Food shortages on the way?

I’ve been hearing from multiple sources that we should be expecting rapid increases in food costs due to shortages. Unfortunately, everything I’ve heard thus far is very vague, bordering on Chicken Little type of talk.

But, this brings up the issue of rising food costs in general and the impact your food storage plan can have. You can save money in the long run by purchasing food at today’s prices and eating it tomorrow. If you buy in bulk, you can usually save a bit more. Use coupons whenever you can, trust me it adds up quickly.

I do most of the grocery shopping for my family. My wife cuts coupons every week and sorts them. We make out the shopping list together and gather the coupons for those items on the list. On average, we probably save around $20 or so every trip to the grocery store between coupons and the store loyalty card.

If you’ve not done so already, I’d highly encourage you to start stocking up on staples. Whether there is a coming food shortage or not, I think it is safe to say food costs surely won’t decrease in the immediate future.

Teaching through play

As parents, we want to pass along knowledge and skills to our children. Of course, this would include survival techniques. One of the best ways to teach younger kids is through play.

For example, after the last big snowstorm here, we went out and built snow forts. One of the forts I made was a snow cave, which could be used as an emergency shelter. I shoveled snow into a big pile, then shaved off the top so it was flat. I had a plywood board handy so I placed that on the top of the flattened pile. I then dug out a cave on one side of the pile, taking the snow and shoveling it on top of the board. It only took about fifteen minutes to create a cave large enough that I could crawl inside. I could easily have fit a small pack in there as well.

(I only used the board because I had it handy and also because I knew the kids would be pretty rough with the shelter. Boys are boys and it would be stomped on, climbed over, and rolled down. In an emergency, that kind of horseplay wouldn’t happen and the board wouldn’t necessarily be needed for additional support.)

Placing a tarp or space blanket across the cave entrance would serve quite well in trapping body heat and keeping me warm and safe from the elements for a night.

I explained this to my boys as well as illustrating a few other expedient shelters, such as the space under a pine tree. While they were much more interested in how well the snow cave would work during a snowball fight, I’m confident the lesson made it into their long-term memory banks.

The desire to learn is present in almost all children. You just have to figure out the best way to present the information. I’ve found by incorporating lessons into playtime helps them to not get bored. Plus, you get to have some fun with your kids, which is never a bad thing.

Risk Assessment

I’ve always felt if you’re prepared for a disaster on a national or global scale, such as something that would result in a total societal collapse, then surely you’re prepared for any less severe emergencies. However, to someone new to preparedness, that’s a pretty daunting task. To go from zero preps to being able to provide for an entire family for years to come is like getting your driver’s license at 9am, then getting behind the wheel at the Daytona 500 that afternoon.

In other words, you have to learn to walk before you can run.

Many of your needs during and after a disaster are constant, no matter the cause of the emergency. Breathable air, clean water, food, and personal safety are constants. What changes is how best to prepare to meet those needs.

A risk assessment is simply gathering information on the likely threats your family faces in the future. Consider the most probable scenarios, such as the loss of electricity during a storm, and work your way to the more extreme situations, like a terrorist attack using an EMP, which could take out all electrical devices for a large portion of the country…perhaps permanently.

One resource for your research is your county’s Emergency Management office. Often this is a role assigned to the Sheriff’s Department. Get in touch with the Emergency Management Coordinator and ask about getting a copy of the hazard mitigation plan for the county. Every emergency management office that receives federal funding must have this plan completed and on file. Typically, these plans concentrate on natural disasters, rather than man-made. But, they’ve done the research for you in terms of what is likely or possible to happen in your area.

The plan will not only clue you in on what hazards your local government feels are important to mitigate but it also explains what the county has done and/or plans to do about them. Remember, your tax dollars funded this plan’s creation, you are entitled to see it. Many counties have the plans posted online, you just have to find it.

You can use this document as a template for your own plan. Add in any threats you feel are missing from the county plan. Make concrete decisions on how you can mitigate the different risks yourself. Set realistic goals as to when you will accomplish the various steps. Come up with an overall time table as to when the preps will be completed. Then, stick with the plan as best you can. Revisit it often and revise it as necessary.

Conspiracy theories

As you proceed in your studies in survivalism and disaster readiness, you’ll no doubt run across any number of conspiracy theories online. Whether it concerns 9/11 or reptilians from Alpha Centauri impersonating politicians, the Internet has provided a platform from which proponents can make their opinions known.

I love reading about conspiracy theories, the more outlandish the better. But, I love them for their entertainment value and tend to take them with more than just a grain of salt. Heck, some of the theories out there require enough grains of salt to take care of NYC streets for an entire winter season!

When reading the various theories you find online and elsewhere, I highly suggest you use your head for something more than a hat rack. A little common sense will go a long way.

