Monday, June 22, 2009

Getting Started

Let's say you want to stockpile enough food to sustain your family for six months. Coming up with the list and figuring out how to store the stuff might be the easy part. The real challenge might be in organizing your storage so you know at a glance what items you have plenty of and what items might be need to start replenishing. Utilizing your stores in an organized and efficient manner so you don't waste food is important. But you also don't want to end up with no real variety at some point. So stockpiling is step one, rotating your stockpile is step two.

For step one, you need to start with a list. I found the list I started with on a website called After much tweaking to make it fit my family in both quantities and food preferences, it doesn't resemble the list I started with all that much. But the list I started with made me think of categories and subcategories I had never considered such as home-canned meat. Canning cooked ground beef or my own chili had never occurred to me, but why not? Every family is unique, every individual is unique, so tweak the list to fit your family's taste and preferences.

We are blessed to live in a rural setting with ample space to set up storage. A small upright freezer is on my wish list (hint, hint, yeoldfurt!) even though I know in the worst of times, there won't be any electricity to run it. But until times get that bad, I would like the option of frozen versus canned for my meat and vegetables. We have a well-insulated, air conditioned shed with a slab floor that I plan to use for storage. From the outside, it looks like a pole barn. But inside, it's subdivided into three approximately 10x10 rooms and one approximately 10x20 room. One of the 10x10 rooms is a step-down with a 2-foot deep shelf approximately 4 feet off the ground on three of the walls. That will be my store room. The doorway into the step-down room is adequate for a walk-through but I don't want to try and wrestle a freezer through it and down the step the freezer, when I get it, will be just inside the door of the shed and just outside the step-down. Should be convenient for access whether I'm putting stuff in the freezer or taking it out.

Heavier bulk items such as the 2-liter bottles of flour, sugar, beans, rice, etc. will be stored in plastic crates on the floor. I am a bug-aphobe, so the plastic within plastic concept appeals to me. I have yet to collect enough 2-liter containers to be able to experiment, but I believe one deep plastic crate would hold at least 12-15 2-liter bottles. I would have one crate for flour, one for sugar, one for rice, etc. Heavier prepackaged items such as canned goods (store-bought or home-canned) would be stored on the main shelf where they would be easy to sort through to find what you want. Eventually, I want to build some additional shelving above the existing 2-foot deep shelf in the step-down room. The new shelving will only be 1-foot deep and will be for things I don't need that often but don't weigh much such as spices, condiments, foil, plastic wrap and baggies.

This brings me to the second item on my Wish List ...a vacuum seal system! I just think that's the neatest invention since sliced bread. I can think of all kinds of uses that don't even involve food. Since no oxygen means no rust, you can oil and seal a pistol and store it worry free for a very long time. I think it would also work for polished silver. Those of us who still have silver and silver-plate settings for our good dishes know what a chore it is to clean and polish all of that flatware before a big holiday dinner. When I was first out on my own, my mother told me to clean the pieces AFTER the big dinner, then wrap them in plastic wrap and they would barely barely be tarnished a year later. She was right mostly, but there was always a little tarnish the next year. Then circumstances were such that I went five long years without using the good silver was definitely tarnished. So I was reading up on vacuum sealers for food and thought why not for silver? You clean it, you polish it, you make sure it is completely dry and then seal it up. Having nice shiny silver to set the table for a holiday meal might seem off-subject in a blog about surviving a disaster ...but, again, it's thoughts like these that differentiate between men and women. Even if things went from bad to worse and we were actually in survival mode, living off of our stockpiles ...women need to feel like there is a brighter tomorrow. Knowing their good silver, maybe their grandmother's good silver is safely stored against the ravages of time would be source of encouragement through the hard times.

Once my storage area is arranged and fully stocked, it will be an ongoing project to keep it organized and rotated. I'm still mulling this one over. The 1-liter and 2-liter bottles of whatever will be labeled with what's in them, but I'm also thinking I should label them with the date they are stored, at least the month and year. My grandmothers used to label their home-canned goods that way and now I see the wisdom. I'm also thinking of a sort of reverse inventory on paper. Not necessarily a complete list of what is in the store room to begin with, but a running list of what I take out. Whatever I remove from the storeroom would be written down when I get back to the house. I would transfer the information to a spreadsheet but keep the hard copy as well. Having the list on a spreadsheet will allow me to sort and search and I like that. As long as I have a computer, I will use a computer but I will keep the hard copy as well, just in case.

