The Survival Mom » Organization http://thesurvivalmom.com Helping moms worry less & enjoy life! Tue, 27 Jan 2015 08:00:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1 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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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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Try it Today! Meal planning in 6 easy steps! (Skill of the Month) http://thesurvivalmom.com/meal-planning-6-easy-steps/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/meal-planning-6-easy-steps/#comments Sun, 11 Jan 2015 13:51:48 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=20794 A very long time ago, I used to be able to go grocery shopping without a list. I could think of meals for my husband and I while I was at the store and gather the ingredients. Of course, this Read More

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Meal planning in 6 easy steps - the Survival MomA very long time ago, I used to be able to go grocery shopping without a list. I could think of meals for my husband and I while I was at the store and gather the ingredients. Of course, this meant I didn’t have a set budget, never knew exactly what items I had on hand and lots of last-minute trips to the store for the “Oh, I forgot …” item.

Then the time came when we needed to stick to a budget with the arrival of our children. I needed a list to make sure I got everything necessary because I did not want to do any last-minute shopping trips. I wanted to make getting dinner on the table easier. So, here’s how I went from being a no-list shopper to a meal planning, list shopper.

1. Compile the recipes you use

I made a list of the meals we typically had for dinner. I organized the recipes in a binder with page protectors. Today, I have a Pinterest board specifically for recipes I have tried and used. Getting a list of meals with their ingredients is step one. You can consult this list every time you plan meals and then try a new recipe out each time and decide if it will be put on the permanent list or not.

2. Decide how many meals you need

Look at your calendar for the next week, 2 weeks or month – however long you will be shopping for. Are there any planned nights out? Don’t forget to check for school “spirit nights” and such that you plan to attend and days off school when you will need to feed the kids lunch. How many days will you need a slow-cooker recipe instead of a baking one? Figure out how many nights you will need to make meals for and what kind of meals you need.

I shop for a month at a time, but I usually only need about 20 meals or so, with about 7 of those being in the Crock-Pot, because several will give us leftovers or we use food in the freezer from the previous month.

3. List out your meals and ingredients

I write down the meals and whether they will feed us for one or two nights. Then, I list the ingredients I will need next to them. This is done on the back of my shopping list. I’ve made these files to help me.

SHOPPING LIST MENU LIST SHOPPING LIST

Listing the ingredients may seem tedious, but it only takes a few minutes and serves two purposes – transferring to the shopping list so an item isn’t overlooked and knowing exactly what is in your pantry. I know what meal each jar of spaghetti sauce in my pantry is for because I can consult my ingredients list. I also write out what meal I am going to use on what day. A calendar clipped to the refrigerator is an easy what to do this step.

4. Know your store aisles/make your list

My shopping list is broken down into categories based on the aisles in the store I usually shop at. You may shop at more than one store and just want to use generic categories. If you mainly shop at one store, it can save you time to organize your list by the aisles. It keeps you from having to go back to a section.

Knowing how the aisles are broken down in your store can also help you if you coupon. I sort my coupons by aisle and can easily compare them to what is on my list for that aisle’s section. You can jot down the aisles on your next trip or see if the store lists its aisle breakdown on its Web site.

If you aren’t sure of the aisles or your store recently remodeled, did you know there’s an app for that? Seriously, grocery stores now apps to help you find the goods in their store quickly and easily.

5. Cross off/Add on

One last step that can save you money is to check your pantry for anything left that can be crossed off your list. Forgot to add the tomatoes into a casserole? You won’t need those next time. Do you have enough of your basic ingredients, like flour, sugar and seasonings? What breakfast items, snacks, and dairy products do you need? If you have food storage, also check if anything was “borrowed” from your supplies or rotated out and needs added to the list to restock.

6. Shop and cook

Check off your shopping list as you go. Check unit prices to be sure you are getting the best deal. Use coupons if you have them on hand. Organizing your pantry when you get home while putting things away helps you know what you have on hand. If you feel motivated, you can always cook up the meat you’ll use for the time period and then freeze it. I save a lot of time pulling pre-cooked meat out of my freezer for meals.

I keep all my lists clipped on to the refrigerator to stay organized. Once I got into the habit of doing this, I started really enjoying planning meals. I know what meals I have on hand for the month, when we’re going to have them and that all the ingredients needed for the meals are in the pantry. No last-minute trips. No figuring out what’s for dinner at 5 p.m. It means a lot more time enjoying my family and less time worrying how (and what) to feed them.

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January Skill of the Month: Organize & Reduce With These Tips! http://thesurvivalmom.com/january-skill-month-organize-reduce/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/january-skill-month-organize-reduce/#comments Thu, 08 Jan 2015 08:06:53 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=20499 Every year more stuff seems to accumulate. The closets, drawers, and cubbies become cluttered. Things are not as organized as they once were, and spaces just feel overwhelmed with stuff. Deciding what to keep and what to reduce is difficult. Read More

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Organize and reduce what you own for a tidy home and more peaceful life. | via www.TheSurvivalMom.com

Every year more stuff seems to accumulate. The closets, drawers, and cubbies become cluttered. Things are not as organized as they once were, and spaces just feel overwhelmed with stuff.

Deciding what to keep and what to reduce is difficult. Here are a few skills that I have learned when it comes to organizing, and reducing my household clutter for the New Year.

