Posts Tagged ‘Supplies’

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!


01 2012

Sales Tax Holiday on Preparedness Items in Virginia and LA

Food Storage 101 – Our Early Mistakes

As we had a number of water-related posts during the flooding in Nashville, this week we will be doing a full run of food-storage related posts.  As we’ve stated on this blog before, all supply storage is simply a bridge to help us to get from the beginning of an emergency to the end.  It doesn’t replace developing a mindset (fortitude) that allows us to be a rock for our family when they need us most, nor the skills that might be able to provide for us long term (gardening, cooking, splitting firewood, fishing, hunting, etc).

Let’s talk food storage

Whether you have relatively little room in your home to store extra food and toiletries or enough space to put away several years worth of vittles and toothpaste, there are a number of reasons to store food.  In today’s economic climate, the potential for losing one’s job would be at the top of my list of reasons to start a program.  Imagine knowing that if you lost your job, you wouldn’t have to buy, or would only have to buy a limited amount of, food for a month, 6 months or a year.  A good food storage program provides peace of mind.

However, it’s not going to happen by magic, and there are quite a few potential pitfalls.  My families ‘road to food storage’ included more than a few mistakes that I will share in the hope that yours will be more fruitful, and quicker than ours was.  Before I move on to the Advice and Beans Food Storage Plan in Wednesday’s post, I’ll list some of the things we did wrong.

My biggest Oopses

Error 1)  I first stored one thing, rice, in large quantities.  Don’t!  While I was at least doing something, I hadn’t really developed a plan.  Rice requires a lot of water to cook, and in an emergency situation, water might be hard to come by.  By extension, boiling water requires a lot of energy…and fuel might be just as challenging to come by if the power is out, as I don’t have a generator or wood stove.  Finally, while I like rice, I don’t like just rice…appetite fatigue would strike on a diet of just one item within a matter of a week or two.  Plus, while rice would provide the calories my family needs to survive, it wouldn’t contain many of the essential vitamins and minerals as well.

Error 2)  I can be a bit thick-headed at times, so I doubled up on the rice-buying error by then buying 100 pounds of white wheat (But it was a steal at around $10 for high-quality wheat!).  When I bought it, I had no idea what to actually do with it.  I didn’t have a way to grind it into flour to make bread or cookies with it.  I didn’t know how I was going to store it.  Heck, I didn’t even know if I liked it.  Since then I have come to appreciate our supplies of wheat. However when first starting out, do not buy things you are not sure you will, or can, use!

3rd error)  Not eating from our food storage.  I eventually thought I had things squared away…I stored more water for our rice.  I had a fuel plan.  I had stored a larger variety of food…red wheat, white wheat, oats, flour, beans, sugar, salt.  Notice a pattern yet?  I didn’t have anything to actually eat without effort.  Everything would need to be prepared, but because I didn’t eat from my food storage I didn’t realize it.  One of the main components of any good food storage plan is:  Make sure you have something you can eat right now!

So now you know our dirty little secrets, and they were some big ones!  No one just wakes up one day knowing how to store food in the perfect manner for their family.  However, what is one of the tenets here at Advice and Beans?  Persistence.  I had a goal, and I was going to move toward that goal until I got there.

Through a number of resources, such as an LDS friend at work who also stores food, as well as reading some James Wesley, Rawles, I eventually came to the obvious solution, and one that I had read about a long time prior, but had not internalized:  Store what you eat, eat what you store.

Yes, I had a ‘well, duh’ moment. 

At that point, for the first time, I actually developed a plan.  So don’t do what I did and follow this advice:  Plan first, buy later.  Know what you are trying to accomplish, and only purchase items that meet those objectives.  If your house’s power goes out every time a gentle breeze blows, buy more food that you can eat without cooking it.  If water is going to be a potential challenge, pasta and rice should not make up a huge portion of your food storage.  No one’s food storage plan is going to be exactly the same as everyone else’s.  Your plan needs to be adaptable, flexible, and maintainable.

Wednesday I will lay out a simple, comprehensive framework for a food storage program that you can then adapt to your needs, whether you decide to keep a 2-week or 2-year supply on hand.


05 2010

Foundational Element 3 – Supplies

When it comes to preparing, supplies are the first thing people think of.  Many folks imagine wild-eyed survivalists in camo with a stash of MRE’s and canned goods surrounded by a pile of ammunition.  In general, it is also one of the first things a new prepper focuses on.  While I absolutely believe a prepper should spend as much or more time on learning new skills and developing their fortitude as they do buying and storing supplies, supplies definitely have their place.

