Sunday, November 18, 2012

How to Keep Warm

In the house we used to live in, there was a doorway between the kitchen and the living room where I hung a piece of muslin as a temporary 'door'. Believe it or not, that piece of fabric kept the main part of the house at least five degrees warmer.  All it took was stopping the flow of air - the mini 'air chill factor' to keep the house from feeling like a freezer.

So how do you zone a house, or create a warm room?  First of all, you want a room that has the following characteristics:  a window, carpeting (an accent rug that covers a good amount of space is fine), a door you can close, and proximity to both kitchen and bathroom.

You want the window for light and ventilation; the carpeting because a bare floor can feel very cold; the door because it helps keep the warmth in, and the location - well, you won't be heating the kitchen unless your kitchen is the warm room, so you might as well pick a room that isn't at the opposite end or a different floor unless you have to.

If you have one, you can put up a tent in the room.  Sleeping bags will keep you warm, especially if you take blankets off your bed and put them underneath and over the top of the sleeping bags.  If you don't have a tent, you can use a warm blanket like a Snuggie and wrap it around you, making sure to add a warm hat to your ensemble. 

Cover any heating ducts; they are pathways for cold air as well as hot.  If you need to, create a draft dodger for the bottom of the door from a rolled up bath towel.

You can use a Mr. Heater for warmth (best not to use continuously, just to take the chill off every once in a while), or just rely on your body heat.  If the latter, make sure you have the means of heating water for soup or other warm drinks/food. 

You will be going in and out periodically to the kitchen and bathroom, so air exchange shouldn't be a problem.  If it starts feeling stuffy, open the window or door briefly for some fresh air.

If you need to hang something over an opening, try to pick something with a fairly dense weave, like a cotton sheet.  It doesn't have to be thick, just densely woven.

Gather items to keep yourself entertained, keep your cell phone handy, and don't forget to keep hydrated, and you should be good to go!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

How to Start Prepping, Part 3: Food Storage Tips

I’ve seen people post things online saying ‘OMG, where am I going to put this stuff???’ with regard to stocking up, and I guess they think they are going to have to set aside a ton of room for food storage and supplies.  I don’t think it’s impossible in an apartment; it’s actually more crucial in an apartment to have supplies for emergencies. 

Why?  Because electricity, gas and water are so much more likely to be cut off in an apartment.

So…storage tips.  First of all, Google ‘where to put food storage’ and see what pops up.  There are a lot of suggestions out there to tell you where to put it. 

Second, first in, first out.  Rotate your food storage supplies (and anything else that has a shelf life).  Do look for items with the farthest expiration date, unless you have alternate storage methods like freezing ‘manager’s special’ meat that is on sale because it’s near the pull date, and make sure your ‘alternate storage’ (freezer) has a backup power source. 

Don’t get lazy and put new in front of old.  If you purchased three cans of beans just a couple of weeks ago and some more today, no problem.  If you have year old beans in back of brand new beans, problem. 

If you have shelves of canned goods, jars, etc., pieces of cardboard between a stack of X and a stack of Y help keep the stacks in place and upright; a lot of cans have bottoms made to stack, but some don’t (you know the difference when you stack them).  Also, pieces of cardboard between layers of cans are great for those cans that don’t have stackable bottoms, or for a layer of X with a layer of Y on top.

Make sure you have a spare flashlight where your food storage is.  With batteries.  Fresh batteries.  Dedicate that flashlight to that space and leave it there.

Make sure that an earthquake or a tree falling on your house won’t cause things to fall off your food storage shelves.  That includes making sure that glass jars won’t bang together.

Have can openers that are easy to use in with your food supplies, as well as outside of your food supplies, like in the kitchen drawer and in the camping gear.  Try them out first so you know you will be able to open cans with them easily and quickly.

Put the taller things at the back.  I know this is common sense, but sometimes it's easy to get kind of disorganized and forget this.

Write on the top of a can what it is (abbreviations are fine as long as you know what they mean) and the date you bought it if the can will be where you can see the top but not the label.  Make sure that labels don't fall off by spot checking them when you do your inventory.

Plan on a regular (semi-annual or more often) check of your supplies to see if there’s anything else you need, or if you are running low on something (because your food supplies aren’t static, to be drawn upon only in an emergency, but rather sort of a ‘super pantry’; this helps with rotation and you should be storing what you eat anyway), or if a can or jar has gone bad.  That doesn’t happen often, but it does happen.  Also, see if there's something you need to use up faster, or donate to a food bank.  Make sure if you do donate, the pull date is still in the future so the food bank can take it.  If you've researched food storage times, you know that they are shorter, in most cases, than the date by which the food will have neither taste nor nutritive value, but you eating four year old beans is not the issue here, the food bank's policies are.