Reduce What You Own

The Magic Questions

  • Have you used it in 6 months?
  • Does it have a place (a spot on the shelf, in a drawer, or other storage area)?
  • Is it a specialty item with a specific use that is hard to replace?

These are a few questions I have learned to ask when contemplating getting rid of an item. They really do help with decision making. Usually I never miss the item if it answers the first two questions with a “No”. The third question can be a bit tricky if it is a specialty item.

Clothing

When going through clothing, I inspect it for holes, and make sure it still fits comfortably. Is it something you would buy if you were shopping in a store right this minute? I keep this question in mind when I try it on. If it isn’t then I purge it. I also have the kids try on their clothes and decide if they still love certain outfits. I find that they have their favorite outfits, and other pieces just sit in their draws.

Gadgets

Do you have electronics or tools that do the same job? In the kitchen I found that I had a few gadgets that did the same job. Some tasks I didn’t mind doing the old fashioned way, so by reducing my gadgets I cut back on counter clutter.

Books and Media 

Everything is going digital these days. I still keep a nice selection of hardback books, but I try to buy digital instead of paperback. Sometimes I will rent a digital book (especially my college books) or check it out at the library. The same for media such as DVDs or CDs. Another plus is that most digital media is stored on a cloud drive which is accessible through many devices.

Important Papers

I try to keep everything in digital form when I can. If I can’t then I try to go through, and sort it out at least once a week. The kids’ homework piles up quickly, so I have them go through it and make two stacks. One to keep, and one to toss. When they finish I go through both piles just to make sure that nothing got miss filed. I keep the important papers in file box. The kids’ treasures such as artwork goes into a special box designated for them. This way all the memories are kept in one spot, and do not overtake my office space.

Toys

One way I keep a handle on toys is that everything must have a place. If it doesn’t fit in their room or a designated space then we contemplate purging it. Also if they want to buy a new toy, I sometimes have them donate one of their old ones. I rarely face any resistance with this technique.

Pantry and Freezer

As preppers, I find that our dry storage and freezer get crowded sometimes. Every 6 months I make it a point to go through and reorganize these spaces. I check the packaging to make sure it is still air tight, and the expiration dates. If I overstocked Items we donate them to the food bank. If I have some items that are about to expire we try to work them into our meal planning for the week.

Organizing what we own

Containment makes organizing simple. I evaluate an area and make sure that everything in that space has a place. If it doesn’t then I make it a space usually by incorporating baskets, bins, or re-purpose food storage containers.

I have found that the new designer duct tape is a friend in re-purposing food storage containers. I will wrap duct tape around empty oatmeal canisters or smaller boxes, and use them to organize toys and craft supplies. I can easily color code containers, and it makes the container sturdier.

Labeling is a sanity saver. It stops the seemingly never ending question about where things are. When my children were too young to read I incorporated pictures next to the words to help them find the right bin.

What To Do With All That Stuff

Some ways to earn a little cash for your stuff is having a garage sale. Another option is selling on Ebay especially if it is a specialty item. Items such as clothes and toys also do well on Ebay. Check out a local consignment shop too. There are many children and women’s shops that will give you cash or store credit for name brand clothing and toys. Amazon is great for selling your used books, or look for a bookstore that accepts used books for store credit, such as Half Priced Books.

There are many places that you can donate your stuff, too, as well, and they will give you a receipt that you can use for a tax write-off. Also check with your local shelter, food bank or senior center to see if they accept donations as well.

Making sure that everything has its own place is the key to organizing. Don’t be afraid of becoming more minimalistic, and letting things go. Honestly, all the things I have parted with over the years, and through several moves, including overseas, I have not missed (ok, I’ll admit maybe a few specialty items). Tackling organizing and reducing as a family makes the job easier, and offers a fresh start to the New Year.

The post January Skill of the Month: Organize & Reduce With These Tips! by Jessica Hentze appeared first on The Survival Mom. Be sure to check it out!

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Introducing our Skill of the Month Club! http://thesurvivalmom.com/skill-month-club/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/skill-month-club/#comments Wed, 07 Jan 2015 19:20:25 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=20611 A few years ago on this blog, I started a Skill of the Month Club that focused on a new skill to learn each month. I posted an article or two about that skill and encouraged readers to try something Read More

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Join the Skill of the Month Club and learn tips for getting organized and reducing your clutter. | via www.TheSurvivalMom.comA few years ago on this blog, I started a Skill of the Month Club that focused on a new skill to learn each month. I posted an article or two about that skill and encouraged readers to try something new.

Now, in 2015, I believe it’s more important than ever to get our homes, families, and selves at a point where we are more self-reliant. A big part of being self-reliant is having a bank of skills and knowledge from which to draw.

When your child has a sore throat, knowing multiple natural remedies comes in handy, and may eliminate the need to head to the doctor or the drug store. Living on very little money,  yet knowing how to knit, crochet, and sew, allows you to provide new, handmade clothing items for your loved ones and, perhaps, open the door to a source of income. And how about being able to make your own household cleaners with super-cheap ingredients, shunning store-bought foods because you know how to make homemade versions that are far better and healthier?

This is just a sampling of how learning new skills can make you more self-reliant and, at the same time, able to live more frugally and more healthy.

