Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Gardening - Where to grow

Once you know what zone you are in, you can decide where you want to grow your food, herbs or flowers.

I am particularly fond of square foot gardening. Not only have I done this for many successful years, but it was all I knew until one year I unsuccessfully tried to grow rows of carrots. Square foot gardening allows for growing twice as much in half the space.

This year, we will have a ground garden about 4' x 12' and many containers on the patio. Then we also have about 30' of window boxes from a balcony. The base of the balcony will be about half full in length of box planters to grow green beans. The other planters range in sizes from small to extra large. In one windowsill I have our herbs growing in planters that will also be transplanted to indoor hanging baskets.

If you do not have an actual plot of earth to work with, don't worry, there are plenty of other ways to grow bountiful gardens!

Start with a sunny patio, deck, balcony, sidewalk, or porch. Anywhere there is space outdoors that gets sun, you can put planters. They can be many feet in diameter or inches in diameter. You can stack them on shelves. Hang them from windowsills or balcony railings (make sure they are very secure so they don't fall off when loaded with moist dirt.) Of course the larger space or more spaces you have the more you can grow.

To find planters, you can purchase new clay or plastic ones at a hardware or discount store with an outdoors department. You can even make them out of materials you find around the house. A great smaller sized planter can be made from cutting a plastic milk jug in half and poking a few drain holes in the bottom. Plastic dairy containers will hold flowers or herbs. You can build one out of wood scraps. Use old houseplant planters. Large mixing bowls, porcelain sinks, wash tubs or claw foot bathtubs work.

If you have the opportunity to grow outside of containers, then you can find an area that gets 6-8 hours of sun and has good drainage. Small areas around the house or large plots of land will hold a lot of garden.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

72 Hour Meal Plan

Following is our meal plan for the 72 Hour Kits. As I explained in a previous post, a couple things will be replaced/added to what we already have. I have yet not decided if the pudding will be replaced with jerky sticks or if I will just add them to the kits as extra items, since they take up so little space.

Each kit also gets a daily meal plan included. This way, during any confusion or stress, there will be no question as to when to eat what foods.

Day 1
Breakfast: Nutrigrain Bar, Applesauce, EmergenC (bag added to water bottle)

Snack: Fruit roll-up

Lunch: Tuna (with mayo and relish packets stirred in), Green Beans, Cracker packet, Tea (bag added to water bottle)

Snack: Pudding

Dinner: Chicken Soup, Milk/Juice

Snack: Cookie/chocolate bar

Day 2
Breakfast: Instant Oatmeal, Applesauce, EmergenC

Snack: Fruit Roll-up

Lunch: Chicken Packet (with mayo and relish packets stirred in), Green Beans, Cracker Pack, Tea

Snack: Pudding

Dinner: Chili, Corn, Milk/Juice

Snack: Cookie Pack

Day 3
Breakfast: Granola Bar, Applesauce, EmergenC

Snack: Fruit Roll-up

Lunch: Lasagna, Cracker Pack, Tea

Snack: Pudding

Dinner: Stew, Milk/Juice

Snack: Cookie Pack

Monday, March 16, 2009

Preparing for layoff or job loss

There's no doubt about our economy falling into difficult times right now. For many families, this involves one or more people in the home to either be laid off work or given the pink slip. Whether this has already happened to you, or you would like to be prepared in case it may, following are some tips that can hopefully give you some ideas on how to find a new balance and prepare for change.

1. Keep track of your expenses. When starting to pare down your finances, you will want to take a good look at everything you purchase. I suggest writing everything down for at least a week, a month is better, to see where your money is going. You can carry a notebook or scrap paper or if you don't use cash, then tally up the money you spent at the end of each week. Most people are surprised at how much is dolled out for extra things on a regular basis.

2. Cutting expenses. This idea we will explore more in future posts, but giving it considerable thought right now may help to give you a basis to go with. Cutting expenses is something that can be found in almost any area in life. If you would like to start to prepare for the possibility of job loss, an idea is to take the money you would normally spend on 'extras' and put it aside intead of spending. Another idea is to completely leave it alone. Don't even touch it. Leave it right in the bank where it can do a little work for you by earning some interest.

3. Have an emergency savings. Three months is a good basic amount to start with. I think six is better, especially during the economic times now. Why so long? Rarely does it work out that as soon as someone loses their job they find another. Usually it takes a few weeks to a few months to find new employment. Then, it will take two to four weeks after that to get a first paycheck even. And time can go by really fast when one has to make their next payment for something with no money availabe. You will want enough for your mortgage/rent, insurances, electric, phone, heat, food, gas, clothing, education, debt reduction payments, and any additional usual expenses. You may also want to have some money set aside for health care if you will not be able to carry over health insurance while unemployed.

