The Survival Mom » Featured http://thesurvivalmom.com Helping moms worry less & enjoy life! Fri, 30 Jan 2015 08:00:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1 Fire Destroyed My Food Storage – Without Ever Touching It http://thesurvivalmom.com/fire-affects-food-storage/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/fire-affects-food-storage/#comments Fri, 30 Jan 2015 08:00:04 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=20377   No, my food storage wasn’t directly set on fire. It was my parents’ food storage.  The food never did actually burn, but the fire was close enough to cause heat-related damage. After the fire event, they gave all the food Read More

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A fire can affect food storage, even without directly touching it! | via www.TheSurvivalMom.com

 

No, my food storage wasn’t directly set on fire. It was my parents’ food storage.  The food never did actually burn, but the fire was close enough to cause heat-related damage. After the fire event, they gave all the food to me – and most of it wasn’t edible any more. Here’s my story of how fire affects food storage.

If you have been accumulating food storage for any amount of time, I’m sure you have heard repeated warnings against exposure to high heat: heat will damage food, heat can and will negatively affect the taste and nutritional content of stored food, thus greatly reducing its shelf-life, etc.

Despite these warnings, I have known people to store their buckets of wheat and #10 cans of white flour in garages without air conditioning, in attics, in storage sheds, etc. With very few exceptions, I had never known anyone to complain of any negative effects, and I actually wondered if “bad food storage” was a myth.

Guess what? It’s not.

My parents are in the process of moving from the suburbs of muggy Houston to chilly Idaho. The first thing they moved was their food storage. What had once been under beds and stashed in their garage is now in their new basement, lining the shelves in rows upon rows of #10 cans, buckets, and Rubbermaid bins.

Free food!

“We have a ton of wheat!” my parents said when I recently visited their new home. “You should go shopping in our food storage!”

“Whee!” I exclaimed with all the giddiness of a true prepper. “I love shopping,” I said, completely forgetting one very small, but very significant, detail about what a lot of that food had been through.hintwrongcolor

I didn’t even remember the fire event until I got home with a batch of my free food and opened a mylar pouch of instant mashed potatoes. Usually these are a gentle cream color, no? Ha. These were more of a dark, macaroni-and-cheese color. You could even say that they were brown. This package had “2007” written on it. How could things go so horribly wrong in only seven years? In spite of their odd color, I reconstituted them with water. They had a distinctly roasted, or burnt, taste.

What had happened?

It was then, and only then, that I remembered. A little over a year ago, an arsonist torched the storage facility where my parents kept most of their #10 cans. My parents’ specific unit and its contents survived the fire, but not everything escaped wholly unscathed. The insurance company declared the food a loss, but figured my parents were capable of tossing it themselves, as they saw fit. Not wanting that indecent amount of granola, freeze dried fruit, and instant mashed potatoes to go to waste, my parents kept it.

Still hopeful, I tried to serve the iffy potatoes to my five-year-old, who wrinkled up his nose and said, “I don’t like this food. Please don’t make this again, Mom.”

It almost goes without saying that I didn’t make him eat it.

In the spirit of curiosity, I made it a mission to go through a selection of food items that had survived the fire in order to ascertain the extent of the damage. I recruited my family to help and we had a lot of fun.

Here’s the rundown of how fire affects food storage

Granola: My kids ate it, but kids also eat a lot of stuff that isn’t good for you. My husband said, “It was okay for the first couple of bites, but then had this weird aftertaste.” There’s a word for that, rancid. Verdict: Toss it.

Freeze-Dried Blueberries: These seem to have more or less escaped damage. Our hypothesis is that these particular cans were located farther away from the flames. It might be interesting to run some kind of chemical analysis to see if they still have any actual nutrition in them, but we were unable to tell based on taste alone. My kids had a wonderful time – a little too wonderful, in fact. Verdict: Blueberries stain but we couldn’t tell if they had been damaged by the fire. Their appearance and flavor hadn’t changed.

Freeze-Dried Strawberries: One can of these were fine, but a different can looked and smelled distinctly crispy. Verdict: proceed with caution.

Instant Mashed Potatoes: I personally checked at least 15 pounds of these to see if there was at least one mylar pouch that was still good. There were no survivors. Verdict: Toss it.

White Flour: How can one describe the taste of rancid white flour? I’m willing to bet the fire was only part of its problem. It’s never a very good idea to store white flour for longer than 18 months, anyway. We made some cookies out of it, which were suitable only to give to one’s enemies. It would probably still be okay for making play-dough, but I don’t know anyone who needs that much play-dough. Verdict: Toss it.