Well, our new Skill of the Month Club is riding to the rescue to give you a boost throughout each month so you can learn these skills and much more.

The first level of the Club is what we’ll provide here on the blog, new articles and resources every month, focusing on a new skill. We’ll provide a round up of the best Pinterest pins for that skill, to give you even more sources for learning.

The second level, and this is what I am completely giddy about, and believe me, The Survival Mom is giddy about very few things in this world, is our membership website for The Skill of the Month Club.

Perhaps, for you, just being steered in the direction of a new skill, with a few articles and resources, is all you need. You tend to stay on track until a task is completed. Good for you! We’re ready for you with Skill of the Month articles on the blog. You’ll find 2 or 3 of them every month.

But a lot of us, me included,  need a bit more. We need a community to help us stay motivated, a place to ask questions, and more detailed information. We might do best with a tiny bit of accountability. That will be provided with your membership to The Skill of the Month Club.

In this special membership area, you’ll find:

  • Extra “enrichment” articles and printables
  • Exclusive webinars with experts in each skill area
  • Baby steps if you’re new to the skill and Challenges if you’re ready to go for a more advanced level.
  • Ad-free podcasts
  • Free ebooks with resources, links, and a lot more.
  • Newsletter boosters to give you a single, important tip each week for the Skill of the Month.
  • Exclusive giveaways, just for members!
  • Access to experts
  • A private Facebook group where you can mix, mingle, and share information with other members.
  • …and a lot more!

I’ll soon be offering a pre-launch, one-year membership to this club, so be watching for it. I can promise you that the pre-launch price will be about equal to just 2 or 3 dinners out, and will be well worth the money! Plus, you’ll have access to all this great stuff, 24/7 and can move through it at your own pace and refer back to favorite articles, videos, podcats, and webinars as needed.

Even as I write this, we are busily putting into place details for this new website.

So what is the January Skill of the Month?

Yeah, I thought you might like to know!

After a lot of thought and discussion, I realized that in order to add something new to your life, you have to get rid of something else to clear the way. In most cases, that’s literally!

Before you can focus your time and attention on something new, learning some time management strategies, such as a master family calendar and cleaning out cupboards and drawers, and general decluttering really needs to happen.

So our first Skill is… Getting Organized and Reducing What You Own.

Here’s the great news about this first skill. Everything we have scheduled for it will be available to every reader, free and forever!

That includes an upcoming webinar with Taylor Flanery of Home Storage Solutions 101. She’ll be sharing her best tips for decluttering. I’ll be adding a couple of videos showing you how I manage to keep the horizontal surfaces in my home looking tidy and organized. Shortly, we’ll have a free eguide available with dozens of resources to help you on your journey.

I know from personal experience what a difference it makes when your home, life, and brain are decluttered. This is why I wanted the January Skill of the Month to be open to everyone, throughout the year.

The membership site will launch in early February — keeping my fingers crossed. Creating a new website is like building a new house. There are almost always unforeseen glitches and delays, but we are well on our way to having something very special for our members.

Upcoming Skills for 2015

Battling the household Clutter Monster and managing your time, using January resources, will be a continuing task, but here’s what we have for you to look forward to in coming months.

February Skill  of the Month: Replace Store-Bought with Homemade

We’ll share recipes for homemade spice mixes and other foods, cleaning solutions and even cosmetics! Our special webinar guest is Adrienne Urban of  Whole New Mom, who is an expert in this field.

March Skill of the Month: Learn a New Handcraft — Knit, Crochet, Sew!

We’re rounding up the best resources for beginners and experts alike!

April Skill of the Month: Gardening From the First Seed

Watch for webinars with gardening expert Mike Podlesny, Mike the Gardener and with Marjorie Wildcraft of Grow Your Own Groceries. I might even be able to get a hydroponics expert to join us for a Q&A session!

May Skill of the Month: Get Your Prep On!

You may be well-prepared for emergencies, but this is the month to take on one or two new prepping challenges! And, be ready for webinars and Q&A sessions with survival and prepping experts!

June Skill of the Month: Off-Grid Living

July Skill of the Month: Canning & Dehydrating Food

I hope all this gets you as excited about the Skill of the Month Club as I am.

I’ll have that special pre-launch price for you in another few days. In the meantime, watch for upcoming articles about planning meals and decluttering your home.

 

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Tight Space Prepping: Decorating your home for survival http://thesurvivalmom.com/tight-space-prepping-decor/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/tight-space-prepping-decor/#comments Sat, 03 Jan 2015 07:00:03 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=20130 Just because you live in a small apartment or home doesn’t mean that you can’t join the wonderful world of prepping. There are many ways to have a garden, store food, and enjoy your living space – without looking (or Read More

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prepping decor 800 x 800Just because you live in a small apartment or home doesn’t mean that you can’t join the wonderful world of prepping. There are many ways to have a garden, store food, and enjoy your living space – without looking (or feeling) like a hoarder!

House Plants

Filling your home with the right types of plants can be one of the best ways to both beautify your small space and have a few useful emergency tools on hand.

Food

When choosing house plants, pick ones that are useful, not just pretty. There are many types of edible flowers and plants. One of my favorites to keep are mini roses. They don’t take up a whole lot of space and are safe for human consumption, as long as you don’t spray them with pesticide. Also consider adding a few miniature fruit trees. They are great for both decoration and food production.

