Food Storage Analyzer from Emergency Essentials

4 Mar

I’ve been bulking up my food storage at higher rate than usual over the past few months. The drought conditions over the last growing season is going to drive up the price of grains and grain-derived products over the next year, and I wanted to shore up my supplies before that happened. However, it’s started to get tough to keep track of what I have and what I still want to buy. I made a giant Excel spreadsheet, but it quickly got oversized and out of hand.  Luckily, I came across the Emergency Essentials food storage calculator last week. I gave it a try and decided to tell you what I thought – the good and the bad.

To use the tool, go to the calculator at FoodStorageAnalyzer.com, and click “New Guest” at the top of the page. You can register for an account or test the analyzer without entering your information. I decided to make an account so that I could save my results.

You are asked to input data about your family regardless of whether your register or visit as a guest.  All you have to enter are the ages and genders of your family members. There are spaces for their names as well, but that is optional information and I left it blank.  The analyzer calculates the daily caloric requirements for each member of your family and shows you the individual and total numbers. For example, a young couple would have to store 4,600 calories per day, but a family of four with two teenaged boys would have to store nearly 10,000 calories per day.  This information is used to calculate how many days you could live off of your food storage.

The main page shows three tabs, “Food Storage Products,” “Have You Noticed…” and “My Pantry.” I started out in “Food Storage Products.” This is where you’ll enter the items that you currently have AND the products that you plan to order in the near future. You can add food from several categories: Freeze-dried and dehydrated foods, Mountain House, MREs, and grocery store canned foods. You also have the option to add your own items if you can’t find a good representation of a food within the other categories.

1

I thought it would be difficult to add all of my foods to the analyzer, but it was surprisingly simple. I like the category breakdowns – it was easy to find things, but there weren’t so many options that I became overwhelmed. I had to approximate in some places, but overall I think I was able to enter a pretty accurate list of my storage.

Your results are shown on the right hand side of every page, and they are automatically updated as you add foods to your list.  I don’t need to explain this in great detail, because the “understanding your results” button is extremely thorough. Clicking “view all details” gives you an expanded view of your results with further explanations

2

Other food storage calculators that I’ve tried have only counted calories, but this analyzed kept track of nutrients as well. This is SO important to me – I always worry about my vitamin consumption post-SHTF.  On that note,  the “Have you noticed…” tab was awesome, and completely unexpected.

3

Opening this tab displayed a message that told me that my food storage doesn’t include a lot of calcium. Not only that, but a list of calcium-rich foods was displayed so that I could think about what I wanted to add to my shopping list in the future.  This feature was incredibly helpful. There was also a menu at the bottom of every page that helps you look for foods high in the nutrients that are often forgotten when people plan their long term storage.

4

The “My Pantry” tab shows you a list of which foods you’ve entered into the Analyzer, which foods that you placed in your next order and a “wish list.”  You can quickly add or remove items from all lists as you use them up or purchase more.

5

I love that there’s a print option, and I plan to print out my current food storage list and keep it somewhere in my kitchen or pantry. Then, when I use something up, I can alter my list accordingly and update my Food Storage Analyzer account later on, when it’s convenient.

The only problem that I encountered while using the analyzer was that the page crashed twice during the time I was on the site.  Aggravating though it was, my information was saved.  I definitely recommend creating account for this reason, if nothing else.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the Food Storage Analyzer. It had some features that I haven’t encountered before in other calculators and analyzers, and I could actually see myself continuing to use it in the future.  If you’re a blogger, Emergency Essentials will send you a $10 gift card for testing out the Food Storage Analyzer (of course, the opinions expressed above are entirely my own). I had a great experience with the analyzer, and I’d encourage you to check it out if you are struggling to manage your food storage or are looking for a thorough way to track your nutrients and plan your purchases.

