Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Ack! On The Move!

My beloved and I have gotten the wildest of ideas to sell our house and return to our beloved Midwest -- land of green grass, fresh corn, fireflies, and four seasons. The house goes on the market in 2 weeks (just in time for us to leave town for a vacation).

What do we do with our food storage during a move? Our stuff could be stored for months while we figure out a place to settle ... will that be ok? How do we manage the stress and chaos of a cross-country move while maintaining an attitude of preparedness?

Our current plan is to eat up our canned goods (soups, beans, etc.) but move the large containers of wheat, rice, dried beans.

I would love any and all suggestions that anyone can offer!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Six! Months!

This evening, after procrastinating for entirely too long, I finally completed an inventory of my family's long-term food storage. All I can say is ... WOW!

Every month I have been continuing to invest in a variety of items (wheat, beans, rice, oats) ... with very little method to my madness. I have been very loosely keeping track of my purchases, using the "if there's space in the closet, we'd better add more food" methodology. After this weekend's bean-buying spree (and the resulting house-wide chaos), I realized that I could no longer procrastinate implementing some sort of inventory system. With the "willing" help of my family members, we organized and counted, tallied and recorded. When all was said and done, I uploaded the data into an Excel database (similar to this one).

I am beyond thrilled ... particularly because I included only unopened, long-term food items. If I were to calculate all the edibles in my kitchen and pantry, I am certain that we have food to last for more than 6 months. I am delighted that we have accomplished so much in such a relatively short time ... while simultaneously becoming debt-free and doing some home renovations! I don't know why it took me so many years to make a correlation between following a budget and not feeling poor ...

Not only has the inventory shown me that we're well on our way to a one-year supply ... but (duh!) I can now see what we need to add (wheat) and where we're set (beans ... we already own 116% of a year's supply for the entire family!).

In other news: I was able to borrow the dry pack canner from my local LDS storehouse. Oh glory ... I think I have a new hobby!

So long, crumply mylar bags, hello bright-and-shiny cans that sit so pretty in my pantry! A girlfriend came over today so we could can up some powdered milk. We were embarrassingly giddy about the whole event. When we ran out of food, I actually considered sealing up an empty can just because it was so fun! We have big plans to get together for another canning party next month ... and thanks to my newfangled inventory, I know just what I'll purchase.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Conquering Obstacles: Financial Responsibility


Did that word strike fear and terror in your hearts?

Until a few months ago, the mere mention -- even thought! -- of that word would have provoked a violent gnashing of teeth, followed by a certain type of discussion (ahem!) with my beloved spouse.

You see, as is common in so many relationships, one of us is a spender (guilty!) while the other is a saver. As you can imagine (or might perhaps have experienced first-hand), the meeting of the two over a checkbook has the potential to cause a wee bit of conflict.

After years spent battling debt and each other, my DH and I have finally found a solution that works!

YNAB has completely and totally changed our lives. For the first time ever (in our nearly 16 years of marriage, and in our 21 years together), we actually have money in the bank to pay our bills when they arrive. Perhaps this isn't an earth-shattering concept to many of you, but in my family this ranks as Big News.

YNAB is an extremely easy-to-use program, even for my technologically stunted DH. More than once he has e-mailed support and received an immediate response, and the active online community forums ensure abundant help and suggestions.

YNAB advocates the concept that you should give every dollar a job. In other words, when you receive income, you immediately allocate that money somewhere. By tagging how your money will be spent, you never run into the problem of seeing money in your bank account and assuming it's available ... with the consequence of not having money when you need it. With YNAB's help, we have been able to set aside money for our annual expenses (life insurance, vehicle maintenance, travel), our monthly expenses (utilities, gasoline), and our long-term expenses (food storage, savings, retirement).

I confess that I have never been "good" with money. Perhaps it's my debilitating optimism (Why worry about money? It'll all work out!) ... or maybe it's my instant gratification syndrome (Yarn! Books! Shiny things!) ... but in any event, I tend to nickel-and-dime our budget into the red. Helpful Hint: this is not good! Rather than making me feel deprived, I have found YNAB to be completely liberating. No longer do I feel like a kept woman who has to beg her husband for money (then deal with his frustration when I overspend). I now have a certain amount of cash I can spend each month, guilt-free with no strings attached. Granted, I often spend my allotment by the 10th ... but those 10 days are glorious! I know that I can purchase whatever I can afford ... without sacrificing our ability to save, pay bills, and (gasp!) travel.

