CONTEST POST: Prepping on an Extremely Small Budget by G.R.

money-coinsFor the last 18 years, I have supported a family of 6 to 10 people on under $18,000 a year, an extremely small budget, but through it all I have managed to be a prepper. Until the last couple of years, I did not know I was a prepper, it has always been a way of life for me. My prepping has always been a means to feed my family in case of job loss or natural disaster or just for day to day life.  Recently my oldest daughter, now the mother of 2, asked me how I was able to always have plenty of food. This is what I told her.

The main thing is to start small. Just $5.00 a week will buy a lot. There are three stores within 10 miles of my home, I shop at all three on a weekly basis so I know the prices of most of the things I buy on a regular basis.  This is the first thing to know so you can shop for deals. Most things are much higher at my local store, the only store in a small tourist town, but they have very good sales on a weekly basis. The nearest store outside of our town is HEB, a chain store here in Texas, their prices are comparable to Walmart, the other store I shop at, but HEB has several items that are lower priced than Walmart and they have better sales.

So here is a short list of what $5.00 will buy you.

  • 15 7oz bags of pasta @ 3 for 1.00
  • 4-5 1lb bags of beans @ .88 to 1.29 each
  • 10 lb of rice @ 5# for 2.42
  • 5 cans of Chef Boy-Ar-Dee pasta or ravioli @ .86 each
  • 3 Jars of Pasta Sauce @ 1.69 each
  • 7-8 cans of vegetables @ .62 to .66 each

This is just a small list of the items that $5.00 will buy in my area. I am sure that anyone who wants to prep food on a budget can find similar deals in their own area. By prepping in this way, I have enough food now for a good 6 months, maybe more. My daughter has followed my advice and is well on her way to being just as prepared.

Don’t think that food is the only item that I prep. I also keep an eye out for deals on other daily items like personal hygiene, laundry, household and other items. I recently picked up 20, 9 LED flashlights for .99 each. Last year, after hurricane season, I picked up 15 oil lamps on clearance at my local store for $1.00 each. A couple weeks ago when bad storms came through the area and the power was out for 5 hours, I was glad I spent the money. This is why I prep for every day, you never know what might come up and what may be needed. At the present time, I have 8 alternate means of cooking, three grills, a large homemade solar cooker, two rocket stoves, one homemade, the other bought and two parabolic cookers, one homemade and one bought. I have many alternate means of doing almost anything that needs doing, from laundry, large tubs and clothes lines, to getting water, three shallow wells, without pumps, on the property. We dug the wells ourselves, luckily we have sand to dig through and water starting at 4 feet. We use a Waterboy or a manual slide pump to extract the water.

The point of all of this is to show everyone who says “I can’t do it!”…Yes you can!

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To enter your own article please email me at rethinksurvival (at) gmail (dot) com with your submission and review the rules here.

Please visit these fine sponsors and learn more about the prizes below…

Fortunately, we have some very gracious sponsors who are willing to sponsor this fun contest. Please visit their sites and review the products being donating as they are certainly good people doing good things for our community. Here’s the prizes…

nano-striker-fire-starter CampingSurvival.com is donating an Exotac nanoSTRIKER XL Ferrocerium Fire Starter in Olive Drab.The description says “We created an evolutionary derivative of the original nanoSTRIKER with a larger rod and striker handle. It utilizes the same innovative design as the original, but with just enough extra size and heft to improve its ease of use without making it too big or bulky for key chain carry. The striker handle is 46% bigger, making it easier to grip. The XL version also sports a 33% larger ferrocerium rod, which improves the durability and lifespan of the rod even beyond that of the original nanoSTIKERs. Slowly scrape shavings off the rod into a small pile. Use these shavings on top of your tinder bundle for even better sparks! Use the nanoSTRIKER? to light gas stoves, alcohol stoves, fuel tablets, BBQ grills, etc.”
guardian-first-aid-pack MayflowerTrading.com is donating an The Guardian First Aid Fanny Pack. Contents include: 1 – Fanny Pack, 1 – Eye Wash, 2 – Instant Ice Packs, 1 – 3″ ACE Bandage, 1 – Bandage Scissors, 1 – First Aid Guide, 1 – CPR Mouthpiece, 3 – Iodine Prep Pads, 6 – Pair Nitrile Gloves, 3 – 2 x 2 Gauze Pads, 4 – 4 x 4 Gauze Pads 1 – Tissue Pack, 6 – Alcohol Prep Pads, 2 – Water Gels, 1 – 1 x10 yds Adhesive Tape, 1 – Bio-Hazard Waste Bag, 1 – Box 3/4 x 3 Bandages, 1 – Tweezers1 – 4 ounce Hand Sanitizer, 2 – Eye Pads, 6 – Wet Naps, 1 – Hydrogen Peroxide, 1 – 5 x 9 Combine Dressing Bandages
ozark-mountain-gift-cert OzarkMountainPreparedness.com is donating $100 Gift Certificate to any of their wonderful survival courses.”Our mission is to provide the highest quality instructional courses to people who desire to pursue a self-reliant lifestyle; whether in the wilds or right at home. By blending both modern and primitive methods into our curriculum, we offer a comprehensive and practical view of survival and preparedness. Our course topics include wilderness and urban survival, fur trapping, bushcraft, primitive skills, long-term wilderness living, land navigation, home disaster preparation, outdoor cooking, food procurement and storage, foraging, wild edibles, and others.”
grow-buckets RifleStock.com is donating a set of five Self-Watering Grow Buckets. I recently got a set and will review them soon. What is a grow bucket? “It is a 4, 5 or 6 gallon bucket altered to grow vegetables and flowers using a water reservoir in the base. Growing plants in self-watering buckets has been around for quite a while now, but our design has improved on the old method of using two buckets, one inside of the other, to create the water reservoir.”
I figured my sponsors shouldn’t do all the work, so I’m throwing in a McNett Tactical Aquamira Frontier Pro Ultralight Water Filter:
•Military edition portable water filter system with straw-style design
•Attaches directly to water bottles, cups, or bladders
•Removes 99.9 percent of Giardia, Cryptosporidium, and other contaminants
•Activated carbon improves taste; universal connectivity adapter system
•Filters up to 50 gallons; removable bite valve doubles as hanging drip filter