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Back At It

19 Jan

Hey all! Sorry I’ve been MIA for…well, I don’t want to think about it. Life has been nuts…I’ve moved halfway across the country, I’ve started a new graduate program, am training for a marathon and an Ironman triathlon, and am getting closer and closer to my wedding date. Blogging (and really, my social life in general) have fallen by the waysite, but I’m making it a priority for 2013. 

This post is really just to say hi and that I’m still here, but over the next few weeks I hope to be sharing some prepping tips with you, as well as more of what I’ve been doing in my own life to get prepared (INCLUDING baking a lot more bread from scratch – probably my biggest accomplishment!). 

Until then…stay safe and be smart!

K

PASAP – Prep As Soon As Possible

10 May

Guess what? I’m still alive! This week took a turn for the busy and I’ve been seriously neglecting the blog, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. On that note, this post goes out to all of you who may experience similar time crunches!

Is “slow and steady” just not your style? Here’s a quick and dirty guide to getting essentials stored in your home – FAST. This one-shot list will stock your home with the essential food, water, and supplies to help you weather a short-term emergency. This list is best suited to a hunker-down situation, in which you don’t plan on evacuating.*

I really don’t recommend this approach, but sometimes a situation calls for fast action.  I also don’t recommend waiting to start preparing until RIGHT before an emergency (the hurricane hits in two hours! GO!), so keep that in mind when making your plans.

As with every post on this site, I make no guarantees…your results may vary!  Personally, I could survive for a long time on the food and water that this shopping expedition would bring in, but I don’t eat a lot. I also don’t have a large family to feed. Adapt to suit your needs.

Go to the grocery store and buy:

  • 4 big jars of peanut butter
  • 3 huge canisters of rolled oats
  • 4 5-lb bags of flour
  • 2 5-lb bags of sugar
  • A canister of salt
  • Baking powder and baking soda
  • 40 cans of soup (not condensed) – the heartier the better
  • 30+gallons of water
  • 20 lbs of dried beans – your choice (pintos are cheap)
  • 20 lbs of rice (white – longer shelf life, brown – more nutritious)
  • 20 cans of tuna (or chicken or salmon)
  • A big canister of Tang drink mix
  • Two big boxes of powdered milk
  • The largest bottle of cooking oil you can find
  • 30 cans of vegetables – assorted
  • 20 cans of fruit – assorted
  • A big bag of raisins or other dried fruit
  • As much chocolate as you can stuff in your cart :)
  • Hard candies

Now go to a walmart, sporting goods store, or the like. Purchase the following:

  • Flashlight
  • Radio (preferably hand-crank and/or solar)
  • Manual can opener
  • Water storage drums – fill these AS SOON AS you get home.  Buy enough drums to have 30-60 gallons of water on hand, in addition to what you bought at the grocery store.
  • Bleach, try for about a gallon (it has many uses)
  • Multivitamin – 90 count at least
  • Matches, lighters
  • Steel wool, if you can find it quickly, and a 9-volt battery
  • Spare batteries of all sizes (for trade if nothing else)
  • Biggest first aid kid you can find
  • Medications: cold, pain relievers, the like
  • Biggest package of feminine products you can find (again, you can always trade these for more supplies)
  • Toilet paper
  • Duct tape

If you have time, also pick up a propane stove, as many extra propane tanks as you can afford, and some sleeping bags/extra blankets.

What else would you put on this list, if you were shopping for your family?

 

*That being said, NEVER hesitate to evacuate your home if local officials make an evacuation order. This is why survival packs or grab-and-go bags come in so handy – I’ll talk about them in a future post. 

MIA Blogger!

7 May

Did you notice that I’ve been gone for a few days? I was busy getting ready for, and competing in, my first-ever half marathon! It went really well and I can’t wait to do another one, but right now I’m just focusing on icing my knees and taking it easy. But don’t worry, I’ll have another post up before you know it :) 

Pocket-Sized Survival

2 May

Hey everyone! I hope you’re having a good week! I just presented some of my research at a conference (I’m a scientist in “real life”), and it feels so good to be finished.  As prepared as I am for some things, I always  put off getting ready for speeches because I get a little nervous….I’ll have to work on that!