If you use a vacuum sealer, check your sealed bags for leaks regularly.  They do happen…reseal, and check again 48 hours later, and if the bag still leaks, toss it and repack. The leaks tend to be small enough not to be easily found, and it is frustrating to go through the process yet again only to find that resealing has not worked.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

How to Start Prepping, Part 2

When I started stocking up for emergencies, the first thing I did was to look at a lot of lists of food I found online, but 400 pounds of wheat berries doesn't do someone with gluten intolerance much good. 

So I deleted the lists.  I thought about what I actually like to eat and made a list of *that*.  I found a series of videos on Youtube about food storage as taught by an LDS woman that made a lot of sense; she really pushes the ‘store what you eat’ method, and I think it’s wiser than a generic list unless that generic list actually consists of things you eat.  I took a good hard look at the pittance I'd prepped, and started over.

I started small and tried to think in terms of ingredients and not ready-made things, or a year's supply of XYZ canned foods, because the former oftentimes is not any better from a prepping standpoint than raw ingredients - brownie mix still asks for eggs and oil so you might as well stock the ingredients because you're not actually saving much time with a mix anyway, and the latter costs body parts I need right now. So, canned or jarred spaghetti sauce - a few jars; cans of chopped tomatoes, paste and sauce, lots.  Stuff goes into chili, too, y'know.

I also started small in terms of time, too, trying to figure out what I'd eat in a week's time, and gradually worked my way up from there.  When I had about a week’s worth of meals figured out, I started in on adding other ingredients and canned goods.  And water.

Then I got to thinking about friends and/or relatives.  I haven't figured out entirely what to do about them yet or even know if they would show up on the front step, but I am thinking about what to feed them in the event that happens.  The wheat pasta and the wheat flour I stocked up on before DH found out he is gluten intolerant ought to be usable toward that end, so the purchases aren't a total waste, and if they eat funny at least they’ll be able to complain about it later.

Next, food storage tools and tips

Friday, November 2, 2012

How to Start Prepping

You have already taken the first step to becoming prepared for emergencies by starting to look for information and thinking about becoming prepared.  That, believe it or not, is the biggest hurdle; that's a first step that many people can't or won't make.

Now what?

Put down the list of the 100 things to run out in the stores first.  Close the spreadsheet of foods to store.  Take a deep breath....

...and write down what you typically eat in a week.  Don't get too much into detail, but if you have oatmeal for breakfast, and coffee, and a piece or two of bacon, write that down.  What do you eat for lunch?  Snacks?  How about dinner?  What is your favorite treat or dessert?  What do you like to drink?  What are your favorite comfort foods?  

This is the list you need to work from, not somebody else's list of wheat, dried milk, beans, etc.  This is your list.  Sure, you can put that stuff on your list of what to stock up on, but first, start with what you eat.  

You might find that what you usually eat is going to be kind of hard to stock up on or store.  That's the case with what I eat for breakfast, for example; I have some deli meat and cheese on bread.  The mustard and mayo's not a problem, but unless I freeze a bunch of deli goods, I'm out of luck for breakfast as normal.  In that case, what else would I want to eat for breakfast?  Well, I can make biscuits, and I have butter and jam.  For protein (because breakfast really is the most important meal of the day, y'know), I have some bacon bits, or canned meats, or blocks of cheese I've frozen (did you know you can freeze cheeze?  Gets a little more crumbly than usual, but it tastes the same) that I could cut a hunk off of...

Nobody would want to come over to eat at my house for lunch in an emergency because people get hungry, but not hungry enough for sardines on rye crackers.  That, to most people, is too hard-core even on a good day...but that is what I have in my pantry because it's what I eat.  I've even had that for breakfast a time or two, along with coffee. 

For dinner, the menu's a bit better; I've got tons of things I could cook up:  split pea or lentil soup, or canned beef and canned veg plus biscuits either from scratch or Bisquick (marvelous stuff, Bisquick), or chili or spaghetti or I could use up the frozen seafood and make cioppino and make some herbed biscuits, plus canned pears or peaches for dessert.  I suppose some of those things would be good for lunch, too.

So what have you put on your list?  Take a look and see if you can make meals out of any of the items you've listed.  Don't worry if the meals might not make 'sense'; right now, you're looking at eating, not watching your girlish figure or 'is this paleo?'.  This is the food you eat, not a nutritional analysis.

Next, expanding on the basics.