CONTEST POST: 7 Survival Tools for Camping with Kids by T.L.

Camping-Kids
Image Source – dparks.com

The tools I pack for a camping trip may seem unorthodox or a too extensive, but I believe you need the proper preparation to handle any drastic situation in the wilderness, especially with children.

I was always the younger brother that older siblings took to baseball games, waterparks, and other events. I never got the chance to be the older brother until I started taking my nieces and nephews on camping trips.

Perhaps my survival kit for camping with kids will inspire your preparation. This list doesn’t include the basic items such as first aid kits, utility knives, waterproof matches and lighters since they remain as essentials when packing a camping survival kit.

1. The Tent

The tent establishes the base camp of your trip. Don’t choose any old thing when considering purchasing a tent. You need to conduct the research behind camping tent features. These benefits will either make or break the camping experience.

A lightweight and easily compactable camping tent makes hiking and travel purposes less burdensome. Who wants to lug around a huge heavy tent, especially when carrying other gear and supervising young children?

Also, camping tents that are capable of quick set up and break down create a more efficient camper. You never know what unforeseen weather, accidents, or wildlife will force you to breakdown the camp site quickly and move. It’s a tougher task when managing children who move slowly, get distracted, and don’t understand emergency situations.

2. Baby Wipes

There are no babies on my camping trips or children in need of diaper changes, but baby wipes, small and big, reserve a spot on the survival list for good reasons. You can pack hand sanitation wipes as well, but either product gets the job done.

Whatever mess you encounter, baby wipes clean it up. They maintain a sanitary camping environment. Keeping children clean, especially in the summer season, is very important to prevent diseases and illnesses that plague campers.

Children, as clumsy and careless as they are, tend to make messes that usually end up all over themselves. Every kid loves to play in the mud, but do parents like to clean them afterwards?

You don’t want them tracking dirt and funky smells from whatever they discovered into the tent. Consider a camping tent with breathability features to reduce this issue if it arises.

3. Hand Sanitizer

This survival tool reinforces the concept of cleanliness while camping. You’re constantly touching things outside with germs. Handling food in a sanitary manner maintains healthy bodies.

Hand sanitizer limits the transfer of germs and illness among you and other campers. It’s also convenient to carry and pack.

4. Two Way Radios

Kids love walkie talkies. They prove to be one of the best communication survival tools while camping. In the unfortunate occurrence a child or you gets lost or separated for any reason, the two way radio maintains contact.

This tool lessens the anxiety you might experience if you lose a niece, nephew or your own child. It lets you keep your cool in a scary situation.

Teaching children about constant forms of communications shapes them into excellent survivalists and campers.

5. Bright Reflective Tape

This tool fortifies communication between you and the little campers. Sometimes technology fails. I usually pack extra batteries for the walkie talkies, but they could break or disappear at the worst moments.

For that reason I either supply the kids with a roll of reflective tape or wrap a strip around each of their limbs. It really depends on their age because some older children don’t want to look like a walking bike reflector.

Brightly colored reflective tape allows for a form of visual contact between campers. When people get lost they might pass out or fall asleep. It’s possible to see reflective tape from greater distance, specifically when lights scan areas.

Reflective tape made me choose a camping tent with bright colors as well.

6. Water Purification Bottles

Children need to know the importance of hydration and drinking plenty of fluid. This not only applies to camping survival, but life in general. Hydration keys a healthier, more active, and energized individual. Drinking plenty of water ensures this.

When camping you must pack fresh water in bottles or coolers. Large water containers tend to slow you down often due to their weight and awkward shapes.

Water purification bottles established themselves as my new favorite survival tool. If you get lost or run out of available clean water, these bottles allow you to have access to clean water.

If you don’t stay hydrated when camping, then you’re more susceptible to heat exhaustion, stroke, and other related illnesses. Providing each young camper with a water purification bottle provides a foundation for practicing hydration.

7. Duct Tape

I can’t write a post about survival tools without including duct tape. From an early age my father taught me, “If you can’t duct it…,” well you know the rest.