I promise that YNAB has in no way endorsed or encouraged this post. In fact, they have no idea that I'm even writing about their product! This program has so revolutionized my world that I just felt compelled to share. If you try it (and you can try for free to see if you like it), let me know what you think!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Conquering Obstacles: Personal Defense

One place I never thought I would find myself:

Yesterday afternoon, my beloved and I spent several hours at a shooting range. Shooting guns. At people-shaped targets. Ummmm ... did I mention the guns?!?!

For quite some time now, my husband has been mentioning his desire to purchase firearms to use in self defense. The thought frightens me to my very core.

First of all, I tend to be a jumpy person (ask the kids -- they never tire of leaping out at me, watching my inevitable shriek-filled response). I would not trust myself to handle a weapon safely in an emergency situation.

Second, I have zero familiarity with guns. I have never been around guns. Ever. None of my close family members even hunt (and, come to think of it, many are vegetarians). I spent my formative teen years and the majority of adult years in a Washington, DC, suburb where guns = gangs and urban violence. I would venture to confess that I have developed a phobia about guns ... spurred primarily by the sheer magnitude of my ignorance.

So yesterday, as part of my plan to conquer my fears, my husband and I enrolled in a private 3-hour gun safety / shooting course with a certified instructor. I have always been concerned that, should I encounter a gun, I wouldn't even know how to tell if it was loaded. The instructor provided extensive information about loading and unloading weapons and gun safety. He also ever-so-patiently answered my multitude of questions without even one giggle.

From the time we arrived at the range (half an hour before the lesson), I was a jumpy basketcase. With each shot outside (which, honestly, weren't many considering it was late on a Tuesday morning), I shuddered or gasped or dropped something. We went back to the car for a bit so I could settle down. The irony of this scene is not lost on me:

Imagine my complete and utter surprise when, after touching a gun for the first time, I did this:

Is that a perfect bulls-eye?! Why yes, yes it is! Go ahead ... zoom in and see for yourself!

By the end of my first round, my target looked like this:

As I became more comfortable with the gun, I found myself experiencing flickers of enjoyment. But then, I would glance around at everyone else and realize that we were all holding deadly weapons. With just one minute error, a life could be taken. When I mentioned that I was uncomfortable shooting at the human-shaped target (preferring instead a simple red-and-white circle), my husband gently reminded me that we were getting trained so that we could protect ourselves ... from people.

As I reflect on the day, I remain quite unsettled. As much as I loved the actual shooting (and as much as I have gloated about my awesomeness!), I am deeply haunted by the thought that I could harm or kill another human being. Without a moment's hesitation, I know that I would do anything necessary to protect my family. However ... I am having a hard time reconciling that intense desire to defend with the inevitable reality that I might have to kill.

My husband and I plan to take another class in the next couple of months, and he would like to begin looking into a weapon to purchase. Meanwhile, I think I'm going to need some time to let things percolate while I wait for some sort of resolution.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Conquering Obstacles: In The Garden

One of the biggest side effects of my venture into prepping is the fact that the more I learn, the more I must acknowledge an ever-increasing list of what-ifs. I am then obligated to prepare for those eventualities instead of just feigning ignorance. Ultimately, prepping has taken me outside my comfort zone in a variety of ways.

During the next few weeks, I will be highlighting several ways that I am actively confronting my fears in an effort to be more knowledgeable and better prepared.

As you know, gardening is one of the skills I am least interested in pursuing. I recognize that I can't just choose to remain ignorant, however. Today, the kids and I took a couple of steps toward producing food of our own. Motivated by this post (and a whole bunch of You Tube videos), we whipped out our drill and got to work.

We planted 3 varieties of potatoes in a couple of trash cans ... then found ourselves a bit obsessed! The Boy planted 3 containers of basil, The Girl planted some catnip, and both of them have big plans for what they want to plant next. I'll be sure to report back ... hopefully with a bumper crop of tubers and herbs!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Confession (Please Don't Hate Me ...)

