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Archive for the ‘Default’Category

Updates: Long, Hot Summer Edition

My apologies for the slow pace of new posts recently, but its been a bear of a summer.   The good news is business is up in the wake of inflation news and the Dow upheavals, but it makes it harder to fit everything else in!  Also, I’ve spent 5 days working on the water project this month,  as we do our best to practice what we preach.  Again, that’s a good thing; however, some days the changes in velocity of SurvivalClub activities makes for some very long days (We went from taking a year to plan the project to now having all hands on deck for as many days as possible to implement it!)

Still, busy is good.  Some other bits of news:

  • We finally got the ‘Light and Fire‘ section of Discount Mylar Bags up and running with a couple of cool products!  The candle lanterns are an excellent, cheap and portable way to always have some light on hand (#5 on the list of things one must have to be prepared).  The kit comes with the very cool pop-up Lantern, 4 9-hour candles and a carry sack.  They also have a hook and chain, so we have taken to hanging ours on a nail on the porch.  It puts off just enough light to have a good conversation, but not as much as our regular outside lights which attracts a gazillion bugs.
  • Also in the section are a Light My Fire Firesteel, the premier brand in the category, and supercool storm-proof matches.  I usually recommend a standard Bic Lighter for most folks fire needs, but if you’re in the woods or going on what could be an extended excursion, Firesteel can’t be beat for ability to throw sparks (and it also has an emergency whistle on it as well).  The matches on the other hand, are something I would heartily recommend everyone get a set of.  We made a silly 30-second spot on Youtube about the matches, which really do burn under water!  They come in a gasketed waterproof container with an extra striking surface and would be a great addition to any 72-hour kit.  In general, lighters don’t work well when wet, so having storm-proof matches on hand can really come in handy in certain conditions.
  • In our ‘Gear’ section (just one item for now) is a 1-Liter ClipCap Aluminum Water Bottle.  It’s cap allows it to attach to almost anything.  We keep one on the stroller when we take the dogs for a walk (don’t ask), and I like them better for hiking because I often lose my Nalgenes because the drink pockets mesh on my backpack is too light to keep them securely attached.  If you’ve watched any Survivorman, you also know that Aluminum bottles are great to boil water or (in a pinch) soup in if you needed to purify some for any reason.
  • We’re pulling the trigger on the trailer purchase I mentioned last month and will be taking our first trip with it in late September (our In-Laws will be staying at our house for any burglar types), going up to see our families in Connecticut.  We’ll be taking 95 up to New England starting in Virginia, so anyone who wants to save some shipping on a big order, let me know and if we travel through your town we’ll be glad to stop!=)
  • We are still working with UPS trying to figure out why the rate structure on our contract is not actually working with our shipping account; that’s why we haven’t had the smaller sets of Gamma Seal lids available yet.
  • I am having a lot of fun spending a few minutes a day on our Facebook page.  We gave away a $50 gift certificate to the store at 50 friends and $100 at 100 friends.  We’ll do the same every time we hit another hundred friends (200, 300, etc) up to 1000; if we ever hit the 1000 friend milestone I promise to do something special to celebrate the occasion!!  So if you use Facebook and haven’t yet, please Like us! (You can also find us by searching ‘Advice and Beans’ on Facebook)

That’s all for now, stay safe and prepared everyone!

26

08 2011

Storing Some Pasta

Seeing the inflation occurring as well as the continued economic malaise, our family has continued to add to our food and other stores regularly.  We picked up 10 pounds of pasta and another 30 cans of vegetables this weekend at Publix from their Buy-one-Get-one section.  That’s pretty much the only way we buy things now, as we’re just adding to our stores and not trying to fill a pantry.

This month, we’re also going to do a formal written tracking of all expenditures in the household, from the mortgage and utilities to a candy-bar at the gas station.  I recommend everyone do it at least 1 month a year, as there is no better way to find the holes in your budget.  When I first did it over 10 years ago, I found I was spending more than double my electric bill eating fast food!

I had planned on doing a little Youtube thing on our pasta storage, but my wife beat me to it and was already done when I got back from the warehouse yesterday!  She did up 12 bags of pasta, 24 lbs.  She also did a bunch of dog food that had been collecting, and that was another 40 lbs.  I always find it odd it seems like we put away more food for our two dogs that combined weigh 11 lbs, than my wife and I do for ourselves.  We will use up the dog food within a year or two as it has oils in it that can go bad, but we will get a lot more shelf life out of it being stored properly.


 

02

08 2011

Advice and Beans Updates

So it’s been a week since the event, and I’m as thrilled as I thought I would be!  It’s nice being able to get everyone’s shipments out same day for the most part, taking a full day off of the delivery time for over half our customers.  Orders for Mylar Bags and Oxygen absorbers have been steady, including some bulk shipments, and I’ve started receiving more comments from those finding their way to the blog, which is very exciting.  I hope to post a couple of guest articles here in the near future as more folks share their experiences in preparedness and food storage.