What if you have a cut and no access to bandages? Clean it out with hand sanitizer, hydrogen peroxide, or vodka. Then wrap it with duct tape. It seals the wound temporarily with its adhesive powers.

Maybe you discover a hole in the camping tent during a rain storm. Apply a little or a lot of duct tape to stop or prevent leakage.

Author Bio

Ted Levin is a natural outdoorsman, camping enthusiast, and proud uncle who enjoys sharing any helpful survival tips. You can connect with him on Twitter and Google+.

Image Source – dparks.com

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To enter your own article please email me at rethinksurvival (at) gmail (dot) com with your submission and review the rules here.

Please visit these fine sponsors and learn more about the prizes below…

Fortunately, we have some very gracious sponsors who are willing to sponsor this fun contest. Please visit their sites and review the products being donating as they are certainly good people doing good things for our community. Here’s the prizes…

nano-striker-fire-starter CampingSurvival.com is donating an Exotac nanoSTRIKER XL Ferrocerium Fire Starter in Olive Drab.The description says “We created an evolutionary derivative of the original nanoSTRIKER with a larger rod and striker handle. It utilizes the same innovative design as the original, but with just enough extra size and heft to improve its ease of use without making it too big or bulky for key chain carry. The striker handle is 46% bigger, making it easier to grip. The XL version also sports a 33% larger ferrocerium rod, which improves the durability and lifespan of the rod even beyond that of the original nanoSTIKERs. Slowly scrape shavings off the rod into a small pile. Use these shavings on top of your tinder bundle for even better sparks! Use the nanoSTRIKER? to light gas stoves, alcohol stoves, fuel tablets, BBQ grills, etc.”
guardian-first-aid-pack MayflowerTrading.com is donating an The Guardian First Aid Fanny Pack. Contents include: 1 – Fanny Pack, 1 – Eye Wash, 2 – Instant Ice Packs, 1 – 3″ ACE Bandage, 1 – Bandage Scissors, 1 – First Aid Guide, 1 – CPR Mouthpiece, 3 – Iodine Prep Pads, 6 – Pair Nitrile Gloves, 3 – 2 x 2 Gauze Pads, 4 – 4 x 4 Gauze Pads 1 – Tissue Pack, 6 – Alcohol Prep Pads, 2 – Water Gels, 1 – 1 x10 yds Adhesive Tape, 1 – Bio-Hazard Waste Bag, 1 – Box 3/4 x 3 Bandages, 1 – Tweezers1 – 4 ounce Hand Sanitizer, 2 – Eye Pads, 6 – Wet Naps, 1 – Hydrogen Peroxide, 1 – 5 x 9 Combine Dressing Bandages
ozark-mountain-gift-cert OzarkMountainPreparedness.com is donating $100 Gift Certificate to any of their wonderful survival courses.”Our mission is to provide the highest quality instructional courses to people who desire to pursue a self-reliant lifestyle; whether in the wilds or right at home. By blending both modern and primitive methods into our curriculum, we offer a comprehensive and practical view of survival and preparedness. Our course topics include wilderness and urban survival, fur trapping, bushcraft, primitive skills, long-term wilderness living, land navigation, home disaster preparation, outdoor cooking, food procurement and storage, foraging, wild edibles, and others.”
grow-buckets RifleStock.com is donating a set of five Self-Watering Grow Buckets. I recently got a set and will review them soon. What is a grow bucket? “It is a 4, 5 or 6 gallon bucket altered to grow vegetables and flowers using a water reservoir in the base. Growing plants in self-watering buckets has been around for quite a while now, but our design has improved on the old method of using two buckets, one inside of the other, to create the water reservoir.”
I figured my sponsors shouldn’t do all the work, so I’m throwing in a McNett Tactical Aquamira Frontier Pro Ultralight Water Filter:
•Military edition portable water filter system with straw-style design
•Attaches directly to water bottles, cups, or bladders
•Removes 99.9 percent of Giardia, Cryptosporidium, and other contaminants
•Activated carbon improves taste; universal connectivity adapter system
•Filters up to 50 gallons; removable bite valve doubles as hanging drip filter

What Did We Ever Do Without Plastic? …The Many Plastic Preps We Rely Upon

Plastic BottleI’m still amazed at how pervasive plastics are–in all of its forms–in our modern society. The most amazing part is that the plastics we’re accustomed to using really didn’t become mass produced until around WWII or so. In just a matter of a few generations, plastics have become so ingrained that you simply cannot get by without them… well, most of us anyway.