4. Pay off debts. For most people this is something that cannot just be done right away, which is why the debt is there in the first place. If it is possible though, double your payments or try to get the balances down as quickly as possible. If you have no income coming in later then you won't be able to pay anything at all and dealing with credit or collection agencies is an awful stress that no one wants to deal with, especially if you are under major financial stress.

5. Extra emergency fund. Cash. This money should be kept in an emergency evaucation bag. Depending on your own family priorities, this can go at the top of your list, or at the bottom. The amount is also completely up to you, though I do recommend keeping the total in smaller sized bills. When planning for this amount there are a few things to consider. How much gas will it take to get to your emergency evacuation destination if you can drive? How up to date are your evacuation bags and 72 Hour Kits? Will you need to quickly purchase the things that go in them if an emergency should arrise or are they complete? Do you want to have money for emergency hotel stays?

6. Resume. When was the last time you updated your resume? Now is as good as time as any and it is better to be prepared in advance. If the time comes that you or your spouse need to start job searching you want to be prepared in advance so you can start as soon as possible.

7. Network and job search. If it is inevitable and just a matter of time before someone loses their job, it is a good idea to do some advance job searching. Networking with absolutely everyone possible in related fields is a fantastic way of finding a new job in advance. If people can put a face to a name or know who you are, they are more likely to recommend you for a position. Keeping your eye open for a potential job lead is important also. Passing on that newly updated resume or filling out applications is also a good way to spend some extra time before known job loss.

8. Consider a new career. If your area is known for now laying off people at each company who are in your same career bracket, you might want to consider changing jobs. This may involve a new degree or just possibly finding new areas that you are qualified in.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Where to store your 72 Hour Kit

Storage of your 72 Hour Kit is extremely important.

You must make sure that the area is dry (damp or extremely humid areas may cause food spoilage). If you intend on keeping your kits in the laundry room, make sure there is plenty of ventilation. If the basement or garage, make sure there is dry and mildew free. If you keep them on a shelf or the floor, make sure that you pick up the container and inspect the outside of it for any mold growth.

Keep the area pest free. You will want to check your kits monthly to make sure that no pests (mice, insects, etc.) have gotten into the food storage container or food itself. A good way to help prevent this is to keep them off of the floor. A couple hooks or coat rack installed on a wall work great. Or even a few sturdy nails to hang your kits from. If you cannot put nails in the wall, there may be a set of wooden shelves you can put a hanger on, hang your kits on a hanger to go inside of a closet, or find an easily accessible shelf.

Try to keep your food in an area where the temperature will not go above 100°F. If the food is exposed to high heats, the shelf life will be dramatically reduced and food can spoil quickly. (Think peanut butter and crackers turned in crackers and mush or rancid tuna.) Never ever eat food from cans that are bulging, badly dented or seem otherwise damaged. Do not keep your kits above the stove, under the sink, by a window or direct sunlight, by electrical appliances or water heaters. The food can be exposed to high temperatures or humidity.

A good place to keep your food is going to be an even temperatured cool room. If you have a pantry, this will probably work perfectly. Since this is an emergency kit, possibly a closet close to the front or back door will work.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

What to keep your 72 Hour Kit in

Once you have the contents of your 72 Hour Kits planned out or ready to go, you will need to store everything in something. There are a few things to keep in mind for this.

A backpack, tote bag, oversized insulated lunch cooler, picnic bag, plastic shopping bag, overnight or weekend bag, small suitcase on wheels...each of these would work to keep your food in. The container will at least need to be big enough to hold the food (there are other contents that can be added that we will explore later). It will need to be sturdy enough to handle some fast or rough movement since it will need to be portable. While the plastic shopping bags may be large enough, they will probably not be sturdy enough to with-hold lots of handling. They will work in a pinch or if there are no other container options though. Right now we have ours in fabric shopping bags, which are holding us over until we have oversized zippered lunch coolers for all of us.

Make sure that you have enough containers. We prefer to keep our kits divided out for each person rather than keeping all of the food in one kit. The reasoning behind this is incase any of us are separated (which we pray would never happen) at least we will have our own kits. Also, if something should happen to one or more of the kits (like getting lost or damaged), at least the others would hopefully be in edible condition.