One of the things I’m committed to as a part of working from home is to not turn into the slug I was as a teenager!  It’s tempting to sleep in and work at a slower pace, or sit and watch TV or surf the ‘net, and not really take the opportunity to improve all aspects of my life.  I have slept a little bit late some of the days since I left my previous job.  However, I believe that I’ve been offered a wonderful opportunity, and I won’t squander it.  I started this morning with some Wii DDR (Don’t laugh; for those who don’t know that stands for Dance Dance Revolution).  I have put it on the calendar that every day from 8-9am I will do something physical…some days that will mean DDR, or the Wii Fit, while others I plan on walking with the dogs.  I also plan on getting some hikes in as well, though usually those will happen on Sundays due to the schedule of getting all the orders out.  Part of it is to improve my physical condition, part to prepare for my Appalacian hike later in the year, and part to spend at least an hour a day NOT thinking about everything that needs to be done.  Sometimes a job, career, preparedness, video games, or anything can absorb us so completely we forget that we all need to breathe.  So that first hour of the day will be my chance to do just that. 

I’m also using Microsoft Outlook to schedule tasks I might forget about, such as paying the bills, ordering more product, or doing a particular piece of research.  I’m pretty unorganized by nature, and I need to use all the tools at my disposal to overcome that handicap!

Other updates:  In the near future, I will be commissioning some improvements for the website, to include a clean version of the LDS Food Storage Calculator…this is a project that I’ve been meaning to get to for ages and mentioned last year.  I actually have a backlog of ideas that I mentioned ages ago that need to be implemented.  Every day is going to include a couple of hours for exactly this type of project.  With hope I’ll have something concrete to deliver to folks in the next 45 days.

We also have one huge long-term project on the table that I hope to unveil officially later in the year.  Advice and Beans will be spinning off a software development LLC in the next month (also basically run by me, with a small mostly-volunteer development team); with a small bit of venture capital we have a commitment for, as well as a signficant investment by my wife and I, I hope to offer the preparedness/survival community something very special in the next couple of years.  More details forthcoming soon!

As always, anyone with stories, questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to contact me;  I’ll always give credit for anything I might post on the site, and I love to learn what others are doing or thinking about!

29

03 2011

Mylar Bags, Oxygen Absorbers and Advice and Beans as a Full-Time Job

For those of you who have read my ‘About Page’, you will have seen that I worked as a Procurement Manager for a large corporation for many years.  As of yesterday, that is no longer the case.  I decided that this business (Advice and Beans) was doing well enough that I would make the leap of faith and do it full time.  As some of my earlier posts have alluded to, I believe that anyone with a dream, the willingness to work hard, and the blessings of their creator, can build something of their own.  As I knew that my relationship with my previous employer was getting tenuous, I made preparing for the inevitable move my number one priority for about the last 6 months.  In my opinion, employment status is one of the biggest reasons to make preparedness a part of one’s life.  Here are some of the things I did to get ready for the day when I would have to leave my day job:

1)  Have a plan – While I hoped that Mylar Bags and Oxygen Absorbers could be a full-time job, I also know the risks of putting all of my eggs in one basket.  I actively searched out new product lines (Such as the Gamma Seal Lids, buckets, desiccant, Rothco and some others I haven’t even gotten around to selling yet), started some basic advertising, and worked pretty much all the time.  While working 16 hours a day is not the way I want to live my life forever, I knew in this case that for every day when I had two incomes coming in, it would better prepare us for when one of those went away.   Even if starting a business is not your thing, a part-time job never hurt anyone!  The steps below were additional parts of the plan.

2)  Save, save, save – Even prior to starting Advice and Beans, my wife and I always saved a good portion of our pay, upwards of 30% or more when we could manage.  When I knew I might have to leave my job, that number became more like 50%.  Living on less than you make is the best, and some say only, way to build financial security.  While it has been easier in recent years due to rising income, dual income, and becoming debt free, I made saving a habit even when I was making $8 an hour as a temporary 12 years ago.  Every paycheck, I put money in an envelope, whether it was $5 or some weeks $20.  Having even that little savings available to handle some basic emergencies is a lifesaver and can save you from having to put it on a credit card.  Some folks say there is never enough money for them to save, and that can be true if you pay yourself last all the time.  Pay the savings envelope first when you get paid, and anyone can do it.