Believe it or not, there are many, many types of plastics most of which are made from petrochemicals (oil), can be natural or synthetic, and include classifications like bakelite, polystyrene, PVC, nylon, rubber, and more… you know, the nerdy stuff. 😉

Plastics are literally everywhere and I’m not talking about in our televisions, microwaves, computer equipment, half of your car, or even the refrigerator that we rely on day-in and day-out. Rather, I’m thinking about those many preps made of plastic (wholly or in large part) that we’ve come to rely upon or may need, including (in no particular order):

  1. Soft drink bottles – good for water storage and especially SODIS.
  2. Large plastic jugs such as laundry detergent bottles – use for water storage, as a makeshift hand wash, etc.
  3. PVC pipe – for plumbing, solar heated applications, etc.
  4. Gutters – catches rainwater, can plant seeds, etc.
  5. Foodsaver rolls – keeps many things from spoiling or protection from water.
  6. Plastic rolls in 4 or 6 mils – useful for many reasons including home repairs.
  7. Disposable utensils, plates, cups, etc – keeps from transmitting diseases or using water to clean.
  8. Toothbrushes, floss – maintain proper dental hygiene.
  9. Bic lighters – the “easiest’ way to start a fire… most of the time.
  10. Fishing line – it’s hard to use your trusty fishing pole without it.
  11. Security window film – useful for good times and bad.
  12. Contact lenses or eyeglass frames – perhaps the most important faculty you have.
  13. Cell phones – undoubtedly one of the most important modern day preps for communications.
  14. Reusable plates, cups.
  15. Gas masks – hopefully we’ll never need these!
  16. Flashlights and patio solar lights – though not as durable as a trusty Maglite they still get the job done most of the time.
  17. Buckets… how could I forget those!? – so many uses, I wrote about them recently here.
  18. Bins of all shapes and sizes – great for storing and toting gear for evacuation.
  19. Duct tape (part of it’s plastic, anyway) – do you really need anything else? 😉
  20. Garden hose – errr… it waters things.
  21. Apparently portions of polyester clothes and tennis shoe soles are made of plastic (or so it appears).
  22. Some tent fabrics and tarps are derived of plastic.
  23. Trash bags – many uses such as a makeshift rain poncho, including other obvious ones.
  24. Camp shower and garden sprayer – may make for the best shower you’ve had in years if that’s all you’ve got.
  25. Safety glasses, hard hat, etc – you’ve got to remember your safety at all times too!
  26. Water barrels and IBC totes – I can’t imagine storing water without them these days.
  27. Dehydrator – I need to put mine to work again soon.
  28. Gasoline storage cans – metal cans are better but these are ubiquitous and fine for most of us.

Obviously, the above list is probably just touching the surface of items made from plastic that can be utilized for survival… just open up your imagination and think a little.

Regardless, plastics are here to stay and most definitely have a place in your survival preps… make use of them as much as you can.

Why Buckets Should be a TOP Priority Purchase

bucketsIf there’s one supply that I feel people tend to overlook in their preps for long term survival, it’s buckets. Yup, buckets. Buckets of all sizes and shapes, from larger five and six gallon buckets to simple pails. Heck, why not throw in large drums while I’m at it, but that’s not what this post is about. In fact, I consider buckets a top priority purchase.

Ok, maybe buckets shouldn’t be THE top priority purchase but definitely one of the top 10. Why? Because they’re so incredibly versatile and certainly add to your ability to care for yourself in any long-term emergency situation.

Here’s the way I see it…

Buckets can be used for things like:

  • protecting food storage in mylar bags
  • containing any number of supplies for emergency preparedness for ease of movement (such as in a bug out situation)
  • as a temporary toilet (with appropriate toilet lid and other supplies, of course)
  • to haul and/or store water or any other liquid you like
  • to contain and grow food (such as a grow bucket or to plant tomatoes upside down)
  • as a makeshift wash system (to be used with a laundry plunger)
  • to wring out clothes (using two buckets and drilling a few holes in one is all you need)
  • to create a Big Berkey clone (just insert the filters and be done with it)
  • as a biosand water filter (gravel, charcoal, and sand… and voila… filter)
  • to cache equipment (sealed and buried or just at a relative’s house)
  • to hide supplies inside the house (a five gallon paint bucket should be overlooked by all but the most zealous thief)
  • as a makeshift stove (ok, I’m stretching this a lot but I’m sure a steel bucket could be fashioned into one)

I’m sure there are plenty of other uses but the above are off the top of my head. Just to be thorough, here are several ideas from FiveGallonIdeas.com that I didn’t mention:

  • as a makeshift sink (such as for camping but great for emergency situations too)
  • as a greywater catchment
  • as a seed vault
  • as a mouse trap
  • to irrigate crops
  • as makeshift heating units
  • workout equipment (try moving five gallons of water any distance!)
  • as building material
  • worm farm
  • grain thresher
  • swamp cooler
  • chest freezer organizer
  • refrigerator (similar to the zeer pot)
  • wine or cider press
  • a simple seat (who would have guessed?)
  • bathtub (for very small children) – [editor’s note: not so sure this is a great idea due to drowning concerns]
  • brewing beer or wine
  • soil sifter
  • toolbox

Really, buckets are so incredibly versatile you can’t go wrong with stockpiling dozens in an assortment of sizes but my favorite is the ubiquitous five (or six) gallon bucket. While I hear you can often get these for free from restaurants I’ve never tried. Instead, I buy mine from hardware stores and make quick use of them. I suggest that you begin to stockpile your own buckets… they don’t “go bad” and I guarantee you’ll find a use for them.

Oh, and remember the lids. 🙂

What else might they be useful for? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

What Makes More Sense: Stock the Supplies or Stock the Ingredients?

choicesI’ve been thinking a lot lately about making more and more of my own supplies. While I’ve made things like toothpaste, deodorant, laundry detergent, and a few other cleaning products in the past, I’ve been contemplating going “all in” if you will, and attempting to make as much as I can. My reasoning is for cost savings, healthier products, and maybe just because I can.

