Monday, 18 July 2016

09:37 – Lots of interesting responses to the preparedness level thought experiment I posed yesterday, both in the comments here and via email. The typical level was about what I expected, somewhere between a couple weeks and a couple months. Some longer. Some much longer. The limiting items crossed all categories, from water to food to shelter to power. Interestingly, very few people answered my question about how comfortable they were with their level of preparedness and what, if anything, they were actually going to do about it. If you haven’t answered or would like to amplify your answer, leave a comment or send me an email.

Two of my shiest readers, Jen and Brittany, were among those who replied via email. As I expected, Jen’s answer was that her family of six is prepared pretty much across the board for one year plus, with backups to their backups. Brittany says her family of four is good at this point for probably two or three months, with food the limiting factor. They haven’t received the foil-laminate gallon bags from the LDS on-line store yet, so they have lots of bulk staples sitting in bags awaiting repackaging, and plan to buy still more of those this week, along with a lot of canned goods. Her guess is that they’ll be up to six months by the end of July and a year by the end of August.

Brittany brought up powdered eggs, which are kind of an odd situation. Back when I bought our initial supply (about 84 dozen worth), I paid about $17 per 33-ounce #10 can for Augason Farms whole egg powder from Walmart. With the chicken plague last year, that price shot up to ridiculous levels, over $50/can for a while. Meanwhile, the chicken population has recovered to the extent that eggs are a drug on the market. From a high of nearly $3/dozen wholesale last year, the price bottomed out at $0.55/dozen wholesale a couple months ago. It’s now recovered to just under $1/dozen, but that should still make powdered eggs pretty cheap. When I looked several days ago, Walmart was still charging over $30/can for Augason Farms eggs, when they should be about half that. (It’s not Walmart; the retail price on the AF site is still very high.) Brittany asked about Walton/Rainy Day powdered eggs. Their #10 cans hold 48 ounces rather than 33, which is pretty odd in itself, and their retail price is about $30/can. Resellers list it at $22/can or so, which is actually cheaper per ounce than I paid at Walmart before the chicken plague. But both the Rainy Day website and reseller websites list it as out of stock. Not sure why that is, unless preppers are stocking up in bulk. And I note that the Rainy Days website lists a 10-pack of #10 cans of powdered eggs at $150, or $15 per three pound can. Also out of stock, of course.

Brittany is also concerned about cooking/baking in a long-term emergency, so she was considering ordering a solar oven. There are several popular models out there, most of which sell in the $250 to $400 range. I told Brittany that in my opinion that’s a lot of money for not much product, and I thought she’d be better off making her own. She can make a functional solar oven from cardboard boxes, shredded newspaper, and a sheet of glass or plastic. If she wants a more durable solar oven and is willing to spend a little money on it, she can get her husband to knock something together with some boards, plywood, black spray paint, and aluminum foil.

In my research on solar ovens, I learned something I’d never considered. I always thought a solar oven used a transparent cover made of glass or Plexiglas, but many solar ovens just use simple plastic sheeting (like a disposable drop cloth). I recently ordered a 10-pack of True Liberty Goose Bags. They’re US-made, 18×24 inches (46×61 cm), food-safe, and rated for use up to 400F. The double layer of plastic with an air gap provides excellent insulation, and should allow a box oven with reflectors to get up over 200F even in cold weather. The Goose Bags are large enough to make a good size solar oven, cost under a buck apiece, and I’d rather use them in an emergency than be pulling windows off the house.

One of our upcoming minor projects will be to knock together a solar oven from boards and Masonite that I can use to test temperatures. I’m told that one can even bake bread in a solar oven, although it may take several hours and may not brown well. A solar oven also gets hot enough to kill microorganisms in water, so it’s a good option for water purification.