I also made three batches of bread made from wheat from my parent’s storage. It hadn’t been in the fire with everything else, but it was still old-ish and had been sitting in a hot Houston garage for the better part of a decade. I could not get that blasted dough to rise. It wasn’t a yeast issue. I had proofed it and even tried a different brand of yeast for the last loaf. The dough had a crumbly texture, almost like it had been soft white wheat – good for pastry – instead of hard white wheat, which is how this was labeled. It is a mystery that definitely deserves closer investigation. Whatever the official cause, I’m willing to bet the wheat’s tenure in the  hot garage did it no favors.

Lessons Learned

1) Garages and storage units are not the best places to put your food storage. Even if an arsonist passes you by, inadequate temperature controls will work their inescapable black magic. For the longest possible shelf life, store food in the coolest place possible. A basement or root cellar is ideal. As well, the temperature should be kept as stable as possible.

2) Some things should not be stored long-term. Specifically, white flour.

3) Investigative culinary reporting can be very fun but also very messy. Luckily, magic erasers can get blueberry-colored handprints off of white paint.

Anyone else have some food storage horror stories to share? Tell us all about it in the comments!

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Creative Storage Solutions for Your Stash http://thesurvivalmom.com/creative-storage-solutions-stash/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/creative-storage-solutions-stash/#comments Thu, 29 Jan 2015 08:00:40 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=20506 I took one of those online Facebook quizzes titled “How Organized Are You?” The results were less than flattering, but true. You are 45% organized. You separate your recycling, but it doesn’t matter, because you always forget to take it Read More

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Where to Store the StashI took one of those online Facebook quizzes titled “How Organized Are You?” The results were less than flattering, but true.

You are 45% organized. You separate your recycling, but it doesn’t matter, because you always forget to take it to the curb. At least you don’t get in the car and realize you have no idea where you’re supposed to be going…

I’m a bit of a “Messy” by nature, but I am always trying to find new ways to be organized. As a prepper who has a large stock of food storage and supplies, I have to find places to store and organize my preps.

Make Space by Purging Stuff You Don’t Need

Don’t let what you think is a lack of space prevent you from building up your supply of preps. Most of us have at least a few shelves (if not whole closets full) of stuff we rarely use and don’t really need. Be honest and set some priorities. Getting rid of what you don’t need in order to have a higher level of preparedness for yourself and your family is a positive step to take.

TIP: Purging old clothes, coats, and shoes from a closet not only gives you space to store more preps, but donating it all to a charity will also help others.

Utilize Available Spaces

Many open areas in your home could hold your supplies. Put a photo storage box on a shelf and store first aid supplies. The space under a table could have a basket full of bags of pasta. And a storage bench at the end of your bed could hold your family 72-hour bug-in storm kit.

Overhead Storage 2One feature it our new home leant itself perfectly to long term storage – ceiling ledges. Most of the time these are decorated with tchotchkes and decorative elements. I saw one thing…out of the way, long term storage! I used baskets that I already owned, bought a couple on clearance at Michael’s, and a few more at a neighbor’s garage sale. Then I loaded them up with long term storage prep items like personal hygiene items, batteries, and water purification supplies.

Under the bed is a great place to store items. If your bed is low to the ground, you can get risers to create more space. There are all kinds of storage bins that will allow easy access and keep your preps dust free. Even the modern style platform beds with sides the go all the way to the floor and without a traditional under-the-bed area, still have a great deal of storage. It’s not accessible without moving the mattress, but it is valuable space indeed.

Under my own queen size bed we have more than ninety #10 cans of long term storage food (over four months of food for four people) along with other preps. It’s not visible to others and is completely out of the way.

As a bonus, if you put your preps under your kids’ beds, they won’t be able to shove toys and dirty clothes underneath!

TIP: When storing items in out of the way spaces, be sure to make a list of what items are in which location. This will allow you to not only remember what inventory you have on hand, but also make it easy for you to find the items you need.

Find Creative Storage Solutions for Your Stash

Bookshelf CansIs your couch up against a wall? Do you know that you can stack canned goods behind it and no one will know it’s there? A six-foot couch can easily hide 48 cans of soup leaving a lot of open space in your pantry. You can also put softer items like toilet paper or paper towels, but they will almost certainly get smushed when the sofa gets shoved back.

An end table can have fabric draped to the floor to cover preps hidden underneath. You can even turn your decorative pillows into storage places by filling them with rice or beans like the woman at this website.

Take a look at your bookshelves. If you pull the spine of your books to the front of the shelf, you can create hidden space behind them to store canned goods or other supplies. No one knows it’s there, and it takes advantage of previously wasted space!

There are SO many places to add storage to your home. Check out our Pinterest board with ideas from all over the web.

TIP: Don’t get caught up in the idea that personal hygiene preps need to be stored in a bathroom or that food must always be stored in the kitchen. Find or create an open space and fill it with what fits!