I’m not saying all conspiracy theories are bunk. Far from it, actually. History has shown any number of outlandish theories to actually be true. After all, the mysterious MK-ULTRA project, where US citizens were covertly given LSD and other drugs, was proven to have actually existed.

However, that doesn’t mean every theory put forth before or since is automatically true as well. Each one must be examined and evaluated on its own merits.

If you find yourself some night, long after you should have gone to bed, giving serious thought to your mind being probed by reptilian aliens, please have this site bookmarked:

Tin Foil Beanie instructions

Container Gardening

This is the time of year when the seed catalogs start to ship out. Even if you don’t have a large yard to work with, you can still grow a fair amount of your own veggies by using container gardening. Basically, this is gardening through the use of various pots you have out on your patio, deck, driveway, or other area. Almost all vegetables can be grown this way, if you take the time to research the plant’s requirements and accommodate them.

Pole beans and other climbers need a trellis set up along the back of the container. What we’ve done in the past is take 36″ rebar and pound two feet of it into the ground, one on each corner along the back of a rectangular pot. Then, use conduit to fashion a frame, slipping the legs of the frame over the conduit. We use string to make a “net” stretched across the frame. This provides a great makeshift trellis for the plants to climb. Of course, you could just buy a premade trellis but I had the materials for this lying around to put to good use.

Potatoes may be grown in what amounts of a pile of compost with fencing around it. Take chicken wire fence and make a cylinder with it about 30″ across and a few feet high. Lay down a bed of compost about 8″ deep. Plant your seed potatoes and cover them with more compost. As the plant grows, add more compost to keep the potatoes covered but letting the leaves get sunlight. At the end of the season, open up the chicken wire and out tumble your ‘taters.

While you’re cooped up in the house during these cold months, do some garden planning. Won’t be too much longer and you’ll be able to start some seedlings indoors. Get the new seed catalogs and make some lists. Be sure to get heirloom seeds if at all possible. Heirloom plants are “true” strains, meaning the seeds from the veggies and fruits can be used to grow more. Seeds from hybrid plants are sterile.

Dealing with Uninterested Family Members

As you are embarking on your disaster readiness plans, you may find others in your family aren’t quite “on board.” Perhaps your spouse feels the financial expenditures would be better spent elsewhere. Maybe your kids think you’re being a kook. Or your extended family snickers behind your back, while saying to your face, “Well, if the end of the world happens, I guess I know where I’m going!”

How can you get these loved ones to come around to your way of thinking?

I might start small. Point to the news reports in recent weeks about people being stranded in their cars during blizzards. Explain that it is just common sense to have some emergency gear in the trunk. Once they’ve accepted and are comfortable with that, go a step up and discuss having emergency kits for the home. Power outages, severe storms preventing travel, heck even a bought of the stomach flu running through the house, could all result in at least a temporary emergency. Further, wouldn’t it be nice if we could save some money by eating in more often that we eat out? And not have to run to the grocery store every evening to get dinner ingredients? What about if one of you loses a job in the failing economy? It would be nice to have some food and other supplies stockpiled to help offset the (hopefully) temporary loss of income.

As you move further along the curve from what is most likely to happen (temporary emergency like a power outage) to the more extreme situations (societal collapse, worldwide pandemic, etc.), look to history to provide examples of what could happen. History tells us no civilization can last forever.

Just remember though, you can lead a person to knowledge but you can’t make them think. There may well be people who just won’t buy in no matter what you say. If you have the means to do so, consider preparing for them anyway. If it is a spouse or child, you kinda have to do it no matter what, right? For other family members or friends, especially those who have made it clear they’ll be on your doorstep if the balloon goes up, you might want to have a little talk with them. Explain you’re more than happy to stock up on supplies and food for them, but they have to pony up at least some of the expense.

If they decline to do so, and they show up anyway at some point down the road, you’ll have a hard decision to make. Give some thought now as to how you want to handle it.

The Importance of Documents

One of the many lessons learned in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita is the importance of having vital documents available. Many people experienced delays in processing insurance claims because they didn’t have their policy numbers, identification, and other documents immediately available.

I highly suggest storing copies of your vital papers in at least two different locations outside your home. Consider swapping papers with a trust family member or friend. You’ll store theirs and they store yours. Keep another set in your bug out bag, sealed in a plastic bag.

I do NOT recommend using safe deposit boxes for this purpose as if it is a widespread disaster, banks might not be open for business.

Be sure to include copies of:

  • Identification (driver license, social security card)
  • Insurance policies (auto, home, life)
  • Bank statements (checking, savings)
  • Property ownership (vehicle titles, house/land deeds)
  • Also, take all of your credit cards and photocopy the front and back of each one. This will give you not only the account numbers but also the Customer Service phone numbers in the event you lose the card or need to access your account over the phone.

    Finally, add in recent photos of every family member and pet. If one of them turns up missing, these photos can be of tremendous help to searchers.