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Archive for the ‘Food Storage’Category

Summer Updates, OMG It’s Really Freaking Hot Edition!

However, it doesn’t really feel as hot as it might.  I read Neil Strauss’ book ‘Emergency‘ about a year ago (I could have sworn I wrote a review on it, but I’ve checked the archive and can’t find it!), and while it was a little overtly political for my taste (and not the good kind), it has some good bits of information for the novice prepper.  One which I try to take to heart is where he talks about forgoing his heating and air conditioning, on the premise that in many disaster scenarios, one may be without them for an extended period of time.  While I haven’t go so far as to rip out our air conditioning unit, we do set our thermostats a little different than many folks I know.  In the summer, we’ve taken to leaving the thermostat at 80 during the day, and about 76 at night.  In the winter, we leave it at about 55 degrees.  My wife doesn’t always agree, but what we’ve found is that your body can and will become accustomed to a wide variety of temperatures, if you just let it.  Considering we used to keep it at 68 in the winter and 70 in the summer ‘to be comfortable’, the fact that we rarely notice the temperature anymore only tells me we were throwing money away on heating and cooling costs.

It’s like the New Englanders who visit Florida in the winter and wonder why the natives have windbreakers on while they are in shorts.  Working in the warehouse has started to affect me much the same way, and I’m grateful.  It’s not well insulated so its usually only about 5-8 degrees cooler than outside, and its gotten pretty hot the last month or so.  I went to a wedding a few weeks back…to a person, everyone complained about the heat, and many were sweating.  It was about 82 degrees, and I found the temperature just mild.

I’d recommend folks whose air conditioning or heat runs constantly to try raising the thermostat in the summer by 5 degrees and lowering it by 5 degrees in the winter for 3 weeks.  My bet is at the end of that time, you won’t feel any more or less warm or cool, but you will notice yourself saving money on your utilities.

On to the updates!:

  • We are very excited to announce we will be doing our first official Food Storage info-sharing get together in Harrison, AR the weekend of June 15, sponsored by a local store.  We’ll be bringing a trailer load of bags and buckets (partially so we can still get orders out in the timeframe customers expect!), but also so folks who want to pick up supplies ‘shipping-cost free’ can save a bunch.  We’re going to do a flat 20% off our website prices on everything, so I hope we’ll see you there if you are in the area!  We may also be stopping by Calico Rock, AR that weekend as well.  I’ll provide the details here and on Facebook (Go Like ‘Advice and Beans’ for our Facebook page) once they are nailed down.
  • We finally got our newest website, a Long Term Food Storage Calculator, up and running.  For folks who ever wondered what they should store to cover a particular period of time, please stop by and give it a try!  There’s a free version that lets you run the calculator and store your results, and a very modestly priced Premium version ($3/mo) with some more advanced features including being able to run reports as well as add your own items and categories.
  • Slowly but surely, I am getting our first official Youtube video done.  Our video series will be called ‘Spill the Beans’, and I’ll be answering questions and providing some info I don’t think you can find anywhere else.  Plus, I’ll be channelling my inner geek, but you’ll have to wait and see to find out what that means!  The first episode will be on oxygen indicator tablets and what they are and aren’t good for.  I hope to have the first video ready by the end of June.  As I get used to using the video-editing software, I hope they’ll come out quicker after that, maybe every 2-3 weeks.
  • As part of the seminar we are doing, I am writing what I consider to be the ‘Essential 8 Pages About Food Storage’ booklet.  Once its ready I’ll be doing a short print run (maybe 250 copies for version 1).  I’ll be giving them away with large orders, otherwise they’ll probably be just a couple bucks.  It will contain all the info a novice food storer will need to get started.  As an FYI, all the information in the booklet is available free here in the archives, so don’t worry about missing anything, I’m just combining it into a easy-to-read format.
  • As our base of small commercial customers has grown quite a bit, we are establishing a Preferred Merchant Program.  It includes the best wholesale pricing we can offer, plus we’ll be offering perks such as ‘at cost’ pricing of items such as the Food Storage pamphlet as well as seminars and demos for your customers. (For those within 800 miles or so of Nashville)  Folks who carry our products in survival/prep stores, gun shops, and Army/Navy stores have seen close to 100% sellthrough with some excellent margins.

 

That’s all for now, thanks for stopping by!  As always, you can reach me at admin@discountmylarbags.com with any questions or comments!