You know those deep-dark secrets you hold close to your heart ... the ones that you only admit to yourself in the middle of sleepless nights?

I am about to share with you, my need-to-know readers, my deepest-darkest secret. After uttering the following words, I will never again acknowledge them as my own. You see, revelation of this secret would mean the loss of all my Prepper Street Cred.


I hate ... the hot Texas sun.
I hate ... the ever-present threat of a snake encounter.
I hate ... dirt under my fingernails.

It's strange, really, because I'm an outdoorsy gal. I adore being in nature. I love swimming in creeks and hiking through forests. I live for campouts and stargazing.

But gardening? Ick!

I recognize the importance of a productive, well-tended garden to a prepping lifestyle. Apparently, purchasing gardening books and reading gardening magazines doesn't make a garden grow. So ... I have come up with an alternate solution.

The way I see it, sprouts are the perfect solution for me right now. They're delicious, they're nutritious ... and I can cultivate them by the pound, dirt-free, all within the air conditioned (snake-free!) comfort of my lovely home.

Have you tried sprouting? Do you have any favorite seeds? What is your favorite resource?

Monday, February 28, 2011

In Plain Sight

Despite trying to keep my preps on the down-low, I'm wondering how to handle one particular dilemma.

Since our home has no basement, we keep the majority of supplies in our laundry room. The problem? Our washing machine broke and someone (a stranger) is coming to repair it today. I feel strange that someone I don't know will be able to see our stash.

In an effort to maintain at least some privacy, I quickly strung up a makeshift curtain:

Our water bottle supply was discovered a few months ago when our a/c unit needed to be replaced ... but I figure that collection looked more Odd than Organized.

I'd love to hear your thoughts/suggestions about how much of your prepping supplies are visible to others.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

How To Work A Deal

This week's Randall's ad boasted the following special:

Basically, it's buy 2 12-packs of Diet Coke ... get 2 12-packs FREE *and* 2 boxes of Wheat Thins, also free!

I ruffled through my coupon binder (perhaps when I'm feeling a little flirty I'll share it with you) and gathered these coupons:

Just a quick digression here. I look at saving money as a treasure hunt. I'm sure there are a million ways to Get Free Stuff ... so I make it my mission to discover those ways. As I mentioned in my previous post, SwagBucks are a great resource. I also collect those little codes printed under the lids of my favorite soda. (And I promise you, one of these days I will actually have a post that doesn't reference Diet Coke. But not today ...) So, I collect the lids and periodically enter them here. I recently received two coupons for free 12-packs! I filed them away, scanning the weekly ads for deals. Sure enough, this week's special appeared and I was ready to pounce.

But not before I included this little gem:

So let's review. I received this ...

... and paid ... well, actually I *received* one dollar!

Yes, you read that correctly!

I gathered my booty, handed over the 2 free 12-pack coupons and the $1.00 off 2 boxes of crackers ... then had $1.00 in credit to spend on something else for our food storage (canned soup, also on sale and also combined with coupons).

I had never been a coupon clipper ... until I hopped aboard the Prepping Train. After learning about the importance of prepping, I realized that coupon clipping has allowed me to combine the thrill of the hunt with the security that a stocked pantry offers ... without sacrificing any of my financial goals.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Stash-Building Tips

All this ... for 29 cents?!?!

Now that I have become a Coupon Goddess, I look at the world in a whole new way! Retail prices have become dares, challenging me to find creative ways to get more for less.

In the upcoming days I am going to share a few of my super-special scores, along with details about how I was able to add to my food storage without breaking my budget.

I have become a loyal SwagBucks user. (Follow the link at the top of my sidebar to check it out.) Basically, SwagBucks is a powerful Web search engine. Every time you search the Web, you can earn "bucks". Collect the bucks, then trade them in for rewards. For example, I recently traded in 450 bucks for a $5 gift card at Amazon.com.

Truly, there are no strings attached. You'll never pay a fee for searching, you'll never pay any hidden costs when collecting your rewards. SwagBucks makes it easy to collect small amounts of bucks when searching, but also offers opportunities to earn more bucks by printing out coupons, purchasing Groupons, etc.