Medical

Many herbs, such as rosemary, are great for both cooking and medicinal purposes. It’s a pretty little shrub that looks like a fir tree. As a cooking herb it’s great for chicken, but it also aids in the digestion of richer meats. Rosemary essential oil is great for the scalp and reduces dandruff.

Rosemary and other herbs keep well on window sills or the kitchen counter. Aloe, for burns, is another favorite to keep in the house.

Finding Space

A bunch of planters sitting in the middle of the living room is hardly attractive, and few us of have a large outside window sill like the one pictured above. Putting your plants on the balcony would be an obvious go to, but not all apartments have a balcony. In that situation, try hanging your plants from the ceiling in a sunny area, but don’t go overboard. One or two plants per room will do.

Perhaps you would like to start a vegetable garden but don’t have an outside space. That’s where an indoor vegetable garden comes in. You can use a specially designed AeroGarden, or simply place a book case across from a large window in a non carpeted room.

No matter what kind of plants you have, an indoor grow light can help. If you have pets or small children, it’s best to keep your plants on the top shelves. Some cats will even try to eat cactus!

Purposeful Decorations

There are some decorations that are pretty but serve no practical purpose. Others are really pretty and can do something useful. When decorating in our home, I try my best to go with the second choice.

Lighting

Candles are my first go to for decorative lighting. They are easy to store and many even come in their own jars. They don’t take up much space because they are on display when not in use. They don’t require a storage of fuel, like oil.  If you have children or pets you could use the LED candles. They require batteries, but so would flashlights.

You could also use decorative oil lamps. You may be able to find a few at thrift store or online. They do require oil, but you can counter that by buying a lamp with a clear oil tank and filling it with a colored oil. The advantage of these lamps is that the light may be turned up or down and they also contribute to warming your home.

Insulation

Insulation is important to any prepper’s home. Covering those windows is the first step I would take to insulate my home.

Thermal curtains are designed to keep the outside heat, cold, and prying eyes out of your home, and they also keep the room extra dark. They are readily available at store like Target as well as online, so there are more than enough options to find something to match any room.

Where permitted, cover the windows with an insulating window film. These come in many decorative designs and serve two purposes. The first is to help block UV light from coming into my home and to reflect sunlight away. The second (an added bonus) is that they may also prevent street viewing inside your home when the curtains are open.

I also love to use floor rugs. It adds an extra layer of insulation to the floors and keeps the apartment carpets from getting quite as dirty.

Concealment Decor

I confess: I don’t like staring at piles of cans in my living room. While I love having my storage, I don’t like feeling as though I live in a tiny warehouse so when I find a way to hide my storage, I do.

Creative Furniture Use

Bean bag chairs are the absolute best when it comes to hiding storage in plain sight. Children and grownups alike, love to sit on them. They are easy to move from room to room as a portable chair and are amazingly comfortable to read on. I use them as advertised. I hide bags of beans and peas in them. When I need a bag of split peas to make soup, I simple evict whichever child is sitting on the food storage for a moment and get what I need.

Creative Shelving

One of my favorite memories growing up is the giant bookcase my parents made. It was made of plywood and buckets, although cinder blocks are a common variation. The buckets contained stored flour and rice. To make this design look more decorative all you need to do is cover the ply wood with self-sticking shelf paper and color coordinate the buckets.

Hide Away Decor

Couch covers and bed ruffles make it easy to hide storage under my furniture, where I am happy not to see it. They also provide a potential fabric source should I need it. They come in a variety of patterns and colors to meet your decorating needs and (if made of the right fabric) can also be used as an extra blanket.

What other decorating ideas have you come up with to help with your prepping in tight spaces?

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Charity Prepping http://thesurvivalmom.com/charity-prepping/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/charity-prepping/#comments Mon, 22 Dec 2014 08:24:03 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=20002 Many people donate to their church or to charities year round to support a cause or help those less fortunate. Have you ever considered combining your prepping activities with charitable giving? Rotating Your Food Stock When you’ve got your shelves full Read More

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Charity PreppingMany people donate to their church or to charities year round to support a cause or help those less fortunate. Have you ever considered combining your prepping activities with charitable giving?

Rotating Your Food Stock

When you’ve got your shelves full of pantry foods saved for an emergency, sometimes it’s hard to keep up on proper rotation of expiring items. (Though many foods are fine passed their “expiration dates” some are not, and some people choose not to keep/eat expired foods when they have the ability to buy a replacement.) If you find that you can’t or don’t want to eat what you’ve stored, don’t throw it out! Take it to a local food bank, homeless shelter, or soup kitchen.

This is also a great way for people who don’t eat processed food, yet want to have food storage in case of emergency. Go ahead and buy your food stock and shelve it. When it comes time to rotate it out, instead of feeding it to your family, donate it to the food bank.

Our supply of dehydrated and freeze dried #10 cans of 10-30 year food storage items was pricey, but what we gained was long shelf life. Toward the end of the shelf life limit, we will simply load up the truck and donate it to a family or organization in need. Yes, we could use it ourselves, but instead our donation will be made with gratitude that we didn’t have to live through a disaster that was so bad we needed our long term food storage to survive. We will purchase a new stash and pray we get to donate again in another 20 years.