30

05 2012

The Mother of Invention

After you have changed something in your life, whether a longtime habit, an ugly couch or a way of doing things, have you ever said ‘why on earth didn’t I do this sooner?’  When I worked in the corporate world, one of my duties was efficiency studies, where I would examine a process in an effort to find a way to improve it.  Often, I could evaluate an old process and find ways to cut the time necessary to perform it in half, and sometimes even eliminate it or fold it into something personnel were already doing.  I find myself a little red-faced, because while I regularly did that for my former company, it has taken me a long time to do it for my own.  Not only that, when I started prepping for this post (pardon the pun), I noticed that many areas of life, whether business related, personal, or among social groups (including Survival Club, our prep group), could use a good going-over to figure out where the inefficiencies are.

It used to be the most painful part of my job, though one of absolute necessity, was printing labels for our outgoing shipments.  We used Paypal for many of our labels, and the process was downright frustrating.  It would take over two minutes to process each.  Only 8 weeks ago, I spent over 3 hours a day to process labels, reprint labels I did wrong, or print labels for re-shipments.  I never stopped to think, until recently, what a huge burden that was…mainly because all the work was still getting done.  As we looked at moving to our warehouse and possibly hiring a full-time employee, it finally dawned that I needed to fix it.  What flipped the switch for me was the thought of an employee wasting as much time as I was doing essentially nothing (because the label printing process was more waiting for Paypal screens to load than actually doing anything).  After only a few hours of research, I was testing a couple of new pieces of software that would replace our entire label process.  We are using one of those today, and the process that once took hours now takes 20 minutes or less per day.  It does cost $100 per month, but with an estimated 90 hours of time saved, I would only have to be worth $1.10 an hour for us to break even, not even minimum wage, a feat I hope I can manage!  To be honest, most of those 90 hours are being spent with my wife, who had been living with me working 12-14 hours a day, 6-7 days a week for the past year or so.  My only regret, as I mentioned in the first paragraph, was not doing it sooner.  I can’t begin to explain what this one change has meant for my family life, my anxiety level, and my enjoyment of the business we have created.

A similar situation arose with our prep group recently.  We have been working (sort of) hard trying to finish up the water project I’ve mentioned a few times on the blog.  Until it is done, every monthly meeting is being spent on completing it.  One of our members pointed out that often, almost every meeting, we didn’t have all the fittings, tools, or parts we needed to do the day’s work, and we would have to send a member to the store.  Meanwhile, the rest of the group would sit around waiting at the bottom of the valley we are working in, often freezing our tails off.  Finally, recognizing this, we decided that the week prior to our meeting, we would have a brief email exchange regarding the goal for the weekend, and one person would be assigned to pick up whatever was needed.  For about 15 minutes of effort emailing, and another hour for someone to go to the store, we saved the entire group 10 man-hours worth of sitting around, for a savings of over 7 hours…not to mention the decreased frustration level.

While my wife and I haven’t decided yet if we’ll change anything, we have decided to expand this theme and examine our food, water, medical and other family preps, and I think for everyone it is a good idea to do the same every so often.  What worked for us 5 years ago when we started prepping might not work today, but we will never know it if we assume all is well and don’t take stock of our situation.  Those who have prepped for a modest period of time (2-4 years) probably have the most to gain from a prep-audit.  The knowledge base one has in that range is likely to have improved enormously with even a decent amount of planning and reading.  One big example for us was finding out my wife was gluten-intolerant…with us having stored 400 pounds of wheat!  Another was determining we didn’t really like the pinto beans we had stored.  For the first problem, we laid in a couple hundred pounds of gluten-free flour (which we use and rotate every 12 months or so), and for the other we switched the types of beans we had stored to ones we enjoyed more.  I’ve heard many people say that if a true long-term emergency did happen, ‘we’ll use it if we have to’.  While true, why set yourself up for a miserable dining experience on top of what would already be a stressful situation?  If we are spending all day clearing brush, pounding fence posts, or chopping wood, the last thing I want is to come in to a meal I won’t enjoy!

So if you find yourself thinking there is something in your life that just doesn’t work well, you’re probably right.  For me, preparedness has always been about making some modest changes to my life to put myself in a position to better handle any challenges that come my way, whether they are personal, business-related, financial or social.

 

 

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25

04 2012

Back to Basics – Prepping 1, 2, 3

When I started this blog, my intent was to give the very basics in terms of advice.  Meaning, exactly what should one do to prepare, and in what order.  Over the 2 years we’ve been here, I hope I’ve at least mostly done that.  Because we have had several thousand new folks stop by in the last couple of months, likely do to an increased awareness of preparedness (thanks to shows like Doomsday Preppers, Doomsday Bunkers and Independence, USA), I want to revisit these basics.