Now, one thing that we apartment-dwellers know is that storage space is hard to come by.  Any preparations that don’t infringe upon our ever-shrinking closets are exactly what we need! So today, let’s talk about something that we carry every day….our wallets.

The few “survival” items that I carry with me in my wallet are neither high-tech nor expensive, but they help out in a pinch. For example, just last week I tripped and fell while on an 8-mile run. My tights protected my legs, but my hands and arms got pretty scratched up. The band aids, sterile wipes, and gauze pad that I keep in my wallet helped patch me up until I could get home ( I was two miles away!) and clean up for good.

So what do I personally carry with me every day?

  • A multi-tool (got this for 75 cents at Radio Shack!)
  • Three or four band aids
  • Gauze pad
  • An alcohol prep pad
  • Small packet of triple antibiotic
  • Four safety pins
  • Two rubber bands
  • An old gift card with a little duct tape wrapped around it
  • Toe warmers (the kind that heat up on their own)

These things don’t take up a lot of space; in fact, they fit in the pockets of my wallet without bulging. I’ve read articles about people who have added some pretty cool stuff to their wallets, such as lockpick cardsand flat compasses.

If you want to turn your wallet itself into a survival tool, check out this neat  tutorial.

What gear do you keep in your wallet? 

Exercise Five: Drink Up!

1 May

Small water bottles are great for hiding in tight spaces.

Let’s say you’re like me. You live in a small apartment with stuffed closets, stuffed cupboards, and no balcony…your storage space is a minimum…and you just found out that you’re supposed to be storing a gallon of water per day per person living with you. Ahh!

When I first started stockpiling water, I had no idea where to put it.  Have you heard the quote “necessity is the mother of invention?” It’s true! If you’re committed to storing water for survival, you WILL find places to put it.

With this in mind, here’s a plan for how you can get started with your water storage:

Decide how much water you want to store.

  • Since you’re new at this, set a goal for yourself: have three day’s worth of water stored by the end of this week.
  • Every time you meet a goal, set a new one. Try for a week’s worth of water, then a month, and so on.

Figure out what type of containers you will use to store your water. I like to diversify my storage as much as possible, so feel free to use several of these methods:

  • If you drink soda, you can clean, dry, and refill the empty 2-liter bottles. I describe how to do this in my previous post.
  • If you don’t drink soda (like me), you can buy containers that are meant specifically for water storage. I buy mine from Shelf Reliance because they’re reasonably priced and the company gives a portion of its profits to charity. You can fill these empty drums with tap water.
  • When you’re just starting out, it’s easy to buy gallons of water from the grocery store, or buy cases of bottled water. The benefit to these small bottles is that you can remove them from their cases and individually store them in very small spaces.

Treat your water before you fill your tanks.

  • Add one drop of bleach per cup of water after you fill your plastic storage containers. This will kill any microorganisms and keep your water safe while it’s being stored.  Water never expires, but microbial growth can make it unsafe to drink.  Don’t add bleach to water stored in metal containers, and never add scented bleach.
  • Don’t worry about this step if you’re buying commercially-sealed water. It’s safer to leave it unopened.

Figure out where you want to store your water .