Questions to ask yourself about each item before you store it…

How often do I need to access this? This seems like a no-brainer, but consider how often you need to get to something before you store it. I initially put some OTC meds up on the ceiling ledge and realized two weeks later that I needed them. The problem was that I needed the big garage ladder to reach the baskets. That’s just not convenient at all. I now store the meds in a more easily accessible location. It’s not just about convenience either. Items that you need quickly – flashlights, first aid supplies, and tools – need to be within easy reach.

Is there an issue with temperature control? Food storage is very temperature sensitive so you don’t want to store it out in the garage, attic, shed, or anywhere that will have temperature fluctuations. Toilet paper and paper towels can store in the heat or the cold. Because they are so bulky, it seems to be a waste to use valuable, usable indoor storage on them. We keep these items out in the garage on a top shelf. Since they are so light, a top shelf is a great place for them.

Is humidity a concern? The bathroom is possibly the worst place in the house to store medicine for this reason, and yet most people keep it there. Likewise, a damp basement floor will leave you with rusted cans of food if you put them directly on the floor.

Take a walk through your house. Find places to organize and repurpose in order to be able to increase your volume of preps. Your home will be less cluttered by unneeded items and your family will be better prepared for hard times.

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Be a Lean, Mean Survival Mom Machine http://thesurvivalmom.com/be-a-lean-mean-survival-machine/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/be-a-lean-mean-survival-machine/#comments Wed, 28 Jan 2015 08:00:44 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=1857 Picture this.  You’re with your kids or grand-kids in a COSTCO or Wal-Mart, when you hear gunshots and screams coming from across the store.  From the terrifying sounds you know you only have a few seconds to get to safety, Read More

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Do you need a list of reasons to become fit and in better shape? How about survival fitness? | via www.TheSurvivalMom.comPicture this.  You’re with your kids or grand-kids in a COSTCO or Wal-Mart, when you hear gunshots and screams coming from across the store.  From the terrifying sounds you know you only have a few seconds to get to safety, and an EXIT door is about thirty yards away.

Do you have the physical conditioning, stamina, otherwise known as survival fitness, to grab the kids, pick them up if necessary, and run fast enough to escape with your lives?  Or, would those extra pounds and flabby muscles slow you down to make a quick escape impossible? Are you a lean, mean Survival Mom machine?

I’m the first to admit that a quick sprint across the store would be pretty difficult for me.  I could do it, but it sure wouldn’t be impressive in terms of speed or style.  I’ve missed way too many work-outs at the gym and have enjoyed far too many meals at the drive-through lately.  I’m typical of millions of Americans, yet as someone who has preparedness as a top goal, I know that someday my survival may depend on being physically fit.

The necessity of getting shape and building up my physical strength has been a big pill for me to swallow.  I can’t tell you how much I hate exercising and every minute on the treadmill is torment.  Even so, I’ve been working on improving my physical fitness.  I’m not a runner, far from it, but I’ve been making a point of walking or bicyling as many days of the week as I can and doing a series of strength-building calisthenics (floor exercises).

Simple lean, mean Survival Mom machine tips!

When I feel like turning on the TV or plopping down with the latest Daniel Silva book, here’s what I tell myself.

  • Upper body strength will help improve my target shooting.
  • I’m setting a good example for the kids.  They love physical activity, and I want them to keep that attitude.
  • Stronger leg muscles are more attractive and much better for running from a dangerous situation.  And also for kicking bad guys in the groin.
  • As I build up my cardio-vascular system, my overall health improves, hopefully keeping me healthy for many, many years to come.  Who knows what our health care system will look like in a few years, and I’d just as soon stay healthy and limit my dependence on the medical system.
  • I am so vain it’s embarrassing.  Heck, I just want to look cuter in my jeans!

How about you?  Could you depend on your fitness level to run fast and far if your life, and the lives of your children, depended on it?  Building up our bodies to be as strong as possible and losing some of the pounds that slow us down is a survival and preparedness must.  No, it’s not an easy step, and there are hundreds of excuses to procrastinate, most of them printed on restaurant menus!  However, there’s a very powerful reason for Survival Moms to start today:  our children.

[bctt tweet=”Someday your survival may depend on being physically fit.”]

If you’re already in shape, let us know how you do it.  If you’re on the journey toward physical fitness and being a lean, mean survival machine, hey, we’re on it together!  I’d love to hear about  your plans for becoming the leanest and strongest Survival Mom you possibly can be!

Join the Facebook group, Skinny Survival Moms here!

Listen to this Related Podcast

The Survival Mom interviews David Zulberg, author of The 5 Skinny Habits.

This post was updated from the original posting on November 6, 2009.

