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Posts Tagged ‘Oxygen Absorbers’

The Lessons of Pack Expo 2011

The trip to Pack Expo last week was amazing!  I walked over 10 miles during my time there, and said hello at at least 200 booths.  I came back with over 20 new potential vendors, a brand new vacuum sealer, and a huge amount of knowledge.  (Even if the knowledge is something simple like knowing better how to find an answer to a question) It is sometimes daunting, especially when we think we know something well, to admit that we don’t know what we don’t know.  That is a little how I felt when presented with 25,000 exhibitors, thousands of vendors, and hundreds of pieces of equipment I’ve never seen before.

The food storage/preparedness niche is a very small subset of the packaging industry, and I may well have been one of the 10 smallest business owners there.  While I have always tried to be educated about the products we offer and unlike many we do regular testing of our products in-house, (as well as regularly use the products ourselves), it is now very obvious that many of the sellers in the niche are under-informed about what they are selling.  For example, a new eBay seller who has shown up recently has a great listing presence.  Meaning, his listings look great and ‘professional’.  However, upon further examination and Googling, I noticed that he also has great listing presence for a multi-level marketing scheme, a cure-all liquid remedy, a no-money down real estate course, among other products and services.  I’ll admit it’s a little frustrating knowing that he really has very little understanding of the food storage process, but has set up shop with some information from the LDS website and tries to portray himself as the most knowledgeable seller in the niche.

I always remind myself that this is the day-to-day of running a business, so instead of worrying about what someone else is doing, I will focus on what I need to do.

So what is that?

1.  I will continue to make Advice and Beans/Discount Mylar Bags the go-to source for accurate information on food storage products and processes.  This means that like teachers and CPA’s and other industry professionals, we will adopt a policy of ongoing education.  There are several industry groups and trade associations I found at Pack Expo whose only focus is to provide non-biased, factual information about packaging, packaging best practices, manufacturing processes and dozens of other related topics.  I will work with the goal of gaining whatever industry certifications are appropriate for our business.  I don’t want to just know more than our competitors, I want to know as much or more than the experts in the industry, and I commit to my customers that I will achieve that.

2.  We will begin industry-standard testing of our products, and eventually will purchase our own testing equipment.  While we have the results of our our manufacturers’ MOCON testing for all our Mylar Bags, and we test our oxygen absorbers in-house, we are committed to random-sample testing of our entire product line, with proper record-keeping of the results.  This will ensure that whenever we provide an answer to a customer question, we have the best information available.

3.  We will begin to collate a database of all public-record studies of long-term food storage results and to have that information available for our customers.  While there is a lot of information available on the Internet and elsewhere, sometimes these studies are a little hard to find.  As I often get questions about ‘how long will this or that item store’, I would like to be able to offer referable information (assuming it is available) instead of generalizations.

4.  We will begin to add more questions and answers to our FAQ.  While I have done my best to answer the most common questions, it needs to be more in-depth and answer some of the questions customers might not even know to ask (including some I found myself at the show).  For example, why is LLDPE a better barrier layer than OPP?  What is the real difference between a 4 mil bag and a 7mil bag (you might be surprised at the answer)?  And many others.

Maybe it’s a little overkill, but as they say about small businesses, if you are not moving forward you are falling behind.  Our customers deserve to have as much information at their fingertips as I can possibly give.

As always, if there is something you think we need to do, a product line we need to carry, or general comments, good or bad, please drop me a line at admin@adviceandbeans.com.  I look forward to our next milestone, our 2nd year anniversary in April 2012!

02

10 2011

Medium Term Food Storage Plan

The Advice and Beans Food Storage Plan

First, let me state up front, I’m not claiming any of this as my personal inspiration.  In fact, this plan takes bits and pieces from several sources, including the LDS, James Wesley, Rawlesand my mother’s common sense. You might also find it odd that I sell long-term storage products (oxygen absorbers and Mylar bags), and yet I’m not going to push the ‘buckets and beans’ approach to food storage.

That’s because while I think rice and beans have their place in a looooong-term storage plan, such as if you decide to store 1-2 years of food or more, for any plan 6-months or less, it’s only honest to admit you can probably store your everyday eats and be just fine. That doesn’t mean you should store just your regular diet, but it will most likely make up the bulk of your storage.

So what’s the plan?

1) Plan first, store later.

If you read my post from Monday, you know that I made some horrid early food storage mistakes. These stemmed mainly from a lack of planning. As you read through the whole plan, think about what your most common meals are. For me, breakfast is the same 5 days a week, a bowl of Special K and some Apple Juice. Dinner is pasta, chicken, or meat and potatoes at least 5 times a week as well. Thus, when we shop, we pay special attention to finding good deals on those foods.

Next, thing about how you are going to organize your food. If you buy in bulk like I did, you can rapidly fill up some shelves! (We’re at 4 and counting)

2)  Have something available to eat…right now.

It is incredibly important to have a certain amount of ‘portable and painless’ food in your plan. Emergencies and disasters can be exhausting, and having to think about cooking right at the beginning is just one more unnecessary burden.

