Friday, 29 May 2015

07:23 – Good for NC Governor Pat McCrory, who just vetoed the “religious freedom” bill. I’d have been all in favor of any bill that protected individuals’ and private companies’ right to discriminate against anything or anyone for any reason or for no reason at all, but this bill conflated the rights of individuals with the non-rights of government employees acting in their public capacities. It would, for example, have allowed public officials to refuse to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. People have rights; governments do not.

Most of my time this week was devoted to working on science kit stuff and the prepping book, but here’s what I did to prep this week:

  • I read several prepping fiction books, including all three of William Allen’s Walking in the Rain series and the first in Steven Bird’s The New Homefront series. Both series are mediocre at best, about what I’d expect from newbie fiction authors, but both are readable. Both authors are obviously newbies, prone to “information dumps” in great amounts of detail, particularly about firearms, and military firearms at that. If I could give authors like these one piece of advice, it’d be to avoid TMI. I recall in one of Heinlein’s books he conveyed a tremendous amount of information in three words, “The door dilated.” These guys would go on for pages and pages about the dilating mechanism and a lot of other unnecessary detail. They obviously haven’t learned the first rule of writing, which someone famously summed up as, “I’d have made it shorter if I’d had more time.”
  • I didn’t buy much, but I did a Walmart order for 17 28-ounce cans of Bush’s Best Baked Beans, 12 original recipe, 3 maple/bacon, and 2 onion. The price per ounce is lower than not just the regular 16.5-ounce cans but the larger sizes as well. I really like that Bush’s packages their products in four can sizes: the regular size 16.5-ounce cans (6.3 cents/ounce), the 28-ounce cans I ordered (5.4 cents/ounce), the 55-ounce cans (6.3 cents/ounce), and the 117-ounce #10 cans (5.8 cents/ounce).
  • I also ordered one Bertolli Mushroom Alfredo Sauce to try, a can of Nestle Nido powdered whole milk, and (on Tamara Price’s recommendation) a bag of Krusteaz Family Size Buttermilk Pancake Mix.

All told, with only a few ounces of vegetable oil added, that order represents enough balanced nutrition to feed two people for a full week at 2,500 calories/day. Not that I’d want to eat baked beans and pancakes all day long every day for two weeks, but it’s still a nice addition to our stocks.

So, what precisely did you do to prepare this week? Tell me about it in the comments.

13:07 – Barbara and I are frequently amazed at what Colin will eat. He’s the most omnivorous dog we’ve had, and that’s saying something. One of our earlier Border Collies used to beg for lettuce, and loved celery. Just plain, you understand, not with salad dressing or other flavoring on it. I suppose we shouldn’t be too surprised, given what all of our dogs have been willing to pick up and eat from the street.

Further confirming that Colin will eat almost anything, I was just filling some 2-liter bottles with bulk staples and spilled a tiny bit of bread flour. Colin swooped in and licked it up off the floor.

Speaking of which, just in case you find it useful for planning, a 2-liter Coke bottle filled to the very top will hold 1.50 kilos (3 pounds, 5 ounces) of Harvest (Con-Agra) bread flour or 1.90 kilos (4 pounds, 3 ounces) of Dixie white granulated sugar. For the flour in particular, that includes bumping the bottle vigorously to help settle the flour.

Friday, 22 May 2015

07:18 – I’ve spent some time over the last few days inventorying and organizing our stocks. I was putting some #10 cans in the downstairs freezer yesterday when I realized that some of my readers might be interested in what specifically we store. Other than LDS dry staple “iron rations” (x pounds of white sugar, y pounds of macaroni and spaghetti, z liters of vegetable oil, etc.) I hate making specific recommendations because people’s taste in food varies so much. What’s ideal for us may be non-optimal for you and vice-versa.