The question here today is: does this make sense from a preparedness stand point? As an example, should I be stockpiling a year or two worth soap or the ingredients to make the soap? And, of course, all of the other supplies we might use such as toothpaste, lotion, deodorant, cleaning products, and so on.

I would imagine the obvious and immediate answer is “yes” because being able to make your own supplies means less and less dependence on others… and I would tend to agree with that assessment. The problem, however, is the fact that you would then need to make your own supplies. And, in an emergency scenario, the last thing you need to be doing is spending time making deodorant. 🙂

So, here’s how I see it…

Advantages and disadvantages of stockpiling supplies

Everything you would need to rely on is already on hand and ready to use, which is a huge benefit when you’re already stressed and likely very busy doing other things such as pulling guard duty, tending the garden, chopping wood, and who knows what else needs to be done. But, this also means a finite amount of whatever we’re talking about. That is, if you only have ten bars of soap on hand to see you through the next year or two then that’s what you’ve got and then you’re in the same boat as everyone else. But, like I said, you don’t have any work to do here.

The disadvantages would be that you (1) have no ability to make more of what you need and (2) probably have no knowledge of how to make supplies. For example, if you know that you can make toothpaste using baking soda as a primary ingredient and you can get your hands on a bag of it but not toothpaste, then you’ll understand that it’s worth your time and effort to procure the bag of baking soda. Make sense?

Advantages and disadvantages of stockpiling ingredients

Here you have the supplies to make what you need. There’s no wondering if you’ll have more soap since you’ll have the base ingredients to make it. Of course, it’s expected that you’ll have a finite amount of base ingredients too (just as if you were stockpiling supplies) but the assumption is that you’ll be able to stock more of the base ingredients (at less cost) so that you can then make more supplies. Another benefit is that oftentimes base ingredients are used in a variety of recipes so you can make many supplies from just a handful of base ingredients (e.g., baking soda, vinegar, etc).

The disadvantages are that you would need to make supplies as needed. Obviously, you’re not going to make a single bar of soap at a time but I doubt you’re going to make enough for a year or two at a time, so there is the need to do the work. And, when multiplied by the many hygiene and cleaning needs that a typical household needs over the course of a year, the work needed to make supplies from scratch will become serious work.

There is some common ground

Certainly, I’m presenting you with an “either/or” situation. In reality, it makes sense that you’re not going to be presented with one option or the other. In fact, it makes sense that you can and should do both. If you have both the supplies you need to see you through a year, for example, and the base ingredients to make more of what you need then you’re in the best position possible to see you and your family through hard times. That, in my opinion, is the best strategy of all.

…but, if you HAD to choose, which would it be?

8 Smart Ways to Save Money on Preps

moneyA buddy of mine sent me a link to this article on how a family of four lives on 14K a year and said I should write a post about it because apparently I’m cheap or maybe just broke (FYI, he’s always been much more frugal than I). Likewise, I’ve been seeing a lot of posts on other blogs lately that suggest ways to save money on preps, be more frugal, DIY products and so on and I thought I would throw in my 2 cents.

In my opinion, you don’t have to pay retail for everything you buy nor do you have to live life like everyday Americans (in debt up to their eyeballs from huge house payments, car payments, college loans, maxed out credit cards, etc). I won’t try to mention all of the DIY projects that are out there, tell you how to live on pennies a day, or even give personal financial advice but I will suggest a few ways–most of which should be obvious–as to how you can be smarter about your preps without breaking the bank (in no particular order)…

  1. Buy bulk foods (and use them!) – Look at your local Sam’s Club or COSTCO and if you have a nearby LDS cannery visit them and start buying bulk foods. Then, learn how to use them. Not only will you be better prepared for when times get tough but you will learn to save yourself money day-in and day-out when cooking meals. It’s a win-win.
  2. Shop garage sales, thrift stores – I know it’s the wrong time of year for garage sales but both thrift shops and garage sales are great ways to get good gear at great prices, you just have to be patient. So, with the coming spring make a concerted effort to hit a handful of garage sales this year and come back with a heap of supplies.
  3. Use Google Shopping – Although I’m a huge fan of shopping for my survival gear on Amazon (and occasionally eBay) Google Shopping searches not only these sites but hundreds of other as well… and sometimes finds better prices on specific equipment. Often it’s a long shot but if I can save a few bucks then it’s worth the effort.
  4. Buy Kindle books (instead of hard copy) – I just recently reviewed my first Kindle book and I think I’m hooked. While I know there are obvious reasons to want hard copy books I also see how electronic books will soon become the easiest way for preppers to stockpile information. And because they’re always cheaper than hard copy books (sometimes at a fraction of the cost) you can add to your survival library that much faster.
  5. Create bug out kits that double as vehicle kits – A while back I wrote a post about saving money by combining your bug out bag and vehicle kits that is a way to skip duplicating efforts. I’ve kept both bug out and vehicle kits for many years and eventually I’m going to stop fussing with both and just combine them because it makes economical sense.
  6. Go in on expensive preps with trusted family/friends – I’m sure there are plenty of reasons why this can be a BAD idea but in some cases it might make sense such as going in on a large generator, food co-ops, a desalinator, or whatever else is rather expensive but potentially useful. Of course, then there’s the question of who gets to keep it but I’m expecting that you’ll be able to talk them into your home as being the best option. 😉
  7. Coupon, coupon, coupon – I’m really beginning to be a huge fan of HealthyPrepper on YouTube. Though, I don’t post the majority of her videos, I do rather enjoy watching about her most recent couponing hauls from CVS or wherever she’s been recently. If there’s a way to directly save money on your preps, this is it.
  8. Use technology – We live in a technologically-drive society and, in my opinion, you should take full advantage. I’ve written in the past about how you can use an iPad to download and view hundreds of PDF files that can later be used as a survival library. I’ve mentioned that there are plenty of smartphone disaster apps but there are plenty that can be used to help you save money. I also recently showed how you can download YouTube videos for free using Real Player that can also be used as a part of your survival library.

