Friday, February 27, 2009

Simple can be better in more ways than one...

For those who looked at my last post and thought, oooooh, noooo, just toooo long, please: 1) remember to check for winter clearance sales so that you can stock up on what's available for future use. I did find some boots for one of my children for next year for $5.00, so let's hope they will fit... :) 2) Also, although you will in all likelihood not gain and/or need the same benefits that I mention in that post that resulted from trying to spread my own purchasing power around, I just hope that everyone does what they can so that more people can keep their businesses/jobs--I see it as a win-win situation.

Oook, well, that was simpler, huh? And now I would like to share a couple of meals that we like around here, that are simple for a couple of reasons. One, they have few ingredients, which leaves more money for purchasing other items that can be put in storage. Two, they have ingredients that are easy to store. Oh, all right, and besides being simple, we think that they taste pretty good, too... :)

This first one is located in a cookbook put together in celebration of a small town that is very dear to my heart. (I have had the privilege of eating southern barbeque, can appreciate the effort and time that goes into such an endeavor, and realize that this may not be everyone's idea of barbeque. That said, we like this recipe, and it provides variety in flavor with very few ingredients.... )


1/2 cup ketchup
1 Tbsp. vinegar
Sprinkle chili powder
4 pork chops

Oven temp: 350 degrees Time: 1-1/2 hours

Mix ketchup, vinegar, chili powder and enough water to make 1 cup liquid. Place pork chops in a casserole and salt and pepper them. Pour sauce over the chops and bake in a covered casserole. Uncover for the last 15 minutes.

(Source: Nutrition and Nostalgia of a Century, pg. 243. Special thanks to B.F. for submitting the recipe. (If the contributor sees this and would like a full name display, let me know.)

That is the original recipe, although I have been known to throw it in the crockpot and let it go all day. If you use the crockpot method, you need to watch it towards the end, or your dish could end up dryer than you would like.

Don't know what to call the following--Italian Dressing Crockpot Chicken will have to do, I guess. Got it from my best source, (Mom) so just have memorized it. If, after the first or second endeavor, you don't need a recipe card, I figure you can't get much simpler than that... :)

Italian Dressing Crockpot Chicken

2-4 chicken breasts
1 envelope Italian dressing mix
1-2 cans cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup

Place chicken in bottom of crockpot. Sprinkle Italian dressing mix over top of chicken (how much you use will depend on how strong of a flavor you want--I would suggest 1/2 package-full package). Pour soup over the top of chicken. Cook all day.

This recipe is one of our favorites, and is great with rice or mashed potatoes or noodles. When we use less chicken, we break it up in pieces and put it over rice to make it stretch. The more soup you use, the more sauce you will end up with to stretch servings.

Well, true confessions--the food storage aspect is just an added plus to me. I have used these recipes for years because they had few ingredients, which led to easier preparation, and I really, really, really like easy. :) But the added benefit is that if you don't have as many ingredients to buy, you have more money to buy more emergency preparedness items... so if you try these, I hope you enjoy them!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Additional advantages to shopping around

Heard from someone online that one of the stores that I don't visit all that often has winter clearance on clothes for 70% off the lowest marked price, so I headed over there last night, since it is one of those stores that stays open until later. It is basically an all-inclusive type of store, since you can get food as well as clothes as well as furniture... well, you get the point.

Well, I'm not the type (usually) that buys something just because I show up at a shopping establishment, and the clearance items had been pretty much picked over for the type of items I was really interested in. I looked at the clearance items displayed at the front of the store, and then at the clearance items in the children's section. Only a few things available that were only slightly tempting, so, nooooo.....but hey, I was already in the store, so I checked out the grocery section.

Most of the prices were similar to/slightly higher than what I would be willing to pay if I had to, and some were of the type that makes me wonder how anyone can afford to pay that much for that particular item, but I did hit a couple of winners. For instance, the canned pasta that is preferred in my family was on sale, down from 10/$10 to $.88/can. I bought a couple, and made mental note of the fact that it appeared from the shelf labeling that it will remain that way for a couple of weeks. I've been trying to work more on my 3-month supply, which differs from the long-term supply items because the goal is to have that length of a supply of the items you normally eat, rather than more of the staples (although rice and beans is now more normal around here than it was last year :) . Anyway, a couple of those went into the cart, as well as a bottle of shampoo for $.99. Granted, the bottle looked smaller than what I remember buying in the past, but we need to replenish the supplies on the soap shelf downstairs, since we seem to deplete them when needed....