As to quantities, we’re nominally preparing for Barbara and me plus our 4-year-old, 65-pound Border Collie dog, Colin. In reality, if push comes to shove, I expect to feed more people, including Barbara’s sister and her husband, maybe my brother and his wife, and perhaps a couple of close friends. So although the quantities in this list are nominally for one couple and our dog, in reality we’ll plan to stretch them to cover more people. The way we’ll do that is to buy more “iron rations” than the three of us really need, because bulk staples are inexpensive, particularly if we package them ourselves. A 50-pound bag of white sugar or flour, for example, costs something like $17 at Costco. Stocking way up on those cheap staples provides the basic nutrition—calories, protein, fats, etc.—which can be made palatable with limited quantities of supplemental foods like those in this list.

All of that said, the following list is items we store in #10 cans from Augason Farms, with quantities in parentheses. It may at least give you some idea of items and quantities to consider. You’ll note we don’t include any bulk staples in this list. Augason’s prices on things like #10 cans of wheat, sugar, etc. are usually lower than its competitors other than the LDS Home Storage Centers, but the LDS HSC is far less expensive than Augason. Our rule is that when the LDS HSC offers a product we buy it from them because their quality is high and their prices are lower than any of their commercial competitors. They’re basically selling at cost. Either that, or we package it ourselves in 2 L soft drink bottles or foil-laminate Mylar bags, which is cheaper still.

We’ve standardized on Augason Farms because their quality is very high and their prices are almost always better than their commercial competitors. We’re not radical about it. If Augason doesn’t offer a particular product that we really want, we’ll buy it from Thrive Life, Mountain House, Honeyville, or one of AF’s other commercial competitors. But if the LDS HSC doesn’t carry something and Augason does, we’ll buy it from Augason.

Actually, we won’t buy it from Augason directly, but instead we’ll order it from Walmart, which offers deeply discounted prices and free shipping on orders of $50 or more. Augason actually ships the product directly to us. Walmart is simply offering drop-shipping at a great price.

Note that the following list is by no means all of the supplemental foods we buy to extend our “iron ration” dry staples and make them palatable. We also store lots of canned meats, canned soups, canned fruit and vegetables, spices, baking essentials, etc. etc. These items are simply the ones that it made sense to order from Augason. As of today, our stock of Augason Farms #10 cans totals 46, including:

(9) Whole Eggs Dried Egg Product, 33 oz
(6) Morning Moo’s Low Fat Milk Alternative, 56 oz.
(6) Cheese Blend Powder, 48 oz
(5) Butter Powder, 36 oz
(3) Honey-Coated Banana Slices, 32 oz
(2) Chicken Bouillon Powdered Extract, 65 oz
(2) Dehydrated Red & Green Bell Peppers, 20 oz
(2) Brown Sugar, 56 oz
(2) Lentils, 80 oz
(1) Dehydrated Chopped Onions, 23 oz
(1) Cream of Chicken Soup Mix, 52 oz
(1) Creamy Potato Soup Mix, 3 lbs
(1) Chicken Vegetarian Meat Substitute, 38 oz
(1) Beef Vegetarian Meat Substitute, 37 oz
(1) Bacon Bits Vegetarian Meat Substitute, 34 oz
(1) Potato Gems Mashed Potatoes, 48 oz
(1) Super Nutty Granola, 48 oz
(1) Non-Hybrid Vegetables Garden Seeds, 16 oz

The first four items are the most important ones, and the only ones we’ll probably be adding incrementally over the coming months and years.

The powdered eggs are intended primarily as minor ingredients for cooking and baking, rather than for direct consumption. Each can is equivalent to roughly six dozen medium eggs, so we have sufficient for about a dozen eggs a week for a year. Note that Auguson is honest here and elsewhere. They rate this 33-ounce can as equivalent to 71 medium eggs, which is accurate. Some competitors rate their canned eggs as equivalent to many more eggs. One vendor whose can doesn’t weigh much more than this one rates it as 200+ eggs. Yeah, if you’re counting equivalence in quail eggs. The best-by date on this product is 10 years out, but we keep it frozen, which extends that to 40 years or more.

If you’ve ever tasted non-fat dry milk, you know it tastes nothing like fresh milk. You can aerate it thoroughly, add vanilla or other flavoring, or whatever, and it still tastes like non-fat dry milk. We do keep 42 pounds of non-fat dry milk, along with 48 12-ounce cans of evaporated milk, but that’s mainly for cooking and baking. For drinking, use on cereal, and so on, we keep six 56-ounce cans of Morning Moo’s, which is a dry milk product with other things added to make it taste more like fresh milk. It’s a stupid name, but among dry milks and milk alternatives, most people prefer its taste. The best-by date is 25 years out. Each can reconstitutes to just under six gallons, so the six cans we stock are about 35 gallons worth.