The point is that there are plenty of ways to save yourself money when prepping. What about your suggestions? What did I miss?

High Yield Low Cost Barter Items

fish-hookBarter items are often discussed as a necessary prep. Generally, I discourage people from stockpiling barter items because you really should be focusing on what you and your family can use and will need to survive… it seems there’s always something that you haven’t bought yet–I know I always have this problem–or that you can buy more of. Only when these needs have been sufficiently met should you really consider barter items because, whether I like it or not, you really can’t expect to have everything one needs to live (and do so comfortably) and so it never hurts to have a few things on hand.

That said, if you’re going to stockpile items for barter then it can’t hurt to get the most “bang for the buck” if-you-will and purchase items that may have  a high desirability and relatively low cost. Precious metals would be the antithesis of what I’m talking about. Just to be clear, I’m not saying you shouldn’t include precious metals in your preps if you can afford to do so as they are the ultimate wealth preserver, but consider about how desirable a gold bar would be to someone who just wants their next meal.

I might also point out that weapons and ammo are not great barter items for the simple fact that you never want to barter anything that could later be used against you! Or, perhaps, don’t barter with people you don’t generally trust.

I’ve also see people recommend bartering skills and/or information rather than finite goods which is a great idea but not what this post is about either. The criteria for this post is that the barter item should be relatively inexpensive to purchase today but potentially have significant use or desirability if that item is no longer available. Granted, this list could get very large and you’re welcome to add your own thoughts in the comments. Here’s a start:

  • Salt (especially for those living inland) – there’s a reason why Roman soldiers were paid in salt! It’s necessary for life and makes a great seasoning.
  • Inexpensive alcohol (such as cheap vodka) – some will do anything for a good drink during hard times and if it’s high enough proof (such as Everclear) it can be used to sterilize wounds and start things on fire.
  • Disposable lighters (and matches too) – the easiest way to start a fire guaranteed.
  • Fishing gear (small hooks, line, etc) – these things get lost, break, etc. An alternative would be netting but that’s not very cheap.
  • Feminine pads – useful for the obvious reason as well as for trauma dressing or gauze pad and plenty more.
  • Disposable razors – personal hygiene will still be appreciated.
  • Spices (anything and everything but especially consider pepper) – there’s a reason why Columbus sailed the seas looking for spices as they turn bland meals into culinary delights.
  • Vegetable seeds – everyone needs to eat and small packets of vegetable seeds could be worth their weight in your favorite precious metal.
  • Sewing needles and thread – clothes may need to be kept in good repair for a lot longer than we’re accustomed to.
  • Fasteners and adhesives (nails, screws, glue, epoxies, etc) – settlers used to burn down their houses just so they could retrieve the nails used to build it before they moved on. Adhesive could prove similarly useful.
  • Coffee singles – it’s a similar need/desire to alcohol for some people. Vacuum sealed they could last quite a while but it’s probably better to store green coffee beans if your interest is for barter.
  • Nail clippers – I thought I would throw one in there you didn’t expect! Again, nail clippers or chew them off… you choose.
  • Chocolate – while not a great item for long term storage, I consider it the third “addiction” most people have (me included).
  • Cooking oils – these could be worth their weight in gold considering that we need fats to survive. Besides, they could be used as makeshift lighting and even as a lubricant in some cases.

Now, there are plenty of other items that could be included as useful barter items but didn’t quite make my criteria of low cost, such as antibiotics, fuel (per gallon, anyway), alkaline batteries, sterile gauze pads,  etc.

What items would you include that I did not?