Another tip is to have all of the kits in the same color and style of bags. This makes it easier for the eye to grab in emergency and to pick out of a crowded area.

Monday, March 9, 2009

What does it cost?

I thought I would show you an example food list for the 72 Hour kit. This is ours, for a family of four. I am also including the prices to help give you an idea of what it can cost. Granted, none of our foods were on sale, so most likely, your kits can be put together much more inexpensively.

I also list the expiration dates of each item. This way, I have it logged and can easily rotate the food out. So a few weeks before each expiration, I can pull the food out, serve it to the family, and replace it with new food. Since everything in our kits are foods that we like, this will work out nicely.

Be sure to check out sale ads and combine sale prices with coupons to lower your prices. There can be dramatic savings doing this. (I was not able to at this time because of our location.)

*Please note that I still need to purchase a few more food items for our kits. Once I have these available, I can update the log and add/replace the food into the kits.

Food Amount Price / Each Expiration Date

Nutri Grain Bars 1 Box (8 Bars) $2.62/.33 each May 2009
Granola Bars 1 Box (6 Bars) $2.49/.41 each May 19 2009
Oatmeal 1 Box (19 Packets) $3.24/.32 each Mar 11 2010
Applesauce 3 Packs (6 4 oz cups) $4.35/.24 each Sep 17 2010

Corn 4 Cans (8.75 oz) $2.36/.59 each Sep 02 2011
Green Beans 4 Cans (8 oz) $2.36/.59 each Aug 07 2010
Tuna 2 Packs (3 3 oz cans) $5.12/.85 each Jul 15 2011
Chicken 4 Pouches (7 oz) $8.76/2.19 each Sep 02 2010
Salmon 2 Pouches (6 oz) $3.22/1.61 each Jul 09 2011

Chicken Soup 4 Cans (15.25 oz) $7.96/1.99 each Jan 04 2010
Stew 3 Cans (15.25 oz) $8.36/2.10 each
Toddler Chicken 1 Can (6 oz) $1.15 Jan 20 2010
Chili 4 Cans (7.25 oz) $3.52/.88 each Apr 2010

Pudding 3 Packs (4 3 oz cups) $2.55/.85 each Mar 25 2010
Fruit Roll-Ups 1 Pack (10) $1.50/.15 each Sep 01 2009
Leibniz Cookies 3 Packs (5/pack) $2.21/.44 each Oct 01 2009

Milk Packs 3 Packs (3/pack) $1.00/.33 each) May 28 2009
Juice Packs 1 Pack (3/pack) $1.00/.33 each) Jul 18 2009

Total: $63.77
Total Each Kit: $15.95

*Still to purchase: EmergenC, Peanut Butter and Crackers, Beef Jerky, Juice Packs (maybe), mayo, relish and mustard packets
**May exchange jerky sticks for pudding snacks.
***We already have individual tea and coffee bags.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Comfort Tray

Nothing takes care of a horrible no good very bad day better than some of mom's comfort, warm tea and freshly baked cookies.

Are you prepared with a comfort food for your kids if they are having one of those tough days? Or if your husband comes home from a rotten day at work? Or even for yourself if the wash machine decides to overflow, dinner burns, the coffee scalds, the pets are sick and everyone is crying?

A trick I like to do is have a comfort tray ready for times of small emotional disasters. My tray consists of two special tea cups, pretty napkins, and some tea bags. And the fridge or freezer always has at least one batch of drop cookies ready to take out and pop into the oven at a moments notice.

I also just made some laminated coupons to go on the tray. Very simply, I took pretty pieces of paper and wrote out a few words on them, then covered them in clear plastic to help make them lasting. The point of using the coupons is to give the kids an opportunity to express what they need to help them feel better without necessarily having to explain it in words. We have:
*Comfort Corner*

So if someone is having one of those horrible no good very bad days, they can go to the tray and pick a coupon while I heat some water and pop some cookies into the oven for a little dose of mama's comfort.
An added bonus of the always set tea tray, is that it is ready and easily available when someone comes to visit! So again, just heat up water and pop the cookies in the oven!

The cookies that we like to have on hand is the Toll House Chocolate Chip recipe. I mix up a batch of these and drop them into rounded balls onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Then cover with another layer of plastic and stick into the freezer. I drop 12 per sheet, which is how many fit onto my cookie sheet. That way, I don't have to bake the entire batch, just a pan at a time.

