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Archive for the ‘Updates’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

Quick Bits

Hey, just a couple of quick notes.  I had quite a few folks drop a note about my reference to potentially outsourcing the blog.  Since everyone thinks that is a universally bad idea, even if I am pretty sporadic, I’ve decided that option is off the table!  I’ll just have to invent a time dilation device that allows me to fit 30 hours into a day!=)

2nd, a new survival forum is running a little contest and decided to give away a small kit from the store at Discount Mylar Bags.  To help out, I’ve decided to toss in 4 free 50′ lengths of paracord as well.  All you have to do is go to PrepperLog and sign up and at the end of the week all new members will be entered into a drawing for the prize.  (The fine print: I am not any way affiliated with PrepperLog.)

Finally, while I hope I am not being over-dramatic, I just wanted to mention that with sales being way up across the industry (we’ve more than doubled our shipments since mid-January), supplies are tightening up and there has been some price inflation.  Last March/April there was a pretty big shortage of all sizes of oxygen absorbers in general and several sizes and types of foil bags.  If this spike rides into the spring and we have a double-bump, things could become pretty scarce.  I’m putting in double and triple orders with our manufacturers and suppliers to ensure we’re as stocked as possible, so hopefully all of this will be invisible to y’all.  (I will admit that as of this second, I am not satisfied with our inventory position and you may see some sporadic out-of-stocks, but I am working overtime trying to remedy that.) However, if you are counting on putting up some food shortly, you should probably get your supplies earlier than later, whether you shop with us or with any of the other good vendors in our industry.

Keep prepping y’all, thanks!

27

02 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

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

Winter Updates – Christmas Edition

Hey y’all, long time I know!  It’s been very busy here in AdviceLand, and I thank you for that.   Here are our updates for December!  We’re excited to bring you some new products and to help out our International customers!

  • We now have 2 new bags in the store.  We’ve had lots of requests for alternate size and style Zip Seal Bags, so we produced 2 new ones.  The first is a 10″x16″ Tamper Evident Zip seal, and the 2nd is a 4″x4″ Tamper Evident Zip Seal.  They are both a solid 5 mils thick.  ‘Tamper Evident’ means they are pre-sealed on the Zip side, with an open bottom.  This allows storage of your food, with the added protection of a Zip Seal once you’ve opened it.
  • For a limited time and in limited quantities, we will have a little ‘Survival Stocking’ available at the store.  It contains a selection of cool stuff for the survivalist on your list, pre-packed in a little red stocking!  It’s also a also a deal for all the stuff in contains, as we’ve set it at a flat $20.
  • I’ve started putting up ‘International Flat Rate Kits’.  We get a lot of email from folks in other countries wondering if we will ship to them (we will!).  To make it easy, we’ll be putting together our standard kits, but including the shipping in the price.  For example, a Large Bag Kit of 10 5 gallon bags and 10 2000cc oxygen absorbers will be a flat $40 to anywhere in the world.  From what I’ve seen, we will be able to offer better pricing than almost any foreign-based Preparedness Store, although admittedly it usually takes 10-15 days for your parcel to arrive.
  • Have a great Christmas (or Hanukkah!) everyone!  If there is anything I can do for you now or if you have suggestions for items or services we could offer in the new year, please let me know at admin@discountmylarbags.com!
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02

12 2011