We keep cheeses in the form of frozen fresh cheeses, powdered Parmesan in PET bottles, and cheese sauce in #10 cans. The latter two have best-by dates one or two years out, but in practical terms can be stored for much longer without any significant loss in flavor or nutrients. Still, for long term storage, I decided to keep a half dozen cans of this cheese powder. Its best-by date is 10 years out, but in practical terms it’ll be perfectly good for at least 20 or 30 years. Frozen, it’ll stay good forever.

We normally keep 20 or 30 pounds of frozen fresh butter on hand. If a long term power loss occurred, one of the first things I’d do is melt this down and fill wide-mouth glass or PET jars with it and add an oxygen absorber, which’d keep it good at room temperature for a long, long time. But these #10 cans of butter powder have a rated shelf-life of 10 years, and a real shelf life that’s much longer, even without freezing. The powder can be used as is to add butter flavor for cooking and baking, or reconstituted with water into a butter-like spread. Even better, it can be added to cooking oil to make something that’s very close to soft butter.

So, what precisely did you do to prepare this week? Tell me about it in the comments.

Friday, 15 May 2014

07:44 – More science kit stuff today. I need to get everything lined up so that we’ll have what we need to build a bunch more subassemblies for kits this weekend.

Most of my time this week was devoted to working on science kit stuff, but here’s what I did to prep this week:

  • I started researching gardening issues for the book, or more likely for volume two of the book. Interestingly, the seeds I already stock for science kits–lima beans, onions, and carrots–are all heirloom varieties that are suitable for a long-term food plan.
  • I started compiling recipes to test, all of which use only shelf-stable ingredients. Barbara doesn’t believe I can cook, so this should be interesting.
  • I spent a fair amount of time preparing for our move up to Jefferson/West Jefferson area in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I spent an hour on the phone yesterday with a real estate agent in West Jefferson, discussing what we’re looking for. She sent me dozens of listings to look at, and at some point soon we’ll make another day trip up there to look at homes.

So, what precisely did you do to prepare this week? Tell me about it in the comments.

Friday, 8 May 2015

08:00 – More science kit stuff today.

Most of my time this week was devoted to working on science kit stuff, but here’s what I did to prep this week:

  • I ordered half a dozen #10 cans of Augason Farms Morning Moos Low-Fat Milk Alternative from Walmart. At 3.5 pounds per can, that’s 21 pounds (~10 kilos) total, or enough to reconstitute about 35 gallons (132 liters) of whole milk equivalent. We already have 42 pounds of non-fat dry milk powder from the LDS Home Storage Center, but that stuff is intended mainly for cooking and baking. You wouldn’t want to drink it straight or use it for hot cocoa or over cereal. We also have 48 12-ounce cans of evaporated milk, each of which reconstitutes to a quart of whole milk, for another 12 gallons of milk equivalent, and several #10 cans each of cheese powder and butter powder and of course lots of vegetable and olive oil for the lipid component. All in all, we’re now in pretty good shape on long-term dairy storage.
  • I spent a fair amount of time researching stuff for our move up to Jefferson/West Jefferson area in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Incidentally, Walmart usually has the best prices on Augason Farms stuff, even at their regular prices, but their sale (rollback) prices are better still. For example, in April they were selling the #10 cans of Augason powdered eggs at $17/can. They’re now back up to $21/can, which is still better than other vendors. If you’re stocking up, it makes sense to wait for them to put the items you want on sale. You can find which Augason Farms products are on sale at any given time at this link.

So, what precisely did you do to prepare this week? Tell me about it in the comments.

Friday, 1 May 2015

08:30 – More kit stuff today, although it’s not urgent. We’re actually in pretty good shape on finished goods kit inventory for now. What I’m working on now is for later, when I’ll barely have time to ship all the orders, let alone build more kits.