Original NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) Nestle´ Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
1 cup chopped nuts
Directions:PREHEAT oven to 375° F.COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets. BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. * May be stored in refrigerator for up to 1 week or in freezer for up to 8 weeks. FOR HIGH ALTITUDE BAKING (5,200 feet): Increase flour to 2 1/2 cups. Add 2 teaspoons water with flour and reduce both granulated sugar and brown sugar to 2/3 cup each. Bake drop cookies for 8 to 10 minutes and pan cookie for 17 to 19 minutes.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

72 Hour Kits - Deciding what foods to put in

In our second post in the 72 Hour Kit series, now that we have an idea of who you are going to put your kits together for, we can get started making a food list.

To me, the most important thing to keep in mind is to only include foods that are well liked and able to be consumed by the person who the kit belongs to. It will not do any good if your child normally does not eat peas and there are three cans of them in his kit, or if your husband cannot tolerate a packet of tuna because of a fish allergy. Make sure the foods are not too sweet, salty or spicy, especially for children.

There are going to be nine meals total:
* 3 breakfasts
* 3 lunches
* 3 dinners

You may also want to include:
* 1 - 3 snacks per day

For drinks, there will need to be a water supply on hand (which I will talk about more another time.) It is recommended to keep at least 1 gallon of water per person per day. Additionally, I like to include extra drinks in 72 Hour Kits. Individual milk or juice packs can be drank with a meal. Tea bags or vitamin packets can be added to water bottles.

Convenience is important as well. Foods that involve little to no preparation are good. Make sure the package the food is in is able to be opened easily, pop top cans work well or be sure to have a can opener.

Comfort foods or some special treats are a good idea to put in your kits as well. If things are chaotic, a little treat is a small piece of comfort, for any age.

Following are some ideas to include in your kit:

granola bar
power bar
cereal bar
breakfast bar
fruit cup
instant oatmeal (I will explain how to prepare this later)
cereal cup (to add juice to instead of milk)

chicken packets
tuna (packets or cans)
salmon packets
sardines or oysters
beanie weenies
vienna sausages
deviled ham
ravioli, lasagna, spaghetti-o's
soup cups
cracker packets
peanut butter and cracker packets
cheese and cracker packets

hearty soup
vegetables (corn, green beans, peas, carrots)

power bars
beef jerky
fruit packs
fruit roll-ups

MRE's (Meals Ready to Eat) are also sold. They consist of an entire meal in an aluminum packet that is able to be eaten cold or heated. Originally, they were designed for the military, though they are now available for the public.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Planning Your Garden - Zone

Yay! Spring is almost here! That means it is time to start planning our gardens (if you have not already done so ;) ) There is something to be said about growing your own food and being able to enjoy those fresh sun-ripened strawberries or warm juicy tomatoes off the vine. Then, to be able to 'put up' your garden at the end of summer is a fantastic way to build up a nice little winter storage food supply.

This year, I am going to try out implementing square foot gardening with container gardening. Sound interesting? I think so! We have so many delicious foods that we want to grow so narrowing it down will be a chore in itself.

First, you will want to know what zone you are in. Once you know this you can then plan what and where you will grow.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

72 Hour Kits - What are they and why need one?

What is a 72 Hour Kit anyway?
It is a kit that is full of food and supplies to sustain a person for three days.

Why three days?
Generally, that is the guesstimated time that a family can securely be located into a new safe location or that their own homes can be back to normal after a type of disaster. Granted, disasters can last much longer than 72 hours and three days may or may not sound like a long time. You can look at it as having food for your children for three days or not.

When building your kit, there are a few things to keep in mind so you can tailor yours to best suit your family needs.

* Are you in a natural disaster zone (flood, hurricane, earthquake, wildfire, tornado, blizzard, etc.)?
* How many people are you building your kits for?
* What ages are you building the kits for?
(Remember infants, pregnant women, elderly, people with special dietary/allergy concerns and special needs people may have additional or different items needed.)
* Are you building pet kits?
* Are you willing to have extra kits for others in need?
* Are you working with a budget and need to build your kits slowly or will you put everything together at once?

Hopefully, these ideas can get you started with planning out your kits. In this 72 Hour Kit series, we will explore actually putting the kits together.


I have many passions and one of them is making sure my family is well taken care of. In that regard, family preparedness is at the top of my list. Be it natural disaster, financial, regarding the War on Terrorrism, Biblical or any other type of emergency, having a plan of preparedness will put your mind at ease when it comes to the well-being of your family. Whether you have a small interest or strong desire of the same, I invite you to follow me along in finding the joy of Family Preparedness.