At the lowest level, a good preparedness plan includes both information and resources.  Information preparedness includes ‘what will me and my family do if there is X’, with X being whatever scenarios you consider important to prepare for.  So for example, if X = Tornado, then you and your family need to know how the weather service and your town will announce a Tornado Warning or Watch, the difference between the 2, and what you should do in the event of either.  These types of scenarios can be as few as you feel are probable in your area, such as:  Blizzard, Tornado, and Wildfire.  Or they can be as complex as some of the ‘Doomsday’ shows are highlighting, such as an EMP, Economic Collapse, Legions of the Undead, or Nuclear event.

Other items in the information category include a fire safety and evacuation plan for your home, knowing and securing your important documents, and a communication plan to ensure everyone knows how to get in touch.  Something simple like making a laminated list with every important phone number your family can have is something you could do in the next couple of days to increase your families level of preparedness.

When it comes to resources, I’ve stuck to 5 principal categories:

1:  Water

2:  Food

3:  Shelter

4:  Fire

5:  Light

Again, as this is more of a refresh, how much you keep in each category depends on what types of events you are preparing for.

For the first category, I recommend at the very least what FEMA does, which is at least one gallon of water per person, per day for at least 3 days.  So for a family of 4, you need at least 12 gallons of water on hand.  Preferably, you would have on hand as much water as you can reasonably store, plus the knowledge and ability to make more potable water, whether through boiling (pasteurization), filtration, or use of bleach (sodium hypochorlite/pool shock) or iodine.  Or, as many in the preparedness community, having all of the above available let’s you use whichever is most appropriate for your circumstance.  Having all of the above methods available is really not that expensive; however, make sure you use each method ahead of time to avoid confusion and stress in a time of need.  Sodium hypochorlite, for example, comes in several purities, and knowing how much to use is vitally important to prevent underutilizing, which can lead to drinking bad water, to overusing which can cause poisoning.

In the second category, food, I would also recommend at least 72 hours worth of food that can be eaten and enjoyed without cooking, whether that is MRE’s, canned meats and fruits, or something as simple as peanut butter and crackers.  There is a whole category of ‘survival food’ that can set you back a pretty penny, but if you are only looking to be able to survive a long weekend, avoid the expense and pick yourself up some cheap canned goods.  If you choose to move into medium and long term food storage (part of the reason many folks find their way to the blog), check this post first, as its been the most popular post on the blog since very early on.

In many (or most) cases #3 on the list, shelter, will simply be your own home.  Those events which displace us from our homes are also the most devastating.  There is an entire blogging industry dedicated to the ‘bug-out-bag’, so type it into Google and spend a week reading.  Any good car bag or 72-hour kit will have some sort of portable shelter, which can be as simple as a tarp, bivy sack, or tent.  Shelter can also be a friend, neighbor or family member who has agreed to take you in should something occur.  While we may assume our in-laws will be thrilled to have 4 additional family members in the house, it’s still a good idea to broach the subject of what would happen during a personal disaster so you know where you will and won’t be welcome.  To ease shelter concerns, also keep a few hundred dollars in cash on hand in your 72-hour kit or vehicle so you can potentially stay at a hotel temporarily as well.

Fire, as everyone from the caveman on can attest, is man’s most powerful discovery.  Knowing how to safely build, use, and put out a fire is a critical skill every man, woman and (depending on how early you teach your children things) child should know.  For those who think children shouldn’t know how to build a fire don’t understand that boys at least, will learn either the easy or hard way.=)  While a fire won’t come into play in every disaster scenario, knowing how to cook, boil water, and use one for warmth will be very handy during many.

Light is one of those items not found on every real prepper’s list.  However, from a well-being standpoint, I consider light crucial to maintaining some semblance of normalcy in otherwise stressful circumstances.  At our house, we have several on-demand light sources such as Mag-lites (and a box of D-batteries neatly stashed right next to the flashlight) and a hand-crank flashlight, as well as candles and several oil and propane lanterns/lamps.  You can pick up some nice oil lamps at many tag sales for a dollar or two, so never pay retail for one.  My wife had a run of about a half-dozen tag sales where she came back with over a dozen, several of which we ended up giving away!  With new LED technology, you can also get some great light sources now that use very little in terms of battery power.

