For a Rainy Day — Not Just for Preppers Anymore

walmart-adsIt seems everyone is jumping on the prepper wagon, even if they don’t want to admit it, they want the money generated by prepper customers.  Case in point?  Wal-Mart has a new program for stocking your pantry for a rainy day.  Isn’t that what prepping is?  Being prepared for when the harvest doesn’t come, not for when the actual rain falls.  But we all know that.

Wal-mart is offering free home delivery of case lots of canned goods and other items.  With a little comparison shopping, it might be interesting to see how their prices stack up to prices in various parts of the country, and if it is less expensive than doing the shopping for yourself.  For the urban prepper who can’t garden, it might be a good deal since cities like New York can be a nightmare to grocery shop if you have to carry things up a bunch of stairs.

I’m all for companies offering large discounts on case lots and then delivering them free of charge to my door.  They will come neatly packed in their original boxes, already labeled with all the information you need, and easy to stack.  Maybe more companies will offer those services in the future.

An alternative is home delivery from some of the local grocery stores like Safeway, Von’s, and others.  A quick internet search will provide you with a list of grocery stores that home deliver for little or not extra charge.  Here’s what I got when I did this search.

Preppers are busy people.  Why not save yourself the time and trouble of going to the store when someone is willing to do that job for you.  Free up your time to do other important activities only you can do.  Save gas money.  What is the dollar amount value of your time?  Do the math.  It might be worth a $15.00 delivery fee if it saves you $6.00 in gas and three hours of time at a meager $10.00 per hour.

 

Choosing Seed Companies

Peas are good to eat seeds.We’ve talked about whether or not to save seeds and the various possible outcomes of of those choices.  There has been discussion about what to do with your garden and how to manage the business end of it.  Now, lets talk about choosing the right seed company.  Sounds like it should be easy doesn’t it?  Seeds for sale in the local store should be good, right?  If only it were that simple.

The first decision is whether or not you want to keep a 100% organic garden.  If this is the case, your choices are restricted to only seeds labeled organic.  There is debate about if the seal of approval from the U.S.D.A. truly means it is organic since there are some “exceptions” to the rules the U.S.D.A. created.

To add fuel to the organic debate, deciding whether or not to buy non-organic seeds and raising them with organic methods.  According to the rules, if there are no organic seeds available of the plant you are looking for, if you raise non-organic seeds with organic methods, you now have organic products and the saved seeds are also organic.  It begs the argument why all non-organic seeds raised organic are not also now organic and so are the saved seeds.

Next up is do you care if you purchase your seeds from big agriculture companies or do you only want to support small farms?  If you only want to purchase from farms, your choices are restricted even more.  Small farms have any where from a few acres to a few thousand acres.  Big agriculture often has many hundreds of thousands of acres.  Plus you will have to do quite a bit of research on the business end to determine if the seeds you want to purchase are owned wholly or in part by big agriculture.  It could take hours to determine if you want to buy from a company or not.

If you choose to go with a small family business, or buy seeds from some local gardener, it is important to see how the operation works and talk with others who have purchased seeds from them.  Seeds purchased in this manner are more expensive.  More than that, there is more room for cross pollination which could end with plants who produce is misshapen, poorly producing, or not producing at all.  Those problems are more expensive than just money.  It’s also time, effort, resources, and lost opportunity to produce a product for your pantry.

For us, we chose to purchase seeds that are guaranteed to produce viable plants and raise them as organic.  Our concerns were for health reasons.  No G.M.O. seeds or others with health risks. From the plants we raise we may save seeds from some plant varieties and not save from other plant varieties.  By doing these things we are getting organic produce from reasonably priced seeds guaranteed to produce quality products.  We decided we didn’t much care who produced those seeds because we are concerned with preparing our family for what every might happen.  We can’t afford to spend time on matters that will resolve themselves when a world changing event happens.