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25 Top Pins to Help Get You Organized! http://thesurvivalmom.com/best-organizing-pins/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/best-organizing-pins/#comments Mon, 26 Jan 2015 18:24:03 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=21256 As our January Skill of the Month comes to a close, I rounded up some of the best organizing pins from prepper/survival/homesteading bloggers that give tips you won’t want to miss. I’ve included a few of my own as well. Read More

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Get organized with Pinterest! These are some of the top 21 pins to help you!  | www.TheSurvivalMom.comAs our January Skill of the Month comes to a close, I rounded up some of the best organizing pins from prepper/survival/homesteading bloggers that give tips you won’t want to miss. I’ve included a few of my own as well.

If you like the pin, follow the blogger on Pinterest! And if you’re new to the whole Pinterest thing, just click on each graphic below that you want to read about.f

Follow my Pinterest boards!

Organization for the busy homesteader

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Decluttering and organizing kids toys

7 tips to spending less and living the good life

 

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A Sure-Fire Strategy for Keeping an Organized Pantry Inventory

Clearing out the clutter #podcast

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 window box bathroom storage

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A Prepared Cook’s Guide to Creating an Ideal Kitchen Space

spring cleaning zones

DIY battery storage cabinet

DIY Battery Storage Cabinet

What I do to be organized.

What I do to be organized

Daily decluttering missions

iphone organizing

mason jar spice organization

 

 

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A New Family Hobby: The air rifle http://thesurvivalmom.com/instant-survival-tip-a-new-family-hobby-the-air-rifle/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/instant-survival-tip-a-new-family-hobby-the-air-rifle/#comments Mon, 26 Jan 2015 08:00:18 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=476 If your kids get bored easily and you’d love to get them involved in a fun activity that will teach them practical, lifelong skills, consider the air rifle.  Also called air guns, this inexpensive hobby teaches both adults and kids (boys Read More

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The air rifle can provide a fun family hobby and help kids develop shooting skills.  www.TheSurvivalMom.comIf your kids get bored easily and you’d love to get them involved in a fun activity that will teach them practical, lifelong skills, consider the air rifle.  Also called air guns, this inexpensive hobby teaches both adults and kids (boys and girls!) valuable target shooting skills.

The NRA has an excellent summary of the sport here.  Not only will this sport be fun for the whole family, but target shooting is an Olympic sport with many organizations offering college scholarships to sharpshooters!

By the way, mom, if you’ve never fired a gun in your life, an air rifle is a good place to start.  If you have a daughter, it’s even more important for her to see that shooting isn’t just a guy thing.  Every woman should know the basics of firearm safety and shooting.  Still need a little convincing?  Check out my favorite blog for women who love to shoot, Cornered Cat.

To learn more about air rifle clubs and activities in your area, contact your local shooting range.  Your state’s Game & Fish Department may also have details.

This post has been updated from the original version posted June 24, 2009.

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Try it Today! Review Your Credit Report http://thesurvivalmom.com/try-today-review-credit-report/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/try-today-review-credit-report/#comments Sun, 25 Jan 2015 08:00:17 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=20519 Maintaining a good handle on your finances is an important element of your overall disaster mitigation plan. While it might not seem so on the surface, give it a bit of thought. The better off you are financially, the higher Read More

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Have you looked at your credit report recently? Do you know how to find it and why you really need to look at it regularly? | www.TheSurvivalMom.com

Maintaining a good handle on your finances is an important element of your overall disaster mitigation plan. While it might not seem so on the surface, give it a bit of thought. The better off you are financially, the higher the likelihood that small emergencies, such as an unexpected car repair, won’t seem like the end of the world. One area of financial preparedness you should explore is reviewing your credit report.

Getting Copies of Your Credit Report

It is important to review your credit report on a regular basis. This might be the only way you’ll ever learn of errors on it as well as see indications of fraud or identity theft. Fortunately, getting a copy of your credit report is very easy. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires the three credit bureaus to provide, upon request, one copy of their credit report, free of charge, to each consumer once a year. The report may be ordered via one of three ways:

Prepper's Financial Guide coverOnline:

Visit http://www.annualcreditreport.com/. Be wary of lookalike websites with similar domain names. This one is the only one set up as a result of the FCRA. There are a lot of scam sites out there that will either charge you or just outright steal your information. Ordering your report online grants you immediate access to it.

Mail:

There is a form entitled Annual Credit Report Request that must be filled out, then mailed to:

Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281

Response time is about two weeks from when the request is received.

Telephone:

Call 1-877-322-8228 and order your report. As with mailing, it will take about two weeks to get your report.

It is important to rely upon one of these methods rather than contacting the credit bureaus directly. The website, mailing address, and phone number listed above are the only ways to obtain your free copy each calendar year. The credit bureaus are likely going to charge you if you go directly through them.