Most of my time this week was devoted to working on science kit stuff, but here’s what I did to prep this week:

  • I got PTT/VOX headsets for our radios.
  • I ordered a few more #10 cans of Augason Farms stuff from Walmart, all meal-extender stuff like bouillon, dried soups, etc.

So, what precisely did you do to prepare this week? Tell me about it in the comments.

Friday, 17 April 2015

07:41 – Most of the news in the local paper is unpleasant, but every once in a great while I see an article that actually cheers me up. There was one of those this morning, about a Wake Forest student volunteering with local middle-school girls to help them get started doing real science. I love seeing young people getting involved in science, but what really made me happy was reading that this Wake Forest student is doing a double major in Biology and Physics with a minor in Chemistry. The world needs more students like this young woman.

Here’s what I did to prep this week:

  • I ordered a dozen more #10 cans of Augason Farms dehydrated foods, including two more cans each of Egg Powder, Butter Powder, Honey-Coated Banana Slices, Brown Sugar, and Lentils, and one can each of Cheese Blend Powder and Granola.
  • I read half a dozen PA novels, including the rest of Steve Konkoly’s Perseid Collapse series, and a couple of non-fiction prepping books, including Joseph Alton’s Survival Medicine Handbook. I also used Kindle Unlimited to check out another dozen or so books. None of those were worth taking the time to read in full. In general, books of this class range from mediocre to abysmal, but there are a few bright spots. What’s interesting is the sheer volume of books available. Prepping has obviously become a serious concern for a lot of people and has become a big business. Sam’s Club and Costco both feature emergency food on their web sites and in their monthly promo flyers, which they wouldn’t be doing if they weren’t making lots of money at it.
  • I put in another couple days’ work on the non-fiction prepping book.

So, what precisely did you do to prepare this week? Tell me about it in the comments.

12:20 – I got email from Jen, the woman who contacted me a month or so ago about how to get started prepping. Her list this week is about ten times the size of mine. Talk about a Whirling Dervish. She’s gone from basically unprepared a month ago to being better prepared now than literally 99.99% of the population. She and her husband have also started to socialize with the prepper couple next door, who were formerly just friendly neighbors. Both couples are pleased, not least because their critical skillsets don’t overlap much.

But Jen has run into the same problem that nearly all couples do at some point when it comes to prepping. She’s reasonably comfortable at this point, but thinks they still need to do a lot more. Her husband is completely comfortable with their level of preparation as it is. He’s not yet voiced strong opposition to doing more, but as I told Jen, that day will probably come. Her brother’s family is similarly split, but this time it’s he who wants to do more and his wife who thinks they’ve done enough.

I’m in the same situation with Barbara, who believes in being well prepared but thinks we’ve already done enough. Except, of course, that she really wants to relocate to a small town away from the city. I’m reasonably comfortable with where we stand, and we have all of the major purchases out of the way. But I would like to extend our food supply further by purchasing more cheap bulk staples for dry packing as well as additional stuff like fruits and vegetables in #10 cans. At this point, I don’t think it’s the cost that concerns Barbara as much as the space and clutter. I’m going to try to do something about those over the coming weekends.

Incidentally, I suggested to Jen that she should start posting here herself, because I think she could make some useful contributions, but she wants to remain as low-profile as possible, so she’ll just keep emailing me when she has something to say. I asked her about quoting her emails anonymously, but she prefers not.

Friday, 27 March 2015

08:54 – No confirmation yet, but some news sites are reporting that the co-pilot who intentionally crashed that German airliner was a convert to islam. That may be just speculation, but it may be fact. I expect we’ll hear more over the coming days. Or maybe not.

