012