Then I went to the local national grocery store and found out that the item that I thought was on sale this week that I wanted particularly was not on sale after all. Ended up picking up a couple of cans of Spam because they were somewhere in the realm of the prices that I would pay at the local national chainstore, and a couple of frozen items that were at a good price and that my children really like, and would help in the 3-month goal category. I don't store all that much in the freezer, because the electricity thing, coupled with the fact that we don't have a generator, makes me more inclined to invest in things that don't need refrigeration.

And now, more to the point, for those that are still reading, is what my husband said when I got home. He asked me if it was busy. It was not, at either store. It could have been the hour. It could have been the prices. Whatever the case, the slower goes the store, the more people's jobs are affected, and that is why, when I can, I try to spread my money around, other than just at the local national chainstore. It does seem like it is extremely difficult to beat the prices at the local national chainstore in many cases, and since the local national chainstore is also an all-inclusive type of store, it can be more time effective as well. But I still try to "spread the wealth" as it were, and support more local businesses. When I did that recently, I reaped a lot more than a price decrease...

A couple of weeks ago, now, I was out and about in the afternoon on a Saturday, and I went past the local crafts store. I knew that I had to prepare an item for the following day that required sewing of a sort, (those who may recall my feelings about sewing can imagine the gasp of horror that accompanies such a project) and having heard of a method that included a glue gun and very little actual stitching, I was planning to buy some glue sticks and try my hand at it later that evening. (Nothing like procrastination to improve an already stressful situation.... :) The parking lot looked busy, so I decided I would run that particular errand later in the evening.

In the meantime, I went several places where I probably could have ferreted out the needed glue sticks if I had been so inclined, but I wanted to give my business to the craft store, so I didn't. It got later and later in the day, and finally, knowing that the crafts store closed at 9:00, made my way there probably a little more than an hour before closing (I'm really good--make that practiced--at the procrastination thing). I asked for directions to the glue stick aisle. Couldn't find it. But I did find one of my neighbors, who was working there. She directed me to the glue sticks. She asked me about my project. She told me about a wonderful item that is a liquid that is permanent that acts like sewing, but isn't. And then she offered to do my sewing for me.

Yeah, she told me when she would get off work, and invited me to come over because what I had in mind would only take her about 2-3 minutes, and she already had her sewing machine out. I bought the glue sticks for future use, and took her up on her offer, arriving at the pre-arranged time at her house with my project in hand.

Turns out she is an accomplished seamstress. I saw some of her handiwork--she had been sewing quilts for her family, and they were absolutely gorgeous. She has a wonderful talent, and she did me a great favor. Since the project was for one of my children, she has done a favor for my family as well. She offered to help me in the future.

I have known for a long time that she is one of the nicest people that you would ever want to meet, but I only found out recently that she works at the crafts store. I wanted to help the business, (what little I can) but it turns out that I benefitted from my shopping habits more than they did in this case. The more businesses that stay in business, the more options (and hopefully price competition) we'll have. This experience just helped me realize that when we are supporting a business, we're supporting the employees, who may be our neighbors, as well. And it turns out to be a win-win situation all around....

I doubt that my neighbor will find this post. (You would probably be surprised to know how few people know that I have a blog, much less which blog it is.) However, my sincere thanks go out to her if she does. A talent is a wonderful thing, to share it is a wonderful thing, and who knows, as a result of her example, I may be prompted to try my hand at sewing again.... it doesn't hurt to try, does it? Well, in the case of sewing it has caused me mental anguish in the past, but that doesn't mean that I shouldn't try again anyway..... :)

Friday, February 20, 2009

All substitutions are not created equal

Well, if I were in the mood to tell stories on myself, I guess I could talk about the time when I was living overseas, and:

--because there were no varieties of Rice Krispies, a decision was made to use puffed wheat instead in a variation of Rice Krispie treats. The result? The result was not good. Conclusion: puffed wheat is not a good substitution for Rice Krispies in the recipe for Rice Krispie treats. Bad substitution. Bad, bad, brick-like substitution.