You are entitled to one copy from each bureau every 12 months. Rather than ordering all three at once, I suggest you stagger the requests and order one from a different bureau every four months. This allows you to react quicker in the event you do see something amiss on the report.

Reporting Inaccuracies

Go through each credit report line by line, even including your name, your address, and all of your other identifying information. The balances listed for each account will probably not be accurate right down to the penny as there is a lag between when you make a payment and when that payment is reported to the credit bureau. However, look for accounts that are listed as open, even though you closed them years ago, or accounts that are listed as delinquent even though you’re up to date on all payments.[bctt tweet=”You are entitled to one free credit report per year.”]

Be sure to check for any accounts you weren’t aware of as these are indicators of possible fraud. Bear in mind, though, that the names listed as account holders may differ slightly from the ones which are familiar to you. Banks change names from time to time.

Should you find something amiss on your credit report, you need to get it handled as soon as possible. These things take time so the faster you act, the sooner it can get fixed. Every credit report will have instructions on how to report possible errors, which will need to be reported in writing directly to the credit bureau. They have 30 days or so to investigate the matter and respond back to you.

Typically, what will happen is the credit bureau will contact the person or entity (both are considered to be Credit Reporting Agencies, or CRAs) that originally reported the information. The bureau will notify them of the dispute and pass along the information you’ve provided on the matter. The CRA must conduct an investigation and report the findings back to the credit bureau.

If the CRA provides documentation that the information is valid and correct, it stays on your credit report. However, if they are unable to provide that documentation, the information is changed or deleted on your credit report.

Of course, you could also skip the credit bureau and contact the CRA directly about your dispute. Depending upon the circumstances, this may or may not speed up the process. It is one thing if you are dealing with a large company that likely has processes in place for dealing with disputes and knows how to handle such matters efficiently. Another thing entirely if you’re dealing with a landlord or some other relatively small-time operation.

This is an excerpt from Jim Cobb’s new book The Prepper’s Financial Guide, available in March, 2015, from Ulysses Press.

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Evacuation Time? Don’t Forget Your Pets! http://thesurvivalmom.com/evacuation-time-dont-forget-your-pets/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/evacuation-time-dont-forget-your-pets/#comments Sat, 24 Jan 2015 08:00:25 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=308 What plans have you made and put into place for your animals should an emergency of some type strike your area?

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Make plans now to evacuate your pets and their supplies in an emergency. | via www.TheSurvivalMom.comMy heart just about broke when I saw all of the abandoned pets in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  How could someone just leave behind a beloved pet?  Not only were the abandoned animals in jeopardy, but as days and weeks went by, they added to the already insurmountable problems faced by workers trying to clean up and restore the city.

Preparation for Pet Evacuation

What plans have you made and put into place for your animals should an emergency of some type strike your area?

First, make sure your pets are up to date with their vaccines and that you have copies of the vaccine records.  If you have no other choice but to hand your dog or cat over to a shelter, these records will become invaluable, and it will bring peace of mind to know that your beloved animal is in a safe, temporary environment.

Cats and dogs should be microchipped. A tag on their collars from the microchip company will facilitate their return to you, and be sure that your contact information with that company is up to date. You can usually do that on the company’s website.

Next, consider how you will contain your pet, if necessary.  Our two aggressive turtles can’t be in the same enclosure, unless we want to rename one of them, “Ole Two-Toes,” so we’ve looked at small, portable enclosures for each.  If you will be using a dog or cat kennel, place small food and water dishes inside them now, along with a leash, muzzle, maybe a harness.  With these already pre-positioned, you’ll only need to grab your pets and be on your way!

Transportation and Feeding

Transporting a cat? Unless your cat goes into a carrier willingly, believe me, it’s worth the time, trouble, and scratches to help her get accustomed to being contained before it becomes a matter of life and death.  Portable litter boxes can make travel easier, but, really, a collapsed cardboard box and a small bag of litter will help your feline feel almost at home. We used disposable litter boxes for the 2 weeks we spent in a hotel with our four cats. They worked out beautifully.

Small bags of dog and cat food can easily be tucked into a back corner in the trunk of your vehicle. Protect the food from moisture and pests by storing it in a plastic container with a tight-fitting lid. It will be a good idea to feed your pet a little less than they are used to.  In an evacuation situation, they will probably not be getting as much exercise, and less food means less poop.

Many reptiles eat fresh vegetables and fruit.  You could keep them fed and happy for weeks just by feeding them veggies from your Big Mac or fast food salad.

Transporting fish?  Not quite so easy because you’ll need a container that is spill-proof.  I’ve seen suggestions of large Tupperware containers to coolers with air holes drilled in the lids.  Fish don’t need to eat as much or as often as your dogs and cats, so that’s a bonus.

