Thursday, July 28, 2011

More Thoughts on Food Storage

In our previous article “Two Things You Can Do Right Now To be Better Prepared” we discussed the importance of food and water storage.  For this article I thought we might look deeper into food storage.  We already discussed copy canning which is simply doubling up on common use items and storing the surplus.  There are a  couple of details I wish to make clearer though.  To me cans purchased at stores are an item I rotate often since the have expiration dates and are typically recommended to be used within between two to four years.  Although I’ve personally eaten cans which where over ten years old some family members of mine prefer to observe the expiration dates.  For this reason I don’t keep more than three months worth of cans in my food pantry.  Off course there are other staples we store including rice, beans, flour, baking powder, and honey.  Remember the prepers maxim “buy what you eat and eat what you buy.”  This way you’ll ensure nothing gets wasted and that your canned food stores are the freshest they can be.

For longer term storage there are other options including mre’s, canned dry foods, dehydrated meals and even freeze dried foods.  Mre’s are the military meals ready to eat popular among various groups including hikers and campers.  I’ll also include the various camping type food packages in this category.  The pro’s are that they are highly portable.  They are light and take little room.  They last close to five years, some brands longer.  The down side is that they are expensive.  A small quantity for a bug out bag are a great solution but for larger quantities you’ll be better served with cans or some of the other options we’ll be discussing.  For ghb’s and bob’s that may be exposed to hot temperatures I prefer emergency boat rations such as Datrex or Sos.  They are designed to survive more extreme temperature fluctuations.
For long term storage dehydrated or freeze dried foods are a great choice.  They often last upwards of twenty years.  As with all stored food keeping them in a dry cool environment will extend their shelf life.  We like to mix and match between the two since some items do better with one method over the other.  Fruits and vegetables keep more of their nutrient  value when freeze dried so that’s our preference.  Meats on the other hand we store dehydrated since it is less expensive.  There are quite a few companies out there which provide these type of foods including some restaurant suppliers which now sell to the public.  In these unpredictable times so many people are getting into preparedness even those restaurant suppliers and wholesale clubs are getting in on this growing market.  As a matter of fact much of our long term stores come from Costco in the form of their Survival Buckets and their Shelf Reliance Thrive dehydrated and freeze dried canned foods.  Don’t forget these options require water to be reconstituted to plan accordingly.

A less expensive food storage option we also use are locally canned and bottled foods.  We also get dry foods which are either canned or stored in buckets which are deprived of oxygen.  The later can also be stored for upwards of twenty years. We usually get these from some of the smaller farms nearby.   A great source for these are the Local LDS canneries.  They tend to be the least expensive source when buying in bulk.  Some will allow you to can your own reducing the cost even more.  Some will even offer classes in food storage, canning  and bottling.  Find the one nearest you here:,12566,2026-1-4,00.html

There are certainly many more things we should be storing for leaner times.  We will be addressing them in future articles.  I hope you are enjoying our articles.  If you have any questions or comments feel free to contact me.  Also check out the Urban Survivalcraft Youtube channel and Face book page.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Lessons From The Gray Market

With the growing unemployment  rate and crumbling economy it is no wonder people today are worried about money more than ever.  In this article, I thought I’d share with you some of the creative solutions I’ve learned from people I’ve met, who out of necessity, have had to come up with outside the box solutions.  Most of the tricks I will share with you revolve around the growing gray market or underground economy.

The first method we will be discussing is the resale or barter of goods.  There are many ways in which people can sell goods.  The preferred method generally depends on the item being sold. The two most common methods are online either through online classifieds such as Craigslist and The Back Page or through online auction sites such as Ebay or  I have found this to be an extremely powerful method for selling goods. Because it exposes you to a much larger audience than the old school print mediums such as flyers or even newspaper classifieds.  I’ve used this method to resell items from my home I no longer needed with great success.  I was very pleasantly surprised at how quickly I was able to sell items I really thought would be impossible to move.  The old cliché “one mans garbage is another mans treasure” is really true!  What I found even more fascinating is how people have been using these mediums to supplement their incomes and in some cases even make their livings. 

 The first person I wish to discuss was laid off his construction job about two years ago with a family of four to feed and no luck getting work. He took to the street collecting garbage.  He refurbished, rebuilt , or repaired what ever he could and resold it online.  Anything metallic which couldn’t be made good was sold as scrap metal to recyclers.  He averages $600 a week .  Another gentleman I met purchased an entire cd and dvd collection I was selling in a garage sale.  When I asked him what he was going to do with them he told me he sells them in a booth at the flea market.  He purchases them often for less than a dollar each making deals on bulk.  He turns around and sells them for between $3 to $5.  Talk about a great profit margin!  A dear friend of mine is a model car collector and an artist who’s taken his passion and turned a nice profit.  Being very familiar with that market he knows how to buy desirable models in clearances or seasonal discounts so he may resell them on Ebay often making great profits.  The last person we will discuss is another veteran of the trades he took his knowledge of tools in a different direction when he discovered there’s a huge market for used tools.  First he sold his old or redundant tools.  Then he started buying tools at garage sales, flea markets and even pawn shops and flipping them.  Finally he started taking advantage of many tool brands liberal return policies to upgrade his products and increase his profits.  Did you know many Craftsman tools which are old or worn out can be upgraded simply by bringing them into Sears and trading it in?