--because there was no mixer available, the decision was made to try to make "no-fail divinity" in a blender. The chances of success? Hopes were high, I mean, look at the name of the recipe. The result? You may be surprised (or not) to hear that the results were not good. Conclusion: a blender is not a good substitution for a mixer when it comes to making divinity. Bad substitution. Bad, bad, total mess of a failure substitution.

Now, I'm obviously not against trying new things, (at least if you look at the above examples) but in an emergency situation you might not have the luxury of trying new things--either because you don't have the resources, or because the information is not available. And I'm not talking about fun things like rice krispie treats and divinity--I'm talking about things like eggs and white flour. However, if you know what substitutions can be made for common items in cooking, you can not only stock up on needed supplies, but you will know how to use them if the need arises.

Wendy, over at iPrepared, recently put up an excellent comprehensive list of many common cooking items in this post. I have not tried these substitutions as of yet, but I did make myself write them down in my emergency notebook before I let myself write this post. It took quite a while, but now it's in there! I am especially glad to know how to substitute for eggs, because as of this post I have no chickens on my property.... Many thanks to Wendy for putting so much valuable information up for all to share.

Just a note about this week's poll--lots of times, as I may have mentioned before, I put up questions that I'm thinking about that apply to my own situation. If I had to pick one of the options on the poll that is worrying me particularly at the moment, I would say it would be the one about time. I'm hoping things will still be available and affordable by the time that I am able to get all the provisions in that I want to get in. If you have the means, please get emergency supplies in as quickly as possible for your family. If you are already in an emergency situation, I hope that things get better for you soon.

I haven't said this in a while, but really, one of the reasons that I started this blog is because I don't want my children to go hungry in a crisis situation, and I don't want anyone else's children to go hungry either. We may not be able to get everything in storage that we would like to get, but everything that we can get in will end up being a big plus, emergency or not...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

And now we return to blogging...

First, my sincere thanks to those who left comments on my last post. The reason it took so long to post and then reply to some of them was because we are in the midst of changing what was once the office or computer room into a bedroom, and we were off line due to connection problems for a while (wiring and such.) Thennnnn, after we got that worked out, the server went down after a couple of hours, and finally came back on line this morning. So, I am looking forward to checking out what I've been missing on other blogs later....

One of the things that popped up in my rearranging of rooms is a preparedness survey created by my best source (Mom), along with notes that look like they were a precursor to making it. I'm taking a little liberty with the format and notes, but I thought I'd include the questions here in case you wanted to see how you would answer:

___The number of people in our house

___The number of weeks I know we have enough food for everyone

___The number of days I know we have enough water for everyone

Please answer yes or no to each of the following:

__Each member of our family has a 72-hour kit
__Each kit has cash and current personal information
__Each kit has emergency phone numbers
__Everyone has their own sleeping bag
__Everyone has a pad to place under their sleeping bag*
__We have a shelter in case we have to live outside
__We have an alternate source of heat
__We have an alternative way to cook
__We have a designated meeting place if we are unable to get home
__We know how to turn off the gas to our home and the tool is handy
__We know how to turn off the water supply
__We have a comprehensive first aid kit
__We have an evacuation plan in case of fire/earthquake/insert emergency likely in your area
__We have an arrangement to use or set up for a toilet
__We have a plan for washing hands, dishes, etc.
__We have a plan for washing our clothes
__We have a list of what to take and in what order to take them if we were asked to evacuate quickly
__Our children know how we will find them if an emergency occurs during school hours
__We have a place out of state (or area) for everyone to check in
__We know what emergency plans are in place (24-hour kits, perhaps) at the schools our child/children attend(s)

*Learned relatively recently that you need a pad under you if you are sleeping on the ground, or your heat will be sucked up by said ground and you will get awfullllly cold. Cold + outside does not equal anything close to comfort or happiness....