Amazon.com listed the 4 containers of arborio rice for $24.33 ($0.17/ounce). I noticed that if I used the Subscribe and Save option, the price reduced to $20.68 ($0.14/ounce). After applying 4 SwagBucks gift cards, I was able to have these containers of arborio delivered to my home ... for only $0.29 total cash-out-of-pocket!

Although I live in a suburban area with limitless shopping options, I know that many preppers choose a more rural lifestyle. The combo of SwagBucks and Amazon.com would enable anyone to get amazing bargains, regardless of nearby retailers.

Check out SwagBucks for yourself ... and let me know if you have any questions. I'm happy to help!

I promise that I am in no way compensated by SwagBucks! In fact, they don't even know I'm writing this post! I found a way to frugally increase my food storage and just wanted to share.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

For Your Eyes Only! Top Secret! Destroy After Reading!

As the owner of an ever-increasing food storage supply, I worry about keeping my supplies both private and secure. In addition to The Unprepared thinking that we're whacked-out zombie-obsessed fools, there's the risk of those same people returning to our doorstep if TSHTF.

I tell only select friends and family members about our supplies. In reality, I would certainly help those same people in times of a crisis, so I don't really mind them knowing about my wheat supplies. By the same token, my extreme extroversion causes me to want to spread the word about the joys and comfort that prepping has provided my family. I'm thrilled that my open discussions have led several close friends to begin implementing their own food storage plan.


There is one thing aspect of my storage that is so vital, so personal, so sacred that I will only show the 3 other members of my household. Its revelation is so potentially devastating that I will even lie to cover up evidence of its existence.

But you, my Internet friends, can be trusted, right? Right?!?!

Come with me, please.

Do you see it? Check behind Drawer #1:

This, my friends, is a sneak-peek into my super-secret Decadent Drawer of Deliciousness.

And today, thanks to the combination of post-holiday sales and coupon wizardry, the entire contents cost me ... nothing. Zero. Zilch Zippo.

As the kids and I were returning home with our bags o' booty, I experienced a heart-warming moment beyond compare. My daughter (13) piped up while peering into our stash, "You know, Mom, this means that we should probably rotate our Halloween candy!" What a thrill that my discussions about proper Food Storage Rotation have been internalized so well! Oh, what a proud mama am I. And now, with pride, I'm off to rotate some York Peppermint Patties ...

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Keepin' It Real

Hello friends, remember me, the ever-erratic blogger? I'm back ... with some insight into the deepest recesses of my home.

Yes people, I'm going to share some Closet Shots. They're visually unappealing and probably disturbing -- but they do illuminate some of my storage solutions for our prepping supplies.

As my family gets more into prepping, we find that we're having to be more creative about storage. When Emily and I were e-mailing recently, we began discussing where to put everything we acquire. It's amazing how quickly this stuff takes up space! And then, after an organization party ... it becomes quickly evident how I really need to do some more stocking up.

Take our current toilet paper supply:

What felt like an egregious amount when dumped in the laundry room now feels woefully inadequate. (In fact, I'm zipping out to get some more when I finish this blog post!)

Thanks to a recent Coupon Bonanza, we have ample supplies of fluids:

($1.50 per huge can of Folgers?!?! I figure if I ever god-forbid give up caffeine we could always sell this stuff on the black market.)

(88-cent 2-liters of Diet Coke! Be still my racing heart!)

I have slowly but surely begun to take over the bottom of my beloved husband's side of the closet. (Mine is already filled with feminine supplies and linens since my feet are way too big to foster an Imelda Marcos-style obsession.)

DH already has a bunch of water stored in his closet ... but today we added this shelving system (free at a yard sale).

Each drawer contains a different supply (deodorant, shampoo, razors, soap, etc.). The red bin on top contains our pharmacy:

Our water supply remains a problem. Those 2-liter bottles are out! of! control!

I have been looking around and trying to find some super-functional (and inexpensive) storage system. I like the availability and portability of these bottles ... but they have begun to take over our world. I'm considering scooting our couch out a few inches from the wall and stacking bottles behind it ... or possibly storing a bunch under our bed.