  • One of my favorite ways to store water is in the freezer. It guarantees that microbes won’t grow, plus your freezer will be more efficient if it’s full. Lower power bills are always a good thing! This works best with 2-liter bottles and commercially-purchased water bottles. When filling your 2-liter bottles, leave a little head space to allow for expansion in the freezer — don’t fill them to overflowing as you normally would.
  • If you have a lot of bottles that are the same size, try this: Remove everything from the bottom of your closet. Line up the bottles in rows on the floor until you can’t fit any more in your closet, then lie a sturdy, flat piece of wood or plastic on top of the water bottles. Return your belongings to the closet, placing them on top of this “new floor.” You can fit a LOT of water into your apartment by making better use of your vertical storage space.
  • You can put your bed on risers and store water bottles or WaterBricks underneath. We’ll revisit this idea when we talk about food storage. You can use a bedskirt to attractively hide the extra space.
  • Fill a 30-gallon drum with water and cover it with a tablecloth. Instant endtable! I have one of these in my entryway and no one ever guesses that they’re walking past a month’s worth of water.
  • DO NOT store your water bottles anywhere that is exposed to sunlight….microbes and algae will flourish inside your containers. Ick!

In addition to your water storage, you need to have a few methods of purifying water, filtering water, and transporting water in case you need to evacuate. Remember, you may end up needing to leave your apartment, in which case you’ll need enough water to get you to your next shelter.  It’s most important to have your water storage first, then move on to collecting these extra supplies.

Chlorine or iodine tablets are popular ways of purifying water, but bleach works if that’s all you have on hand. Remember, multipurpose prepping supplies are your friends in small places! Keep a bottle of bleach handy, and use 16 drops per gallon of water to kill harmful bacteria. If you can, boil your water before adding purification tablets or bleach. Always let your water stand for at least 30 minutes after adding chemicals, and always follow the directions on the tablet packages.

As for water filters, you can buy commercial water filters in various ranges of price and portability. I like to have one large filter in my apartment and a smaller filter in my evacuation bag. A filter that attaches directly to your water bottle is good too. However, when you’re starting out, simply keeping coffee filters handy is a good, cheap way to remove large particles from your water. You can then use boiling and bleach to kill the bacteria.

Ways of transporting water also vary. Some backpacks come with water bladders that can be refilled, but I always worry about crushing the bladder between my back and my supplies.  I keep a variety of collapsible water containers handy, as well as a few rigid water bottles. In a pinch, you can take one of your 2-liter water bottles with you, so don’t worry too much about portable containers until you have a good start on your other preps. Remember, keep it simple at first! No need to get overwhelmed.

A few general tips:

  • To clean empty bottles, fill with water and put in a few drops of bleach. Let sit for 30 minutes and then empty and fill as usual.
  • DO NOT store your water on concrete floors without some sort of covering, such as plywood. Chemicals will leach from the concrete into the water and make it unsafe to drink.
  • DO NOT store your water in empty milk bottles! Harmful bacteria from the milk can leach out of the plastic and into the water.
  • Label your water storage very clearly with the words “DRINKING WATER.” Your thinking may be confused in an emergency and you don’t want to have to second-guess where things are stored.
  • Although it’s not essential, it’s not a bad idea to rotate your water every 6 months or so. This protects against microorganism growth.
  • When you remove your water from the containers, it may taste a little funny. This doesn’t mean the water has gone bad, it’s just flat. In other words, there’s not enough oxygen in the water and the taste has been affected. Restore the oxygen levels by pouring the water from one sterile container to another, and repeating several times.
  • Your gallon of water per day includes water for hygiene. If an emergency strikes but the city’s water is still flowing, quickly fill your bathtub with tap water. You can use this water to flush toilets, wash dishes, and clean your hands. Bathtub liners ensure that chemicals and detergents from the tub surfaces don’t leach into the water, but aren’t necessary if you only plan to flush toilets with the water.

Alright people! This was a long post but you’ll feel SO prepared after you start storing water. Remember, start small: aim for three days worth of stored water and you’ll have enough to survive most power outages and short-term local emergencies. Email me with questions!

Do you have any water stored yet? Where do you keep your water? 

Exercise Four: Make a List, Check it Twice

28 Apr

This post is part of a series of exercises about how to begin preparing for emergencies. See the complete list of posts here.