3)  Give Things Up – My wife and I, while we have some nice things, are also willing to sacrifice when we need to.  We cancelled our cable TV over 2 years ago and have saved over $2000 by not having it.  I gave up Dunkin Donuts coffee every morning at work, saving $500 a year.  Additionally we sold and continue to sell a huge variety of stuff in our household.  Books, movies, games, collectibles, we sell all of it.  And not only did that make us some extra money to save, it also cleared much of the clutter from our lives.  Giving up any one thing might not make one financially secure, but making some regular cuts or selling things you might not use often can help your budget a great deal.

4)  Do Something, Anything, to Make Some Extra Money- My original goal with Advice and Beans was to make an extra $20 a day.  I figured an extra $7000 a year would make a great difference in my families financial condition.  Starting small also meant not writing huge checks and taking unnecessary chances.  So in the beginning, I would buy a case or two of supplies and try to sell them on eBay and Amazon.  Once I sold out of those, I rolled that money over until I could buy 5 cases at a time and get a better price.  Eventually it got the point where the business, while not generating any ‘income’, was able to buy larger and larger increments of inventory, up to and including multiple pallets nowadays, drastically improving our buying power.  I say this to make the point that while sometimes risk is good, it doesn’t have to be a part of starting a business as I’ve heard some say.  Sure, I could have started out writing $10,000 checks to suppliers (well, not too many of those)…but only at an unacceptable risk to my family.  So for those who are thinking about starting a business…start small and cash-flow your way to big.  That’s infinitely better than writing some huge checks only to find out you have no market for whatever it is you want to sell.

This whole adventure demostrates exactly why we (or at least I) prepare.  Having a couple of years of food on hand certainly provides some comfort in knowing that if the business goes sour, at least I can feed my family.  I’ve learned some new skills, such as researching suppliers, doing complicated taxes, and dealing with beauracracies (oooh, my favorite part!).  I’ve also learned a bit of patience and adaptability…especially these last few months when my best suppliers all flaked and went out-of-stock.   When I didn’t have big oxygen absorbers, I substituted mediums; now that I am out of mediums, I am substituting smalls for some SKU’s.  The point is to keep moving forward and building momentum, even when it seems things aren’t going great.

24

03 2011

Advice and Beans Preparedness Update and 2011 Goals

I’m scheduled to be interviewed on the Dr. Prepper Show, the number one Preparedness Podcast, in the near future.  As I talked to Mr. Stevens (Dr. Prepper) a little earlier this week, I started to think about the types of questions I might be asked or areas I’d like to discuss. 

One thought kept coming back, and that was ‘Why am I here, writing about preparedness and selling food storage products?’  I don’t remember waking up one day and say, “Geez, I need to be selling me some Mylar Bags!” (Actually, it did kind of happen like that, funny as that sounds; that’s a story for another time!)  However, I do believe there is a reason my life is moving in a particular direction; I can’t divine the purpose, and perhaps I’m not meant to.  All I know is I’m doing something I love, meeting a ton of great people, and with hope, helping some folks along the way.

While I have strayed pretty far from my original intent for the blog (a post every day, for example), my overall focus is the same…provide a sane, safe place to learn the very basics of preparedness.  While some emphasis would be placed on food storage, as that is one area I have some expertise (though by no means do I consider myself on par with the folks who have been doing this as long as I have been alive), there would be plenty of other topics discussed as well. 

As I approach my first anniversary in business (April 1), I’d like to re-examine expectations for Advice and Beans, both as a preparedness website as well as a good portion of my family’s livelihood:         

  • Provide a sane, safe place to learn the very basics of preparedness.
  • Provide quality products at great prices, and provide a space to demonstrate the proper usage of those products. 
  • Talk a little bit about finances, personal discovery, and growing as an individual and member of a community, and how that relates to living prepared.

I am making concrete steps toward those goals, and I plan to expand on them in 2011.  First, I’ve found some time to squeeze out some writing for the blog; I’ve also introduced Advice and Beans on Facebook.  The interview with Dr. Prepper will, with hope, provide some momentum in terms of understanding what the audience is looking for.

We are working on some pretty important site design changes, including a quick link at the top of the page that will open to a Food Storage FAQ and instructional page (I will have a basic page up before the interview!).  I am also exploring options for a new WordPress theme.  I like our current theme, but I’m not sure it meets our current and future needs.  I believe a 2-column theme will give us more actual space to work with instead of having an entire column devoted to the date of posts.  We will also look for a theme with quicker load times, as I recognize that is an issue for some people (including me).

At the store, we continue to expand our offerings.  That will very quickly require us to upgrade our shopping cart software, which only supports 20 SKU’s.  I’ve also heard from customers the checkout mechanism could be easier, so I hope to address some of those concerns.

And in terms of non-preparedness writing, I want to spread some good news in terms of the benefits of frugality, how I built a business from scratch (and how you can too), and why living a socially interconnected life can be one of the greatest benefits in terms of preparedness.

Looking forward to a great year 2!

19

02 2011