Um, yeah--I don't have everything in place that I need to have in place according to this survey, and the food and water supply need work too, but it gives me some goals to work toward, or motivation to just actually get some things done, whichever of the two applies. How did you do? (Absolutely rhetorical question, but one worth asking...) Hope this helps you in your preparedness activities. Thanks to my best source for providing the survey material. Sure is nice to be back online again... :)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

In the research phase

Well, I haven't got that much to write about at the moment, but I am in the middle of researching a couple of things that I want to have/know for emergency purposes. Once I have more info, or even a purchase (gotta love those :) I will post about it. Here are my current areas of interest:

--I want/need to get an oil/kerosene lamp. We now have more flashlights, but I really would like a good lantern or lamp (one of the decisions), and have looked on ebay. Found out that I don't know much about wicks and wick lengths. Found out that I would like to have extra of whatever wick I would need. Found out that prices vary greatly on ebay. And found out that I just need a lot more information before I can buy something of this nature and/or write a helpful post on this subject, so this paragraph is all that I have for now....

--If I'm not mistaken, I have written about the terrible sticker shock I experience in the cereal aisle at insert any store name here, unless there is some kind of wonderful low-price sale on cereal intended to draw you in in the hopes that you will buy a ton of other stuff. So far have survived by stocking up on 10/$10 boxes (those were the days) and more lately more expensive "good" deals, but have decided that I just need to bite the bullet and find at least a couple of breakfast recipes that:

--use as few ingredients as possible...

--- use ingredients that would be ones that I already have or am planning to have in storage, or would be ingredients that are not too expensive but have a relatively long shelf life and which I would feel good about storing...

-- could be variations on the old standards---oatmeal, breads, some kind of rice dish that could be eaten for breakfast, etc. ...

--are really easy, so that a person such as myself would not be frightened into procrastination upon seeing the recipe...

Unfortunately, I have not found what I am looking for yet, or you would be reading more success stories (with links) or failure stories (without links) right now. Sorry that it's not more informative at the moment, but I'm working on it. Would welcome suggestions, ideas, etc., if you're willing to share....

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Getting a different result

Read a quote by a Dave Ramsey on another site (sorry, I don't know who this gentleman is) that was probably, considering the nature of said site, given in a political and/or economic context. I find this quote most intriguing, however, when I think of how it applies to our own emergency preparedness efforts:

“Desperate always reaps stupid.”

To which I would reply, "Well, not necessarily."

Let me just say up front, emphatically, and in a if-you-don't-remember-anything-else-about-this-post-remember-this kind of way, that I know that what happened with US Airways Flight 1549, which you may recall made an emergency landing on the Hudson, was a miracle. No way it could have come out the way that it did if it hadn't been a miracle.

And this was a truly desperate situation. They recently released the cockpit audio of the conversations that took place before the emergency landing, which, along with an article, you can find here. Captain Chesly Sullenberger was amazing. He was well-trained, in the first place. And he was aware of what his options could be once he got into the situation. He talks about returning to LaGuardia. He asks about Teterboro Airport in New Jersey. If I'm not mistaken, his last transmission before the landing was the statement, "We're going to be in the Hudson." Calm, cool, and collected the entire time. At least outwardly. If you read the article, you will see this quote from him:

"It was the worst, sickening, pit-of-your-stomach, falling-through-the-floor feeling I've ever felt in my life," he said in an interview airing Sunday. "I knew immediately it was very bad."

It was a desperate situation--both engines not working, and nowhere normal to land. But Captain Sullenberger reaped anything but stupid. Both he and we reaped a miracle.

The ground control people couldn't even reach Captain Sullenberger right after the landing. According to the article,

"There was no response from the former Air Force fighter pilot, who had quickly headed into the crippled plane to assist the passengers."

That's right. He was already busy helping somebody else. Probably several somebody elses.