Blessing Bags

When deciding to rotate out some of your food items, consider breaking them down into individual items. Instead of taking the case of cheese and crackers, boxes of raisins or granola bars and single serve applesauce to the food bank, divide them into ziplock baggies along with the travel sized personal hygiene items you’ve collected from your travels and make Blessing Bags with them. Keep them in your car for an easy way to offer a little something to a homeless person you encounter. For more ideas on what to include in blessing bags, click here.

TEOTWAWKI Giving

We all know people who, for a variety of reasons, don’t have even a beginning level of preparedness. These are the ones who will be knocking on your door asking for help when they have no food or supplies. What will you do? Send them away? Give them some of the preps meant for your family? What if they are armed? What if they have young children with them? These are all questions you have to ask yourself ahead of time and have at least a plan of how you intend to respond.

Ken Jenson of the Clever Survivalist gives one good reason to be charitable with your preps besides simple generosity. “When you share food with [others] you will gain something called social capital.” You’re being generous with them, so they may feel obligated to help you. They may not have preps, but they likely have skills, and working together as a team is the beginning of setting up a thriving community in the midst of hardship.

So what should you put aside ahead of time in your charity prep stash? Jenson suggests the items should be inexpensive, easy to store and high energy.

Dried Beans

Rice

Noodles/Pasta

Dried Mixed Fruit

Rolled Oats

Sugar

Salt

Dried Milk

Bulk Wheat

There are two schools of thought when deciding how to package up these giveaways. The first is to have everything preplanned and prepackaged so you just have to hand the gift to the person and send them on their way. This is convenient and quick. Some preppers think it’s too convenient and quick which is why they don’t like it. Showing a stranger that level of preparedness may tell them that you have a lot more stock ready for the taking. Instead, consider the second option which is to have items set aside but not prepackaged. Keep a stash of plastic grocery bags with these items and fill them as needed. This might send the message that you threw this together on the spot and make it appear more like a “sacrifice” you’re making to help.

If you are prepping for extended civil unrest, EMP, or other long term disastrous events, think about other inexpensive items besides food to stock up on in your charity giving preps that will help people who haven’t planned ahead. In addition to these tangible items, you can “teach a man to fish” by also including a page or two of basic instructions on how to start a fire, make water safe to drink, finding shelter, etc. 

Matches

Ziploc bags

Mylar blankets

Water purification tablets

Individual hand sanitizers

Feminine hygiene products

Bug repellant wipes, baby wipes

Small tissue packs

Light sticks

Tealight candles

Latex gloves

Ponchos

Many in the prepper community are adamant about only “taking care of their own” and tell others “don’t come to my house looking for food or I’ll shoot you.” While I don’t deny the need to protect and provide for your family, I don’t believe it will be as “easy” as just shooting people in a true disastrous scenario. Are you really going to shoot the mom and her starving baby who knock on your door asking for something to eat? Or would it be better to have some additional supplies set aside to offer as you send them on their way? We all understand the importance of supporting those in need even during the “good times.” Plan ahead and be willing and able to help during the “bad times” as well.

Author’s Note: Click this link to hear more on the subject of charity prepping in a podcast by the Clever Survivalist. If you want to get right into the meat of the topic, forward ahead to about the 18:12 mark. And don’t forget – depending on who you give it to, this can be a tax deduction

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16 Non-Traditional Containers For Your Bug Out Bag/Emergency Kit http://thesurvivalmom.com/15-non-traditional-containers-for-your-bug-out-bagemergency-kit/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/15-non-traditional-containers-for-your-bug-out-bagemergency-kit/#comments Sat, 13 Dec 2014 15:37:28 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=10665 When it comes to selecting a bag for an emergency kit, many of us veer in the direction of tactical looking backpacks, or any type of backpack at all. And, it’s no wonder. A good backpack will have multiple pockets Read More

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A backpack might not be the best choice for an emergency kit. Check out this list of non-traditional containers! | via www.TheSurvivalMom.com

When it comes to selecting a bag for an emergency kit, many of us veer in the direction of tactical looking backpacks, or any type of backpack at all. And, it’s no wonder. A good backpack will have multiple pockets and pouches to help organize your gear and supplies, they can be carried on your back, leaving hands free, but they aren’t always the right solution for every scenario.

Here are a few non-traditional containers for your bug out bag or emergency kit that maybe you haven’t considered.

A rolling suitcase on wheels

Look for sturdy wheels because if one breaks off, you’ll be carrying that suitcase. Not fun! Some of these suitcases also have backpack straps.

A Rubbermaid container with lid

You select whichever size suits your needs and space. These are a good choice because the bin itself can be used to hold water, kindling, and a lot more.

Under the bed storage container

Mine fits perfectly in the back of my Tahoe and the transparent plastic lets me see the contents.

Trash can on wheels

These hold a lot, are very sturdy, and have an attached lid. They will also be heavy and difficult to load into a truck. However, if a trailer is part of your bug out/evacuation plans, you could store a trash can, fully packed, in the trailer. Include a box of heavy-duty black trash bags to keep the interior of the trash can clean if you ever have to use it for actual trash!

Space Bags 

Great for use with softer items, such as blankets, coats, jackets, and pillows.

