Wednesday, January 8, 2014


Be Prepared - Part 1

I grew up in Southern California where earthquakes can hit at any time. My family never really was “prepared” for natural disasters as far as having a stockpile of food, etc. My mom was the kind of person who ran to the store nearly every day to get something for dinner that night. We usually had plenty of flashlights and transistor radios because we went camping a lot, but if a major earthquake hit we were kind of out of luck in the food department. When my husband and I were still living in California, at the time my daughter was 6 months old, a major earthquake hit near my parents house (not where I grew up, but where they were then living in the California desert). They were literally about a quarter-mile from the epicenter. Their home was seriously damaged. They had spots on their property that were shifted vertically about 3-4 feet. Fortunately for them, they were not seriously hurt, and because they lived so far from the nearest town they always had extra food at the house. The main highway to town buckled during the earthquake, so it was impassable for several days, so they couldn’t have gone to the store for food even if they needed to.

We were living a couple of hours’ drive from my parents at that time, and we felt the earthquake at our house. In fact, our house was the middle of five houses on the street that received cracks running across the driveways from that earthquake. It was a big shaker (over 7.0). After seeing the devastation at my parents’ house and the loss of power for a week or so (therefore, the loss of the food in the fridge and chest freezer), I decided I needed to do something to make sure we were prepared if something like that happened. Seriously, we lived alongside the San Andreas Fault…we needed to do something to prepare. So, I PREPARED! I must have packed about 10 or 12 of the large Rubbermaid containers with food and everything else we might need if we had an emergency. They were lined up along the back wall of our house. Really pretty picture, huh?

Since that time, I have never been nearly so prepared. Since then we’ve lived in Houston, where the big problem might be a hurricane, in which case we would evacuate; and now we’re in lovely East Tennessee. Here the biggest natural disaster we might encounter would be a serious blizzard, which hasn’t happened since before we moved here 17 years ago. I usually make sure we have a stockpile of food in case more snow falls than is expected, but I really haven’t kept up with it very well for the past few years. That’s about to change…

Everyone will have their own reasons and methods of preparing for an emergency, based on where they live and what they think may happen in the world; but I’m going to start a concerted effort to make sure I’m well prepared for at least a week of not leaving the house. Though there could be some political upheaval or other event that would necessitate a longer time at home, the more likely scenario here is a winter storm that dumps more ice or snow than expected, or injury or illness in our home. If I can build up a month or more of food that’s great, but I’m going to concentrate on living for a week without leaving the house (which we kind of do already, since I try not to go to the store more than once a week, but this would be an additional week’s worth of food). So if I wake up sick on the morning I plan on doing the grocery shopping, it will be nice to know that we have things to eat without leaving the house.

So, over the next few months I’ll be writing about what I’m working on for our preparedness and what things are important in our home to prepare to be “prepared”.

One of the first things to consider when getting your family prepared for an emergency is to determine how many you are preparing for. Everyone should prepare for their own family, and not think that they could just wander over to the neighbors’ for a week if there was an emergency. Everyone needs to be responsible for themselves. Certainly neighbors will help neighbors in an emergency, but above all it is just discourteous to expect to have someone else bail you out because you didn’t prepare. Plus, you’re taking away food and supplies that family purchased with their money for their family members. It’s just kind of rude to take from them. {OK, off my little soapbox.}

In my family I am primarily preparing for my husband and myself, plus our 2 dogs and 2 cats (don’t forget the pets!). Our daughter is generally out of town and we have another close family member who lives a mile away, and I will plan for extras for both of them; but my primary focus is on who is most likely to be in this house at the time we get hit with an illness or when there’s an emergency when the roads are impassable and daughter and family member cannot make it here. If you usually have guests at your house (perhaps on a monthly basis), then you might want to prepare for that possibility. But by and large, focus on who generally resides at your home.

One thing I suggest is to make sure your regular pantry is well stocked before you start storing away food for an emergency. What I like to do is have extra of the things I use most. We usually have something with spaghetti sauce each week, so I generally have 2 cans on the pantry shelf. When I use one, I write that down on the shopping list so the next time I’m at the store I pick up another and we again have 2 cans. With this method I can skip a week of buying one and still have a can of sauce available. The same thing with soup…we usually have several cans of soup on the shelf. One can will feed my husband and me for lunch, so I try to keep about 4 cans on the shelf. Those are really simple examples, but our tastes run simple, and in an emergency that will do.

At the moment, my stored food stock is very low, but I have plenty of extras on the regular pantry shelves to get us through an extra week. This fall I made a big effort to start storing food for the pets. It was just something I wanted to get done, then not have to worry about it. I now have over a week’s worth of food stored away for all of them, along with about another two week’s worth of food in the pantry for them. When I go to the store now, I usually still pick up a week’s worth of cans of cat food, that way we just won’t run low.

When I do start stocking up to store extra food, there are several ways I go about it. First, I buy what my family will eat. Don’t buy 5 cans of beets because they are on sale for 20 cents a can if your family won’t eat them. That $1 would be enough for food for a day for our two cats. The most obvious way of stocking up is when something is on sale I buy more than what I planned on buying. So if I was going to buy a can of baked beans for this week’s menu, and they are on sale, I’ll pick up an extra one (or two, depending on the price) to stick with our stock of food. Another thing I do with our stored food is to buy small portions. For example, instead of buying a large jar of applesauce to store, I pick up a package of the individual cups of applesauce. That way you don’t have a large jar of applesauce that might need refrigerating, but you have no power.

The method I usually use when stocking up is setting aside $5 or $10 per shopping trip to buy items to store. If packs of 24 bottles of water are on sale for $2.50, I might buy 4 packs and that will be all I pick up that week to store. With that one purchase, I’ve made a big addition to my stored water supply. If you are just starting out, you might want to spread out the items you buy. You might buy a pack of water for $2.50, a four-pack of condensed soup for $3.00, some applesauce for a couple of dollars, then a few cans of beans to add up to your $10. That could cover a couple of meals for your family right there.

Another method of stocking up, which I don’t usually do (but have on occasion) is to make a list of all the items you want to store, then go out and just buy them all at once (or over a few shopping trips). This really doesn’t work for me financially, but if it works for you, that’s great. You’ll be ready in one fell swoop!

Next time I’ll talk about water and non-food items you might want to stock up on, and I’ll let you know how I’m progressing in my food storage.

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