Here’s what I did to prep this week:

  • I added three 33 ounce (0.94 kilo) #10 cans of Augason Farms powdered whole eggs, each of which is the equivalent of six dozen medium eggs. Their best-by date is March of 2025, but in reality they’ll remain good far longer. You can order these directly from the Augason Farms website at $28.29 per can or from Sam’s Club at $66.98 per three pack ($22.33 per can), but Walmart has a much better price, at $17.00 per can with free shipping. That’s more expensive than fresh eggs, but pretty reasonable for dried powdered eggs in a #10 can. Not that I’m planning to have scrambled eggs or omelets in an emergency, although these work fine for that. These are for things like making up pancake batter, which requires one or two eggs per batch.
  • I added a 12-ounce jar of unsulfured molasses, which is sufficient to convert about 22 pounds (10 kilos) of granulated white sugar to brown sugar, at one tablespoon per cup. The advantage of rolling your own is that the shelf lives of white sugar and molasses are essentially unlimited, while brown sugar doesn’t store well.
  • I added about 80 liters (20 gallons) of stored tap water, which is about a 20 person-day emergency supply.
  • I finished reading King’s Under the Dome. It’s a decent novel, but not really prepping fiction.
  • I bought Bill Quick’s Lightning Fall, which is a prepping novel, and made it through about half the book last night. Quick has something like 20 traditionally-published SF titles to his credit and is a competent writer, but this one could have used a copy editor. Otherwise the book is fine. Quick is obviously a prepper himself.
  • I put in another couple days’ work on my non-fiction prepping book. In one sense, that shouldn’t count as prepping, but I do count it because it makes me think things through.

So, what precisely did you do this week? Tell me about it in the comments.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

09:40 – Many preppers work on tight budgets, so I’m writing a large section right now in the Getting Started Chapter about Prepping on a Budget. It assumes a prepping budget of $50 per week, although that can be moved up or down according to individual circumstances.

The top priority is to begin accumulating empty 2 liter soft drink bottles from family, friends, and neighbors. These are used to store both water and food for the long term. The next priority is to get 60 of those bottles filled with water for each family member. That provides about 30 gallons of drinking water per person, or a month’s supply.

The next eight weeks is spent accumulating a basic food supply, which can be done in weekly $50 shopping trips or, more practically for most people, a monthly $200 Costco or Sam’s Club run. In fact, if you have an SUV or pickup, you could do one $400 run to Costco or Sam’s Club and get the whole eight weeks’ purchases all at once.

Week 1:

General purpose white wheat flour, Gold Medal, 50 lb.
Granulated white sugar, Domino’s, 50 lb.
Beans, dry, 10 lb.
Salt, iodized table, Morton’s, 12 lb.

Week 2:

Rice, white, 100 lb.
Bouillon, beef, Knorr, 2 lb.
Bouillon, chicken, Knorr, 2 lb.
Shortening, Crisco, butter flavor, 3 lb. can

Week 3:

Milk, instant non-fat dry, Carnation, 4.4 lb. (2 kilos)
Oil, olive, Kirkland, 3 liter bottle
Shortening, Crisco, butter flavor, 3 lb. can
Chili powder, 20 oz.
Yeast, Fleischmann’s Instant Dry, 1 lb. bag

Week 4:

Oats, Quaker Quick, 10 lb.
Cornstarch, Argo, 2 lb.
Pancake syrup, Mrs. Butterworth’s, gallon
Garlic powder, 20 oz.
Onion powder, 20 oz.
Cinnamon, ground, 20 oz.
Vanilla extract, pint
Pepper, black, ground, 20 oz.

Week 5:

General purpose white wheat flour, Gold Medal, 50 lb.
Granulated white sugar, Domino’s, 25 lb.
Rice, white, 50 lb.
Yeast, Fleischmann’s Instant Dry, 1 lb. bag

Week 6:

Milk, instant non-fat dry, Carnation, 4.4 lb. (2 kilos)
Milk, evaporated, Carnation, case of 24 12-ounce cans
Beans, dry, 10 lb.

Week 7:

Oil, olive, Kirkland, 3 liter bottle
Oats, Quaker Quick, 10 lb.
Beans, dry, 40 lb.

Week 8:

Milk, instant non-fat dry, Carnation, 8.8 lb. (4 kilos)
Shortening, Crisco, butter flavor, three 3 lb. cans

The interesting thing is that after eight weeks and $400.25 you have a full one year supply of food for one adult. Not very interesting food, it’s true, but all of the nutrition necessary–calories, carbohydrates, protein, and lipids. No fruits, vegetables, or meats, but those can be added incrementally once you have the iron rations taken care of.