5-gallon buckets with lid

Again, these buckets have multiple uses besides holding your emergency kit contents. A product like the Bucket Backpack would provide an alternative way to carry the bucket longer distances.

Multiple milk crates

My husband swears by these! They are extremely durable, stack easily, but do not have lids. They’re also free if you can find a grocery store that will give you one or more.

Military duffel bag

Soft-sided means you’ll be able to shove this bag behind and between things, and they come in several sizes. Their muted colors are also a plus.

Ziploc Flexible Tote 

Inexpensive, can easily see inside the tote, and lightweight. Not heavy duty, though, if your evacuation includes trekking through the wilderness.

Diaper bag

The waterproof lining could be very helpful, especially if you have small kids and/or a baby.

Tool box

Not lightweight but could be very useful for protecting fragile items.

Metal bucket with lid

I have this one and it’s definitely a multi-purpose container.

A storage locker, preferably one with wheels

Heavy-duty black trash bags

Be sure to the buy “contractor” bags. These are amazingly resilient, stretch a bit as you stuff more into them, and are very cheap. They would be useful for packing soft things like bedding, clothing, and sleeping bags.

A messenger bag with shoulder strap 

Anything with a shoulder strap will leave both hands free and might be easier to carry than a backpack for someone with back problems.

A fisherman or photo vest 

Obviously this won’t carry as much as these other containers, but with all the multiple pockets, you could keep the most essential items close at hand.

When planning for an emergency evacuation, I recommend dividing the contents of your emergency kit into 2 or more different types of containers. For example, a 5-gallon bucket can hold food and cooking supplies and will provide an emergency toilet, a large water container, and a handy tote for firewood. Then use a Space Bag to hold sleeping bags and cold weather clothing and finally a large backpack for everything else. You’ll have 2 multi-purpose containers and a backpack large enough to hold all the essentials in case you have no choice but to continue your evacuation on foot and have to leave the bucket and Space Bag behind.

When choosing your containers, keep in mind that they might be in for a pretty rugged future. Look for:

  • Extremely durable fabrics
  • Sturdy construction
  • Heavy-duty zippers, snaps, or other closures
  • Colors that blend in
  • Non-tactical appearance. This may cause you to look too prepared and a potential target.
  • Tight fitting lids

Also keep in mind the different ages and physical capabilities of your family members. Even young kids can carry small backpacks, easing the load for parents and teens.

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5 Steps in Packing an Emergency Kit with Flying Circle Bags http://thesurvivalmom.com/packing-an-emergency-kit/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/packing-an-emergency-kit/#comments Mon, 29 Sep 2014 20:15:28 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=18555 Pin this how-to for later. Click here. Coming up with a list of items for packing an emergency kit is the easy part. Books, websites, blogs, and YouTube videos abound with that information. My own lists can be found here Read More

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packing emergency kit

Pin this how-to for later. Click here.

Coming up with a list of items for packing an emergency kit is the easy part. Books, websites, blogs, and YouTube videos abound with that information. My own lists can be found here and in Chapter11 of my book.

What’s a little trickier is packing all that stuff in a way that makes sense, so that each item can be found when needed.

My daughter and I packed her emergency kit a couple of weeks ago using an excellent bag by Flying Circle Bags. They sent us their Presidio bag in Coyote Brown, and we have really enjoyed getting to know and use this bag. I also appreciated its affordable price.

Many folks grab the first available backpack they see, which is often a school backpack. These typically have a single large compartment and one or two zippered pouches on the exterior of the bag. In a pinch, this is better than nothing, but in a real emergency, you want a bag that is high quality and comes with many, many!, different pockets, slots, and pouches. Having multiple places to store things helps a great deal with organizing your supplies.

The Presidio bag met and exceeded our expectations. It’s definitely large enough to carry school books, supplies, and a laptop. It even has a clear vinyl touchscreen pocket for tablets. Access your iPad or other tablet while it’s safe inside this pocket! That was a nice, innovative feature that I didn’t expect. The large center section has 4 interior pockets and there are other small storage areas galore.

Bonus Discount! 20% off all Flying Circle bags with code SURVIVALMOM20

One nice accessory for this bag, if you find yourself with multiple small items that all seem to find their way to the bottom of a pocket, is this Cocoon organizer. This could easily be slipped into any one of several pouches in the Presidio to hold things like a tiny bottle of hand sanitizer, a pen, or an inhaler. I’ve also been known to use Ziploc bags and small coin/cosmetic cases for additional organization.

We’ve found the pack to be comfortable with its padded shoulder straps, adjustable sternum and waist straps, and the padded back. It’s on the smaller size, when compared with other, similar packs that are designed for men. Its size brings up the one potential issue that some may find with the Presidio. If your pile of things to pack is enormous, you may want to find smaller versions of some items in order to have enough room. We give this bag 2 thumbs up!

Now, here are 5 tips for getting that pack organized and packed properly.

Step 1: Assemble all your supplies

No matter what list(s) you use, remember to pause and first, look around to see what you might already have. One reason some moms never finish packing their emergency kits is because the have a long list of things to buy and the budget is tight and who knows when the money will be there…

If you start looking through cabinets, drawers, the garage, the trunk of your car, etc., you may be pleasantly surprised to find that you have far more items for your kit than you thought. Anything that is still on your To Buy list, might be found on Craigslist, Freecycle, eBay, in garage and estate sales, dollar stores, and thrift stores.