While there is a ton more that goes into preparedness, from storing your irreplaceable documents to learning how to prepare for an extended event, having the above in place will give you something to build on.  Most importantly, it gives you something simple that you can (and should) DO RIGHT NOW.  Do not get stuck in ‘research paralysis’ land, which I have watched many people do.  In order to not do anything wrong, I’ve seen some folks not do anything at all, and that is a shame.  If you have this type of paralysis, many times it will go away as soon as you do something.  Pick up a couple of gallons of water, some long-lasting food, a good flashlight, and some cool stormproof matches tomorrow, and realize that preparedness is just another part of life, like going to the gym, paying your bills, and going to school.  If you don’t over-complicate it, you might even enjoy it!

Good luck y’all!

23

03 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

Comprehensive Long Term Water Storage Plan Part 1

Imagine a worst case scenario, something you would read in a Michael Crichton novel.  After coming out of a period of minimal solar activity, the sun erupts with a solar flare of unimaginable magnitude.  From this flare comes a silent, invisible Super-storm, called a Coronal Mass Ejection.  This CME speeds towards the earth at over 500,000 miles per hour and washes across the earth’s magnetic field a mere 18 hours later.  50% of the satellites in orbit, those not protected by the body of the earth, shudder with the geomagnetic storm and then go silent, disrupting cell phone traffic across the globe end rendering much of the GPS network inoperable.  On earth, the storm causes Aurora, much like the Northern Lights, that are visible as far south as San Juan.  Energy is almost visible to the human eye as the atmosphere literally hums with the power.  As the pulse touches down on the world’s electrical grids, no one can imagine the speed at which our fragile wire-based infrastructure collapses…a massive chain of transformer and power station explosions rock the country.  The energy companies tell us it will take 20 years to restore power to 90% of the planet, due to the complexity and lack of capacity to build new transformers, if the parts can even be fabricated in our sudden electricity-less world.

Geomagnetic Storm Headed Toward Earth

Of course this scenario is unlikely, farcical even…or is it?  The exact event I described, minus the effects on our current world, occurred in 1859, and is called the Carrington Event.

On September 1–2, 1859, the largest recorded geomagnetic storm occurred. Aurorae were seen around the world, most notably over the Caribbean; also noteworthy were those over the Rocky Mountains that were so bright that their glow awoke gold miners, who began preparing breakfast because they thought it was morning.[4]

Telegraph systems all over Europe and North America failed in some cases even shocking telegraph operators.[5] Telegraph pylons threw sparks and telegraph paper spontaneously caught fire.[6] Some telegraph systems appeared to continue to send and receive messages despite having been disconnected from their power supplies.[7]

While I preach that our preps should be based real-world likelihoods, the fragility of our electrical grid would make a storm of similar magnitude to what occurred in 1859 a catastrophe of Biblical proportions.  Most areas of the world in the 1800’s knew at least something about food production, carpentry, cobbling, coopering and a hundred other skills that we have lost in our specialized societies.  While specialization has led to booming living standards, it comes at a cost…brittleness.  Meaning, if everyone knows how to farm, the loss of any particular farming area or piece of equipment, while tragic, would likely be insignificant to the world’s food supply.  However, imagine that our entire method of farming, from industrial fertilization to high-capacity farm machinery, is rendered a total loss to the collapse of our electrical infrastructure.  That is another story entirely, and would require the remaking of our world.

Most here by now know I’m not a fatalist.  I prepare for things like tornadoes, job losses, and floods, not for EMP’s, nuclear war, or Zombies.  However, there is always a little tickle at the back of my skull that whispers of my lack of preparation in one particular area:  water, and what would occur if something truly monumental occurred.   You all know the deal with what I consider the 5 musts of preparedness:  Water, Food, Shelter, Fire, Light.

However, while I’ve harped to my preparedness group (I affectionately call it SurvivalClub) for over a year about our lack of water preps, they are woefully inadequate.  We have over 10 person-years of food stored, multiple locations we could head to for shelter (plus a dozen tents and tarps), 50 ways to make fire, probably 500 flashlights, candles, lanterns, torches, flares, glowsticks and headlamps.  All that, and we have less than 10 days worth of stored water, and very little planned in ways to get more.   Sure, we have water filters, ways to boil water, iodine, bleach, pool shock and several other ways to make water pure.  However, unlike the other areas, we don’t have a real plan.

So, having gotten tired of listening to me, our group has finally taken the first concrete steps toward a real water solution.  We came up with the SWP, the Survivalclub Water Plan.  The plan had several requirements:  it needed to work without electricity, had to be able to support 20+ people, and had to run with a minimum of moving parts that could break or wear down.  I don’t remember which of us actually first read about a ram-pump, but when we all saw it, we knew that was the solution we were looking for.

Tomorrow, we’ll discuss the ram-pump, how it works, and the components of our complete system.

15

07 2011