So what is that place?

While there are a million things you can acquire, all supplies have one thing in common:  they buy you time for life to return to normal.  They allow you to take care of yourself and your family for a period of time when you might not be able to get to the store due to a hurricane or ice storm.  Jumper cables allow you to get your car running until you can replace your alternator or battery.  Flashlights and candles allow you to wait out the power outage in relative comfort.

To examine the concept in another way, I think about one of my mentors, a 20-year Army Special Forces veteran (Green Beret).  While he might have supplies stored, he needs fewer, because he has skills that allow him to gather the things he needs to survive on his own.  For example, while I may store 50 gallons of water, he stores only 5, because he knows 10 ways to readily access clean drinking water.  Having more gallons on hand gives me a time cushion for the situation to return to normal or to allow me to find more.

So what should I store?

As supplies are essentially there to buy time, I recommend preparing your supplies in time increments.  For example, your first goal should be to have 3 days worth of supplies for you and your family.  Then you can shoot for 7 days, then 30 days, until you have what you feel comfortable with.  Don’t fall into the trap some do, which is focusing on getting a year’s worth of one supply, but none of another! 

For example, let’s take a look at one of my earlier failures.  One of my first supply purchases was 6 months worth of rice.  While that might sound ok, I now realize how foolish I was in that purchase.  First, I never once thought about how I would cook my rice if I ever needed it.  Second, I never thought about where I would acquire the water I needed to cook my rice.  Third, I never thought about the fact that 6 months of eating nothing but rice would likely lead to rice poisoning.  Just kidding!  But it would lead to appetite fatigue, and I would likely never want to eat rice for the rest of my life.  Fourth, while nothing but rice might supply my caloric needs, it wouldn’t supply the complete array of vitamins and minerals the human body needs to function at its best.

Seeing my failure, it is obvious it is better to store what one needs incrementally (meaning, store 3 days worth of each of the 6 categories, then 7 days, then 30 days, etc).  In order of importance, this is how I recommend you gather your supplies:

  1. Water – Water is essential, for drinking, sanitation, cooking, and survival.  A bare minimum would be to store 1 gallon per person, per day.  So if you have 4 in your family, and you wanted to prepare for a 3-day event, you would need 12 gallons of water.  As water is bulky, and can go bad, we’ll explore strategies for the higher quantities needed for longer events (2 weeks or more) in future posts
  2. Food – Food is also essential.  Although the human body can survive far longer without food than water, it’s not fun being hungry, and people are not as effective.  There are a number of ways to determine the appropriate quantity.  For example, I use a base of 2500 calories per person, per day.  While not exact, that could also equate to 2-3 pounds of food per person per day.  If you are really organized, you could also plan meals just like you normally would, such as 3 meals and 2 snacks per person per day.  We’ll spend quite a bit of time discussing storing food in future posts, as a good food storage program can save you quite a bit of money as well as being great in a time of need.  I also include a good multi-vitamin under food.
  3. Light – I’m sure some hard-core preppers or survivalists would take exception to me breaking light out   separately and putting it ahead of some other things.  However, I believe light is essential in maintaining a positive attitude, especially if you have children.  I also place it high because for a minimal expenditure you can supply your light needs for at least 30 days.
  4. Shelter/Warmth – Losing a home is one of the worst imaginable experiences.  Making plans for an emergency involving both staying at home and leaving your home (or being away from home) is vitally important.  I also include the ability to start a fire here, as well as making sure you have sufficient ways to keep warm, such as emergency or regular blankets, sleeping bags, and tarps or tents.
  5. First Aid – Every home should have a solid first aid kit and as long of your standard prescriptions as you can manage.  Optional but great to have items also include SAM Splint and Celox or other clotting agent..
  6. Toiletries/Sanitation – These items can be easy to forget.  Don’t!  Hand sanitizer, toilet paper, toothbrushes and toothpaste, feminine hygeine items, soap and shampoo are all toiletries and sanitation items you should have on hand.  Like having sufficient light, being clean provides a morale boost in a bad situation, especially among teenagers.  (Mom, what do you mean I can’t wash my hair?)
  7. Entertainment/Other – Have a deck of cards, a checker board or Monopoly game, and some books available.  Keep some toys handy for small children.  Some emergencies specialize in boredom (the calm before the storm, waiting for someone to plow the roads and the like), so be prepared to combat it!

Remember, supplies are time.  And the more supplies you have, the more time you will be able to go before an emergency turns into a crisis.


05 2010