15 Items You Can Never Have Enough…

It’s time for a “You Can Never Have Enough of…” list. These posts are always fun to contemplate! Here’s my top 15 (in no particular order):

1. Gauze pads (of all shapes and sizes) – Any serious skin wound is going to need more than just bandages and must be changed often. You’re going to want both sterile (for direct skin contact) and non-sterile gauze. Sure, you can improvise but when it comes to someone’s health, buy the gear that’s meant for the job.
2. Fasteners – Assorted sundries such as nails, screws, nuts and bolts, washers, etc. Get a few boxes of quality exterior nails and screws for unexpected repairs or perhaps a necessary project, such as a solar oven or solar heater.
3. Duct tape – I need to get this one out of the way early! If it’s all that MacGyver needed, I’m sure I can make use of a few rolls myself. Use it for minor repairs to making a duct tape cannon (as seen on Mythbusters) and even for putting up plastic sheeting for chemical/biological events.
4. Ammunition (and weapons?) – Do I really need to elaborate? For self-defense, hunting, barter, etc.
5. Cordage (in assorted sizes and lengths) – most of the time I rarely use the cordage I have but it’s one of those items that when you need it, you NEED it. Visit your local hardware store for ideas but paracord, twine and some thick twisted-nylon rope would be a good start.
6. Firewood – Assuming firewood is your main heating and cooking fuel, it’s hard to have too much. At least have the ability to procure and harvest it, including chainsaw, axe, maul, and everything used to keep aforementioned equipment functioning.
7. Lubrication – It’s about stocking lubricants for squeaky door hinges and stuck bolts to preserving metal tools and firearms. Buy WD-40 (or something similar), 3-in-1 lubricating oil, and your favorite firearm lube.
8. Water Treatment (many options to choose from) – It will be a sad day if/when the faucet stops working permanently. 🙁 As such, every drop of water procured (well, usually) should be considered suspect and MUST be treated before consumed. The last thing you want is to die of dehydration from some diarrheal disease because you consumed bad water.
9. Bar soap (really any soap is useful, including hand sanitizers) – Although it is possible to make your own soap, who wants to fool with lye or even go through the effort? Bar soap will last a long time if kept from drying out so just store it like you would your food preps. A few dozen bars will go a long way.
10. Fuel (gasoline, diesel, propane) – You will eventually run out no matter how much you store or how well you ration it. That said, it will be an sad day if/when the last drop of petroleum flows. And be sure to stock the oil and other fluids that keep your equipment running (e.g., 2-cycle engine oil).
11. Bic lighters – The ability to create fire is huge and the ubiquitous bic lighters are the easiest, most reliable way to do just that. Granted, matches are useful too but think about how many fires could be lit with 50 bic lighters? And they can be stored in bug out bags, vehicle kits, or a jacket pocket without thought.
12. Antibiotics – So many diseases, so few antibiotics! Whether you agree with storing fish antibiotics or not, I prefer to have the option rather than not. I guess I could throw in any ingested medication here as well, including Ibuprofen, Tylenol, and plenty more.
13. Buckets – So many uses, especially the 5-gallon homer buckets. Used for storing food and gear, transporting water, gardening, etc. Be sure to include the lids (should have a rubber gasket too) and funnels would be very helpful here too.
14. Books and Reference Files – One person (or a group of people) can only know so much. Considering the wealth of knowledge that civilizations have created, it’s only prudent to have some of it on-hand in multiple forms (electronic and hard-copy). I wrote about resiliency in your survival library here.
15. Multi-Use Substances – I’m thinking of stuff like baking soda, distilled white vinegar, and apple cider vinegar, in particular. These can be used for making everything from household cleaners to toothpaste. Search the “How To” Knowledge base for more info on how to use these products.

What about you? What would you have added that I did not?

How to Avoid Computer “Emergencies” Part 2 of 2

Last week, in How to Avoid Computer “Emergencies” Part 1, I pointed out the need to include a Network Area Storage device (such as this one) as part of your overall computer plan in order to avoid personal data loss, including music, pictures, documents, and everything else.

This week we discuss the other critical aspect to avoid such “emergencies” and that is to avoid the possibility of power surges and power failures. If you’ve ever been the victim of a power surge or lighting strike, then you well know the devastating effects it can have on sensitive electronics such as a computer. I’ve never had this problem and I’m working to keep it that way, here’s how you can too…

In order to minimize the effects of a power surge (and power failure) there are two things you need: a surge protector AND battery backup source. As for the surge protector, you don’t want just any device; the cheap devices that are found just about anywhere are NOT what you want; they are likely nothing more than an outlet expander.

Surge Protection That You Really Want


What you really want is a real surge protection device. This model, the APC Pro-7 SurgeArrest, is what I use for our computer protection. There are other APC devices, including ones with more outlets, protection for coax, network, and phone cables, as well as different configurations for accepting more transformer. You will certainly find one that fits your needs.

There are other manufacturers, but APC is what my computer buddy uses, recommends his clients use, and obviously suggested I use. I’m no computer techie so I don’t fully understand the details, but suffice it to say that the better devices are more likely to do what they’re expected to do: prevent damaging power fluctuations from reaching your expensive computer!

It’s really that simple.

Battery Backup is Important


Equally critical to your computer health is a battery backup unit, such as this one: the CyberPower CP425SLG battery backup power source. It is a 225 Watt device capable of connecting up to six pieces of equipment and is what I bought a few months back. To be honest, the only reason I have it is to protect the NAS from losing its configuration settings which, according to my buddy, can be bad for my NAS. Since I could do so, I also connected my PC tower to the battery backup as well.

If you’re unaware, the purpose of a battery backup is to allow you enough time to properly power down equipment in order to avoid potential damage. Most of the time when the power goes out unexpectedly nothing bad ever happens, though the possibility does exist.