Step 2: Make sure your bag is the proper size and high quality

When you see that pile of supplies before you, you may panic and head for the largest possible backpack on the market. Jim Cobb weighs in on this here.

If you need to cut back on contents, look for products that serve multiple purposes and for smaller versions of what you have in the pile. Personally, I make good use of my Food Saver to vacuum pack items like toilet paper (remove the inner cardboard tube before vacuum sealing) and medications.

Step 3: Categorize your contents for better organization

Whenever I’ve been in a true panic, everything is confused — my thoughts, my words, my world. The last thing a mom needs in the moment of crisis is to dig through a dozen pockets looking for a pair of scissors or Quick Clot or some other item. This is why Step 3, is so necessary.

Go through everything in your pile of emergency stuff and sort it into my favorite 5 categories:

Sanitation

Security

Survival

Sustenance

Sanity

You can read more about these in detail, as well as emergency kit items in each category. As you begin to sort, your kit will begin to take shape. You may have all your sanitation items together, only to discover that you’ve somehow left out a small bottle of hand sanitizer or vacuum packed tissues. With each category, consider what your particular family needs, such as medications, dietary requirements, or small distractions for young children.

Step 4: Put most important items in outside pockets

The groupings with the most or largest items will necessarily be placed in the largest pouches or pockets. However, items such as a flashlight or first aid kit should be kept in outside pockets or wherever they can be quickly accessed.

Step 5: Each person should pack their own kit, so they know where to find each item

Before you know it, your kit will be fully packed. You’ll be tempted to move on and prepare everyone in the family, and that’s a good thing, but it really is best if each person packs their own kit.

If you’ve ever had someone make a grocery list for you, you know how disconcerting it is to arrive at the store and have to figure out, from scratch, what you’re supposed to buy. It’s when you write the list or pack the kit that it makes sense. Even young children should go through this step themselves, with your supervision.

There are many, many events that might require a quick grab of an emergency kit, such as a house fire, flood, earthquake, or other natural disaster. It’s worth taking some time now, on this side of those events, to get a high quality pack and begin making your own, customized kit.

 

 

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Prepping on the Sly http://thesurvivalmom.com/prepping-sly/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/prepping-sly/#comments Mon, 01 Sep 2014 06:00:39 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=17055 Two years ago, my husband thought I was nuts to imagine a life without electricity, gas, or grocery stores. He didn’t want to discuss it, much less have hand tools and tactical gear cluttering up every inch of unused space Read More

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prepping on the sly Two years ago, my husband thought I was nuts to imagine a life without electricity, gas, or grocery stores. He didn’t want to discuss it, much less have hand tools and tactical gear cluttering up every inch of unused space and reminding him just how far I’d “gone off the deep end.”

Regardless, I felt I had a responsibility to plan for our children — with or without his cooperation. His attitude was basically, “Do what you want, as long as I don’t have to deal with it.” Talk about a head-in-the-sand approach!

Now, I would never advocate lying to your spouse. That said, you have a responsibility to plan for your family’s future, no matter what that future holds. When your kids look to you with vacant eyes and rumbling tummies, “I was waiting for Daddy‘s approval” will not fill those bellies! I’ll bet you’d resort to much worse than prepping on the sly / covert shopping to provide for them, if you had to.

I started small, with what I could personally control without interference: my purse and daily driver. If you’re overwhelmed but feel an urgency to prep without causing conflict, consider these common-sense approaches.

Have resources on hand

Keep a 1/2 tank or more of gas at all times. Electricity, delivery, and credit card issues happen every day. You don’t want you and your children to be stranded away from home.

Keep $100 in small bills in your purse. Be disciplined enough not to touch it for lunch money. The idea is to be able to make exact change in a real emergency situation.

Your purse is your Every Day Carry bag. Lists abound for what to include, but think of it like this: If you and your kids were trapped somewhere for an extended period, what would you have to have? My purse weighs seven pounds. I’m not getting rid of ANY of it.

Put a well-stocked First Aid Kit in your trunk. (Remember that summer heat will make medicine degrade more quickly in your car than in your home.) Once you’ve assembled your bug-out bag, stash it next to your gas can and on top of your flat-ish storage tub containing a change of clothes for you and your kids. Keep a pair of hiking boots in there in case you have to hoof it home.

A trunk organizer is also great to keep things like bottled water, tools, “picnic blankets”, and other stuff your husband will probably use but won’t want to know you carry. Mine has used the first aid kit a dozen times but sometimes still asks when I’m going to get rid of all that “junk” so my groceries will fit.

Over-the-seat storage bags are perfect for other things you’ll want to keep handy, like snacks, travel-size games, and books to keep the kids busy, and an extra flashlight or two. Check out this link to see what you should keep in your glove box.

Financial Preparations

Get “cash back” with each debit card transaction. For me, it started out as an experiment to see how much money we wasted without noticing. I watched our account balance and kept it level. Within a matter of months, I had several hundred dollars in the safe for emergencies — and told my husband about the “waste” we were actually saving. Once you’re comfortable with your amount, grab a few of those twenties and take this action step.