Recycle and Reuse Series: Table Scraps

Prepepr Composting to Make Indoor GardensPreppers who live on a farm probably know they can feed their table scraps, sorted properly, to their livestock.  Egg shells and various yummy greens to the chickens.  Throw the rest out to the pigs.  That’s why they call it “slop the pigs”.  But, what if you don’t live on a farm with all those animals to feed your left over food scraps?

Consider composting your foods in your home.  The benefits of composting are not just for people who have farms or yards.  It is for anyone who wants to transform food scraps to soil and complete the cycle.

You don’t need to have a back yard to compost. When you compost you will have plenty of soil for your indoor or balcony plants.  Composting can be done using worms, or if you don’t like the idea of worms in your house, you can use a composting bin.  You will still need to sort the meat from the veggies, but This article on Examiner.com pretty much sums it up.  They also offer a way to compost meat and dairy products, which is usually frowned upon because of the fat content.

When you harvest the produce from your indoor or balcony garden you just might feel an extra touch of pride in your pantry because not only did you plant the seeds to grow the garden, but you also composted and created the best soil available.  When the garden plants have served their purpose, throw them in the compost bin with the table scraps.  Keep the cycle going.

 

Free Prepping Series, Part 6: Food Stores and Budgeting

Food Supply and BudgetIn this article on food stores and budgeting we will look at one of the most difficult things to prepare: a food supply.  It sounds and looks easy enough.  Just buy extra food when you go to the store, right?  Hold on.  Not so fast.  If it were that easy, people all over would be doing it.  Whether or not you are already stocking food for an emergency, this prepper activity you can, and should, do at not money cost.  But first you need to figure out where to start.

Inventory

Most of us have had an experience with not getting to the grocery store often enough and one day realizing there isn’t anything in the house to eat.  Sure, you have some ingredients, but not really enough to make a balanced meal.  Off to the store to buy that huge supply of groceries that costs a lot of money out of the budget.  If you are at that point right now, GREAT!  This gives you a baseline to look at what you have in the pantry that, for one reason or another, you consider “not food”.  Include the freezer in the pantry!  Make a list of those items.  If you don’t want to write it down, use your cell phone’s speech to text option in either the email function or the text message function.  Use that feature to email the list to yourself.

Once the inventory is completed and emailed, you can use one of the programs discussed in the Getting Started series to see what you can actually do with the groceries you have on hand.  You will be surprised at just how many items you can make and you still have not gone to the store.  For even more recipes, try importing them from the web into your recipe program.  Type mealmaster or mastercook recipes into your favorite search engines.  There are hundreds of thousands of recipes out there free for the downloading.

Making use of these programs and recipes enriches your cooking habits, provides alternatives outside your normal habits, and helps prepare you for times when your ingredient list is shorter than you like.  More than that, they help you plan menus in doubled or tripled proportions so you can set aside products for the prepper’s food pantry.  They organize your grocery lists and manage your kitchen if you fully utilize the features.  The key is that you actually use the programs as designed.  The most difficult part is sticking to the menu plans you make and actually marking them in the program as completed.  The first time you don’t do as you should, you no longer have an accurate record of your pantry.  But, using the program to plan every menu, either as you are making it, or for the whole month, will help you keep track of everything from what it will cost before you go to the grocery store to what you need if you want to make your spouse’s favorite dinner.

Now that you are in the habit of using the program for your everyday needs, it is time to start planning the long term supply.  If you got the free mealmaster program, you still have not spent anything on prepping.  If you bought mastercook, it was $20.00.  Look back through the history of which menus you used over the last several months.  Those are your family’s favorite foods.  Now plan a menu for a month.  Not so easy, but still no cost in planning.  Once you have mastered monthly planning, go big and plan a menu for three months.  The fact is eating the same foods every month, people get bored and crave something different.  Planning inexpensive meals is optimal, but every now and then you must plan a meal that feels more luxurious.  Over time you will know what items to start putting in your prepper pantry.  If you maintain a complete inventory, you will quickly be able to increase your pantry.