My wife and I meet this in a couple of ways.  First, have a couple of cases of MRE’s. These are not the C-Rations your dad or grandad told you about that they ate in the military. While they are not gourmet, I rather enjoy most MRE’s. If someone is picky about hot food, make sure you get the one’s with heaters, as they are only a tad more expensive.

I also now store food I can readily cook with my Jetboil Camping Stove. Things such as Progresso soup, cocoa and coffee.

Finally, we always have on hand, sealed in plastic totes, various snack packs, Oreo’s, ritz crackers, and peanut butter. Again, nothing is gourmet and we wouldn’t want to live on it long-term, but we have a variety of filling, family-friendly food.

These types of foods provide plenty of nutrition and calories for a short-term emergency up to perhaps a 7-day power outage. The MRE’s are also convenient if you have to send someone out for some reason, as they are self-contained and have a high calories count. (Typically 1500-2000 for civilian MRE’s)

Some other foods that you could store for this purpose, but that we don’t (in quantity at least) are Slim Jim’s Mean and Cheese packs (an easy 200 calories that doesn’t taste horrible and is not just meat), power bars (these need to be rotated faster than you might think though), and dry soups such as Cup-a-Noodle (assuming you also store a method to boil water if the power is out)

2) Don’t switch your diet if you don’t want to.

While my wife and I now rather enjoy cooking with our ‘beans (and wheat, and oats) and rice’, after doing an examination of expiration dates, I’ve come to the conclusion we didn’t have to.

By checking expiration dates, you will know how much of a given food you could store without worrying about any of it going bad.  For example, if you eat 6 cans of green beans and canned corn per week, and the average expiration date is 2 years away, you could store 600 cans of green beans and canned corn and never worry about it going bad! Next, take a look at your peanut butter. I eat the Smucker’s Natural Peanut Butter and it has a relatively short shelf life, around 6 months. I eat about 1 can per month. In my basement, I have 6 cans stored. However, my wife eats regular Jif, which has almost a 2 year shelf life, so we store more of hers than mine.

If you do this for every food that is in your pantry, you will find that you can keep larger stocks of 70-80% of your regularly groceries and avoid some of the hassles associated with ultra-long term food storage. Obviously the one challenge is perishables. For me, that means I also store dry milk, a grain grinder so we can make flour if we need to (whole wheat is much better for you anyway!) to bake bread, and sufficient water to cook with.

3) Make sure you rotate.

Our food storage set-up makes it very easy to rotate our foods. When I need peanut butter, I just go downstairs and get it. When I come in from the grocery store, it is right next to our food storage racks. I simply drop off all my food storage food and take the rest of the perishables upstairs. Usually it sits on the floor til the weekend when my wife or I go down to properly organize it.

Some folks might not have such an easy set-up, but in order to not waste food, some method should be established where you are always eating the oldest.

4) Buy some of each.

Don’t do what I did, and make sure if you decide on a 6-month food storage plan, you don’t buy just 6 months of green beans on one grocery run, 6 months of peanut butter the next, etc. That is a surefire way to make sure you only have half-a-pantry when something bad does happen. 

5) Buy in bulk and on sale.

While this might sound like it contradicts point #4, it doesn’t really.  This rule really took effect for us after we had a good base of food storage.  Once we were in a position where we didn’t go to the grocery store every week, when we do go to the store, we are now much more able to focus on items that are on sale. 

However, even earlier on if you see a great deal on one particular item and you have the cash to purchase it, don’t hesitate.  For example, I was in Walmart last week and I saw Apple Juice 96oz containers on sale for $1.50 (regularly $2.06).  While many people might walk out with 1 and save themselves $.56, I know I will drink it and thus bought 10 and saved $5.60.  Sure, it takes up some space, but we’re set up to do it and I’d rather not go back 2 weeks later and find that the price is now $2.25!  Also, at $15 it is definitely a good portion of my allotted food storage money, but not enough that I didn’t also pick up some extra canned peaches (also on sale).

At your regular grocery stores, find out where and when the deals are.  For example, I religiously check Publix’s buy-one-get-one page.  If you have access to a Costco or Sam’s Club, take advantage of both buying in volume and at lower prices.  Aldi’s, Dollar General, and Sav-a-Lot are also local venues where we find great prices.

6)  Include something sweet.

This is a must!  Chocolate chip cookies, Thin Mints, or some M&M’s all store well enough in cool environments to last a minimum 3-6 months.  Both adults and kids need some normalcy during an emergency, and something sweet definitely fits the bill.  For something that lasts a little longer, consider jello (if you know you’ll be able to make it) or hot cocoa.

Other Resources

If you are interested in much more detailed information on long-term food storage, I really like the ladies from Food Storage Made Easy.  I only wish the site wasn’t quite so girly (Mostly kidding)!  And I especially find it interesting considering of all the food storers’ I know, well more than half are guys.  I’m going to add them to the links page tomorrow, so don’t worry if you don’t go visit them today.

A special note, for those without a lot of space, start with their great article on small spaces food organizing.

27

05 2010