Now that you’ve thought about which emergencies are most likely to strike in your area, made a plan, and taken steps to preserve your personal information, you’re ready to start actually storing some supplies! If you don’t like the idea of purchasing items that you don’t plan to use right away (or ever), think of it this way: you buy car insurance and health insurance, and these supplies are just another layer  of “insurance” in case something bad were to happen.

Creating a shopping list was my favorite part of my early days of prepping, because I love planning and making lists. I just feel better when crucial information is organized on paper, it puts me in control and lets me be methodical in my actions.

To start your list, write down everything you’ll want to have on hand during an emergency. You can be vague (“Food”) or specific (“iOSAT brand potassium iodide tablets”). The things you list should be related in some way to the emergencies that are most likely to occur in your area and your specific plans to deal with those emergencies. In other words, don’t waste a ton of money on a big tent and a zero-degree sleeping bag if you’re planning on hunkering down in your house….in Florida. See what I mean? Make sure your “wish list” makes sense for you.

Now, go through your list and number everything from highest to lowest priority. Hint: If water and shelter aren’t your first priority, you’re doing it wrong! :)  My general guidelines are water, shelter, food, fire, and then everything else. As you list your priorities, add specific products where you can. For example, under your “water” category, you may want to buy a filtration system, a large water storage bladder, treatment tablets, etc.  I try to be redundant in my preparations so I’m ready for a variety of situations. For example, knowing three or four different ways to start a fire, and possessing the tools to do so, is really important! For those of us who don’t have the time or space to learn how to rub two sticks together to make a spark, a variety of fire-starting tools could literally be the difference between life and death.

Once you have your list in some semblance of an order, give it another serious look. Think about your plans, and how your preps will help you execute said plans. Do many of your items serve multiple purposes? Fantastic. Will your items be useful to you in non-emergency situations? Wonderful.  These are the items that you’ll want to purchase first, or at least soon after the essentials. Again, don’t buy a 100-gallon stainless steel water drum if you live in a 500-square foot loft and plan to evacuate as soon as disaster strikes. It just doesn’t make sense!

Now can begin purchasing a few items at a time. Don’t try to buy everything at once – your wallet and closets will be pretty unhappy.  You don’t necessarily have to buy these things in order, either. Personally, I have my list divided into “thirds.” The top third is for the essentials – water, shelter, food, fire – the middle third is for more general but still useful survival gear (respirator, outdoor stove), and the last third is my “wish list” of items that I’d love to have but that aren’t my top priority. My wish list items include things like a non-electric coffee percolator and a vacuum sealer. I tried to get everything from the first third crossed off or well underway before I move on to the second third. The only time I break that rule is if I see a great deal on something and I want to snatch it up right away.

Oh, and one other thing – food and water storage can be intimidating, so my next two posts in this series will be focused specifically on starting your food and water stockpile.  You can focus on buying items for shelter and fire until then, but here’s one thing you can do NOW to start your water storage:

  • Fill an empty, clean 2-liter soda bottle with water until there’s no air left at the top (bottle will be overflowing).
  • Put cap on and seal it with duct tape.
  • Stick it in your closet!
  • DO NOT use old milk jugs for water storage – they can harbor deadly bacteria.

So…want to see my list? Here it is! The vertical dashes roughly indicate where I have my list divided into thirds. It’s a little long because I’ve added to it over the months that I’ve been shopping, yours does NOT have to contain this many items. For some of the lesser-known gear, I’ve included links so you can learn a little more about each product. Let me know if you have any questions and, as always, leave your comments below!

ApartmentPrep’s Survival Shopping List

  • Water
  • Food
  • Fire starters (matches, lighters, magnesium firestarter, steel wool/battery)
  • Tarp and tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Radio
  • Compass
  • A pair of sturdy boots or shoes
  • Flashlight
  • Paracord(several hundred feet)
  • Survival knife
  • Big first aid kit (building my own – post to follow!)