So what does that have to do with our emergency preparation? I would hazard a guess and say that there is probably a low percentage of people reading this that are professional pilots that would find themselves in this situation. At least I hope not when it comes to the "this situation" part. But we don't necessarily have to make desperate reap stupid. What can we do within our means to make the "reaping stupid" part unnecessary?

Well, to draw a few comparisons:

---Be sure that you receive training or train yourselves for what you will/may need to do in the case of an emergency. Even if the emergency consists solely of living on your food storage, do you know how to use it? Can you provide the meals you need for your family from the supplies that you have? Do you know how to defend yourselves if the need arose? Do you have an evacuation plan in the case of a natural disaster? There is always room for improvement when it comes to being more prepared in the area of knowledge and/or skills, and you never know when you might need them. And at that point you may have only about three minutes to decide what you are going to do...

--Know our options. What are your options in the case of job loss? How do you protect yourself and/or your family in the case of a pandemic? What will you do in the case of the loss of your home due to personal financial issues? Whatever emergency you think you may face, think of how you may deal with it. Plan A, plan the most desperate options for your last.

--Stay calm, even if inside you don't feel calm. Easier said than done, and a lot harder for yours truly than I would care to admit. I can't think of a situation that is improved by panic...

--If/when you can, help others. Pretty self-explanatory, and yet, I had to add something like this sentence anyway, didn't I.... :)

Well, as I stated previously, we need to prepare as much as we can within our means, so it won't all be equal, but it will all be helpful, emergency or not. Desperate doesn't necessarily have to reap stupid. I hope we will all do all that we can so that we don't have to make "stupid" an automatic result in desperate situations.

And then, when we have done everything we can, may we always remember---miracles can, do, and in the case of Flight 1549 did--- happen.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

What you didn't know you didn't know...

As a result of my previous post, I learned a lot about ham radios, and now I want one. I knew somewhere in the back of my memory files that ham radios existed, and that you had to be licensed to use one, and that there was some major test that you had to study for like you were demented so that you could learn the ham radio code, which I either didn't remember or didn't know was Morse code. What I don't think was ever in my memory files was 1) that my best source (Mom) has already been licensed for about a year; 2)you no longer have to pass the Morse code test in order to receive your license (though I would definitely like to know it were a ham radio in my possession); 3) my internet friend Carl apparently has a way bigger yard than I do. (He always leaves great comments :)

In addition to Carl's comment, which I encourage you to go read, thanks to Road Scribe of New Mexico Preppers, who left the following information:

"Ham Radio: get the whole family involved. There are frequencies you can hit a repeater and make a phone call. Ham's will help you contact a family member in a disaster. Join a club near you. Ham Radio requires a license without the Morse Code test, but I'd advise learning that also. Kids pick up the code fast as a second language. Using the Internet there is Skype (Internet Phone), cheaper than my TracFone and a new one out called MagicJack for around 40.00/year."

I hadn't heard of the last two options, but it's definitely something that would be worth looking into--as you probably recall, I did have access to my computer while my phone was wigging out. Also, thanks to Anonymous, who shared first-hand experience, advice, and a reminder:

"Ham class started Saturday @8am. Took the test at 3:30 found out I passed and confirmed ARRL license and got call sign 4 days later. Followed advice of local Ham club members and ordered 2 meter (WATER PROOF!)handheld radio (good for local area using repeaters out to about 100 miles) , antenna (for car top), extra battery pack for about $250. VERY EASY PROCESS!! On the air in under 2 wks! Next step is a dual band radio for the truck extimate another $400 for that one. Go for it!!! Communication is CRITICAL. Before even water in priority in some cases. Communication can save you from making fatal mistakes. Remember all those poor uninformed people slogging to the superdome in NOL?!!! If only they knew what they were in for....."

I love it when something sounds doable--Anonymous' experience actually sounds similar to my best source's--it doesn't take that long to get licensed, apparently, and a long, drawn-out process is one of the things that would have made it look less attainable to me.

So many things that I didn't know that I didn't know--in this case, what I would like to do looks easier than I thought it might be, so that's always a plus. Of course, there's always the price aspect of it, so it might take a little while, but in an emergency, communication is priceless. Now I just have to locate my local ham radio club to learn even more... :)