Clip or print online coupons and compare to local store ads to save money. Once I showed my husband I could get free toothpaste and 5 boxes of $4 cereal for $1.10 each, he never questioned why we had so much stuff in the pantry. Now he’s sort of proud of the convenience of having a “grocery store” in the spare closet. 

When he asks, “Hey do we have any more [fill in the blank]?” he loves that the answer is always, “Yes!” Keep track of the money you save — especially if you’re paying cash. Your budget will never miss it and you can tuck it into your emergency stash pretty painlessly.

Nontraditional college funds took a little more convincing, but here was my pitch: We’re already putting XX dollars into savings each month for the kids’ college funds. What if we took that money and, over time, bought silver coins? Silver will never lose its value like their 529 plans did when the market crashed in 2008. We can keep it in the safe so we always have access to it in case of emergency. When the kids go to fill out their FAFSA forms, it won’t count toward their “expected family contribution” because it’s off the radar. And if they never need it—if they get scholarships or choose a trade instead of college — they can always sell it to put toward a wedding, a car, a house, or whatever.

Still not convinced?  If you can, try the 52-week savings plan. What man doesn’t love a good challenge?

“Christmas shop” all year. Keep a spreadsheet with a list of those you usually buy for and the budget per gift. It’s never too early to start bargain shopping!

I often buy my children’s clothes a size up at the end of the season.  If they need new jeans before Christmas, I don’t have to buy them at full price because I have some tucked away. Otherwise, they have a few necessities that didn’t break the bank. I store them in their plastic bins of off-season clothes. I also buy the $15 sneakers in the next size when advertised in the Academy circular.

Then I brag to my husband about how much I saved versus last year’s gift! He knows exactly what I’m storing and why. I do the same thing with birthday gifts. If the unthinkable happens and I can’t buy clothes this time next year, I’ve got a little cushion to come up with plan B. I keep unopened socks and undies for each family member in current size and the next size up for kiddos for the same reason.

Food Preps

Grab an extra bag of beans and rice each trip to the grocery store. Sounds simple, but you can quickly stock up on staple foods like canned goods without breaking your budget. Check out this article for tips on where to store your stuff incognito.

How many of your dinners have started with “my friend gave me this great recipe…”? If the “friend” happens to be the Survival Mom and the ingredients happen to be freeze-dried, you have an explanation for the doorstep delivery from Augason Farms. Now you have some staples for cooking! And if the recipe is a keeper, you can always survivalize it for the future.

Take the kids to “pick your own” farms or the farmer’s market and then can/dehydrate!  It gives them something to do outdoors and away from their electronic gadgets!

I took a canning class through our local farmer’s market so I could preserve “extras” from the garden.  If you don’t garden, try canning some things unavailable in grocery stores. We love mango salsa, corn relish, whole berry cranberry sauce, and mint jelly.

The only way to get that stuff is learn to make it yourself. Learn a new skill and acquire equipment in the process. And make room to store the jars of goodies you’ll eat all year. They make unique and budget-friendly gifts. And my husband is actually a little proud to take these unique goodies to office parties and potlucks — especially homemade pickles.

Other Essentials

Tools make good gifts. My husband sort of expects practical things for obligatory gift-giving occasions, so he’s gotten things like a tent, a Mag light, fishing gear, hunting boots, and other survival gear without knowing (or caring) that I would’ve bought those things, anyway.

I’ve requested and received a sewing machine, pressure canner, solar oven, sleeping bag, pistol, dehydrator, and food saver sealing system. Granted, I’ve requested some of the less “mainstream” items from my parents who also diligently prepare, but you can’t get rid of a gift from your parents, no matter how weird, right?

Check out the FSA store. If you have access to a flexible spending account, you can use this website to spend any funds remaining in that account before you lose them at the end of the plan period. (If you’re in, say, a 28% tax bracket, taking $$ pre-tax to pay for medical expenses is like saving 28% on your medical bills.) I had $50 I was about to forfeit at plan’s end last year. I used that money to stock up on first aid items and contact solution.

Because it had already been deducted from my paycheck, my budget didn’t even feel it. You can shop the site with a regular credit card if you don’t have an FSA card, but it’s comparable to store prices and you can’t use coupons. I have been able to find hard-to-find items there, though, like NasalCease, which I include in my first aid kits.

Emotional Preps

No amount of arguing, pleading, or article-forwarding could convince my husband that a bleak future was possible. But little by little, I was able to do enough on my own to get us in decent shape for the most common events in our area — tornadoes, extended power outages due to ice storms, and personal financial crises. We had a few short-term outages that we weathered just fine thanks to my preparedness. We had some scary injuries and friends with serious illnesses that made him remove his head from the sand and see the wisdom of forethought.

I made a point of drawing attention to the fact that I was ready for little, everyday emergencies. Then I’d wonder aloud what would happen if that emergency was magnified. Then I’d lapse into silence and wait for a reaction.

Mostly, though, I prayed. A lot. I prayed for safety for my family, for a little more time to prepare, for wisdom to do so ethically, and for the strength to do it on my own.  Hang in there. Baby steps in the right direction trump paralysis every time. And even if you catch a little flack now, know that you’re not alone. It won’t be long before your spouse will think it’s weird that other people don’t have bottled water in the trunk.

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