—————————————————

  • Edible plants guide
  • E-tool
  • A pair of hiking pants (not denim)
  • Poncho + rain jacket
  • Potassium iodide
  • Zip ties
  • Mini stove
  • Small pot
  • Small hatchet
  • Whistle
  • Net
  • Respirator
  • Highway maps (get them free here)
  • Topographic maps

————————————————

  • Extra socks (not cotton)
  • Extra shirts (long sleeve and short sleeve for layering)
  • Warm long underwear of some kind
  • Coffee percolator
  • Hat
  • Bandana
  • Chamois towel
  • Disposable white painting suits or scrubs
  • Bivvy sack
  • Shemagh
  • Vacuum sealer

Are there any items that I’m forgetting? What’s on your list so far? 

FREE Resource – Highway Maps

25 Apr

Get FREE state maps for your car or BOBs! (Image credit: Castillo Dominici)

This is going to be another short post, but I wanted to let you all know about an awesome idea that I

heard recently. I’m sure you know that your local DMV has free highway maps available at the counter, but did you know that almost every state will send these maps to you – for FREE – if you request them online?

Highway maps are great for people (like me!) who live  near the border of several states, or for people who plan to be traveling a fair distance if they have to evacuate during an emergency. If you live in North Carolina and your family is in Kansas, will you be able to find your way if the GPS satellites are down?

Here is the link to the database organized by state. The listings were updated just a few days ago, so the information is kept quite current. I ordered 5 or so maps, and I’ve already received them all! Now I’ll be covered regardless of which evacuation route I take….and that’s a good feeling.

TIP: Store your maps in a gallon-sized plastic bag in your grab-and-go pack. They’ll be protected from the elements and they’ll be grouped together so you don’t have to waste time searching through your pack in an emergency.

Shopping Alert!

24 Apr

Hey all!

I’m always on the lookout for cheap (but high quality!) survival gear, especially stuff that doesn’t take up a lot of room. I just found this sleeping bag on Amazon for $35 and ordered it right away. Normally I wouldn’t post a product suggestion without trying it first, but prices on Amazon tend to fluctuate and I wouldn’t want you to miss out if you’re interested. Apparently this mummy bag usually retails for $100, so this is a good deal. I’ll give a full rundown of the pros/cons once it arrives and I have a chance to try it out.

The shopaholic in me is excited. The prepper in me is excited. Everyone wins :)

Skeletons in the Closet

23 Apr
Food storage

Orderly shelves makes it easier to find things in an emergency, especially if you're in a hurry or the power is out. (photo credit: Stuart Miles)

If you live in an apartment, chances are good that you don’t have any skeletons in your closet because there’s no room for them! I’m lucky enough to live in a unit with four (FOUR!!) closets, but I still managed to stuff them to the brim with clothes, linens, books, you name it…which means that when I started storing food and water, I had no clue where to stash my new acquisitions. If you’ve been prepping for a while and your stockpile is taking over, here are some more ideas:

  • Fill a 30-gallon drum with water, put a small square of plywood on top, and cover it with a tablecloth. Instant endtable! I’ve done this, and no one has ever noticed that it’s not a real table :)
  • Hang a long curtain along one side of your living room, and put shelving units – stocked with food – behind the curtain. You won’t notice the small reduction in space, and your room will still look attractive.
  • Put your bed on risers, and buy or make an extra-long bedskirt. You’ll have more storage space underneath, and I think that tall beds look awesome. Two birds…one stone.
  • Buy an ottoman (or two) with a removable top. These can be cheaply bought almost anywhere, especially in the fall when college students are returning to school. I got mine at Target for less than twenty bucks.
  • Use a vacuum-storage system for your clothes that aren’t in season. Your bulky coats and sweaters will stay protected from pests, and you’ll save a TON of space in your closets.

More ideas to come! I know that apartment prepping is hard….hang in there!

P.S. I got my 30-gallon water drum and shelving units from Shelf Reliance. They’re great!

How do you make the most of your small living quarters?

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