Menus

Let’s talk more about what menus mean to the cook and the family.  For the cook, menus force the issue of stretching your cooking skills and addressing dietary and budgetary issues.  Cooking the same meals over and over is boring.  So is eating them. Posting the menu lets every one anticipate what is coming up.  This can be a source of entertainment all by itself.  Pay attention to the comments they make when they see the menu.  If you hear a lot of grumbling about this meal or that, take notice.  Foods that don’t get eaten are a waste of money.  Find other ways to sneak the spinach or broccoli into a meal.  Keep notes on each recipe such as “spouse hated it but the kids loved it”.  Later if your spouse is going to be gone, you can do a recipe search for those recipes.  The kids will feel special because they get something they wouldn’t get if your spouse was home.  It’s a win-win.  This is how you will know which recipes probably would not be a good choice for your prepper pantry.

Budgeting

Lets talk about budgeting.    Gather up your receipts for the last twelve months if you have them.  If you don’t have them, you will need to start saving them.  Once you have at least 90 days worth of receipts  you can start figuring out what you are doing with your food money.  If you want to work on a rough estimate of what you spend, look in your bank records to see what you spent at the grocery store.  The trouble is most stores stock more than groceries, so the totals won’t be accurate.  In any case, do not include in your food budget anything you can’t eat.  Once you have an idea what you spend monthly on everything edible, evaluate the list for items that are not of good nutritional value.  Boxed foods, chips and candy are not a good value for the money, calories, sugars, salt and fat.  You get the idea.  Add up the cost of those items, and that is the amount of wasted money and the rest of that deadly diet list.

Now that you have tightened your belt and removed the poor quality foods from your shopping list, you can use that money to purchase good quality foods for your family.  It is hard to know what is an appropriate budget for your family’s food supply.  Use the tools at the USDA offices to help you decide what your budget should look like.  If you are currently spending more than you should, menu planning will help.  While sticking to a budget and a menu plan requires discipline, it is important.  Only when you are able to be disciplined in the kitchen, and with the checkbook, will you be able to effectively plan for a SHTF event.

Getting Prepared: A Primer for Beginners Series, part 9

A food supply for the prepared.Let’s talk food supply.

Many people have the mistaken idea that all they need to do is stockpile a bunch of food and they have it made.  It doesn’t work like that.  The first thing a new prepper needs to do is figure out what food habits exist in the household.  While it is important to assess what kinds of foods the various family members eat, it is also important to keep grocery receipts and use them to better identify what you buy, how often you go to the store, and how much long term planning you do.  How long your current supply of food will last is only as good as how you currently shop.

Prepping well will not only change the amount of food you store, but will also change your life.

Since your goal is to go grocery shopping once a month or less, you will spend less time in the grocery store.  You will waste less money on items you shouldn’t be buying anyway.  You will apply those savings towards your preps.  Your family will eat and be healthier.  You will have peace of mind that if anything should happen, you are ready.

Now that you know how often you shop and how you spend your grocery money, you are ready to move on to food planning.

If you are not in the habit of planning your menus, this would be a good time to start.

Planning menus can be challenging at first, but you can use any number of online menu Even Armstrong had a Menu Prepared.planners or you can purchase a copy of MasterCook for about $20 or MealMaster for free.  We use MasterCook because it has all the capabilities we need, we are not connected with the authors of MasterCook in any way.  We just like it best.  It keeps track of your pantry once you have entered your existing pantry items.  You can create and print your own cookbooks based on your family’s preferences and needs.  It will also keep track of pricing and dietary statistics.  When you plan a meal you will know how many calories, grams of carbohydrates, fat and other important dietary information.

Knowing this information is important because you need to know how well nourished your family will be on a diet of your preps if SHTF.  If you are including too many calories during a time when they are going to be sedentary, they will gain too much weight.  If you don’t include enough calories during a time when they will be working harder than normal, they won’t have enough energy.  It can be difficult to prepare for both scenarios, but we will tackle that at another time.

See you next time in the “Getting Prepared:  A Primer for Beginners Series”.