These are just ideas right now. We have about two months worth of food stockpiled now, but it's far from organized and the idea to use the step-down room in the shed only occurred to me a few days ago. So I have some major shuffling to do to get the room ready. But it feels good to have a plan.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Finding My Way

I'm new to this 'prepping' thing and I'm really trying, so bear with me. My husband dove in head first a few months ago and I hope he would say I've been supportive ...though reluctantly at times on some issues. Stockpiling food and essentials is not a foreign concept to me and I've been an avid believer in the concept at different stages in my adult life. But when I have stockpiled in the past, it was because I was feeding four generations in one household on a meager income. I bought in bulk, grew a lot of what we ate and had a job and a work schedule that accommodated canning and freezing the bounty a couple of times a year. When all this started for us recently, the timing was not so good for us financially.

My husband has been working contract for almost ten years. When the work is there, he earns three times what I do at my state job but there are always some dry spells between contracts. Work generally dries up with no warning at all and we never know if it will be two weeks, two months or a year before the next contract comes along. We adjusted well, living within our means, carrying NO DEBT other than our mortgage and saving for the inevitable dry spells. When he's been working for a month or two and savings is on target, we tend to relax and have a little more fun. But when the dry spells come along, we downshift immediately and become frugal fanatics.

We have a great lifestyle though, a little place in the country with a garden, a few chickens and half a dozen horses right out the back door. There are always projects to be tended to on a place like this for a little while, no work is a welcome break for my husband ...a time when he can catch up on things he's wanted to do, whether maintenance or repair, but not had the time for because of work obligations. But after two months, he tends to get antsy. He's at the antsy stage now so I'm hoping for a new contract to pop for him pretty soon.

In the meantime, we have about two months worth of staples already stashed, including dried beans, rice, spices, canned goods and toiletries. I know we need to have more than two months worth, but it's hard to buy EXTRA groceries when you are trying to be frugal with the monthly budget. So I'm trying to buy smarter.

I found a website this morning that described using 2-liter soft drink bottles as long term storage containers for dry goods such as flour, salt, sugar, etc. I thought 'what a good idea!' So this morning when I stopped at Wal-Mart for my weekly 12-pack of generic Diet Cola (my one vice in life), I compared prices with the 2-liter packaged product. It's the same product but quite a bit less expensive. The 12-pack box of 12-ounce cans costs $2.50 and is equivalent in fluid ounces to two of the 2-liter bottles. But the 2-liter bottles are only 78 cents each ...$1.56 versus $2.50 for the same amount of product. Saving a mere $1.44 per week won't make us rich or ease the crunch much, but I have the added bonus of being able to USE the two liter bottles for my long-term storage goals. Finally, I feel like I'M contributing to our common goal of preparedness.

The website suggested you rinse the bottles thoroughly with hot water, then air dry for several days to make sure NO MOISTURE remains. Use a funnel to put your product into the bottles and use a permanent marker to label the outside. According to the website, flour and salt and sugar will last for years stored this way. I'm eager to find out.

As I said, I am new to prepping and I do want to be PREPARED for hard times ahead. My challenge is to support my husband's goals and ideals about prepping without sacrificing my own principles for life. I'm so grateful to have a husband who is both knowledgeable and capable of fending for us in whatever way is necessary if things get really bad. But, as a woman and a wife and a mother, I also feel that if these are truly the last of the 'good old days' ...the ones our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will never know for themselves, I don't want to squander what we have left of them. If life, our civilization, our country and our freedoms, are going out the window as fast as everyone says, I want to embrace every day we have left. In our culture, in most cultures, men are the providers but women are the nurturers. Men make provision, women make HOMES. I want to make time every day to enjoy the little things because it takes more than food and water and shelter to make a woman feel like she's survived.