Anyway, since I’ve had the NAS, we have lost power a few times (more so recently), it got unplugged a few times and, since I don’t like to press my luck, I figured it was past due time to do something about it. As luck would have it, the power went out a few days after my battery backup arrived and it worked flawlessly. And, because the NAS can be configured to power down on its own when that happens, everything worked as I expected.

There are other, more powerful and fancier units than this one, which may be worthwhile if you intend to connect computer peripherals (monitor, printer, etc) but since I ONLY have the NAS and PC tower connected, this works fine.

Concluding Thoughts

To me, it makes sense to spend a few extra dollars if it means protecting several hundred to thousands of dollars in expensive equipment. (All total I spend about $65 between the surge protector and battery backup.) Sure, you could file an insurance claim but who wants that hassle and, of course, there is the deductible to pay. When it’s all said and done, you’re just about better off buying a new computer instead of filing a claim.

As with most anything in life, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. After all, isn’t that what prepping is all about!? 😉

How to Avoid Computer “Emergencies” Part 1 of 2

As preppers we pride ourselves in preparing our families not only for the tough times (hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes) but possibly even the unimaginable times (EMP, economic collapse) and we do it with steadfast enthusiasm. What we seem to gloss over in doing so is to also prepare ourselves for everyday emergencies, such as a dreaded computer crash.

Not what you were expecting? Yes, I do consider a computer crash an “emergency” of sorts. Given our society’s reliance on computers and the internet, I figure most people would agree.

Besides malware and internet connectivity issues, one of the more devastating computer “emergencies” is the temporary or even permanent inability to retrieve your personal data due to hard drive errors or, worse yet, a hard drive crash.

“That’s not a problem,” you say! “It’s not like anything on my personal computer is necessary information like business files.” Oh yeah!? Ignoring the presumably hundreds of dollars in operating software and office suites, take a moment and contemplate all of your personal files, pictures, videos, music and more. More importantly, contemplate all of your WIFE’S files, pictures, videos, and music! There’s probably quite a bit there. More than you might realize at first.

A little over a year ago we had one of those “uh-oh” moments with our computer (not the first one either) and after some frustrating moments and realizing that I needed some help, I finally decided to call a buddy of mine who specializes in these problems. After deliberation, he finally convinced me to change my strategy. No more relying on a single computer and lonely hard drive… I had to upgrade my computer preparendess.

Unfortunately for our pocketbook he suggested the “nuclear” route, as I like to call it, which consisted not only of a complete computer rebuild (actually a new computer) but a Network Area Storage (NAS) device as well.

“What in the heck was a NAS,” I asked? And more importantly, “why do I need to spend money on one?”

Long explanation short, a NAS is simply a device that stores data. In this case our personal files, music, pictures, and videos. It is not intended to store or run computer software such as Microsoft Windows or Microsoft Office. Just data.

With regards to personal data, why is a NAS more reliable than a regular computer hard drive? The answer is two-fold. First, depending on the unit you purchase you may have anywhere from two to six redundant hard drives that will store your personal data. In fact, it is the NAS’s job to ensure each hard drive is perfectly in sync with up-to-date copies of all your files at all times. Second, the only job the NAS needs to do is it access and update personal files, not operating system files, internet cache, and whatever else goes on in the background. This takes a huge load off of the NAS hard drives, drastically improving their lifespan as well as to lessen the likelihood of a hard drive failure. And, even if one drive did fail there will be at least one redundant drive to save the day.

Re-read that last paragraph if this is your first exposure to the NAS concept. It’s important to fully grasp WHY having one is really a good idea.

But that’s not all that a NAS does, not by a long shot. Depending on the NAS you choose to purchase you may find that your NAS can do A LOT more than expected. Take, for example, the NAS that I purchased (pictured left).

The QNAP NAS TS-259 Pro+ is a seriously cool device. Yeah, I know, I know… don’t let the price give you sticker shock; it’s actually one of the lesser expensive models they make AND has come down in price by at least $100 since I purchased mine a year ago.

Anyway, this QNAP NAS can do a lot if you let it. It can act as a server to your home network for music and movies, stream media directly to your television when properly connected, act as a surveillance station, download files automatically from the internet, act as a website server, and more that I don’t even understand. 😉

The beauty is that the NAS is pretty self-sufficient and requires very little (if any) intervention from you once setup. And, yes, there is some initial setup required as well as the purchase of two identical internal hard drives. At the time I went with 500GB drives, which my friend told me was a mistake. I should have purchased at least 1TB drives for expansion. Eventually I’ll need to swap out my drives for something larger but they work well for now.

After over a year with my NAS I’ve had no problems with this unit. It’s performed flawlessly, quietly, and reliably. Even if you don’t purchase this unit, I firmly believe that a NAS is a must-have for most home networks.

Now, what if a NAS is too costly? What else can you do?

If a NAS isn’t the solution for you right now there are other options that can be utilized to avert such a catastrophe, including automatic online backup services (both free and paid for) as well as manual backup options such as Google Docs as well as external hard drives. While these alternatives are a possibility, they depend on one of two potential failure points: internet connectivity and human action, neither of which will be as reliable as a NAS.

Look for Part 2 to come next week where we discuss the other computer “emergency” topic: power!