Advance Planning is Critical to Success

If you have livestock and other large animals, probably the best solution is to make prior arrangements with the owner of a nearby farm or other rural property for emergency boarding.   Plan on transporting large animals out of harm’s way long before the situation becomes perilous.  I found some great tips for evacuating horses here, and many of the tips are relevant to other large animals.

You know your pets and their temperaments better than anyone.  Take steps now to get them accustomed to car travel, spending time in a kennel, or whatever might be foreign to them in an emergency situation.

Remember, that often terrified animals will run away.  More than anything, they will need you to be calm.  (Our animals are such sensitive babies!)  With just a little pre-planning and preparation, evacuating your animals will be the least of your worries.

This post was updated from the original posting on June 16, 2009.

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Survival Creativity: An Important Facet of the Survival Mindset http://thesurvivalmom.com/survival-creativity/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/survival-creativity/#comments Fri, 23 Jan 2015 08:11:15 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=20525 As you go along in your disaster readiness journey, you’ll no doubt pick up many wonderful and useful skills. You’ll also likely purchase any number of tools, gadgets, and doodads that will (hopefully) be useful in an emergency. However, above Read More

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It takes more than supplies and classes to be able to survive in an emergency. Can you fix something broken? Not without survival creativity! | via www.TheSurvivalMom.comAs you go along in your disaster readiness journey, you’ll no doubt pick up many wonderful and useful skills. You’ll also likely purchase any number of tools, gadgets, and doodads that will (hopefully) be useful in an emergency. However, above all else, you should strive to develop a survival mindset. Creativity is one important facet of this mindset.

Having the ability to think outside the box and develop creative solutions to problems is critical in emergencies. Sure, given a set of well written instructions and all the requisite tools and parts, most people could probably build a bookcase or even assemble a small engine. But, what if you’re missing one of the tools? In many situations, given some thought and creativity, you can improvise a solution. It might not be perfect and it might not look pretty but as long as it works, who cares?

The Instant Challenge

CreativityYou can practice out of the box thinking and creativity in many different ways. One that I highly recommend is to do a search for “Destination Imagination Instant Challenge.” Destination Imagination (DI) is a program found in many school systems around the world. Basically, the focus is on encouraging students to be creative thinkers.

One facet of the program is called Instant Challenge. At DI tournaments, teams will be taken into a classroom and presented with a handful of supplies and a written challenge. For example, they are given a few paper cups, some string, two straws, and a ping pong ball and they have five minutes to build a contraption that will sling the ping pong ball a minimum of ten feet. There are no right or wrong answers to these challenges. Having coached a few DI teams over the years, I can tell you the solutions can get quite interesting.

There are hundreds of Instant Challenges available for free online. While they are typically intended for use as practice for DI teams, you can do them at home by yourself or with your family. Even better, once you’ve done a few of them, you may find yourself coming up with your own Instant Challenges. They can actually be quite fun and are a great way to spend a rainy afternoon with the family.[bctt tweet=”It takes more than supplies and classes to be able to survive in an emergency.”]

A key component to creative thinking is keeping an open mind. Don’t negate any possible solution without just cause. When presented with a problem, brainstorm as many solutions as possible, then whittle down the list until you reach the one that fits perfectly, or at least as best as possible.

Thinking outside the box can often lead to unorthodox solutions, too. That’s almost never a bad thing. Those off-the-wall suggestions can inspire you to explore new avenues, possibly leading to even better solutions for other issues down the road.

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Simple Secrets of Food Dehydration http://thesurvivalmom.com/simple-secrets-of-food-dehydration/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/simple-secrets-of-food-dehydration/#comments Thu, 22 Jan 2015 08:00:34 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=347 Buying canned goods and extra bags of flour and sugar has been the easiest part of food storage for me.  Dehydrating my own food seemed to belong in the same category as spinning my own wool.  Yes, it can be Read More

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Dehydrating food is the simplest way to preserve it. Here are some very easy and basic foods to start with. | via www.TheSurvivalMom.comBuying canned goods and extra bags of flour and sugar has been the easiest part of food storage for me.  Dehydrating my own food seemed to belong in the same category as spinning my own wool.  Yes, it can be done, but why would I want to go through all the trouble??!

I found out for myself that dehydrating food is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to stock up.  Now, if I say it’s easy, you know.  It’s easy!  The foods are fresh with no additives of any kind, so I know exactly what my family is consuming.  I save money since commercially dried fruits and herbs, in particular, have a premium price at the market.

Easy First Foods

I purchased a NESCO American Harvest dehydrater on Craigslist for $30 one January morning and went to work.  I’ve had some hits and misses, but here is what I’ve had the best luck with so far.