The second method is the sale or barter of services.  Guerrilla catering is a method common near my office on certain days of the week I can expect some ladies to come and offer me various types of food.  The foods range anywhere from hot foods to pastries to even freshly picked fruits or vegetables.  Yes, yes I know foods are products but the cooking and delivery is the service.  Of course  buyer beware.  
Other services include sewing.  The little old lady behind my house supplements her social security check by repairing clothes and hemming pants.  At $3 a pant for hemming and within walking distance this is a heck of a bargain.  Another great example are the maintenance guys who used to work in my building which where laid off after it was converted in condos.  Knowing these guys had an intimate knowledge of the building and having known them for years I knew they are trustworthy  and competent.  I made sure to keep their numbers and now for a great price I have the best handy men around.   

What skills do you have?  Are you handy with cars? Can you care for children?  Have you worked in the trades? I have a martial arts teaching business ( which I run in addition to my “day job.”  Hope this provided some good food for thought.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Two Things You Can Do Right Now To be Better Prepared

Of the myriad of things we can do to be better prepared the two easiest to do right now would be to stock up on food and water.  These would be the most difficult to acquire during a disaster.  Think about  what is first to go whenever  there is a prediction of an impending disaster?  In fact after the Tsunami hit Japan stores where emptied within hours as panic buying ensued.  Even in areas which seemed unaffected the stores where being emptied.  A similar situation was seen in Haiti after the massive earthquake devastated Port O Prince in 2010.  In my home state Florida we see how quickly the shelves can become bare every time a hurricane threatens.  After hurricane Andrew devastated my home town Miami we quickly realized acquiring food can be quite difficult after a disaster and with a boil water order in place we also realized the value of having stored water.  When you consider that with today’s  highly efficient transportation systems most stores business models demand they don’t stock more than a few days worth of food to minimize spoilage and increase profits.  What this means is that anything which disrupts transportation could potentially cut off our food supply.  This could be anything from a disaster, terrorist attack, the grid going down, or even a strike.  Would you be ready to be self sufficient for a few days while things get worked out?  FEMA suggests having three days worth of food.  From what I saw after hurricane Andrew and the power outages after near misses from Hurricanes Wilma and Katrina I would say two weeks is a good minimum.  Some preppers will work their supplies up to a years worth rationalizing that even if nothing where to happen you would still be saving money by buying food at today’s prices since it will only become more expensive as time goes on.  Even in the event of an unexpected job loss having a supply of food can be a huge help since funds normally used for food could be saved or better used.
Water is more important than food when it comes to general survival.  According to the rule of threes, a person can only go about three days without water in moderate climates with moderate activity levels yet can go for about three weeks without food under the same conditions.  Water is also the easiest to store.  Methods can range from various types of store bought pre filled containers to filling your own.  Just about any food grade container will do as long as its integrity is intact and is clean.  For those with larger disposable incomes, buying pre filled containers may be the fastest option.  For the rest of us bottling your own may be the better option.  It is after all less expensive leaving available funds for other important supplies.  Containers can range from fifty gallon drums to the little eight ounce water bottles you can refill from your own used ones or acquire by raiding your neighbors recycling bin.  For those with a lot of space and the right tools fifty gallon drums are a great way to store lots of water .  At approximately eight pounds a gallon for many this may not be the best option.  After all a four hundred pound container would be difficult haul around.  A better option for many may be the five gallon water bottles commonly used for drinking water machines.  My preferred method is using  two liter soda bottles.  The softer plastic milk gallons are unacceptable for long term water storage as they easily start to leak in a short time. The soda bottles are already food grade and because of their size are real easy to store.

This may very well be the best option for apartment dwellers.  I can easily keep twenty such bottles under my bed and another twenty in my bedroom closet.  Adding another one of those bottles to both cars and another ten in our balcony closet we easily have twenty six gallons of water. 
The current recommendation is one gallon per day per person for both drinking and cleaning.  Our stored water easily gives us nine days of water for our little three person family.  Of course this is not counting whatever may be in the refrigerator at the time.  A word of caution for those who bottle your own water make sure you adequately clean the bottles and disinfect your water.  The method I use is to simply clean out the bottle with soap and water followed by a bleach solution consisting of one table spoon of plain non scented Clorox bleach.  You then rinse several times and fill up the bottle from your tap.  This procedure is very important since any container previously containing food products may have residue which would create an environment where bacteria and other microorganisms can easily grow.  If your water comes from a well or any other source which may have been compromised then you must filter and disinfect the water before storing.
Food storage requires a bit more planning.  You’ll want to store items you already eat.  You’ll also want to eat what you buy in order to rotate your items insuring your stored foods are the freshest they can be.  You have a great deal of options ranging from freeze dried, dehydrated, canned, bottled and even boxed foods.  Each will have their pros and cons.  Effectively organizing these based on your particular needs is the best strategy.  If you like pasta then perhaps storing dry pasta and bottled pasta sauce may be a better option than getting canned pasta unless space is an issue in which case cans would be a better option.  A simple way to accumulate a good supply of food is by “copy canning.”  The term was coined by the late Ron Hood and it refers to doubling up on commonly used foods in order to accumulate a surplus over time.  A simple example would be if you eat a can of tuna a week, simply buy two cans instead of one.  Not a terrible expenditure and at the end of four weeks you have four more weeks worth of tuna.  Over months you can accumulate an impressive amount of food.  Taking advantage of specials, coupons and two for one deals is another way of adding to our food stores.  In addition to canned, boxed and bagged foods purchasing foods that are naturally stored dry such as rice and beans are a great way to further increase our supply.

There you have it folks, two things you can store right now that will dramatically improve your level of preparedness. Of course this article only scratches the surface of this subject matter but hopefully it stimulated your interest and will lead to further exploration. In future articles we’ll look further into this subject as well as exploring methods for emergency cooking, water procurement, field expedient water purification and disinfection, wild edibles and much, much, more.