Canned peaches

Easy, easy, easy and so good!  Buy #10 cans of peaches at Costco for $5 or so.  Pour the fruit into a colander and rinse with water.  Lay out the peach slices on the dehydrator trays and dry at a medium setting until the peaches are chewy.  These are a great travel snack and will last for years if you store them using a Foodsaver system.

Herbs

It’s amazing how quickly these dry and are ready for storage.  I love having jars of fresh herbs and have saved a pretty penny because I no longer have to buy fresh and then need them for a recipe only after they’ve turned slimy.

Applesauce!

Buy a #10 can of applesauce at Costco for right around $5.  Spread a thin layer of applesauce on a plastic tray and dehydrate.  When it is dry, you have your own fruit leather!  Roll it up, and store.  Add cinnamon, pureed strawberries or peaches, or anything else you can think of for variety.  My kids love this treat.

Mushrooms

This is another veggie that spoils all too quickly.  Slice, dry, store.  Couldn’t be easier!  Dried shrooms can even be ground into a powder and added to sauces and gravies for flavor.

Sliced carrots and celery

These are a staple in my soups and stews, and I hate having to run out to the store when I don’t have them on hand.  Again, slice, dry, store!

One of my camping-crazy friends dehydrates sheets of spaghetti sauce, re-hydrates them with water over a camp stove and has almost-instant pasta sauce.  She’s also been known to make hamburger rocks in her dehydrator.

It does take time to prepare the fresh food to dry (peel, slice, chop, etc.), but once they’re on the dehydrator trays and a timer is set, I can spend my time chasing kids and doing laundry.

Budget Benefits of Dehydrating

This doesn’t have to be an expensive hobby.  Seek out farmer’s markets, produce co-ops, produce stands, and the like to get the freshest food at the lowest prices.  Check Craiglist, Freecyle and eBay for bargains on dehydrators.  The Excalibur brand is considered to be top of the line, but there are directions online for making your own from scratch.

Amazon carries a number of different dehydrators in all price ranges.

For more specific how-to details, check out these websites, and have fun dehydrating your own foods!

Budget 101 – Dehydrated Foods

Choosing a Food Dehydrator

This post was updated from the original posting on June 18, 2009.

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Shaking the House: Getting Started With Decluttering http://thesurvivalmom.com/getting-started-decluttering/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/getting-started-decluttering/#comments Wed, 21 Jan 2015 08:32:10 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=20603 Have you  heard the story about a jar, rocks, and sand? It’s a great life lesson about setting priorities and is a great demonstration of getting started with decluttering. If you put the sand in, then the small rocks, then the Read More

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Shake that house and start decluttering by deciding which items you own are most important. | via www.TheSurvivalMom.comHave you  heard the story about a jar, rocks, and sand? It’s a great life lesson about setting priorities and is a great demonstration of getting started with decluttering.

If you put the sand in, then the small rocks, then the medium rocks, you run out of room long before you get to the bigger rocks. But if you start with the bigger rocks, everything will fit in because they slide around each other and fill every last bit of space.

Here’s a great video illustrating this.

 

When you think about it, getting started with deluttering is much the same as this illustration.

Whenever I start cleaning, decluttering, and organizing, I say I’m “shaking the house”, in reference to the way you would shake that jar with rocks and sand to get every last thing to fit in. It can be a pain, and it’s definitely a chore, but it’s worth it.

How does it work?

Pick a specific area to work in. The example used here is the kitchen, but substitute “closet”, “bedroom”, “laundry room” and the plan works for just about everywhere else. You are looking to priorities items that are most important and frequently used to those that are never used, are broken, dated, worn out, or otherwise useless but still taking up space.

  • Take out everything so you can see it all at once.
  • Start pulling items you no longer need or use, or that are duplicates you don’t need. Put them in a box, or take them out of the room.
  • You may need more than one of some items, and that’s okay. No one is saying only keep one plate or one pot! But if you have extra plastic plates left from when your kids (now in middle school) were toddlers, toss ‘em in the box.
  • Pick out things you use rarely but regularly, at least a couple of times a year, such as a gravy boat, and put them into the hardest to reach cabinets. You have them on hand for the times when you really need that specialty item or, perhaps, an item with sentimental value, but it isn’t taking up space in areas that are easiest to access.
  • Now take the things you use most and put them in the cabinet, drawer, or shelf most convenient to where you use them. Our dishes are close to the dishwasher to make emptying it go faster. I keep pots and pans just a step or two away from my stove. As you put them away, evaluate whether you really need them all or if you can let some go.
  • Now look at what is left and evaluate them according to these questions. Your answers will help you evaluate each item. It may be very hard to make some of these decisions, and in those cases, if you have the room, I recommend keeping the item. You can always decide what to do with it later.
    • When was the last time I actually used it?
    • Does it serve more than one purpose?
    • Do I like it?
    • When will I get around to finishing it?
    • How much is it worth to me today?
    • If I do need it down the road, how much will it cost to replace it?
  • Organize what is left in a way that makes sense to the person who uses it the most, whether that’s you, the kids, or your spouse. Then put it away with their help (if possible) – again, trying to keep things near where they are most likely to be used, whenever possible.

The basic idea is to find every single item you really don’t need, want, or use – no matter how small – and get rid of them all. Don’t focus on the size of items or getting rid of “all” of something. If you have a set of 12 wine glass but now only use 4, get rid of 8 and keep the four. Don’t worry about the fact that they are a “set” – just let it go and keep what you use.

How is that different from what you are usually told? Not much, but here’s the thing: even getting rid of single items – one coffee cup, one old board game, one unused throw pillow – can make a difference when you add it all up.

If you think about it, just those three items would fill up a fairly standard size box. Not a big one – but that’s only three items, and you can probably find more than that in your home. That gives you either plain old empty space to enjoy, or space to put other things away so there is less clutter out and visible. Either way, it’s a win.

Here’s an example of getting started decluttering

Sticking with the kitchen, since it is a common area that accumulates gadgets and things you don’t need, if you don’t ever use your blender, why do you keep it? A stick blender is much smaller and might be all you need, and it’s cheap. Personally, I use either a whisk or a pastry blender for almost everything most people use a mixer for, so I don’t need a big fancy mixer. Other people use theirs almost daily.

Don’t keep appliances because everyone else uses them or you might use them someday. Keep them because you use them, now.

Once you have looked over your appliances, move on to the pots, pans, casserole dishes, etc. If you notice you have three casserole dishes but you don’t really use them often, pick your favorite and put the others in a box with the appliances you’ve already selected to give away or sell. Don’t forget to toss the owner’s manuals, if you still have them! It opens up a little more space in your home, and useful for the new owner.

Look at your serving dishes – the gravy bowl, platters, soup tureens, and all those other specialty items, even the electric carving knife. Do you still use them? If so, great! If not…box ‘em up.

The same for your cups, plates, bowls, and utensils (for eating, serving, and cooking). If you don’t use them all, get rid of what you no longer need.

Finally, look for items in the hard to reach cupboards that none of us really use. Maybe yours contain personalized goblets you received as a wedding gift . Do you seriously still care about those or the personalized plate with your wedding date that has never ever been out of that over-the-fridge cupboard? Trust me, I know it may be hard, but just let it go.

I kept the unity candle from our wedding for 15 years. Why??

Rethink the “convenience” gadgets

I vaguely remember using an electric can opener when I was in high school (or maybe junior high?), but I have never owned one myself. A hand-held can opener is easier to wash, a good one lasts a LONG time, and they can be used camping or when the power goes out, if you’re used to an electric can opener. It also doesn’t need any counter space. Likewise, an electric carving knife has never really made sense to me for healthy people.

Do you still need a VCR and VCR rewinder? (Remember those? Is one hiding in the basement?) How about the DVD player you replaced with a BluRay three years ago? The same DVD player that is now almost ten years old, and four times the size of a comparable new one that costs under $100?

Set those aside to donate to a thrift shop.

How much does your house cost?

We used to live in Los Angeles and at one point, our house was worth over $500 per square foot. (Nope, not a typo, and that’s not the dollar amount when we bought it.) That meant that buying a Little People toy for the kids was $30 or so for the toy, plus $750 in space in our house! That made it nearly an $800 toy, which was far more than I was willing to pay for it.

Your housing (and ours, now) is probably far less expensive, but even if it’s $100 per square foot, is that old chair you are keeping because, well, you aren’t quite sure why, really worth $400+ in home space to you? Or could you dump it and buy a chair you actually like later, if you ever actually need it?

The cold hard fact is that there is cost involved when it comes to clutter.  You need a bigger and bigger house to hold it all. Sometimes it is worth it. I stand by my choice to stuff a closet with cardboard boxes of my son’s clothing to keep for my younger son, but I am ruthless about donating anything they outgrow to charity.

Shake, shake, shake!

You may not have a lot of extra items, but even removing one casserole dish, three glasses from fast food restaurants, half the contents of the kitchen junk drawer, and those old kiddy plates and sippy cups your children outgrew years ago can free up a surprising amount of room, making it easier and more pleasant to put things away.

It’s great if you can get rid of some big things, but just getting rid of little bits and pieces can shake free a surprising amount of space in your home and get you started on the path of downsizing and decluttering.

Keep what’s most important and get rid of the dozens of items that are cluttering your home and your life.

 

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